Africa Media Review for July 9, 2021

South Sudan Marks Tortured Decade Since Independence
“The first 10 years of this young country’s history have seen much suffering,” said a joint statement from Britain, Norway and the United States. “We commend the commitment many have shown in working together to build a brighter future, so it is deeply saddening that the promise of peace and prosperity that independence represented remains unfulfilled.” President Salva Kiir is expected to address the nation, but there are no government events to commemorate the tortured decade that has passed. The anniversary has been marked only a few times since the great expectations of independence, with the last formal celebrations in 2014. … The government has instructed the public to celebrate in their homes, citing the risk of the coronavirus pandemic. … South Sudan enjoyed immense international goodwill and billions of dollars in financial support when its people voted overwhelmingly in a 2011 referendum to secede from the north. But its leaders failed to stem corruption, and the new South Sudan was looted rather than rebuilt, as huge sums from its vast oil fields were siphoned off and squandered. The political leaders who led South Sudan to independence — and then back to war — are still in power today, ruling in a tenuous coalition forged under a peace deal. AFP

Tunisia Virus Situation Catastrophic: Health Ministry
Tunisia’s health system has “collapsed” under the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday, describing the virus’s affect on the country as “catastrophic.” On Tuesday alone, Tunisia recorded 9,823 cases and 134 deaths, its worst daily toll from the virus. Hospitals in the north African country have seen a significant influx of patients over the past two weeks. The country of approximately 12 million inhabitants has suffered nearly 465,000 cases and 15,735 deaths. “The current health situation is catastrophic,” spokeswoman Nissaf Ben Alya said, in an interview with a local radio station. “The number of cases has risen dramatically. Unfortunately, the health system has collapsed,” she said. Ben Alya said hospitals are overwhelmed, and it is difficult to find available beds and oxygen supplies. “The health situation will get worse if efforts are not united,” she added. Some bodies of Covid victims have been left lying in rooms next to other patients for up to 24 hours, because there were not enough staff to organise their transfer to overstretched mortuaries. AFP

WHO Says Worst of COVID for Africa Yet to Come amid Third Wave
Africa has just lived through its most devastating week of the pandemic, but the worst is yet to come as the third wave gathers pace on the continent, the World Health Organisation said Thursday. “Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever. But the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa. Cases are doubling every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago, she said during a virtual press conference, adding that “the end to this precipitous rise is still weeks away.” Coronavirus cases have been rising in Africa since the start of the third wave on the continent on May 3. During the week ending July 4, more than 251,000 new Covid-19 cases were recorded on the continent, a 20 per cent increase over the previous week and a 12 per cent jump from the previous January peak. AFP

U.N. Security Council Backs AU Bid to Broker Ethiopia Dam Deal
U.N. Security Council members on Thursday backed African Union mediation efforts between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan in a dispute over the operation of a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, urging the parties to resume talks. Egypt and Sudan both called on the U.N. Security Council to help resolve the dispute after Ethiopia earlier this week began filling the reservoir behind its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) for a second year. Ethiopia is opposed to any Security Council involvement. “A balanced and equitable solution to the filling and operation of the GERD can be reached with political commitment from all parties,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the council. “This begins with the resumption of productive substantive negotiations. Those negotiations should be held under the leadership of the African Union, and should recommence with urgency,” she said, adding that the African Union “is the most appropriate venue to address this dispute.” … Tunisia has proposed a draft Security Council resolution that would call for a binding agreement between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the operation of the giant dam within six months. It was not clear if or when it could be put to a vote. Reuters

COVID-19: Nigeria Records First Case of ‘Most Transmissible’ Delta Variant
The Nigerian government has said a case of the dangerous delta variant has been recorded in a traveller in the country. A statement issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday night, noted that the development raises a grave concern. Tagged SARS-CoV-2, and also known as lineage B.1.617.2., the delta variant has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the ‘most transmissible variant.’ According to the global body, the variant is responsible for the spike in about 98 countries across the world where it has been reported. Speaking on June 26 on the variant, the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said a surge in cases translates to more hospitalisations, which he noted has continued to stretch healthcare workers and health systems “while putting more at risk of death.” Mr Ghebreyesus acknowledged that new variants were expected, saying “that’s what viruses do, they evolve”. He said that by preventing transmission, “we can stem the emergence of variants.” Premium Times

Nigeria: Billionaire Dangote Can’t Get Enough Tomatoes to Run Plant Profitably
Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote is barely managing to operate Africa’s biggest tomato processing plant, six years after the factory began production, as he can’t get adequate berries to crush. Dangote’s 1,200-ton a day plant is producing at 20% of capacity because farmers don’t have enough resources to boost acreage. The factory was meant to reverse Nigeria’s dependence on imports of tomato paste from China and increase local production. But by 2017, the company had to idle the plant after pests destroyed vast swathes of the crop. It took another two years — and a resolution of a dispute over payment to farmers — for the factory to resume output. “We haven’t been able to process enough quantity of tomato to make our operations successful,” said Abdulkarim Kaita, managing director of the Dangote Tomato Processing Plant. “At the moment, we are counting losses.” The crisis at Dangote’s tomato plant is emblematic of the challenges faced by many businesses in Africa’s biggest economy. While tomato farming employs an estimated 200,000 people, banks balk at lending to farmers despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s focus on boosting local production. Such policy missteps, entrenched corruption and ethnic tensions are discouraging investments needed to add jobs in a nation that has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates. Bloomberg

Rwanda to Deploy Troops in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique
Rwanda has announced that it will deploy 1,000 soldiers to Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique to help the southern African country tackle terrorism. A statement issued by Kigali Friday said the move followed a request from Mozambique, which has been fighting growing insurgency in its northern region for years. The deployment will also help restore state authority in the troubled province, Rwanda said. The EastAfrican

Ever Given, the Ship That Blocked the Suez Canal, Is Moving On
More than three months after one of the world’s largest container ships blocked the Suez Canal, the vessel, the Ever Given, finally began its journey out on Wednesday, after Egyptian authorities reached a compensation agreement with the ship’s owners. The ship had been impounded and was sitting, with many of its crew onboard, in part of the Suez Canal known as Great Bitter Lakes as the Suez Canal Authority and the ship’s Japanese owner were embroiled in a protracted argument over losses. Its departure ends a saga that began March 23, with the grounded ship disrupting the global supply chain and drawing in insurers, lawyers, shipping bodies and much of the internet. People around the world closely watched for updates after the quarter-mile long vessel got mired in the canal, and memes followed, including some that saw the stuck ship as a metaphor for the state of the pandemic world. … On the global scale, the incident’s cost to world trade was much higher: $5.1 billion a day, according to the International Chamber of Shipping, which said it had helped the parties in the negotiation. The New York Times

‘Any Time, Anything Could Go Wrong’: The Women Hoping to Heal South Sudan
When Gloria Soma left university in Tanzania in 2013, she decided to head for the homeland she had never really known. … “It was quite exciting for me because I thought that … I would go back and there were going to be many opportunities and it would be a peaceful place for everyone to live in,” says Soma. “There was already some sense of belonging. Because, as much as I had stayed most of my life in the east African region, there’d always been [the question of] ‘where do you belong?’ There was that bit of me [that felt] ‘finally, we are going to belong somewhere’. But it didn’t happen.” Ten years ago on Friday, on a hot and heady day, tens of thousands of people gathered in the city of Juba alongside foreign dignitaries and the UN secretary general to watch the flag of Sudan being lowered and the flag of South Sudan raised. Dressed in his trademark black cowboy hat, Salva Kiir, former rebel leader turned politician, was sworn in as president. A man dressed as the Statue of Liberty held a sign that read: “Free at last. Republic of South Sudan.” Except, as Soma says, it didn’t quite work out like that. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones