Pressespiegel KW 25/2024: Approval and Protest
Press Review 14 June 2024 to 21 June 2024

G7 countries want to strengthen cooperation with Africa

The G7 summit, which this year took place under Italy’s presidency in the Southern Italian region of Apulia, ended on Saturday. In addition to topics such as the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the war in Gaza, climate change and migration, strengthening cooperation with African countries was also high on the agenda. In addition to the heads of state and government of the G7 countries, which include Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, representatives of African countries and the African Union (AU) once again took part in this year’s summit. These included Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebbounce, Kenyan President William Ruto, his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied and the current AU Chairman and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani. At the summit, the G7 states emphasised their desire to intensify cooperation with African states and to better coordinate the agendas of the G7 states with those of the AU in future. The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) should also be facilitated. The final declaration also supported the African states’ call for a greater say in international bodies. The participation of the AU as a permanent member of the G20 and the creation of a third seat for Sub-Saharan Africa on the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were expressly welcomed.

In order to tackle global challenges such as food security, the G7 announced the G7 Apulia Food Systems Initiative (AFSI), which aims to remove structural barriers to food security. The initiative will focus primarily on low-income countries and projects on the African continent. The specific implementation of the AFSI will now be discussed at ministerial level in the coming months. The new initiative has been criticised by African agricultural groups in particular, who accuse the G7 of a lack of consultation with African organisations. Additionally, the G7 Energy for Growth in Africa Initiative was also newly launched. The initiative, which is to involve governments and the private sector as well as international financial institutions and development banks, is intended to help remove barriers to investment in clean energy sources and ensure energy security during the transition. This will involve close cooperation with the United Nations Development Program and the International Energy Agency.

In addition, the commitment of the G7 states to provide a total of 600 billion US dollars by 2027 via the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) for sustainable infrastructure development, including in African countries, was reaffirmed. The PGII was adopted in 2022 and is intended to offer the G7 an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Among other things, it provides for the construction of railway tracks in the Lobito Corridor, which connects South and Central Africa, and the expansion of telecommunications infrastructure. At the summit, Italy pledged investments of up to 320 million US dollars to strengthen Africa’s main railway infrastructure and associated secondary projects. Meloni had only presented the so-called Mattei Plan at the beginning of the year, which aims to boost the economy in African countries, create jobs and thus curb migration from Africa to Italy (press review CW 5/2024).

A bilateral meeting between Italian Prime Minister Meloni and Algerian President Tebboune also took place on the margins of the G7 summit. The focus was on the progress already made in the so-called Rome Process in the areas of development and migration as well as the Mattei Plan in the agricultural and vocational training sector. A project on sustainable agriculture is currently being negotiated. With the participation of the Italian company Bonifiche Ferraresi S.p.A., around 36,000 hectares of land are to be concessioned and developed in cooperation with Algerian partners for the purpose of agro-industrial activities. The project is Italy’s largest investment to date in sustainable agriculture on the southern Mediterranean coast.

 

Nationwide protests against controversial finance bill in Kenya

Amid national protests, Kenya’s parliament voted in favour of the controversial proposed Financial Bill 2024, which provides for a series of tax increases to plug Kenya’s budget deficit, in the second reading on Thursday. Members of Parliament voted 204 to 115 in favour of the bill, against which thousands of mainly young people took to the streets in Nairobi and other Kenyan cities on Tuesday and Thursday. The police tried to break up the protests on Tuesday with tear gas and water cannons, and over 200 people were arrested. On Thursday, the intervention of the security forces led to more than 200 injuries; one person was killed.

The nationwide demonstrations are considered to be the biggest protests the country has seen since President William Ruto took office in 2022. The background to this is the Finance Bill 2024, first presented in May, with which the Kenyan government led by President William Ruto aims to raise 2.7 billion US dollars in additional taxes and thus reduce the budget deficit from 5.7% of GDP to 3.3% as well as reduce dependence on borrowing. After Ruto had already introduced various tax increases on petrol, gross sales and wages in the last two years, including a housing levy of 1.5% of employees’ monthly wages, resentment quickly spread among the Kenyan population, which has now culminated in the protests.

After consulting with Members of Parliament from the ruling party, the Kenyan government responded to resentments from the population and cancelled some of the controversial clauses from the planned Finance Bill. Accordingly,, the 16% increase in VAT on bread and on vegetable oil and other products, which would have primarily affected the general population, was excluded. Tax increases on the transport of sugar and on fees for foreign currency transactions, internet data and mobile money transfers were also dropped. The eco-tax proposed in the bill is now only to be levied on imported finished products that contribute to e-waste. Locally produced products such as sanitary towels, nappies, telephones, computers, tyres and motorbikes are therefore to be exempt from the levy.

While the Ministry of Finance immediately warned that these cuts would lead to a loss of 1.5 billion US dollars in revenue, the protesters believe that these cuts do not go far enough. They still consider the remaining tax increases as an unreasonable burden on citizens and the Kenyan economy and are calling on parliament to reject the bill. A clause on the Data Protection Act, which guarantees every person in Kenya the right to privacy, is also causing opposition. According to the clause, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is to be exempted from the Data Protection Act, which would give it the right to arbitrarily access data if it deems it necessary for the assessment, enforcement and collection of taxes. Remarkably, the protests are being driven by Kenya’s younger population, who describe themselves as Gen Z and have a reputation for being less politically active. In light of Parliament’s voting behaviour, Gen Z called for a national strike next Tuesday under the hashtags #TotalShutdownKenya and #OccupyParliament. On that day, Parliament is due to convene for the start of the third and final reading of the Finance Bill 2024, after the Finance Committee can now make further amendments to the current draft. Parliament has until 30 June to cast its final vote on the Finance Bill.

 

In other news

The National Arts Festival kicked off on Thursday in Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Now in its 50th year, this year’s festival’s programme includes art exhibitions, musical performances, theatre, comedy and much more. A total of almost 300 works by various South African as well as African and international artists are presented, including prominent names such as Zoë Modiga, Darren English, MoMo Matsunyane and many more. The National Arts Festival ends on 30th of June.

 

Event recommendation

From 7 to 26 July 2024, the artworks of Zimbabwean sculptor Dominic Benhura will be on display in the Alte Pfarrerhaus in Passow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Benhura is considered as one of the most important contemporary artists in Zimbabwe and beyond and has already exhibited his works in the US, Asia and Europe. His works deal in particular with social themes such as family relationships, children and respect for nature. His works consist of various types of stone, materials and inlays.

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