26 June 2012

Africa Policy Forecast

Head of Africa forecasting at Exclusive Analysis, Natznet Tesfay, examines some of the defining policy trends to watch over the next month.

Côte d'Ivoire: On 8 June 2012, seven UN peacekeeping troops were killed in Tai, western Cote d'Ivoire, in an attack launched from across the Liberian border by suspected militants loyal to the ousted president Laurent Gbagbo. The latter is currently standing trial in The Hague for war crimes. The incident is the first attack on such a scale to be carried out against the UN since April 2011, the end of the four-month armed conflict that brought President AlassaneOuattara to power. The attack also occurred in spite of the UN mission's 22 May announcement of an increase in ground and air patrols to secure the western and northern borders.

The attack on UN personnel highlights the growing capacity and resolve of pro-Gbagbo militia groups to carry out terrorist attacks as a means of undermining President Ouattara's government. On 13 June 2012, the government confirmed media reports of a foiled coup plot against President Ouattara by pro-Gbagbo supporters based in neighbouring countries.

UN and government personnel are at heightened risk of hit-and-run attacks in western areas, particularly Dix-huitMontagnes, Moyen-Cavally and Haut Sassandra regions, as are assets in areas along the western border. There is also a risk that NGO personnel and workers in cocoa plantations will be targeted, and of disruption to land cargo in the west. Terrorism risks will be particularly acute during Gbagbo's trial, which is set to start on 18 June 2012.

Gabon: On 7 June 2012, Prime Minister Sima announced on-going talks between the government and state-owned China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation to renegotiate the Belinga iron-ore project, which requires about $3.7 billion for the construction of hydropower dam, at least 300km of railway and a deep water port. The Belinga project was originally awarded to Chinese mining consortium Comibel in 2006 with a 25-year tax break. In 2008, the contract was renegotiated due to criticism over the tax break provision as well as environmental concerns, given the fact that the project is located along the periphery of Ivindo National Park. In 2010, Comibel transferred the licence to its current owner.

The Belinga project is likely to be awarded to another partner, most probably BHP Billiton, Vale or Eramet, if the government and the Chinese firm fail to reach a new deal. Foreign firms with 25-years tax break incentives, such as Indian minerals processor, Abhijeet, which has a contract for manganese mining, also are at risk of having their contract reviewed as fiscal and social pressures on the government increase.

The contract review is likely driven by government intention to develop the mining sector, particularly awarded projects that have been delayed or undeveloped, in order to reduce fiscal dependence on the oil sector, to increase local participation and accelerate infrastructural development projects. To this end, the government has already introduced a draft mining code, which was criticised for its high tax on profits, the removal of fiscal incentives and the inclusion of new environmental demands.

Nigeria: President Goodluck Jonathan announced that the revised draft of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would be presented to Parliament in June 2012. Since 2008, the federal government has been unable to pass the PIB, which seeks to reform and regulate the tax and licence concession regimes of the country's petroleum industry. Even though President Jonathan included MPs and members of civil groups in the new task-force to revise the draft PIB, it is very likely that the bill would again stall in Parliament until 2013.

Parliament is likely to commence its sessional break in June. Moreover, the re-drafted bill is likely to generate a protracted debate in the National Assembly, as it still contains some of the contentious clauses of the rejected 2011 version. Lawmakers are likely to oppose the proposed new tax regime that is favourable to foreign oil firms (a 20% profit on petroleum taxes for deep offshore oil blocks and 50% on shallow onshore oil blocks). The new PIB fails to reduce the supervisory powers of the Petroleum Ministry as recommended by the lower house's April 2012 oil report. The bill's weak transparency regime (such as non-disclosure of oil sales, petroleum taxes and bonuses paid to the government, as well as approval for the petroleum minister to accept gifts) is likely to trigger calls from civil groups, such as the National Labour Congress and the Save Nigeria Group, for further revisions.

The redrafted PIB is silent on domestic gas pricing, while proposing the creation of a new regulatory body, the Nigerian Petroleum Inspectorate, part of whose remits will be to impose a certain threshold of gas supply from oil firms in order to meet domestic demand. Firms that fail to meet the threshold of gas supply for domestic consumption would face fines or have their gas export operations suspended.

The stalled passage of the PIB has delayed the issuance of new licences, which have cost the country an estimated $40 billion in new investments. In October 2011, Russian oil firm, Gazprom, cancelled its $2.5 billion investment. Existing oil contracts are being renewed on a case-by-case basis (Exxon Mobil's contract renewed for 20 years, and Shell and Chevron's to be renewed in June 2012). However, oil firms whose licences are renewed before the passage of the bill are at risk of having their contracts reviewed or renegotiated when the PIB is applied retroactively.

Somalia: Successes in 2012 by the TFG and AMISOM forces have diminished al-Shabab's control around Mogadishu and in the south of the country. In May, the government took control of Afgoye, north west of Mogadishu. In June, TFG-AMISOM forces including the Ethiopian and Kenyan armies, seized key Somali towns, like Afmadow and Biibi, and routes leading to al-Shabab's last major stronghold and source of income, the port of Kismayo. On 29 May 2012, a Kenyan warship reportedly fired on Kismayo. The loss of Kismayo would be a major blow for al-Shabab as it would remove their last stronghold in the south.

While TFG and AMISOM successes have reduced al-Shabab controlled areas, al-Shabab will continue to attack military targets in the south, looking to benefit from the local population's frustration with foreign forces and fears that the international community is looking to take over the country. Al-Shabab is currently less active in the north of the country, but as it loses control of strongholds in the south it is likely to look to move its operations, particularly to central regions like Hiiraan, and attacks against military bases and forces there are likely to increase. On 31 May, a week after being driven out, al-Shabab forces attacked three government bases in Afgoye with heavy weapons and an al-Shabab spokesman warned of continued attacks against African Union and Somali forces in Mogadishu and Afgoye.

Fighting between al-Shabab, local clan militias and AMISOM is expected to increase throughout 2012, particularly in Mogadishu and Baidoa, as al-Shabab rely on asymmetric attacks following losses of their strongholds. Attacks in and around Mogadishu on individuals and groups linked to the government are likely. According to reports, in the Wadajir district of Mogadishu, al Shababexecuted a defector who had joined the National Security Agency and an aid worker who had left al-Shabab was killed in Baidoa.

On 1 January 2012, President Ahmed called on al-Shabab to end violence and enter negotiations with the government. However, the Islamist hard-liners are highly unlikely to cease their military activities, no matter what proposals are made by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

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