Africa Media Review for December 19, 2022

Record Low Turnout, Opposition Boycott Mar Tunisia Elections
Tunisia’s parliamentary election on Saturday witnessed a record-low turnout as most political parties boycotted the polls, denouncing the election as the culmination of President Kais Saied’s march to one-man rule. Last year, Saied, a former law professor, unseated the government and suspended parts of a 2014 constitution, which was a product of the Arab democratic uprising in 2011. The charter curtailed the president’s powers in favour of parliament and the prime minister. Al Jazeera

Tunisia: President Saied Urged to Resign After ‘Fiasco’ Election
Tunisia’s main opposition coalition has said President Kais Saied must resign after fewer than 9% of eligible voters took part in parliamentary elections. The National Salvation Front head, Nejib Chebbi, said Saturday’s poll was a “fiasco”, calling for mass protests to demand snap presidential elections. The vote was boycotted by most opposition parties. They accuse Mr Saied of reversing the democratic progress made since the 2011 uprising – a charge he denies. BBC

France Ends Visa Dispute with Algeria Linked to Migration
France on Sunday announced the end to a visa dispute with Algeria, amid efforts to mend relations with North African neighbors. After meeting Algerian officials on a visit to Algeria, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said consular relations will “return to normal.” France announced last year that it would significantly reduce the numbers of visas being granted to Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian nationals. France said it was because the North African governments refused to provide consular documents for their citizens being deported from France after arriving illegally. The French move deeply angered North African officials and complicated cooperation in other spheres. Washington Post

Leadership by ‘Autopilot’: Liberians Protest as Footballer Leader Absent
Several hundred Liberians joined a peaceful demonstration in the suburbs of the capital Monrovia on Saturday to draw attention to soaring food costs and the shortage of basic goods in the country.  The opposition party organised the protest, which drew large numbers of dissatisfied citizens who are increasingly angry that their President, former football star George Weah, for going ‘missing in action’.  Weah has been abroad since the end of October, first attending a string of political gatherings before travelling to the Qatar World Cup to support his son, Timothy Weah, who is representing the United States. Opposition leaders have asked whether the country is running on ‘autopilot’, with Alexander Cummings from the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) slamming the president’s record: “We’re going to give President Weah an ‘F’ because he has failed us as a people.” The West African nation has felt the shockwaves caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, with the price of food and fuel rising sharply since February. Euronews

South Africa’s Ramaphosa Seeks Re-Election as Ruling Party Leader
South Africa’s ruling ANC was due to elect a new leader this weekend after the country’s embattled president, Cyril Ramaphosa, pitched to steer the party for a second term. Despite a tarnishing cash-heist scandal and vociferous internal opposition, Ramaphosa, 70, is tipped to win re-election as the head of the African National Congress (ANC) at a five-day party conference that kicked off on Friday.  But after 28 years in power, the party shaped by Nelson Mandela to spearhead the struggle to end apartheid faces deep rifts and declining support. In a three-hour-long address on Friday, Ramaphosa sought to project confidence and authority. TRT World

South Africa Deploys Army at Eskom Power Plants to Stop Sabotage
South Africa has started deploying its army at power stations as theft and vandalism adds to the inability of state-owned utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. to meet electricity demand. Members of the South African National Defence Force were deployed at the Majuba, Camden, Grootvlei and Tutuka coal-fired plants in the eastern Mpumalanga province on Saturday afternoon, the utility’s media desk said in a WhatsApp message. Bloomberg

Ally of Wagner Group Boss Hurt in ‘Assassination Attempt’ in Central Africa
A Russian businessman believed to be a close ally of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group founder, has been taken to hospital in Central African Republic (CAR) after an “assassination attempt”, the RIA Novosti news agency has reported, citing the local Russian embassy. Dmitry Sytii, who officially works as head of the “Russian House” culture centre in CAR’s capital, Bangui, had sanctions imposed on him by the US in September 2020 for his alleged links to Wagner Group, a private military group that has deployed more than 1,000 fighters in the unstable country to fight rebels. The Russian embassy in Bangui did not immediately comment on the circumstances of the alleged assassination attempt. Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch under US sanctions who has led Russia’s recent push into Africa, said in a statement published on Friday that Sytii received a mailed parcel containing an explosive that detonated in his hands. “At the moment, the life of Dmitry Sytii hangs in balance. Russian doctors are doing everything possible in the Bangui hospital to save him,” Prigozhin said in a statement posted by his catering company, Concord, that described Sytii as a “Patriot of Russia and Central African Republic.” Guardian

DRC: M23 Sends Mixed Signals on Peace; Leaders Say Door Open for Talks
Feared rebel group M23 is showing mixed signals towards a regional peace bid, even as leaders indicated this week that the group will be welcome for dialogue in case they are interested. The details emerged from a side-lines meeting in Washington where African leaders gathered for a US-Africa Summit. Presidents Evariste Ndayishimiye, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Kenya’s William Ruto and Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu Hassan gathered for a mini Great Lakes region Summit to discuss the DRC conflicts. The Great Lakes peace bid is led by Angolan leader João Lourenço but has since been merged with efforts by the East African Community which is now chaired by President Ndayishimiye. “Peace in the region is an absolute emergency, we will not accept to rest until a lasting peace is restored to the East of the DRC,” said the Burundian leader after the meeting on Thursday. East African

Kenya Is Looking for US Investors to Save Its Airline
Kenyan president William Ruto attended the Washington US-Africa Business Summit with one of his major goals being to get investors to turn around the fortunes of the country’s national carrier Kenya Airways which last recorded profits 10 years ago. Ruto identified a potential investor in Delta Air Lines, holding discussions with the carrier’s executive vice president for external affairs Peter Carter “on building partnerships to make both airlines competitive and attractive.” After it made net earnings of $15 million in 2012, Kenya Airways has since been a loss-making airline, sinking deeper into financial turbulence with a net loss of $82.4 million in the half year to June 2022. The airline’s early woes were blamed on mismanagement and poor investment decisions. More recently, similar to other airlines, Kenya airways’ business was contracted by the 2020 and 2021 global covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions, and has been unable to recover, with CEO Allan Kilavuka telling Quartz in 2021 that the airline was “hardly hit” and “if you don’t fly for a single day, you lose close to a million dollars.” Quartz Africa

UK Court to Rule on Migrant Deportation Flights to Rwanda
Judges at London’s High Court will rule Monday whether the British government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stakes his future on stopping a record number of migrant arrivals in small boats. Under a deal struck in April, Britain aims to send tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on its shores illegally more than 4,000 miles (6,4000 km) to Rwanda. The first planned deportation flight was blocked in June by a last-minute injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the strategy’s lawfulness was subsequently challenged by a judicial review at London’s High Court. Judges Jonathan Swift and Clive Lewis are expected to deliver their verdict at 10:30 GMT. Reuters

East Africans Ponder Celebrating Christmas on Shoestring Budgets
For residents of East Africa, like much of the world, this is the first Christmas they are celebrating with fully opened economies after the two agonising years of Covid-19 lockdowns…But 2022 is proving different for Kampala. With inflation and precautions around Covid-19 and Ebola, the heavy foot traffic characteristic of downtown Kampala is conspicuously missing – keeping many businesses, especially those in the leisure sector, pessimistic about this year’s festive season. Even though a string of music concerts have been heavily advertised in Kampala, event organisers admit they don’t expect much turn out due to the knock-on effects of Covid-19, Ebola and rising prices of goods and services.  “We expect less turn up this time because people are generally poor. The economy is in silent recession,” said Balaam Barugahara, a leading Ugandan events organiser. East African

Africa to Win World Cup “Within 15–20 Years”, Says Morocco Coach
Africa will win the World Cup “within 15-20 years” says Morocco’s Walid Regragui, who has come closer than any coach to delivering that long-held aim. Under Regragui’s guidance, the Atlas Lions became the first African side to contest a World Cup semi-final, where they were beaten by eventual runners-up France. The 47-year-old believes that Africa will be bolstered in future by having more than five representatives for the first time from 2026 onwards. “At the next World Cup, we’ll have nine spots which will allow us to learn more,” said Regragui. “Within 15-20 years, I’m convinced an African team will win the World Cup. Because we’ll come back each time and learn more, and so our youngsters will have World Cup football in their DNA.” BBC

Africa Prepares for Age of Robots
The adoption of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in Africa received a major boost after Uniccon Group, an Abuja-based tech startup, unveiled the continent’s first humanoid robot. Omeife, the 1.8m female human-like robot, is African by design and has Igbo-like physical attributes. The battery-powered robot can speak Igbo, Yoruba, English, French, Swahili, Wazobia, Pidgin, Afrikaans and Arabic with native accents. Uniccon Group chief executive Chuks Ekwueme said: “Omeife also identifies objects and calculates positions and distances of objects.”  The launch of Omeife comes a few months after Abdul Malik Tejan-Sie, a South African-based Sierra Leonean innovator, presented a prototype of South Africa’s first humanoid robot.  The 2021 Government AI Readiness Report ranks Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Cape Verde as the most accommodating and prepared for AI uptake in the continent. Fred Sagwe, co-founder and chief executive of the Robotics Society of Kenya, says the regulatory environment, financial input and availability of research labs would fast-track AI penetration in Africa. Bird Story Agency