Africa news roundup
May 14-20, 2023
John Mahama wins presidential primaries
The largest opposition party (NDC) has chosen the country’s former president, John Dramani Mahama, as its flagbearer for the 2024 presidential election. Delegates of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) voted in primaries over the weekend to choose a candidate for both the presidential and parliamentary polls. Mahama was declared the overwhelming winner after polling 98.9 per cent of the votes while his challenger, former Kumasi mayor, Kojo Bonsu, scored 1.1 per cent. The former president was tipped by most political analysts to win the primary based on his experience and influence in the opposition party. “He has been tried and tested and comes with a lot of experience,” said Kwame Asah-Asante, a political science lecturer at the University of Ghana.
This confidence in Mahama was echoed by many of the more than 355,000 NDC party delegates who converged at 401 voting centres across the country over the weekend for the ballot. “I believe if NDC takes power, most of the things which we Ghanaians want, NDC can come do it for us. For instance, taking care of our children. The other side promised us so much which they were unable to fulfil,” said marketer Kafur Addo. The primaries came as Ghana holds talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding a $3 billion bailout to help overcome an economic crisis
Hilda Baci breaks Guinness world record
Hilda Effiong Bassey, known on social media as Hilda Baci, has become a national sensation after cooking nonstop for 100 hours and 40 minutes in an attempt to set a world record. Hilda started cooking on Thursday and continued until Monday – creating more than 55 recipes and over 1,000 meals with the aim of showcasing the best of Nigerian cuisine in the marathon kitchen session. The Guinness World Record committee still has to confirm that all their criteria have been met and whether Bassey will become the record holder. Hilda broke the record which was previously held by Indian chef, Lata Tondon on Monday morning at 7:45 a.m. Tondon had made meals for 87 hours, 45 minutes and 00 seconds
The chef got massive support from Nigerians, celebrities and politicians in the country. Nollywood actor, Charles Okocha; actress, Kate Henshaw; singer, Tiwa Savage; media personality, Enioluwa, and many others appeared at the event. Governor of Lagos state Babajide Sanwo-Olu also visited the venue on Sunday to cheer on Baci. Baci is not new to cooking competitions, she participated in the maiden edition of the Jollof Face-off Competition in 2021. The talented chef made Nigeria proud by winning the competition and walking away with a grand prize of $5,000.
Turkey’s Karpowership to ease power crisis
South Africa has granted Turkey’s Karpowership access to the three ports of Ngqura, Durban and Saldanha Bay for a period of 20 years, the transport ministry said on Thursday as it tries to find solutions to the country’s power crisis. Karpowership aims to generate power on its floating gas ships and distribute it through South Africa’s electricity grid. The plan received a boost from President Cyril Ramaphosa last week after he told lawmakers the ships would help ease the prolonged power shortage countrywide. Karpowership has in the past faced numerous challenges from environmental activists and small-scale fishermen since the South African government in 2021 granted it the biggest share of a 2,000 megawatt emergency power tender to generate electricity.
On Thursday, the transport ministry said it had granted the application which was approved by the minister on 26 February in consultation with Transnet National Ports Authority. Opposition parties have criticised the 20-year contract, valued at billions of rand, saying it was too long for an emergency power supply and suggesting that none of Karpowership’s other contracts in countries such as Ghana and Brazil were for such a lengthy period. South Africa’s state power utility Eskom earlier on Thursday warned the country to brace itself for winter when almost daily power cuts were likely to increase due to higher demand.
27 officials suspended for diverting contaminated sugar
Authorities have suspended 27 civil servants on suspicion of misappropriating about 1,000 tonnes of sugar that was declared unfit for consumption, the country’s director of public service said on Wednesday. The shipment of sugar was imported into the country in 2018 and declared expired and “unfit for human consumption” by the Kenya Bureau of Certification (KEBS). It was to be converted into industrial ethanol. Instead, it was “irregularly diverted and released outside of any procedure” in a “criminal” act, said Director of Public Service Felix Koskei, who is also President William Ruto’s chief of staff.
According to The Nation, the shipment of 20,000 bags of sugar, valued at more than 160 million shillings (€1.08 million), had been sold to a trader, who repackaged and resold it. “It is clear that some officials in the agencies concerned have abdicated their responsibilities, risking public embarrassment”, Koskei said, announcing their suspension pending investigations. Among the officials sanctioned are officials from KEBS, including its head Bernard Njiraini, the tax authority, the police, and the Food and Agriculture Agency. Kenya is experiencing a sharp rise in the cost of living, especially for food. The retail price of sugar has risen by about 30 per cent, in a month, to over 200 shillings (about €1.30) a kilogram, according to local media.
Legislative staffers decry Weah’s Presidency
Hundreds of legislative staffers at the Capitol have openly declared support for the opposition Boakai-Koung Ticket chanting, “George Weah, we’re tired o-o-o”. The song has gone viral on social media. The aggrieved staffers, from the offices of Senators Nyonblee Kangar Lawrence of Grand Bassa and Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County and others, on Tuesday16 May 2023, converged in the Rotunda of the Capitol and declared support for the former Vice President, ahead of elections in October.
Seeking a second term, President Weah is under pressure from the opposition as the election approaches after his first term has been marred by corruption allegations, economic downturn, disregard of the rule of law and lack of jobs, among others. The opposition has also accused the incumbent of bringing hardship on ordinary citizens, while officials milk the national coffer hence, they are resolved in making him a one-term President come October. But Mr. Weah is confident that he deserves a second term, arguing that his leadership has done much to improve the well-being of Liberians, pointing to paved roads, and tuition-free public universities, among others.
President Bio has expressed hopes in a newly announced African mediation effort would end Russia’s war in Ukraine “for the sake of humanity”. “We are all suffering as a result of the war in Ukraine… For the sake of humanity, for what is happening, let’s end the war,” said President Julius Maada Bio, who was elected in 2018 and will next month seek a second term. “I think even those who sympathise with Russia are in favour of stopping this war”, he said in the Wednesday interview. The leaders of Zambia, Senegal, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Egypt and South Africa will next month launch a mission to Moscow and Kyiv to try to broker peace.
African countries, which were already struggling from the COVID-19 Pandemic, have been hit hard by the war and its impact on supply chains and prices. African countries have been divided at the UN over the conflict, but Sierra Leone has voted with western nations in favour of resolutions to condemn Russia’s actions.
Last July, Sierra Leone slashed three zeros off its currency hoping to restore confidence in the inflation-hit leone unit. In August, riots erupted over the rising cost of living and 27 civilians and six police officers were killed. “We have a vested interest in seeing to it that that war comes to an end as quickly as possible… especially as a country that has gone through war before – but also (because of) the impact on us”, said Bio. Sierra Leone’s mineral-dependent economy is still recovering from a brutal 1991-2002 civil war and the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic. Bio, 59, who was elected in 2018, also set out plans to end his country’s reliance on food imports and foreign aid.
Togo is the fourth most important actor on the stock market of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). This was recently revealed by the stock’s boss, Edoh Kossi Amenounve. According to him, the country, which has the 7th highest GDP in the WAEMU, has a market capitalization of 497 billion CFA francs (817,000,000 US Dollars ) in the equities segment and two listed companies, making it a significant player in the market. In the bond segment, Togo has 17 bond lines valued at 609.9 billion CFA francs (1,001,469,275.52 USD). In this segment, Togo comes right behind countries like Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Burkina Faso.
The figures were disclosed during the opening ceremony of the BRVM Awards in Lomé on 10 May. Launched in 2020, the BRVM Awards represents a joint initiative of the BRVM and the Central Depository/Settlement Bank (DC/BR). They recognize major contributions to the BRVM’s activity and growth. During this 4th edition of the BRVM Awards, the President of Togo, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, and the former president of WAEMU’s Council of Ministers, Sani Yaya, received special honors for their contributions to Togo’s economic development.Prime Minister Victoire Dogbé, who presided over the opening of this 4th edition, underscored her government’s commitment to making Togolese firms more visible on the regional exchange. A commitment that aligns with the authorities’ ambition to make Togo a financial hub in Africa. Dogbé pointed out that the BRVM must help drive inclusive growth and promote sustainable development in Togo.The two Togolese companies listed on the BRVM are Oragroup and the Ecobank group. They are both very active on the market, and Ecobank is among the ten most valued companies on the exchange.
Ouattara touts government achievements in the face of economic hardship
President Alassane Ouattara has pointed out the resilience of the Ivorian economy in the face of crises due to the difficult international situation and announced brighter economic prospects. In his 3rd State of the Nation Address to the members of Parliament and senators at the Sofitel Abidjan Hotel Ivoire, the Head of State stressed that in the face of global inflation, the Ivorian Government has taken measures to maintain this upward trend. Also, faced with the rise in the price of wheat because of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Côte d’Ivoire has supported millers to the tune of 62 billion CFA francs (USD100 million), including two billion to strengthen the sector. For fuel, 725 billion CFA francs (USD1.2 billion) in state subsidies have been granted to mitigate the impact of international price increases on the cost of transport and goods. This corresponds to 2 per cent of the Ivorian gross domestic product (GDP).
In addition, the government has adopted a vast programme for the agricultural, fisheries and animal resources sectors to ensure food security in the country. He noted that during the African Union Summit, held in February in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), the Abidjan Declaration on Nutrition was unanimously welcomed. It is, he recalled, a call to action for food and nutrition security, and human capital on the continent. Despite this difficult situation, Côte d’Ivoire has continued its dynamic development of basic social infrastructure, roads, education, electrification, drinking water supply, health facilities, training and youth.
Interim president hails Russia as ‘strategic ally’
Burkina Faso’s interim president, Ibrahim Traore, on Thursday, said Russia has become a key strategic ally but denied that Russian mercenaries are supporting Burkinabe forces in their fight against armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS). Ouagadougou’s relations with Moscow are in the spotlight as anti-French sentiment rises in parts of the region. In February, the West African country evicted French troops after ending an accord that allowed France to fight armed groups there since 2013. During a rare televised interview on Thursday, Traore was asked about Burkina Faso’s international allies in the conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced about 2.5 million in the broader Sahel region over the past decade
“The departure of the French army does not mean that France is not an ally”, Traore replied. “But we have strategic allies too. We have new forms of cooperation. Russia, for example, is a strategic ally”.He said Russia was a major supplier of military equipment and would remain so. “I am satisfied with the cooperation with Russia. It’s frank”, he said, sitting on an ornate chair in military fatigues and a beret.
Western countries are concerned about Russia’s increasing sway in the Sahel and nearby regions. France withdrew its forces from Mali last year after the military government there started working with the Russian military contractor Wagner Group to fight armed groups.
School suspended amid clashes
Authorities have decided to suspend school for almost a week in the region of Ziguinchor (south), the scene of clashes around the rape trial of opponent Ousmane Sonko. “Courses are suspended throughout the region in schools, establishments, and vocational training centers” from Friday inclusive to May 25 at 8:00 a.m., indicates a document from the educational authorities published on social networks and authenticated by AFP with of the ministry on Thursday.
This period covers a new appointment of Mr Sonko with justice, scheduled for May 23 and likely to cause new tensions. This Thursday being a public holiday and classes having been canceled on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday because of the unrest, the students of Ziguinchor will have been deprived of class for almost two weeks. Ziguinchor, of which Sonko is the mayor and where he has retired for several days, was plagued Monday and Tuesday by clashes between young supporters of Sonko and the police. The young people were protesting against the trial of Sonko, heard Tuesday in Dakar, and intended to block a possible police intervention planned to drag him, by force from his home, before the court. Unrest also took place in Dakar and elsewhere. The authorities reported three deaths, without the relationship with the unrest being clearly established.
Peace calls intensifies ahead of National day
Thousands of people are demonstrating this week, calling for peace and reconciliation ahead of National Day on May 20. Peace caravans led by activists, clerics and traditional rulers are calling for an end to hate speech and the separatist conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people in Cameroon since 2017. A band of youths leads several hundred Cameroonians in protests against hate speech in the capital, Yaounde, on Thursday. The protesters are also calling for peace and reconciliation in the central African state. Organizers say the protests began in towns and villages across Cameroon on Monday ahead of the country’s National Day on May 20. Thousands of Christians from Cameroon’s Catholic, Presbyterian and Baptist churches joined the protest in Yaounde Thursday.
Reverend Father Humphrey Tatah Mbui is the director of communications at the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon. He said Christians cannot be indifferent at a time when increasing hate speech and xenophobic statements are creating conflicts and damaging Cameroon’s image. “It is wickedness and the type of hate speech that destroys the country. If we want peace in this country we must learn to start controlling the kind of words we use, the way we talk to other people and dialogue”, he said. Mbui said clashes between communities increased in Cameroon after the disputed 2018 presidential election in which President Paul Biya was declared the winner. Opposition leader Maurice Kamto also claimed victory. In addition, some French-speaking host communities accuse English speakers displaced by the separatist conflict in the west of being separatist fighters or sympathizers. The tension goes the other way, too. Earlier this month, a human rights group said scores of French speaking civilians in English-speaking regions were victims of hate speech.