18 October 2022

Rwanda: To curb teenage pregnancies, a group of parliamentarians had introduced a bill allowing girls 15 years and older access to contraceptives – but it was rejected for “faith, social and cultural reasons”. Under existing rules, for access to sexual and reproductive health services, under-18-year-olds “are required to be accompanied by parents for their approval” – “a very huge barrier”.
BBC Africa Live 18 October 2022. 11:06

Lake Turkana/Kenya: Drought has reigned in north-western Kenya for four rainy seasons/two years. Yet Lake Turkana is expanding, “sometimes slowly, sometimes in flash floods”, expanding by 10% over the last decade, swallowing an estimated 800 km2 of land. The swelling of the lake is caused by record rains that fell a couple of years back in those lands that feed the lake. And “(d)eforestation in the highlands has meant that water runs through the system much faster to fill Lake Turkana”, causing floods that have swept away whole villages.

Land reform/South Africa: To small farmers, land is not only an economic asset, it has other uses and values. And farmers are not self-reliant and autonomous economic actors, but rely on social networks. Economic and financial survival is part of a social context where relations with the amadlozi (ancestors) are important and which include life-cycle events such as weddings and funerals – ceremonial expenses can put a strain on farming. The author’s research has shown that “successful small farming depends on diversified income sources and secure distributional networks.” Land reform will not work unless such non-economic aspects of small-scale farming are taken seriously.

Chibok/Nigeria: In the article’s author’s view, it was “the hard work of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign” – Twitter’s most used hashtag for some time – that brought about “the global popularity of the Chibok girls case”, but its framing lacked nuance. As the return of some of the freed Chibok girls to their abductors shows. Also, the focus exclusively on the Chibok case did harm, preventing a broader approach to the Boko Haram problem. We should listen carefully – “witness accounts and testimonial narratives have the potential to offer deeper insights”. “Without understanding the nuances of this violence, we cannot begin to solve it.”

Hunger/Africa: Covid, the Ukraine war and extreme weather events caused by climate change “have slowed – or even reversed – decades of progress in improving food security and nutrition”. The article’s authors – co-editors of the recent Africa Agriculture Status Report – believe that something like the Asian Green Revolution is needed for Africa to prevent or at least reduce hunger. “Urgent action is needed to anticipate megatrends, rally political will, mobilise investments and strengthen capacity.” True cost accounting is necessary so as to be able to plan on a correct basis. Then megatrends need to be anticipated – by no means easy in a world of “a moving target”. Sufficient financing is essential, as is good leadership – with efficient cooperation of all stakeholders. Finally, capacity and capability development will be needed.

Zambia/Ghana: Judging by the USD foreign exchange rate, Zambia has done very well of late (in 2022, no other country in the world has gained more than the kwacha, 15%) while Ghana has done worst world-wide (losing 48% in value against the USD over the past 12 months). In Zambia, the new president has re-established foreign investor confidence, getting the foreign debt situation under control and concluding a contract with the IMF. In Ghana, inflation stood at 37.2% in September and foreign investors have lost confidence, dumping “Ghanaian dollar-denominated bonds from their portfolios”. Accra is in the process of negotiating an IMF loan.
BBC Africa Live 18 October 2022. 14:39

17 October 2022

Tanzania: In the face of the high birth rate in the country, President Samia Hassan has “urged citizens to take up birth control measures”: “Let's reduce the speed and have a control on this”. This is the absolute contrary of what her predecessor John Magufuli advocated, accusing “those who use contraceptives (of being) lazy”.
BBC Africa Live 17 October 2022. 8:53

Social grants: Social protection is not the “effective and efficient instrument to reduce poverty and inequality” that it is reputed to be and social policy should not be reduced to cash transfers. Such an approach leaves “the structures of accumulation which dispossessed, exploited and excluded the working classes in the first place” unchecked. South Africa’s cash transfer systems have not kept the country from being the most unequal in the world. Social protection, instead of redistributing income and wealth, can rather ensure the system’s survival with hardly any change.

Tigray/Ethiopia: The article looks into the historical roots of the “Ethio-Tigray war” since the mid-19th century. “The Amhara elite dominated Ethiopia from 1889 to 1991. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front overthrew them in 1991” and ruled the country until 2018. Abiy – the Prime minister who was appointed in 2018 – and his Amhara collaborators have a centralised vision of Ethiopia, fighting Tigrayans, Oromos et al. “Their winning the war in Tigray and Oromia would allow the Abiy regime to continue a modified version of Ethiopia’s pre-1991 policy.” If the problems with Tigrayans and Oromo are not properly solved, even a collapse of the Ethiopian state is possible.

Egypt/USA: A drop in the ocean: 75m USD of US aid to Egypt have been blocked because of “the ‘deplorable’ situation facing (…) political prisoners” in Egypt. But aid being tied to conditions (here: reforms to be carried out) is rather the exception – not much of the 1.3bn USD in aid has conditions attached to it.
BBC Africa Live 17 October 2022. 12:40

Lesotho: Revolution for Prosperity, only formed six months ago, won the elections but is five seats short of an absolute majority. So a coalition has been formed and this coalition will likely suffer from similar problems that have beset coalitions in the past. After recounting Lesotho’s electoral history since the 1990s, the article discusses the challenges facing business magnate Sam Matekane’s government. Most urgent: reforming the political system (to make it more stable) and the economy.