Africa in the News: Mauritania Votes, Khat Declared Class C Drug by UK, and Guinea Attracts Arab Investors

Mauritania Awaits Election Results

The country of Mauritania held general elections this past week, the results of which are expected to be tabulated within the next few days. The party of current President Mohamed Aziz is seen as the likely winner. Discontent with the electoral process, however, is significant. Many citizens see the contest as having little to do with differences in the parties’ varying political agendas and more to do with the candidates’ personal connections. In addition, a number of the country’s opposition groups boycotted the election.

Khat Labeled Class C Drug by U.K.

The United Kingdom has declared that khat, a leaf found in many parts of East Africa, is a “class C drug.” Khat is a slight narcotic, typically giving its chewers a burst of energy, as well as exposing them to a range of medical problems, including high blood pressure and insomnia. The leaf is of cultural significance in the region and underlies a portion of its economy. At present, khat is exported abroad, although many countries have made its consumption illegal.  Some observers fear that the U.K.’s declaration is likely to undercut local East African economies.

Islamic Development Bank and United Arab Emirates Invest in Guinea

The president of Guinea, Alpha Conde, emphasized the importance of attracting investment to his West African country in a recent conference hosted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At the conference, the Islamic Development Bank pledged to invest some $300 million to Guinea—which is home to a population more than half of which is registered below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Mubadala, the UAE’s government-operated investment firm, recently entered into a contract with the African country that calls for the creation of a new bauxite mine. Guinea is one of the world’s leading suppliers of the material, which is a key component in the production of aluminum, and has roughly 50 percent of the globe’s known reserves of it.

In other news, the 19th Conference of Parties concluded last week in Warsaw with some compromises and continuing obstacles. Temesgen Deressa, Bryce Campbell and Mwangi Kimenyi discuss the conference’s implications for agroforestry in Africa. UNCTAD’s 16th African Oil, Gas and Minerals Trade and Finance Conference and Exhibition was also held last week. Joseph Mawejje, a research analyst at AGI’s partner think tank the Economic Policy Research Centre in Uganda, argues that the conference’s focus on good governance hits the target when it comes to proper natural resource management.