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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 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 of some of the biggest news stories in Africa that we covered during the week:

Here comes Senegal's govt of young people

Following months in the build-up of the Senegalese election which produced Bassirou Diomaye as President and the appointment of Ousmane Sonko as Prime Minister, an announcement of a new government was made on Saturday, the make-up suggests a groundbreaking political alliance in Senegal's political space as Sonko stressed that the government was "ruptured." It has 25 ministers and five secretaries of state, and almost half of them are from his political party, the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics, and Fraternity (PASTEF).

"This is a government that embodies the project [of Bassirou Diomaye Faye], a systemic transformation the Senegalese people voted for on March 24, 2024, through a first-round election with 54.28% of the vote," Sonko said of the president-elect.

Cheikh Diba was appointed as finance minister, which is a big deal as he used to be in charge of budget programming at the finance office. Abdourahmane Sarr was made minister of the economy. Birame Souleye Diop will be in charge of the oil and energy ministry for a country that will start producing oil and gas in 2024. Souleye Diop was vice president of Sonko and Faye's Pastef party, which has since broken up. Two generals were chosen to be ministers of defence and interior. Ousmane Diagne is now the justice minister. He used to be a public lawyer at the Dakar Court of Appeal.

Sonko had hinted that the government is likely to embrace anti-France campaigns which have spread across former French colonies in the sub-region, as he hinted it would consider the implementation of the reform of the West Africa region’s CFA franc currency at a regional level first, and if that failed, would consider creating a national currency, if his preferred candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, wins the next presidential election.

Beyond the political alliance that ushered in the new government and disposition in the international system, the jury is out on the likely performance of the government of "young people" which spreads an argument about age inclusiveness in political leadership across the continent with Faye being the youngest elected president in the continent.

For many years, economic reports have criticized African countries for having too many people. People often see this growth as putting a strain on all of their developing skills. More than 60% of people living in Africa today are younger than 25 years old. By 2030, 42% of the world's young people are likely to be from Africa.

Nigeria in fresh living cost crisis as electricity cost blows up

The Nigerian government changed the price of natural gas for companies that make electricity to $2.42 per metric million British thermal units (MMBtu) on Monday, which was the first news of the week. The old rate was $2.18mmbtu, so this is more than that. The following day, on Wednesday, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission allowed a rise in the price of electricity for customers in Band A. Customers will pay N225 per hour for electricity instead of N66 now.

More than 70% of Nigeria’s electricity is produced by gas-fired thermal power facilities. As a result, when the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission conducts another tariff review, the increased cost of the item can increase the rate that power users must pay.

There has been a surge in the cost of living since May 29 when the subsidies on petroleum products were removed, and the price of diesel which is the common option for alternate energy hit a record high of 1N,900, the new tariff could further compound situation for Nigerians but strong points have been made against continued subsidy regime in the energy sector.

Since late 2023, the terrible state of the energy supply has gotten worse because gas suppliers to gas-fired thermal power plants have stopped sending gas to the plants because the plants owe $1.3 billion in debt. In Nigeria, the price of electricity for homes in September 2023 was about 23 naira per kilowatt hour, which is about 0.016 U.S. dollars. But the price of electricity for factories was about 36 NGN per kilowatt hour, which is about 0.026 United States dollars.

Nigeria, which has the biggest economy and people in Africa, has had problems with electricity outages for a long time. The country doesn't have enough power plants, and some of the energy that is made is wasted because the grid is so badly broken. Electricity companies can't charge rates that reflect their costs, and they have a hard time collecting money because their meters aren't set up correctly, which discourages new investment.

Egypt's al-Sisi begins third term

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in for a third term on Tuesday in the country's new capital, which is being built outside of Cairo. After being in charge for more than ten years, Sisi "will take the oath of office on the constitution Tuesday in the new parliament premises in the administrative capital," which is east of Cairo, according to Al-Ahram.

Sisi, who is 69 years old began the new term as expectations build for wide-ranging changes after a $50 billion international bailout warded off the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. more than three months after he won re-election with 89.6% of the vote over three mostly unknown candidates. After huge protests across the country, Sisi led the removal of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. He was previously in charge of the army and the Ministry of Defence.

The possibility of a government reshuffle as Cairo tries to deal with the effects of two years of terrible economic problems and a severe lack of foreign currency. Analysts say that at the start of 2024, the Arab world's most populous country was heading straight for failure and economic collapse. Then, suddenly, it got more than $50 billion in loans and investments. Financial services companies have also raised Egypt's credit ratings, as months-worth of blocked inventory began to be released into the import-dependent economy.

In just a few weeks, the United Arab Emirates revealed a $35-billion deal to develop land in Ras al-Hikma, Egypt. At the same time, the International Monetary Fund more than doubled a $3-billion loan, and the World Bank and the European Union signed new loans. Former deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa-Eldin said that the huge bailout kept Egypt "from falling into the abyss."

Egypt remains in the eye of the world, particularly the Israel and Hamas war as the boundary between Egypt and Israel stretches 206 kilometres (128 miles) along the eastern edge of the Sinai Peninsula from the de facto tripoint with Palestine (Gaza) to the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea makes Egypt a geopolitical interest for the Western powers.

Somaliland's naval space conflict in new twist

Ethiopia’s proposal to construct a naval station in the breakaway territory of Somaliland, Somalia took a fresh dimension on Thursday as Somalia announced the recall of its ambassador to Addis Ababa, closing two Ethiopian consulates, and expelling Ethiopia’s ambassador. “This follows … the actions of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia which infringe upon Somalia’s sovereignty and internal affairs,” Somalia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Disagreement over a memorandum of understanding that landlocked Ethiopia signed on January 1st, agreeing to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline in Somaliland, a region of Somalia that has enjoyed effective autonomy since 1991 and asserts its independence. In exchange for Ethiopia’s recognition as an independent state, Somaliland, the breakaway territory of Somalia, can use a major port with access to the Red Sea thanks to a controversial pact.

The contentious deal allows Somaliland to grant Ethiopia the use of a major port with access to the Red Sea in exchange for recognition as an independent state. Somalia has described the pact as an act of “aggression” and a violation of its sovereignty. Somaliland is requesting a 50-year lease from Ethiopia to lease 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the coastline in exchange for Ethiopia’s access to a military installation and commercial marine services.

International law does not recognize Somaliland's claim of independence from Somalia in 1991. Its most recent deal with the big country in the region, Ethiopia, has been strongly opposed by the central government in Mogadishu, which has promised to fight it in every way possible. The agreement has made things more tense in the Horn of Africa. The US, the EU, the African Union, and the Arab League have all called for calm and for Somalia's rights to be respected with the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, declaring that his country would not tolerate any threat against Somalia, following Ethiopia’s announcement that it would take into consideration Somaliland’s claim to independence in exchange for access to a seaport.

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.

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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 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.

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