Africa Media Review for August 3, 2022

The number of active social media users in Africa has tripled from 100 million to over 300 million people since 2016. Three-quarters of these users access the internet through their mobile devices. Users in countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya spend over three hours per day on social media.  Africa’s rapidly shifting information landscape has created asymmetric leverage for anti-democratic actors to propagate false information for political ends. This In Focus pages provides a selection of Africa Center products that track disinformation related research. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Biden’s UN Envoy in Africa Tour to Counter Russia
Washington’s top UN envoy, Ms Linda Thomas-Greenfield, arrived in Africa on Tuesday in what is seen as a trip to undo the gains made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the continent. Ms Thomas-Greenfield, President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the UN, is on a four-day trip, which will see her visit Uganda, where she will discuss with President Yoweri Museveni, before flying to Ghana and Cape Verde. A former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, her trip comes a week after Russia’s top diplomat Mr Lavrov concluded a tour of four African countries – Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt and the Congo Republic, where he met leaders and rallied the continent to become Moscow allies. “We are not asking African countries to make any choices between the United States and Russia,” said Ms Thomas-Greenfield in an online media briefing on August 2 ahead of her trip, explaining that the continent is buying Moscow’s rhetoric about the war in Ukraine. East African

Al-Zawahri’s Death Puts the Focus Back on Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda is in more countries and has more total fighters than it did on Sept. 11, 2001, when it attacked the United States. Some of its franchises that have sprung up since then, particularly in Somalia and the Sahel region of West Africa, are ascendant, seizing swaths of territory from weak governments and spending millions of dollars on new weapons, despite a decade’s effort to weaken and contain them. None of these affiliates pose the same kind of threat to the American homeland that Al Qaeda did on Sept. 11. But they are deadly and resilient. The Qaeda affiliate in East Africa killed three Americans at a U.S. base in Kenya in 2020…The wealthiest and most lethal Qaeda affiliate today is Al Shabab, the franchise in Somalia and the rest of East Africa, military and counterterrorism officials said. According to the most recent U.N. report, Al Shabab currently has 7,000 to 12,000 fighters and is spending approximately $24 million a year — a quarter of its budget — on weapons and explosives, and increasingly on drones. And the threat is getting worse. “It is my judgment that due to a lack of effective governance and counterterrorism pressure, Al Shabab has only grown stronger and bolder over the past year,” Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, told the Senate in March. New York Times

Former Al-Shabab Commander, Al-Qaida Member Named to Somali Cabinet
Somalia’s prime minister has appointed the former deputy leader of the al-Shabab militant group, Mukhtar Robow, to the cabinet as minister for endowment and religious affairs. Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, was in the Somali presidential palace Tuesday as Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre unveiled his new cabinet. The stunning development came a day after Robow was released from the headquarters of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA). Robow has been in detention since December 2018, when Somali government forces supported by African Union forces from Ethiopia detained him in the Somali city of Baidoa, to prevent him from running for the leadership of Southwest federal member state. Deadly protests followed his arrest as his supporters clashed with regional forces leading to the shooting death of 15 people in Baidoa. The selection of Abu Mansour for the cabinet post is an apparent attempt to put him in charge of ideological confrontation against al-Shabab. His new portfolio will put him in direct collision with his former colleagues as he will attempt to implement President Hassan Mohamud’s policy of waging war against al-Shabab on three fronts; economic, ideology, and military. Voice of America

Ukraine Ships Grain at Last. It Will Take Far More to Slow Global Hunger.
On Monday, a ship carrying grain that left the Ukrainian port of Odesa, the first since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, also carried fragile hopes that it might stem a global tide of hunger. Ukraine’s bulging stores hold 20 million tons of grain — trillions of calories trapped, until a diplomatic deal was brokered by Turkey and the U.N. last month. Another 16 grain ships are expected to leave in the coming days, navigating mined waters in the Black Sea. But experts say that getting Ukrainian grain exports moving again will barely make a dent in a global food crisis that the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, has warned could last for years…Aid experts say it’s unclear how much of the Ukrainian grain will reach hungry people in places like the Horn of Africa, where a four-year drought has left 18 million people facing severe hunger, or Afghanistan, where over half the population doesn’t eat enough. New York Times

African Nations Expected to Make Case for Big Rise in Fossil Fuel Output
Leaders of African countries are likely to use the next UN climate summit in November to push for massive new investment in fossil fuels in Africa, according to documents seen by the Guardian. New exploration for gas, and the exploitation of Africa’s vast reserves of oil, would make it close to impossible for the world to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. However, soaring gas prices have made the prospect of African supplies even more attractive, and developed countries, including EU members, have indicated they would support such developments in the current gas shortage…However, environmental campaigners from across the continent fear that the exploitation of gas and oil in Africa would bust global climate targets, prevent the development of renewable energy in Africa, and instead of being used for the benefit of ordinary people, would enrich multinational corporations, investors and the elite in some countries. Guardian

Funding for African Startups Doubled in First Six Months of 2022, Report Shows
As funding for startups falls across the globe, Africa is standing out as a notable exception, with its under-served population outweighing the impact of inflation and slowing economies…If the trend continues, funding for startups may exceed the record $5 billion raised last year. Entrepreneurs are racing to provide services ranging from payment and health care to educational offerings to more than 1.2 billion people on the continent, which lacks adequate financial infrastructure and last-mile delivery. Still, the amount received by African firms is minuscule when compared with countries such as the US, where companies raised $123 billion in the first six months of the year, 11% less than last year…”Startup companies in Africa are solving real problems, where existing businesses either do not exist or do not have the dynamism to make changes,” according to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. Traditional banks have failed to broaden access to financial services and decrepit state postal services provide opportunities for delivery companies, it said. Bloomberg

DR Congo Asks UN Peacekeeping Mission Spokesman to Leave Country
DR Congo has asked the spokesman of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country to leave “as soon as possible”, according to an official letter seen by AFP on Wednesday. The central African nation’s government asked the peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, to withdraw spokesman Mathias Gillmann over “indelicate and inappropriate remarks” he made, the letter said. “The government would very much appreciate that action be taken for Mr. Mathias Gillmann to leave Congolese territory as soon as possible,” it added, citing recent tensions between the peacekeeping mission and locals. Protests against MONUSCO erupted in parts of eastern Congo last week, leading to the death of 36 people including four UN peacekeepers. Anger has been fuelled by perceptions that MONUSCO is failing to do enough to stop decades of armed conflict in the region. More than 120 militias operate in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east, where civilian massacres remain common. AFP

Burkina Faso Army Admits to Killing Civilians in Air Raid
Burkina Faso’s army has said it accidentally killed civilians during a military operation in the country’s southeast earlier this week. The West African country has been battling an armed uprising by rebel groups, some linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS), which control large swaths of territory within and wage frequent attacks across the Sahel. “During operations which made it possible to neutralize several dozen terrorists, the strikes unfortunately caused collateral victims within the civilian population,” the army said in a statement on Wednesday. It did not say how many civilians were killed. The victims were hit by projectiles in the zone between Kompienga and Pognoa, near the border with Togo, on Monday, it said. Togo, which has been contending with the spillover of militancy from Burkina Faso, accidentally killed seven children in an air raid last month near the same border. Reuters

Nigeria Adds 10.5 Million Young Voters Ahead of 2023 Election
Nigeria has added more than 10 million new voters to its election register, most of them youths, ahead of a presidential vote next February, the electoral agency has said. Voters in Nigeria will pick a new president to succeed Muhammadu Buhari, who cannot run after serving the two terms allowed by the constitution. Governors, as well as members of the Senate and House of Representatives, will also be elected. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said a year-long exercise that ended on Sunday had registered 10.49 million new voters, with 84 percent of these aged 34 and below. In the last election in 2019, there were 84 million registered voters, INEC figures showed. Participation in Nigerian elections is typically low, but political analysts say the country’s economic woes, seen in double-digit inflation, as well as rising insecurity may push more people to vote, especially young people. The main presidential contest is between ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos state governor and main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, who was vice president between 1999-2007. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: Soyinka, Falana Back Moves to Impeach Buhari
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, yesterday, backed the move by National Assembly members to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari over his failure to end terrorism in the country. Members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had, last week, given President Buhari a six-week ultimatum to end insecurity or be impeached. Supporting the move by the lawmakers, Soyinka and Falana submitted that President Buhari had failed in the promises he made to Nigerians. They both spoke on Tuesday in an interactive session, organised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Abeokuta Club in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital. Soyinka was the moderator of the interactive session, which had Falana, Registrar of the Joint Administration and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede; a lawyer and chartered accountant, Gbenga Adeoye; a businessman, Ogo-Oluwa Bankole and the spokesman of electricity distribution firms, Sunday Oduntan, as panelists with the theme ‘Good Governance or Mis-governance: The Contract called Democracy.’ Guardian Nigeria

Nigerian Police Bolster Security in Capital Abuja with More Manpower
Nigeria’s police has deployed additional manpower around Abuja to bolster security of “critical national assets and vulnerable facilities,” its spokesperson said on Tuesday, days after local reports of an attack at a checkpoint near the capital. Africa’s most populous nation faces growing insecurity from an Islamist insurgency in the northeast, kidnappings for ransom in the northwest and armed criminal gangs roaming the country…Adejobi said NPF was deploying “additional police operatives and operational assets within the Federal Capital Territory and its environs to solidify the security and protection of lives and property of its residents, critical national assets and vulnerable facilities.” Nigeria has a police force of more than 350,000, which security analysts say is not enough to provide adequate security in the country of more than 200 million people. Reuters

Sudan’s FFC Will Propose New Constitutional Declaration
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) plan to file the new constitutional declaration to the political and revolutionary forces after its approval early next week. Nine months after the coup d’état, the military leaders admitted their failure to form a new transitional government in Sudan and called on the political forces and peace groups to agree on a  new government. Wagdi Salih a leading member of the coalition told Sudan Tribune that the coalition would present the new constitutional declaration to the political and civil forces, after its approval at the Central Council meeting next Saturday. “The new declaration stipulates that power will not be shared with the military leaders who currently rule the country or the military establishment, and speaks of a civilian authority and a parliamentary system,” said Salih. He emphasized that military establishment is part of the state institutions and is commanded by the civilian authority. According to the Sudanese lawyer, the declaration further deals with the state structures and governance, based on a vision put forward by the coalition last June. Sudan Tribune

What Are the Obstacles to Peace Talks in Ethiopia?
[Video] Ethiopia’s government and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front are preparing for peace talks to end the conflict that broke out in November 2020. In the town of Abala, badly damaged by the conflict, militiamen and locals say they are ready for peace, but analysts say it won’t come easy. Henry Wilkins reports from Abala, Ethiopia. Voice of America