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Africa news roundup

Portrait of African woman
Portrait of African Woman (Photo credit: Garfield Morgan)

November 19-25, 2023

Ghana

46-day visa-on-arrival window unveiled for Christmas visitors

The country has declared a 46-day visa-on-arrival regime for visitors between 1 December 2023 and 15 January 2024. The move is part of the government’s ambitious 10-year ‘Beyond The Return’ campaign, designed to encourage Africans in the diaspora to explore and reconnect with Ghana. The move aligns with the broader goal of positioning Ghana as a premier destination for those of African descent. A statement from the Ministry of Transport emphasized the importance of updating systems to reflect this new arrangement and urged those responsible for checking in passengers traveling to Ghana not to insist on entry visas before boarding. Foreign Affairs Minister Ayorkor Botchwey recently hinted at Ghana’s serious consideration of allowing all Africans and people of African descent from the diaspora to enter the country visa-free.

Rwanda, Seychelles, The Gambia, and Benin are currently the only African nations offering visa-free entry for all African citizens. The move to implement a visa-free entry for Africans aligns with Ghana’s broader efforts to deepen connections with the diaspora and position itself as a welcoming and accessible hub. The move reflects a strategic effort to boost tourism, enhance cultural exchange, and celebrate the shared heritage of people of African descent across the globe.

Nigeria

Jihadists clashes leave more than 60 dead

Fierce fighting between Boko Haram fighters and another Jihadist group, affiliated with the Islamic State in lake Chad, has left 60 people dead. The fighting took place on Friday and Saturday when the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) fighters ambushed a fleet of Boko Haram boats on the islet of Kaduna Ruwa in Lake Chad, which straddles Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, the sources said. “The fighting began at around 4:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) and continued until Saturday morning. Nine Boko Haram boats and all the fighters on them were sunk”, Ibrahim Liman, a leader of an anti-Jihadist militia in the region said. In addition, several dozen hostages kidnapped two weeks earlier were on the boats. “At least 60 people died, at the very least, if you count the fighters and their dozens of hostages”, said Liman. “We don’t have a definitive assessment of the fighting, but there will certainly be more than 60 dead. Nine boats sank, and (…) we know that the rebels charge them a lot when they are on operations”, added another anti-Jihadist militia leader, Kabiru Habu.

However, no bodies have yet been found and no confirmation of the death toll was available from the local authorities on Monday. Two weeks earlier, Boko Haram fighters had left their camp in the Diffa region of Niger for the island of Doron Baga on the Nigerian shore of Lake Chad, where they terrorised the local population by looting and kidnapping, Sallau Arzika, a fisherman from the village recounted. They kidnapped several dozen people, including fishermen and at least eight Fulani women, according to Arzika and Labo Sani, also a fisherman. The Jihadists beheaded one of the fishermen and gave his head to other fishermen to take to a military contingent in Cameroon to threaten them with an attack, according to these sources. They were intercepted by ISWAP troops, who then hunted down their rivals and attacked the Boko Haram fighters and their hostages.

South Africa

Legislators vote to suspend ties with Israel

Lawmakers on Tuesday 21 November backed a motion calling for the closure of the Israeli embassy and the cutting of diplomatic ties until Israel agrees to a cease-fire in Gaza. The government will decide whether South Africa cuts all ties with Israel. The vote on the motion supported by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party came as President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a meeting with other world leaders, accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza with its military offensive in the besieged territory in search of its Hamas militant rulers. The motion tabled by the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) received the support of 248 members of Parliament while 91 lawmakers opposed it. The vote came after Israel’s foreign ministry said it had recalled its ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotserkovsky to Jerusalem “for consultations”. The two countries’ diplomatic relations have witnessed a rise in tensions over the war in Gaza. Ramaphosa previously said his country believed Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza where thousands of Palestinians have been killed.

South Africa announced last week that it had referred what it called Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for an investigation. Its Cabinet has called on the ICC to issue an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this month, South Africa withdrew all its diplomatic staff from Israel. Ramaphosa’s new comments on Tuesday were made in a virtual meeting of BRICS countries attended by leaders of the bloc including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In a joint statement, the BRICS bloc said they called for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities”. Tensions between Israel and Hamas flared again after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attacks on Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people.

Kenya

Authorities to privatise 35 state companies

The authorities are to privatise 35 state-owned companies and are considering opening up the capital of 100 others, President William Ruto said on Thursday, as the East African country faces liquidity problems and economic difficulties. The Kenyan economy has been seriously shaken by COVID-19, followed by the shockwaves of the war in Ukraine and a historic drought in the Horn of Africa. Public debt in the country of some 53 million people stood at more than 10,100 billion shillings (64.4 billion euros/USD70.1 billion) at the end of June, according to Treasury figures, representing around two-thirds of the domestic product. “We have identified the first 35 companies that we are going to offer to the private sector, and we have nearly 100 others”, the Kenyan head of state told investors.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently urged the Kenyan authorities to reform state-owned companies citing, in particular, the national electricity supplier Kenya Power and the airline Kenya Airways, which posted record losses in 2022. Last month, the president signed a law facilitating the privatisation of public companies. “We have very lucrative (public) enterprises, but they are stifled by government bureaucracy, whereas the services they offer can be better provided by the private sector”, Ruto asserted. On 16 November, the IMF announced that it had reached an agreement for a USD938 million loan for the country, which is due to repay a $2 billion Eurobond next year. On 20 November, the World Bank announced plans to provide Kenya with $12 billion in support over the next three years.

Liberia

Boakai calls for unity in his first speech

Liberia’s new president Joseph Boakai on Wednesday called for unity and unity behind him in his first speech since being elected on Monday by a very narrow margin. Boakai, a veteran of Liberian politics, won with 50.64 per cent of the vote, compared with 49.36 per cent for his opponent George Weah, the former football star and incumbent president. “The elections are now over, and we must unite as one people to rebuild our country”, he declared in a media briefing. “I implore all Liberians, irrespective of their ethnic origin, county, religion or political party affiliations, to join us on this journey to save our country,” he said. The new president promised to “extend development to the whole country”, in particular by building roads in the south-east region, which has been “neglected for years”. As during his campaign, he reiterated that the fight against corruption would be one of his priorities and indicated that he would be putting in place a plan for a “smooth and peaceful” transition in the next few days. He also said that he would carry out a “radical” reform of the security and justice systems and ensure respect for the rule of law.

He added that his administration would promote broad participation “of the people”, which will include Liberians in rural communities, in the country’s decision-making process. “I promise to lead by example! I promise a Liberia that will benefit all Liberians”, Boakai added. “The Liberian state will no longer be used as a predatory tool by and for a few to the detriment of the majority of the people”. Concluding his speech, he offered his condolences to all the victims of the accident that plunged his supporters’ celebrations into mourning on Monday evening after a car ploughed into the crowd for an unknown reason, killing at least three people. According to local news outlet Liberiaobserver, the 78-year-old has been under pressure to form a government of “national unity” due to the closeness of the election. Liberiaobserver further reported that the President-elect, disclosed that in the coming days, hewould announce members of a transitional team who will work with the outgoing government “for a smooth and peaceful transition”.

Sierra Leone

Maada Bio participate in AU submit for C-10

President Dr Julius Maada Bio has left Freetown for Oyala City in Equatorial Guinea to take part in a consultative summit of the African Union (AU) Committee of Ten (C-10) Heads of State on the reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio will address the meeting as coordinator of C-10.

Their meeting was preceded by a ministerial consultative meeting, with contributions from Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Timothy Musa Kabba and Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN, New York, Dr Micheal Imran Kanu, who gave an overview of the recent developments in the intergovernmental negotiations on the UNSC reform. Since he became chairperson of the C-10 in 2019, President Bio has always called on the leadership of Africa to remain cohesive on all aspects of the UN reform process, continue to speak with one voice in unity of purpose, until the demands of the Common African Position as articulated in the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration are achieved.

Tanzania

Memorial held for Tanzanian abducted student

Tanzania has announced the death of one of two nationals taken hostage by Hamas during the 7 October attacks on Israel. The Israeli Government had named two students from Tanzania – 22-year-old Clemence Felix Mtenga and 21-year-old Joshua Loitu Mollel among some 240 taken to the Gaza Strip. Some reports said Mtenga was never kidnapped, but that his body was found in a town near Gaza and was identified after a month by forensics.

A ceremony was held on Wednesday at a mortuary in Petah Tikva, Israel, to commemorate the life of Clemence Mtenga. The ceremony was attended by representatives from the Tanzanian Foreign Embassy, from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and fellow students on the academic programme that Mtenga was completing. A fellow student, Ezekiel Kitiku, who had been living with Mtenga on Kibbutz Nir Oz, told the BBC that it has been an incredibly painful time. “We spent so much time together, we cooked together, and we always spent our evenings together talking about our day. For him to leave suddenly is very painful. But I am a Christian and I believe I will meet him again one day”. Kitiku is now living in Kiryat Malachi and continuing the agriculture internship. The Tanzanian Foreign Ministry said that they were liaising with the Israeli Government to send Mtenga’s body home.

Uganda

Talks to set up dry port begins

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) on Wednesday started talks with Uganda to establish a dry port in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. KPA Managing Director Captain William K Ruto who held talks with the visiting delegation from Uganda’s Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development, said the facility to be named KPA-Uganda, is a joint venture between the two nations aimed at streamlining business operations for Ugandan importers. “We want to make doing business easy for the Ugandan importer so that if you have cargo, you just go and collect it from Kampala and then return your empty container there”, Ruto said in a statement issued in the coastal city of Mombasa after the talks. “As members of Parliament, that is something that I wish you can support so that we can make the movement of cargo from the Port of Mombasa to Uganda very seamless”.

Ruto lauded Uganda’s continued utilisation of the rehabilitated Kisumu Port, saying that a significant portion of oil products destined for Uganda are transported from Mombasa to Kisumu, where they are loaded onto ships for onward delivery to Kampala. He also hailed the important role played by Uganda in terms of cargo volumes handled through the Port of Mombasa, saying with an annual cargo volume of about 35 million tonnes Uganda accounts for 25 per cent. Ruto briefed the MPs on various measures being undertaken by the Kenya Government including the directive by the presidency on the removal of non-tariff barriers along the Northern Corridor, which serves as a vital transportation route connecting the two countries. The KPA official updated the visiting MPs on the progress made in developing the standard gauge railway (SGR), which currently extends from Mombasa to the lakeside town of Naivasha. He reported that there were plans by Kenya to extend the SGR to Malaba, the border between the two countries.

Zambia

Hichilema in Italy to strengthen bilateral ties

President Hakainde Hichilema arrived in Italy on Tuesday 21 November for a two-day state visit. He met with President Sergio Mattarella of Italy at the Quirinale Palace in Rome. Hichilema said that he and his counterpart had “explored ways in which Italy can contribute to accelerating Zambia’s development through sustainable alliances with Italian businesses, particularly in the areas of agriculture, energy, tourism, and mining”.

The southern African leader delivered a message at the Confindustria Headquarters for the Zambia-Italy Business Forum in Rome. Hichilema is expected to meet with Italy’s Premier Giorgia Meloni as well as the chiefs of Food and Agriculture Organization and of the International Fund for Agricultural Development during his stay. Hichilema’s visit at the invitation of Italy’s president came after the latter visited Zambia in July 2022. Mattarella’s stay in Lusaka was the second visit by an Italian since Francesco Cossiga in 1989. Cossiga met with Kenneth Kaunda who was at the helm of Zambia at the time.

Malawi

President suspends foreign travels

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera has suspended all foreign trips by government officials, including himself. The move, announced in a nationally televised address on Wednesday night, was part of what he called tough measures to heal the southern African nation’s economy. He also directed all ministers who are currently outside the country to return home and said the suspension would be in place until March next year.  “Any travel deemed absolutely necessary by anyone during that period must be submitted to my office for my personal authorisation”, Chakwera said.

The President unveiled a range of austerity measures, including cutting fuel entitlements for Cabinet ministers and senior government officials by 50 per cent. Chakwera has faced criticism over his frequent foreign travel, local media reported. He said he would lead by example by curtailing his travel plans, including cancelling his attendance at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai later this month. As part of the measures, he also directed the minister of finance to include provisions for a reasonable wage increase for all civil servants in the midyear budget review.

In addition, he ordered a lowering of income tax on individuals, so that workers whose incomes have lost value are helped with a “lower tax burden”. Malawi is battling an economic crisis that has led to fuel shortages, inflated food prices, and a shortage of foreign exchange. Last week, the country’s central bank announced that it was devaluing the local currency against the United States dollar by nearly 30 percent.

Eswatini

We will eradicate HIV/AIDS by 2030 – King Mswati

King Mswati has, on behalf of the Kingdom of Eswatini, pledged to eradicate HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by the year 2030, government online platforms reported on Wednesday. Speaking during a high level meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the King who further cautioned of existing gaps that could reverse Eswatini’s achievements in the HIV and AIDS response was represented by Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi. “I believe that the initiatives we have put in place will ensure that we sustain the gains and close the gaps for the 95-95-95 and ensure that the 95-95-95 agenda is rolled out at all levels, especially amongst all priority populations at risk of HIV. There is no doubt that Eswatini’s successful strides in the HIV response would not have been possible without the continued and predictable funding and technical support from you all”, said Nkosi on behalf of the King.

Rwanda

Government commended for advancing women’s rights

Rwanda’s efforts in advancing women’s land rights have been applauded by officials at the ongoing fifth edition of the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) that started on 21November and ends on Friday 24 November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Alongside Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania’s LANDESA, a global land rights and women’s charity organization, were praised for their efforts in securing women’s land rights through innovative awareness campaigns, including the use of audio books tailored to educate illiterate and underprivileged women. The CLPA is convened biennially by the Africa Land Policy Centre (ALPC). It provides a critical platform for African Union member states to deliberate on pivotal land-related issues and formulate actionable recommendations.

This year’s conference is being held under the theme “Promoting Sustainable Land Governance in Africa for Accelerating Implementation of the AfCFTA” – the African Continental Free Trade Area. Leontine Kanziemo, Advisor at the African Natural Resources Management and Investment Centre reminded the significance of the AU’s 2016 campaign to allocate 30 per cent of land to African women by 2025 as a catalyst for Africa’s economic transformation. She underscored the need for continued government investment in supporting women farmers, especially considering the commitment made by African governments in 2003 to allocate 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture. “Investment in agriculture means enabling women farmers to overcome obstacles they face and supporting them to build capacity and access markets”. Kanziemo emphasized.Pup

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