Africa Media Review for February 17, 2022

France and EU to Withdraw Troops from Mali, Remain in Region
President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will withdraw its troops from Mali nine years after it first intervened to drive Islamic extremists from power but intends to maintain a military presence in neighboring West African nations. During a news conference Thursday in Paris, Macron accused Mali’s ruling military junta of neglecting the fight against Islamic extremists and said it was logical for France to withdraw since its role is not to replace a sovereign state on the battlefield. “Victory against terror is not possible if it’s not supported by the state itself,” the French leader said. … An August 2020 coup led by Col. Assimi Goita grabbed power in Mali. Goita carried out a second coup by dismissing the civilian leaders in Mali’s transitional government and putting himself in charge last year. “We cannot remain militarily involved” alongside Malian transitional authorities with whom “we don’t share the strategy and goals,” Macron said. … Speaking alongside Macron, Sall said he understood the decisions by France and the EU to end their operation in Mali but was pleased that an agreement on a new arrangement was reached to provide a continued presence in the Sahel. Sall said there was a consensus during among EU and African leaders during their discussions that the fight against terror “should not be the sole business of African countries.” AP

40 African Heads of State Head to Brussels for EU Summit
This will be the first EU-AU Summit in four years. … Officials told journalists on Wednesday the meeting will touch on an investment package to address the urgent challenges of climate change and insufficient healthcare in Africa, as well as the unresolved issue of intellectual property rights for vaccine production in Africa. … As part of a wide-ranging package of financing, the officials said the EU is allocating up to $170 billion worth of funding for Africa to go into investments in transport, economic integration, green energy, healthcare and security programmes in the next two years. … The money will be channelled through the [European Investment] Bank’s new specialised arm of investment, EIB Global, to start-ups in Africa to help create jobs, according to Werner Hoyer, the President of the European Investment Bank. … Writing in a joint Op-Ed, African Union Chairperson Macky Sall (Senegal’s President), and Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said the pandemic and other security threats mean the AU and the EU must be partners. “In the face of this disturbing trend, we are convinced that Africa and Europe can work together to bring about a better and safer world for everyone, through dialogue and cooperation with respect for one another,” they observed on Monday. The EastAfrican

Tanzania: Hope for Better Relations as Samia Meets Opposition Leader Tundu Lissu
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s meeting with opposition figure Tundu Lissu in Belgium on Wednesday could signal mending of relations between the opposition and the government. Lissu, the Deputy Chairman of opposition political party Chadema, had made prior requests to meet the Head of State, who is also the chairperson of ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). According to a statement issued by the Director of Presidential Communications, Zuhura Yunus, the two leaders held brief discussions in Brussels, focusing on pertinent issues in Tanzania. “During their talks the two discussed various issues of interests to the welfare of the United Republic of Tanzania,” the statement says. Lissu went into exile in Belgium after an attempt on his life four years ago. … Samia has lately been implementing reforms seen to overhaul some of her predecessor’s decisions, including overturning punitive orders against the media and assuring the opposition of better working relations. Citizen

Sudanese Security Forces Embark on Abduction Spree of Protesters
On February 7, Joun Ali and his relatives were woken from sleep at dusk by a squad of security forces who had stormed their home. They were looking for his older brother Mohamad, a respected activist from Omdurman, the largest city in Sudan. Ali, 42, told them his elder brother wasn’t home, but officers found him in the bedroom and took him away. By sunrise, authorities at the police station and the National Security office denied knowledge of the arrest. That evening, a human rights lawyer helped locate Mohamad by asking personal contacts in the incarceration system. He was discovered languishing without charge in Khartoum’s Soba prison, and no visitors were allowed. “Mohamad used to participate in demonstrations just like me and everyone else,” said Ali. “If [the security forces] are abducting every person protesting, then they will have to arrest the whole country.” Since a military coup on October 25 last year and the imposition of a nationwide state of emergency afterward, there have been arbitrary arrests of protesters across Sudan. In recent weeks, that campaign has ramped up as dozens of activists like Mohammed have disappeared only to turn up in state custody. In Soba alone, at least 105 people are being held without due process, prompting most of them to go on hunger strike. Al Jazeera

Somalia Anti-Terror Police under Fire for Torturing Journalists
An elite squad of the Somali Police Force has been criticised after being filmed blindfolding and tying up journalists who were covering an operation against al-Shabaab militants. The incident in Mogadishu’s Kahda district drew ire from opposition politicians, diplomats and a press lobby, who termed the treatment “barbaric and heinous” torture. The reporters, working for private outlets, had been tracking the incident in which al-Shabaab raided the area on Tuesday night and had been interviewing locals about it when they came face to face with the Haram’ad (Cheetah) squad, a Turkish-trained counterterrorism police unit, according to a statement by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). One of the journalists is Aweys Mohamud Jilaow, the director of FIVE TV, an independent station in Mogadishu. The others work for Somali Cable TV and Dalsan TV. Photos appearing on social media showed four journalists forced to lie down on their stomachs, blindfolded, and their hands and legs tied up. … The incident came days after four Shabaab members were convicted for killing freelance journalist Jamal Farah Adan. The EastAfrican

Somali Doctors Open War-Scarred Nation’s Only Public Blood Bank
When Somalia’s biggest bomb blast killed more than 500 people in 2017, Dr. Ahmed Abdikadir Mohamed watched helplessly as many of the injured bled to death. Exactly one year later, in October 2018, Mohamed opened Benadir Blood Service, Somalia’s first public blood bank since 1991. The bank, run by a team of 20 volunteer doctors, nurses, and lab technicians, delivers life-saving donations to most Mogadishu hospitals. “We are happy to work at this blood bank…the country has no other blood bank and there is a dire need,” said 32-year-old Mohamed. While private hospitals have their own small banks, Benadir is the only public one. “Those who die due to lack of blood are more than those who are killed by bullets,” he estimates. Reuters

Eleven Years since Revolt, Libya Transition Grinds On
Libyans on Thursday mark 11 years since the revolt that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, but the democracy many hoped for seems as elusive as ever, and many fear a return to conflict. The anniversary comes as the country, for years plagued by divisions between east and west, finds itself with two rival prime ministers based in the capital Tripoli. Just weeks after national elections planned for December 24 were indefinitely postponed, the east-based parliament voted to appoint influential former interior minister Fathi Bashagha to replace the interim unity government. Incumbent Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, appointed as part of a United Nations-driven peace process, has insisted he will only hand over power to an elected government. The resulting showdown has sparked fears of another conflict… The uptick in tensions could threaten what has been a long period of relative peace, since a landmark ceasefire in October 2020 formally ended eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar’s ruinous year-long bid to seize the capital. That laid the way for UN-led peace efforts which saw Dbeibah appointed, a year ago this month, at the head of a new unity government with a mandate to lead the country to December 24 elections. But bitter wrangling over the legal basis of the polls and the presence of divisive candidates – including Dbeibah as well as Bashagha – led to them being indefinitely postponed. AFP

Commuters in Nigeria’s Capital Struggle with Gasoline Shortage
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, is experiencing an acute fuel shortage, causing long lines of motorists at gasoline stations. Commuters are frustrated as some wait hours to fill up their tanks. Lost amid hundreds of vehicles waiting to gain access to a petrol station in Abuja is Yvonne Francis’s silver-colored Toyota Camry. She was in line overnight to fill up her car, she says, but has yet to get fuel. … Francis is among millions of commuters having a tough time getting around since fuel became scarce in Nigeria in late January. Nigeria’s oil regulator, the National Petroleum Regulatory Commission, or NNPC, last week announced it had recalled some 170.2 million barrels of tainted petrol that was imported from Europe by four Nigerian oil companies. … Authorities said the petrol contained higher than normal levels of ethanol and had damaged many vehicles before it was recalled. The move has disrupted transportation in Abuja and other cities like Lagos and Port-Harcourt. … Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and ranks sixth globally. But the country depends heavily on imported refined petroleum to meet its huge demand for gasoline. Nigeria’s refineries have been shut down for more than a year despite pledges by authorities to restore functionality. Critics say systemic corruption may keep the refineries shut longer. VOA

Flutterwave Is Now Africa’s Most Valuable Startup
Flutterwave Inc., an Africa and emerging markets-focused payments firm, more than tripled its valuation in less than a year to over $3 billion following its latest fund-raising. … The company will use the funds to expand through mergers and acquisitions in Africa and the Middle East in the coming months, said Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Olugbenga Agboola. “We are thinking Egypt or Morocco” and could consider an initial public offering in the medium to short-term, Agboola said in an interview, without giving further details. Flutterwave’s round comes amid increasing interest in Africa as investors target a young and tech-savvy population that’s quickly adopting online financial transactions. Last year, Africa-focused startups raised a record $5 billion. … Founded in Nigeria in 2016, Flutterwave facilitates cross-border transactions in multiple currencies for companies, including Uber Technologies Inc., and Alibaba’s Alipay. It has processed transactions valued at more than $16 billion in dozens of African countries, and has expanded beyond payments products to an online marketplace as well as lending to small businesses. … The San Francisco-based company, with operations from the Nigerian commercial hub of Lagos to Kenya’s capital Nairobi, will continue to grow in East Africa. It will also expand presence in Francophone African nations such as Senegal and Cameroon, said Agboola. Bloomberg