Oil prices rose more than 20% this year but there were no sharp spikes and crude futures barely sniffed $70 a barrel despite attacks on the world’s biggest oil producer, sanctions that crippled crude exports of two OPEC members and gigantic supply cuts from big oil producing countries.
The price gains in crude oil benchmarks were all in the first quarter of 2019, even as the next several months featured supply shocks that in the past would probably have propelled crude past the $100 mark.
Prices are likely to remain rangebound in 2020 as swelling supplies, particularly from the United States, offset cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and weakening worldwide demand, brokers and analysts said.
U.S. crude oil CLc1 is on track to end 2019 roughly 35% higher. Since the end of March, it is up just 3%, after rallying early in the year after the United States introduced sanctions on Venezuela. Brent has gained 26%, but is off by 1% since the first quarter.
Investors and analysts say U.S. production and weak demand kept prices under control. The United States is on track to be a net petroleum exporter on an annual basis for the first time in 2020. Output is expected to average 13.2 million bpd, an increase of nearly a million bpd from 2019.
“Demand growth cratered while U.S. production continued to barrel along at high rates and geopolitical risk eased,” Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group.
“And now, at the end of the year, weary investors are looking to next year and seeing a tsunami of oil.”
Investor concern over peak oil demand is expected to weigh on prices next year, particularly as the urgency around action against climate change has increased. Also, a long-term resolution of the U.S.-China trade war seems elusive, keeping market watchers wary of predicting energy demand growth in the world’s two largest economies.
“There is growing concern around the long-term sustainability of U.S. oil and gas companies for investors in an ESG (environmental, social and governance) driven world,” said Greg Sharenow, portfolio manager at PIMCO, who co-manages more than $15 billion in commodity assets.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects average crude oil prices will be lower in 2020 than in 2019 because of rising inventories. Outside the United States, production is expected to continue to grow in Brazil, Norway, and Guyana.
Prices did spike, but only briefly after drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil facility and U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. September attacks on Aramco facilities briefly pushed Brent above $72 a barrel, but within 10 days, oil prices sank back as Aramco brought production back online.
Notably, the market barely wavered in its view of where prices would end up. Implied volatility, a sign of how the market prices future gyrations in WTI and Brent CLATMIV LCOATMIV futures, was largely muted in 2019 after a see-saw 2018, a sign that investors focused on broader supply trends.
Both Brent and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were locked in a $22-$23 a barrel range during the year, well below last year’s levels.
While the rate of annual U.S. production growth is expected to slow, the country should still account for about 85% of the increase in global oil production to 2030, according to the International Energy Agency. PIMCO’s Sharenow said U.S. crude supply would need to slow for the price outlook to brighten.
“If we can move down to supply growth in a much more sustainable way of about 500,000-600,000 bpd, then all of a sudden the world is much better in 12 months,” Sharenow said.
Global music superstar Akon, has urged Africans in the Diaspora to invest their talent and resources in Africa to help rebuild the continent.
The “Year of Return’’ has witness many Africans living in the Diaspora take a trip back to the motherland especially as Ghana commemorates the 400th year of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia, in what was known as the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
According to the Senegalese-American rapper, the “Year of Return’’ adopted by Ghana, was a good initiative that would strengthen ties with the Africans in the Diaspora and also marks new beginnings that would trigger growth of Ghana and the continent as whole.
“It’s feels good to be back and it’s more exciting to realize that the United States is paying more attention to Africa.
Sometimes as an African-America you feel something is missing until you come back to Africa to find that missing puzzle and know your true history.
“The hospitality is amazing and I think it’s gradually getting to the point where many Africa-Americans would think about relocating and invest their talents and resources in Africa and I believe we can rebuild the continent in no time.
‘’Just start now, it doesn’t matter how small the idea is but I guarantee in the coming years that idea is going to be a multi-million-dollar idea because lots of people would share into it,’’ Akon said at a presser.
He lauded the efforts of Hollywood star Boris Cudjoe who has played a crucial role in making the “Year of Return” a great success.
Akon was grateful to Ghanaians for their support and revealed the significance and symbolic nature of launching his “Akonda’’ Afro-beats album around the “Year of Return’’ which according to him would help expand the Afro-beats markets and help people know more about Africa.
Akon is billed to stage a gigantic concert in Ghana come March 2020 with details to his performance set to be announced soon as he also readies to launch the “Konnect’’ album also in 2020.
Grace Mugabe, the widow of former President Robert Mugabe has been added to a list of individuals who will not be allowed to set foot on the southwestern Pacific Ocean Island, New Zealand media has reported.
The Government of New Zealand banning the issuing of visas to Grace Mugabe, also announced they have blocked visits from people involved in the killing of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
The restrictions on both Grace Mugabe and Khashoggi killers are effective from 1 December, 2019.
No further explanations were given as to why the ban on Grace Mugabe was effected now, or whether she had recently made attempts to visit New Zealand.
Gabriella Engels accused Mrs Mugabe of beating the “hell out of me” with an electric extension cord in a hotel room in Johannesburg.
Grace married Mugabe, 41 years her senior, in 1996, having been a secretary from his typing pool for a few years. She had also previously been married to an airforce serviceman. On the other hand, Mugabe’s long-time wife Sally was on her death bed from a kidney ailment.
The two had their first child, Bona, out of wedlock in 1990. Other than Bona, the two have other children, the two troublesome boys Robert Jr and Bellarmine Chatunga known for their extravagant lifestyle and partying.
For close to 20 years after becoming First Lady, Grace would not enter mainstream politics but still irked Zimbabweans with her love for all things fancy, including expensive shopping trips to Europe.
She was once a regular at London’s famous designer clothing store, Harrods. At one point she demanded that the department store shut its doors to other customers to enable her to shop in privacy.
In early 2002, before European Union sanctions on her family and their cronies, she blew US$120 000 while shopping in Paris, according to French and English tabloids. In her later days after entering politics, she spent US$1,4 million on a diamond ring, ostensibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her wedding to Mugabe in 2016.
Grace Mugabe had over the years grown into a powerful politician and businesswoman while seeing herself as a philanthropist.
Grace entered politics on a full-time basis in 2014 after being appointed secretary of the women’s league at the Zanu-PF congress.
Prior to her appointment, she had embarked on a “meet-the-people tour” where she vilified former vice-president Joice Mujuru accusing her of plotting to unseat her husband.
At Grace’s instigation, Mujuru was expelled from Zanu-PF alongside hundreds of her allies among them the party’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
Mugabe appointed Mujuru’s long-time rival Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice-president in 2014, but Grace soon turned her guns against him.
Using close associates such as Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and the women’s league, Grace embarked on a vilification campaign targeting Mnangagwa, war veterans and his military allies.
Relations between the military and the Mugabes soured as a result, prompting Mugabe to attack security officials for meddling in Zanu-PF internal affairs at the party’s annual conference in Victoria Falls in December 2015.
Mugabe then met army commanders the same evening to defuse the tense situation, but tensions continued to grow mainly because of Grace’s incessant attacks of Mnangagwa and the military.
Eventually, it became clear that Grace was harbouring presidential ambitions. In early November 2017, she was booed at a Zanu-PF Youth interface rally at Bulawayo’s White City stadium, and an irate Mugabe threatened to fire Emmerson Mnangagwa for sponsoring the heckling of his wife in public.
Two days later, Mnangagwa was indeed fired from Government on a Monday, 6th November. The day before, Grace had held a rally with members of the mapostori religious sect in Harare, and clearly boasted that she was set for the presidency and there was nothing wrong with it as she had the right to contest for any office as she was fully a Zimbabwean.
The sentiments, coming as some Zanu-PF provinces were already endorsing her for Vice President, rattled the army’s top leadership that included Generals SB Moyo, Constantino Chiwenga, Perrance Shiri and others.
Mnangagwa had already fled the country fearing for his life when about 92 army bosses met in Harare and warned Mugabe to fix the mess in the party or risk the army’s intervention.
Mugabe’s allies brushed off the army’s threats and even attempted to arrest General Chiwenga days later as he returned from a trip to China.
A Zanu-PF Youth leader, Kudzanai Chipanga, also infamously threatened to army bosses and called their bluff.
Just a week after Mnangagwa’s firing, the army drew tanks and other military hardware onto the streets and clamped down the Mugabes, while popular pressure called on Mugabe to step down.
Legislators from both the opposition MDC and the ruling Zanu-PF gathered and moved a Parliamentary motion to impeach Mugabe, but he resigned just moments before the motion could be debated in Parliament.
Mugabe died on 6th September this year and was buried at his rural Kutama village, some 90 km out of Harare.
Following months of protests, and a prolonged sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was placed under house arrest on April 11 as the country’s military prepared for a transitional government.
Many have described the Sudanese uprising as a “bread protest” against a rise in inflation. In fact the Sudanese people took to the streets for much more than a struggling economy, or the price of bread. They have been calling for freedom, peace, justice and the downfall of the regime.
And they have finally won.
The generation leading the uprising was born and raised during al-Bashir’s 30-year rule. The protesters are mostly young professionals who have been directly affected by the regime’s Islamisation and Arabisation policies.
These policies have been particularly harsh against women’s freedoms and rights, which explains why young Sudanese women are at the heart of the uprising. The policies have also resulted in multiple years of conflict and insecurity in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile.
Sudan’s governing system has already deteriorated because of years of state autocracy, nepotism, corruption and violent conflict.
Al-Bashir’s removal may bring down the state if a strong successor isn’t positioned to replace him. But in my view, given how Sudan has historically been run, the democratic preferences of many young protesters is unlikely to come to fruition. Their expectations for a functioning democracy, with free and fair elections, and constitutional freedoms will not be met unless the next leader of Sudan is a reformist.
Al-Bashir’s first responses
The regime responded to the protests in three ways.
First, al-Bashir tried to quickly reconsolidate his power by proposing constitutional changes that would have allowed him to stand for reelection in 2020. That was quickly taken off the table.
He then declared a year-long nationwide state of emergency. The emergency state prohibited “unauthorised” gatherings and movements. Violence followed as the state deployed heavy-handed tactics to break up the protests.
Al-Bashir also dissolved federal and state governments, replacing almost all of Sudan’s 18 state governors with army officers. And he ordered parliament to delay deliberations over proposed constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for an extra-constitutional term in next year’s elections.
When the protests didn’t subside he called for broad-based dialogue.
In a bid to stay in power, al-Bashir also reached out to those who had backed him financially on previous occasions. These included the Persian Gulf states as well as Egypt and Russia. However, these allies have done little more than offer him vague statements of support.
He also began to lose the support of Western backers. Once warm to al-Bashir, they recently began to issue stern reprimands.
By the time al-Bashir stepped down protests had taken hold in more than 35 cities across the country. People took to the streets in more and more places following the first demonstration in the northern Nile-side town of Atbara.
The current uprising was triggered by a government decision to lift subsidies on essential commodities and to drastically increase bread prices. In a matter of weeks, the protest in Atbara would reach the capital Khartoum 349 kilometres away.
As protests erupted across the country agents of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service and riot police began to crack down on demonstrators. Throughout, however, the army refrained from intervening. Rumours began to surface that al-Bashir was ready to hand over power to the armed force. But this was swiftly rejected by the Minister of Information and government spokesman of the government, Hassan Ismail.
In the final days before al-Bashir stepped down thousands of demonstrators reached the ministry compound in Khartoum. This also houses al-Bashir’s residence, the secret service headquarters and the defence ministry.
Protesters then upped the stakes by trying to gain support from the army. What began to emerge was that senior officers were possibly weakening, or that they were hoping to use the protests to pressure factions within the ruling elite.
Protesters used a number of tactics to keep the momentum going. These included using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. All evolved during the uprising despite the government’s attempts to block the user, and Virtual Private Networks were used to access the women’s only Facebook group called “Minbar Chat”.
Videos recorded by the protesters became important in documenting the crimes perpetrated by the security forces during the peaceful protests. They also became the main means of informing the Sudanese people and the international community about the brutality of al-Bashir’s regime.
Now that al-Bashir has resigned he will probably be required to leave the country by agreeing to safe passage to a friendly state, possibly somewhere like Egypt, or Qatar. The only way he can remain in Sudan is if he had prior agreement with the military to ensure his safety. It’s possible that the new generals he appointed after the declaration of a state of emergency might side with him.
Their support could have been one of the reasons why he felt that he could step down. Looking ahead, with or without Bashir, there’s also a possibility that the protests could continue if the people of Sudan feel that the swamp has not been drained of all the regime’s oppressive leaders.