Nov 25, 2020

Widespread economic uncertainty has characterized most of 2020, a situation that has impacted traditional habits like holiday spending. A comparison between this year’s holiday spending and 2019 shows a great disparity.

Data presented by Buy Shares indicates that an average of 48% of global consumers plans to significantly cut their holiday spending in 2020 compared to 2019. The data from selected thirteen countries shows that Indonesian consumers at 71% will spend less in 2020 compared to last year. Elsewhere an average of 13.46% of the countries plans to spend more in 2020 than last year. Chinese consumers rank top at 29% among countries planning to spend more this year.

The Buy Shares research also overviewed the shopping period people in the United States look forward to as of November 2020. Christmas holiday ranks top at 30%, followed by Black Friday at 23%. Fathers Day ranks the least at 7%.

Holiday Spending

Coronavirus’ role in changing holiday spending

Traditionally, the holiday season is characterized by big sales, big crowds, and big profits. Most stores usually rely on strong fourth-quarter sales to hit their yearly targets as they look forward to future growth. However, this year’s spending will be less overall due to the economic uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The less spending comes as most consumers lost their jobs and faced pay cuts as employers struggled to remain afloat in the course of the health crisis. Some consumers have been saving more to pay debts, while those on stimulus paychecks cannot sustain daily needs and holiday spending.

However, some consumers will opt to be patient for normalcy to return before spending their usual amount. The current travel and gathering restrictions mean that the tradition of holiday shopping has changed. Therefore, a section of consumers would rather wait for the perfect moment to keep the traditional alive.

Despite China being the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, shoppers from the country plan to spend more. After imposing lockdowns initially, the country has made significant leaps towards returning to normalcy with people resuming routine economic activities. Consumers have had enough time to recover lost resources hence more allocation to holiday spending. Notably, China has outshined most countries in handling the pandemic.

From the data, most Americans consider Christmas as their favorite holiday. During the season, most people get time to interact with family after a whole year. With the country’s coronavirus pandemic hitting new heights, most people are looking forward to Christmas, hoping that a vaccine will be available. Already, authorities are warning against traveling for Thanksgiving, leaving Christmas as the perfect season to look forward to.

Changing holiday shopping behaviors

It is worth mentioning as one effect of the coronavirus, most retailers moved their services online. As a result, consumers began shopping for the holiday earlier after retailers unveiled offers and promotions to encourage early shopping. Early shopping means that during the holiday season, they will not spend as expected.

Some of the offers saw most items discounted. The early shopping was meant to avoid long-minute logistic challenges, especially for retailers without complex e-commerce structures. The call for early shopping has been escalated, with most countries recording a second coronavirus pandemic wave. Notably, consumers who plan to travel during the holiday season might channel the money to online shopping as authorities continue to discourage travel.

However, consumers have spent more time building their digital capabilities with improved apps and online shopping experiences. Brands focus on strong digital offerings like intuitive mobile browsing, simple payment options, chatbots, and accurate, personalized recommendations.

Nov 24, 2020

Located 65kms east of Lagos, in the immediate vicinity of upcoming Lekki Deep Sea Port, the Lagos Free Zone aims to enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Lagos Free Zone (LFZ), the first privately owned special economic zone in Nigeria with an integrated deep sea port, is home to several reputable global brands. Located 65kms east of Lagos, in the immediate vicinity of upcoming Lekki Deep Sea Port, the Lagos Free Zone aims to enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Developed by the Singapore based Tolaram Group, the LFZ, reflects their more than four decades of commitment to doing business in Nigeria, says Tejaswi Avasarala, General Manager, Strategic Marketing, Lagos Free Zone, who was speaking ahead of the 6th annual West Africa Property Investment (WAPI) Virtual Summit taking place this week (25-26 November 2020).

Regarded as the only premier regional real estate investment and development conference that provides access to more than 600 local and international decision makers, this year’s WAPI Virtual edition will provide attendees with unique content, networking opportunities and a platform to showcase projects and services to an international audience.

With currently more than 15 operational entities, the 830-hectare (ha) LFZ site will eventually host more than 100 businesses and provide more than 50,000 residents with a place to live, work and play, and will offer real estate investors and developers with appealing prospects.

“We are convinced that Nigeria bears immense growth opportunity and will continue to be a formidable growth engine amongst the emerging market economies. While there are some challenges that are typical of emerging markets, the government has taken steps in the right direction that have resulted in tangible improvement in the ease of doing business in the country over the past 5 years,” said Tejaswi.

In addition to the industrial manufacturing and port-based logistics cluster at LFZ, there are opportunities in the area of commercial developments such as multi-tiered housing, office spaces, business and leisure hotels as well as healthcare and educational projects which are extremely exciting and deliver on the LFZ’s objective of enhancing the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

This effort, as Tejaswi added, begins by providing business and developers with access to un-encroached, secured and developed land in the immediate vicinity of the deepest sea port in Nigeria, which is expected to start commercial operations by the end of 2022.

While the new deep sea port solves a lot of historical challenges of the country’s existing shallow and congested ports, investors at Lagos Free Zone would also enjoy access to reliable plug-and-play infrastructure such as access to power, gas, trunk infrastructure, ready-built facilities such as warehouses and standard design factories.

A perspective, which WAPI host Kfir Rusin shares. “The development of the Lagos Free Zone is an exciting development for the Nigerian economy and the industry as whole, as it will unlock new development opportunities for real estate investors and developers across the value chain. In what has been an extraordinary year, West Africa’s real estate leaders have demonstrated their resilience and their willingness to adapt and innovate to ensure returns in challenging conditions.

We believe that the future is bright and mega projects such as the LFZ, which is attracting world class tenants such as Kellogg (USA), Colgate (USA), Indofoods (Indonesia), Arla Foods (Denmark), BASF (Germany) and others is evidence that there are significant opportunities in the market, and we look forward to this week’s discussions.”

Just three weeks into his official campaign for the Ugandan presidency, Ugandan musician and parliamentarian Robert Kyagulanyi (better known by his stage name Bobi Wine) has already been arrested twice.

The first came just minutes after his formal nomination in the capital Kampala. Footage streamed by his party showed police smashing the windows of the stationary vehicle Wine and his associates were occupying.

Wine was arrested again while campaigning in Luuka district last week. Protests in a number of Ugandan cities have since broken out and, in an unprecedented move, most other opposition presidential candidates suspended their campaigns until he was released. At least 49 people have been killed in those protests, which already makes this election bloodier than the last one in 2016.

The official reason for both of these arrests was that the police had evidence that Wine was planning illegal rallies with numbers exceeding Covid-19 restrictions.

However, most observers suspect it has more to do with the uncompromising stance he has taken against the incumbent regime of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. In the blistering speech he gave at his nomination, Wine accused Museveni of crimes ranging from corruption to dictatorship. At one point in the speech, he listed Uganda’s main ethnic groups one-by-one, naming the ways that each have been betrayed by Museveni who has ruled for 34 years.

This is not the first time that Wine has clashed with the police. His 2018 arrest made headlines when he and other politicians were severely beaten in custody and his driver was shot dead by police.

It is also highly unlikely that this latest arrest will be Wine’s last before the January 2021 poll. As has been seen in the past, Uganda’s campaign periods are routinely marred by acts of state intimidation and pressure against opposition candidates and their supporters.

Wine’s confrontational and defiant approach suggests that more pressure from security forces is inevitable. While this much is predictable, the Wine candidacy still raises a number of questions that are difficult to answer.

Leading the opposition

Wine has already achieved something which few observers thought possible: wrestling the platform of primary opposition candidate away from his longtime ally Kizza Besigye.

Besigye’s position as Museveni’s leading antagonist had become as embedded in Ugandan politics as the Museveni presidency itself. After splitting from the regime in 1999, Besigye has been runner-up in four straight elections, winning between 26% and 37% in official tallies.

Every time he has stood, the question of who should lead the scattered opposition has been passionately debated. On each occasion, Besigye refused to give way.

While other prominent opposition candidates have stood, they have not come close to Besigye’s vote share – something which has bolstered the case for his candidacy in each subsequent election.

When it became clear last year that Wine wanted to seek the presidency himself, a clash between the two was imminent. The new parliamentarian had succeeded in captivating the young, educated voters and activists that had powered Besigye’s success. But few observers (ourselves included) believed that Besigye’s de facto opposition leader mantle would be effectively threatened.

Besigye saw it differently, and declared in October 2020 that he would not be running. It is difficult to ascertain the precise reasons for his decision, but the perception that Wine’s political star had eclipsed his own is likely to have contributed in some way.

In numerous by-elections over the past two years, Wine’s endorsed candidates have fared far better than Besigye’s. Opposition activists had placed unprecedented pressure on Besigye’s men to give Wine an open pathway.

The youth demographic

Political change is a complicated subject in Uganda. Young and educated opposition supporters yearn for a post-Museveni era. The youth are a growing piece of the demographic pie.

The ability to travel easily and improved media access means that they are no longer a small and irrelevant constituency confined to Kampala. Increasingly, young opposition supporters are present and active in regional municipalities around the country. They are also well networked in the countryside and are carrying their anti-Museveni message to the most remote areas.

Nevertheless, it is important not to overstate the scale of opposition support in Uganda.

Although it is often ignored in international media coverage, Museveni and his National Resistance Movement remain popular across large swathes of the country. Older, rural voters in particular often regard regime change as a hauntingly perilous idea. These voters are more likely to link political change with a return to the years of chaos and bloodshed that preceded Museveni’s inauguration in 1986 – something the regime will doubtless assert explicitly in the coming months.

This generation gap – which maps onto the urban-rural divide to some extent – is becoming the most salient political division in the country. Within towns, villages and even family units, the question of national political change is linked to the frustrations of younger voters. The youth feel that they do not have the pathway to build their livelihoods that their parents enjoyed during Uganda’s post-1986 economic recovery. The country’s rapidly expanding education system has also led many of them to expect well-paying jobs that are in short supply.

Conversely, older citizens may regularly castigate these younger voters as lazy or idle troublemakers, and fear that they do not understand the risks of the change that they are demanding.

It is the growing importance of this demographic terrain which has also made the question of opposition leadership so interesting. Because whilst Wine has crafted himself as an unapologetic champion of the frustrated youth, Besigye’s candidacy had benefited from being able to build a bridge between the old and the young. His earlier years as a Museveni ally has made him less threatening as an opposition candidate to some.

New coronavirus excuse

But questions of opposition leadership often take attention away from the deeper authoritarian realities of Museveni’s Uganda. It is not the case that the Museveni regime terrorises, bribes and rigs its way to victory in the crudest sense. But persistent state interventions substantially tilt the playing field to the point that it is effectively impossible for the opposition to organise and campaign.

The latest feature of this double standard are the campaigning restrictions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, which appear to be enforced more consistently on the opposition than on the ruling party candidates. As a result, all opposition campaigning has to be done online only.

It is no coincidence, then, that recent months have also seen a systematic state-led media crackdown. Following the imposition of the COVID-19 lockdown in late March, the authorities have escalated their targeting of journalists, arresting newspaper, radio and TV journalists across the country.

The Social Media Monitoring Centre has heightened its surveillance of social media usage. And in September, the government issued a public notice that all “online publishers and broadcasters” had to apply for a licence to continue uploading content.

Ironically, Wine’s candidature may greatly benefit from a shift to virtual campaigning, even in the context of a wider media crackdown. He doesn’t have a formal campaign infrastructure, relying instead on both new and traditional media.

The January elections will almost certainly result in a Museveni victory. However, the inevitability of the overall result should not blind us to the fact that the country’s politics are changing, even if the regime does not.The Conversation

 

Richard Vokes, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Western Australia and Sam Wilkins, Lecturer, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nov 23, 2020

Forces of Ethiopia’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have destroyed an airport in the town of Axum, state-affiliated Fana broadcaster said on Monday, after federal troops gave them a three-day deadline to surrender.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters the ultimatum was a cover for the government forces to regroup after what he described as defeats on three fronts.

There was no immediate response from either side to the other’s comments, and Reuters could not confirm the latest statements. Claims by all sides are hard to verify because phone and internet communication has been down.

 

- Reuters

Nov 22, 2020

Uganda’s presidential candidate Bobi Wine has been released on bail, local media reported, as police said the death toll in clashes triggered by his arrest earlier this week hit 37.

Wine, who was charged with actions likely to spread the novel coronavirus, is expected to appear back in court on December 18, the Daily Monitor reported on Friday.

The 38-year-old pop star and politician, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was arrested on Wednesday while campaigning in eastern Uganda for the January 14 general elections.

He was charged with holding mass rallies in violation of restrictions on gatherings imposed by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier on Friday, authorities deployed the military across the capital Kampala and surrounding areas to help the police disperse protesters. The security forces have arrested hundreds, and used live bullets, tear gas and water cannon in efforts to quell the unrest.

“Thirty-seven bodies have been counted so far,” police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga told the Reuters news agency.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said the arrested protesters were involved in violence, including targeting members of the public who do not support Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) party.

“What we have seen in the last few days, that is violence, vandalism, looting, intimidation and threats, are crimes that were being committed [against] people who are not pro-NUP. This is not something that we can tolerate.”

Uganda, a nation of 42 million people, is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on January 14, with Wine emerging as a serious threat to veteran President Yoweri Museveni, 76, who aims to extend his rule to at least 40 years.

Wine has amassed a large following among the Ugandan youth, attracted by his bold criticism of the government, often in his song’s lyrics.

Al Jazeera’s Malcom Webb, reporting from Nairobi, said court proceedings may interfere with Wine’s campaign rallies, as could a limit of 200 people set on public gatherings set by Uganda’s health ministry and electoral commission as part of COVID-19 restrictions.

“If that is going to be enforced, from here on it’s going to be very difficult for any of the candidates to hold meaningful rallies – especially in urban areas, where they tend to attract significantly larger crowds,” Webb said.

He said four other opposition presidential candidates have suspended their election campaigns in protest at what they say is unfair treatment of Bobi Wine.

“This election is nearly two months away, ” Webb said.

“We’re waiting to see what, if any, campaigning will actually be able to go ahead between now and then,” Webb said.

 

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA

Nov 20, 2020

Mrs. Vicenta Balbi just gave up on paying for her internet service.

“Look at this, look at the bill,” she says. “It never worked, so now they’re charging in dollars. But who can pay for this?”

Her internet provider, a private company offering an alternative to the service offered by the state, charges her monthly for both cable TV and internet. Every first day of the month, the bill shows up on her inbox, along with a reminder that, to her, sort of sounds like a threat: “Remember to pay on the first three days of the month, to avoid penalties and service shutdown.”

“Well, they’re gonna cancel my service,” she says. “I understand that inflation makes everything more expensive, but I can’t take price leaps like this. I either buy meat, or I pay for the internet.”

And she’s certainly fuming. After months of a steady (and expected) rise, the fee for the cable-and-internet combo that she normally pays rose by 100% between the months of September and October, without any warning from the cable company. All the planning she had done for the month is useless now—and it’s not only this service that’s becoming harder to pay.

Mrs. Balbi is, for the Venezuelan context, privileged. A middle-class retired woman in her early seventies, she mainly survives on the money her son sends her from London—£50 every couple of weeks, which helps her quite a bit when she turns them into dollars or the official local currency, bolivars. That exchange, though, takes time and it’s exposed to the very unstable (and ruthless) nature of the black market Venezuelan dollar.

Right now—literally as you read these words—Venezuela is going through a hyperinflationary explosion, already in an out-of-control-inflation context that’s been two years long, so far. A look into Monitor Dólar, one of the most popular websites among Venezuelans tracking the value of goods and services in local currency, will tell you all you need about today’s economic reality.

The difference on the dollar value between October and November means a huge spike of all prices on the street.

Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto

This is in a country that rules its economy according to this black market rate while most of the population has no access to hard currency. While many are charging in greenbacks for their work, all public workers (like teachers) are paid in bolivars. The minimum wage, mind you, is 436,140 bolivars—its real value is less than a dollar.

The effects of this savage dynamic are described frankly by Mrs. Balbi.

“Well, I think it’s great that (my cable company) charges in dollars,” she says, “but then they’re gonna have to wait until I get my remittances, and I turn them into bolivars. I’ll first go to the store and buy my medicines and my food, then I have to pay for rent and power. I have to do this as quickly as I can, because a delayed day can be an important difference in prices. Then, if I can, I’ll pay for the internet.”

And listening to her, you can only wonder: What if you don’t get remittances?

A Sick Game of Economic Abuse

“The main feature of the Venezuelan black market, regarding dollars, is the presence of a huge actor (the state) that gets the biggest amount of dollars into the economy although, until very recently, it employed an official exchange rate that was disconnected from reality, with a discretionary selection of who would get cheaper dollars and who wouldn’t—a practice that gave way to the black market distortions and shady businesses we have in Venezuela.”

For Daniel Urdaneta, economist from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, MSc in Economics (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), CFA Charterholder and contributing author at Caracas Chronicles, the savage tides of the Venezuelan economy are explainable through offer-and-demand principles, and what happens when these precepts get distorted.

The basics: In practice, there isn’t a single price of the dollar; there are multiple offers around a reference price and both buyers and sellers have negotiations where the big factor is the urgency that buyers have for dollars (immediacy raises the price).

The evolution of the exchange rate over time is truly about how many bolivars there are flowing in the economy and how many dollars are available for sale in the local market. “In Venezuela,” Urdaneta says, “a savage policy of printing banknotes began as a way for the government to deal with fiscal deficit—the Central Bank prints money to satisfy debts.

“These particular explosions of the black market dollar in short time spans come as a consequence of the government moving from a fantasy exchange rate to one that’s much more closer to the black market rate. They realized that if you raise the price of the dollar, you can earn more bolivars to help you cover the deficit. But when PDVSA has debts and no bolivars to satisfy them, it’s back to the money-printing machine.”

These particular explosions of the black market dollar in short time spans come as a consequence of the government moving from a fantasy exchange rate to one that’s much more closer to the black market rate.

This is a lot of money that enters PDVSA and is then used to pay contractors and other associates, who are getting a lot of bolivars with little value by themselves. “The contractors end up buying dollars with this money, and that’s a hard pressure they’re applying on the dollar price.”

Urdaneta paints the picture of an economy susceptible to abuse: “This is amplified when you have individuals with privileged information on when these bolivar payments will be done and when there will be a peak in dollar demand, so they strategically diminish the dollars offered at the right time. The result is a savage spike on the dollar price. Whenever these spikes happen, the market eventually reestablishes itself after the possibility of pushing buyers disappears. It’s a cycle that repeats itself again and again.”

For Urdaneta, hyperinflation in Venezuela comes down to three points:

“The local offers of good and services went to hell after years of price controls and expropriations, and the Dutch disease—a lesser offer means higher prices; then you have over ten years of chavismo spending way more than what it gets, and just printing money to cover the gap; then there’s the crash of oil prices of 2014, and a Venezuela isolating itself away from the rest of the world—all of this predates the American sanctions, by the way.”

A Very Fragile Bubble

The theory and the details just described are a bit away from Melissa Azuaje*, a 31-year-old working in customer service for a gambling site on the internet.

Melissa describes herself as part of the precious “bubble,” those Venezuelans with a steady supply of hard currency that gives way to exclusive options in day-to-day Venezuela. Her wage of $250 comes once a month, and in bitcoins.

“I have to exchange those for bolivars and dollars,” she says, “although getting dollars has gotten hard recently. 2020 has complicated things, because my mom is the typical housewife and my dad, who used to work at the restaurant of a Caracas hotel, has gone out of a job ever since the quarantine began in March. So now I take care of myself and my parents. Almost all of my money goes away in food.”

“We have the pension money that my parents get, that isn’t much, but it’s a tiny push at the store. But if I have to buy something for myself, money is taken away from our food budget.”

A resident of middle-class Bello Monte, in Caracas, Melissa says she usually surfs the Venezuelan economy with more or less skill, working in a trade that’s almost untouched by the lockdown measures (even before the quarantine, she worked from home).

The spikes of the dollar and their direct effect on the inflation are throwing a wrench on her personal economy, where “you have your spending all planned out, and tomorrow the inflation screws everything up.”

“The food I can afford right now isn’t even all of the food we need,” she says. “We have the pension money that my parents get, that isn’t much, but it’s a tiny push at the store. But if I have to buy something for myself, money is taken away from our food budget—although I do buy things for myself. Sometimes you just have no choice. I just bought new glasses, for example, which is something I needed. That purchase took away from expenditures on food and services, particularly now.”

So how can you consider yourself in a bubble?

“Well, I live in a good place, and I can buy meat, which many people can’t—my neighbor, for example, buys meat occasionally and he makes do with what he can. I can pay for the services. When the month is ending, I do feel the strain, but this year has been very mean on most Venezuelans, and I’ve been able to do okay. Last month, I bought several things I needed—underwear, nail polish, an iron, stuff that people may criticize, but I refuse to see all my money go on food. Most people out there can’t allow themselves the luxury of buying toys for their nephews for next Christmas, you know?”

Venezuelans today live in a reality of a predictable (disillusioned) political arena, and a completely anarchic, unforeseeable economy. The apparent stability that the nation experienced in the last couple of months of 2019 are a bitter memory while prices soar from a day to the next, punishing everyone but the most privileged among the privileged. And it’s all happening at once: citizens don’t know when the next power cut is going to be (or how long it’ll last), whether their next paycheck will be enough to cover for basic food items, or what they’ll do if the somewhat distant promise of coronavirus becomes a sore emergency. Right now, for example, there’s another shortage of fuel across the country and nobody to tell when the lines at gas stations will end.

There’s an evident wrongdoer, apparently indifferent to the woes on the street.

“That narrative of how the black market dollar is controlled in Venezuela by a bunch of guys at a Home Depot or a club of oligarchic businessmen doesn’t stand the minimum smell test,” Urdaneta says. “Who brings the dollars in and decides their price of sale and even the buyers of those dollars, if not the government?”

 

Read More: Caracas Chronicles

At the core of the current war between the Ethiopian central government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front is the realignment of politics and the contest for political hegemony.

In my view, it is about Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed allying with the Amhara to destroy Tigrayan power. This is an attempt to consolidate his position and that of his Amhara supporters.

Abiy declared war on the Regional Government of Tigray in early November 2020. The region is led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. He accused the regional government of attacking and looting the armaments of the Northern Ethiopian Military Camp.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front controlled and dominated Ethiopian politics for 27 years through the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition. The coalition included the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement. The Tigrayans were the dominant force in the coalition.

The Tigrayan elites squandered their political opportunities by attacking the Oromo Liberation Front. They violated the human rights of the Oromo and others. This is what gradually led to the demise of their power in Addis Ababa (Finfinnee).

Ethiopia has about 80 ethno-national groups. The major ones are the Oromo (the largest), the Amhara and the Tigrayans. Emperor Menelik, the architect of the Ethiopian Empire, was from the Amhara. His rule resulted in the Amhara elites and Amhara culture and language dominating the empire for more than a century. These elites now claim that they are the rightful group to shape Ethiopia today in their own image.

The other most powerful groups are the Oromo and Tigrayans who have been fighting their own corners, often through liberation armies. Abiy, a political chameleon, has been manipulating ethnic divisions among the Amhara, the Oromo, and the Tigrayans.

Tigray’s dominance of Ethiopian politics

For nearly three decades – from 1991 to 2018 – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front dominated the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The democratic front controlled Ethiopian politics and economics.

Throughout this period, the Tigray front and its collaborators were accused of gross human rights violations against Ethiopians of different ethnicities. In Oromia, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation was a partner in the looting of Oromo resources such as land and in committing heinous crimes.

Meles Zenawi , a Tigrayan by birth, was the master of coalition politics. His deputy, His Haile Mariam Desalegn, became prime minister when Zenawi died in 2012.

After years of protest led by the Oromo Youth Movement Desalegn resigned in February 2018. With his resignation the Tigray front began to lose its political hegemony in the central government.

In response to pressures for reform, and to placate the Oromo Youth Movement, the then-coalition replaced Desalegn with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Abiy used his affiliation with the Oromo people to come to power. He promised to address issues such as the right to self-determination, political and cultural freedoms, sovereignty (Abbaa Biyyummaa), democracy, making the Oromo language a federal language, and enabling the Oromo to repossess their lands. After coming to power, Abiy ignored all these Oromo demands.

Abiy’s father is Oromo. But he was raised by his Amhara mother, a fact that he has used extensively. Considering his cruelty against the Oromo who embraced him at the beginning, most Oromos now think that his close affinity with his mother shaped his values, philosophy, ideology, and culture.

Abiy’s leadership triggered a realignment within the coalition. One of the consequences was the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation becoming an ally of the Amhara party. For its part, the Tigrayan front retreated to its home state to reorganise.

Reform agenda gone wrong

On coming to power Abiy launched a reform agenda. It included releasing political prisoners and allowing exiled and banned political leaders to return to Ethiopia.

He also promised to expand the political space, respect human rights, build independent institutions such as an elections board and independent judiciary, and to institute economic reforms.

Based on these promises – and because he initiated peace with Eritrea – he was awarded the 2019 Noble Peace Prize.

But since then, things have gone downhill. Abiy started to implement his political objectives by using the empire’s economic resources and the army. He ignored most stakeholders demanding the collective formulation of a political road-map for the transition to democracy. He began to attack and delegitimise the Oromo movement that had propelled him to power.

He even went as far as deploying the military in the Oromia regions of Wallaga, Guji, and Borana. Civilians have been killed extra-judicially. There has also been widespread killing and imprisonment of Oromo political opposition activists, sympathisers, and journalists. And elections have been postponed.

Abiy claims that it it is necessary to establish command posts in many Oromia regions to fight and defeat the Oromo Liberation Army.

Abiy also spearheaded the disbanding of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. He replaced it with the new Prosperity Party. Since the launching of the party on 1 December 2019, Abiy has dramatically shifted his focus from a democratic transition to consolidating power through violence and terror.

Four-pronged approaches

Abiy has introduced four interrelated political initiatives that consolidate his personal and party power. A combination of these factors has led to the current crisis and war in Tigray.

His first approach was the medemer philosopy. Medemer means “coming together” in Amharic. Abiy has co-opted political organisations, activists and politicians by appointing them to state positions. He has also tried to bring ethno-national groups together but without addressing historical and existing collective grievances and contradictions. These include unequal access to political power and economic resources as well as the denial of the right to self-determination and democracy.

Secondly, his use of the Prosperity Party to centralise political power under his leadership has led to Abiy’s critics characterising his government as a modern version of the authoritarian and colonial models of previous Ethiopian leaders, namely Menelik II and Haile Selassie.

His third initiative was to gradually diminish the power of the Tigray ruling elites. He removed them from the central government and important political positions.

The fourth initiative has been to suppress and dismantle the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federalist Congress, the most popular and influential parties in Oromia.

Federal units

Some scholars argue that the central government is uneasy with the autonomy of Ethiopia’s federal units. Others say the conflict is about unresolved ethnic tensions and the underlying battle for control of the state.

Either way, the Abiy government and its supporters are keen to dismantle the Tigray region’s autonomy. It’s a paradox of history that Tigrayan elites used their control over central government to suppress and exploit other ethno-nations, only to lose control of central government and return home.

Abiy’s main aim is to replace Tigray’s leadership with a government that is subordinate to the central state. Abiy’s position as premier would be stronger without pressure from the Tigrayans and the Oromo. These two groups have been most aggrieved by his reforms.

To his advantage, the war is fully supported by key federal allies. These include the Amhara regional state, former Oromo Democratic Party members, and political parties such as the Amhara National Movement, the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, and the Baldars party. All are dominated by the Amhara elites.

Using the Abiy government and the Ethiopian army, the Amhara elites want to recover from Tigray the land they claim belongs to them and to demolish Tigrayan power in order to dominate the empire.

But I believe that Abiy and the Amhara are naive in their belief that they can subjugate ethno-nations such as that of Tigray and Oromo by war.

An immediate ceasefire is needed. And an independent, neutral, and internationally endorsed body should be established to investigate major crimes committed over the last three decades to facilitate a national reconciliation. Also, the transition that has been derailed must be resuscitated and negotiations must begin on how to establish a transitional government that will prepare Ethiopia to become a true democracy. Otherwise, Abiy and his supporters are leading the empire in the wrong direction, one that may result in the collapse of the state, more humanitarian disasters, and the end of the empire as we know it.The Conversation

 

Asafa Jalata, Professor of Sociology and Global and Africana Studies, University of Tennessee

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

It’s been 20 years since the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was first held. Another summit is planned for September 2021 in Dakar, Senegal. Meanwhile, Chinese and African officials are reviewing and reflecting on their two-decade relationship.

China’s growing engagement with Africa has had a positive, albeit uneven, effect on Africa’s economic growth, economic diversification, job creation and connectivity.

China-Africa relations are mostly organised via government to government relations. But the perceptions and wellbeing of ordinary people also need to be better considered.

In 2016 the pan-African research institute Afrobarometer published its first study on what Africans think of their governments’ engagement with China.

The study found that 63% of citizens surveyed from 36 countries generally had positive feelings towards China’s assistance. Some things that stood out were China’s infrastructure, development, and investment projects in Africa. On the flip side, perceptions of the quality of Chinese products tarnished the country’s image.

In 2019/20, Afrobarometer conducted another wave of surveys. Data from 18 countriesgathered face-to-face from a randomly selected sample of people in the language of the respondent’s choice – was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey questions covered how Africans perceive Chinese loans, debt repayments, and Africa’s reliance on China for its development.

Preliminary findings show that the majority of Africans still prefer the US over China as a development model, that China’s influence is still largely considered as positive for Africa, and that Africans who are aware of Chinese loans feel that their countries have borrowed too much.

This is important because – as both African and Chinese leaders reflect on their engagement – these findings should allow them to build a forward-looking relationship that better reflects African citizens’ opinions and needs.

Figure 1: Perceived positive influence of China | 18 countries | 2014-2020. Afrobarometer

US vs China

The surveys found that Africans still prefer the American development model over the Chinese one. The Chinese development model hinges on state-led policy planning while the American model emphasises the importance of the free market.

Table 1: China as best model for development | 16 countries | 2014-2020. Afrobarometer

Across the 18 countries surveyed, 32% preferred the American development model, while 23% preferred the Chinese model. Overall, this hasn’t changed much since 2014/15, but a few country-level shifts emerge.

In Lesotho and Namibia, the US has surpassed China as a preferred development partner. In Burkina Faso and Botswana, China is preferred. Angolans and Ethiopians, who were not included in the 2014/15 survey, are partial to the American model. However, 57% of Ethiopians and 43% of Angolans believe that China’s influence is having a positive impact on their countries.

Analysts have argued that the Chinese development model is dynamic and multifaceted. It has changed over time depending on the context and period. African governments need to decide what aspects of the Chinese model are best for their countries.

A closer look at responses from the 2014/15 and 2019/20 surveys shows that in countries where China has invested mainly in infrastructure, perceptions have held steady or become more positive. This includes Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.

China’s popularity rises in the Sahel

Perceptions of China have changed for the better in some countries in the Sahel region. Some of these countries are among the most neglected and conflict-ridden in the world.

Strategically, China has been deeply involved in security and development activities, infrastructure projects connected to the Belt and Road Initiative, and peace and security operations in the region.

In Burkina Faso, for example, the popularity of China’s development model has almost doubled, from 20% to 39%, in the five years since the previous survey.

In Guinea, where Chinese companies are mainly involved in mining projects, 80% of citizens perceive China’s economic and political influence as positive – four percentage points up from five years ago. Overall, China’s growing involvement in the Sahel region seems to have had a strong impact on citizens’ views.

Economic fortunes and debt repayment

A majority of African citizens say China’s economic activities have “some” or “a lot” of influence on their countries’ economies. But the perceived influence has declined from 71% in 2014/15 to 56% in 2019/20 across the 16 countries surveyed in both rounds.

And while six in 10 Africans see China’s influence on their country as positive, this perception has declined from 65% to 60% across 16 countries. Instead, regional African powers, regional and United Nations organisations, and Russia scored well in perceived positive influence. Russia was perceived well by 38%.

This could be a reflection of Russia’s growing political, economic, and security engagement with Africa, as well as the role of Russian media such as Russia Today and Sputnik. A recent study on digital media content in francophone West Africa revealed how the digital content these media houses produce quickly seeps into African media spaces.

The Afrobarometer survey revealed that less than half (48%) of African citizens are aware of Chinese loans or financial assistance to their country.

Among those who said they were aware of Chinese assistance, more than 77% were concerned about loan repayment. A majority (58%) thought their governments had borrowed too much money from China.

Figure 4: Views on loans/development assistance from China | 18 countries | 2019/2020. Afrobarometer

In countries which received the most Chinese loans, citizens expressed worry about indebtedness. This included Kenya, Angola and Ethiopia. In those countries, 87%, 75%, and 60% of citizens respectively were concerned about the debt burden.

Lessons learned

The latest Afrobarometer data provides lessons both for analysts of Sino-African relations and African leaders.

First, there is no monopoly or duopoly of influence in Africa. Beyond the United States and China, there is a mosaic of actors, both African and non-African, that citizens consider to have political and economic influence on their countries and their futures. These actors include the United Nations, African regional powers and Russia.

Survey findings show that although Chinese influence remains strong and positive in citizens’ eyes, it is less than it was five years ago. This decline might also be linked to perceptions of loans and financial assistance, framed by the ‘debt-trap’ narrative and allegations of Chinese asset seizures.

Once fieldwork resumes, future Afrobarometer surveys in additional countries may shed light on ways in which the pandemic and China’s ‘corona diplomacy’, and media reports on the mistreatment of African citizens in Guangzhou, have affected the hearts and minds of African populations.The Conversation

 

Folashade Soule, Senior Research Associate, University of Oxford and Edem E. Selormey, Director of Research, Centre for Democratic Development Ghana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nov 19, 2020

The latest Top 25 Movers & Shakers Watch List released earlier this week by the African Energy Chamber highlights how important 2021 will be for the Angolan oil & gas industry.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest oil producing nation has been surfing on a wave of ambitious reforms since 2018 which could prove very beneficial to put the country back on a path to recovery in 2021.

H.E. João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, made it to the list for the first time after several years of reforming the industry and making it one of the most competitive on the continent. Via several presidential decrees signed in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the President has truly revived Angola’s hydrocarbons sector and its attractiveness for investors. As Angola recovers from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and yet another economic crisis, President Lourenço’s leadership is more important than ever to further support sector recovery and boost local content development. 

The country’s industry will also be marked by key offshore projects expected to move forward in 2021 and notably led by international majors Total and Eni. Nicolas Terraz, President for Africa at Total Exploration & Production, is another executive who made it to the Chamber’s TOP 25 for 2021. His piloting of key projects across the continent, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa, will be closely watched next year. This notably includes several brownfield expansions in deep water acreages in Angola, and the planned drilling of the world’s deepest well in Block 48.

Guido Brusco, listed for the second year in a row, will be another key figure able to impact the future of Angola’s oil sector. Recently promoted Director of Eni’s global upstream portfolio, Guido has a long experience in Africa and strong understanding of the continent’s dynamics and opportunities. As he makes strategic decisions to rationalize Eni’s upstream spend, the future of major Angolan assets like Block 15/06 is on the line.

Nov 19, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is on his way to topping NBA’s all-time point scoring list. Based on LeBron’s past performance, he might achieve the milestone in the next few years.

Data presented by Safe betting Sites shows that LeBron is only 4,147 points away from becoming NBA’s all-time points scorer in history. As of November 2020, LeBron was ranked third with 34,241 points. He is behind the retired Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the all-time highest scorer in history with 38,387 points. In the second spot, there is Karl Malone with 36,928 points.

The research considers LeBron’s past performance and the possible remaining years of professional basketball to determine estimated points, games, and seasons the star needs to potentially become the all-time leading scorer.

The projection

At the age of 35 years old, LeBron has an average of 25.3 points per game. With LeBron indicating he has no intentions of retiring soon, the player might score 4,147 points required to emerge top in the next three seasons.

Assuming that LeBron does not lower his average points per game, our research maintains a conservative projection that he needs at least 20 points per game in the 82 plays for the regular season to hit the milestone. Since he started his career at 18-years old, LeBron has not lowered his 20.9 average points per game. If the player maintains the 20 average points per game, he will hit 4,920 points from the 246 cumulative regular season plays in the next three seasons.

Lebron James1

Lebron James2

Why LeBron is likely to surpass Kareem’s career points

It is worth mentioning that the projected 20 points per game might be higher. Additionally, the player may not play all the 246 regular-season games due to injuries and illness factors. As highlighted, based on LeBron’s past performance, he might score 4,920 points which is more than the 4,147 needed to emerge top. In this case, the projection is more realistic since there is a possibility of missing out on some games. Furthermore, the research has not put into account possible points from playoff games.

LeBron also stands a good chance of retiring as the NBA all-time leading scorer, having indicated that he will play long as he feels good and will be able to deliver high quality results. Some sports analysts believe the player still has about five more years of active playing.

Notably, as James gets closer to 40 years, the player might not transition smoothly into his secondary career; he remains unstoppable in terms of scoring. Over the recent seasons, LeBron has been improving his 3 point scores, giving him more room to hit the top spot. The player has in the past averaged about 2,000 points per season, meaning it’s only a couple of seasons before he unseats Kareem.

Obstacles standing in LeBron’s way towards NBA history

At this stage in his career, health remains the main reason to slow down LeBron. During the 2018/19 season, LeBron was sidelined by a groin injury and he only played among the least games in a season. However, LeBron is known to take good care of his body to remain a top athlete. He allocates a big chunk of his money to maintain his body to extend his longevity.

LeBron has still had a lot of mileage on his body, with no signs of regression. Although his scoring average is a bit lower than seasons past, he’s still finding ways to help his team win. Currently, LeBron is a top facilitator in NBA history. His versatility has elevated him to one of the dominant scorers in NBA history.

Despite the mouth-watering statistics, LeBron is on record stating that scoring is not on his mind. His goal is to facilitate, rebounding, defending, and to get the blocks. However, at the end of his career, LeBron will have high chances of holding the NBA’s all-time leading scorer in history. James will hold it for long if he achieves the milestone, considering that most players trailing him on the list have retired.

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