Mahamadou Issoufou wins 2020 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership
The 2020 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced today following a meeting of its independent Prize Committee.
President Mahamadou Issoufou served two five-year terms as President of Niger from 2011 to 2020. He is the sixth recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, which recognises and celebrates excellence in African leadership. The Ibrahim Prize aims to distinguish exceptional leaders who, during their time in office, have developed their countries, strengthened democracy and protected rule of law for the shared benefit of their people.
In its citation, the Prize Committee praised President Issoufou’s exceptional leadership after inheriting one of the world’s poorest economies, facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. Throughout his time in office, he has fostered economic growth, shown unwavering commitment to regional stability and to the constitution, and championed African democracy.
Announcing the decision, Festus Mogae, Chair of the Prize Committee and former President of Botswana said: “In the face of the most severe political and economic issues, including violent extremism and increasing desertification, President Mahamadou Issoufou has led his people on a path of progress. Today, the number of Nigeriens living below the poverty line has fallen to 40%, from 48% a decade ago. While challenges remain, Issoufou has kept his promises to the Nigerien people and paved the way for a better future. After careful consideration, the Committee finds President Issoufou a worthy winner of the Ibrahim Prize.”
President Issoufou was first democratically elected President in 2011, following many years of military rule in Niger. He was elected for a second term in 2016 and stepped down at the end of this mandate, demonstrating his clear respect for the constitution.
Data from the 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) underline President Issoufou’s achievements. During his ten years as President, Niger has made progress in multiple areas, including improving in all four sub-categories of Human Development. At the end of the decade, Niger ranked 28 out of 54 countries in the IIAG. It is among the ten most improved African countries in strengthening socioeconomic opportunities for women.
On learning the outcome of the Prize Committee’s deliberations, Mo Ibrahim said: “I’m delighted that the Prize Committee has made President Mahamadou Issoufou an Ibrahim Prize Laureate. He is an outstanding leader who has worked tirelessly for the people of Niger, meeting some of the region’s toughest challenges with determination and respect. I am proud to see Issoufou recognised as an example of exceptional leadership and I hope his legacy will inspire generations of African leaders.”
President Mahamadou Issoufou joins President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia (2017), President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), President Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), President Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008) and President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007) as an Ibrahim Prize Laureate. President Nelson Mandela was made the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007.
The Ibrahim Prize is a US$5 million award paid over ten years. It ensures that the African continent continues to benefit from the experience and wisdom of exceptional leaders once they have left national office, by enabling them to continue their invaluable work in other civic roles on the continent.
The candidates for the Ibrahim Prize are all former African Executive Heads of State or Government who have left office during the last three calendar years, having been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term. The full citation from the Prize Committee can be read at : http://mif.media/2020-citation-en
About the Mo Ibrahim Foundation: The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was established in 2006 with a focus on the critical importance of political leadership and public governance in Africa.
BRICS FM Meeting in South Africa: Readiness for Expansion
At the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) foreign ministers meeting in Cape Town early June, there were high expectations. The first on the agenda was International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant issued from The Hague for Russian President Vladimir Putin if he travels to the country. From historical perspectives, South Africa and Russia have close relationships from the time of the former’s political and liberation struggle, and with developments until it joined BRICS in 2010.
On the unofficial levels, Putin has worked out friendship with both former President Jacob Zuma and the current South African Cyril Ramaphosa. We know very well that this strategic relationship is (un)doubtlessly influencing politics between the two countries and of course, the two plus China in BRICS.
Putin is the target of an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children. A member of the ICC, Pretoria, which has close diplomatic ties with Moscow, would be expected to arrest Putin if he sets foot in the country.
The South African government previously drew international criticism in 2015, when it refused to execute an ICC arrest warrant for then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who had been indicted for war crimes and genocide, while he was attending a meeting of African leaders in Johannesburg. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the government had acted unlawfully and the ICC found that it had failed to failed to comply with its international obligations.
Reading further around reports which emerged from the foreign ministers meeting, there was the both local and foreign media, including Reuters, AP, AFP and Bloomberg said South Africa was now considering switching the venue of an upcoming summit of BRICS leaders to another country. This move that would resolve its dilemma over whether to execute an international arrest warrant for Putin. In fact one highly possibility is to task China to host the BRICS leaders summit in August.
But the Department of International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor’s spokesman, Lunga Ngqengelele, said that as things stand, the summit will be held in Gauteng province, where the commercial hub of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, are situated. “As far as we are aware, we have announced the summit venue as Gauteng, South Africa. That is what we know as of today.” according to Lunga Ngqengelele.
Secondly, the BRICS foreign minister are concerned about new currency that could be used to dodge sanctions. The BRICS National Development Bank specially created bank to provide guidance on a how a potential new shared currency might work, including how it could shield other member countries from the impact of sanctions such as those imposed on Russia. The foreign ministers already discussed, at length, long before the meeting but how the bloc can win greater global influence and to challenge the United States still remained for future.
The BRICS are looking to “ensure that we do not become victims to sanctions that have secondary effects on countries that have no involvement in issues that have led to those unilateral sanctions,” Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of international relations, told reporters after the meeting. Proposals are being considered by officials at the New Development Bank, the Shanghai-based lender created by BRICS nations, and the bloc “will be guided to them as to what the future models might be,” Pandor said, without providing further details.
Thirdly, plans for expansion. In fact, BRICS activities have expanded during the past few years. Countries participated in the Outreach and BRICS plus segments of the organization. There are also a number of African countries including Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal have also shown interest. Egypt has already been involved for a fairly long time. Last December 2022, Egypt, the decision on its accession to the New Development Bank was made by BRICS.
The prospect of adding more members was first raised at last year’s summit in China and 13 nations have formally asked to join, with at least seven others expressing interest. Now BRICS ministers were joined by counterparts from countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Kazakhstan. Also and with more than 20 countries aspiring to join. Asked about a meeting held with a Saudi Arabian delegation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said only that the issue of the kingdom joining was discussed, amid broader talks about how the bloc should expand its membership.
Saudi Arabia’s potential accession to BRICS would bolster Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s attempts to diversify his nation’s economy, an effort that has bought it much closer to Russia and China in recent years. China is the kingdom’s most important oil customer, while it relies on relations with Russia to help prop up crude prices through OPEC+.
For the Gulf region, joining major trade blocks makes sense as countries seek to expand trade ties and develop as global transit hubs, a person familiar with Gulf thinking said. Plans to join have been in the works for a while and momentum has been building toward this point, the person said.
BRICS, which invited South Africa to join in 2010, has failed to punch its weight as a group. That’s despite its members representing more than 42% of the world’s population and accounting for 23% of global gross domestic product and 18% of trade, giving credence to demands for more sway.
South Africa believes that the bloc could be “transformative” representing those nations that wish to play a role in world affairs, ensuring benefit to the Global South. “BRICS has acquired a very important stature in the world, with many countries across various continents of our world seeking to be part of it,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told lawmakers in Cape Town.
South Africa has its own internal problems, deepening each passing day. The ANC is playing hard on its foreign relations with external Countries especially with Russia, the United States and Europe. The geopolitical tensions have added to worries about the impact on South Africa’s economic outlook from daily blackouts and logistical constraints that are hampering exports, with the rand falling to successive record lows over the past month.
South Africa, as per stipulated approved guidelines and rules, holds the rotating presidency of BRICS, the organization of five emerging developing countries made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The BRICS is a model organization of genuine multilateral diplomacy. Its structure is formed in compliance with the 21st century realities.
From all indications BRICS is developing, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then later, Brazil joined and finally South Africa in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. The acronym BRICS is derived from the member-countries names in English. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world’s geographical area and about 42% of the world’s population
The Strategic Partnership between Eritrea and Russia
In this extremely poor Eritrea nation located in the Horn of Africa, with a population 3.6 million, what factors could attract to strengthen cooperation in the spheres highlight by the Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with President of the State of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki at the Kremlin. According to reports that emerged from the Kremlin on May 31, Putin made reference to the fact that Eritrea has recently marked 30 years of its independence. This was when two countries established diplomatic relations too.
Russia is attracted due to its highly strategic location. Eritrea is bordered to the northeast and east by the Red Sea, Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the southeast. The undemarcated border with Ethiopia is the primary external issue currently facing Eritrea. Geopolitical history informed us that Eritrea’s relations with Ethiopia turned from that of cautious mutual tolerance, following the 30-year war for Eritrean independence, to a deadly rivalry that led to the outbreak of hostilities from May 1998 to June 2000 that claimed approximately 70,000 lives from both sides.
Despite the differences between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Russia maintains good relations with the two. But the main significance as stressed during the meeting was trade and economic relations which deserve primary attention. There could only be a few, of course not a lot, of potential in many areas. From our studies, agriculture makes up 11 percent of the wider economy’s value, and is the main economic activity in Eritrea.
In 2013, the pickup in growth had been attributed to the commencement of full operations in the gold and silver Bisha mined by Canadian Nevsun Resources, the production of cement from the cement factory in Massawa and investment in Eritrea’s copper and zinc. Chinese are very active in the mining sector and the Australians operate Colluli potash mining. In 2020, the IMF estimated Eritrea’s GDP at $2.1 billion.
With that economic background however, Russia sees an opportunity to develop trade and economic ties between the two countries. “Of course, we must first of all pay attention to the development of trade and economic ties, here we have good prospects in many areas,” Putin said.
As expected, there was a display passion for packing official documents. After series of substantive consultations on partnership and intensive preparations between Asmara and Moscow, the delegation signed several intergovernmental agreements. “I am sure that our talks today will be successful and will benefit the development of relations between the Russian Federation and Eritrea,” Putin stressed.
The trade turnover between Russia and Eritrea in 2022 amounted to $13.5 mln, including $11.5 mln from wheat exports, according to materials for the talks between Putin and Isaias Afwerki in the Kremlin.
“The trade turnover between Russia and Eritrea in 2022 amounted to $13.521 mln (exports: $12.745 mln, including $11.5 mln – wheat (27,500 tons); imports: $776,000),” the statement said.
In 2021, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $9.314 mln. Exports of wheat amounted to $8.125 mln, oil products – $175,000, sulfates – $888,000. At the same time, imports of ready-made clothes reached $126,000.
According to the statement, Eritrea is highly interested in strengthening ties with Ural Automobile Plant and Kamaz. In 2018, Kamaz delivered 56 cars and 5 buses valued around $5 mln to Eritrea.
“In my view, the global order, which is on the cusp of a radical transformation, requires objective appraisal and mutual consultations on the timeless subject matter and phenomena of paramount importance and significance. The common assessment that we undertake will, in turn, revitalise the formulation of programmes and partnership that we chart on,” Isaias Afwerki said during the meeting.
Isaias Afwerki believes that the Russia was the primary competitor and rival of the policy of encirclement and containment by the forces of domination from the early 1990s, and its global impact in the past 30 years was considerable indeed. Russia too, did not undertake, at the outset, all the necessary preparations for effective resistance.
An integrated and comprehensive strategy of resistance was not accordingly set in motion. But with time, and as the latent policy of containment against China becomes more transparent, international awareness of the free peoples has increased.
“It is imperative to expand and deepen this awareness, chart out a comprehensive strategy and concrete plans that encompass all fields, create dynamic mechanisms, marshal the necessary resources so as to ascertain the advent of and transit to a civilised international order of mutual respect, cooperation, complementarity and prosperity, where justice and the rule of law prevail. This is not an option but an obligation,” he explicitly pointed out to Putin.
It is important to remind here that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Eritrea in January 2023. He said the agenda for Russia-Eritrea cooperation has a key focus on the implementation of potential joint projects, including the logistics hub in Asmara. At a meeting at that time, Afwerki and Lavrov also discussed the radical changes in the international situation and key directions for the development of Russian-Eritrean relations. Lavrov reported to Putin about the results of his African tour at a Security Council meeting.
Afwerki has been president since 1993 when Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia. He is the first and the only person to hold the post so far. Sergey Lavrov visited Eritrea in January as he toured Africa. The commercial activities revolve around this strategic location as a transit point and the strategic location also makes the country prime for an increased military presence. This is the strategic importance for Russia.
Lavrov spoke extensively about economic cooperation. According to him, Russia’s truck maker KAMAZ was already working in Eritrea, supplying its products to that country, as was Gazprombank Global Resources, which was building cooperation in the banking sector. The same year 2018, concrete talks were held to build a logistics centre at the port of Eritrea, that makes world’s class logistics and services hub for maritime transportation through the Suez Canal and definitely set to promote bilateral trade.
Still that same year, Eritrea was interested in opening a Russian language department at one of the universities in the capital of the country, Asmara. Lavrov further indicated: “We agreed to take extra measures to promote promising projects in the sphere of mining and infrastructure development and to supply specialized transport and agricultural equipment to Eritrea.”
In April 2022, Eritrea’s top diplomat, Osman Saleh, made a quick reciprocal visit to Moscow to recieve an honor and congratulations for opposing resolution in New York. That was in March 2022, Eritrea was one of the countries who voted against the resolution condemning Russia over the situation in Ukraine at the United Nations.
Eritrea is now a member of the African Union. The Eritrean government previously withdrew its representative to the African Union to protest the AU’s alleged lack of leadership in facilitating the implementation of a binding border decision demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea is also a member of the United Nations.
Nigeria and Ghana Expediting Actions on Abidjan-Lagos Highway Construction
Popularly referred to as the Abidjan-Lagos corridor, this is a long highway which stretches from Abidjan to Lagos, crossing five independent states (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria) from west to east, and includes two political capitals and many regional economic centers. By European standard too long, but this highway which has a length of approximately 965 kilometers is considered the most mega-project to undertake in Africa.
Due to the linguistic, cultural and political differences between the countries, the region’s economic potential has not yet been fully exploited. There has been little alignment of standards and construction of common infrastructure, and even within the countries, transportation links are often unreliable. The idea to undertake this transport connection has still been on the planning table, with the its gibbest headache about source of finance.
Reports emerged that there have been series of negotiations and meetings at highest levels to determine effective ways of financing and its final realsation in the region. In this extreme case for this gaint infrastructure, global key players offer reassurance but there has not been any successful noticeable financial committment.
The Ministerial Steering Committee of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development Project held its 19th in May 2023 to take decisions on expediting the completion of technical studies, securing of lands for the right of way, financing the construction of the highway project and the operationalization of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Management Authority (ALCoMA).
Welcoming participants on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission, the Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitalization, Sediko Douka lauded the commitment of the member countries and highlighted the fact that the Abidjan-Lagos Highway remains a flagship project for the Commission, and is one of the interventions that could change the narrative of ECOWAS by highlighting the contribution to the total economic growth of community citizens with projects in transport, health, agriculture, customs, migration, education and more.
“It will enable citizens of the community to better appreciate and be informed about tangible achievements of ECOWAS. Indeed, it is our duty to accentuate the visibility of ECOWAS achievement on physical infrastructure projects in the area of transport, energy, telecom, water resource and agriculture just as this project has been presented at various African Investment Forums by the African Development Bank, he said.
Commissioner Douka, however, charged the participants to take interest in ensuring that the project becomes a reality. “We keep calling on both public and private investors to accompany the countries and ECOWAS in the realization of this visionary venture,” Douka added.
The feasibility and preliminary designs studies have been completed, whiles the final phases should be completed before the end of this year. “On resource mobilization, it should be noted that ECOWAS has just adopted a new regulatory framework on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) that is an incentive for the entry of Private Sector in large Investments like the nature of this project,” according to the Commissioner.
Ministers of Roads and Works of Corridor Countries took turns to express their continued commitment to support the completion of the technical studies and accompany ECOWAS and Development Partners to raise the needed investment to fund the project.
Chairman of the Ministerial Steering Committee and Minister of Public Works and Housing of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Babatunde Raji Fashola expressed his pride at the achievements so far attained from the outset. He highlighted that projects of such magnitude usually encounter several challenges at the preparatory stages, but through the hard work of Project Engineers and Member States, most challenges have been overcome.
“We are building a road over one thousand kilometers, across five (5) countries, across diversity of languages and political structures, in a modern era of climate change, people’s rights and sustainability on our horizon. We have heard issues about compensation; environment, social impact assessment, resettlement and action plan etc. because at the end of the day this is all about people. So, we must build in a way that takes care not only of people’s interest but also climate and other diversities,” noted Babatunde Raji Fashola.
In this case, partners and stakeholders are still highly optimistic about the completion the necessary reports to address all the obstacles realting to the project. “If we get this right, then constructing the project will be very easy, so please do not despair. It may look difficult, but with my little experience, this is the hardest part, and we are almost there,” he said and intimated that the operationalization of the Management Authority that will manage the corridor highway development project has commenced with the formation of the Board of Directors.
Vice President of the Republic of Ghana delivered a keynote address during the meeting, through Yaw Osafo Maafo, Senior Advisor to the President. The Vice President commended the ministers and ECOWAS for their sustained effort and strong collaboration in preparing the Corridor Highway Project. He hinted that in preparation for the construction Ghana’s section of the Multinational Highway, Ghana has embarked on massive sensitization drives along the host communities.
He expressed excitement over the assurance of African Development Bank (AfDB) to raise the required funds for the highway construction, describing the project as top on the agenda of Ghana government. “The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Project is on the priority list of the Government of Ghana, and we keenly look forward to the day that the sword will be raised for the commencement of this construction. We believe that this project will give a new dimension to ECOWAS, and we believe it will change the economies of the five (5) countries and the region, and therefore whatever we can do to support it, we will do it,” concluded Yaw Osafo Maafo.
Construction of a highway route from Abidjan to Lagos is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2025. The project is expected to cost $15 billion and will significantly increase regional economic integration. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is involved in the financing. In broad terms, it contributes to poverty reduction and economic and social development in the least developed African countries by providing concessional funding for projects and programs, as well as technical assistance for studies and capacity-building activities.
The population within the region is experiencing rapid growth, and nearly 50 million people are expected to live within the corridor by 2035. The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway offers opportunity for significant portion of West Africa’s economic output to be generated, and it is also envisaged that cities within the corridor will become the most economically developed across the West Africa region – in the Economic Community of West Africa.
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