Post-election unrest in the Central African Republic
In the Central African Republic (CAR), President Faustin-Archange Touadéra was declared the winner of the 27 December 2020 election on Monday with almost 54 percent of the vote. His strongest challenger, Anicet-Georges Dologuélé, received around 21 percent. The official confirmation of the result by the Constitutional Court is still pending, as are the results of the parliamentary elections. The election was seen as a test of stability in the Central African Republic, where civil war broke out in March 2013. The re-elected head of state Touadéra has been in power since 2016. Despite an international military presence within the framework of the UN mission MINUSCA and a peace treaty signed in 2019, the government has not yet succeeded in stabilising the vast country. With the help of Rwandan special forces and elite private Russian fighters, the government had tried to consolidate control in the run-up to the elections. According to official information, however, the fragile security situation prevented voting in 29 administrative districts and only partial voting in six others. Out of 1.8 million registered voters, only half were able to vote at all. Against this backdrop, the runner-up Dologuélé did not recognise the election result, even though the international community called for it. The situation in the resource-rich country is considered tense and increasingly confusing in view of the regrouping of rebel groups. Before the elections, rival armed groups formed the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) after former President Francois Bozizé was banned from running for president by the CAR Constitutional Court following an international arrest warrant issued against him in 2014. Since then, the CPC has been causing unrest in many parts of the country, and on Sunday they at least partially occupied the town of Bangassou on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Meanwhile, the government in Bangui accuses Bozizé of being the mastermind of the violence and thus of a coup attempt and opened an official investigation against the former president on Monday. Bozizé had come to power in a coup in 2003 and was forced out of office in 2013 in the run-up to the last civil war by one of the rebel groups that now appear to be at least partially collaborating with him. He secretly returned to the country in 2019, and his exact whereabouts are believed to be unknown.
African Free Trade Area enters into force
After a delay of several months, the African Union (AU) brought the jointly agreed framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) into force on 1 January. The agreement was originally set to come into play from 1 July 2020, but Covid-19-related restrictions made it impossible to achieve this deadline. Nevertheless, the global pandemic has accelerated the agreement process, according to AfCFTA secretariat secretary-general Wamkele Mene. For example, the disruption of trade in goods and the decline in international trade highlighted the African continent’s dependence on global supply chains and the export of raw materials and basic commodities, once again highlighting the importance of increasing intra-African trade and building intra-continental value chains. With the exception of Eritrea, 54 of the AU’s 55 member states have already signed the agreement and 34 have already ratified it. Fully implemented, the AfCFTA is expected to bring together 1.3 billion people in a USD $3.4 trillion economic area. The World Bank estimates that the new rules and practices could thus help millions of people in Africa out of poverty by 2035. Until then, there are still numerous challenges to overcome. In particular, sprawling bureaucratic structures, weak infrastructure and protectionist trade policies of some countries are cited as such. Much will depend in particular on the finalisation of the tariff reduction plans. So far, only 41 countries have submitted their plans. In addition, the rules of origin, which determine which goods may be subject to tariffs, still need to be completed. Here, it is important to address the concerns of economically weaker partners to the agreement about opening their economies to the dominant economies of Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, while preserving the essence of the agreement. Observers say it will naturally take decades before the full harmonisation and implementation of all rules is completed and the hoped-for effects are fully felt, as was the case with the EU.
In other news
Africa is the most genetically diverse continent in the world. However, African data is underrepresented in the global genetic archive of humanity. Over the past year, researchers from various universities spread out between Cape Town, Ibadan and Accra have significantly advanced genomic research in Africa to address this problem. This research holds immense potential. The genetic samples of 400 different subjects from 13 African countries alone revealed 3 million new genetic variants. The diverse studies not only help to develop therapeutic options adapted to African gene profiles, but also provide valuable results for the treatment of diseases that affect millions of people in Africa and beyond, such as sickle cell anaemia and stroke.