Africa news roundup

Granny Africa
African art using African fabric by Garfield Morgan the Artist (photo: courtesy of Christopher Charles)

May 5-11, 2024


Société Générale dispels rumours

Société Générale, a French Bank in Ghana has dismissed rumors suggesting its withdrawal from the Ghanaian banking sector in Ghana. The bank described the rumours as a baseless speculation. The bank also clarified that it is restructuring its operations to better align with international market dynamics. Addressing concerns raised by shareholders regarding the alleged departure during the 44th Annual General Meeting, Société Générale’s (SG Ghana) Managing Director, Hakim Ouzzani, emphasized that the reports did not originate from the bank itself. “Some rumours have indeed taken root regarding SG Ghana. But it’s important to mention to all our stakeholders and our shareholders that the news item being circulated in the media was not issued by the group nor by SG Ghana. We don’t want to comment further. But really, I insist on the papers is not by SG, it is not by SG Ghana,” he stated.

Widely circulated reports have indicated that Société Générale was exiting the Ghanaian banking sector after 20 years. Société Générale recently finalized deals with Saham Group to offload its Moroccan operations. In 2023, it was divested from several African countries, including Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Chad. Citing its long-standing presence in Africa, Société Générale aims to focus its resources on markets where it can assert itself as a leading bank, aligning with its overarching strategy outlined on its website on 12 April 2024.


Microsoft to exit tech market

In a major blow to the tech sector, Microsoft is closing down its Africa Development Centre in Nigeria, which will lead to job losses, a spokesperson said on Wednesday. According to information gathered, the company informed its workers of the closure on Monday 6 May 2024. The centre, based in the commercial capital Lagos, was opened in 2022 as part of Microsoft’s push to deliver high-end engineering and innovation solutions for the company. The company said it would, however, continue to operate in Nigeria, continuing to prioritize and invest in strategic growth areas. “Microsoft has decided to close the Africa Development Centre in Nigeria, and as a result some of our employees based in Nigeria will be impacted,” the Microsoft spokesperson said. “Organizational and workforce adjustments are a necessary and regular part of managing our business.”

It was not immediately clear how many people would be impacted. However, an estimated 200 workers will be affected. According to the company, affected workers will continue to receive their salary until June. Also, they will still have their healthcare insurance maintained. While the exact reason for the sudden departure of the tech giant from the Nigerian market is yet to be disclosed, many have attributed the sudden departure to the ongoing economic turmoil in Nigeria. In December 2022, Microsoft President Brad Smith said Africa represented a burgeoning talent pool in contrast to declining population growth elsewhere. At that time, Microsoft had more than 200 engineers in Lagos and more than 500 in Nairobi, Kenya.


Doctors to return to work

Doctors in Kenya’s public hospital have agreed to resume work, calling off a nationwide strike which lasted for close to two months. Davji Atellah, the union secretary general, on 8 May confirmed that the medical practitioners have decided to accept the government’s word and return to duty. The new resolution is the result of a labour court ruling on Tuesday 7 May which gave doctors and the government 48 hours to sign a return to work agreement. Failure to do this would result in the matter being determined by the court. The doctors had raised concerns about their salaries and their working conditions.

In response to the new development, the health ministry commended the doctors on their new resolve. Kenya’s Health Minister Susan Nakhumicha said the doctors had proved to be better negotiators than the government, adding that they had put up a good fight in requesting better working conditions. The end of the strike will come as a relief to millions of Kenyans seeking health services from public hospitals. As a result of the strike, some hospitals had decided to hire temporary doctors for emergency services. Kenya is currently grappling with the devastating effects of the floods which has placed immense pressure on health facilities.

South Africa

Amazon begins operations

Amazon, the leading online store in the United States of America (USA) launched its online shopping service in South Africa on Tuesday 7 May 2024. The launch of the store will be challenging for several online retailers. South Africa’s biggest economy has usually been seen as a good entry point for companies to expand into the continent and Amazon could be doing the same, analysts have said in the past. The launch of this service comes at a time when South Africa has seen a sharp rise in online shopping after the pandemic created an opportunity for e-commerce to finally take hold, with retailers doubling down on investments in response.

Amazon South Africa said it will be offering same-day delivery and next-day delivery with more than 3,000 pickup points. Shoppers will get free delivery on first orders, followed by free delivery for subsequent orders above 500 rand ($27.07). Amazon South Africa’s online catalogue will be a perfect blend of both local and foreign products. According to Robert Koen, managing director of Amazon Sub-Saharan Africa, Amazon is building a strong relationship with South African brands and businesses which is incredibly important to the Amazon brand.


Opposition slams Boakai for flouting court orders

Opposition parties, Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), have collectively registered their displeasure against President Joseph N. Boakai’s recent suspension of tenured government officials. According to the political parties the President’s action contravenes best governance practices and have therefore called upon the President to adhere to the recent Supreme Court’s directive which instructs the Executive not to tamper with tenured positions. The Supreme Court had ruled that Boakai violated the Liberia 1986 Constitution by making new nominations before the tenure of officials appointed by his predecessor had ended, denying them due process.

In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Boakai suspended Edwina C. Zackpah, Israel Akinsanya, Zotawon D. Titus, James Gbarwea, and Osborne K. Diggs, Chairperson and Commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), citing allegations of questionable financial transactions and malpractices. According to a release from the Executive, the President called for a comprehensive audit of the LTA by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to investigate these claims and urged the suspended officials to cooperate with the investigation. The ANC and MPC have called on Boakai to adhere to the Supreme Court’s directives, to immediately retract unwarranted actions against the tenured officials, and to ensure that any changes in government positions are conducted within the legal framework. Reading a statement on behalf of the two parties, MPC Political Leader Simeon Freeman said failure to do so not only disrespect the judicial branch of the government but also signals a dangerous departure from democratic norms.

Sierra Leone

Foreign ministry strengthens relations with Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently hosted his counterpart from Sierra Leone, Timothy Kabba, in Moscow for discussions aimed at enhancing bilateral ties.  During the meeting, Kabba extended congratulations to Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection victory and subsequent inauguration. “Today I am very pleased to be here to help deepen and strengthen cooperation between our countries. And I would like to congratulate President Vladimir Putin on his confident victory and his inauguration today and wish him and all the Russian people further prosperity.” Lavrov characterized Sierra Leone as Russia’s longstanding and dependable partner in Africa. He revealed plans to expand diplomatic outreach by opening new missions on the African continent, with Freetown being a priority for this year.

Lavrov also emphasized the importance of translating decisions into action, indicating active steps toward this objective. “(We plan to) open new diplomatic missions on the African continent, including in Freetown. In Freetown, we expect to do it this year, before the end of this year. All the necessary decisions have been made, it is necessary to implement them, which is a practical task, and we are working on it.” Furthermore, the Russian minister highlighted potential collaboration in peaceful nuclear energy. This included discussions about the prospect of constructing a nuclear power plant in Sierra Leone.


Hidaya not a threat anymore

Heavy rains and winds have caused damage and more flooding as Cyclone Hidaya ravages Tanzania. The country was plagued with a major blackout on Saturday while the country anticipated the tropical cyclone which came after weeks of flooding in the region. So far the floods have left over 150 people dead. Ferry services between Tanzania’s commercial hub, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar were also suspended as the cyclone approached the coast, packing winds equivalent to a category 1 hurricane. Weather experts say more than usual volumes of rainfall were recorded in coastal areas. Forecasters also warned that flooding across the region may worsen. Heavy rain and flooding have also caused chaos on the roads, particularly for small businesses, with authorities saying more than 2,000 people have been affected. Cyclone Hidaya is, reportedly, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in Tanzania.

In a statement published early Sunday on X, the Tanzania Meteorological Authority said that Hidaya had “completely lost its strength” after making landfall on Mafia Island in the Indian Ocean on Saturday. “Therefore, there is no further threat of Tropical Cyclone ‘Hidaya’ in our country,” it added. At least 155 people have died in Tanzania as heavier-than-usual torrential rains linked to the El Niño weather pattern triggered floods and landslides last month. In neighboring Kenya, which had also taken precautions for the cyclone, a total of 210 people have been killed in flood-related incidents.


Tranzact to begin operations

eTranzact Global Limited, a leading provider of innovative payment technology solutions, has announced its latest achievement in the expansion its multinational operations, acquiring an operational licence from the Bank of Uganda (BoU). The move marks a significant milestone for the company as it solidifies its presence in the East African market and demonstrates its commitment to driving financial inclusion and digital transformation in the region. eTranzact Global Limited can now offer its robust and secure suite of payment solutions and services, such as digital payment platforms, mobile banking solutions, and electronic fund transfers, among others, to businesses and consumers in Uganda.

Speaking to the press, Group Chief Executive Officer and Founder of eTranzact Global Limited, Dr Valentine Obi, stated that this expansion not only underscores eTranzact Global Limited’s rapid growth but also reinforces its mission to empower individuals, businesses, and governments by enabling secure, seamless, and convenient financial transactions that are affordable. Presently, it is headquartered in the United Kingdom (UK), publicly listed in Nigeria, and has a presence across multiple African countries including Ghana and South Africa. In recent years, it has increased its footprint across Africa with incorporations across Cameroon, DRC Congo and Liberia.


Government cuts tax on maize

The Zambian cabinet has approved the suspension of tax on all imported maize to address shortages caused by drought, Chief Government Spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said on Wednesday. The Ministry of Finance was instructed by Cabinet to immediately carry out the decision, he told a press briefing. While the government will be at the centre of importing maize for strategic reserves, the private sector is also encouraged to seize the opportunity and engage in maize imports, Mweetwa said.

Mweetwa, who is also Minister of Information and Media, said Cabinet has instructed the Agriculture Ministry to start issuing permits to Zambians for maize imports. In February, the Zambian Government declared a state of national disaster and emergency following poor rains that affected crop production. About 9.8 million people have been adversely affected by the drought, with 6.6 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, according to the government.


Court drops VP case

A court in Malawi has dropped corruption charges against Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima, clearing a legal hurdle over his potential candidacy in next year’s presidential election. Chilima was arrested in 2022 over graft allegations after the country’s corruption watchdog alleged he was rewarded for assisting Xaviar Ltd and Malachitte FZE, two companies connected to British businessman Zuneth Sattar, to be awarded contracts by the Malawi Government. Both Chilima and Sattar denied any wrongdoing.

In a notice seen by Reuters, Judge Redson Kapindu said the decision to drop the charges came after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) filed a notice for the case to be discontinued. Kapindu ordered the DPP to provide reasons for discontinuing the case to the legal affairs committee of Parliament within 10 days as required by the country’s constitution. Chilima’s lawyer, Khumbo Soko, said his team was relieved that the criminal charges against the Vice President had been dropped. “As of now, we do not know the reasons for the discontinuance, suffice it to say only Parliament has the mandate to know,” said Soko.


Commerce minister attends US-Africa business summit

Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Mancoba Khumalo is attending the United States (US)-Africa Summit in Dallas, Texas, government online platforms reported on Wednesday. The four-day conference began on Monday 6 May 2024 and concluded on Thursday 9 May 2024. “Forming part of the Honourable Minister’s delegation are senior officials including the Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Kennedy Groening, First Secretary in the Embassy, Ms Nomfanelo Simelane, and key ministerial officials, Director of International Trade Ms Lungile Dlamini-Mahlalela, and Director of Industry Ms Zamanyabose Mtetwa. The COVID-19 Pandemic and recent crises have ignited the Eswatini Government’s determination to strengthen its industrialization agenda.

As part of the delegation’s itinerary, the Honourable Minister will be engaged in strategic high-profile meetings focusing on crucial topics such as “AGOA and Beyond, Partnering to Accelerate Africa’s Industrialization, The Hustle to Million Dollar Businesses: The Unfolding Story of African Entrepreneurs, and Women’s Economic Empowerment. Women empowerment is a key sector for industrial development in Eswatini’s Industrial Policy (2023-2033)”, reads the government online report. It has been reported that, the main objective of the meeting is to engage with the United States of America to revisit the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) agreement.


President urges youth to embrace volunteerism

Rwandan President Paul Kagame addressed the nation’s youth on Tuesday, urging them to embody the spirit of volunteerism and personal development in the process of nation building. Speaking to a gathering of over 7,000 youth volunteers from across Rwanda at the Youth Volunteers National Congress in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, Kagame celebrated a decade of their activities.

Kagame emphasized the importance of honing skills to turn aspirations into reality, noting that willingness alone is insufficient without accompanying capability. The president called upon the youth to promote unity and support among themselves, highlighting the importance of mutual assistance in overcoming challenges. Since 2013, over 1.7 million youth volunteers from across Rwanda have played a crucial role in the country’s development through youth volunteerism programmes.

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