Jihadists in Burkina Faso renew fears of instability in West Africa



France remains the main stabilizer and military force in West Africa thanks to its seasoned Special Forces, experimented soldiers and colonial history.

Despite a decade-long unabated engagement against terrorism – currently Operation Barkhane – in an area (the Sahel) that’s seven times larger than France, military officials noticed lately a scattered resurgence of the jihadist offensive especially aimed at destabilizing local governments and spreading fear among the population.

On December 17, 2018, President Emmanuel Macron and his Burkina Faso counterpart Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, while meeting in Paris, stressed on the fact that no additional French troops would be deployed in the country which is a member of the antiterrorist G5 Sahel group with Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

In the meantime however, Defense Minister Florence Parly and her Burkinabe counterpart Jean-Claude Bouda signed an intergovernmental agreement with a view to strengthening bilateral cooperation, including the delivery of 34 military vehicles by June 2019.

13 days before that, France had shown its willingness for more involvement after conducting an air strike against jihadist operatives who were attacking gendarmes at Inata, north of Burkina Faso. On December 28, 2018, a similar attack took place near the Malian border in Loroni, 250 kilometers north-east of Ouagadougou that left 10 gendarmes dead in an ambush, raising fears of increased jihadists’ operational capabilities and therefore greater potential of instability for West Africa as a whole.

“Average GDP growth in West Africa stalled in 2016, after several strong years, to 0.5 percent. It rebounded in 2017 to 2.5 percent, and was projected to rise to 3.8 percent in 2018 and 3.9 percent in 2019,” wrote the African Development Bank Group (AFDB) in its West Africa Economic Outlook 2018.

Such a growth dynamic could be at risk since the jihadist threat is increasingly developing outside the Sahel and spilling over into nearby countries, especially Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

Senegal-based researcher Bakary Sambe recently cited by the Washington Post pointed out “there are worries that West Africans are underestimating the threat” and the killing of ten gendarmes has come as a reminder of the growing challenge posed by jihadists to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

European economic sovereignty requires 3 major actions



Former French Minister and current Chairman of the National Assembly (AN)’s finance committee Eric Woerth and economist and Fondapol’s scientific council’s member Laurence Diazano wrote in the daily newspaper L’Opinion that “Europe must better defend its trade interests” against Donald Trump and “build an autonomous financial system” within ten years.

Taken between the United States and its “America First” policy and by China and its rising global power, Europe must build its economic sovereignty or otherwise risk having to systematically align with US interests. The next European Commission, said Woerth and Daziano, will have to lead three major actions.

First, build an autonomous financial system probably in collaboration with China. Then, have a European Monetary Fund in order to stabilize European and/or geographically close countries and increase its monetary clout in collaboration with the ECB. Finally, take advantage of the US trade withdrawal to gain market share, particularly in Asia.

Saudi Aramco, the largest IPO in history reportedly cancelled



According to sources from inside Saudi Arabia and others quoted by Reuters news agency, Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company and the kingdom’s largest company, has cancelled its very awaited IPO.

The Saudi authority suddenly halted the listing plan and disbanded advisors, said various sources and one stressed an economist named Barjas al-Barjas, a former adviser, has been arrested in the meantime. “Investors were always skeptical of Saudi Aramco’s USD 2 trillion price tag,” wrote Bloomberg which was still talking quite positively just a few days ago about the planned listing, like its main competitor CNBC.

However, in July 2018, Bloomberg reporters Javier Blas and Will Kennedy did point out that “likely investors doubt the value of the proposed public offering” and asked “how will Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) save face?” While many analysts emphasized the potential economic reasons behind this cancellation, Cyceon thinks political reasons shouldn’t be ruled out as well.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia is undergoing significant changes mostly decided by MBS and which seem to fuel some frictions inside the Saudi power circles. Although it’s too early for these reasons to be clearly identified and assessed, the sudden move after so much publicity may prove a negative development for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and standing across the financial world.