Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Retro 2019: Main events on the continent

Article from AFRIC Editorial
The year 2019 has been a particularly busy one for the African continent, with major changes, decisions made and events that have affected all or most areas on the continent. We shall highlight four key events for which occurred in Africa through the course of 2019. The first is the operationalization of the continental free trade zone, which had drawn the attention of the people, the continent also recorded its first Africa Cup of Nations with 24 teams, its first Summit with Russia and finally several presidential elections took place, some in a calm and transparent manner and others in a climate of cheating and contestation that did not favour alternation of the regimes in power.

The operationalization of the African continental free trade area

A major project for the creation of an African common market, the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area, based on unity and the free movement of goods and services, was the result of a desire of the continent’s leaders that took shape in 2012. Defined as “the most important event in the life of the African continent” by the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, the African Continental Free Trade Area finally came to fruition during the 12th extraordinary summit of the African Union (AU) which took place in Niamey, Niger on July 7 and 8, 2019. This project was intended to create an autonomous economic zone that would be conducive enough to strengthen intra-African trade; a zone that would help improve Africa’s negotiating position and competitiveness on the international market, in the face of rising global protectionism that led to the outbreak of a trade war between China and the United States.

After the phase of negotiations ended on May 30, 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Area became the world’s largest trading space that operates without trade tariffs, without closed borders, and where goods, services and people move freely. Favourable for entrepreneurship, youth employment and the emancipation of women, all that was needed was to reach the threshold of ratification and the accession of the few countries still reluctant to sign, for the project to take definitive shape with the launch of its operational instruments and the unveiling of the African Continental Free Trade Area placard. With Nigeria’s signature, Africa’s largest economy, on July 2, 2019, and its ratification in the early hours of the opening of the Summit on Sunday, July 8, the African Continental Free Trade Area project marked the beginning of a new era. With this latest signature and that of Benin, there are now 54 countries out of the 55 on the continent and the ratification threshold which had been set at 22 to allow its entry into force has been largely exceeded since it now stands at 27.

The organization of the first 24-nation CAN

For the first time on the African continent, the great football mass changed its habits, following in the footsteps of competitions such as the European Cup, which had, for a better cohesion of nations and a greater involvement of all communities, favoured an increase in the number of participants. In the case of the 2019 CAN in Egypt, the African Football Confederation, with its executive committee, decided to increase the number of teams from 16 to 24, a considerable increase of 8 nations, and to hold the competition between June and July rather than January and February as usual. This encouraging decision then made it possible for several nations to register and face their first baptism of fire in the competition. The cases of Madagascar, Mauritania and Burundi are examples of the opportunity that now exists in terms of qualification for the competition.

Despite too many stadiums being empty during matches due to the high cost of tickets, the tradition of closed-door sessions imposed by the incidents in Port Said and the lack of travel planning, it can be said that the organisation of the competition was a success given the short time frame Egypt had to prepare. The country had received the go-ahead for the organization of the competition only 6 months before its launch; the cause being that Cameroon, the country initially designated to host the competition had experienced serious shortcomings in the progress of infrastructure works to host the tournament. Despite all the problems, the competition recorded several epic matches including a tasty Nigeria-Cameroon match in Round 16, won by 3 goals to 2 in favour of the Super Eagles. The final of this 32nd edition saw the coronation at the pinnacle of Algeria against Senegal on the score of one goal against zero.

Organization of the first Russia-Africa Summit

On the diplomatic front, the African continent has had an unprecedented summit with Russia that will go down in the records of cooperation between the two parties. Organized with the aim of completing Russia’s return to the African continent, the Russian-African summit, which began on 23 October 2019 in Sochi, marked the “beginning of a new era of Russian-African cooperation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the opening ceremony. With more than 50 leaders present and more than 3,000 participants, the Summit paved the way for the formation of numerous partnership contracts between Russia and African countries. The wealthiest countries to emerge from the Summit were the Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocco.

Described as a “reliable partner for the continent” by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, current Chairman of the African Union, Russia marked its entry into cooperation with Africa more than 60 years later with the signing of two huge contracts. The first contract was signed with the DR Congo, which through the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Russian railway company, the RJD, took home the guarantee of the rehabilitation of its entire railway sector. For an estimated cost of US$ 500 million, this contract will allow several innovations for the Congolese railway sector including the installation of a locomotive assembly plant in the DR Congo, the training of personnel and especially the rehabilitation of several railway tracks in the country.

Following DR Congo, Morocco benefited from the signing of a gigantic contract: the construction of a petrochemical complex on Moroccan soil. The contract which represents an enormous capital gain for King Mohammed VI’s country, and is estimated to be worth two billion euros was set up between the Russian development bank, VEB and the Moroccan company MYA Energy. Much more than the creation of a refinery, this project will above all make it possible to create jobs while making major contributions to the modernisation of refining equipment and the transfer of skills that are sorely lacking in many African countries in this area.

Organisation of presidential elections in several countries of the continent

Presidential elections have been held in several countries on the continent. While several of them have been blessed with peaceful elections, others have become embroiled in perpetuating opaque systems of cheating that have given rise to waves of protests.

In Tunisia, one had the impression that it was an evolution of democracy, since the candidate Nabil Karoui, who was in prison during the first round was able to reached the second round before being released by the Tunisian Court of Cassation. This situation showed that despite his physical absence from the electorate, his ideas were put forward during elections and it worked for him. Also, it should be noted that it was an independent candidate, Kais Saied, who finally emerged victorious in the presidential election in Tunisia, despite the strength that traditional African political parties are known to have. Several other countries also experienced calm and peaceful presidential elections. These include Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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