08 June 2021
Bitcoin & the environment: Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency, but “mining” – creating Bitcoins – is extremely electricity-intensive and creates havoc world-wide. “Bitcoin’s booming popularity has caused its electricity demand to swell. With no central planning, a perpetual arms race for equipment continues, creating 15,000 tonnes of burned-out electronic waste annually.” Bitcoin “causes nearly 60 million tonnes of CO₂ annually”. Miners keep the blockchain (= the global register) consistent, complete, and unalterable. “Bitcoin’s energy demand has more than doubled in a year from 55 terawatt-hours (TWh) to 125 TWh. The network now has a carbon footprint similar to the whole of Poland.” In China, home of about 70% of all miners, bitcoiners have even started to mine coal and restart idle power plants, without permission, to cover their energy needs. A global response is needed.
Ethiopia: Most young people do not really feel represented by parliaments and government. Yet “history shows that their demands can only go unaddressed for so long”. That’s about it for content of this article wrongly called “Why young Ethiopians in Oromia and Sidama fought for change”.
07 June 2021
Somaliland: Of the overall 82 parliamentary seats, the ruling Kulmiye party obtained 30 seats, the Somaliland National Party (Waddani) 31 and the Justice and Welfare Party (Ucid) 21 seats. There will be no women in this parliament! The opposition win means the Kulmiye party will no longer occupy the Speaker's seat and other parliamentary leadership seats. Somaliland has been independent from Somalia since 1991 but is not recognized internationally.
BBC Africa Live 07 June 2021. 8:39
Nigeria/Boko Haram: The Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap), Boko Haram’s breakaway faction (since 2016), affiliated to the Islamic State, that seems to have become dominant in recent times, says in an audio handed over to news agencies that Abubakar Shekau has killed himself by detonating an explosive after being hunted down. The audio confirms rumours about Abubakar Shekau’s death in the Sambisa forest, rumours that have been circulating for a couple of weeks but have so far not been officially confirmed.
Nigeria: The government has announced its ban on Twitter with a tweet. It happened in retribution to a tweet of Buhari’s being erased by Twitter, and possibly also because Twitter chose Ghana and not Nigeria for its first African office. The ban will be impossible to enforce, virtual private networks allowing users to disguise their online identity and to evade country-specific limits, but circumventing the ban comes at a cost, free VPNs being insecure and exposing to hacking and data theft. Also, internet connectivity will be slowed down by VPN use. And there is an economic cost – estimated by NetBlocks (which tracks internet governance) at 6m USD per day – “(d)igital media are essential for information exchange, marketing, customer service, and remote work, especially during public health and safety emergencies. Shutdowns can slow commerce, cut productivity and ultimately cost jobs.” So the ban could harm the country’s attractivity for investment in its so far rather promising digital economy.
Nigeria is not the only one to have restricted the use of social media: In 2021, Niger, Congo-Kinshasa and Uganda have already resorted to such measures.
Nigeria/televangelist TB Joshua: Fortunately a very critical obituary of TB Joshua, the neo-Pentecoastal pastor with 3.5 million followers on Facebook and close to 1 million on his YouTube channel (before it was shut down for claiming to be able to cure homosexuality). His appeal lay in the prosperity gospel he preached, the main message being that “God desires that people should be wealthy and healthy”. The poorer and unhealthier a context, the more attractive the prosperity Gospel becomes, it seems. “People find great hope when their well-dressed, articulate and affluent preacher tells them that all they need is faith in God for them to become wealthy and successful.” So he used the desperation of the poor and vulnerable to enrich himself and build his personal empire.
Sudan: Fighting between Taisha and Fellata in Um Dafuq, South Darfur, is reported to have killed close to 40 people. Taisha and Fellata are often in conflict over access to land and water.
BBC Africa Live 07 June 2021. 11:15
David Diop’s Booker prize: “At Night All Blood is Black”, a best-selling novel in France, “tells the story of a Senegalese soldier who descends into madness while fighting for France in the first world war.” The Franco-Senegalese author has received the International Booker prize for translated fiction together with his translator Anna Moschovakis. In this article, Caroline D. Laurent, literature scholar and “a specialist in Francophone post-colonial studies and how history is depicted in art” discusses the merits of the novel.
The custom office as the colonial censor: With printed matter coming from outside the colonies, the custom office became British colonies’ most important censor, checking whether “the material was not pirated, seditious or obscene”. Custom officials were no readers, so censorship was hardly ever based on content. E.g., “British copyright became a token that a book had been made in Britain and was implicitly “white” and safe to admit. Colonial copyright was hence construed as a racial trademark”.
Energy demand and poverty: Counter-intuitively, the author’s research in Zambia, Vietnam and Nepal found that decreasing poverty decreased energy demand. The foremost factor explaining this is “the switch from traditional cooking fuels, like firewood or charcoal, to more efficient (and less polluting) electricity and gas.” Income is by no means the only determinant of poverty or deprivation. The author’s research points to “the importance of collective services (like electricity, indoor sanitation and public transport) for alleviating the multiple deprivations of poverty.”
Congo-Kinshasa: Beyond its immediate destructive effects, the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo will also have longer-term health effects. There are psychological consequences because of the devastation and fear. Then inhaled volcanic ash can cause lung damage, even silicosis. The ash containing strong acids, it can cause skin and eye problems and if it touches water, it can deposit toxic particles in it. Volcanic eruptions furthermore release toxic gases that can cause human and animal illnesses. “Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most prolific sources of sulphur dioxide on earth” and sulphur dioxide irritates skin, eyes, nose, and throat and can also aggravate asthma and cardiovascular diseases. “A real time monitoring system for ash and gases is needed to track air quality” with the only remedy being to move away – especially people with asthma.
South Africa: Sharks – very slow reproducers – need even better protection. This The Conversation article by Alison Kock, a marine biologist, explains why and how. South Africa is one of five global hot spots for sharks.