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Behind the News

Behind the News: All the backstories to our major news this week



Over the past week, there were lots of important stories from around the African continent, and we served you some of the most topical ones.

Here is a rundown of the backstories to some of the biggest news stories in Africa that we covered during the week:

Egypt and Turkey intensify efforts to close diplomatic gap

Beyond unpleasant news of the devastating effects of an earthquake in Morocco, and a flood accident in Libya which has killed and displaced thousands, there was something to cheer about from the Arab League this week as “sworn enemies,” Turkey and Morocco gave hope for reconciliation.

Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan discussed bilateral ties and energy cooperation with Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Sunday.

After 10 years of animosity, the meeting was the most recent diplomatic effort to repair relations between Egypt and Turkey. The first step in recent times to strengthen their diplomatic ties was the assignment of ambassadors to each other’s capitals in July.

The conflict between Erdogan and Sisi began when the latter took office following the Egyptian army’s removal of Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohamed Morsi in 2013 in the wake of significant public protests. Erdogan, who has links with the Brotherhood, while reacting to Sisi’s emergence, referred to him as an illegitimate tyrant in a television interview, and refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the regime.

Turkey later officially requested that Sisi be subjected to sanctions as a “war criminal” by the UN Security Council. Cairo’s response was to put pressure on Ankara to withdraw its application for a Security Council seat. In the end, Egypt recalled its own envoy from Ankara and expelled the Turkish ambassador from Cairo.

The dispute between the two presidents has evolved over time from an ideological disagreement to a contest over opposing visions for the region.

They have guided their countries with divergent stands in matters like the Syrian crisis, the war in Libya, and the definition of maritime borders in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, diplomatic normalcy between them is capable of influencing significant changes in the Arab League.

However, trade between the two countries has been maintained despite the long-standing hostilities. With a $4 billion purchase, Turkey was the biggest consumer of Egyptian goods in 2022.

Controversy around Nigeria/UAE visa ban saga

The Nigerian government was caught in a web of diplomatic controversy during the week following a back-and-forth situation with the United Arab Emirates. On Monday evening, the Nigerian government had in a statement by Presidential spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale claimed that the United Arab Emirates had reached an agreement leading to the immediate reversal of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers to the kingdom.

The news was well received at home. Diplomatic tension between Nigeria and the UAE went sour in 2021 after the authorities in the Middle Eastern country reportedly ‘barred’ other airlines from bringing Nigerian passengers.

By October 2022, the UAE announced the addition of 20 other African countries to the “blacklist.” The countries listed for the visa ban at the time included Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, Burundi, Republic of Guinea, Gambia, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast, Congo, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Comoros, and the Dominican Republic.

But the “good news” didn’t last too long as media queries on the terms of the revoked visa ban forced clarifications from Mr Ngelale, and eventual denial of the development, particularly as the UAE was silent on the development in their media readout of the communication between the two leaders.

An official of the Gulf state later contradicted the Nigerian government’s position on lifting the visa ban, saying there were no changes on the travel status yet.

“There are no changes on the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far,” the official said in an interview with CNN.

Thus, while the discussions between the leaders may have produced investment agreements, the visa ban remains, at least in the interim. But the two countries remain strong partners. The UAE is one of Nigeria’s largest trade partners. Since the visa ban, capital importation from UAE to Nigeria totalled $225.1m.

Zambia embraces China as debt restructuring talk continues 

Southern African country, Zambia made a significant move in its quest for debt restructuring as President Hakainde Hichilema on Friday arrived in Beijing, China which is Zambia’s largest foreign creditor for discussions. Hichilema met Chinese President, Xi Jinping in an outing which has been reported to have witnessed the two nations upgrading their relations to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.”

Zambia’s main creditor is China, and the Export-Import Bank of China is the owner of almost two-thirds of the $6.3 billion debt that Zambia is currently renegotiating with its official creditors.

Zambia, the first nation in Africa to experience sovereign debt default in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating economic impact, has now reached a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding a protracted debt restructuring plan that will save the nation $7.65 billion by 2026.

The nation also aims to come to an agreement with private creditors over the restructuring of further debt by the end of the IMF’s second review later this year.

Five African nations have so far formally defaulted on their national debt in 2020: Zambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Chad, and Mali. Zambia has made the most of the debt restructuring plan under the G20 framework.

In 2021, six other African countries — Chad, Eritrea, Mozambique, the Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Zimbabwe— were seen as debt-distressed as African governments issued a record $7.5 billion in sovereign bonds, 10 times more than in 2016.

Beyond Zambia’s debt situation, experts have commended Zambia’s recent macroeconomic gains. Its open economic disposition to the Chinese model continues to be in the spotlight. Hichilema said at the meeting with Xi, that “Zambia abides by the one-China principle, highly appreciates the guiding concepts and principles of Chinese-style modernisation, and hopes to learn from China’s development experience.”

Tunisia reopens its largest museum after 2-year shutdown

Tunisia’s Ministry of Culture on Thursday announced the reopening of the country’s largest museum, the Bardo National Museum, which was shut two years ago. The museum was shut down in 2021 when President Kais Saied shuttered the parliament, which occupies the same building as the museum. This decision was roundly criticised and dubbed a coup.

The Bardo is housed in a historic palace and features one of the world’s most exceptional collections of ancient Roman mosaics.

With the 2011 Revolution, the 2015 Terrorist Attacks which killed more than 20 people at the Bardo Museum and its surroundings, and the Recent Coronavirus, the nation’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted over the past ten years.

Tunisia is among the most travelled-to nations in Africa. Every year, millions of tourists flock to this region for its scenery, beaches, Sahara Desert, and historic Roman and Phoenician ruin sites.

Tunisia hopes that the reopening of the museum will provide some economic relief to the country’s struggling economy. This has been the point of concern both at home and abroad. Being a major border African state to Europe, the North African country can explore further tourism opportunities with its “European neighbours”

Behind the News

Behind the News: All the backstories to our major news this week



Over the past week, there were many important stories from around the African continent, and we served you some of the most topical ones.

Here is a rundown of the backstories to some of the biggest news stories in Africa that we covered during the week:

US in another push to restore its waning influence in Africa

Amid concerns over the waning influence of the United States in Africa, President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the first members of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement, saddled with the responsibility of advising the government on ties with African communities.

During the US-Africa Leaders Summit, which aimed at strengthening Washington’s relations with the region, Washington announced plans to establish the council in December of last year. The council would provide advice to the president on a variety of topics, such as how to improve ties between African communities and the US, encourage trade and investment, and foster educational exchanges, among others.

Washington is keen on regaining its waning influence amid an effort to highlight the region’s significance and combat any threats China and Russia may pose to American interests in this significant area. While China appears to be favoured for economic relations by many African countries in recent years, Russia has been the “present military help” for many others in the continent.

In 2000, the US parliament passed The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which provides tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets as effort continues to reaffirm its relations with the continent.

It is encouraging that Africa has caught Biden’s attention so early in his term, as the president has consistently reiterated America’s commitment to being Africa’s partner and highlighted the continents’ shared fates as well as the need for them to “work together to advance a shared vision of a better future.”

Concerns as Malian junta announces delay in transition

During the week, Mali’s military junta under Colonel Assimi Goita hinted at a possible shift in the date for democratic transition after it announced delays to presidential elections.

The election, which was initially scheduled for February 2024, will no longer hold as planned due to what they refer to as technical reasons. The junta has promised to announce a new timeline at a later date.

Mali is one of the countries in the Sahel, like Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso that has experienced a military coup in the last three years. Observers have raised concerns over the likely contagious effect of the coups in the region, particularly as jihadist terrorists gain new ground in the region, like in Togo and Ghana. Some of the fears already came through as Niger Republic has now joined the league of military-led states in the Sahel, while Gabon, in Central Africa, also recently witnessed a coup that ended the over 50-year-long reign of the Bongo family.

In June 2022, Mali’s military junta created a body charged with responsibility for writing a new constitution. The government had through a decree read on state television that Bamako would be returned to civil rule after twenty-four months. The junta had also announced a new electoral law which permits Colonel Goita and other military servicemen to contest for the projected 2024 elections.

Regional bloc, ECOWAS, in reaction to the 24-month transition plan, says it regrets the decision of Colonel Goita to extend the duration of the transition.

Col. Goita, under whom Mali has been at diplomatic loggerheads with France and has been president of the transitional government since seizing power in a coup three years ago, also claimed that a disagreement with a French company over a civil registry database was among the reasons it decided to postpone the elections.

Nigeria’s central bank in the spotlight again

The Secretary to the Nigerian government, George Akume, announced that two months after President Bola Tinubu named a former Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Jim Obazee, as the Special Investigator for the Central Bank of Nigeria, a report has been submitted on activities in the apex bank.

The office of Nigeria’s central bank governor has been hit with controversies in the recent past with previous occupants, one such was the redesigning of N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes and discontinuing the old bills within an unprecedented three-month window, leading to a cash scarcity crisis, all allegedly without working in sync with the Ministry of Finance.

Another was inconsistency in the FX market, with varying exchange windows that experts argued were unhealthy for the Nigerian economy, tagging it Nigeria’s worst foreign exchange crisis in the last eight years.

Meanwhile, also during the week, the bank got a new head, Yemi Cardoso, who has promised to champion immediate moves to ensure the stability of the Nigerian currency, the Naira.

Tinubu, who was sworn in on May 29, is faced with the challenges of high foreign debt, unemployment, soaring inflation, an unstable exchange rate system, and insecurity, among others. However, the nomination of Cardoso has divided opinion as some have argued that the critical stage of the Nigerian monetary space requires the competencies of a central bank governor with a strong macroeconomics background, and not investment banking, in which Cardoso is a reputed authority.

Love turns sour as Nigerian striker, Osimhen clashes with club, Napoli 

It was a long week for Nigeria’s Super Eagles striker who plays his football for Italian side, Napoli. Napoli, the Italian champion had started the season slowly, with Osimhen who was their leading scorer last season also off-form.

Osimhen had reacted angrily after being substituted last weekend after a poor performance in which he missed a penalty kick. He later tendered an apology to his club coach, Rudi Garcia and teammates for his outburst but that wasn’t the end of the drama just yet as the club’s social media administrators later in the week posted a video on TikTok mocking the forward after he missed a penalty against Bologna.

The club came under wide criticism at the peak of which Osimhen’s agent, Roberto Calenda threatened to take legal action against the Italian Serie A club, while the footballer himself also deleted posts relating to Napoli on his social media handles.

The video has stirred controversy around the treatment of players of African descent and generally people of colour in the Italian league with recent history against players like Mario Baloteli, and Romero Lukaku. But the list has also been a fruitful ground for “black players” with the likes George Weah of Liberia, and Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, amongst others, having had successful times playing club football in Italy.

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Behind the News

Behind the News: All the backstories to our major news this week



Over the past week, there were lots of important stories from around the African continent, and we served you some of the most topical ones.

Here is a rundown of the backstories to some of the biggest news in Africa that we covered during the week:

1. Nigeria’s Presidency walks back UNGA goof

President Bola Tinubu’s participation at the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) would have ended on a high but for an unpardonable blunder by Presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale’s describing the epoch NASDAQ Bell ringing by Tinubu as the first by an African leader.

Perhaps in his enthusiasm to please the President of Africa’s most popular country, Ngelale had rushed to release the statement where he announced that President Tinubu was the first African leader to ring the bell at the close of trade at the NASDAQ in the United States.

Tinubu had, on Wednesday, rang the closing bell at the NASDAQ headquarters in New York City on the sidelines of the UNGA, and used the opportunity to advance his foreign investment push in front of financial markets at the famous stock exchange.

“The world’s second largest stock exchange, the National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotation System (NASDAQ), on Wednesday in the world’s financial capital, invited President Tinubu to ring the closing bell. Making him the first African President to ever receive the honour,” Ngelale said.

The statement led to Nigerian journalists doing fact-checks which turned out that Tinubu was not the first African leader to ring the NASDAQ Bell and with the outcome came serious backlash for the Presidency, leading to Ngelale tendering an apology for the goof.

“We inadvertently referred to President Bola Tinubu as the first African leader to ring the bell at NASDAQ on Wednesday in New York, based on the information provided by a third-party event organiser.

“We have since found out that this information was/is incorrect as a former African leader has indeed had the privilege. This error is sincerely regretted,” he said.

This is not the first time Ngelale will have eggs rubbed on his face due to his misrepresentation of facts.

The first was during a meeting between Tinubu and his United Arab Emirates’s counterpart, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dahbi, shortly after thr G-20 Summit held in India.

After the meeting, Ngelale issued a where he said that Tinubu and Al Nahyan had “finalised a historic agreement, which has resulted in the immediate cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers.”

By the statement, Ngelale claimed that had claimed that a visa ban on Nigerians by the UAE had been lifted.

However, the UAE authorities immediately rubbished the claim, saying there was no agreement to the effect that the visa ban had been lifted.

In an interview with the CNN, an official of the Arab country knocked Ngelale’s claims, saying the two countries were still working on modalities to “reinforce their ties and explore opportunities for further bilateral collaborations.”

After he was caught in a web of lies, Ngelale did a volte face by putting up a statement where he said officials from the two countries were still in the process of finalising details on reversing the visa ban.

“Given the agreement struck between the two Heads of State, there is need to allow cabinet officials from both sides to work out the finer details and finalize the cross-sectoral agreements.”

“Everyone can now allow the process to work itself out organically, devoid of speculation,” he had said.

2. Sudan’s Army Chief, Gen. Al-Burhan talks up peace negotiations

After over five months of stand off and posting an uncompromising stance, Sudan’s Army Chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, says he is now ready for peace talks aimed at bringing the civil war in the country to an end.

Before now, Al-Burhan and his rival, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the leader of the Rapid Support Force (RSF) paramilitary had rebuffed every attempt by African leaders and the international community to see reasons why the bloody war that has consumed thousands of civilians and equally displaced millions.

Talks brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States held in Jeddah were stalled due to the stance of the two warring factions, while several ceasefire agreements were never honoured by the duo.

But in a statement in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Al-Burhan said he was now willing to entertain a peace talk as his preference was for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“Every war ends in peace, whether through negotiations or force. We are proceeding on those two paths, and our preferred path is the path of negotiations,” Al-Burhan said.

Al-Burhan’s turn around is, however, did not take many by surprise as, in the past few weeks, he has been embarking on a series of foreign visits after remaining holed up in Sudan for the duration of the war.

In his recent his visits to Cairo, Egypt, the Army Chief had said the purpose was to seek solutions and not military support, though he had asked other states to block external help that he claimed the RSF was receiving.

“We asked our neighbors to help us monitor the borders to stop the flow of mercenaries,” he had said.

3. Kagame seeks 4th term in office

In what has become a fad for majority of African leaders, Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, during the week, announced that he will be seeking to pursue a fourth-term in office under the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).

Kagame who first came into office office on September 12, 2003, has been in power for the past 20 years and with the announcement of seeking a fourth tenure, he will join other sit-tight African leaders who allow the lure of power to becloud them into entrenching themselves in office perpetually.

Like other of his ilk, Kagame said he decided to go for the tenure elongation because Rwandans wanted him to continue.

“I am happy with the confidence that the Rwandans have shown in me. I will always serve them, as much as I can. Yes, I am indeed a candidate,” he told Jeune Afrique magazine in an interview published on Tuesday.

Kagame had, in 2015, arm-twisted the country’s parliament to conduct a referendum to amend the constitution which eliminated any term limitations for him, allowing him to be president till 2034.

With the urge to seek another nine-year tenure, Kagame will join an elite group of African leaders on the sit-tight terrain which include Paul Biya of Cameroon, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equitorial Guinea,
Ismail Omar of Djibouti and King Mohammed VI of Morocco, among others.

4. With MohBad’s death comes unending controversies

The death of promising Nigerian Afropop star, Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly known as MohBad, has thrown up more controversies than could have been envisaged.

The 27-year-old music star died in mysterious circumstances on September 12, and his death has thrown up lots of controversies, sparking widespread protests with Nigerian celebrities and youths holding processions across the country.

The Lagos State government and the police also waded into the suspicious death of the promising young star with a vow to unravel the cause of his death which led to the exhumation of his corpse for an autopsy.

The demise and hurried burial of the talented young artiste by his family prompted the Lagos State government to invite the police and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) to open an investigation into his death, with the first action being the exhumation of his body for an autopsy.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos also personally intervened in the matter and expressed his commitment to a comprehensive investigation.

“I have instructed that all those who may have played any role whatsoever in any event leading to the death of MohBad be made to face the law after a thorough investigation,” the governor said in a statement he posted on social media.

The suspicious circumstances surrounding Mohbad’s death led to a trending hashtag, #justiceformohbad on social media platforms, including X (formerly Twitter), while many Nigerians have called for an investigation into the death of the music star.

Music enthusiasts have also called for the arrest and prosecution of his former mentor and label owner, Naira Marley, whom MohBad accused of threatening his life following his departure from Marlian Records last year.

The talented singer who was renowned for his baritone voice and hit songs like “Peace”, “Ask About M” and “Pariwo”, has however, become more popular in death than he was when he was alive.

The social media space in Nigeria has also been taken over with posts on MohBad while two of America’s most popular rappers, Meek Mill and Lil Durk also paid tributes to the deceased.

“RIP MOHBAD aka Imole” Lil Durk who wrote on X with the tweet garnering more than 10 million views and retweets in less than over 24 hours.

“I watched his whole story on tik tok!!!! They riding for him in Nigeria. I love that! Meek Mill also wrote on the platform.

5. Nigerian para-tennis couple makes history

In the sporting world, Nigerian para-table tennis players, Kayode Alabi and Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi, made history by becoming the first African couple to qualify for a Paralympic Games after they both picked tickets to the Games in Paris in 2024.

Alabi and Ikpeoyi achieved the feat by triumphing at the ITTF African Para Championships in Giza, Egypt.

While Alabi emerged champion in the men’s Class Six category to qualify for his first Paralympic Games, his wife picked her ticket in the women’s Class Five and both will feature in their maiden games.

Alabi and Ikpeoyi will not lack in company at the Games as other Nigerian players dominated in the men’s singles category and picked the bulk of the tickets, with four of the six entrees making their Paralympic Games debut.

In the women category, Nigeria picked tickets in Classes Nine and Five with Kehinde Lawal and joining Ikpeoyi as champions, while Olufemi Alabi and Victor Farinloye also qualified for the Paris Games.

Other Nigerian players who also booked their places are Isau Ogunkunle, Bolawa Akingbemisilu and Abiola Adesope.

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