21 March 2022

Burkina Faso: An attack on a military patrol yesterday in Natiaboni in the country’s East region left 10 soldiers dead. Natiaboni, 45 km south of Fada N'Gourma, is Gourma province’s second biggest town.
BBC Africa Live 21 March 2022. 7:16

Mali: The military government and Ecowas envoy Goodluck Jonathan have not reached an agreement concerning the length of the transition period. Jonathan had been on mission in Bamako for two days. The government said “it regretted the lack of compromise at this stage.”
BBC Africa Live 21 March 2022. 4:39

African forest wonders: In this article, the Director General of the Centre for International Forestry Research takes us on a short trip from Morocco’s argan forests to the Congo Basin peat swamp forests, on to the Afromontane forests with the continent’s highest trees (reaching 81.5 meters), the Miombo woodlands between Angola and Tanzania and finally to Madagascar and its Spiny Forest. All of these forests are endangered.

Groundwater: The article’s author argues that for developing agriculture and improving food security in Africa, groundwater is a relatively under-developed resource: “less than 5% of the region’s renewable groundwater is being used”. But be careful: over-exploitation needs to be avoided; management needs to be sustainable.

18 March 2022

Africa’s wheat: 25 African countries or more “import more than a third of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine” and 15 of them more than half. To prevent food shortages caused by the war in Ukraine and its effect on prizes of wheat and also maize and soya beans, the African Development Bank wants to put in place a 1bn USD fund. The money is to finance an “increase (in) production of wheat, rice, maize and soya beans using climate-resilient technologies, including heat-tolerant and drought tolerant crop varieties”. Will this work quickly enough to help prevent disaster?
BBC Africa Live 18 March 2022. 7:48

Egypt & wheat: Average wheat consumption per capita is 145 kg annually – higher than the 128 kg in Middle East and North Africa that is twice the global average. Wheat represents 35% to 39% of caloric intake of Egyptians. 62% of this comes from imports and 57% to 60% of these imports are or were from Russia and Ukraine. Egypt is thus most vulnerable to the war in Ukraine. Government spending for wheat imports has amounted to around US$3bn per year, but with recent price increases this could double or almost double – which threatens the bread subsidy programme (“Baladi”) which “provides millions of people with 150 loaves of subsidised bread per month” and which costs the government US$3.24bn per year. What way out? As world production is unlikely to be able to make up for Ukraine’s and Russia’s production in the short term, and as increasing domestic production will be difficult (yields already being high and production input-intensive), trying to get people to consume less wheat could be more promising. Better targeting the “Tamween” food subsidy programme would also improve matters.

Central African Republic: Municipal elections programmed for the 11th of September – the first in 34 years – will or cannot be held because of lack of funds.
BBC Africa Live 18 March 2022. 6:54

Cameroon: Discrimination, marginalization, exclusion of English-speakers led to protests in 2016 – which were “met with swift and deadly violence” – and to civil war since 2017 in the North-West and South-West regions – the anglophone regions. The result: more than 4,000 civilians deaths, over 712,000 internally displaced persons and over 1.3 million in need of humanitarian assistance. The article looks into the roots and history of the conflict and tries to evaluate the chances for peace. Without one form or another of autonomy for the two anglophone regions, such peace will prove elusive. Yet Biya does not look ready at all to make concessions.

Francophonie & Africa: 120 million people in 24 francophone African countries speak French (the fifth most widely spoken language in the world with 300 million speakers) – more than on any other continent. French is the only official language in 11 countries and second official language in another 10 African countries.

Kenya: The removal of import duty in 2008 made motorcycles widely affordable – that was the opportunity for tens of thousands to make money as motorcycle taxis – boda bodas. But “most don’t even have a driving licence” and, having organised in gangs, “they are a law unto themselves”. So they have come into disrepute. Today, “impunity is deeply entrenched in Kenya’s transport sector”. Instead of the crackdown ordered by the President recently on the entire sector, a careful and holistic approach by the government is needed, enforcing driving licenses and registering, among other measures – “a retributive penal approach of arrests, prosecution and enforcing bans” will not work.

Tanzania: Chadema, the main opposition party, will boycott the national dialogue meetings organised by Tanzania’s Centre for Democracy because the cross-party talks will not include discussing the need for a new constitution nor a truth and justice process which Chadema requests.
BBC Africa Live 18 March 2022. 15:22

Congo-Kinshasa/gold smuggling: Over the last 5 or 6 years, Alain Goetz, a Belgian gold dealer, is accused by the US of having smuggled gold worth hundreds of millions of dollars from mines in Congo-Kinshasa controlled by armed groups, thus contributing to armed conflict. He and a network of companies (of which Goetz’s African Gold Refinery) have been put under sanctions. Goetz reportedly denies the allegations.
BBC Africa Live 18 March 2022. 16:40

South Sudan: 142 South Sudanese are to be investigated over human rights abuses such as massacres, torture, abductions, detentions, looting, burning of villages, forced displacement, rape, sexual violence. The identity of the 142 is not known, but they are people “from both sides in the unity government”.
BBC Africa Live 18 March 2022. 18:39