06 May 2022

Antjie Krog/South Africa: A recognised poet and a listened-to voice of dissent against Apartheid since she published a poem at age 17, in 1970, Antjie Krog, who this year turns 70, is to this day a poet with an important role to play in public life by means of journalism, nonfiction writing and in academia. It was her non-fiction book Country of My Skull about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that got her known internationally in the 1990s.

Political Extremism/Sahel: The various “terrorist” groups of the Sahel vary widely, what they have in common is that they try “to unsettle and obliterate existing state structures, not necessarily to take over the state”. Despite numerous counterterrorism interventions, security continues to worsen. The author’s analysis of research on terrorism made him identify four enablers of terrorism, namely 1) socio-economic and political grievances like poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of adequate healthcare; 2) a supportive network (a “community of people willing to do more than just remain silent victims”); 3) a legitimising ideology, e.g. the global jihadist ideology; 4) a conducive local and global political environment (repressive political action can, for example, tip the balance.).

Sleep: “(B)oth insufficient and excessive sleep contribute(…) to impaired cognitive performance of a middle-aged to old population”. “Our key finding was that seven hours of sleep per night was optimal, with more or less than that bringing fewer benefits for cognition and mental health.”

Covid measures and Agriculture in low-income countries: Covid measures have “negatively affected food purchase, income generation and access to inputs” for smallholder farmers in the countries studied (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia). Unlike in rich countries, there was no financial support and mostly no savings to fall back on. The more stringent the measures, the more severe the effects.

South Africa: 6.5 million South Africans (about 11%) go hungry and are food insecure (“do not have enough money to buy food and cannot make their own”). The article’s two authors research into nine municipalities in the Gauteng City-Region (South Africa's richest) provided the results that were to be expected – that the following factors reduce the risk of food insecurity: gender (being male), race (being white), employment, good physical health status, availability of food support, higher levels of education, age (being young), small household size, availability of grant support, availability of indigence rebates, higher levels of income. The recommended action to improve food security are banal: improve education, augment income, provide more support…

South Sudan: Juba is reported to have sold its crude oil up until 2027 in order to be able to pay the salaries of civil servants not paid since September of last year. Economics professor Ahmed Morgan Yanga criticizes the absence of economic management this reveals and says it is tantamount to economic death for the country’s future.
BBC Africa Live 06 May 2022. 15:50

05 May 2022

North Africa: Waste management can be legally subcontracted to other countries (recycling/incinerating the waste there being cheaper). “But organised criminal groups have turned this into a billion-dollar illicit industry.” The result is environmental harm plus serious health problems for citizens. North Africa is specially concerned. The recent Italo-Tunisian scandal serves as an example. For the future, it is feared that illegal disposal of solar panel waste will increase significantly. The Bamako and Basle conventions should be signed by those countries that haven’t done so yet (the Bamako convention “prohibits the import of all hazardous and radioactive waste into Africa for any reason, and minimises and controls the transboundary movements of hazardous waste on the continent”, the Basle convention was “designed to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between nations”; exporting and importing countries are “to manage the transboundary movement of waste in an environmentally sound manner” and “state parties can only export waste if the importing country has the capacity and equipment to recycle it.”).

South Africa: Parties fragment, coalesce and change their identities as the political landscape changes – why should the ANC escape such changes? Kgalema Motlanthe, president in 2008/09, recently suggested “that the time of the ANC in power is coming to an end”. The article makes a tour de force through the history of South Africa’s political parties and how they kept changing – and this does not stop with “black” liberation movement-turned-party ANC: “Successive breakaways from the ANC – by the United Democratic Movement in 1997, the Congress of the People in 2008 and, most consequentially of all, the Economic Freedom Fighters in 2013 – reflect the inherently fractious nature of South African politics”. Since the ANC does not seem capable to reform, with corruption rife and lack of capability to govern proven many a time (at national, provincial, local level), continuation of the party’s decline looks inescapable.

South Africa: The country’s Public Enterprises Minister has urged an export ban on scrap metal to discourage vandalism – metal stolen to be sold as scrap (“copper theft and rail theft and other infrastructure theft”). Kenya in January imposed a similar ban after “a nationwide power outage was blamed on vandalism of electricity pylons for scrap metal.”
BBC Africa Live 05 May 2022. 8:27

Gambia: Adama Barrow has named a new vice-president and a new cabinet, 12 of the 23 members of the cabinet are new, 3 of the 23 are women.
BBC Africa Live 05 May 2022. 9:03

Gambia: Insecurity and crime have become major problems. Despite advances in democracy and media freedom since Adama Barrow took over from long-time dictator Yahya Jammeh, discontent is rife. The government should take the security issue very seriously.

Nigeria’s south-east: In the shadow of separatist agitation and repressive state responses, criminality has increased significantly in the country’s south-east. A feeling of marginalisation and historical grievances against the Nigerian government fuel the desire for independence. Instead of an overly militarised state response, a holistic approach is needed. The article’s authors advocate dialogue involving “the federal and state governments, IPOB representatives, traditional rulers, women’s organisations, youth groups, security forces and civil society organisations”. Also, youth empowerment programmes should be introduced to “minimise their vulnerability to recruitment by separatist and criminal groups”.