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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 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 in Africa that we covered during the week:

IMF in new push to ease Africa’s debt burden

During the week, multilateral body, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) authorized fresh loan interventions for Kenya and Malawi. For Malawi, it was $178 million by the Fund’s executive board, with an immediate disbursement of about $35 million.

Landlocked Malawi is currently experiencing severe shortages of vital imports like fuel, medicines, and fertilisers due to forex shortages. 58.8% of the country’s population currently live in extreme poverty.

The country devalued its currency by roughly 30% earlier this month in response to acute shortages of fuel, medications, and fertiliser caused by the forex shortages.

In Kenya’s case, a staff-level agreement was reached to unlock immediate access to a $682.3 million credit tranche. The agreement will also boost the current lending programme by $938 million as Kenya grapples with acute liquidity challenges caused by uncertainty over its ability to access funding from financial markets before a $2 billion Eurobond matures next June.

Kenya will have access to a total of $3.88 billion, subject to the executive board of the Washington-based fund’s approval. According to the IMF, this would increase Kenya’s total funding under the current Extended Fund Facility and Extended Credit Facility arrangements to $4.43 billion.

The IMF is also “seriously considering” a possible augmentation of Egypt’s $3 billion loan programme. Five African nations have formally defaulted on their national debt: Zambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Chad, and Sri Lanka. Zambia successfully applied for a debt restructuring plan under the G20 framework, a deal that has not yet been finalised.

Intervention to ease fears of repeat of Nigeria’s banknote scarcity saga

On Wednesday, Nigeria’s central bank reiterated that old 200, 500, and 1,000 banknotes meant to be out of circulation next month would continue as legal tender amid fear of renewed currency scarcity in the country.

Earlier, a statement by the Director of Corporate Communications of the CBN, Isah Abdulmumin, directed all its branches across the country to continue to issue different denominations of the old and redesigned banknotes in adequate quantities to deposit money in banks, stressing that every banknote that it had issued remained legal tender and should not be rejected by anyone.

After a serious cash shortage resulting from an attempt to remove excess money outside the banking system earlier this year, the announcement is expected to put an end to months of uncertainty.

It was believed that redesigning the country’s currency and the limited supply of the new notes were a deliberate plot by the then-outgoing president Buhari to check “vote buying” and frustrate politicians planning to unfairly tilt the process to their favour.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s inflation rate has continued its upward movement for the tenth straight month, surging to 27.33% in October. It was a 0.61 percentage point increase from the 26.72% that was recorded in September. Posing a monetary dilemma for the apex bank as it hopes to manage the supply of currency to manage the inflation crisis, an intervention is necessary amidst growing concern about the unavailability of cash in circulation in some parts of the country.

US returns to Ethiopia but concerns remain over Somalia

Months after it stopped aid action in Ethiopia, the United States is set to resume food aid for people across the country. A statement by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) says the return of the aid follows the implementation of comprehensive reforms.

In June, the US temporarily stopped providing food aid to the northern region of Ethiopia after complaints of widespread donation theft. The World Food Programme (WFP) did the same in May, subsequently cutting off all aid to Ethiopia in June.

More than 20 million Ethiopians, or roughly 16% of the country’s 120 million inhabitants, depend on food assistance as a result of ongoing droughts or regional conflicts that have forced 4.6 million people to escape their homes.

But the story is not the same for Ethiopia’s neighbour, Somalia, as the WFP warned during the week that a quarter of Somalia’s population was forecast to face “crisis-level hunger or worse” this year due to drought and floods caused by climate change.

After the most recent evaluation of Somalia’s performance under the Extended Credit Facility agreement, the lender commended the country, noting that despite several obstacles, the country had made significant progress in putting recommended changes meant to boost the economy into practice, but climate situations remained a challenge as floods had uprooted hundreds of thousands of people in the country.

The East Africa region has experienced a historic drought described by the United Nations as a once-in-a-century event.

Musings about opposition politics in Africa

Nigeria’s Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President, and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 general elections, called for a united opposition force to displace the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The call has drawn reactions from other opposition parties, like the Labour Party which described Abubakar’s merger proposal as a good one that should be considered, and the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP)— which had the former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso as its 2023 presidential candidate— giving its conditions for a possible merger.

Also in the week, major opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that consideration was on for the best approach to displace President Felix Tshisekedi in the forthcoming elections, we and have begun talks in Pretoria with a potential joint candidate to challenge Tshisekedi in the works.

While political mergers have yielded the desired results, like in the case of Nigeria in 2015, victory is not guaranteed. An instance was the last Gabonese presidential election earlier this year, in which major opposition parties adopted a single candidate and consented to support a former minister and university professor, Albert Ondo Ossa but failed to end the 56-year grip of the Bongos in power, although incumbent Ali Bongo was later removed in a military coup as part of the fallout of the election.

Meanwhile, an incumbent president lost an election over the weekend in Liberia, West Africa. The country’s president, George Weah, has been defeated by an opposition leader, Joseph Boakai, after a tight race for the country’s top job, a development that is a rare ray of hope for Africa’s struggling opposition, particularly because Boakai cruised to victory without political mergers.

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:

Somalia finally gets UN approval for arms purchase 

Somalia’s 31-year arms purchase restriction by the United Nations was lifted on Friday by the Security Council of the global body. The council voted 14-1 to lift the arms embargo, with France abstaining. This allows Somalia to freely purchase new weapons. The transfer of supplies or weapons to terrorists connected to Al Shabaab is still prohibited.

Somalia has been constrained by this UN decision amidst the country’s quest for lasting peace in the face of internal wranglings and terrorist activities. In September, Somalia asked the UN to pause a planned drawdown of 3,000 African Union peacekeepers for three months to allow its security forces time to regroup after a militant attacks forced them to withdraw from several recently captured towns.

An arms embargo was imposed on Somalia in January 1992 by Security Council Resolution 733 in response to the conflict that was still going on and the worsening humanitarian situation. The adoption of this resolution was unanimous.

Before being lifted on Friday, the ban had undergone several modifications. In June 2001, Security Council Resolution 1356 allowed for exemptions to the embargo for supplies of non-lethal military equipment for use in humanitarian operations, while in July 2002, Resolution 1425 clarified the scope of the arms embargo, making clear that it prohibited the financing of arms acquisitions as well as the direct or indirect sale or supply of technical advice or military training.

Uganda pivots to China after Western sanctions

Uganda plans to apply for a $150 million loan from China’s Export-Import Bank (Exim) in response to World Bank’s lending restrictions related to its anti-homosexuality legislation. The bank in August stated that “no new public financing for Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested.”

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” the bank said.

But the East African country appears to have moved on from the setback with the multilateral body as it is now negotiating a loan to finance the construction of a pipeline to help export its crude oil to foreign markets with the Chinese export credit organisations, SINOSURE and Exim Bank.

The Ugandan legislature passed a law outlawing LGBTQ people in May. The legislation included many strict regulations that sparked outrage from the international community, including the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and big businesses.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s recent relations with China as a sub-regional power might be a concern for the United States and its Western allies.

A look at Nigeria’s 2024 budget of ‘Renewed Hope’ 

On Wednesday, the Nigerian president, Bola Tinubu, presented a N27.5 trillion 2024 budget proposal to a joint session of the 10th National Assembly in Abuja in which he stressed that defence, education, and internal security were accorded top priority.

The budget expenditure for the year as proposed stood at N27.5 trillion, the highest in the history of Nigeria, and 10.9% higher than the 2022 revised budget (N24.83 trillion – addition of signed + supplementary

Revenue projections surged by 65.8% to N18.32 trillion, surpassing the 2023 revised budget of N11.05 trillion, while expenditure projections rose by 10.3% to N27.5 trillion from the 2023 revised budget. It breaks down into capital expenditure (31.6%), recurrent (36.1%), and debt servicing (30.0%).

Revenue and fiscal deficit projections seem unrealistic. The country continues to live in denial as revenue consistently underperforms projections and maintains a slow growth projection while spending surges annually. As a clear departure from previous budgets, the 2024 budget highlighted how the government intends to support growth and employment. However, there is no mention of sending the Finance Bill 2023 to support the 2024 budget implementation.

Britain’s Sunak adamant on migrant deal with Rwanda

British Prime Minister, Richie Sunak, has continued to press for a migrant deal with Rwanda despite recent major legal setbacks for the arrangement after meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Friday for a discussion on the subject.

Sunak, while responding to questions on the sidelines of the ongoing COP28 climate conference in Dubai, maintained that he remained “confident” in his government’s proposals. The two leaders wanted to ensure that the plan’s details were correct.

“We’re finalising the arrangements we have with them. It was good to check in with him on that and reiterate… our commitment to making the partnership work,” Sunak said at a press conference.

“Paul and I have forged a very strong relationship over this issue. He’s keen to work very constructively with us.”

Last year, Britain declared that it would send each asylum seeker to Rwanda for 169,000 pounds ($215,035), with the average cost of deporting each person to Rwanda estimated at 105,000 pounds, 22,000 pounds for travel and accommodations, and 18,000 pounds for processing and legal fees.

In recent years, illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa have become a major source of concern in Europe. A record 45,000 people had flown across the English Channel in small boats as of June 2023.

Similar to Britain, Italy is experiencing an increase in the number of migrants entering the country through the Mediterranean, with a rise in arrivals in 2022 compared to this year. In comparison to roughly 10,200 during the same period last year, nearly 150,000 people have arrived in Italy thus far in 2023.

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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:

Again, Nigeria sets Dec 2024 deadline to end fuel importation

When on Friday, November 24, Mr. Mele Kyari, the Group Managing Director of state-owned oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), announced that the country would end the importation of refined petroleum products by December 2024, not many Nigerians were thrilled by the news which came like another decimal in the line of such vows made by previous governments.

Kyari, who was briefing Nigerian lawmakers on steps being taken by the corporation to achieve the deadline, added that all the four refineries in the country located in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna would be operational by then.

At the meeting with the legislators in Abuja, Kyari said his confidence was gotten from the fact that Nigeria produced 1.49 million barrels of oil per day last month, the most in nearly two years, after increasing its output by 60,000 barrels per day, something the country had not achieved in years.

“I can confirm to you that by the end of December this year, we will start the Port Harcourt refinery; early in the first quarter of 2024, we will start the Warri refinery; and by the end of 2024, Kaduna refinery will come into operation.

“We will no longer be talking about fuel importation by the end of 2024. I am very optimistic that this will crystallize,” he enthused.

But the optimism exhibited by Kyari is not sold to majority of Nigerians who have had to live through such promises for over 20 years.

Nigeria, which has one of the largest oil deposits in world, has failed to maximise its potential as none of the publicly owned refineries has worked to capacity for years despite several investments to revive them.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as a privately owned refinery built by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote is set to roll out its products in December.

The failure of both the previous and current governments has contributed to the high level of national anticipation surrounding the Dangote refinery which had earlier failed to commence operations despite a funfair launch earlier this year.

When it rains, it pours for ex-President Lungu of Zambia

Former Zambian President, Edgar Lungu was in the eye of the storm during the week in review as the government in power said it was going to engage legal experts to find out the legal implications of his drawing benefits from taxpayers after he had earlier announced that he had retired from active politics before making a u-turn this year.

After he left office, Lungu had announced his retirement from active politics, but according to Chief Government spokesperson, Cornelius Mweetwa, the former president was still collecting retirement benefits which he claimed was a breach of the Zambian constitution.

Lungu’s return to full-time politics and emerging as the leader of the main opposition party, Patriotic Front (PF), was described by Mweetwa as being tantamount to “obtaining by false pretence”.

At a press conference in Lusaka, the spokesman said the central government wanted to “understand whether Lungu committed an offence of obtaining money by false presence which was a criminal offence in the country.”

“Those things are still being studied by the legal experts to establish the way forward because the rule of law is very clear and whoever breaks it must be made accountable,” Mweetwa stated.

The goverment mouthpiece added that the offences were not covered under the presidential immunity because they were committed at the time Lungu had left office, and failure to enforce the law by government was a criminal offence on its part because it swore to protect the Constitution.

The hounding of Lungu and the continuous attacks on the opposition in Zambia which saw the suspension of 18 opposition MPs from the parliament is seen by many political analysts in the country as a clear strategy of silencing dissenting voices, while others fear it could mark the start of a dictatorship by the President Hakainde Hichilema administration.

More trouble for embattled Zambia’s Speaker Mutti

It was another week of trouble for the embattled Speaker of the Zambian National Assembly, Nelly Mutti as a group of female politicians joined their voice to the plethora of attacks on her by accusing her of being used to breach the constitution of the country.

The group, known as the National Management Council in charge of Resource Mobilisation, at a press conference in Lusaka, said Mutti had played into the hands of men in the Parliament and had allowed herself to be manipulated to suit their purpose through unnecessary manouvers.

The leader of the group, Olivia Phiri, who addressed a joint press conference of women in politics, warned Mutti against allowing herself to be used for the wrong purposes.

“Madam Speaker you cannot be used in the night and still want to be used during the day. National Assembly is the last house where laws are made and you can not be used by men to violate the constitution,” Phiri said.

Her warning came amid series of troubles that Mutti has had to face from her fellow MPs which reached a crescendo with the suspension she doled out to 18 opposition lawmakers, 16 from the Patriotic Front and two independent members of parliament.

Phiri also alleged that Mutti was blocking the chances of other women getting such positions in future or being appointed by future presidents.

“What now the Speaker doesn’t understand is that she is blocking other women because they will say women are like this, it will remain in the history like the Chair had explained the history of this country, we have women that fought for the independence of this country”, she said.

The first female Speaker in the history of Zambian politics has also had to face a plethora of criticism, court cases and serial accusations of constitutional breaches, but so far, she is still standing as she has the backing of President Hakainde Hichilema and the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND).

Mutti maybe standing on safe ground for now, but for how long can she hold on?

Bandits kill, abduct Nigerians for failing to pay illegal levies

It was a bloody weekend in the northeastern states of Taraba and Zamfara in Nigeria as heavily armed bandits killed no fewer than 11 people and abducted more than 100.

You may wonder what their crime was?

The failure to pay different kinds of levies amounting to N110 million to the terrorists, including paying to harvest their farm produce and paying a ransom for informing soldiers of the location of the bandits triggered the criminals to carry out the dastardly act.

On Friday, the gang laid siege to Taraba and killed 11 peasant farmers and injured several others, while on Saturday, it was the turn of Zamfara to witness another round of bloody invasion when a notorious bandit kingpin known as Damina (meaning Rainy Season), led his gang to “rain” havoc on helpless residents. By the time he was done, his men had taken over 100 captives while dozens of others were injured in the mindless attack.

Alhaji Muhammad Usman, from one of the affected villages who narrated how the incident happened to journalists, said the bandit leader had earlier imposed N110 million on the communities as harvesting levies, giving them a two-week ultimatum to comply or face the consequences.

“N50 million levy was imposed on our community, while N30 million was imposed on Kwanar Dutsi; N20 million on Sabongari Mahuta, and N10 million on Unguwar Kawo,” he said.

Another resident said Damina attacked them because they could not raise the N50 million he asked them to pay as compensation for informing soldiers of his men’s movements.

“We were trying to gather the money reaching out to people when Damina decided to strike,” he said.

The northeastern part of Nigeria has, over the past 15 years, become the haven of bandit and terrorist activities despite efforts by government at different levels to nip the menace in the bud, including negotiating with and granting them amnesty.

Zamfara has seen repeated and regular attacks from different bandit groups, including the sacking of whole communities, schools and even burning down police stations.

Another feather for Burna Boy as he is confirmed world’s most-followed artiste on Audiomack

It was a good week for Nigerian Afrobeats sensation, Damini Ogulu, the one knows as Burna Boy, when global music streaming giant, Audiomack, announced him as the world’s most-followed artiste on the platform.

According to Audiomack, the Grammy-Awards winning singer hit above five million followers with his stream of songs including the super hit track, “African Giant” which accounted for over a quarter of the following.

The milestone is the first in the history of the platform and they made sure they rolled out the drums to celebrate the “Last Last” crooner.

Audiomack is an on-demand music streaming and audio discovery platform that allows artistes and music content creators to upload limitless music and podcasts for listeners through its mobile apps and website. For the Nigerian star to hit the milestone is a testament to his immense talent and the acceptability of the Afrobeats music genre across the world.

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