No. 121: Thursday AM Thoughts

Apologies for missing Tuesday’s post. I’m a bit jumbled on helpful content to post, but here’s some of what’s on my mind.

Alassane Ouattara’s Second Term

Alassane Ouattara stepped into his second and final term as President of Ivory Coast earlier this week. Five years ago, President Ouattara was barricaded in a hotel after Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters refused to step down after an election that didn’t go their way.

Today, Ivory Coast has taken its cocoa production to new heights though it is having to deal with the effects of El Nino and questions about the country’s export policy favoring President Ouattara’s stepson. Important power and transportation infrastructure projects are in the works, and foreign investors are paying ever closer attention to the country. Meanwhile, former president Gbagbo stands trial next month for his role in fomenting violence in the country over several elections. Granted, there has been conversation about President Ouattara’s role in violence while seeking office at several points over the past decade and a half.

I look forward to seeing where President Ouattara takes the country in his second term.

Henry Kissinger and the Cold War Years

I’m in chapter 81 of Niall Ferguson’s biography of Niall Ferguson and this peek into the shaping of foreign policy during the Cold War is amazing. Twenty chapters to go!

Ferguson’s recounting of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations is less than flattering. The Kennedy administration’s corruption in securing the presidential election, hand in three or four assassinations of leaders around the world, and penchant for women is a rather sobering cocktail.

The anecdotes of the Johnson administration’s ignorance of the global players in this fight against communism was pretty shocking. This was a time when the future of so many countries was being shaped by the United States! I’ve had many a chill reading some of the stories.

Also, the recounting of Barry Goldwater and the 1964 Republican Convention was pretty amazing. The narrative seemed so reflective of the narrative around Donald Trump. I don’t know whether that is a fair comparison, but Trump kept coming to mind while reading.

Ferguson makes a pretty convincing argument for Kissinger being an idealist. It is very interesting to see his disgust at the Kennedy administration’s unwillingness at times to thoroughly face itself on the question of nuclear power and take a position. Kissinger’s concept of morality doesn’t seem to be so much concerned with whether one’s morals were good or bad, but that one had taken the time to think and take a position no matter how ugly that position may be. I’m still wrapping my head around this, but it is interesting to consider.

No. 40: Three Things in African Markets You Need to Know This Week – October 14

Oil Discovered Off Senegal’s Coast – link

The wave of West African countries discovering oil continues with Cairn Energy, a Scottish Oil Company, striking oil about 100km off the coast of Senegal. The company is not yet sure about the size of the discovery – a first for Senegal. When Ghana discovered oil in 2010, many looked to the country to debunk the resource curse theory. While Ghana has avoided the security issues parts of Nigeria have dealt with for the past 50 years, it has faced serious fiscal challenges since the oil discovery. Perhaps Senegal will be the leading country to show that African countries can manage their resources effectively. I’ll be watching how Senegal markets its oil in the coming years, in the wake of Nigeria not exporting oil to the U.S. for the month of July – the first time that has happened since rcords were kept in 1973.

Abraaj Takes Majority Stake in Libstar – link

The Abraaj Group, one of the more prominent private equity firms focused on developing markets, announced a majority stake it took in Liberty Star Consumer Holdings (Libstar), a company previously owned by M├ętier, another private equity firm. The company is a leader in the private-label and own-branded fast moving consumer goods spaces supplying customers like KFC, Pick n Pay, and Tiger Brands. The company’s latest annual revenue as reported on Metier’s website was about $405M.

Equatorial Guinea’s Second Vice President Agrees to Relinquish $30M in Assets – link

The United States Governent and Equatorial Guinea’s Second Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue reached an agreement for Second Vice President Mangue to relinquish $30M in assets in wake of charges that he used his influence to embezzle funds from the Equatoguinean people. As part of the agreement, $20M will go to a charitable organization in the benefit of the Equatoguinean people, and another $10M will go to the U.S. Government, which will also use the money for the benefit of the country’s people. This agreement came in the lead up to Equatorial Guinea’s Independence Day, which was this past Sunday. The U.S. Government originally sought $70M from Second Vice President Nguema.