Editor’s Note: February 07, 2019

Zimbabwe bets big on public relations

Zimbabwe has hired U.S public relations and lobby firm Ballard Partners to represent the country in Washington.

This comes two days after president Donald Trump renewed Mugabe-era sanctions, reflecting the administration’s hard line on Zimbabwe since post-election violence marred last July’s disputed presidential vote.

The sanctions are a significant barrier to rapprochement with the West, stifling efforts to revive its battered economy, which is currently experiencing its worst crisis in a decade.

The country is hoping that the firm, run by Brian Ballard – a key fundraiser for Trump’s campaign – can help it gain much-needed sympathy.

Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa is the latest addition to a growing list of African politicians seeking out Ballard.

High profile opposition figures in Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo have hired his firm to run election campaigns, with Mali’s government also looking to Ballard to represent its interests in Washington.

At $500,000 a year the deal is an expensive, and risky gamble, given the dire state of Zimbabwe’s economy. With basic goods like fuel and food in short supply, the money could arguably be put to better use.

If it works the move will be called a stroke of genius. If not, it will only add to the souring narrative around Mnangagwa’s government.

From The Continent

Kenya and Somalia have reportedly agreed to resolve a maritime dispute over an oil and mineral-rich area in the Indian Ocean. Tensions have flared since Kenya accused its neighbour of offering oil blocks to investors in the disputed territory in February, despite ongoing court proceedings. More: Anadolu Agency

Libya’s prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj has said the country plans to hold long-delayed parliamentary and presidential elections by the end of the year. The prospective vote is seen as an important step towards resolving tensions between the UN-backed government in Tripoli, and forces controlled by General Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country. More: The National

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The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s global growth forecast for 2019,  a downward revision due in part to a slowdown in trade, weak growth in Europe, and policy uncertainty. More: OECD

The Global Perspective

Zambia plans to swap its Chinese debt to yuan from the US dollar to help ease pressure on its foreign reserves amid growing concerns about debt sustainability in Africa’s second-largest copper producer. The government has said talks on the planned debt swap will likely take place in late March. More: Reuters

U.S tech giant Microsoft has announced the opening of its first data centres in Africa, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. This comes amid growing competition with the likes of China’s Huawei, which is also building data centres in the country. More: Independent Online

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