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

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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:

‘Let the poor breathe’; Nigeria’s VP Shettima admits hardship, poverty

Shortly after he was sworn in as Nigeria’s President on May 29, Bola Tinubu made the famous “Let the poor breathe” remark which immediately caught on with officials of the new administration who latched onto the remark whenever an opportunity presented itself.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio made a meal of the comment during a plenary of the Upper Chamber, which drew the angst of Nigerians who noticed the derision in his voice and the laughter of his colleagues when he made the comments.

However, no official of the administration has come out in the open to admit that Nigerians are going through harrowing times as a result of the “unplanned” removal of fuel subsidy by Tinubu in his inaugural speech, where he said “Subsidy is gone.”

And since then, coupled with some unfriendly economic policies, Nigerians have faced untold hardship, misery and poverty amid rising cost of living as a result of spiralling inflation.

However, Vice President Kashim Shettima, on Saturday, took the path of honour when he admitted that a majority of poor Nigerians were suffering, and angry with government officials.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the Executive Intelligence Management Course 16 in Abuja, Shettima said the Tinubu-led administration was aware that Nigerians were going through harrowing times, and was doing everything possible to ameliorate the pains as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy and the attendant inflation.

He also pleaded with Nigerians to be patient and support Tinubu so that he could work to solve the problems.

“All of us here belong to a tiny segment of the Nigerian population. And you don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that the poor are angry with us,” the VP admitted.

“The poor are the most neglected segment of our society. You can hardly differentiate between them and their animals. Even the animals they rear belong to those in the city. So, there have to be kinetic and non-kinetic solutions to all the problems.

“I want to ask you to give the President the benefit of the doubt. Let us be patient. Let us support him.

“Let us rally round him and be reassured that he is determined to redefine the meaning and concept of modern leadership, and is ever ready to reposition the Nigerian nation. But without the support of you and I, he can’t do much,” he added.

But beyond the pleas for patience and time for the government to fix the economy and put things right, Nigerians keep wondering when that El Dorado will come as there are no clear indications that things will soon be on the bright side.

The daily escalation of inflation, fluctuations in the foreign exchange regime, flip-flopping economic policies, job losses as a result of companies folding up and the general melancholic feelings in the country have not given the ordinary Nigerian the hope that the future looks bright.

With the rallying cry by Shettima, Nigerians will be hoping the government will be sensitive enough to do the needful and truly “Let the poor breathe.”

DRC’s Tshisekedi’s personal war with Rwanda’s Kagame gets feisty

The cold war that has existed between DR Congo’s President Fekix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, may soon boil over after Tshisekedi compared Kagame to German dictator, Adolf Hitler, whose actions during the second world war led to the death of millions of people.

For several years now, the two east African countries have been at loggerheads following accusations and counter accusations of sponsorship of rebel groups to destabilise each other.

Though both heads of states have been careful not to attack one another openly, Tshisekedi threw caution to the wind when he categorically said Kagame was behaving like Hitler, and insisted that he was equal to the task of putting him (Kagame) in check.

While addressing his supporters during a campaign rally in Bukavu, capital of the troubled South Kivu on Friday, Tshisekedi called out Kagame, comparing him to Hitler, and accused him of pursuing “expansionist aims” in the DRC.

“I’m going to address Rwandan President Paul Kagame and tell him this: since he wanted to behave like Adolf Hitler by having expansionist aims (in the DRC), I promise to end up like Adolf Hitler,” Tshisekedi said at the rally.

“When I took power as president of this country, I proposed a plan to live in peace with our neighbors, but the problem is that our neighbors have eyes bigger than their stomachs, and that’s the case with my colleague Paul Kagame.

“But this time, Paul Kagame has met a son of the country determined to protect his country against all kinds of foreign aggression,” he added.

Since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Tutsi rebels who formed the M23 (March 23 Movement) group, have continued to make incursions into eastern DRC and have captured swathes of territories in the mineral-rich province.

Congo has consistently accused Kigali of backing the rebels, accusations Rwanda has continued to vehemently deny, but with the first salvo fired by Tshisekedi, it remains to be seen what Kagame’s response will be.

Zambia’s political crisis gets messier as opposition party labels Hichilema’s govt ‘corrupt’

Like most African countries going through political crisis, the impasse in Zambia is threatening to boil over with several opposition parties accusing the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) and President Hakainde Hichilema of several atrocities including evolving into a “more corrupt institution than what was obtaining under the PF government.”

The fresh allegations were made by the leader of Zambia’s Citizens First (CF) Party, Harry Kalaba, who accused Hichilema’s government of widespread corruption and dwelling on “false promises while failing to implement enduring policies that would help to change the economic woes of the country” in the three years of his administration.

Kalaba, who held a press conference in Lusaka during the week, said the country was facing “much worse than what caused Zambians to vote out the previous government of Edgar Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF).”

“Three years down the line, the President had shown his true colours by presiding over the most corrupt and tribally-polarized government,” Kalaba said.

“The CF is therefore dismayed that while in opposition, the President promised sweeping changes that would help enhance the governance of the nation as well as help win international confidence in the way he would govern the nation.

“It is even more worrying that the pain and anguish we are going through as a nation is happening barely three years into the Presidency,” Kalaba added.

Kalaba’s accusations are not new as other opposition parties, notably the PF, had also laid those accusations on Hichilema and the administration.

But like his counterparts in the continent, the President does not seem a bit worried as his spokespersons keep churning out statements in his defence, often blaming the opposition for the country’s woes.

Zero to Hero: The inspiring story of Asake as he became Spotify’s most-streamed artiste in 2023

A little over three years ago, Nigeria’s Afrobeats sensation, Ahmed Ololade, popularly known as Asake, was a “bag carrier” and session man for comedian and skit maker, Broda Shaggy.

According to him, all efforts to get signed on to Olamide’s YBNL Record label proved abortive as the rapper refused to give him an opportunity to showcase his talent.

But fast forward to 2023, Asake has become one of the hottest properties in the world music scene, getting nominated for the 2024 Grammy Awards, and also helping the same Olamide get a nomination from featuring in one of his hit tracks.

Apart from the Grammy nomination, Asake has gone on to break several records, the latest being named as the most streamed musician in Nigeria in 2023 by music streaming platform, Spotify.

The global platform, in a release tagged, “Spotify wrapped: 2023 – Nigeria Diverse Music Scene in 2023”, revealed that from available data, Asake topped the list of the most streamed artistes of the year as his songs emerged in the top 10 most streamed tracks, with three of his hits in tracks, “Lonely At The Top” “2: 30” and “Amapaino” topping the charts.

The platform also noted that thr 28-year-old star’s reign at the top extended to the Gen Z demographic, with Asake becoming the most streamed artiste among Nigerian and Ghanaian Gen Z listeners.

Asake’s rise rise from zero to hero has again exposed the never-die spirit in the African man who thrives in the most stringent circumstances to rise to the top whenever he sets his mind to it.

Exodus of multinationals from Nigeria taking its toll on economy

Situations where international companies close shops and leave a country due to one reason or the other are not new.

Some of the businesses do cite unfavourable conditions of doing business such as bad economic policies, dwindling fortunes, multiple taxation, insecurity and other indices as reasons for their decision.

However, the rate at which international conglomerates are closing down and exiting Nigeria in the past one year has become something of a concern as experts say the exodus could see the Nigerian economy lose more than $335 million in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Despite the Nigerian government’s continued promise of creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, the country has suffered the exit of high-profile firms amidst rising operating costs.

The latest company to leave Nigeria is Procter & Gamble, a major global player in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), which announced its exit during the week in review.

Andre Schulten, chief financial officer at P&G, who explained the decision of the company to leave Nigeria, said it was a result of “the challenging business environment in Nigeria, as well as the difficulty in creating US dollar value”.

P&G’s closure came on the heels of the departure of Equinor, a major global player in the upstream oil sector, after selling its Nigerian business, including its share in the Agbami oil field to Nigerian-owned Chappal Energies.

Before then, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc, a manufacturing behemoth that had developed and manufactured innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products, shut down its operations in Nigeria.

Equinor’s Senior Vice President for Africa Operations, Nina Koch, who also explained their decision to quit Nigeria, said:

“Nigeria has been an important part of Equinor’s international portfolio over the past 30 years, but the transaction becomes necessary as it would enable it to realise the value and is in line with Equinor’s strategy to optimize its international oil and gas portfolio and focus on core areas.”

What the exodus of these global companies mean for Nigeria is that the taxes they pay to the government had ceased while Nigerians and their families who depended on them for their livelihoods have been thrown into the job market with little hopes of a reprieve amid excruciating hardship occasioned by escalating inflation.

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. Tinubu’s high horse brought down by Labour

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu on Thursday, bit more than he could chew when he decided to tackle the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over their constant threats to go on strike over government’s failure to implement various agreements entered with the Union.

Typical of most African leaders with a penchant for looking down on their minions, Tinubu, while commissioning a Red-Line Railway Project in Lagos, had berated the NLC for calling on workers to go on strike.

In an act many Nigerians said was laced with arrogance,
Tinubu was quoted as saying that NLC and indeed all labour unions in the country lacked the moral ground to challenge his administration after only nine months.

But if the President thought his words would cow the labour leaders into silence, he would have made a big mistake as the President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, was quick to bring Tinubu crashing from his “high horse” the following day with a scathing message.

In a statement the following day, Ajaero told Tinubu to “concentrate on the challenges facing Nigerians and work towards
tackling them instead of engaging war of words with organised labour.”

“It is regrettable that the President seems oblivious of the profound hardships endured by millions of Nigerians.

“The pervasive hunger, unemployment, housing, insecurity, and escalating costs of basic necessities such as food and healthcare demand immediate attention and decisive action.

“Yet, instead of addressing these pressing concerns, President Tinubu appears preoccupied with political calculations and future electoral prospects.

“We urge President Tinubu to redirect his efforts towards fulfilling this fundamental duty of public office, rather than engaging in political rhetoric.”

2. Even in death, late Zambian lawmaker won’t rest in peace

The spirit of late Zambian lawmaker, Tutwa Ngulube, has refused to rest in peace as his philandering way of life while alive has caught up with him after several women
who had children for him teamed up to file suit demanding share of estate.

The women who had five children between them outside wedlock for Ngulube who represented Kabwe Central in the National Assembly before his death on December 3, 2022, file the suit demanding a share of his estate which is being managed by his widow and sister, Mupeta Glenda Sokontwe and Tawanda Tafwakose Ngulube, respectively.

Ngulube had died without leaving a will which has promoted his harem which is said to include several women and an excess of 14 children, coming out to lay claim to his estate.

According to an affidavit filed on behalf of the women by Chuma Catherine, the applicants are seeking an order to render an inventory and an account of the deceased, as well as a share of his properties.

The lawsuit specifically cited that the five children who all minors between the ages of one and 15, are all living in rented accommodation where there mothers are struggling to pay rentals each month and want a better deal from the estate administrators.

Ngulube’s dilemma even in death, is typical of African leaders who believe the position they occupy while alive gives them the right to behave and act like non mortals.

3. Your suffering will end soon, Nigerian govt tells battered citizens

The coming of President Bola Tinubu was seen by many Nigerians, especially his supporters, as the needed antidote to the maladministration of former President Muhammadu Buhari which had seen the country go from one of the most prosperous countries in the world to one where poverty reigned supreme.

The optimism was based on his perceived antecedents as when he was the Governor of Lagos State where he reportedly weaved magic to place the State as the richest and most viable in the country.

But the reverse has been the case since Tinubu was sworn into office on May 29, 2023, as most of his policies have further plunged the country into a deeper mess while Nigerians have been faced with unbearable hardship, hunger and poverty as a result of an escalating inflation and high cost of living.

But as usual, the Nigerian government came out during the week to, once again, plead with Nigerians to continue to bear the pains as their sufferings will soon be a thing of the past.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, in a statement, urged Nigerians to exercise more patience with the President Tinubu administration as the present hardship and economic challenges facing them will soon end.

“Of course, the challenges are going to be there; no one is pretending that they do not exist, but we see a situation where the story would be quite different in another one year,” the Minister said.

“Nigeria is going through hard times, as we see, but this is not new and peculiar to this country. All the issues we are discussing now are issues that are also being discussed around the world,” Idris added.

But the questions on the lips of many Nigerians have been when the silver lining will appear on the horizon.

As it stands, Nigerians are, in the words of legendary Afrobeats creator, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, suffering and smiling while the Tinubu-led administration keeps moving from one bumble to another.

4. Asake: From beloved star to a hated religious ‘bigot’

During the week in review, multiple awards winning Nigerian Afrobeats singer, Ahmed Ololade, popularly known as Asake, got himself into serious trouble with the release of a controversial new video titled “Only Me.”

Asake came in for strong criticism by the same fans who loved and adored him for making a mockery of Christianity in the video where he is seen dressed in priestly attire depicting a Catholic priest, while sitting behind a table altar.

To worsen the scenario, Asake who is a Muslim, dons a Christian regalia with a halo around his head while throwing money at his dancers who kept chanting the track’s refrain, “we get money” over and over again, which critics say is a satire about charismatic preachers.

The video got many Nigerian Christians uncomfortable with many taking to social media to rebuke him over what they term as blasphemy.

“Asake is mocking Christians with his blasphemous music video,” one angry fan wrote on X.

“Shame on you man. I’m a big fan of your music but the depictions in this your latest video are absolutely insane” another said.

“Asake keeps disrespecting the Christian faith in his music videos,” yet another angry fan posted on Instagram.

But this will not be Asake’s first brush with Christians in the country. Last year, he got himself into hot water for his use of Christian imagery in his music videos.

In the video for his song “Bandana” Asake had depicted black goats sitting in a church which had incurred the wrath of Nigerians who see him as a blasphemous religious bigot.

5. Victor Osimhen, the ex-Lagos street hawker, becomes history-maker

A little less than 10 years ago, Nigerian and Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, was “hustling” and playing football in the dusty streets of Lagos while hoping to go on to become an accomplished football star.

And with determination and a strong desire to succeed, Osimhen, on Wednesday, equalled a record set by late Argentine captain, Diego Maradona, after he scored a hat-trick as Napoli defeated Sassuolo 6-1 in a Serie A match.

With the feat, the Super Eagles became only the third Napoli player in the club’s history to have scored 10 or more goals for four consecutive seasons after Maradona achieved the feat between 1984 and 1988.

According to statistics website, Opta, the “Lion of Lagos” not only equalled Maradona’s record but joined the great Attila Sallustro who was the first player to set the record for the Partenopei between 1929/30 and 1932/33, on the podium.

Since joining the club in the 2020/2021 season, Osimhen has consistently hit double figures and was the highest goal scorer last season with 26 goals, leading Napoli to her first league title in 33 years.

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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 stories in Africa that we covered during the week:

South Africa is back at ICJ over Israel/Hamas war

Israel’s involvement in the continuing Hamas battle has brought South Africa back before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Johannesburg requested a non-binding legal ruling from the World Court on Tuesday, declaring that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is unlawful. As its lawyer began the second day of proceedings before the court in The Hague, South Africa contended that the declaration would aid in efforts to achieve a resolution.

South Africa filed an 84-page appeal in December, protesting Israel’s failure to provide the Gaza Strip with basic supplies such as food, water, fuel, medication, shelter, and other humanitarian help. Both South Africa and Israel are parties to the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which Israel is accused of violating its responsibilities.

Israel alleged that 1,200 people were killed in a cross-border attack on October 7 by Islamist militants from Hamas. Nearly 22,000 people have perished as a result of Israeli airstrikes and ground operations carried out in retaliation for the incident that sparked the conflict, according to Palestinian health sources.

Although there is little chance that South Africa’s file will have a significant impact on the war’s outcome, it does draw on the historical connections between the Palestinian people’s and black South Africans’ liberation struggles. Additionally, it indicates the nation’s intention to use a globally reputable group to contest the US-dominated international system, which it views as unjust to the interests of non-Western and African people.

It is also important to recognize that the nation has recently made an effort to establish itself as a prominent voice from Africa in the international arena. Examples of this include its role in the BRICS group of major emerging economies and its hosting of the 15th heads of state and government summit in Johannesburg last year.

Nigeria can’t afford an AfroBasket?

Barely weeks after its male football team exceeded expectations to reach the finals of the African Cup of Nations, Nigeria’s senior male basketball national team, the D’Tigers, withdrew from the 2025 FIBA AfroBasket qualifiers in Tunisia due to a lack of funds.

Each player in the football team received the Member of the Order of the Niger, one of the country’s highest honours, as well as a flat and a piece of land in the region around the capital. Ordinarily, the reward should suggest a degree of priority to sport and youth development, which are under the same ministry in Nigeria’s federal cabinet, particularly with funding, but the assumption might not be perfect.

According to the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), the “painful” withdrawal of the team from the window that could have given Nigeria another opportunity to qualify for the world championship was due to the inability of the Ministry of Sports to provide the federation with the needed funds for the qualifiers.

The situation, which has drawn concerns across boards, spotlighted sport administration and funds in the country, and continued unbalanced preference, football enjoys in the country at the detriment of other sports. Marilyn Ogoigbe, who plays for First Bank basketball club, lamented that NBBF officials cared less about the players, “a tournament they ought to have prepared for, and they decided to withdraw days before jump ball because of a lack of funds. What’s the ministry doing about it? I mean, they were able to sponsor the Super Eagles to the AFCON; why is basketball always different?”

In a real sense, however, football administration is not any better because of the wide popularity of the game over others. With Nigeria going through its worst economic crisis in decades and the citizens seeking solace from the biting effects of a surge in the cost of living, the withdrawal from the AfroBasket might mean a loss of opportunity for national consolation, howbeit temporary, as the Super Eagles AFCON heroics afforded.

The last-minute intervention by the association sending the team to the competition brought some relief. However, their loss, occasioned by largely late arrivals and poor preparation, is a direct consequence of the funding crisis.

The paradox of Zambia’s kwacha growth 

During the week, a report emerged that Zambia’s currency, the kwacha, has become Africa’s best-performing currency against the US dollar thus far this year.

The Bank of Zambia voted to raise the monetary policy rate by 1%, from 10% to 11%, at the Monetary Policy Committee meeting on November 20 and 21, 2023. This was a reaction to rising inflation that is still beyond the 6-8% goal range. As of the end of October, the rate of inflation was 12.6%, and it is anticipated to soar even higher upon the release of the November numbers.

The longest winning run for Zambia’s currency in almost a year has been bolstered by an unusually high interest rate hike and a directive requiring local banks to maintain higher reserves.  Since the Bank of Zambia raised the minimum reserve ratio for lenders on February 5, which restricted the flow of cash, the value of the kwacha has surged virtually daily. After the benchmark rate rose on February 14, the market’s rise gained even more momentum.

The London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) reports that since the decision to raise interest rates and reserve ratios for commercial banks earlier this month in order to reverse a decline in the value of the currency that had increased inflation, the kwacha has strengthened 13.8 percent to 22.8 percent versus the US dollar in 2024.

The Kwacha has undergone a number of structural modifications since 1967 in an effort to sustain public faith in the national currency while promoting economic activity. Among the noteworthy modifications are the following: the 1968–1974 currency structure; the 1973–1974 currency structure; the 1980 currency structure; the 1986–1991 currency structure; the 1992 currency structure; the 1996 currency structure; and the 2003 currency structure. However, the Kwacha was rebased in 2013 following the January 23, 2012, decision to re-denominate the national currency.

The global monetary tightening cycle caused serious problems for African currencies in 2023. The official currency rates for the Nigerian naira, Kenyan shilling, and South African rand saw considerable swings in December 2023, with an average decline of 27% from 25% in November. But Kwacha’s progress remains a sort of paradox as the country, which was the first African country to default on foreign debt and has struggled for debt restructuring under the G20 framework, is now in its fourth year, hindering foreign investment and contributing to the kwacha’s weakening.

ECOWAS withdraws sanctions on junta-led states

The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), lifted, with immediate effects, economic sanctions on Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso on Saturday. The three countries, notably those under military juntas, along with Guinea, have been at diplomatic loggerheads with regional and international bodies under pressure for the return of democratic reigns.

At an extraordinary gathering at the State House in Abuja, the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government discussed the political, security, and peace conditions in the area for hours. After a number of penalties from international and regional organizations, the three have long considered the prospect of forming “the Alliance of Sahel States (AES),” a political and economic partnership.

The World Bank has warned that the most recent coup, which took place in Niger, would worsen issues related to the food markets of Nigeria and other West African countries. In the last three years, there have been five coups in the West African sub-region.

The lifting of the sanctions might be related to the need for regional economic revival given the border hostilities in the Sahel, as informal cross-border trading (ICBT) crossing customs borders is a booming economic factor in Africa, and West Africa in particular.

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