Connect with us

Behind the News

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

Published

on

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

Published

on

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. Audacity of pride as APC boasts Nigerians will still re-elect Tinubu despite hunger, hardship

Despite the hues and cries of ordinary Nigerians over the unbearable hardship, hunger, insecurity, and pervasive poverty as a result of the now infamous “bold reforms” and unfavourable economic policies of President Bola Tinubu since coming into office over a year ago, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has boasted that Nigerians will still re-elect him as president come 2027.

The Deputy National Organising Secretary of the party, Nze Chidi Duru, who made the boast in an interaction with journalists in Lagos, said he was convinced beyond doubt that come 2027, Tinubu would be re-elected despite the economic hardship and planned alliance between mega opposition parties.

Duru, who was reacting to insinuations that the current hardship and economic woes arising from Tinubu’s policies could lead to Nigerians voting against him, said the ruling party was not losing sleep because he was sure Nigerians would still vote for the president.

“Our party has always recognised the fact that the current challenging economic environment has not in any way got better.

“When Mr President took over, he asked Nigerians not to pity him. It is an office that he craved and worked hard for before offering himself to provide leadership to Nigeria.

“What gives confidence is that Mr President is very much aware of the expectations of the person on the street.

“Concerning whether we will be re-elected, as a democrat and my personal view, we have always canvassed that unless His Excellency President Bola Tinubu will not contest, the APC government is bound to be represented by our candidate in 2027 to fly the flag for the simple reason that I want to bring up. And, of course, there is the incumbency factor,” Duru boasted.

Beyond the cockiness and confidence of the APC spokesman, who is invariably speaking the minds of the ruling class, what this means is that no matter how they have emasculated Nigerians and throw them under the bus, they will still be re-elected come the next election cycle in 2027.

They have the power of incumbency, the chairman of the Electoral Commission is appointed by the ruling party, they have the machinery and the funds to buy voters and in the case of an election dispute going to court, they have their appointed judges to give verdicts in their favour.

Little wonder Duru, like others before him, has the effrontery to boast that Nigerians will still re-elect Tinubu despite what they are being made to go through.

And he is not far from the truth because most of the suffering Nigerians will still sell their consciences for pittance in future elections.

2. ‘You are killing Zambian democracy,’ Lungu attacks Hichilema again

The war of words and verbal attacks between former Zambian President Edgar Lungu and incumbent President Hakainde Hichilema has continued unabated following a new allegation from the Lungu camp that Hichilema is attacking the country’s democratic norms by using the parliament to strangle the opposition.

Lungu made the allegations after nine members of his party, the Patriotic Front (PF), were sacked from the parliament.

In a press conference in Lusaka, Lungu said his party would vigorously contest the expulsions of the MPs through legal and political means.

He also accused the current government of misusing the Speaker’s office to target perceived opponents of the ruling party, calling it an abuse of power.

“During my tenure, we never interfered with the workings of the National Assembly. My government respected national principles and the separation of powers,” Lungu said.

He also warned that if Zambia fails to oppose the unconstitutional expulsion of lawmakers, it would signal a dangerous attack on democracy, adding that the Hichilema administration is displaying dictatorial powers, contrast with his administration’s practices since 2015 when he took office.

“Sadly, the respect for power and democratic principles that we upheld has been undermined under the current government. Since Mr. Hakainde Hichilema assumed power, we have witnessed a decline in governance integrity,” Lungu lamented.

The political fight between Lungu and Hichilema is not new especially in Africa where politicians see themselves as sworn enemies.

Those who are not in office see all the mistakes made by those in power while those on the inside will do everything possible to stop their opponents from upsetting them in future elections.

Since Hichilema took over from Lungu, the former president has been on the warpath, picking on him and attacking the President at every point, oblivious of the fact that he was duly voted out by the citizens who felt he had not performed to their expectations.

But then, this is the way of a typical African politician and the roulette dance of shame goes on!

3. End of an era as US completes troops withdrawal from Niger’s Air Base

After several years of having its troops stationed in Niger Republic and other West African countries, the United States announced that it would finally withdraw its troops from the Nigerien Air Base on Sunday.

The Nigerien military junta had given the United States until September 15th to withdraw its forces.

In a statement on Friday, US officials said the military will finish removing its soldiers from Niger’s Air Base 101 in the capital on Sunday and will next concentrate on leaving a significant drone base in the upcoming weeks.

The withdrawal of the US troops also comes with a withdrawal from a $100 million drone base close to Agadez in central Niger, which had supplied vital intelligence regarding organizations associated with the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

US Air Force Major General Kenneth Ekman, who was in Niger to oversee the withdrawal, had announced that a ceremony will take place on Sunday night to officially close Air Base 101 for the United States.

“We will do a joint ceremony on that occasion that marks the departure of the last U.S. C-17 (aircraft). The government of Niger will assume control of former U.S. areas and facilities,” Ekman said.

The idea behind the withdrawal of the US troops from the West African country came following a spate of coups that rocked the region in the past five years, the latest being that of Niger last year which saw the junta leaders ordering the United States to remove its almost 1,000 soldiers from the country in April.

The order and the subsequent protest by citizens caused the US serious embarrassment leading to the decision to withdraw its troops.

The withdrawal of US troops is also coming on the heels of similar withdrawals by Russia troops from Mali and Burkina Faso following military coups in the countries.

4. 82 million Nigerians face bleak times as food crisis escalates

An estimated 82 million Nigerians, about 64% of the nation’s population, face a bleak future and may go hungry by the year 2030 as a result of acute food crisis which is likely to hit the country in the next few years.

This damning prediction was given by the United Nations which also urged the Nigerian government to immediately address climate change, pest infestations, and other risks to agricultural productivity.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s resident humanitarian coordinator, Taofiq Braimoh, a UN representative, who made the prediction at the CropWatch Abuja launch during the week had stated:

“The government of Nigeria, in collaboration with others, conducts an annual food security survey.

“The results this year are concerning: over 80–82 million Nigerians are at risk of severe food crisis by 2030, and about 22 million may experience food insecurity in 2023.

“Nigeria, like many countries, grapples with food insecurity, climate change, unreliable water patterns, pest infestations, and other threats to agricultural productivity.”

Realities on ground shows that this bleak forecast by the UN is as a result of sustained increase in the nation’s food costs where the cost of living has gone beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians.

Food inflation rate surpassed the 40.53% mark, an increasing from the previous month to a new high of 40.66% in May 2024, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

This is the highest of such inflation rate witnessed in over 20 years, with increasing insecurity where farmers have not been able to produce foods, and with the unfavourable economic policies of the present administration, the UN prediction may well come to reality if the ugly trend is not reversed on time.

5. New UK PM delights African migrants as he declares Rwanda migration deal ‘dead and buried’

The newly elected British Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, has got into the good books of African migrants quite early after he declared that the plans to repatriate asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda is “dead and buried.”

In what turned out to be Starmer’s first significant foreign policy statement,
Starmer said he would abandon the audacious plan to transport thousands of illegal to the East African country by the previous administration of Rishi Sunak.

The new PM stated categorically that the Rwanda policy would be abandoned since it would not have served as a deterrence and that just 1% of asylum applicants would have been expelled.

“The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent,” Starmer said in the speech.

In the agreement which was estimated at around £120 million ($148 million), the British government, had disclosed last year that it intended to send thousands of migrants to the nation in East Africa to discourage asylum seekers from using tiny boats to cross the English Channel from France.

The plan was to return undocumented migrants to the Rwanda and was first announced by the Conservative government in 2022, with the stated goal of ending the influx of asylum seekers in small boats.

The deal had suffered significant setbacks with some members of parliament kicking against it and court cases delaying its smooth take off but Sunak had insisted on going through with it.

With the stance of the most powerful man in the UK, endangered African migrants who seek asylum in the country can be rest assured of some level of protection.

Continue Reading

Behind the News

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

Published

on

Over the past week, there were many important stories from around the African continent, and we have 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:

Sierra Leone’s bold move against child marriage

West African country, Sierra Leone has taken bold steps towards child rights as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2024 was officially approved by the parliament of Sierra Leone during the week. The new law includes measures to protect victims’ rights, penalize criminals, and provide young girls who are impacted by child marriage access to support services and education. Until now, the Customary Marriage and Divorce Act of 2009, which permits minor children to be married off with parental agreement and does not set a minimum age of marriage, contradicts the previous Child Rights Act of 2007 which set the minimum legal age of marriage at eighteen. Local reports show that 30% of girls in Sierra Leone get married before turning eighteen, and nine per cent get married before turning fifteen.

In Sierra Leone, many girls drop out of school frequently as a result of poverty. In an attempt to better their financial circumstances or pay off debt, their family then marry them off. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2024, which ensures that 18 is the minimum legal age of marriage, reflects a harmonization of these laws. The new bill includes measures to ensure that young girls impacted by early child marriage have access to education and social services, safeguard the rights of victims, and penalize offenders.

It is against the law to marry a girl who is younger than eighteen. Additionally, it stipulates that criminals may serve up to 15 years in jail. 800,000 child brides reside in the nation; according to the UN agency, 400,000 of them were married before turning 15.

About 10.5% of young women in Sub-Saharan Africa were married before turning 15 as of 2020. Generally, in the continent, child marriage was a frequent custom. Before turning fifteen, one in four adolescent women in the Central African Republic were married or in a partnership. Chad’s percentage of 24% was comparable. Conversely, at less than one per cent, South Africa and Lesotho had the lowest rates of female marriages before the age of fifteen.

While some African nations have witnessed significant reductions in child marriage, others have experienced stasis. More women and girls are at risk of child marriage as a result of conflict, climate change, and COVID-19, which have all disrupted schooling and caused economic shocks. Some parents have turned to child marriage as a way to deal with the aftermath of crises. Another angle to the matter is the production of a child army, susceptible to extremist indoctrination since an increase in out-of-school has been established to be linked to growth in child marriage, thereby granting easy recruitment for terrorism within the continent.

Like Sierra Leone, the rest of Africa must face the cultural and religious sentiments that excuse child marriage and outlaw the practice, beyond the ordinary declaration of marriageable age but with precise consequences for defaulters, including but not limited to the parent, the supposed groom, and all other accomplices.

Kenyan Tax Law: Ruto stoops to conquer?

Kenyans continued to resist President William Ruto’s plan to increase the country’s budget by Ksh3.9 trillion ($31 billion), and protests against the recently highlighted Finance Bill have spread throughout the country, from Nairobi, the country’s capital, to other regions. To strengthen public finances and obtain more money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President William Ruto proposed higher taxes on bread, sugar, vegetable oil, mobile money transfers, and some imports.

Armed police continued to use tear gas to disperse protestors during street demonstrations in Nairobi and other major cities. Running fights broke out between the demonstrators, most of whom were young, and the officers as they attempted to enter the Parliament Buildings. However, in reaction to strong opposition, the controversial financial bill 2024 removed the proposed tax increases on Wednesday.

Kenya’s plan with the proposed new tax regime was believed to generate additional revenue of 346 billion Kenyan shillings ($2.68 billion) or 3% of GDP. Its withdrawal “will likely result in Kenya missing the 4.7% fiscal deficit target this year and 3.5% target next year as per the IMF programme which is now been threatened. In May 2023, Kenya committed to further funding to support climate change activities, raising its total loan availability from the IMF to $3.6 billion. In 2021, Kenya has already committed to a four-year loan from the IMF. The IMF requires frequent evaluations of changes, in Kenya’s case every six months, before releasing finance tranches.

Conceding to the Protesters mostly youths in a televised address, President Ruto said, “Listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this finance bill 2024, I concede, and therefore I will not sign this Finance Bill, 2024. and it shall subsequently be withdrawn, I run a government but I also lead people. And the people have spoken.”

But the lenses are out on the Kenyan economy following the suspension of the tax law given the current public finance state and debt of the East African country and what seems like the beginning of a legitimacy battle for the “increasingly unpopular Ruto” as protests have continued in some parts of the country as on Sunday- three days after the revocation of the law. The Kenyan situation also brings the searchlight on the influence of multilateral bodies and the African economy with the IMF considered a villain in the discourse, while other pro-IMF observers hold that the multilateral bodies are only rescue instruments to mop up the fiscal recklessness and dying states of African economies.

Nigeria’s long road towards local oil refining

Nigeria’s oil refining problems might not end soon despite the recent progress of privately run Dangote Refinery. During the week, Throughout the week, International Oil Companies in Nigeria were allegedly plotting to undermine the viability of the recently established Dangote Oil Refinery and Petrochemicals, according to Vice President of Oil and Gas at Dangote Industries Limited, Devakumar Edwin.

Edwin said the IOCs were “deliberately and willfully frustrating” the refinery’s efforts to buy local crude by hiking the cost above the market price, thereby forcing the refinery to import crude from countries as far as the United States, with its attendant high costs.

Nigeria increased its output by 60,000 barrels per day to produce 1.49 million barrels of oil per day in a month, the greatest in over two years. Through a joint venture, the West African nation has developed a new grade of petroleum known as Nembe as it boosts its oil output.

With four state-operated refineries with a total capacity of 445,000 barrels per day, Nigeria imports more than 80% of its refined petroleum products. The state-owned refineries have not operated at full capacity for many years, despite numerous attempts to bring them back online. The high level of national anticipation surrounding the Dangote refinery is partly attributed to the failures of both the previous and present governments.

These circumstances stand in sharp contrast to those of other comparable oil-producing nations in Africa, like Algeria, which has the second-highest refining capacity in Africa after Egypt, and Libya, which can cover 60% of its domestic refining needs.

More than 135,000 permanent employees and 12,000 megawatts of electricity are anticipated to be produced by the Dangote refinery. Additionally, Nigeria would save $25–30 billion in foreign exchange yearly. It is anticipated to bring $10 billion annually into the economy but the politics and modalities for full-capacity operation remain a hurdle.

Mauritania: What next as Ghazouani coasting home to victory?

With more than 90% of the ballots counted, the incumbent president of Mauritius, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, is leading the preliminary results in the nation’s Saturday presidential election.

After tallying over 90% of the votes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) on Sunday revealed that El Ghazouani was dominating the contest with 55.82% of the total.

Following Mauritania’s 1960 independence from France, retired General Mohamed Ould Ghazouani became the country’s eleventh president when he took office in August 2019 as the nation’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence. For ten years, the African desert nation was ruled by his predecessor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Aziz created the Union for the Republic (UPR), the ruling party, in 2009; in 2022, the party changed its name to Equity Party.

Although Mauritania is a presidential democracy, since gaining its independence in November 1960, there have been numerous military takeovers. Moktar Ould Daddah ruled Mauritania as a one-party state for eighteen years following independence. Decades of military control followed. Following a military coup in 2005, Mauritania underwent its first completely democratic presidential election on March 11, 2007, signalling the country’s transition from military to civilian government.

The country has not had it all smooth under Ghazouani. the COVID-19 outbreak and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have highlighted Mauritania’s fragility on the fronts of development and the economy. The nation’s primary exports, which include gold, iron ore, and fisheries goods, are dependent on extremely unpredictable international pricing. In addition, around 80% of Mauritania’s national food consumption is derived from imports of cereal. It is yet to be seen if its latest election will usher improved reign.

Continue Reading

EDITOR’S PICK

Tech5 hours ago

ADB launches mapping project for African women entrepreneurs

The African Development Bank (ADB) has launched a mapping project targeting 160 women entrepreneurs’ associations in 16 African countries. The...

Sports5 hours ago

Professional Fighters League names Cameroonian fighter Ngannou new Africa boss

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) has named Cameroonian Mix Martial Arts fighter, Francis Ngannou, as its African chief. The announcement...

Metro5 hours ago

Zambia ranks 8th in Africa for highest food inflation

Zambia has been ranked as the eighth African country with the highest food inflation as of May 2024, with a...

Politics5 hours ago

Kenya’s Ruto sacks cabinet amidst protests in major win for protesters

In response to pressure from widespread protests that have produced the greatest crisis of his two-year government, Kenyan President William...

Culture5 hours ago

President Tinubu renames Nigeria’s National Theatre after Nobel Laureate Soyinka

The Nigerian National Arts Theatre has been renamed after the country’s only Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on the occasion...

Metro10 hours ago

Nigerians thrown into mourning as 22 die, 150 injured in school building collapse

Nigerians have been thrown into mourning following the death of 22 victims including young school children and their teachers after...

Sports1 day ago

Eritrean cyclist Girmay nicks third Tour de France victory

Eritrean cyclist, Biniam Girmay, has created another record after he cycled to his third victory at this year’s Tour de...

Metro1 day ago

Zambia: Security guard shoots five workers at Simba Beverages company

A Zambian security guard working at the Simba Beverages in Lusaka has been arrested after he shot and wounded five...

Tech1 day ago

Bolt Kenya launches new campaign to celebrate its drivers

Bolt Kenya has announced the launch of a new reward campaign dubbed, “Drive for a Prize”, aimed at celebrating its...

Culture1 day ago

Ghanaian woman sets Guinness World Record for ‘Most Cars Washed’ in 8 Hours by an individual

The Guinness World Records (GWR) has officially confirmed a Ghanaian woman, Felicity Asantewaa, as the record holder for “Most Cars...

Trending