Africa news round up

A map of Africa
A map of Africa (Photo credit: Artem Beliaikin)

May 7-13, 2023


Pensioner bondholders resume picketing at finance ministry

The pensioners bondholders forum has resumed picketing the finance ministry over the government’s failure to pay their matured coupons and principals. The forum is asking government to borrow from treasury bills to pay for their coupons. The pensioners have threatened to continue picketing, indefinitely, if their requests are not met. It will be recalled that the pensioners bondholders forum picketed the finance ministry few months ago to be exempted from the debt structuring programme. However, few weeks after that request was granted, they are back at the finance ministry asking to be paid for their mature coupons. According to the group’s convenor, Dr Adu Anane Antwi, government’s silence since their last encounter has compelled the group to resume picketing. “We are fighting for exemptions, we have been exempted, and now we are not being paid. We are fighting for coupons and payments”. Payments on coupons are over two months in arrears.

Dr Antwi said if the Finance Ministry does not have the money to pay them, it should borrow from the treasury bills market. “I have said that government can borrow from the treasury bills market and pay us because government is borrowing from the same treasury bill to pay people who are holding the treasury bills when it matures. This is life and death and you’ll recall that the president once said he can’t bring the dead back but he can bring the economy back. If they don’t, pensioners will die because they cannot pay for their medication and you can’t bring them back”, he said on the JoyNews’ AM Show on Monday. Further, Dr Antwi expressed that even if government incurred more debt by borrowing from the treasury bills market, it can always pay back the money but could not bring pensioners back should they die as a result of the non-payment of their coupons. He said the forum would continue to picket the finance ministry for as long as it takes to draw the attention of the government.


Angola now top oil producer in Africa

According to the April 2023 monthly oil market report by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Angola has overtaken Nigeria to emerge as the top crude oil producer in Africa for the month of April. It was reported that Angola recorded 1.06 million barrels per day of crude production in April. Meanwhile, Nigeria recorded 999,000 barrels per day for April, and Algeria recorded the same 999,000 barrels per day during the highlighted period. This is the lowest production rate Nigeria has recorded for the year 2023.

Nairametrics reported that data from the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission showed that Nigeria produced 998,602 barrels per day of crude oil in April 2023. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) report further stated that total OPEC-13 crude oil production averaged 28.60 million barrels per day in April 2023, lower by 191 thousand barrels per day, month-on-month. Crude oil output increased in Saudi Arabia, Angola and Iran, while production in Iraq and Nigeria declined.

South Africa

US accuses the country of supplying Russia with arms

The US, on Thursday 11 May, accused South Africa of supplying arms to Russia to support its war in Ukraine in a three-day covert naval operation near Cape Town in early December. Ambassador Reuben Brigety, the American diplomatic mission chief to South Africa, said that the US was certain that the weapons were loaded onto a Russian-flagged cargo ship, the Lady R, that was secretly docked at the Simon’s Town naval base before departing for Russia. He characterized South Africa’s alleged arming of Russia during its invasion of Ukraine as “extremely serious” and said it called into question South Africa’s supposed neutral stance in the conflict. In Parliament, the leader of the South African political opposition, John Steenhuisen, asked President Cyril Ramaphosa if South Africa was “actively arming Russian soldiers who are murdering and maiming innocent people?”

Responding to the allegations, Ramaphosa replied that an investigation was underway. “The matter is being looked into, and in time we will be able to speak about it”, Ramaphosa said, but declined further comment. Later, Ramaphosa said that US and South African officials had discussed “the Lady R matter … and there was an agreement that an investigation will be allowed to run its course, and that the US intelligence services will provide whatever evidence [is] in their possession. It is therefore disappointing”. He added “the US ambassador has adopted a counter-productive public posture that undermines the understanding reached on the matter and the very positive and constructive engagements between the two delegations”.


Pastor MacKenzie to remain in prison

On Wednesday, a court ordered the continued detention of Pastor Paul Nthenge MacKenzie who has been accused of killing at least 145 people in a southeastern Kenyan forest where followers of his evangelical sect were meeting. MacKenzie will be prosecuted for “terrorism”, prosecutors announced on 2 May in the case dubbed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre” which has caused a stir in the East African country. A judge in the southeastern city of Mombasa ordered the extension of the detention of Pastor Mackenzie and 17 co-accused, including his wife, for 30 days. Prosecutors had requested 90 days. Twelve more bodies were discovered on Wednesday in this forest on the Kenyan coast, bringing the total number of the dead to 145, including many children. Autopsies on the first 112 bodies showed that most of the victims had died of starvation, probably after following the preaching of MacKenzie, a self-proclaimed pastor of the International Church of the Good News, who advocated fasting “to meet Jesus.

Some of the victims, however, including children, were strangled, beaten or suffocated, the head of forensic operations, Johansen Oduor, said last week. Autopsies also revealed that there were “missing organs from some of the bodies”, the Criminal Investigation Department referred to “well-coordinated trafficking in human organs involving several actors. Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki urged caution on the matter, saying it was “a theory we are investigating. The morgue reports are still being finalized and I don’t want to pre-empt the case”. MacKenzie has been detained since he surrendered to authorities on 14 April, after police discovered the first victims in the Shakahola forest. About 50 mass graves have been discovered since then.


Presidential aspirant promises stiffer fight against corruption

Presidential aspirant, Dr Clarence Moniba son of former Liberia vice president Dr Harry Moniba, has promised to prosecute corrupt officials if elected president in the 10 October election. Moniba, who is contesting on the ticket of Liberia National Union (LINU), says that his presidency would ensure that corrupt officials go to jail and be made to repay the monies stolen once they are found guilty. “The reason why corruption is rampant in Liberia is because nobody goes to jail. Nobody is held accountable”, says Moniba. “Under the Moniba administration, you will go to jail if you steal and are found guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction”. Moniba, like many presidential candidates, including President George Weah and his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, have all highlighted the fight against corruption as a key campaign promise but not much was done by those leaders to reduce the high level of corruption in the country.

Weah, in 2017, promised that his administration could have ended or minimized corruption. He assured Liberians  that his government was going to take strong action against corruption but the promise has not been kept as the menace continues to ravage the fabric of the Liberian state. He ignored all calls to declare his assets publicly and did not compel his cabinet officials declare their assets. It is not clear if Moniba has all it takes to win election for the presidency, but he has repeatedly stated that he would endeavour to end corruption once he becomes president.

Sierra Leone

Maada Bio holds bilateral meeting with Republic of Korea’s prime minister

His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo of the Republic of Korea where he committed to deepening relations with the East Asian country. During the meeting, Bio expressed appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Korea for its bilateral support to Sierra Leone, adding that they were determined to learn from their efforts toward sustainable development. The President also informed the Prime Minister about Sierra Leone’s progress in investing in human capital development, his flagship project, and his priority for food security in his second term. “I am very excited, and I look forward to deepening our bilateral relations,” Bio stated.

In his response, Han Duck-soo expressed his commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with Sierra Leone and to collaborate on trade facilitation. He also informed Bio about the Korea-Africa Leaders’ Summit and the importance of building a stronger relationship between the Republic of Korea and Africa. The two countries have established diplomatic relations since 25 June 1962. The new Freetown City Hall was funded by the Korean government at a value of USD 55 million and was built with the help of Korean engineers. The massive building, which graces Freetown’s skyline is 15 storeys high.


Annual salary rise revived

President Samia Suluhu Hassan has announced the resumption of the annual salary rise for public service employees. Her statement comes seven years after the late John Magufuli abandoned the system of annual pay increases in 2016. Without making the raise known to the public, she assured the employees that good things are on the way. Hassan also asked business owners not to raise prices in their stores as a result of pay increases when she addressed the nation on International Workers’ Day at Jamhuri Stadium in Morogoro. “We are resuming annual salary increments, which were initially frozen. We will restart this year and hope to do the same moving forward,” she said. “I thought this year we should return them to all employees, there are salary increases we are preparing, and we will continue as we had done in the past,” she added.

The proposed salary rise, which included raising the minimum wage for state employees by 23.3 per cent, was approved by Hassan on 14 May 2022. Salary payments for the fiscal year 2021/22 were Sh1.59 trillion (USD 676 million). The Tanzanian president stressed that not everyone benefited from the government’s 23.3 per cent salary increase last year. The intention was to increase the minimum wage and a few other things, but the majority did not gain anything, “Including myself, employee number one. But the other thing is that we increased the workers’ allowances, and the beneficiaries of this are the workers with high salaries who did not benefit from the 23.3 per cent salary increase. I know there are some institutions that could not pay when we gave the allowances, the budgets had already passed, so the harvest will come this year,” the president said.


Supreme court hears LGBTQ rights case

Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, an LGBTQ and intersex rights group, is hopeful the country’s Registrar of Companies will allow it to register after the Supreme Court heard its case on 5 May. The Registrar of Companies in 2019 first denied the organisation’s request on grounds that its advocacy for LGBTQ and intersex rights was illegal. Consensual same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under common law, which criminalizes sodomy. The law, however, has never been enforced, but Eswatini who identify as LGBTQ or intersex still face discrimination.

In 2020, Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities approached the Supreme Court with the case. The Supreme Court dismissed it in 2022, but the organisation appealed the ruling. Closing arguments in the case took place on 5 May. “There is no law in Eswatini that prohibits the LGBTI+ community from identifying. Nothing is criminal about that. Don’t we have in this country an association of ex-prisoners? Isn’t the registrar not scared that the ex-prisoners association includes rapists and murderers who will share ideas but is afraid of the LGBTI+ community? How is that association legal and ESGM is not? Homosexuality was not outlawed by the constitution and therefore the refusal to register ESGM is clearly a rights infringement”, said Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities.  The Supreme Court has not said when it will issue its ruling. Eswatini’s government has not forbidden Pride celebrations or obstructed their planning, even though it continues to oppose LGBTQ and intersex rights


Country named best investment destination in East Africa

Uganda has beaten six other East African nations to emerge as the best investment destination in the region at the 2023 Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) in Abu Dhabi on Monday. AIM is a leading platform for investors globally with more than 170 countries taking part in exhibitions and lobbying investments.  Uganda, through its investment authority, bagged the gold award for attracting the best investment project in 2022. Rwanda’s Development Board was second.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed Uganda’s top rank as key to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), technology transfer, and promoting the country’s exports and tourism. Ms Evelyn Anite, State Minister for Finance in charge of Investment and Privatisation, tweeted “Congratulations team we did it for Uganda. This only means more factories and jobs for Uganda and Ugandans”. Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), one of the agencies representing the country at the meeting, termed the development as a “big win”.

Uganda has recently intensified its appeal to international investors with President Museveni at the forefront in rallying investors from across the world to invest in Uganda’s virgin industries like the mineral and agricultural sectors. Just last week, Museveni set up the State House Investors Protectorate Unit as a means of protecting investors from what he termed as corrupt government officials who asked for bribes from potential investors and when such investors refused to give bribes, they are frustrated.  The country’s tax regime also tends to have special provisions for foreign investors, such as tax waivers and tax holidays spanning nearly a decade, while others are given free land to set up factories as well as free amenities.

The AIM 2023 was held under the theme “The Investment Paradigm Shift: Future Investment Opportunities to Foster Sustainable Economic Growth, Diversity, and Prosperity.”


Courts rules for the inclusion of Rastafarians in education

A high court in Malawi has directed the Ministry of Education to allow students with dreadlocks to be enrolled in public schools in the country. The court further ordered the ministry to issue a circular by 30 June announcing the removal of restrictions barring Rastafarian learners from attending public schools. The court ruled on a petition filed on behalf of two Rastafarians who were denied admission to public schools in 2010 and 2016 for growing dreadlocks.The learners, through human rights organisations, obtained an injunction and, thereafter, filed a suit seeking to have Rastafari children allowed access to schools without prejudice, local media reported.

Justice Nzione Ntaba, in her ruling on Monday, said: “The Ministry of Education should issue a statement to allow all children of the Rastafarian community with dreadlocks to be allowed in class. The circular should be done by June 30”. Rastafarianism is an Abrahamic religion from Jamaica that stresses living what they regard as a natural life, including the way in which they wear their hair. However, Malawi’s Rastafarians have long been sidelined by education policies requiring students to cut their hair to promote what they describe as uniformity among students. In June 2020, a similar case was ruled upon by a Kenyan court, which also prevented schools from turning away Rastafari learners.


Barrow to launch road projects

President Adama Barrow, in continuance of his development agenda, will embark on a series of activities over the weekend running into mid next week. Barrow will break ground for the  102 kilometres Kabada Roads Project at Madina Angele with a night stop in Mansakonko, Lower River Region. On 14 May 2023, President Barrow will inspect the Kiang West Roads Project before proceeding to the Kombos to launch a 3.7 kilometre road project linking Old Yundum, Tawta, Darubusumbala, Sukuata and Jambajally. Barrow will then proceed to the SBEC Junction to break ground for some 11 KMs linking the Mariama Kunda-Youna Road to be followed by a meeting at Jabang.

Still on his mission of easing road transportation challenges, Barrow will on Monday 15 May launch the 6 KM Sagajorr-Darselameh Road at the Sagajorr Junction, the 13 KM Giboro-Sohm-Faraba Sutu Road at Giboro where he will hold a meeting with the people of Foni. On Tuesday 16, Barrow will launch the 6KM Lamin-Babylon Road and the 4KM Farato-Bojang Kunda Road to be followed by a meeting at Farato. Barrow concludes this stage of road project inaugurations on Wednesday 17 May with the launch of the 5KM Gunjur Highway-Gunjur Beach and 4.5KM Sanyang Highway-Sanyang Beach Road Projects and a massive meeting in Sanyang, Kombo South.


Hichilema asks for help in debt restructuring

President Hakainde Hichilema has asked President Emmanuel Macron of France to use his global influence to help advance the long-delayed restructuring of Zambia’s foreign debt, after its default in 2020. Hichilema met with Macron in Paris on Wednesday, where he “emphasised the importance of closing debt talks and asked France to use its role to leverage the Paris Club of Creditors Committee and the G20 to ensure the speedy resolution of the debt restructuring”. The Paris Club is a group of creditors, chaired by the French president, who aim to find payment solutions for debtor countries.

Zambia has struggled to find a relief deal with creditors – to whom it owes an estimated USD 17.3 billion dollars (15.8 billion euros) – since it became the first African country that was unable to repay its foreign debts in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It sought help to restructure its debt through a G20 mechanism, which is co-chaired by France and China, but its implementation has been slow. We need to “close this long overdue debt re-structuring, put it to bed and release resources and time and attention to the development side of our agenda”, he said. Hichilema’s office said that Macron was committed to having Zambia’s restructuring dealt with before a financial summit in France on June 22-23. There was no immediate statement from Macron’s office on the meeting with Hichilema.

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