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The global financial and economic crisis, which hit both Africa and Europe hard in 2009, dominated relations between the two continents. European foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa dropped sharply, while fiscal pressures on governments started to have an impact on official development assistance (ODA). Western aid traditionally slips in the years following a recession, but this time middle income countries have emerged from recession faster and have stepped into the gap left by European donors. Concerns resurfaced in Europe about competition with China for influence in Africa, and the supposedly waning global influence of the EU.

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The consolidation of the government was only marginally affected by the ongoing debates about the long-outstanding constitutional reform. While presidential elections were scheduled for this year, technical reasons were cited as causing the delay in resolving the constitutional debates, and both the constitutional project and the date of the next presidential election remained unresolved issues. Instead, the ruling elite extended its grip on political and economic power. On 21 September, President José Eduardo dos Santos silently marked his 30 years in power, making him the second-longest-serving head of state in Sub-Saharan Africa. The human rights situation and media freedom improved only marginally, and the low-level guerrilla war in Cabinda simmered on. Although the world economic crisis, and especially the drop in crude oil prices, impacted adversely on economic growth, economic indicators were showing signs of recovery towards the end of the year. Economic and political ties with the most important partner countries were strengthened and in line with the country's growing ambitions as a regional power. Social conditions also improved slightly, but for the vast majority of the population the situation remained difficult.

The promises of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011 dominated the political agenda. The year was marked by political struggles between government and opposition. President Boni Yayi faced strong opposition in the National Assembly as well as growing dissatisfaction within his own majority camp. The government pushed ahead with its ambitious programme to improve the reliability of the electoral register in preparation for the 2011 polls. Growth slowed, despite economic measures and initiatives to promote the private sector and boost the economy. The socioeconomic situation for most of the population remained precarious, adding to growing popular disenchantment with the politics of change promoted by Boni Yayi since 2006.

Despite internal rifts, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won a sound victory in the ninth election after independence. Botswana remained the Southern African region's most vocal critic of Zimbabwe's President Mugabe. Notwithstanding relative macroeconomic stability, dependence on diamond exports proved problematic as reduced demand and a decreasing GDP followed the international financial crisis.

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The political, social and economic situation became more settled during the year. Heading towards the virtually certain re-election of President Compaoré in November 2010, both the presidential and opposition camps tried with modest success to strengthen their political standing. The mixed performance did not result in significant changes in the political landscape, largely defined by the predominance of the presidential party and continued fragmentation of the opposition, in part co-opted by the government. Heavy flooding had disastrous consequences for Ouagadougou's infrastructure and proved a burden for the national budget, in addition to the world financial crisis. Meanwhile, President Compaoré enhanced his sub-regional diplomatic standing by mediating in Guinea.

The year was marked by the successful completion of the peace process, with the last remaining rebel movement registering as a political party. Mainly as a result of the pre-electoral climate, tensions were on the rise at various levels: within political parties, between the dominant ‘Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie – Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie’ (CNDD-FDD) and opposition parties, and between the government and civil society groups considered to be too close to the political opposition and the international donor community. With the active support of local diplomatic representatives, severe political crises were averted over two issues: the composition of the Electoral Commission and the adoption of a new electoral code. The mandate of the UN Integrated Office for Burundi (BINUB) was extended for another year. After reaching the completion point under the HIPC initiative, Burundi benefited from significant debt relief.

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Throughout the year in Cameroon, there was an awareness of the 2011 presidential election being on the horizon. President Biya and his party, which continued to dominate the political scene, seemed to be already preparing for election day, as public criticism emerged for the first time about the president's wealth. As a consequence of the global financial crisis, the economy tended to slow down, with a sharp drop in oil revenues. No major social unrest was recorded.

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The political scene was marked by the comeback of Carlos Veiga, the former prime minister and leader of the ‘Movimento para a Democracia’ (MpD), who was elected uncontested as new leader of his party. At the same time, Prime Minister José Maria Neves was re-elected leader of the ruling ‘Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde’ (PAICV). During a visit to the archipelago, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Cape Verde as an African success story. Tourism, the mainstay of the economy, was affected by the global economic crisis, but recovered in the second half of the year.

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The global financial crisis particularly affected oil-producing countries of the sub-region, but largely spared those without notable incomes from the oil sector (Central African Republic, DR Congo). In general, the sub-region proved less vulnerable than feared because of its weak integration in the global economy. A relative decline in armed encounters between government troops and rebel movements was noted and some glimmers of hope for more peace were recorded. Indeed, the prospects for peace in eastern Congo were better than they had been for 15 years after the formation of an alliance between Kigali and Kinshasa to neutralise both Laurent Nkunda's wing of the ‘Conseil National pour la Défense du Peuple’ (CNDP) and the ‘Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda’ (FDLR) rebels, who fought against the respective regimes. However, the security situation in Chad and Central African Republic remained volatile despite continued international engagement, including the deployment of peacekeepers. The Copenhagen conference on climate change urged decision-makers in the region to better coordinate positions on shared interests. With the death of Omar Bongo Ondimba, Gabon's president, the single most active player in international relations from the sub-region suddenly disappeared. The consequences were mixed: while concerns were raised about the lack of suitable mediators in some of Africa's violent conflicts (even beyond the sub-region), it also permitted an acceleration of necessary reforms within sub-regional organisations dominated by Gabon.

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The political atmosphere of the somewhat promising end of 2008 could not be maintained for long. Few of the concessions made by President Bozizé during the inclusive political dialogue (IPD) forum were eventually implemented. New armed encounters all over the country marked the year, while the president's camp was already preparing for the 2010 elections. Rebel movements fought mainly for material gains, but had also good reason to suspect the regime of not fulfilling its earlier promises and some real grievances related to the blatant disregard of minority group rights. The export-oriented economy (diamonds, timber) suffered from the global economic downturn.