Africa Media Review for January 11, 2022

China Applies Brakes to Africa Lending
From almost nothing [20 years ago], Chinese banks now make up about one-fifth of all lending to Africa, concentrated in a few strategic or resource-rich countries including Angola, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia. Annual lending peaked at a whopping $29.5bn in 2016, according to figures from the China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, though it fell back in 2019 to a more modest, if still substantial, $7.6bn. Having dived headlong into the world’s poorest continent, Chinese lenders have grown more cautious as some nations have reached the limit of their borrowing capacity and the prospect of default looms. The IMF lists more than 20 African countries as being in, or at high risk of, debt distress. In response, lenders, including China Eximbank and China Development Bank, the country’s two main policy banks, have adopted increasingly hardline lending terms. Those conditions, some of which differ markedly from other official creditors, are starting to be tested as pandemic-related economic hardship puts a strain on more indebted African countries. Xi Jinping reinforced that caution in a video speech to the triennial Forum of China-Africa Cooperation held in Senegal in November 2021. Over the next three years, China’s president said, the country would cut the headline amount of money it supplies to Africa by a third to $40bn and, he implied, redirect lending away from large infrastructure towards a new emphasis on SMEs, green projects and private investment flows. FT

U.N. Starts Talks in Sudan to Resolve Post-Coup Crisis
The United Nations said it was starting consultations in Sudan on Monday to try to salvage the country’s move to democracy after a military coup. U.N. officials were contacting parties to look for a way forward, and the army had raised no objections to the initiative, U.N. special representative Volker Perthes told reporters. “We want to move quickly,” he said. The military takeover in October wrecked a power-sharing arrangement with civilian leaders that was meant to pave the way to elections after the overthrow of leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The coup also halted a Western-backed opening up of the economy after decades of isolation and sanctions. Protesters have regularly taken to the streets demanding civilian rule, and medics aligned with the protest movement say more than 60 people have died in clashes with security services. … Unless a new course for the transition and a path to credible elections is found, Sudan’s economic plight could worsen and instability could spread inside and outside its borders, analysts and diplomats say. Reuters

Sudanese Medics Shaken by Attacks on Hospitals Treating Anti-Coup Protesters
On the afternoon of Dec. 30, security forces banged on the windows of Khartoum Teaching Hospital then fired tear gas into an emergency room packed with protesters injured in a nearby demonstration. “We were around the corner trying to hide, it came right past our heads,” said a nurse who asked to withhold her name for fear of retribution. “We couldn’t breathe and had to rush out.” Attacks on medical facilities seen during an uprising in Sudan three years ago have re-emerged during rallies against an October coup, deepening anger among the protest movement and further straining a chronically under-resourced health system. The coup ended an agreement between the military and major political parties to share power following a 2019 uprising that toppled Omar al-Bashir after three decades of autocratic rule. … Khartoum Teaching Hospital has been attacked with tear gas three times, said its director Dr. Elfatih Abdallah. “This is immoral, inhumane, and not acceptable at all,” he said, pointing at a circular dent in the wall caused by a tear gas canister. Reuters

Sanctions-Hit Mali Facing Isolation as Neighbours Cancel Flights
Airlines from neighbouring countries and former colonial ruler France cancelled flights to Mali on Monday, helping isolate a military junta under regional sanctions for trying to extend its hold on power. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Sunday agreed on a raft of restrictions against Mali, including the suspension of financial transactions, over the interim authorities’ failure to hold democratic elections next month as agreed after a 2020 military coup. Neighbours also said they would close road and air borders. Ivory Coast’s national carrier Air Cote d’Ivoire halted flights to the Malian capital Bamako on Monday. … Goita [one of several colonels who overthrew President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita in August 2020], who staged a second coup in May 2021 when he pushed aside the interim president to take the job for himself, said that his government remains open to further negotiations with the regional bloc. … The bloc hopes renewed economic pressure, including cutting Mali off from regional financial markets and trade of non-essential goods, will push Bamako to rethink the latest proposal to delay presidential and legislative elections to December 2025 – nearly four years after they were supposed to be held. Reuters

Biden Raises Concerns to Ethiopian PM about Tigray Conflict
President Joe Biden expressed concerns on Monday in a phone call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed about detentions and civilian killings in the conflict in the Tigray region, while commending Abiy for the recent release of several political prisoners. The White House said that Biden raised to Abiy recent airstrikes that continue to cause civilian casualties and suffering in Africa’s second most populous nation. The statement added that the leaders “discussed ways to accelerate dialogue toward a negotiated ceasefire, the urgency of improving humanitarian access across Ethiopia, and the need to address the human rights concerns of all affected Ethiopians, including concerns about detentions of Ethiopians under the state of emergency.” … Biden announced in November he was moving to cut Ethiopia from a U.S. trade program over its failure to end the conflict in the Tigray region that has led to “gross violations” of human rights. The administration has made clear to Abiy that it’s willing to quickly revisit the decision to remove Ethiopia as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, but only if further concrete action is taken toward negotiating a ceasefire, the official said. The program provides sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the United States on the condition they meet certain requirements. AP

Scores of Civilians Dead, UN Chief Condemns ‘Appalling’ Attacks in Nigeria
The Secretary-General, António Guterres, strongly condemned on Monday the “appalling” attacks perpetrated over the weekend in Nigeria’s Zamfara State in which scores of civilians were killed. According to news agencies, an estimated 200 people were killed and 10,000 displaced in attacks by armed bandits, following military air raids on their hideouts last week. In a statement, the UN chief extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, urging the Nigerian authorities to “spare no effort in bringing those responsible for these heinous crimes to justice.” Northwest Nigeria has seen a sharp rise in mass abductions and other violent crimes since late 2020. … Also last year, following a series of attacks and abductions in schools, more than a dozen UN-appointed independent experts warned that too little was being done to help the teenagers left traumatized, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in the country, Peter Hawkins, explained that such incidents have become “a way of life” to many. Bandits hoping to make quick cash by forcing the families and authorities to pay ransom money their hostages, often target institutions just out of reach of State control and usually in rural areas. UN News

Nigeria: A Kidnapping Negotiator Gets His Biggest Test: Saving His Own Wife
Some of the kidnappers were barely teenagers, shooting rifles into the air as they marched hundreds of hostages through a thorn forest to find cellphone service. They would soon relay a message to the man known as “the negotiator”—a corn farmer and part-time newspaper reporter who has become an unlikely go-between for families of the abducted and the kidnappers demanding payment. This call was different. The kidnappers had the negotiator’s wife. … “Don’t worry,” he said into the phone. “We will get you out.” Mr. Tumburkai estimates he has helped free more than 80 people across Nigeria’s northwest over the past year, in what has become one of the world’s worst kidnapping crises . Kidnapping for ransom has become a brutally profitable business across the country by heavily armed criminal gangs exploiting the government’s weak security presence. Gangs abducted an estimated tens of thousands of Nigerians in 2021, including more than 1,200 children seized from their schools. Using only his iPhone, Mr. Tumburkai has become part of an informal world of volunteer negotiators—representing families, communities and themselves—working to bring hostages back home. WSJ

Farmaajo Backs PM-Led Programme to Reschedule Polls
Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo on Monday night sought to calm nerves in the country by publicly backing a new polls calendar announced by Prime Minister Hussein Roble. Farmaajo, in a video announcement, said he wanted to make sure the elections are completed. This backing was important because he and the PM had appeared to pull apart on who should be in charge of Somalia’s executive powers, and especially on security, as the country discussed what to do with the unfinished polls. For three days, Roble had been meeting stakeholders in Mogadishu. On Sunday, he and the five federal state presidents issued an eight-point declaration indicating the parliamentary elections should be completed by February 25, more than a year after the initial deadline. But that declaration came just 10 days after Farmaajo said Roble had failed in conducting elections. In fact, Farmaajo had suspended the PM, who then defied him. Nation

South African Prosecutors Charge Parliament Fire Suspect with Terrorism
The suspect in a fire that gutted parts of South Africa’s 138-year-old parliament building this month was charged with terrorism on Tuesday, appearing in court for a case officials have described as an attack on the country’s democracy. Zandile Mafe, 49, had already been charged with arson in connection with the fire that started on Jan. 2, but the additional charge of terrorism was added because he had also been caught with an explosive device, the prosecution said. The blaze caused the roof of the newer part of the building to collapse, and also damaged the Old Wing dating back to 1884, when the Cape was under British colonial rule. Built in the ornate Victorian neo-classical style, against the backdrop of Table Mountain, the stately red-and-white parliament building is also one of Cape Town’s tourist draws. … The case was adjourned until Feb. 11 and Mafe ordered to be detained in a psychiatric institute, after pleas from his defence council that he suffers from mental illness. Dozens of protesters gathered outside the court building in central Cape Town, saying Mafe was innocent. Reuters

Kenya Is in a National Blackout after Collapsed Pylons on One Line Took Out Its Entire Network
Electricity is out in Kenya, after pylons collapsed on a single high-voltage transmission line, the state-controlled equivalent of Eskom, Kenya Power said on Tuesday. The line connects Nairboi with the Kiambere hydroelectric dam. “We have lost power supply due to collapsed towers on Kiambere – Embakasi high voltage transmission power line at 10:45 a.m. (0745 GMT) this morning,” Kenya Power said in a statement on its Twitter account. “Our engineers are working to restore electricity supply as the repairs are being undertaken.” A company spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that the outage was nationwide. The company did not say what had caused the transmission line collapse, nor did it release an estimate on how long repairs would take. Kenya Power is the country’s sole electricity distributor and the bulk of its power comes from Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). In May 2020, Kenya experienced a similar nationwide outage after a section of a high voltage power line that transmits power to Nairobi from the Olkaria geothermal power plants, some 75km from Nairobi, broke. Business Insider and Reuters

In Pictures: The Touching Bond between a Rescued Elephant and His Handler
These images show the bond between a rescued African elephant and his handler. The pictures show Makhavusi, a hand-reared elephant, and Marupia Chivanga, an elephant handler, at the Imire Rhino and Wildlife conservancy 90 minutes from Harare, Zimbabwe. Makhavusi was destined to be sold to a zoo as a calf but was instead rescued and brought to the wildlife conservancy where he bonded with Marupia. Photographer Sam Turley who took the pictures, said: “Too young to fend for himself, Makhavusi was hand raised and bottle fed.  “Marupia walked over to Mak and Mak gave him a full inspection with his trunk.” Telegraph