Africa Media Review for February 16, 2023

Russia’s Wagner Deepens Influence in Africa, Helping Putin Project Power
As Wagner fighters play a central role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Russian mercenary group is quietly expanding its alliances in Africa, say European officials, penetrating new mineral-rich areas, exploiting the exit of Western powers and creating alliances with local fighters…In recent years, Wagner—with the Kremlin’s support—has steadily expanded its political, military and economic influence in Africa… Wagner’s growing influence in Africa is helping isolated Russian President Vladimir Putin project power and raise revenue overseas. Since 2018, the group—led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Mr. Putin—has signed security and military assistance contracts with the governments of the Central African Republic and Mali and a Libyan faction, and has secured lucrative mining concessions. Wall Street Journal

Ukrainians in South Africa Protest Russian Battleship
A group of Ukrainian protesters have sailed a yacht close to a Russian warship docked in Cape Town ahead of South Africa-hosted wargames with the Russian and Chinese navies. Critics say South Africa’s hosting of Russian warships for drills at the one-year anniversary of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine pokes holes in its claim to neutrality…Protester Dzvinka Kuchar of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa says human rights activists and environmentalists are begging the South African government to stop the war games…Kuchar says South Africa, which has chosen to take a neutral stance in Russia’s war on Ukraine and abstained on several United Nations resolutions condemning the onslaught, is simply being used by Vladimir Putin. “I know South Africa says we are a sovereign country, and we can be friends with any country that we want. And this is true,” said Kuchar. “But if you choose to be friends with a country that is running a war, it also sends a message about yourself. You can be friends but at least say to your friend that is causing gender-based violence “Stop beating your wife.” Voice of America

African Internet Speeds Leap in Global Rankings
A number of African countries have surged in global rankings that gauge internet speeds at telcos and internet service providers, as investments into network infrastructure and deployment intensify…“Internet connectivity continues to speed ahead for people around the world, especially as countries prioritize and improve mobile and fixed broadband networks,” said researchers of Ookla Speedtest Global Index 2022. Over the first 11 months of 2022, fixed broadband speeds grew faster (28%) than mobile download speeds (17%) compared to the Index’s November 2021 figures. During the period under review, lowly-ranked African countries made the most significant strides. Bird Story Agency

Orange Unveils New Strategy Focused on Africa and Cybersecurity
Orange SA’s Chief Executive Officer Christel Heydemann announced a new strategic plan to 2030 that will refocus on its core telecom business, boost growth in Africa and restructure its ailing enterprise business with a focus on cybersecurity. The plan will bring low single digit growth annually in its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, which takes into account its leases, France’s largest mobile operator said in a statement Thursday. Its 2025 objectives include an increased discipline in investments and growth in organic cash flow from its telecom businesses to reach €4 billion ($4.3 billion), Orange said. Bloomberg

Nigeria: Cash Scarcity: Protests Rock Benin, Warri, Ilorin, Benin, Uyo
Commercial activities were paralysed yesterday, in various parts of the country, as protesters took to the streets, barricading roads in protest against the hardship occasioned by cash scarcity and high costs of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS)…The incident is coming weeks after a similar protest rocked the city, where residents marched against fuel scarcity and price hike, which led to setting up of a special Petrol Monitoring Committee by Edo State government…Some who spoke with The Guardian lamented as they were unable to even eat due to scarcity of new notes and rejection of old notes. Citizens woke up this morning to notice that old notes were being rejected as means of exchange in the state. One Mfon, who spoke with The Guardian said he has not eaten, neither was he able to get transportation to visit his pregnant wife and children due to rejection of old notes. Disturbed by the development, those in possession of the old notes moved in large numbers to the Central Bank of Nigeria to deposit them. Guardian Nigeria

Nigerian Leader Defends Currency Swap as Pain, Protests Grow
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Thursday that the country’s redesigned currency would bolster the upcoming presidential election, appealing for an end to violent protests over a resulting cash shortage that has led to daylong lines at banks, business closures and people unable to pay for basic needs. As he came under growing pressure to intervene after days of bank attacks by Nigerians who have failed to withdraw their money, Buhari pointed to the expected gains from swapping out the old naira notes, from curbing surging inflation to reducing the influence of money in the Feb. 25 vote to elect his successor…Nigerians have been unable to access cash in recent weeks after the country’s central bank started switching out currency notes of higher denominations of 1,000 naira ($2.16), 500 naira ($1.08), 200 naira (43 U.S. cents) with redesigned ones. Policymakers said the move will help make Africa’s largest economy cashless and more inclusive. But a limited supply of new notes in banks has resulted in pain instead for many who deposited their old currency ahead of a Feb. 10 deadline but are now unable to withdraw cash to use. AP

Nigeria Election 2023: The Battle for Lagos
As Nigeria prepares for the 25 February general election, its commercial hub Lagos offers a snapshot of the opposing forces seeking to shape the country’s future – those seemingly content with the status quo and those who aspire for more. With the largest number of registered voters – seven million – the state has emerged as a key battleground in a contest where each side is backed by an army of young people, mostly drawn from the third of Nigerians who can’t find a job or are performing roles below their qualification. “He’s created jobs before and he will do it again,” says Jimoh Adesina, 40, a driver with the public bus scheme in Lagos, who is backing Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)…But opponents say Mr Tinubu has used such benevolence to entrench a patronage system to create a support base of loyal followers, build a political empire and keep hold of state resources. “Tinubu should get his foot off our necks,” says Daniella Brodie-Mends, a 25-year-old first-time voter with dyed blonde hair at an old colonial square in Lagos where thousands gathered for the final rally of Labour Party candidate Peter Obi. The crowd at the Tafawa Balewa Square was similar to those that gathered at the Lekki tollgate during the 2020 EndSars protests, which campaigned against police brutality and then morphed into demands for better governance in Africa’s most populous nation. BBC

Marburg virus outbreak in Equatorial Guinea: What to know about the disease
The deadly Marburg virus has surfaced this week for the first time in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. The World Health Organization confirmed at least one death in Equatorial Guinea in West Africa and neighboring Cameroon said two suspected cases were detected, according to Reuters. A handful of Marburg cases were identified in Ghana late last year. Although it remains “a very rare disease in people,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “when it occurs, it has the potential to spread” and can be fatal. Washington Post

IOM Chief Raises Concern over Rise in Horn of Africa Migration
The numbers of women and children migrating from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries through Yemen has significantly increased and is a cause of concern, according to the head of the International Organization for Migration. The treacherous journey from Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti through Yemen, called the Eastern Migration Route, has seen a 64% increase in the past year of people seeking better livelihoods, with larger numbers of women with children and children travelling alone, IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino told The Associated Press. Climate change is a driver of the increased migration, he said…Also rising is the migration of people from West Africa through Libya to Europe and the plight of those migrants, particularly those detained in Libya, is a global concern, he said. Middle East Online

Somali Journalist Freed in Surprise Move Hours After Conviction
A Somali journalist said he had been freed from jail Monday just hours after a court handed down a two-month sentence on security charges, a case widely criticised by rights campaigners and media advocacy groups. Abdalle Ahmed Mumin was arrested in October last year after the government announced a crackdown on media outlets that publish what it deems propaganda for the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab. The court sentenced Mumin to two months in prison but in a surprise move he was released shortly after the ruling, having already spent around five months in jail. “When I was taken to Mogadishu central prison, officers refused to jail me granting my immediate freedom,” he said on Twitter…Ahead of the sentencing, rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Press Institute had called for the charges to be dropped, saying Mumin faced ongoing threats and persecution by Somali authorities for advocating the right to freedom of expression. “Continuing his prosecution not only casts a chilling effect on media freedom and journalism, but it also significantly contributes to the closing civic space in the country,” they said in a joint letter to Somalia’s attorney general in December. AFP

Ethiopia Warns UN-Backed Probe Could ‘Undermine’ Peace Process
Ethiopia warned on Wednesday that efforts by UN-backed investigators to probe abuses committed during the war in the country’s north could “undermine” the progress of a peace agreement signed last year…In its first report published in September last year, the UN-backed International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia said it had found evidence of violations by all sides that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ethiopia’s government rejected the report and has embarked on a diplomatic offensive to win international support for its bid to stop the commission from continuing its work…The three-member commission, which was created by the UN Human Rights Council, has urged the Ethiopian government, its ally Eritrea and the TPLF to investigate and bring all perpetrators of abuses to justice. AFP

Kenya Launches Operation to Weed Out Bandits
Kenyan security forces have launched an operation to clear bandits from its northern Rift Valley Region and recover illegal firearms. Critics have voiced concern that the operation, led by army-backed police, could lead to abuses. Kenyan police, backed up by the military, are conducting an operation in the Rift Valley Region to root out bandits who are attacking communities and security forces and stealing people’s livestock…The government has given the bandits three days to surrender their weapons. Last week, suspected bandits sprayed bullets into a vehicle carrying passengers, killing three people, including a student, in Turkana County. Drought, according to Pokot South MP David Pkosing, is to blame for the current tensions and conflict between his community and the Turkana tribe…The conflict over pastures and water for the animals has heightened tensions in the area and halted other civilian and government activities. Kenya is one of the countries in the region that is currently affected by the drought. Drought has affected 23 counties, including Baringo, Laikipia, Samburu, West Pokot, and Turkana. Mohammed says the government will need to provide more resources and development in the affected region to stop animal theft. Voice of America

Cairo Groups Form New Coordination Dashing Hope for Quick End to Sudan’s Crisis
The forces of the Cairo Declaration on Monday formed a new political alliance, and called for a new inclusive dialogue to end the political crisis in Sudan. On February 11, the military-led Sovereign Council announced that an agreement was reached to sign a political declaration between the signatories to the framework agreement and the non-signatories. On Monday, the Democratic Bloc gathering non-signatory groups renewed its adherence to the outcome of the Cairo workshop and reiterated its rejection of the framework agreement…The new coalition encompasses the Democratic Bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) – National Forces, the National Consensus Bloc, the National Movement Bloc, the Beja Chiefdoms of Mohamed Tirek and some national figures. The FFC mainstream refuses to include the Democratic Bloc in the political process, as it is made up of groups that supported the coup. However, they accept the participation of the Justice and Equality Movement led by Gibril Ibrahim and the Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minawi, pointing out that they signed the Juba peace agreement. Sudan Tribune

UN Mission Signs New Plan for Election Security in Central African Republic
The Government of CAR and the UN stabilization mission (MINUSCA) signed a new plan on Tuesday amid recent flaring tensions. Over the past week, the security situation remained tense, with explosive device incidents reported in the western part of the country. The peacekeeping mission has conducted 2,015 patrols, maintaining a robust posture in the Basse Kotto, Haute-Kotto and Nana-Mambéré prefectures, to ensure protection of civilians…The Security Council authorized the peacekeeping mission in 2014, following concerns with the security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis roiling the country, and its regional implications. The mission’s priority is the protection of civilians. UN News