Africa Media Review for January 18, 2023

US Treasury Secretary Heads to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is headed to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa this week to discuss trade expansion, investment and the U.S. commitment to African economies. This comes after a promise from President Joe Biden at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit last month that he and members of his Cabinet would visit Africa in 2023…Senior U.S. Treasury officials maintain that the purpose of the trip is to exchange ideas with African government officials, private sector leaders, entrepreneurs and youth, and to deepen economic ties between the U.S. and Africa, charting new opportunities for trade and investment. Voice of America

Congolese President Says M23 Rebels Have Not Withdrawn as Agreed
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said Tuesday the M23 rebel group had not fully withdrawn from areas it seized in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, accusing the militia of faking an agreed pullback of its forces. Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November under which the Tutsi-led group was meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by January 15 as part of efforts to end a conflict that has displaced at least 450,000 people and sparked a diplomatic crisis between Congo and neighboring Rwanda. “Despite the international pressure, the group is still there,” Tshisekedi said during a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Voice of America

Africa Will Get a New $1 Billion Spaceport in Djibouti
Africa could soon get a new spaceport after Djibouti signed a partnership deal with Hong Kong Aerospace Technology to build a facility to launch satellites and rockets in the northern Obock region. According to the preliminary deal, the Djibouti government will “provide the necessary land (minimum 10 sq km and with a term of not less than 35 years) and all the necessary assistance to build and operate the Djiboutian Spaceport.”…The spaceport is a massive milestone for Africa, making it the first orbital spaceport on African soil…According to Victor Mwongera, Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Kenyatta University, the projection will avail a launch base that will serve all Africans. “It will push eastern Africa off the sleeping state as far as active development of space-based innovations are concerned,” he explained…Mwongera sees the expansion of Africa’s space industry—with a number of African countries already building and operating their own microsatellites—as a growing trend. Quartz Africa

West Africa: Exclusive – Ivorian Soldiers Arrested in Mali Were Part of UN Mission
In information revealed by RFI, 49 Ivorian soldiers who were arrested last year in Mali and accused of being mercenaries were part of the UN’s Minusma mission and had been deployed at the request of the German contingent…Côte d’Ivoire insisted that the soldiers were part of a so-called National Support Element (NSE) to reinforce Minusma operations, in accordance with a communiqué from the Ivorian National Security Council on 12 July. The UN Mission itself had already revealed this on 11 July, before a UN spokesperson mysteriously back-tracked on the announcement three days later in a statement from UN headquarters in New York…The affair lasted six months, with the UN calling for the release of the 49 soldiers without clearly specifying their status. According to several internal UN documents seen by RFI, it was indeed Minusma, more precisely, the German contingent of the UN mission, that brought in the Ivorians. RFI

UN: Al-Qaeda and ISIS Terrorist Groups Driving Insecurity in Mali
“The attacks carried out against civilians by terrorist groups, the battle for influence among them and the violent activities conducted by community militias remain a chilling daily reality, as do the attacks against the Malian Defense and Security Forces and against MINUSMA,” the UN peacekeeping force, he said. Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council that “going forward, military operations to combat the extremist groups will continue to be a crucial component for the restoration of security.” In central Mali, he said, the extremists are capitalizing on intercommunal conflicts to expand their influence and secure new recruits. In the northern Gao and Menaka regions, Guterres said fighters from the al-Qaeda affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin known as JNIM and ISIS in the Greater Sahara also continue to clash, causing civilian casualties and thousands to flee the violence. AP

Gambia’s Vice President Badara Alieu Joof Dies in India
The vice president of The Gambia, Badara Alieu Joof, has died in India while seeking medical treatment. Joof’s death was confirmed in a statement on Wednesday morning by the office of the president in Banjul…Joof, a career teacher, served as Minister for Higher Education in the Barrow administration from February 22, 2017 to May 4, 2022 when he was appointed vice president following the re-election of President Barrow in December 2021. Joof became the 4th person to hold the second highest political position in the West African country since the December 2017 disputed elections that ended the rule of former strongman Yahya Jammeh. Joof was popular among many Gambians, largely due to his pro-poor views in government. East African

Attacks on Electoral Commission Sparks Concerns for Nigeria Polls
On Sunday, Nigerian policemen repelled an attack by unknown gunmen on the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission in the southeastern state of Enugu. The incident has reinforced persistent doubts that Nigeria’s general elections will proceed as planned next month. Banditry in the North West, secessionists in the South East and violence in the North East by armed groups allied to ISIL (ISIS) have already contributed to an atmosphere of rapidly escalating insecurity. But the attack on the electoral commission’s offices and recent comments from a top INEC official have amplified growing concerns around the elections. Al Jazeera

Poll Leader in Nigeria Presidential Election Pledges Debt Revamp
Peter Obi, the top choice in four opinion polls ahead of next month’s Nigerian elections, has promised to reprofile the nation’s debt if elected.  Obi, a third-party candidate who is running on the Labour Party ticket, said he would extend payments of the country’s debt over a longer period. “Then we will say no more borrowing for consumption,” he said at Chatham House in London on Monday. “We will borrow transparently for investment.” Nigeria’s total debt stock almost quadrupled under outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari to about 44 trillion naira ($95 billion) as of September. While this represents less than 30% of the nation’s gross domestic product, debt service consumes more than 80% of the country’s income. Most of the country’s borrowing has been spent on “consumption” rather than on production, according to Obi. Bloomberg

Aid Groups Urge Debt Cancellation to Ease Ghana’s Economic Woes
More than two dozen aid and campaign groups have called for international creditors to cancel a large portion of Ghana’s debts as it struggles to contend with an economic crisis. Ghana’s consumer inflation rose to a record 54 percent year-on-year in December, driven by rising fuel, utility and food costs. International reserves have dwindled to less than two months of import cover…Ghana is expected to miss a $41m interest payment due on a $1bn eurobond on Wednesday. The Ministry of Finance said in December that interest payments have risen to 70 percent to 100 percent of government revenue. “Ghana’s lenders, particularly private lenders, lent at high-interest rates because of the supposed risk of lending to Ghana,” the aid groups’ letter said. Al Jazeera

Morocco Says It Will Boost Military Ties with Israel
Morocco’s army said Tuesday it had agreed with Israel to strengthen military cooperation including in intelligence and cybersecurity, following defense meetings in Rabat. The two countries “agreed to further strengthen cooperation and expand it to other areas, including in intelligence, air defense and electronic warfare,” the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces said in a statement…The two countries formalized ties in 2020, following similar agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The agreements were brokered by the Trump administration and are together known as the Abraham Accords. AFP

Living Conditions in Sudan ‘Humiliating’
Living conditions in Sudan are ‘humiliating’, according to participants in the People’s Livelihood Marches of the Millions in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Thursday. Members of resistance committees and revolutionary groups stressed the difficult situation that people are currently experiencing “as a result of the policies pursued by the junta, its imposition of higher tuition fees, and large increases of service tariffs and various taxes”…The 2021 military coup significantly worsened the situation for many people as Sudan was denied more than $4.4bn in foreign aid, its trade balance deficit nearly tripled, and humanitarian organisations struggle to continue their activities in the country. Dabanga

Son of Equatorial Guinea President Held Over Graft Claims: State TV
One of the sons of Equatorial Guinea’s veteran ruler has been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling a plane owned by the national airline, state TV said Tuesday…The plane had been sent to Spain in 2018 for routine maintenance, TVGE said. Obiang is suspected of selling it to Binter Technic, an aircraft maintenance company based in Las Palmas on the Spanish island of Grand Canary, it said. The ATR 72-500 is a turboprop developed in the late 1980s by the French-Italian maker ATR with a capacity of up to 74 passengers. Obiang is a former junior minister for sport and youth and previous head of the airline who is today chief of airport services companies, Ceiba Aeropuertos. AFP

Dakar, Africa’s Cultural Capital
The country’s domestic fashion industry has produced world-renowned labels such as Tongoro, Selly Raby Kane, Diarrablu and Adama Paris and attracted foreign brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss and Levi’s, which have their stores in the capital.  Chanel’s Métiers d’Art followed on the heels of Dakar Fashion Week, Africa’s longest-running fashion event, which took place from 2 to 4 December at the historic island of Gorée. The 20th anniversary edition presented the collections of 20 designers from around Africa, including names such as Mantsho (South Africa), Oumou Sy (Senegal), Karim Tassi (Morocco), Awa Meite (Mali), Tina Lobondi (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Emmy Kasbit (Nigeria). Mail & Guardian