14 January 2023

Latozi “Madosini” Mphahleni/Music/South Africa: The musician, songwriter and storyteller, “queen of Xhosa music”, died in late 2022 aged 79. An homage of the woman whose renown went far beyond national boundaries and whose efforts to keep traditions alive and work as an educationalist earned her, illiterate, a honorary doctorate from Rhodes University.
See also the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxatCEQy7XQ

Ebrima Solo Sandeng/Gambia: He was “an ordinary man who showed extraordinary bravery”, a man who stood up to Yahya Jammeh’s tyranny and was tortured to death seven years ago. On Tuesday, he was honoured by a state funeral. “Thousands of people lined the streets of Banjul to pay their respects”.

China/Africa: Nowadays, the people’s republic is “Africa’s most important infrastructure builder”. Chinese construction companies “like to bring their own workers because they require less training, work efficiently and help to avoid difficult labour relations issues.” But if this is what happens, then African countries miss out on the employment benefits of the infrastructure projects and less knowledge and technology will be transferred. Statistical analysis shows that autocracies (e.g., Algeria) tend to allow Chinese workers in while democracies (e.g., Ghana) tend to “force Chinese companies to hire locally”.

13 January 2023

Frene Ginwala/South Africa: Anti-apartheid activist and speaker of the country’s first democratically elected parliament has passed away aged 90.
BBC Africa Live 13 January 2023. 14:38

Malawi/Pan-Africanism: A sculpture called “Antelope” has been chosen to occupy London’s Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth in 2022 – it will remain there for two years, the selection being equivalent to Britain’s most significant public sculpture award. The sculpture is by Malawian conceptual artist Samson Kambalu. It shows Malawian Baptist preacher and Pan-Africanist John Chilembwe, whose name means “antelope”, plus his friend, a British missionary named John Chorley. John Chilembwe “in 1915 led the first uprising against the British occupation and colonial rule of Malawi (then Nyasaland)”. “(T)he first Malawian to resist colonial rule beyond tribal lines”, he was killed in the uprising. He ”features on Malawi’s banknotes and he is remembered in a public holiday every year on 15 January”, but his importance is little recognized inside Malawi and he is almost unknown outside of Malawi – despite his having influenced pan-Africanists like Marcus Garvey while being “trained as a Baptist minister in the US before returning to Nyasaland in 1901”. The sculpture on Trafalgar Square is to change this.

Donkey skin trafficking: In China, “(g)elatine, also called donkey-hide glue or ejiao, is (…) used as an aphrodisiac, an ingredient in cosmetics, and for curing ailments such as anaemia, dry cough, chronic fatigue and symptoms of menopause.” Demand amounts to 4 million donkey skins per year and they partly come from West Africa where “organised criminal groups (…) profit from lax law enforcement” (e.g., of laws in Niger and Burkina Faso forbidding slaughter and export of the animals, their meat and skin), at the same time “wiping out the local (donkey) population” in some places.

Angola: Will “the country’s poor (…) benefit from attempts to recover Dos Santos’ enormous stolen loot”? The long-time ex-president “created Isabel’s wealth by awarding her companies, public contracts, tax breaks, telecom licences, diamond mining rights and preferential loans. And by making her chief executive of the state oil company Sonangol – a vital post in a country almost entirely dependent on oil revenue.” At least 2.1bn USD are estimated to be stashed in bank accounts and assets in Europe and also in the USA and Asia. Her accounts and assets have been frozen in Angola, Portugal and the USA. She is under criminal investigation in several countries and in late 2022, Interpol “issued a Red Notice calling on all governments to provisionally arrest her, pending local legal processes.” She is thought to be hiding in Dubai (alongside South Africa’s Gupta brothers). Whether the stolen money can be recovered and returned to Angola depends on the cooperation of several countries, but most of all on how determined the Angolan authorities are and how swiftly they act against Isabel dos Santos. Angolan President João Lourenço has so far shown “considerable caution in trying to erase (his predecessor’s) legacies”…

Succulent smuggling: The Succulent Karoo (Western & Northern Cape provinces and south-western Namibia) is one of South Africa’s three of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots and among arid regions, it is the world’s most biodiverse. While well-adapted to the harsh climate, it now “faces several human-related threats. These include climate change, habitat destruction through farming and mining, and the rise in illegal harvesting and trade of wild plants to supply international horticultural markets.” With illegal harvesting increasing since 2019, many succulents are now “endangered” or “critically endangered”. Ecosystems have been or will be changed, degraded, destroyed – what the effects of the absence of the succulents will be remains to be seen. A National Response Strategy and Action Plan to address the Illegal Trade in South African Succulent Flora was launched in February 2022. If it works, “it could safeguard threatened species and provide income potential through legal trade. It may also serve as a blueprint for preventive, holistic responses to transnational organised crimes that target natural resources”.

Penguin feathers-inspired de-icing: Ever seen a picture of a penguin with an ice crust on his or her plumage? So scientists have investigated their feathers. Existing de-icing methods are energy-intensive and costly. “Biomimetic mesh surfaces, which mimic penguin feathers with a woven stainless steel textile, showed about 95 per cent decreased ice adhesion strength compared to polished smooth monolithic stainless steel surfaces.” Application of such promising research is yet to be tested.

Mozambique/GB: According to Friends of the Earth the UK government’s 1bn USD funding of the Total-led gas project “contravene(s) the UK's climate change commitments under the Paris accords.” Unfortunately, the case was dismissed first by a lower court and now by the Court of Appeal.
BBC Africa Live 13 January 2023. 17:02

Ethiopia: The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is thought to have been behind an attack on the prison of Bule Hora (several hundred km south of Addis) several days ago killed five police officers and set all prisoners – around 480 – free, some of them OLA members. The search is on for the escaped prisoners.
BBC Africa Live 13 January 2023. 15:52

Ethiopia/Tigray/Amhara: As Tigrayan fighters have started handing over their weapons, members of the Amhara special forces have started to withdraw from Shire (one of the biggest Tigrayan cities) and surroundings. Will Eritrean troops also start withdrawing? Meanwhile, the French and German foreign ministers, on visit in Addis, “called for the establishment of a transitional justice mechanism to punish abuses committed during the conflict” or else there could be no reconciliation.
BBC Africa Live 13 January 2023. 8:43