Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara (78) has finally confirmed he’ll seek a third term in office in October. Within days of this, Guinea’s ruling party asked President Alpha Condé (82) to seek a third term.
The actions signal that Africa is a long way from burying the ugly era of presidents for life. The period, which followed immediately after independence and lasted until the end of the 1990s, had a debilitating effect on stability, democracy and socio-economic development on the continent.
In the last two decades the continent, through the African Union (AU), has developed relatively effective ways of putting a halt to unconstitutional changes of government in the form of coups d'etat. This policy effectively protects incumbent leaders. But the AU has yet to successfully tackle the problem of imperial presidencies.
This lack of action has triggered criticism that the organisation is a private club of incumbent leaders.
Africa has more than its fair share of presidents who have stayed longer than they should have. Seven of the ten longest serving presidents in the world are in Africa. They include Cameroon’s Paul Biya, in power since 1982, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, in power since 1979.
Their regimes are often characterised by instability, the absence of civil and political liberties as well as extensive patrimonialism and corruption.
Where term limits persist
Alpha Condé came to power in 2010 from the opposition ranks, following the first competitive elections in Guinean history after the death of Lansana Conté in 2008. Conté had come to power in a coup 24 years earlier.
Condé had been an ardent opponent of Conté. Notably, he opposed a 2003 constitutional amendment that allowed Conté to run for a third term.
After coming to power in 2010, Condé quickly consolidated his power through the hegemony of his party, Rally of the Guinean People, and won a second term in 2015. In 2019, his government announced that it would pursue the adoption of a new constitution. It deliberately aimed at bypassing a provision prohibiting amendments to the two term limit.
The opposition criticised the move as defying the spirit of the 2010 constitution against unlimited terms. Protests have been held in the capital, Conakry, and other parts of the country since October 2019.
They forced the postponement of the constitutional referendum, which was ultimately held on 31 March this year, and approved the new constitution. The constitution retains the two-term limit, but is silent on time already served before it came into force, enabling Condé to seek two more terms. He could potentially rule until 2032.
Protests continue despite COVID-19 restrictions, and several people have been killed by security forces.
Elections are due to be held on 18 October. Condé has yet to confirm if he’ll accept his nomination for a third term. Opposition groups are yet to present their candidates.
Considering Condé’s stranglehold over the electoral management body, state resources, bureaucracy and security forces, and limits on opposition groups, the elections are unlikely to be free and fair, almost assuring his victory. The opposition is likely to boycott the elections, as it did the referendum and legislative elections in March.
What’s working and what more needs to be done
There have been some notable examples of democratic changes in leadership in Africa due to term limit legislation. Most recent examples include in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2019), Sierra Leone (2018) and Liberia (2017). In all three countries, the elections were characterised by strong competition, and won by the opposition.
But many other presidents have tampered with their countries’ constitutions to extend their stay in power. The list includes Togo (2002), Gabon (2003), and most recently Ivory Coast and Guinea.
The latest abuses should show that there’s still a way to go to stamp out this practice. A number of practical steps should be taken urgently.
Firstly, loopholes need to be plugged. One is to ensure that, when new constitutions are adopted, they are specific about the fact that terms already served in office still count. The Gambia’s draft constitution sets a model for the continent. It not only establishes two term limits, but also specifically counts terms served prior to its adoption.
In addition, the African Union needs to revive efforts to impose a continent-wide two term limit on presidents on the continent. A proposed provision in the draft African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which aimed to do so in 2007, was scrapped after Uganda led opposition to its adoption. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni had already removed the two term limit from the country’s constitution in 2005.
Similarly, an effort by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to establish a two-term limit was shelved in 2015 due to opposition from The Gambia, then under dictator Yahya Jammeh, and Togo, whose constitutions contained no term limits.
The African Union, Ecowas and other sub-regional organisations need to reignite efforts to build a specific policy of two terms. Only such a continental ban could preclude domestic legal manoeuvres and bury the ghost of life presidents. Once approved, the African Union would be able to sanction, and even expel, countries that violate the term limits.
The organisations would be pushing at an open door. Only five countries with presidential systems on the continent do not have term limits. They are Eritrea, Somalia, Cameroon, South Sudan and Djibouti. Most of the countries that had removed term limits have since reinstated them. Examples include Uganda, whose parliament reinstated presidential term limits in 2017. But Museveni, who has been in power for 34 years, can still run again.
Togo did so last year, although the incumbent, President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in power since 2005, is not precluded from contesting future elections. He could potentially be in power until 2030.
Without a concerted effort to establish a continental two-term policy, Africa may be bound to live with the spectre of presidents for life.
Prosecutors in Angola have ordered the closure of places of worship belonging to one of Brazil's biggest churches, accusing it of corruption.
At least seven buildings belonging to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) have been seized in the capital, Luanda.
Prosecutors said the evangelical church had been involved in tax fraud and other fiscal crimes.
UCKG officials have previously strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Last year about 300 Angolan UCKG bishops broke away from the Brazilian leadership, accusing it of mismanagement and not being African enough. UCKG officials described the accusations as "defamatory".
The UCKG claims to have about eight million members in Brazil and branches in several African countries. It promotes "prosperity theology", whereby believers are told their faith and donations to the Church will lead to material wealth.
The row started last year when Angolan bishops broke away from the Brazilian Church, accusing it of "fiscal evasion" and of practices contrary to the "African and Angolan reality".
In December, Angolan authorities opened an investigation and on Friday prosecutor-general Alvaro Da Silva Joao announced the seizure of seven UCKG temples.
"These apprehensions result from the fact that in the records there are enough indications of the practice of crimes of criminal association, tax fraud, illicit export of capital, abuse of trust and other... illegal acts," he said in a statement.
JP Morgan Chase has this year retained the leading position in the forex market, despite concerns surrounding trading liquidity. According to data presented and published by ForexSchoolOnline, the firm exceeded expectations, dominating with a 10.78% market share.
Considering that its market share in 2019 was 9.81%, this was a significant improvement. Notable too is the fact that JP Morgan was well ahead of second-placed UBS, which had 8.13%. XTX and Deutsche Bank took third and fourth positions respectively, and Citi came in a distant fifth.
The situation was vastly different from last year when Deutsche Bank was second with 8.41% and Citi came in third with 7.87%. XTX and UBS had taken the fourth and fifth spots with 7.22% and 6.63% respectively.
JP Morgan had at the beginning of 2020 published a report citing potentially low liquidity as the biggest challenge that traders would likely face this year. This was attributed to record low market volatility resulting from an abundance of central bank liquidity in markets worldwide.
However, the same survey also revealed that the trading volume on electronic channels (eFX) would increase from 74% in 2019 up to 84% in 2020. In a bid to keep up with this growing trend of electrification, the firm has in recent times upped the ante on the use of machine learning tools.
In fact, its remarkable performance is likely attributable to, among other factors, its capability in electronic forex trading. Its newest generation of eFX algorithm product is known as the Deep Neural Network for Algo Execution (DNA).
DNA makes use of simulated data from varying market conditions and situations to choose the best execution style and order placement. Its key objective for doing so is to minimize market impact. It then uses a form of machine learning known as reinforcement learning to assess how individual order placement choices perform.
$1+ Billion Ahead of Top Investment Banks Globally
Forex trading is by no means the only feather on JP Morgan’s cap. In fact, JP Morgan also happens to be the leading bank investment bank worldwide, both in terms of market share and revenue.
In 2019, the firm took the lead globally among investment banks in terms of revenue from investment banking. Reported data shows that its total revenue for the period was $6.89 billion. Goldman Sachs came in second with $5.83 billion while Morgan Stanley had $4.77 billion. During the same period, BofA Securities (previously Bank of America Merrill Lynch) generated approximately $4.72 billion.
All four market leaders happen to be American multinational investment banking firms. As of July 2019, these four held over 25% of the global market share in investment banking. It comes as no surprise since at least half the investment banking fees in 2015 came from the Americans.
JP Morgan also took the lead in the global market share of revenue of leading investment banks as of July 2020. According to a report published by Dealogic.com, it had a 9.6% market share, while Goldman Sachs came in second with 8.4%. Bank of America Securities was third with 7.2% while Morgan Stanley and Citi took fourth and fifth place with 6.4% and 5.8% respectively.
Notably, JP Morgan Chase was the top investment bank in the world in 2019 too, with 8.9% in terms of the total revenue generated. Following not too far behind was Goldman Sachs at 7.5%. This upside momentum came as a surprise considering the fact that lower US interest rates had been expected to impact profitability negatively.
At the end of the fourth quarter of 2019 when the firm published its profit and revenue reports, the results were far above analyst estimates. Revenue was up 9% and while estimates had placed it at $27.94 billion, it ended up hitting $29.2 billion.
Leading Banks Globally with a Margin of Over $100 Billion in Market Cap
Another area of excellence for JP Morgan is its market capitalization. Research published by Banksdaily in July 2020 pits the bank over $100 billion ahead of the rest with a market cap of $433.5 billion. Sitting in second spot is Bank of America with $306.7 billion and ICBC took third place with $290 billion.
Also referred to as stock market value, market capitalization refers to the total value of the shares issued by a publicly-traded company. It amounts to the price of a single share multiplied by the total number of outstanding shares. It is thus a reliable proxy for the public perception of the net worth of a company. And as such, it is considered a key determining factor in the calculation of other theoretical values of a company.
The only key area that seems to have escaped JP Morgan’s domination is wealth management. In this category, Bank of America GWM takes the lead with assets worth $1.85 trillion under its management. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is second with $1.26 trillion while JP Morgan Private Bank is in the third spot with $774 billion.