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African Energy - Issue 412 - 26/03/2020

Coronavirus impact on Africa’s power sector is limited, so far

The coronavirus pandemic has so far been characterised by the dramatic speed of infection and a rapid escalation of policy responses by governments. While Africa has so far been less affected than Europe, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on 23 March announced a 21-day lockdown to begin on 26 March, and it is likely that many more countries will follow. The continent has had at least 2,000 recorded cases, mostly among people travelling from Europe, and almost certainly many more in reality.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1099 - 19/03/2020

Bani Salman leadership projects ruthless ambition as oil prices crash, virus spreads

Alargely unexpected conflict between Riyadh and Moscow has shattered the marriage of convenience which since 2016 has allowed the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Non-Opec countries to stabilise oil prices and with them their domestic finances. The fallout, which threatens huge new pressures on oil producing economies, was driven by one of Opec’s most experienced officials, Saudi energy minister (and royal son) Prince Abdelaziz Bin Salman.

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African Energy - Issue 411 - 12/03/2020

Price shock hits African producers already struggling with low demand

The fallout from Saudi Arabia’s 6 March decision to pull the plug on negotiations with Russia to extend and deepen Opec and non-Opec crude production cuts risks dragging Africa’s leading oil exporters into prolonged recession if oil prices do not recover quickly from their new levels of around $35/barrel.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1098 - 05/03/2020

Political trust and economic growth in the balance as Covid-19 spreads through Gulf

Th e spread of Covid-19 – the strain of coronavirus disease that emerged in central China’s Hubei province last year – is gathering momentum around the region. It is prompting serious questions about the standard of governance in Iran, while shaking the economies of even the best-run Gulf states. Governments have been trying to reduce the risk of infection by restricting travel to and from at-risk destinations, putting in place screening programmes and cancelling public events. But ultimately none have been able to prevent the virus from crossing their borders.

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African Energy - Issue 410 - 27/02/2020

West African oil exports hit by coronavirus effect as Chinese demand falls

West Africa oil exporters are scrambling to deal with a sharp drop in Chinese import demand caused by the coronavirus. China imported around 1.3m b/d of West African crude before the economic jolt caused by the virus. Imports fell to 1.1m b/d in February, causing major disruption to the key market for many sub-Saharan African oil exporters, according to tanker data and crude-loading programmes.

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African Energy - Issue 409 - 13/02/2020

Nigerian electricity regulator acts to rein in distribution chaos

A tumultuous few months in Nigerian electricity distribution that included the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) threatening to withdraw the licences of eight of the country’s 11 distribution companies (discos) in October has forced progress on some of the many intractable problems preventing investment in the sector. A clearer and more balanced regulatory framework has been put in place and, with a regulatory order on electricity distribution franchising expected later this month, discos have some options for attracting investment and improving service quality (AE 367/6, 363/7).

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1097 - 06/02/2020

Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ leaves Gulf allies struggling to respond

The “Deal of the Century” has finally emerged, with typically Trumpian braggadocio, several Gulf ambassadors and embattled Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in attendance. This was countered by muted defiance from the aging Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership and a flurry of rockets from Hamas in Gaza, to which Israel predictably responded in kind. After decades of conflict in the post-colonial Middle East’s traditionally central issue, US President Donald Trump’s unbalanced proposal to wrap up the Israel-Palestine conflict was more notable for the majority of tired and ambiguous responses it received, than for shifting geopolitical tectonic plates.

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African Energy - Issue 408 - 30/01/2020

Haftar rejects peace efforts, reimposes Libya oil terminal blockade

The warlord Khalifa Haftar’s comprehensive blockade of oil export terminals in eastern and western Libya is an attempt to force his drawn-out siege of Tripoli into an endgame. His price for lifting the blockade is the replacement of both National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman Mustafa Sanalla and Central Bank of Libya (CBL) governor Sadiq Al-Kabir. He also wants a greater share of oil revenues. Acceding to these demands would hand Haftar control of the two institutions that control the country’s resources and its money. It would confirm his legitimacy and represent the capitulation of the Government of National Accord (GNA). This shift to economic blackmail can be interpreted as a sign of weakness as it confirms the failure of military and political strategies for attaining victory. However, muted international condemnation and growing fatalism among Libya’s oppressed and war-weary people mean the gambit may well succeed.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1096 - 23/01/2020

Qaboos bequeaths a smooth succession as Haitham Bin Tariq takes over in Oman

Rumours about Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said’s health and imminent death had become a staple of political analysis about Oman and the wider region, reflecting his longstanding position as an essential mediator in Middle Eastern conflicts, as well as the architect of his nation’s emergence from a conflicted and backward-looking past. Close observers said that, by mid-December, the 79-year-old sultan had abandoned a planned programme of medical treatment in Leuven, Belgium, knowing it would be futile. While widely predicted, his death on 10 January nonetheless came as a profound shock to the nation he had not only ruled but profoundly shaped since 1970, and whose political life he had dominated as an absolute ruler (see Perspective for GSN’s appreciation of this remarkable life).

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African Energy - Issue 407 - 16/01/2020

CFA franc to be replaced by eco, but initial change is largely symbolic

The move by the eight-member Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (Uemoa) to end its 55-yearold currency union based on the French-guaranteed CFA franc will have a range of consequences for businesses and political relations. The new eco currency, whose creation was formally announced in Abidjan on 21 December by President Alassane Dramane Ouattara and the visiting French president, Emmanuel Macron, includes some major changes, notably ending control over franc zone institutions by the Banque de France and reducing the guarantee of the French state. But it does not yet represent an economic revolution: the eco’s introduction in the Uemoa will be subject to a steady transition, intended to avoid upsets in a region that has made considerable economic progress in the past decade, but remains prone to security concerns and potentially volatile populations.

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African Energy Gulf States Newsletter