• African nations witnessed a lot of issues in the year 2019.
  • Some of the issues threatened bilateral trades and diplomatic relations among nations.
  • We look at the seven most impactful events that shaped African politics and economics in 2019.

The outgoing year, 2019, witnessed a lot of trade, diplomatic issues across the comity of nations in Africa.

During the year, the African government also witnessed a lot of controversial issues that threatened bilateral trades and diplomatic relations among nations. These issues include xenophobic attacks in South Africa to reprisal attacks on South African-led businesses in Nigeria, land borders closure in the West African region, Africa’s free trade pact, and other activities along the East Africa corridor.

Business Insider SSA looks at these issues one after the other.

1. Africa’s free trade pact

The operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, has kicked off with five instruments.

AU leaders kick off operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area #AfCFTA (Twitter/_AfricanUnion)
AU leaders kick off operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area #AfCFTA (Twitter/_AfricanUnion)
Twitter/African Union

In August 2019, at the end of the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Niger, Africa leaders kicked off the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA.

The leaders also picked Ghana as the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area. It was at the meeting Nigeria appended signatory to the African free trade pact

The AfCFTA agreement was adopted and opened for signature on March 21, 2018, in Kigali.

The AfCFTA entered into force on May 30, 2019. The agreement seeks to cut tariffs within the bloc, boost trade, eliminate border barriers, and create the world's largest free trade area.

2. ECOWAS pushing hard on a common currency

In July 2019, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) forged ahead with an economic move to make Africa a more integrated continent.

They agreed to introduce a shared currency that will be launched in 2020 and adopted the name 'ECO'.

President Buhari participates at the 55th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS in Abuja on 21st Dec 2019
President Buhari participates at the 55th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS in Abuja on 21st Dec 2019
Facebook/Femi Adesina

Last week, they also adopted 'Ec' as a symbol for ECO - at the end of the 56th ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in Abuja.

The West Africa region may finalise its moves to introduce a common currency from early 2020 but Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria's Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, has hinted that the region's economic powerhouse is still deciding the next course of action on the single currency.

3. Nigeria lands sledgehammer on neighbouring countries

In August 2019, Nigeria shut down its land borders to tackle illicit trade and strengthen security in the country.

The move has been widely criticised. Many described the move as shortcomings to the ECOWAS and Africa trade pact. But Nigeria said it raked in N5 billion daily as a result of the closure.

Apart from incurring huge losses for businesses along the corridor, Brooking Institute said the border closure will have a huge negative impact on Benin Republic's substantial income and employment as the tiny West African nation relies heavily on Nigeria.

Traders want ECOWAS to hold emergency meeting on Nigeria border closure
Traders want ECOWAS to hold emergency meeting on Nigeria border closure

Awaiting the recommendations of the Joint Security EX-SWIFT Response next month, Nigeria has said it will only reopen the country's land borders in strict compliance with regional trade agreements of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS)

4. Xenophobic attacks and reprisals

In 2019, Africans witnessed xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The incident which resurfaced late August, expanded to Nigeria, resulting in reprisal attacks, leading to a temporary closure, looting, and destruction of some South African-originated businesses.

The re-occurrence of xenophobia threatened the two African countries' bilateral trades. In September 2019, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed worry over the attacks and called for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home from South Africa over recent xenophobic attacks.

300 Nigerians in South Africa are ready to return to their country following xenophobic attacks on them and their businesses in the Rainbow Country.
300 Nigerians in South Africa are ready to return to their country following xenophobic attacks on them and their businesses in the Rainbow Country.

His South Africa counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a statement issued on Monday, September 9, condemned the resurgence of public violence that claimed 'two lives' in Johannesburg.

5. Japan, Russia bet on Africa’s relations

With a spike in China's spending spree on the continent, Tokyo's renewed development aid and economic diplomacy while President Vladimir Putin also cemented more military agreements, advance political and economic relations.

President Buhari shakes Putin during the Russia-Africa summit (Twitter/NGRPresident)
President Buhari shakes Putin during the Russia-Africa summit (Twitter/NGRPresident)
Twitter/NGRPresident

The show of strength is to see which countries become the continent's strongest ally.

6. Ethiopia-Eritrea relations still finding a lasting solution

The long border issue between Eritrea and Ethiopia re-opened in 2018 but all closed by October 2019 again. No concrete reasons yet as leaders of both countries have promised to bolster ties.

7. Rwanda-Uganda amending sour relations

President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni are currently amending sour relations.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (L) and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (L) and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

The two East African countries have not been in good terms since 2017 when Rwanda accused Uganda of torturing its citizens which led to trade and travel restrictions.

In August 2019, the countries said they are committed to agreements to end hostilities after signing the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Angola’s capital witnessed by Presidents Joao Lourenco (Angola) and Felix Tshisekedi (DR Congo).

EXTRA:

Kenya’s New notes

On June 1, 2019, Kenya introduced new currencies to replace the old one as part of efforts marking the 56th Madaraka Day celebrations. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Central Bank Governor, Patrick Njoroge unveiled the country’s new currency.

The new currency notes were in Sh50, Sh100, Sh200, Sh500 and Sh1000 denominations and Kenyans were given until October 31 to discard the old Sh1000 note.

The phase out of the Sh1000 note, according to Dr Njoroge, would go a long way in helping deal with cases of counterfeits, which has impacted the economy negatively.

Nigeria-Ghana trade spat

In October 2019, the Ghana Union of Traders Association asked citizens to stop patronising products that are imported from Nigeria. They believed that the Nigeria government was not being fair to foreign traders in the wake of the border closure. The argument is different from the Nigerians side.