CW 7/2023: Progress and Adversity
Press Review 10 February 2023 to 17 February 2023

Eritrea plans return to IGAD

Last week, Eritrean President Isias Afwerki and Kenyan President William Ruto met in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss improving bilateral relations and regional integration and security issues. Last December, Ruto travelled to Asmara for a two-day state visit at the beginning of his term in order to normalise diplomatic relations that had been strained for several years; Afwerki last visited Kenya in 2018. At the end of their current meeting, both leaders agreed to lift visa requirements for their citizens and to cooperate more in promoting peace and security in the region, even though Eritrea is currently facing allegations of human rights violations in neighbouring Ethiopia. Afwerki also reiterated his country’s desire to resume membership of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and help revitalise the organisation. Besides Kenya, member states currently include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. Eritrea had left the regional bloc in 2007 after an IGAD report linked the country to extremist groups in Somalia. Both the bloc’s executive secretary, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, and Ruto, who is keen to rebuild the organisation, welcomed Eritrea’s return and stressed the country’s importance for improved regional integration. Most recently, tensions between members, such as between Ethiopia and Sudan over their shared national border, had threatened to split the bloc. Although IGAD is not traditionally a trading bloc and has low trade figures, Gebeyehu is committed to reducing conflicts between the countries through cooperation in technology and trade relations, while emphasising the economic potential of the union. Kenya’s President also stressed that there is immense economic potential for cooperation between Kenya and Eritrea, which requires structured engagement. “With the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we need to work together and work out mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities for our countries,” Ruto said.


South Africa declares national state of disaster due to floods

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster last Monday due to the devastating floods that have hit large parts of the country. Of South Africa’s nine provinces, seven are affected by the floods, with the provinces of Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape being particularly hard hit. Gauteng, the economic centre of the country, is also struggling with flooding. According to Nanola Ndolvu, spokesperson for the Coastal Province Crisis Management Centre, the floods, which were triggered by heavy rains due to the La Niña weather phenomenon, have already claimed a number of lives and many people are missing. In addition, houses, basic infrastructure and crops have been destroyed in many places. The South African Meteorological Service predicts that the floods will probably continue for another two months due to the steeply rising rivers and sodden soils. Declaring a state of disaster gives the government additional powers to bypass legal hurdles and thus provide urgently needed goods and services, such as food, clothing or emergency shelter, more quickly. The South African Police Service and the National Defence Force would also stand by and could be called in to assist if necessary, Ramaphosa announced. The state of emergency declared because of the floods is already the second one in just a few days. Only on Thursday last week, the South African government declared a national state of emergency due to the ongoing power shortage, which, according to Ramaphosa, poses an existential threat to South Africa’s economy and social fabric. The country has already been suffering from electricity shortages for years, which is why the state-owned power utility Eskom has been carrying out daily planned power cuts. Currently, however, the country is experiencing the longest and most frequent power interruptions, massively affecting not only private households but also hospitals and the economy. It is estimated that the power crisis will reduce South Africa’s economic growth to only 0.3% this year. The current power crisis is due to a number of factors, including the lack of legislation to allow the rapid deployment of renewable energy by private suppliers, delays in the construction of new coal-fired power plants, criminal sabotage and looting, and corruption in coal supply contracts. With the help of the emergency legislation, the government now hopes to speed up the expansion and restructuring of the power supply through emergency procurement procedures and fewer bureaucratic delays. The emergency legislation also allows the state to exempt critical infrastructure such as hospitals and water treatment plants from power cuts. Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance, the largest opposition party, criticised the declaration of a state of emergency and announced that it would challenge it in court. Reactions among the population are also mixed, and experts doubt that this step will actually help to speed up the expansion of the electricity supply. Back in 2013, Germany and South Africa signed a joint declaration of intent to establish an energy partnership in order to promote the energy transition in South Africa and expand renewable energies. At the climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, Germany, France, the USA and the European Union also mobilised 8.5 billion US dollars to support South Africa with loans and grants under the Just Transition Partnership (JETP).

Other news?

According to Oakla’s latest Speedtest Global Index analysis, Rwanda has risen 47 places in the global fixed broadband speed rankings to 103rd. The liberalisation of the economy in Rwanda has been instrumental in the country’s rise in the global internet rankings, with the roll-out of the fibre optic network to homes and commercial buildings in Kigali, Musanze and Rubavu. Germany, which moved up two places to 46th, had an internet penetration rate of 89% at the end of 2022 and a current internet speed of 58.00 Mbit/s. With an internet penetration rate of 60.6% and a current internet speed of 38.37 Mbit/s, Rwanda is expected to launch Starlink internet services on 22 February this year, making it the first African country to offer these services.

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