Middle East & African Monitor – 02 May 2017

  • Concerns rise over health of Nigerian President
  • Iran supports oil production cut extension - TV executive assassinated in Istanbul
  • Tunisia’s PM carries out surprise cabinet reshuffle
  • IMF calls on GCC to press ahead with economic reforms
  • Saudi Aramco takes full control of major US refinery
  • German chancellor supports free trade agreement with the GCC
  • Inflation in Uganda & Ghana rises
  • Al Qudra buys Al Rayan investment company
  • Changi wins airport contract in Saudi Arabia


Concerns rise over health of Nigerian President
Rumours surrounding the health of Nigeria’s President Buhari, who received medical treatment in the UK for almost two months earlier this year, are again doing the rounds. These latest stories were triggered by his absence from recent cabinet meetings and last week’s Friday prayers. In response, a statement issued by the President’s office late last week claimed that “there was no need for apprehension” and that the President was only following medical advice to take things easy. “As eager as he is to be up and about, the President's doctors have advised on his taking things slowly, as he fully recovers from the long period of treatment in the United Kingdom some weeks ago," the statement read. Another official, Bashir Ahmad, has dismissed talk that Buhari’s condition was so acute that he was having to be fed intravenously as “untrue.” Meanwhile the country’s Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has called for the President’s exact state of health of be made public. “Why is the President hiding his state of health? He’s supposed to understand he’s public property, me I’m still private property, that’s why I’m not in Aso Rock. Once you are in Aso Rock, or you occupy a similar position, you have a responsibility to come out frankly to your citizens. Guarding your state of health like Donald Trump is guarding his tax returns is not what we expect from a Nigerian President. Let him address the nation and stop all these speculations which creates unnecessary political manipulations among other things.” (Aso Rock is one of Abuja’s most noticeable natural features, it is also where the Presidential complex, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court are located).

Iran supports oil production cut extension - TV executive assassinated in Istanbul
Iran’s Oil Minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, was quoted by his country’s state media outlets on Sunday saying, that if a majority of oil producing countries agreed to extend the output cut deal which currently expires in June, Iran would also support such a decision. “During the past few days, we received positive signals from OPEC and non-members, in particular Russia, about extending the agreement for the second half of 2017. We will back the agreement,” Zanganeh stated. Meanwhile the Iranian owner and founder of GEM Television network, Saeed Karimian, along with his Kuwaiti business partner, Mohammad Metab Al Shalahi, were reportedly shot dead this past weekend by two masked gunmen as they drove through the upmarket Maslak neighborhood in Istanbul on Saturday. Karimian had frequently been criticized by the Iranian government over his offshore station’s transmission of certain western programs including US gameshows, which were dubbed into Farsi and broadcast into Iran. These complaints led an Iranian court to sentence him to six years in absentia for “spreading propaganda” in 2016.

Tunisia’s PM carries out surprise cabinet reshuffle
Tunisia’s Prime Minister has dismissed his Finance and Education ministers, Lamia Zribi, and Nehi Jalloul. The new Minister of Finance is Fadhel Abdelkafi who had been serving as head of the Development and Investment Ministry. The official reason for the changes have not been disclosed but Zribi had faced growing criticism over the recent sharp fall in the value of the local currency and slow progress in the implementation of economic reforms.

IMF calls on GCC to press ahead with economic reforms
The IMF’s chief representative in the Middle East region, Jihad Azour, was quoted as saying by AFP this week that while the GCC states were “heading in the right direction” and making progress in reducing their budgetary gaps due to low oil prices, further fiscal adjustments were necessary. "If they continue on this path in the next three to five years, the level of deficit will be less than 2% of GDP” Azour stated, adding however that additional structural reforms were required "in order to diversify the economy and to allow it to grow outside of the oil sector, to create additional jobs as well as to be less dependent on the volatility of the oil market.”

Saudi Aramco takes full control of major US refinery
Saudi Aramco officially took 100% control of the largest refinery in the US yesterday. The Port Arthur facility, which can process up to 600,000bpd, had previously been jointly owned by Aramco and Royal Dutch Shell. Saudi Arabia is America's second-largest source of foreign crude after Canada.

German chancellor supports free trade agreement with the GCC
Chancellor Angela Merkel, together with a number of senior German officials were in the UAE yesterday on their second stop of a regional tour which the Chancellor has said she hopes will boost relations and eventually result in a free-trade agreement between the EU and the GCC. "I made it clear that a free trade agreement with the Gulf states would be of great interest from a European point of view," Merkel was quoted as saying.

Inflation in Uganda & Ghana rises
Uganda and Ghana’s inflation rate rose to 6.80% and 6.0% y/y respectively last month, compared to 6.40% and 5.40% March according to the latest official data.

Al Qudra buys Al Rayan investment company
The Abu Dhabi based Al Qudra Holdings has agreed to acquire the Al Rayan Investment Company for just over AED 1 bio in stock.

Changi wins airport contract in Saudi Arabia
Singapore based Changi Airports International has been awarded a contract to manage and operate the new international airport in Jeddah for an initial period of 20 years.


Dubai has become the first city in the world to have its own official font in Microsoft Office. 

Glenn Wepener, Executive Director & Geopolitical Analyst Middle East & Africa
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Tel: +971 2 6110 127

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