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new elections, clean energy and interstellar progress

Kenya: Survival of the fittest

Campaigning for Kenya’s 9 August national elections officially started at the end of May, but the political news had long been focused on the presidential race between frontrunners William Ruto and Raila Odinga.

The former is the country’s deputy president, who presents himself as a “hustler”; the latter is a former prime minister from a Kenyan political dynasty. As The Africa Report went to press, Odinga was leading in the polls but he was also having the most trouble retaining the loyalties of his allies.

On 5 May Odinga overtook Rutu for the first time in an opinion poll by Tifa Research, with 39% of the vote, compared with Ruto’s 35%. In the poll, 14% of respondents had not decided and 9% were unwilling to say who they would vote for.

The poll came just after the two candidates picked their running mates. Ruto picked Rigathi Gachagua – a businessman and former local government minister on trial for corruption – to run on his Kenya Kwanza ticket, saying Gachagua is a “strong man” who “cares about the common person”. He is MP for Mathira, and Ruto hopes the move will help with the large voter pool in central Kenya. Odinga chose former justice minister Martha Karua for his Azimio La Umoja coalition, hoping to win votes in Mount Kenya and from women. Judicial reform is one of his campaign issues.

Odinga’s choice of Karua alienated his former ally Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, who has already served as vice-president and rated himself as the best choice – a symptom of disunity in the Odinga camp.

Ruto and Odinga are crisscrossing the country to win over voters with major promises. Ruto talks up support for entrepreneurs and small businesses while Odinga says he will deliver on help for poorer families. Whoever wins, the government’s high debt levels, fighting unemployment and addressing the rising cost of living will be major problems to tackle. The judiciary and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will be in the spotlight after previous elections were marred by violence and disputes, as voters choose not only the president but members of parliament and county governors.

Renewables

South Africa is getting ever more serious about renewable energy. It is accepting bids until 11 August for projects to generate 2,600MW of energy from independent power projects. This is the country’s sixth bidding window, with the government planning to sign deals for the fifth window – including an estimated 2,583MW – by September.

Appointment

Gelson Fernandes

The former footballer is climbing the ranks of officialdom in the sports world. In August, the Cabo Verdean will become FIFA’s director of member associations for Africa.

Book

Nigerian American Nike Campbell has brought out her second historical novel. Saro is a multigenerational tale of love and suffering set against the backdrops of Lagos, Nigeria, and Freetown, Sierra Leone in the 19th century.

Angola: Lourenço’s delicate balancing act

Angola’s ruling party, the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), is likely to be victorious once again in the country’s August elections. It has been in power since Angola gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. President João Lourenço has allowed more political opening than did his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos, but analysts say it is unlikely to be enough to give the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) and its allies a chance to win the presidency. The opposition is led by Adalberto Costa Júnior, in his first run for the presidency. He hopes to better UNITA’s 2017 performance of 26.7% of the votes.

Angola is emerging from a long period of economic crisis, due to the fall in oil prices and the Covid-19 pandemic, but also embezzlement by members of the political elite under Dos Santos. The war in Ukraine, however, has given the government an economic boost through the recent rise in oil prices.

Lourenço is touting his government’s anti-corruption credentials and the fight against the nepotism that was prevalent under the former government. It has also rolled out painful economic reforms in order to get a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, dialling back the state’s involvement in the economy. The ongoing privatisation programme is a key policy, with the government selling off stakes in companies in key economic sectors. However, the opposition says that MPLA cronies are benefiting from the privatisations – similarly to how oligarchs were strengthened during a similar process in Russia’s history.

Popular protests over the past few years have shown people’s anger and frustration with the MPLA government. Ahead of the vote, Lourenço has been searching for the right combination of authoritarianism and openness to limit the opposition’s ability to operate and yet still show that the ruling party is being reformed. One bone of contention revolves around the choice of the Spanish company Indra to provide electoral services. UNITA says the tender was rigged and that Indra has been sanctioned by the Spanish parliament for tax fraud over previous Angola elections.

Space

Uganda is set to join the elite group of African countries that launched a satellite into space in August. With the support of the Japanese and US aerospace agencies, PearlAfricaSat-1 will be taken to the International Space Station before going into orbit. It will provide weather, soil and water information, and an eye in the sky for the East African crude-oil pipeline.

40.2%

Eleven humanitarian institutions have united to warn that bad weather, conflict and inflation will lead to a major year-on-year rise in the number of Africans experiencing food insecurity. They predict that 38.3 million Africans will be food insecure in the period from July to August 2022, a rise of 40.2%.

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