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Positive developments regarding the resolution of the devastating conflict in Ethiopia were overshadowed by novel tensions and pockets of insecurity across the region. The Pretoria Peace Agreement in November ended the two-year war in Ethiopia. Despite all hopes, the situation remained fragile and major issues went unresolved. The year concluded with Sudan facing an uncertain future, while the South Sudanese peace process showed small signs of progress. In the Great Lakes region, the situation remained equally fragile, and tensions escalated due to increased activities of the M23 rebels in eastern Congo. Nevertheless, regional integration again showed promising steps. drc became a member of the eac, increasing the total population of the regional bloc by more than 90 m. Elections in Somalia and Kenya were a key test for the two countries enmeshed in intra-elite competition; they were ultimately peaceful and provided for a smooth transition of power. Economic growth across the region remained moderate, as novel disruptions to global supply chains adversely affected import-dependent economies. Inflation soared to a record high, averaging 25%, due to both external and internal factors. Among these factors were extreme drought conditions and unpredictable weather patterns with detrimental impact on agricultural output, exacerbating the humanitarian situation. Migration and the consequences of climate change continued to be significant concerns, along with growing risks associated with mounting debt. Eastern Africa has made notable progress in strengthening its health emergency preparedness. This increased readiness is expected to better equip the region to respond to recent outbreaks of diseases like cholera and Ebola. Enhancing financial stability and mitigating sovereign debt remain pivotal elements to achieving sustainable development and will continue to influence growth prospects in Eastern Africa in 2023. Looking ahead, certain factors are beyond direct control, such as the impacts of climate change and the high costs of borrowing. Additionally, external factors such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its medium-term impact on supply chains, as well as global price dynamics, are likely to have ripple effects. Nonetheless, political stability in the emerging economic powerhouses of Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania is expected to bolster investor confidence, providing a positive economic outlook for the region.

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Following decades of institutional instability since 1975, the Union of the Comoros remained politically stable under the leadership of President Azali Assoumani. The restructuring of ministerial portfolios in the first half of the year helped to consolidate the incumbent’s position prior to the 2024 presidential elections. The National Inter-Comorian Dialogue launched by the government did not create a broad-based political consensus, as major opposition forces refused to participate. Relations with France continued to be cordial but were increasingly tense over the island of Mayotte and growing illegal migration. Comoros voted in favour of the UN resolution to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and cemented relations with China and Saudi Arabia. As a highly import-dependent economy with limited exports, Comoros was directly affected by global disruptions due to the Russia–Ukraine war. Inflation reached record high levels, while economic growth showed positive signs.

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Increasing public sector expenditure and the public health emergency continued to affect economic performance, albeit less severely than in the first year of the pandemic. Growth projections for 2022 were 0.4% up, from 2.4% recorded economic growth in 2021. While the country opened to tourism, a return to pre-pandemic growth figures remained subject to the recovery of the industry. Political trajectories were still shaped by the controversial 2018 referendum and the 2019 presidential elections, which put president Azali Assoumani into power until 2024. The space for the opposition and free speech remained limited, including growing restrictions on press freedom. While the number of Covid-related casualties in the small island state remained comparatively low, public health protocols affected the livelihoods of poor households lastingly. Migration, maritime security, and the threat of climate change defined Comoro’s foreign policy agenda.

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The civil war in Africa’s second-most-populous nation, Ethiopia, escalated further, and international attention on the sub-region was mainly focused on the armed conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region. The military coup in Sudan, the failed negotiations surrounding Somalia’s electoral process, and growing instability across the Horn of Africa shaped Eastern Africa’s trajectories in 2021. Ethiopia completed the second phase of filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (gerd) at the Blue Nile. By year’s end, no binding agreement between the three riparian nation states Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt had been reached, and tensions remained high.

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Encouraging signs of peace and reconciliation were overshadowed by open conflict and a deteriorating security environment across large parts of the sub-region. But not all was dim, for instance, the prospects for Sudan to harness the dividends of the revolution were promising and a new transition government in South Sudan restored hope. The first half of the year was characterised by governments’ uphill battle to halt the spread of the coronavirus and absorb the immediate socioeconomic repercussions of the pandemic. Key sectors such as tourism, hospitality, and air transport were hit the hardest. Government revenue dropped and debt increased, along with inflationary pressure, shattering generally hopeful developments of recent years. Overall growth contracted by 4.6% and averaged 0.7%. While the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted public life, affected economic performance, and threatened livelihoods, in addition to that, Eastern Africa experienced intense weather extremes. Floods and landslides affected at least 4 m people in the second half of the year in at least eight countries of the region, as well as bordering eastern drc. Moreover, no end was in sight to the desert locust infestation that had been ravaging especially Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya since the end of 2019. This ‘triple shock’ further weakened food security. Growing numbers of idps and refugees put more pressure on hosting nations such as Sudan, where more than 50,000 people from conflict-ridden northern Ethiopia sought refuge from November onwards. The multi-actor war in Tigray, which besides federal and regional troops reportedly also involved Eritrean forces on Ethiopian soil, threatened stability across the Horn of Africa and could end in a dangerous stalemate. Negotiations between the three riparian states of the Blue Nile over the use of the river’s waters stalled again, while visible progress on upstream dam construction was reported. Elections that were held despite the public health crisis did not bring notable political changes except in Ethiopia, with the unilateral decision of Tigray to go to the polls that triggered the ongoing war. On the contrary, the year saw increased levels of repressive legislation against the media and an increasingly limited space for opposition groups in many countries. Looking ahead, post-pandemic recovery plans will provide an opportunity to initiate deep economic reforms in Eastern Africa. However, economic recovery will be slow, and substantial additional financing, especially from the private sector, will be needed to adapt existing growth models to novel configurations of global value chains.

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The year began with an unpredictable future for Sudan, where large-scale protests eventually led to the fall of the al-Bashir regime that had ruled the country for nearly three decades. Ethiopia continued to be in the limelight of global attention, not least since its reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. Expectations were high that his administration would succeed in its efforts to lead peace and cooperation initiatives in the region. However, compared with the unexpected developments of the previous year, only small steps were taken towards regional rapprochement and bilateral tensions prevailed, especially across the Horn.

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Unforeseen political developments during the year put Eastern Africa in the global spotlight, and observers viewed with much enthusiasm the positive reforms and regional diplomacy coming from Ethiopia. However, large parts of the sub-region remained politically fragile, experiencing violent conflict and growing public unrest. Long-term rulers and dominant parties faced increasing challenges from novel opposition movements and their electorates, and the year ended with an unpredictable future for Sudan. Despite the highest average economic growth on the continent, poverty was widespread and (youth) unemployment grew. Unsustainable levels of debt in some countries, such as Djibouti and Kenya, increased fiscal vulnerability, and rising spending for mainly large-scale infrastructure projects, combined with weak revenue collection, were a cause for concern. Overall, the sub-region witnessed worrying restrictions on the freedom of the press and a poor human rights record, areas in which few improvements were recorded. Migration and climate change mitigation received renewed attention from the donor community. Donor relations with most countries of the sub-region in the areas of poverty reduction and the promotion of peace and security remained largely unchanged.

Seychelles, a Small Island Developing State with a high human development profile, entered 2021 under tremendous pressure to respond to the devastating socioeconomic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, government undertook a vaccine rollout meant to protect the local population and attract foreign tourists. Tourist arrivals bounced back as borders reopened in late March. Economic recovery and diversification and the fight against corruption and drugs remained top policy priorities for the new government led by President Wavel Ramkalawan. Overall, the political environment remained stable and government continued to pursue a vigorous diplomatic campaign, using multilateral institutions to focus attention on the threats of climate change for Small Island Developing States (sids) in particular. It strengthened bilateral relations especially with China, India, and the EU in pursuit of the country’s socioeconomic and security interests.

This chapter offers an overview of the critical issues and dynamics that defined developments on the continent during 2022, giving prominence to the key trends and outlooks. It describes the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a determining factor likely to shape sustainable development in ssa and donor relations. The Covid-19 pandemic became a more manageable threat, but health systems continue to be strained. Economies showed signs of growth, but inflationary pressure combined with growing debt defined the economic outlook and the challenges in achieving the objectives of the au Agenda 2063. This chapter also deals with the issues of unconstitutional changes of government, democracy and elections, and the state of armed conflicts. The effects of climate change become more visible and were an additional burden on the economies of ssa.

The political environment in Seychelles remained stable, while strong governance indicators continued to allow for multilateral creditor support. Tourism, the country’s major economic sector, recovered visibly following the pandemic-induced contraction of visitors and growth. Seychelles recorded gdp growth of 8.8%, up from 7.9% in the previous year, and growing foreign currency inflow positively affected macroeconomic indicators. A surprising and alarming development occurred regarding press freedom. Seychelles, previously the top-ranked country in ssa on the World Press Freedom Index, relinquished its position, dropping by 21 places. The government of President Wavel Ramkalawan continued its foreign policy efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The war against drugs remained equally high on the agenda.