The Royal Institute on Foreign Affairs has published its retrospect on Sub-Saharan Africa and a programme review.

Find the full Africa 2018 Programme here. This is the foreword summary by Dr Alex Vines, Head of the AFrica Programme.

"2018 was a year of continued diverging economic, political and security trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Ethiopia, the appointment of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has led to a number of sweeping changes, including a move towards multiparty democracy, improvements in strained relations with neighbours, and the opening up of the economy to increased private investment. But as indicated by the 2018 Mo Ibrahim Index, political freedoms and civic space are reducing in sub-Saharan Africa: in Uganda the arrest and torture of Bobi Wine, the well-known critic of long-time president Yoweri Museveni, and several other MPs; and in Tanzania, targeted assassinations of opposition party members, restrictions on protest and the closure of media outlets, are among a number of prominent examples.

Elections across the continent led to peaceful and democratic transfers of power in some countries and triggered violence or political crisis in others. In January, George Weah was sworn in as President of Liberia, following the December 2017 elections that resulted in a remarkable peaceful transfer  of power from one party to the other. Former opposition leader Maada-Bio of Sierra Leone was elected President after narrowly defeating Samura Kamara, from the then-governing All People’s Congress party, in a presidential runoff.

In Cameroon, Paul Biya secured a seventh term, extending his 36 years in power amid unrest and separatist militants attacks in the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions. Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta took office for a second five-year term despite low voter turnout due to security concerns, while in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner after securing 50.8 per cent of votes against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, in a national election marred by post-election protests and violence. Meanwhile in South Africa, Jacob Zuma resigned and was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as president.

Economic recovery continued to advance across the continent, supported by increasing demand for natural resources and rising commodity prices. The launch of the ambitious pan-African economic bloc, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in March, promises better connectivity that could support diversification of economies and scaling-up of African industries through access to regional markets, with positive implications for job creation and poverty reduction. Concerns persist, however, over mounting public debt, spurred by an increased appetite for commercial loans to finance major infrastructure projects.

Shifting security dynamics also add to this mixed picture at the continental level. Momentum was generated for national peace processes in South Sudan and Mozambique, despite concerns raised by ongoing local-level conflict and a regional Islamist insurgency respectively. Elsewhere, Somalia continues to confront a resurgent al-Shabaab while managing a security sector transition, and transnational instability persists across regions including the Sahel, eastern Congo and the Lake Chad basin.

As some traditional partners increasingly focus inwards, in 2018 the Africa Programme expanded its projects, activities and outputs to support improved understanding of changing international relations and influence in sub-Saharan Africa and the significant issues facing the region, towards more effective international engagements for positive outcomes.

Over 2018, we launched four new multi-year projects, produced 29 op-eds and other publications, and we hosted over 120 events and conferences. Programme staff and fellows visited over 25 countries including for events in Abuja, Dar es Salaam, Ljubljana and Warsaw, and our analysts provided over 600 written contributions and verbal interviews to media organizations globally.

2019 has the potential to be a year of major change for sub-Saharan Africa, but policy-makers face tough choices ahead, as multiple urgent demands and long-term planning pressures compete for attention and resources.

With presidential, local and legislative elections scheduled in 19 subSaharan African countries, including Nigeria and South Africa, in 2019, the Africa Programme will continue to support decision-makers internationally with independent evidence-based analysis and policy options, and provide a neutral platform for debate and discussion.

We could not do this work without the support of our funders, and we are grateful for their generous support.

Dr Alex Vines OBE Head, Africa Programme Chatham House"

We have been in deep mourning since we learned that Dr. Gisela Schulte-Daxbök, founding member and regular supporter of our foundation, passed away on 2 March 2019 at the age of 66.
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