15 December 2022

Liberia: Because of overcrowding and the danger of disease outbreak, Monrovia Central Prison now turns away new inmates if only accused of minor offences. The latter “are to instead be returned to communities and kept under the watch of community leaders”.
BBC Africa Live 15 December 2022. 7:19

Nigeria/Abortion: This article was prompted by a Reuters report alleging mass abortion programmes in the north-east of the country run by the army to prevent the children of women abducted and impregnated by jihadists to grow up and become Boko Haram members. While clearly stating that “(t)his forced abortion, if confirmed, is against the law and a crime against humanity”, the article is about abortion in Nigeria in general. The law permits it only if the life of the pregnant woman is in danger. Yet abortion is common, “with a rate estimated at between 41.1 and 59.4 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2017”. As it is illegal, abortion is often unsafe – deaths because of abortion are estimated to be around 20,000 per year, the country already having an extremely high maternal death rate (917 per 100,000 births). “Medical abortion is available through the use of misoprostol”, “an abortion drug that is safe, and self-administered, with no or mild consequences”. However, the article does not state how easily it is accessible.
N.B.: “Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Principe and South Africa have decriminalised abortion. They allow it without restriction.”

Nigeria: New Naira banknotes introduced today Thursday are to “address insecurity, tackle counterfeiting and force excess cash back into the banking system”. People have until 31st of January to replace their old Naira notes. The central bank estimates that 80% of naira notes in circulation are being hoarded. With elections due in February, the measure “is likely to hit politicians who might be planning to use cash to bribe voters”.
BBC Africa Live 15 December 2022. 6:31

Ghana: The country’s economic woes are far from over: in November, year-on-year inflation was up to 50.3%.
BBC Africa Live 15 December 2022. 5:09

South Africa’s Christians & sacred rivers: Water is a scarce commodity in South Africa, so it has value. Water also plays an important role in the Christian faith, for example for baptism – “in more recent times, especially in many African Christian communities, a completely new version of the ritual has arisen. This is where a church group conducts not only once off baptisms of new members but also subsequent baptism-like rituals at natural bodies of water at specific occasions for a variety of reasons.” The article reflects on the importance of water for the Christian faith and also in spirituality that had preceded it in South Africa.

Tuberculosis/TB: It is again the leading cause of death in Africa, thanks to HIV-Aids and Covid-19. The article explains why and lists what needs to be done. Financial and human resources for existing TB and TB/HIV services need to be increased; digital platforms for training and health education need to be developed; community-based TB treatment services need to be strengthened; virtual care, community-monitoring solutions to provide remote support need to be scaled up as well as SMS-based communication to improve treatment adherence.

Uganda/New Zealand: Wanting to show off the beauty of Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains, President Museveni’s official Twitter account got it wrong and used a picture of Mt Sefton in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand instead.
BBC Africa Live 15 December 2022. 9:01

Horn of Africa: The Gulf countries are gaining in influence, while that of the Global North is lessening. The 16 page ISS “report outlines the nature and implications of Gulf soft power on Horn countries, and the opportunities and limits it presents for promoting peace, security and development.” Download on https://issafrica.s3.amazonaws.com/site/uploads/EAR-46-1.pdf.

Ethiopia: The government’s and the opposition’s vision of “national dialogue” are diametrically opposed. “As a severely divided society, a sustained and relational dialogue might lay the foundation for reconciliation among Ethiopia’s diverse social groups.” However, “(i)t is unlikely that such a dialogue can resolve Ethiopia’s political divisions about ‘fundamental national issues.’ The best that can be hoped for is that a ‘conflictual consensus’ will be reached on, among other things, democracy and constitutionalism.” Download the 24-page ISS report on https://issafrica.s3.amazonaws.com/site/uploads/EAR-47-2.pdf

Congo-Kinshasa: Even with UN and other international support, the Congolese army cannot win militarily against the much better equipped M23. Yet Kinshasa’s approach is purely military. Peace cannot be reached without implying Rwanda, the confrontational course Tshisekedi is steering leads nowhere. But escalation and “prioritisation of a populistic military approach over diplomacy and negotiation” may further the chances of some in the elections due in a year’s time. Eastern Congo’s “cocktail of political, diplomatic, humanitarian and military challenges” needs to be “comprehensively addressed”. With state authority generally absent in Congo’s East, “internal reforms that build effective state institutions that can protect the country, its people, and its resources” are what’s needed; “the state must guarantee security, provide justice, fight corruption, generate economic opportunities, and provide socio-political reassurance to people.”

Zambia/Power cuts: Lake Kariba’s low water level causes power outages of up to six hours per day. Despite this, authorities say Zambia will continue to export power. It is hoped that seasonal rains will start filling up the lake in January.
BBC Africa Live 15 December 2022. 14:31

14 December 2022

South Africa: The African Transformation Movement says it will challenge Ramaphosa’s being let off the hook by yesterday Tuesday’s National Assembly decision before the High Court in Cape Town, calling the vote “irrational”. Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance is “weighing its legal and parliamentary options”.
BBC Africa Live 14 December 2022. 15:19

Africa/USA: The article’s author, the director of the University of Pretoria’s African Centre for the Study of the United States, gives a long list of what he thinks African leaders should and could get from Joe Biden at the ongoing US-Africa summit. From AU membership in G20 and two permanent UN Security Council seats to infrastructure investment etc. etc. Nothing in this article sounds like a meeting of partners – and it may in actual fact resemble more a king holding court…

African Ports: From 2004 to 2019, more than 50bn USD were spent on port infrastructure in Africa, that is about 13 times what was spent in the 15-year period before. Underlying the “ports race”, as the article’s authors call it, is extractivism and development initiated by state elites who “speak of ‘unlocking’ the potential of specific African regions by connecting them with global trade and capital flows”, implying that they are not worth anything if not well-connected. But in fact, port projects may well be harmful for growth and development.

Child Nutrition & the Poor/South Africa: For the most disadvantaged, benefits of early nutritional improvements may wear off because of their socioeconomic challenges later on. For better off children, on the other hand, “the benefits magnify over time”. So context matters. Holistic interventions are needed – not health only, or education only, or nutrition only.