November 2023

Quick Bite

The successful conduct of the 2023 elections in Nigeria is arguably one of the key highlights of 2023 in Africa. While the election was the subject of multiple controversies, the absence of nationwide post-electoral violence or large-scale instability is a plus.

Winding Down: Reflections on key developments in 2023


Winding Down: Reflections on key developments in 2023

Two key wars, repeated recession fears, coups and failed attempts, a successful (if controversial) national election, and mixed results on key economic reforms. The year 2023 was as eventful as it was unpredictable. And it holds lessons for 2024. This Edition looks at key developments that shaped the global, continental, and national economy and polity. And the lessons they hold for the coming year. 

The Global Stage 

Experts had expected the year 2023 to be hit by a global recession; a recession that never came but left a gloomy cloud on the global economy throughout the year. A combination of post-pandemic economic challenges and high commodities prices as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine in 2022 had left many economies battered and/or seriously stressed. Inflation ran wild, and central banks responded with one of the most hawkish series of interest rate hikes in recent history. Thus, the choice came down to fighting inflation (at the risk of an economic recession) or saving the economy (at the risk of perpetually high inflation). Surprisingly, key global economic drivers, especially the US economy, remained resilient notwithstanding the US Fed’s relentless rate hikes and played an important role in staving off the much-expected recession. Overall, the global economy fared better than many had expected heading into this year. This is in spite of less than stellar performance by China and Germany among others. 

Source: St. Louis Fed

Beyond the economy, the global geopolitical space faced (and currently faces) key threats. From North Korea’s dangerous ICBM tests, through China’s maneuvers around Taiwan and suspension of all military communication with the US, to major climate-related disasters that claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions of families. However, two major conflicts defined the year. The Russia-Ukraine war, itself a carry-over from 2022, continued unabated. What had been marketed as a short war is eight weeks from its second anniversary, with thousands of deaths, millions of displaced lives, and billions in economic damage as proof. The War’s continuation, and the consequent sanctions on Russian commodities export, remains a key contributor to the runaway prices of many commodities, including food, metal, and energy products. However, with attention and goodwill gradually shifting away from Ukraine among key supporting nations and weariness setting in, the prognosis, at least for Ukraine, looks gloomy. The impact any negotiation has on the global economy will be seen.

Furthermore, as the world grappled with the Ukraine war, a new front in the Israel-Palestine theatre sent shockwaves throughout the world, with the potential for a wider regional conflict. In a few weeks, more than 14,000 people had been killed with millions more displaced in both Israel and Palestine. Of particular concern is the potential for a wider conflict, with continued shots from Hezbollah in Lebanon and the recent spate of successful and attempted seizures of ships by Houthi rebels along the Gulf of Aden; a key route responsible for nearly 11% of global seaborne petroleum shipments. So far, the US has been successful in deterring Iran and other countries from getting into the country. However, reining in the aforementioned nonstate actors has proven more difficult. Thus, while the conflict has been successfully contained so far, the world might be one major incident away from an escalation; one that would directly impact the energy markets and further threaten the tenuous global economic growth the world currently witnesses. Thus, heading into 2024, it would be interesting to see how the Russia-Ukraine war is resolved and how, or whether, Israel concludes its stated goal of eradicating Hamas without triggering a Middle Eastern war. The situation remains fluid. 

The National and Continental Stage

The successful conduct of the 2023 elections in Nigeria is arguably one of the key highlights of 2023 in Africa. As the continent’s most populous country and largest economy, all eyes were clearly on the country. While the election was the subject of multiple controversies, the absence of nationwide post-electoral violence or large-scale instability is a plus. Undoubtedly, the election cast a major shadow of uncertainty on the country both prior to the elections as well as in the months following the elections as candidates argued out their cases at the tribunal. Many investors adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude; one that cost the country months of lost investments. 

Nonetheless, since assuming office, the new government has made some reforms, even if partially, that had been long overdue. These include cutting down on fuel subsidy payments, walking back on some of the previous government’s stringent capital controls, and allowing partial floating of the currency. The short-term impact of these reforms was harsh on the populace, as expected. Inflation continued its rise as food, fuel, and transportation prices increased significantly. And the currency lost nearly 100% of its value on the official market, and more on the black market. However, whether the promised impact of the above reforms will be felt in 2024 depends on a range of factors, including the government’s success at enacting complementary reforms, tackling corruption and insecurity, and convincing investors to take a bet on Nigeria.  

Source: Central Bank of Nigeria

Beyond Nigeria, the highlights were less positive. The continent endured a series of brazen political interferences in many countries. From Sudan, through Niger and the Sahel belt, to the ongoing events in Sierra Leone, the recent series of coups and civil wars continue to raise the risk profile of the continent, reduce its attractiveness to investors, and might further frustrate continent-level initiatives such as AfCFTA. The West Africa region has especially cemented its position as the Coup Capital of Africa, with nearly a third of countries in the region under military dictatorships. A combination of harsh economic realities, weak central governments, and mild responses from regional bodies and the AU has sent a green light to potential coupists. The strings of successes could leave the continent crisscrossed by tens of unstable countries led by coupists more focused on preventing a counter-coup than improving the lot of their people. The prognosis for 2024 is hardly positive as each successful coup further exposes the weakness of AU and ECOWAS and encourages the next coup. 


In hindsight, 2023 had its positives and negatives. The global economy successfully avoided a full-blown recession, for now. The Ukraine war and China’s Taiwan exercises did not degenerate into superpower wars. And Nigeria’s elections didn’t metamorphose into the political tinderbox that had been predicted in some quarters. Nonetheless, the world faced key tragedies, both natural and man-made. The continent remains dangerously susceptible to more coups, with very negative consequences for economic growth. Millions of Nigerians face worsening conditions as they await the promised benefits of the reforms by the new government. We’ll take a cautionary tone on 2024. There are opportunities to right the wrongs of 2023. Whether the respective governments do so remains to be seen. Our team continues to monitor opportunities and challenges in Nigeria and the African continent. 

Reach out to us today to discuss your needs. 

Crystal Ball

The attempted coup in Sierra Leone a few days ago is the first of an anglophone country in West Africa in the past few years. It further raises fears over the creeping instability engulfing the West Africa region. Thankfully, it was foiled. We are closely studying the events.

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