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African press review 11 October 2018


The continued strength of the US dollar could make it difficult for some African countries to pay back their borrowings. Freetown is not, after all going to get a new airport. And what have Cosatu and the South African Communist Party got against the new finance minister?

Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania are among 14 sub-Saharan nations that will struggle to pay their loans, according to the World Bank.

This is the top story in regional paper the East African.

The global lender warns that the three regional economies, which have debt maturities starting in 2020, are currently facing rising currency risk that could jeopardise their loan repayments. In simple terms, the declining value of local currencies like the shilling or the Rwandan franc mean that the governments in Nairobi, Kigali and Dar will have to spend more to buy the foreign currency they need to pay their debts. The fact that the dollar, the base currency for international transactions, continues to strengthen is not helping either.

Freetown's airport project crashes

Sierra Leone’s new government has cancelled the controversial Chinese airport project sanctioned by the previous administration under Ernest Bai Koroma.

The construction of the 300 million euro airport, which began earlier this year, was being funded by a Chinese loan, which the government now says it cannot afford to repay.

The proposed Mamamah International Airport is located 40 km from Freetown, and was intended to replace the current one in the town of Lungi.

The problem with Lungi is that it's on the other side of the estuary from the capital, and you need to take a ferry to get to it.

Construction at Mamamah began last March, just one week before Koroma lost the presidency to General Maada Bio.

The World Bank and IMF both strenuously opposed the project, saying  that the West African nation had more important priorities than building a new airport, which would increase its debt burden.

Deng Alor returns to Juba

South Sudan opposition leader Deng Alor has returned to Juba.

This morning's Sudan Tribune describes Alor as a leading member of the SPLM-Former Detainees faction, and the first opposition leader to return to the South Sudanese capital since the signing of the revitalized peace agreement last September.

The Tribune says that Deng's return to Juba is little more than a courtesy visit, and that further meetings between the various parties to the latest peace deal are likely to be held, as planned, in Khartoum.

Old friends are best

In South Africa, tabloid daily the Sowetan reminds readers of a recent clash between the trade union confederation, Cosatu, and the newly-appointed finance minister, Tito Mboweni.

Mboweni's ANC credentials are impeccable. He spent a decade in exile in Lesotho between 1980 and 1990. On his return he was appointed the head of the party's department of economic policy.

The Sowetan suggests that Mboweni originally set his sights on the position of finance minister four years ago. But his name was withdrawn from the list of ANC politicians meant to serve as MPs after the 2014 general elections when it became clear that he wouldn't be considered for the position.

The Sunday Times reported in May 2014 that then president Jacob Zuma's powerful leftist allies were against Mboweni being appointed as finance minister.

Cosatu and the South African Communist Party blamed Mboweni for government policies that they believed led to rising unemployment and growing inequality. Zuma appointed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in May 2014.

On Tuesday, Mboweni replaced Nene.

His appointment comes as a shock, says the Sowetan, since Mboweni had previously ruled himself out of President Cyril Ramaphosa's cabinet.

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