Africa Media Review for January 30, 2023

Tunisian Election Records 11% Turnout in Rejection of President’s Reforms
A mere 11% of the electorate voted in Tunisia’s parliamentary runoffs, with critics of president Kais Saied saying the empty polling stations were evidence of public disdain for his agenda and seizure of powers. Sunday’s runoff vote was however higher than December’s first round, which had a participation rate of 8.8%. “Almost 90% of Tunisian voters ignored this piece of theatre and refused to be involved in the process,” Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, head of the country’s main opposition the National Salvation Front, told journalists…Sunday’s poor participation was another blow to Saied, who has stripped the legislature of its powers and granted himself far-reaching authority since his dramatic 2021 power grab. Guardian

Cyclone in Madagascar Kills Dozens, Displaces Tens of Thousands
More than two dozen Madagascans have died and tens of thousands have been left homeless since a severe tropical cyclone made landfall last week and swirled for days off the island’s western coast, official records show. Cyclone Cheneso smashed into northeastern Madagascar 10 days ago, bringing strong winds and triggering downpours that have caused extensive flooding…It is the first tropical storm of the current cyclone season in Southern Africa – which typically runs from November to April – to hit the cyclone-prone large Indian Ocean island. In recent years, Madagascar and Mozambique have been repeatedly hit by severe storms and cyclones that have destroyed homes, infrastructure and crops and displaced large numbers of people. Al Jazeera

US Says Eritrean Forces Still on Ethiopian Soil
A senior US official says Eritrean troops have not yet withdrawn from Ethiopia contrary to Ethiopian authorities’ claim that they have already left. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US representative to the United Nations, says Eritrean forces only moved back to the border but still remain in Ethiopia. She made the remarks at a weekend news conference while visiting the Kenyan capital Nairobi…A spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces, Getachew Reda, dismissed claims that the Eritrean troops had left Tigray and said “thousands” were still there. Previously, the departure of Eritrean troops had been announced several times but remained unverified. Eritrean troops fought alongside the Ethiopian military and allied militias in the two-year conflict in Tigray region. In November, however, the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a peace agreement to end the hostilities. East African

Is There Hope for a Dying River in Kenya’s Growing Capital?
The river and its tributaries cross Kibera, known as Africa’s largest slum with close to 200,000 residents, and other informal settlements. It skirts dozens of factories that manufacture textiles, liquor and building materials. Many have been accused by environmentalists of discharging raw sewage and other pollutants like oil, plastic and glass into the water. Experts and locals alike fear the water is harming plants in nearby farms that feed residents. Some community-based organizations help clean up the river and the government is also hoping to ramp up efforts. But families in the rapidly growing downstream suburb of Athi River, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) away, say they can no longer rely on the water for basic needs…The new national government, installed after the August election, says it’s on a mission to clean up the Nairobi River. Nairobi is one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities and is struggling to balance the needs of creating jobs and protecting the environment from pollution. AP

Uganda Launches Disputed Oil Programme
Uganda on Tuesday officially launched an oil drilling programme as it seeks to join the club of crude-producing nations with a mega-project that has incensed environmental groups. The Kingfisher field is part of a $10 billion scheme to develop Uganda’s oil reserves under a lake in the west of the country and build a vast pipeline to ship the crude to international markets through an Indian Ocean port in Tanzania…Uganda’s first oil is expected to flow in 2025, almost two decades after reserves were found in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. The Kingfisher field, operated by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), is expected to produce 40 000 barrels of oil per day at its peak, PAU said. AFP

Libya’s Gas Deal with Italy Prompts Backlash
Key Libyan political figures have rejected an $8bn (£6.4bn) gas production deal overseen by the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) and the Italian government. Rights groups and observers in the country have also criticised memorandums of understanding reached between the two governments aiming to crack down Mediterranean migration flows. The energy deal was signed between Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italian energy firm Eni during a visit by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and an accompanying delegation to Tripoli on Saturday, while the memorandums were signed between the two countries’ foreign ministers. BBC

Morocco Reopens Embassy in Iraq After an 18-Year Absence
Morocco’s foreign minister and his Iraqi counterpart signed Saturday (Jan. 28) a memorandum of understanding. Baghdad welcomed Morocco’s move to reopen its embassy in Iraq which closed after two Moroccan nationals were kidnapped 18 years ago. “The Kingdom of Morocco plays an important role in the political and economic fields, especially in the continent of Africa, and it is crucial for Iraq to build a relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco, in order to start the build of futuristic solid relationships with various African countries, in which Morocco started playing an important role, whether it was in political or economic field,” Iraq’s Fuad Hussein said. AfricaNews with AP and AFP

Sudan Timeline October – December 2022: Anti-Junta Protests Swell amid Regime Crackdown, Tribal Strife Displaces Thousands as Economy Bleeds
During the final quarter of 2022, Sudan’s Blue Nile region, West Kordofan, and South Darfur saw Tribal attacks that left dozens of people dead and thousands displaced. Resistance committees announced more street protests to condemn the one-year anniversary of the October 25 coup d’état. The military junta and civilian groups started talks behind closed doors that may lead to the formation of a new civilian government. Dabanga

Nigeria Cost-of-Living Crisis Sparks Exodus of Doctors
Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, is in the process of introducing new banknotes for the first time in more than 20 years. The move is an attempt to reignite confidence in the currency, the naira, which is under severe pressure. With inflation at more than 20%, people are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. It is leading to the largest exodus of young professionals in years…Nigeria is experiencing its worst wave of emigration in years. Reliable statistics are hard to find, but the number of Nigerians granted UK work visas has quadrupled since 2019. And 700% more visas have been awarded to Nigerian students. There are long queues outside immigration processing centres and embassies every day, and everyone here seems to know someone who’s leaving or trying to relocate abroad. The term “japa”, which means “to run, flee or escape” in Yoruba, has become a popular topic of conversation online, as well as on radio and TV chat shows. Most of those who can afford to leave the country legally are well educated. They include doctors, nurses, engineers and IT professionals. It’s led some to call the exodus a “brain drain.” BBC

Low Trade Among African Countries a Worrying Signal
Even as three major regional blocs in Africa urge Tanzania, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to sign up a trade agreement that will expand their reach, a new report warns trade amongst African nations still remain the lowest globally with a paltry five countries out of 55 carrying out their trade within the continent. This is despite the implementation of the 1.2 billion-strong market under the continental free trade area (AfCFTA) in January 2021. Latest Mo Ibrahim Index report (2022) on African governance shows that the government’s wavering commitments to open up the continent through improved transport network infrastructure and reduced restrictions to free movement of persons and labour have adversely affected intra-African trade, which stands at less than 13 percent. East African

How Wamkele Mene Made African Free Trade a Priority at the World Economic Forum
He was not the most famous decision-maker at Davos from 17-20 January, but South African Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), was a constant presence the whole week in Switzerland. With the Covid-19 pandemic seemingly under control, followed by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the AfCFTA’s objectives were to bring this historical agreement back to the heart of international dialogue, between African decision-makers and their international partners. Africa Report

ECA Projects Expansion in Intra-African Trade
Economic Commission for Africa has said intra-African trade in agri-food, industry, and services sectors will increase by nearly 35 per cent by 2045 through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. This is contained in a statement credited to the Director of Regional Integration and Trade at ECA, Stephen Karingi. The commission urged governments at all levels to fully and effectively implement the agreement for the projections to come to fruition…The AfCFTA is expected to integrate and consolidate Africa into a single $2.7tn market by eliminating many of the barriers to trade present across the continent. It provides the platform for Africa to diversify its economy and achieve resilience to natural and manmade shocks, including climate change. Karingi reassured that “ECA has been there from the beginning; ECA will be there to the end. Africa is ready to turn the promises of the AfCFTA to reality, and ECA will be there all the way.” Punch

Global Tech Billionaires Eye Zambia’s Electric Vehicle Battery Mines
Market optimism is spurring a rush of investments into Zambia’s agriculture and mining sectors, giving the economy new growth impetus. Investors include Kobold, a consortium linked to tech titans Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, tipped to stir up Zambia’s foreign direct investment (FDI) scene with planned investments into its mining sector…On his landslide poll victory in 2021, part of Hichilema’s economic blueprint entailed placing an electric vehicle battery and components supply chain at the centre of Zambia’s economic transformation architecture.  Battery technology, critical to improving electric vehicles’ driving range, is heavily dependent on minerals buried beneath the surface of Africa, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia possessing about 70% of the world’s cobalt reserves. Bird Story Agency