Africa Media Review for June 15, 2021

UN Envoy: More Insecurity in Mali Will Have `Drastic’ Impact

The new U.N. special envoy for crisis-wracked Mali warned Monday that further insecurity, especially in the country’s center and north, will have “drastic consequences” for the immediate region and beyond, and urged the military-led transitional government to prepare for elections next February. El-Ghassim Wane told the U.N. Security Council that the West African nation “is at a critical juncture,” calling the situation “challenging, desperate and frustrating.” He said, “there are now more displaced Malians than at the peak of the crisis in June 2013,” many living in very difficult conditions amid disturbing reports of human rights violations. “The encroachment of violent extremism on many Malian communities presents a serious setback,” he said, including that “many extremist groups violate the rights of women and seek to remove women from the public sphere altogether.” … Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere of France, Mali’s former colonial power, stressed that “the absolute priority” must be organizing presidential elections on Feb. 27, 2022 where leaders of the transition are barred from participating. AP

Delta Variant of COVID Spreading Rapidly and Detected in 74 Countries

The Delta variant of Covid-19, first identified in India, has been detected in 74 countries and continues to spread rapidly amid fears that it is poised to become the dominant strain worldwide. Outbreaks of the Delta variant have been confirmed in China, the US, Africa, Scandinavia and Pacific rim countries. Scientists report that it appears to be more transmissible, as well as to cause more serious illness. In the US, according to the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb, cases of the Delta variant are doubling roughly every two weeks and account for 10% of all new cases, while in the UK it accounts for more than 90% of new cases. While health authorities around the world are collecting and sharing data on the spread of the new variant, the fear is that in countries in the developing world with less robust monitoring systems, the Delta variant may already have spread much further than has been reported. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University’s school of public health in the US, last week called the Delta variant “the most contagious variant we’ve seen so far.” The Guardian

Vaccines and Oxygen Run out as Third Wave of COVID Hits Uganda

Uganda has all but run out of Covid-19 vaccines and oxygen as the country grapples with another wave of the pandemic. Both private and public medical facilities in the capital, Kampala and in towns across the country – including regional hubs in Entebbe, Jinja, Soroti, Gulu and Masaka – have reported running out or having acute shortages of AstraZeneca vaccines and oxygen. Hospitals report they are no longer able to admit patients to intensive care. Several vaccination centres and hospitals across the country have suspended programmes, throwing into doubt efforts to vaccinate 21.9 million high-risk people. … The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) said the situation was dire, as the country records week-on-week increases in new cases. The WHO reported 1,735 confirmed cases on Sunday 13 June, compared with 60 cases on 13 May– an increase of nearly 2,800%. The Guardian

Somalia’s Army Camp Rocked by Deadly Suicide Attack

At least 15 army recruits have been killed in a suicide bomb attack at a military training camp in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Army officer Mohamed Adan said the bomber behind Tuesday’s attack was disguised among recruits queueing up outside the General Dhegobadan Military Camp when the explosion occurred. “I have counted about 15 new recruits who have been killed in the blast,” Adan said, adding that the death toll could be higher. The injured people were taken to Mogadishu’s Madina Hospital, according to the Reuters news agency. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the deadliest in the capital for 18 months. Al Jazeera

Kenya to Reopen Mogadishu Embassy ‘as Soon as Possible’

Kenya says it will honour Somalia’s invitation to restore diplomatic ties and reopen its embassy in Mogadishu, marking a thaw in the often-tense relations between the Horn of Africa neighbours. Ties between the countries were severed on December 15 after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by the central government in Mogadishu. On June 12, Somalia’s foreign minister, Abdirizak Mohamed, wrote to his Kenyan counterpart offering to resume full diplomatic ties “in the spirit of good neighbourliness.” On Monday, June 14, Kenya’s foreign ministry responded with a statement that said “it welcomes and acknowledges the invitation by the federal government of Somalia to restore diplomatic relations” and that it would reopen its embassy in Mogadishu “as soon as possible.” It also said Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya was invited to resume duties in Nairobi as well. Last month, Somalia signalled its intention to resume ties with Kenya, but the detente stalled after Kenya, a few days later, banned flights between the two capitals without explanation. The flights have since resumed. Al Jazeera

Police Officer, Two Soldiers Killed in Ivory Coast Blast

Two soldiers and a police officer were killed when their vehicle hit an explosive device in northeast Ivory Coast near the border with Burkina Faso, the military said Sunday. Army chief of staff General Lassina Doumbia said that at around 7:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Saturday a reconnaissance patrol “was the subject of a complex attack” in the restive region. “It was an ambush using an improvised explosive device which caused one of the vehicles to blow up,” he said in a statement. “The detachment’s response were able to secure the area and provide assistance to the injured,” he said, adding that three people were killed and four injured. The chief of staff also reassured the population that defense and security forces would “continue to act for their protection” and called on them to cooperate. A security source had earlier told AFP that three were killed in the ambush, which came a week after another attack by suspected jihadists killed an Ivorian soldier in Tougbo town a few kilometers (miles) from the border. The Defense Post with AFP

Ivory Coast Hopes to End a Decade of Rancour with Gbagbo’s Return

Ivory Coast is preparing for the return of former President Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday, a move that his supporters and the government hope will help ease tensions that have hung over the country since his arrest a decade ago. … The government of President Alassane Ouattara, which initially objected to Gbago’s party announcing his return date without official approval, has accepted the plan as part of ongoing efforts to smooth tensions. Gbago is to arrive on Thursday on a commercial flight from Brussels. … Gbagbo served as president of the world’s top cocoa-growing nation from 2000 until he was arrested after his refusal to concede electoral defeat to Ouattara in 2010, leading to a civil war that killed 3,000 people. … Although the country found relative stability that helped fuel steady economic growth, bitterness remained among Gbagbo’s supporters, and it bubbled to the surface in the November 2020 presidential election when at least 85 were killed in clashes. Ouattara, whose decision to seek a third term sparked some of the violence in 2020, has made overtures to reconcile the country after his election victory, including allowing Gbagbo to return. Reuters

Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, 97, Hospitalized amid Virus Surge

Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda, 97, has been admitted to hospital, his office announced Monday, as the southern African country battles a surge in COVID-19 cases. Kaunda asked for “all Zambians and the international community to pray for him as the medical team is doing everything possible to ensure that he recovers,” according to the statement issued by Kaunda’s administrative assistant Rodrick Ngolo. The short statement did not specify the cause of Kaunda’s illness, but Zambia is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and the country’s founding president was admitted to Maina Soko Medical Center, a treatment center for the disease in the capital, Lusaka. Zambia’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen dramatically over the past two weeks from 1.44 new cases per 100,000 people on May 30 to 8.91 new cases per 100,000 people on June 13. AP

Nigeria’s Tech Community Was Booming. Now It’s in Shock

Africa’s biggest startup story in 2020 was the acquisition, by US company Stripe, of Paystack — an electronic payments processor that was founded in Lagos in 2015. Valued at about $200-million, it was a landmark deal for Nigeria’s booming tech community. A hunt for more Paystacks has ensued among local and international investors. They are worried about missing out. With broadband penetration rising from less than 20% five years ago to more than 40% since May 2020, Nigeria’s information and communications technology sector is the fastest growing in the country, rising 6.31% in the first quarter of 2021. The importance of this sector is only increasing, given the negative economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on Africa’s largest economy, and the pressing need to diversify away from oil revenues. Such metrics, including the fact that 81% of Nigerian adults own cellphones, encourage investors to part with even more unprecedented million-dollar checks, like the $10-million raised by digital bank Kuda at seed stage last November. The appetite and tolerance for tech enterprise in Africa’s most-populous country has never been so high. But this burst of energy and innovation is facing a familiar foe: the Nigerian government. Last week, the federal government banned Twitter — one of the biggest social-media platforms in the world. Mail & Guardian

Algeria on the Brink as Pandemic and Low Oil Price Take Their Toll

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Algerians hard, exacerbating the woes of a state-dominated economy already scarred by years of falling oil prices and curbs on local and foreign investment. Even before the pandemic, just under a third of Algerian youth were unemployed and many had hoped for change after the huge protests that led to the overthrow of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019. But with an undiversified economy, which relies solely on oil and gas exports, and depleting foreign currency reserves, Algeria could soon face economic disaster, analysts warn. Few believe politicians can deliver meaningful change, a fact made clear by the low turnout at last weekend’s elections. For the military-backed regime, analysts say, the parliamentary poll, the first since the protests, allowed it to project democratic renewal, while any resulting coalition government of independents and pro-regime parties is unlikely to rock the status quo. “The economic trend is extremely negative,” said Riccardo Fabiani, north Africa director at the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organisation. “There is a liquidity crisis at banks and local companies. In construction, the biggest sector after oil, there has been a record number of bankruptcies. The country could be heading towards economic disaster with a heavy social cost.” FT

Top G7 Development Banks Pledge $80 Billion for African Firms

Top development banks from the world’s richest countries made a landmark joint pledge on Monday to pump $80 billion into African companies and projects over the next five years. The International Monetary Fund has estimated sub-Saharan Africa will need an additional $425 billion between now and 2025 to fight COVID-19 and reduce poverty levels now being exacerbated by the pandemic. The region is also being hit hard by climate change, and Monday’s $80 billion pledge was the first time the Development Finance Institutions (DFI) from the United States, Europe and other Group of Seven wealthy nations have made a collective commitment to the African continent. David Marchick, chief operating officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) said investing more in Africa was now “a top priority” under the Biden administration, while the head of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, which injected over 5 billion euros ($6 billion) into Africa last year, said it was ready to co-operate further with African and multilateral partners. Reuters