In 2022 the desired narrative of a renewed partnership between Africa and Europe, as adopted in a February summit of heads of state and government, was disrupted by Russia’s war against Ukraine and its global implications. Notwithstanding challenges in the relationship on areas including Ukraine, the green transition, and vaccine equity, several initiatives in the area of trade and investments sought to deepen cooperation between the EU and African states in an era of considerable international competition. This includes the EU’s Global Gateway initiative as well as its support for South Africa’s Just Energy Transition Partnership. At the same time, South Africa’s decision to leave the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States showed that the discussion on rationalising the EU’s fragmented institutional frameworks with Africa is far from over.
The August elections defined political dynamics, which were marked by a hardening of the political and social climate. Hotly contested, the elections returned the ruling party and President João Lourenço to power with a narrower-than-ever majority, indicating growing dissatisfaction with and distrust in political institutions and their ability to represent the population’s interests. Foreign affairs largely followed the courant normal, and were dominated by economic rather than political considerations. Post-pandemic, the economy nominally recovered. This was largely due to rebounding oil prices, as oil income still dominated government revenues, yet costs of living remained high and living conditions for a majority of people were dire.
The deteriorating security situation and the upcoming legislative elections in early 2023 dominated domestic politics. President Patrice Talon met with two of his predecessors to discuss issues of national relevance. On the diplomatic front, bilateral and multilateral exchanges between Benin and various countries marked the year. Beninese authorities continually made working visits, received visitors, and took part in international meetings. On the socioeconomic front, the year was essentially characterised by the high cost of living. The launch of the second phase of the Alafia microcredit scheme was an important event. Partnership with France was sought in order to increase tax revenues but was also important in other areas, including the return and exhibiting of art looted or purchased during colonial times.
Domestic politics was characterised by intra-party and inter-party feuding, and by the ruction between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and former president Ian Khama, with the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) at the centre of their dispute, giving rise to criticisms that the diss was ‘operating above the law’ and encroaching ‘with impunity’ on the roles of other institutions such as the Botswana Police Service, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB). Corruption, malfeasance, and money laundering, as well as concerns over the independence and integrity of the judiciary, intensified despite President Masisi’s anti-corruption posture and declaration of adherence to the rule of law. The country preserved its foreign policy, characterised by unprecedented out-bound visits. Covid-19 eased, and the economy showed signs of positive economic recovery, yet socioeconomic barriers remained significant.
Two military coups threw Burkinabé domestic politics and foreign policy into a tailspin during the year. As a military junta attempted to exert political control over the country, insecurity primarily as a result of a growing militant Islamist insurgency overtook the countryside, hitting civilian communities in the north and east particularly hard. Some 2 m citizens had been displaced from their homes by the end of the year because of the conflict. Regional mediators stepped in to re-establish elected civilian rule, winning public commitments from the leaders of both coups, but with military rule also came speculation that external autocratic influence might supplant ties with Western governments. The worsening security, humanitarian, and socioeconomic situation of Burkina Faso underscored its already precarious and uncertain position, leaving a grim outlook for 2023.
In a major government reshuffle, President Évariste Ndayishimiye ousted Prime Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, along with several other state officials. The country’s diplomatic relations and international engagement have continued to considerably improve, both on the regional and the global levels. While the lifting of EU sanctions and various grants created economic benefits, spillover effects from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine hit the country’s economy hard, and contributed to high inflation, fuel shortages, and rising food prices. The human rights situation remained worrisome and civil liberties restrained, despite small improvements.
When Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva (Mudança para a Democracia, MpD) reshuffled his executive in October, he did not significantly reduce the number of government members as demanded by the opposition to reduce public spending in times of crisis. The government approved several credits for the ailing national airline Transportes Aéreos de Cabo Verde (TACV) to safeguard its existence until its scheduled future reprivatisation. The important tourism sector further recovered from the decline suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic. Steadily increasing numbers of foreign visitors resulted in rising tourist-related tax revenue.
Internal power struggles and financial challenges poisoned the political climate, eclipsing the war that continued to rage in the two Anglophone regions. While affirming the strength of his ties with Russia, President Paul Biya – who this year celebrated his 40th anniversary as head of state – allowed himself to be courted by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who had come to meet him in Yaoundé for the first time. While GDP continued to grow, the population suffered from the ill effects of high inflation.
Half of the countries in Central Africa continued to face violent conflicts, with no major positive developments on record. Political theatre – with ‘national dialogues’ being held in CAR and Chad and elections, such as those in Congo and Equatorial Guinea, whose outcomes were simply not credible – undermined rather than strengthened democracy. Some economic recovery after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic (and the counter-measures to control it) was tangible in most countries. The prospect of a merger of three sub-regional organisations into a single one created some hope of greater effectiveness on a supranational level.
The government left most efforts to reconquer territory from diverse armed groups to its private Russian ally (Wagner Group), which was accused of atrocities by many sides. After holding a stage-managed, partly boycotted ‘republican dialogue’, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra felt strong enough to push for constitutional reform that was mostly meant to allow him to stand for a third term in elections as remote as 2025. He met with stiff opposition from the constitutional court, which was itself targeted by the president and his supporters. The head of the UN peace operation deplored the lethargy of the peace process. Economic crisis and fuel and food shortages hit the population, with a growing proportion at risk of severe malnutrition.