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KEY DEVELOPMENTS AND OBSTACLES IN AFRICA IN 2023 WITH A LOOK AHEAD TO 2024.

 


In 2023, Africa experienced significant events that reshaped its economic and social structure. Nigeria, Angola, and Ghana removed subsidies on oil and gas, and Nigeria inaugurated Africa's biggest refinery, a $19 billion project, leading to significant changes in the energy industry.

 

The continent faced challenges with increased living expenses due to surging inflation rates and a growing concern over food insecurity. Numerous nations, including Congo, Sierra Leone, and Egypt, encountered significant inflation spikes. Furthermore, 41 African countries, along with regions in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa, faced food scarcity issues.

 

Political unrest presented a hurdle, with Niger and Gabon witnessing coups, and Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau encountering coup attempts. Despite this, certain nations such as Benin, Rwanda, Gambia, and Seychelles made advancements by allowing visa-free access for all African countries, enhancing intra-regional mobility.

 

During COP28, the African region secured commitments amounting to $792 million to address the urgent global challenge of climate change. Additionally, the UAE pledged significant investments in carbon initiatives for Zimbabwe, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, and Zambia to bolster their climate resilience efforts.

 

Looking forward to 2024, the insights and encounters of 2023 will undeniably shape our anticipations and approaches for the upcoming year. This piece intends to scrutinize these pivotal occurrences and advancements, delving into their consequences for the future of Africa.

 

THE REMOVAL OF GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZES FOR SOME OF AFRICA’S LARGEST AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS.

 

In 2023, a significant shift occurred in Africa's energy sector. Nigeria, Angola, and Ghana boldly decided to remove subsidies on oil and energy, marking a crucial step in their economic reform journey that profoundly impacted their economies and societies.

 

In Africa's largest oil producer, Nigeria, the decision to remove fuel subsidies led to an immediate increase in fuel prices, triggering public demonstrations and panic purchasing. Despite the initial chaos, the intention was to allocate funds towards essential sectors such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Concerns were raised about potential price rises affecting vulnerable populations, highlighting the importance of implementing robust social protection measures. Addressing longstanding demands to address discrepancies within the fuel industry is deemed essential for transparency and accountability.

 

As the second largest crude oil producer in Africa, Angola sought to reduce expenditure on petrol subsidies to enhance economic development. Implemented in June 2023, this decisive action resulted in an 87.5% increase in petrol prices. While this reduction seemed drastic, it was deemed necessary to alleviate the fiscal strain on the government and lay the groundwork for sustainable economic stability.

 

Similarly, in March 2023, Ghana's NPA implemented substantial regulatory changes by eliminating fuel subsidies and implementing fuel caps to stabilize the downstream sector. This proactive measure was in response to market fluctuations triggered by the Russian-Ukraine conflict and evolving energy transition strategies. Ghana pursued this policy to enhance market competitiveness and attract private sector investments.

 

The Inauguration of Africa's Largest Refinery

 

Commencing operations in Lagos, Nigeria, is the continent's most extensive oil refinery, the Dangote Refinery, under the ownership of Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote. Boasting a processing capacity of 650,000 barrels per day, this facility aims to cater to Nigeria's petroleum product needs and potentially transition the country from an importer to an exporter of refined oil.

 

Construction on this expansive refinery began in 2016, culminating in its completion in 2022 at a cost of $19 billion. Situated in the Lekki Free Trade Zone near Lagos, the refinery sprawls across 6,000 acres of land, an area six times larger than Victoria Island in Lagos.

 

Equipped with cutting-edge technology and machinery sourced from global manufacturers, Dangote Refinery ensures optimal capacity utilization. Sporting a Nelson Complexity Index of 13.2, it ranks among the world's most intricate refineries, capable of converting diverse crude oils into premium-grade gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and polypropylene.

 

The establishment of Dangote Refinery heralds a transformative era for Nigeria and Africa at large. It promises self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products, job generation, technology transfer, and export revenues. Expected to meet Nigeria's daily demand of 445,000 metric tonnes of refined crude and other petroleum products, the refinery stands to elevate economic prospects in Nigeria and curtail the nation's reliance on imported fuel.

 

AFRICA IS FACING RISE AN ALARMING RISE IN THE COST OF LIVING.

 

In 2023, the cost of living in Africa emerged as a significant concern, with several countries experiencing high inflation rates. The Democratic Republic of Congo recorded the most substantial inflation hike, surging by 26.22% from January to October. Sierra Leone followed with a notable increase of 15.72%, while Egypt witnessed a rise of 7.9% between January and November. Nigeria experienced a 6.38% inflation uptick during the same January to November period. These elevated inflation figures significantly impacted the affordability of essential goods and services, posing challenges for numerous individuals and families in meeting their basic needs.

 

In 2023, food scarcity emerged as another notable concern in Africa. Prolonged periods of drought and extreme weather patterns attributed to climate change led to a severe lack of food access affecting approximately 23 million individuals in the eastern Horn of Africa region, including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. Additionally, the escalating cost of food exacerbated the situation, with food price inflation exceeding overall inflation rates in 74% of the 167 countries where data was available.

 

As we anticipate 2024, there are optimistic expectations for improvements in both the cost of living and food security throughout Africa. Particularly, forecasts suggest a potential decrease in average inflation in Sierra Leone, which could alleviate living expenses. Concerning food security, small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises (agri-SMEs) are seen as crucial for revolutionizing food systems and bolstering food security in Africa. Nevertheless, these businesses often encounter challenges in accessing formal bank loans, highlighting the need for innovative financing solutions and greater support for agri-SMEs.

 

THE FUND DESIGNATED FOR COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE.

 

The COP28 conference announced a pledge of $792 million to assist Africa in addressing the impacts of climate change. While this falls significantly short of the estimated $2.8 trillion needed over the next decade to implement Africa's climate change plans, it marks a significant advancement. These substantial pledges indicate momentum and progress, even though additional financial support is still necessary for the continent to fully execute its climate action agenda.

 

The commitments originate from diverse sources, including developed nations, international organizations, and private donors. This diversity in funding sources highlights the growing recognition of Africa's vulnerability to climate change and the importance of global collaboration in addressing it.

 

Adding further momentum, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a $6 billion carbon investment initiative for African nations, allocating $1.5 billion to Zimbabwe and $4.5 billion to Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, and Zambia. This targeted investment focuses on carbon capture and storage projects, aiming to reduce emissions and accelerate the transition to cleaner energy sources in these countries.

 

These commitments and financial contributions offer a glimmer of hope for African nations grappling with the devastating effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, droughts, and extreme weather events. The funding will be essential for strengthening climate resilience, building adaptation infrastructure, and promoting sustainable development.

 

Nevertheless, it's crucial to note that there are still obstacles in ensuring equitable distribution of funds, transparent execution of projects, and lasting impacts over time. Continued collaboration and accountability among nations will be essential to ensure that these commitments translate into tangible benefits for African communities directly affected by the impacts of climate change.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The year 2023 underscored the numerous intricate challenges confronting Africa, such as soaring prices, political unrest, and the ongoing menace of climate change. However, it also showcased instances of resilience, innovation, and a growing sense of regional unity. As we are in 2024, a significant question remains: will our focus be on the vulnerabilities or the vast opportunities for collaboration and advancement? The resolution does not solely lie with those in positions of leadership but with all Africans, united in their pursuit of a brighter future.

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