10 February 2023

South Africa: By declaring a state of disaster, Ramaphosa has given his government additional powers to deal with the power outages. In his annual state of the nation address, he also “extended the relief funding which is earned by more than eight million unemployed South Africans”.
BBC Africa Live 10 February 2023. 4:35

Forests: Intact forest landscapes (IFLs) are essential for conservation. They have shrunk by 7.2% or 1.5m km² in the new millennium. Agriculture is responsible for about 40% of this IFL loss. For the rest, it is mainly global supply chains, with commodities “primarily extracted from Russia, Canada and tropical regions” and destined mainly for the European Union, the United States of America and China. Mining products, oil and gas are the main but by no means only culprits. Note that “the intrusion of logging and mining into relatively small areas can degrade and fragment a forest, greatly damaging the ecosystem’s health and accelerating its destruction by making it easier for people to access what remains” where the “establishment of roads, exploration trails and electricity transmission lines often precedes the complete destruction of forests.”

Conserving the common and ordinary: Conservation tends to focus on the exceptional & rare and to forget about the common & abundant. But some animals and plants that have once been overabundant have become extinct, e.g., North America’s passenger pigeons that were once most the numerous amongst the world’s birds. The real “mark of a species in trouble is not rarity, but rate of decline”. And conservation is not only about safeguarding against extinction: “shifts in abundance of common species can translate into sizeable shifts in ecosystem functioning”. The article focuses on North America, but applies worldwide.

Pulses: Today Friday being the “World Pulses Day”, the article draws our attention to the importance yet underutilisation of pulses, concentrating on African yam beans, common beans, peas, chickpeas and lupins. All of them rich in proteins, they could and should be used much more to diversify our food and they could help achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

Ghana’s parties: Voters seem to be “tired of the three-decade two-horse race between the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party”. There is in fact a third, socialist, the Nkrumahist political tradition in the country. But will it be able to “rise to the call by Ghana’s electorate”? The Convention Peoples Party and the People’s National Convention have kept splitting and splintering – starting in 1949 when Nkrumah himself and “some members of the United Gold Coast Convention youth wing rebelled (against the United Gold Coast Convention) to form the Convention Peoples Party”. The article gives a brief overview and identifies three main reasons: personality cult; political opportunism and patronage by some leading party members; ethnocentrism (the People’s National Convention being thought exclusively northern).

South Africa Pre-Colonial: A 500-year-old medicine container – a cow horn with remnants of a once-liquid substance – was discovered in a painted rock-shelter in Eastern Cape in 2020. This find for the first time provides information about medicine used around the 16th century, even if it is neither clear who used it (San/hunter-gatherers and Khoi/pastoralists are known to have lived in the region then) nor what it was used for.

Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali: The three countries have agreed to join their efforts for the lifting of Ecowas’ and AU’s “suspension measures and other restrictions”.
BBC Africa Live 10 February 2023. 9:07

Ethiopia: A breakaway faction of the Orthodox Church (the country’s largest religious denomination) accuses “the church of maintaining a system of linguistic and cultural hegemony in which congregations in Oromia are not served in their native languages” and has named dissident bishops for the concerned areas. The synod has planned protest rallies, accusing the government of backing the breakaway faction and wants to maintain the rallies despite the authorities banning them. The government then closed schools for today Friday and limited access to social media and messaging platforms, with Facebook, Messenger, Telegram and TikTok concerned.
BBC Africa Live 10 February 2023. 8:23
In the meantime, a court in Addis Ababa has banned the breakaway clergy and the bishops nominated by them from entering churches, the main church having introduced a petition to that effect. And the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (government affiliated) has “accused security forces of using excessive force against followers of the main Church”, saying at least eight had been killed in Shashemene town (Oromia).
BBC Africa Live 10 February 2023. 16:26

Somalia/UK: Somalia had closed its embassy in London in 1991 following the demise of central government. After 32 years, it reopened its embassy in a ceremony yesterday. The UK also closed its embassy in Mogadishu in 1991 but reopened it after only 22 years in 2013. The UK’s Somali diaspora community comes to nearly 500,000.
BBC Africa Live 10 February 2023. 14:54

09 February 2023

Massaging a healthy stomach will only cause sickness
BBC Africa Live 09 February 2023. 4:31. Our proverb of the day. An Oromo proverb from Ethiopia sent by Getahun Abichu.

Food inflation: Food prices have increased a lot and are expected to increase further because of higher fertiliser prices. According to the article’s author’s research, that could cause “up to 1 million additional deaths and 100 million more people undernourished” where the “greatest increases in deaths would be in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, as people become unable to afford sufficient food for a healthy diet”.

Zambia: Over half of Zambians live in poverty (defined by the national poverty threshold), 77% in rural areas. The author’s research into the country’s agricultural policies (Farmer Input Support Programme,         Food Security Pack, Food Reserve Agency purchase programme) has shown that they “reduce the share of households whose consumption falls below the poverty line by 3-5 percentage points”. In so doing, the Food Security Pack is more cost-effective than the Farmer Input Support Programme – it focusses more on vulnerability and not only reduces rural poverty but also inequality

Black History Month: The precursor Black History Week created in 1926 by black historian Carter G. Woodson was celebrated in the second week of February. It became Black History Month in 1970 and is to this day celebrated in the United States and Canada in February (in October in Britain and Ireland). The article traces W.E.B. Du Bois’ attitude and thoughts about it through time. “(A)s it becomes more universally known what Negroes contributed to America in the past, more must logically be said and taught concerning the future.” He wanted to go beyond correcting the omissions and distortions of Black people in history, wanted Afro-Americans to not stop at wanting to become the equal of White Americans: “Black people needed to cease emulating the worst traits of America – flamboyance, individualism, greed and financial success at any cost – and support labor unions, Pan-Africanism and anti-colonial struggle.”

Women’s health in Africa: Looking beyond maternal health (which has been a focus for some time), the article looks at women’s surgical care in Africa. The authors’ research found that African women “have twice the odds of dying or having a severe complication after surgery” in comparison to elsewhere in the world. Health system factors (staffing, infrastructure, etc.) are to blame. While internationally 18% of women who develop severe complications die in hospital, in Africa the percentage is almost three times that at 48%. There are, of course, big differences from one African country to another.

South Sudan: In Paguir, “an isolated village in Fangak county”, people – mostly women – are turning catastrophe (flooded land) into advantage: they grow rice. A Guardian photo essay with pictures of Peter Caton.

Ancient Egypt: Hekashepes lived around 2300 before the common era. His unusually well preserved remains have recently been discovered at Saqqara, close to Cairo – “an early example of successful preservation”. Mummification was done because it was believed that “(w)ithout a physical body to which it could return (…), the Ka (soul essence) could not partake in food offerings brought to the cemetery and was instead left to roam the world of the living as a harmful spirit.” Explaining ancient Egyptian beliefs especially those regarding the afterlife, the article cannot say much yet about the discovered mummy, but scientific examination will hopefully “shed light on where Hekashepes grew up, what kind of food he ate, his health, his age and the cause of his death.”

Zambia: Power outages – that were up to 12h a day recently – are a thing of the past thanks to a series of measures like “restoration and upgrading of power generation at stations in the country”.
BBC Africa Live 09 February 2023. 16:59

Nigeria: Allegedly because of security concerns for students and staff around the elections, universities are to close from 22nd of February to 14th of March.
BBC Africa Live 09 February 2023. 12:18