Africa in the news: Nigeria establishes flexible exchange rate, Kenya reaffirms plan to close Dabaab refugee camp, and AfDB meetings focus on energy needs


Nigeria introduces dual exchange rate regime


On Tuesday, May 24, Nigerian Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele announced that the country will adopt a more flexible foreign exchange rate system in the near future. This move signals a major policy shift by Emefiele and President Muhammadu Buhari, who had until this point opposed calls to let the naira weaken. Many international oil-related currencies have depreciated against the dollar as oil prices began their decline in 2014. Nigeria, however, has held the naira at a peg of 197-199 per U.S. dollar since March 2015, depleting foreign reserves and deterring investors, who remain concerned about the repercussions of a potential naira devaluation. Following the announcement, Nigerian stocks jumped to a five-month high and bond prices rose in anticipation that a new flexible exchange rate regime would increase the supply of dollars and help attract foreign investors.

For now it remains unclear exactly what a more flexible system will entail for Nigeria, however, some experts suggest that the Central Bank may introduce a dual-rate system, which allows select importers in strategic industries to access foreign currency at the current fixed rate, while more generally foreign currency will be available at a weaker, market-related level. This new regime raises a number of questions, including how it will be governed and who will have access to foreign currency (and at what rate). On Wednesday, Nigeria’s parliament requested a briefing soon from Emefiele and Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun to provide additional clarity on the new system, although the date for such a meeting has not yet been set.


Kenya threatens to close the Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest


Earlier this month, Kenya announced plans to close the Dadaab refugee camp, located in northeast Kenya, amid security concerns. The move to close the camp has been widely criticized by international actors. United States State Department Press Relations Director Elizabeth Trudeau urged Kenya to “uphold its international obligations and not forcibly repatriate refugees.” The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that the closure of the refugee camp would have “devastating consequences.” Despite these concerns, this week, at the World Humanitarian Summit, Kenya stated that it will not go back on its decision and confirmed the closure of the refugee camps within a six-month period.

The camp houses 330,000 refugees, a majority of whom fled from conflict in their home country of Somalia. Kenya insists that the camp poses a threat to its national security, as it believes the camp is used to host and train extremists from Somalia’s Islamist group al-Shabab. Kenya also argued that the developed world, notably the United Kingdom, should host its fair share of African refugees. This is not the first time Kenya has threatened to close the refugee camp. After the Garissa University attacks last April, Kenya voiced its decision to close the refugee camps, although it did not follow through with the plan.


African Development Bank Meetings highlight energy needs and launch the 2016 African Economic Outlook


From May 23-27, Lusaka, Zambia hosted 5,000 delegates and participants for the 2016 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB), with the theme, “Energy and Climate Change.” Held in the wake of December’s COP21 climate agreement and in line with Sustainable Development Goals 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and 13 (take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts), the theme was timely and, as many speakers emphasized, urgent. Around 645 million people in Africa have no access to electricity, and only 16 percent are connected to an energy source. To that end, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina outlined the bank’s ambitious aim: “Our goal is clear: universal access to energy for Africa within 10 years; Expand grid power by 160 gigawatts; Connect 130 million persons to grid power; Connect 75 million persons to off grid systems; And provide access to 150 million households to clean cooking energy.”

As part of a push to transform Africa’s energy needs and uses, Rwandan President Paul Kagame joined Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on a panel to support the AfDB’s “New Deal on Energy” that aims to deliver electricity to all Africans by 2025. Kenyatta specifically touted the potential of geothermal energy sources. Now, 40 percent of Kenya’s power needs come from geothermal energy sources, he said, but there is still room for improvement—private businesses, which make up 30 percent of Kenya’s on-grid energy needs, have not made the switch yet.

As part of the meetings, the AfDB, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) also launched their annual African Economic Outlook, with the theme “Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation.” In general, the report’s authors predict that the continent will maintain an average growth of 3.7 percent in 2016 before increasing to 4.5 percent in 2017, assuming commodity prices recover and the global economy improves.  However, the focus was on this year’s theme: urbanization. The authors provide an overview of urbanization trends and highlight that successful urban planning can discourage pollution and waste, slow climate change, support better social safety nets, enhance service delivery, and attract investment, among other benefits.

For more on urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa, see Chapter 4 of Foresight Africa 2016: Capitalizing on Urbanization: The Importance of Planning, Infrastructure, and Finance for Africa’s Growing Cities.