Africa Media Review for January 23, 2024

Lessons from China’s Forum Diplomacy in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean
China is Africa’s largest trading partner and the second largest for Latin America. Its portfolio of engagements comprises access to markets, infrastructure, energy, strategic minerals, digital infrastructure, space, security, and party-to-party exchanges…While some African, Latin American, and Caribbean countries have realized positive outcomes from their engagements with China, others such as Angola, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Ethiopia, and Zambia have faced mounting debts. Further downsides include environmental damage, human rights violations (particularly in the extractives industries), weakened due diligence and oversight, corruption, and elite capture…Latin American, Caribbean, and African countries have gained valuable lessons about the importance of due diligence from these engagements over the years. When engagement by civil society, courts, and other independent institutions is robust, then governments and their Chinese partners can be held more accountable. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Liberia’s New President Takes Office with a Promise to ‘Rescue’ Africa’s Oldest Republic
Liberia’s new president, Joseph Boakai, was sworn into office Monday after his narrow win in a November election. Boakai, who at age 79 has become the country’s oldest president, promised to unite and rescue Africa’s oldest republic from its economic woes…The ceremony, however, ended abruptly after Boakai, who wore traditional Liberian attire for the occasion, began to show signs of physical distress while speaking. Officials led him away from the podium after he unsuccessfully tried to continue his address. A spokesperson for Boakai’s political party said the president’s weakness was caused by heat and had nothing to do with his health. Boakai has dismissed concerns about his age, arguing that it came with a wealth of experience and achievements that would benefit the country. He won a tight run-off election to defeat Liberia’s youngest-ever president, George Weah. AP

EU Sanctions Six Sudanese Entities Involved in War
The European Union sanctioned six Sudanese entities Monday for their involvement in the ongoing conflict in Sudan…According to a statement issued by the Council of the EU and the European Council, the entities are “responsible for supporting activities undermining the stability and political transition of Sudan”…Among the entities targeted by the EU sanctions, three are controlled by Sudanese armed forces which include part of the Defense Industries System conglomerate, while three others were linked to [Mohamed Dagalo, leader of the paramilitary RSF,] and his brothers. In the Council of the EU and European Council’s statement, it was specified that two of the firms played a role in manufacturing weapons and vehicles, and that the others had a role in obtaining military equipment to be used in the conflict. VOA

Sudan Escalates Diplomatic Tensions with UAE, Plans to File Complaint to Regional, International Institutions
Sudanese Sovereign Council member and Army Assistant Commander-in-Chief Yasir Al-Atta announced on Sunday that the government would file a complaint with regional organizations and escalate it to the UN Security Council against the UAE for its involvement in exacerbating the armed conflict in Sudan. A recent report by a UN team of experts detailed the UAE’s military supplies to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) through Chad and Libya since last summer. The report also confirmed the participation of foreign fighters. This support bolstered the military capabilities of the paramilitary forces and enabled them to seize control over most of Darfur’s states…Atta was the first Sudanese official to denounce the UAE’s involvement in the Sudanese conflict publicly. His statements triggered a diplomatic crisis between the UAE, Chad, and Sudan in November 2023. Sudan Tribune

Remote African Hub Reopens for Migrants Headed Toward Europe
For years, [Niger’s government] outlawed migration out of Agadez, and in exchange the European Union poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Niger’s coffers and the local economy. But last summer, after generals in Niger seized power in a military coup, the European Union suspended financial support to the government — and in response, the generals severed the migration arrangement with the European Union in November. The gate is once again open, and a fresh flock of hopeful migrants is once again passing through, to the relief of many locals…The land route through the Agadez gateway in Niger is thought by many migrants to be less expensive and less dangerous than the ocean route in the Atlantic…Few people have any incentive to keep the size of these caravans low: when Niger began implementing its anti-migration law in 2016, thousands of locals lost their only source of income. Agadez essentially turned into a border post for the European Union, thousands of miles from European shores. The New York Times

Blinken Begins Africa Tour in Cape Verde, Touting the US as a Key Security and Economic Partner
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a tour of four African countries on Monday, meeting with the leaders of Cape Verde and Ivory Coast and touting America as the continent’s key economic and security ally at times of regional and international crises. Blinken is visiting Nigeria and Angola next. The tour — which comes as deadly crises and rampant coups threaten the continent’s stability — focuses on trade, security, and democracy promotion. In Cape Verde’s capital, Praia, he met with Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva and said the U.S. is committed “to deepening, strengthening, broadening” its partnerships with Africa whose young population of 1.3 billion is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world’s inhabitants…Also Monday, Blinken flew to the Ivory Coast where he met President Alassane Ouattara and senior government officials. They discussed “shared priorities of strengthening democracy, expanding trade and improving local and regional security,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. AP

Kenya Says ‘Not at War,’ Amid Diplomatic Tensions With Neighbors
Kenya’s effort to assert itself as a regional political force and economic hub in eastern Africa is not going over well with some of its neighbors. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan recalled their ambassadors after their governments accused Kenya of hosting and dealing with their countries’ opposition groups in Nairobi. Uganda, meanwhile, recently took Kenya to an East African court in Tanzania over an oil distribution dispute…This comes after Uganda discontinued the previous open tender system for purchasing petroleum products from Kenya. Also, Tanzania banned Kenya Airways flights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam last week because Kenya allegedly denied permission for Tanzania’s national carrier to operate cargo flights to Nairobi…Kenyan Foreign Minister Musalia Mudavadi said Sunday that his country is “not at war” with its neighbors and wants to bring peace to the region…International relations expert Kizito Sabala says the diplomatic spats are growing out of countries trying to counter Kenya’s influence. VOA

Ugandan Internet Propaganda Network Exposed by the BBC
BBC Verify was able to map out a network of nearly 200 fake social media accounts [in Uganda] operating on X and on Facebook (even though the latter has been blocked in Uganda since 2021)…These accounts often posted the same content within minutes of each other. By looking at the dates when they were created, [BBC Verify] also found that many had been set up on the very same day. This suggests that, while they may look like separate accounts, they have been working together. It is unclear how successful this network may have been in actually shifting people’s views of the government, as very few of its posts earned large numbers of likes, comments, or shares…”[Their] goal can be to push the message out there – whether or not people engage with it is kind of irrelevant, as long as people have seen it,” says Tessa Knight, a research associate for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab who investigates disinformation. BBC

Africa’s Top Smartphone Seller Transsion Is the World’s Fastest Growing Phone Maker
Transsion, the top smartphone seller in Africa, posted the highest annual growth in smartphone shipments in 2023 of the top five phone makers in the world. The Shenzhen, China company shipped 95 million units of smartphones last year, 30.8% more than it did in 2022, according to technology research firm International Data Corporation. That was above Apple’s 3.7% growth, while Samsung, Xiaomi and OPPO each shipped fewer phones in 2023 than in the previous year…Africa is Transssion’s largest market, accounting for 57% of its sales volume in the second quarter of 2023, according to Counterpoint, a research firm in Hong Kong…After setting up its first Africa assembly factory in Addis Ababa in 2011, Transsion eclipsed Samsung as the continent’s top smartphone seller in 2017. Its tactics have been described as “a textbook case of superior marketing and understanding consumers’ needs,” such as marketing dual SIM card phones and camera phones better calibrated for darker skin tones. Semafor

Ivory Coast Prepares to End Africa’s Debt Drought with Dollar Bond Sale
Ivory Coast is preparing to sell the first US dollar bond issue by a sub-Saharan African state in almost two years, in a test of whether nations on the riskier frontier of the developing world will be able to return to debt markets in 2024…Ivory Coast also intends to buy back portions of bonds maturing in 2025 and 2032, according to the memorandum…Angola and South Africa, two of the region’s biggest economies, were the last to issue foreign currency bonds in 2022, before a global rise in interest rates in effect shut off market access to borrowers with lower credit ratings. Since then, a surging dollar, tumbling local currencies and a drop-off in Chinese loans to the continent have all raised investor doubts that many hard currency debts could be repaid. Last year was the first since 2009 without any external debt issuance in sub-Saharan Africa. Financial Times

Food Security Declines in the Height of Insecurity in Cameroon
There has been a persistent rise in the level of insecurity in the Northwest and Southwest regions [of Cameroon], with ongoing invasions of armed groups in the Far North, conflicts over natural resources like water and pastures, and floods in the Far North, North, and Western regions. These actions continue to have a severe impact on food security…The Mid-Year Update for the 2023 Global Report against Food Crises reveals that 2 per cent and 10 per cent of the population are, respectively, in phases 2 and 3 of acute food insecurity in 2023. This marks a substantial escalation compared to 2022, where only 11 per cent were in phase 2, and in 2021, the figure stood at 10 per cent…Clearly, insecurity and conflict are the main drivers of this food insecurity. Up to 117,738 refugees and people displaced by conflicts and floods are reported to be unable to produce food or access humanitarian food aid. It is also likely that 992,094 individuals continue to face a crisis situation (IPC phase 3). The implication is that many of these individuals are forced to steal crops, fostering distrust and escalating violence within communities. HumAngle

A ‘Revolutionary’ Way to Feed the World That’s Very Old
Traditional crops are more nourishing for people who eat them and for the soils in which they are grown, according to [Cary Fowler, the State Department’s global envoy for food security], and they are better at withstanding the wild weather delivered by climate change. The problem, he says, is that they’ve been ignored by plant breeders. His goal, through [a] new State Department initiative, is to increase the agricultural productivity of the most nutritious and climate-hardy among them. The initial focus is on a half dozen crops in a half dozen countries in Africa. “These crops have been grown for thousands of years in Africa, Mr. Fowler, 74, said in a recent interview. “They’re doing something right. They’re embedded in the culture. They really supply nutrition. If they have yield problems or other barriers to commercialization, frankly, by and large, it’s because we haven’t invested in them.” The New York Times