The Week Ahead: 22-28 October

The Week Ahead: 22-28 October

Saudi 2.0. Revolution in Ukraine? Attacks in Afghanistan. Instability in DRC and Togo. All in The Week Ahead. 

Saudi Arabia launches Future Investment Initiative

  • The landmark Future Investment Initiative summit kicks off in Riyadh on 24 October as part of Vision 2030, an ambitious reform plan aiming to diversify the country away from oil dependency. This was launched by the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016 and has been executed by a framework set out in the National Transformation Plan. 
  • Vision 2030 targets service sectors such as tourism and entertainment as main drivers of economic diversification, along with mining and renewable energy. The plans set numerous initiatives (500+) and targets (300+), acknowledging the role the private sector must play in carrying out projects while setting out a large-scale privatization plan across industries such as transportation, healthcare and education.

GRI take:  If efforts to liberalize the Kingdom are executed effectively, investors can stand to gain in the long run by contributing to the Kingdom’s transformation. However, this will require maintaining social stability, balancing conservative and progressive elements, and successfully boosting oil prices. Watch for our 3-part series on the Saudi economy, coming out next week.

Tent city rises again in Kiev

  • The past week saw several days of protests in Maidan square in Kiev, with tents going up again, reminiscent of the wave of demonstrations that brought down the government in 2014. Thousands of protesters showed up to express dissatisfaction with the pace of reforms, especially on corruption issues.
  • The demonstrations were called by former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and backed by most opposition parties, but by the third day numbers had gone down to less than 200. Demonstrators seemed appeased by Parliament agreeing on 19 October to recommend that the Constitutional Court review proposed changes to the constitution. These would see deputies lose immunity from prosecution.

GRI take: It won’t be a revolution this time, and protests are likely to abate this week, but Poroshenko is on thin ice if anti-corruption measures are not delivered quickly. For the longer term, Ukrainians’ willingness to hold their government to account is a positive sign.

Taliban’s new tactics in Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan has seen a spike in violence, with multiple Taliban attacks resulting in numerous deaths. The worst incident involved a new tactic – a double car bombing, using captured U.S. military vehicles, at an Afghan base in Kandahar. Forty-three of the sixty soldiers stationed at the base were killed. Almost identical tactics were used in 17 October attacks on police and government compounds in Gazni and Paktia provinces, killing 70 people.
  • The attacks will be a test for the  Trump administration’s new Afghanistan strategy, revealed earlier in October. U.S. armed forces will now receive more autonomy; commanders had lamented the restrictions on US offensive operations in Afghanistan during the Obama administration. However, greater autonomy also leaves greater room for error, civilian casualties, and even less support for the U.S. presence.
  • Washington also wants to move away from the concept of nation building. A stabilised Afghanistan will be “achieved through Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process”, while the role of the United States is “killing terrorists”. But this seems willfully naive, when the insurgency in Afghanistan is particularly challenging precisely for the lack of clear demarcation between the “terrorists”, militants, and civilians. It’s hard to see how this approach will yield any better results than the previous one.

GRI take: Trump’s approach has major blind spots and will fail to improve security in the short term, amid a critically deteriorating environment. Although highlighting the importance of economic and diplomatic efforts, the strategy leaves little room for both.

Islamic State surfaces in DRC?

GRI take: The government has successfully crushed unrest in the past and will do so again. But the already high risk of kidnap and violence in the eastern DRC will rise if ISIS jockeys for influence among armed groups – and oil resources are at stake.

Protests in Togo turn violent

  • Seven people have been killed, including one child, as anti-government protests ongoing since August turn violent. Demonstrations erupted across the country on 16 October, after Imam al-Hassan, an ally of opposition leader Tikpi Atchadam, was arrested. The ruling Panafrican National Party HQ was attacked in the capital, Lomé. A building belonging to the ruling party was set on fire in Sokode, and party members’ homes were looted. Particularly concerning was the fact that two soldiers were killed and their weapons stolen.
  • Protests and scuffles with police have continued since, and a roadblock was attempted on the main highway near Lomé. Opposition leaders are calling for the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe, who took over from his father’s 38-year reign in 2005. The Cabinet had tabled a bill to reinstate term limits, which was rejected by the opposition.

GRI take: Social and political tensions in Togo are coming to a head. Protests look set to peak in the coming weeks, with accompanying violence, and a real risk of government instability if proposed term limits are not applied retrospectively to Gnassingbe.

Stay ahead of the news cycle with GRI. Drawing on expert knowledge and local sources, The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the consequences of key upcoming political developments.  

This edition of The Week Ahead was produced by GRI Editor in Chief Alisa Lockwood and Managing Editor William Christou.

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