Africa Media Review for May 29, 2024

South Africa’s Election Might Be a Defining Moment — with New Complications. Here’s What to Know
South Africans don’t vote directly for their president, but rather decide the makeup of Parliament, which is called the National Assembly. They do that by choosing parties and those parties get seats in Parliament according to their share of the national vote. The 400-member National Assembly then elects the president, meaning whichever party has a majority chooses the head of state. That has always been the ANC since the first all-race elections in 1994, but this time it may need to strike agreements with other parties to get the required 201 votes from lawmakers to reelect the 71-year-old Ramaphosa and form a government. The main election day is Wednesday and people will vote in all nine provinces. It will decide the makeup of both the national and provincial legislatures…Results are expected within days…Unemployment and poverty stand out as the most pressing issues for the majority of people…Other prominent election issues that are seen as pushing voters away from the ANC are the high rate of violent crime, multiple government corruption scandals over the years, the failure of some basic government services and a crisis within the state-owned electricity supplier that has led to nationwide blackouts at regular intervals to conserve power. AP

‘People Have Died on the Waiting Lists’: South Africa’s Housing Crisis Casts a Shadow over Election
At its peak, in 1998-99, South Africa’s government built more than 235,000 fully subsidised houses a year. In 2022-23, the number was 34,000… While mainly white residents and tourists enjoy trendy restaurants and beachside strolls around [Cape Town’s] inner city, on the outskirts, the spacious houses give way to tightly packed shacks and informal settlements where overwhelmingly black and coloured people live. The municipality’s housing needs register lists more than 375,000 applicants. Yet, while several projects are under way, 30 years after the end of apartheid not a single affordable housing unit has been completed in the inner city. The consequences of this “spatial dysfunction” are “humongous”, says Budlender: a 2022 Harvard study found that South Africa’s lowest-earning workers spent more than 37% of their income on transport. The Guardian

On 29 May, a Ruling Party Will Seek to Keep Its Majority…in Madagascar
A lot of global attention will be directed at the South African general elections on Wednesday, but another country in the region will be going to the polls on the same day, as the Malagasy people vote in legislative elections. In November, Andry Rajoelina secured a third presidential term in an election marred by a low turnout and an opposition boycott. This time around, according to Madagascar’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), there is an increase of 5.32% registered voters. That’s an addition of 587 320 voters from November’s 11.6 million…An African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) is in the country, led by Karine Kakasi Siaba, head of the Democracy and Elections Unit (DEU) at the AU. The team is comprised of nine short-term observers, mostly from Southern Africa. News24

No Evidence of Sufficient Preparation for Credible Elections: RJMEC
There is still no evidence of sufficient preparation for the conduct of elections and implementation of critical election-related tasks in South Sudan with barely seven months to the polls, the head of peace monitoring body (RJMEC) Amb. Maj. Gen. Charles Tai Gituai said…Amb. Gituai, in his assessment of the Revitalised Peace Agreement, said these critical tasks, among others, include the full operationalisation and funding of the Political Parties Council (PPC), the National Elections Commission (NEC), and the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC), completion of Phase I and Phase II unification of forces, and making of a permanent constitution to guide the conduct of elections. He said the conduct by the NEC of elections-related [tasks] such as establishment of subsidiary electoral management bodies at the state level, the establishment of procedures for the voter registry and registration, and support to civic education and voter outreach, the publication of the voters register six months prior to the holding of elections, are also pending. The official further said that other pending tasks to be completed, include judicial reform process, review of the judiciary Act and establishment of the Constitutional Court and the enactment of the revised National Security Service Act (Amendment) Bill 2023 to, among others, create an enabling civic and political space for citizens’ participation in governance. Sudan Tribune

Blinken, Burhan Discuss Ceasefire and Humanitarian Access in Sudan
In a phone call on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pressed Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to urgently end the ongoing conflict in Sudan and facilitate unhindered humanitarian access to mitigate the suffering of the Sudanese people. According to the State Department Spokesperson, Secretary Blinken emphasized the urgent need for unhindered humanitarian access, including across borders and conflict lines, to alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese people. Matthew Miller reported that al-Burhan and Blinken also discussed resuming peace negotiations through the Jeddah platform. Sudan Tribune

Zimbabwe Approves Elon Musk’s Starlink in Deal with Mnangagwa Associate
Zimbabwe has become the eighth African country to license Elon Musk’s Starlink to provide satellite internet services, in a deal involving one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s associates. Mnangagwa made the announcement on Saturday, as he revealed that Starlink would partner with a local company, IMC Communications (Pvt) Ltd. The company is owned by Wicknell Chivayo, who is regularly seen in the president’s company. However, Starlink will only be accessible through Chivayo’s company which received the licencing rights from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe…Rwanda, Benin, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi are the only African countries to allow Starlink. News24

After a String of New Embassies in Africa, Ukraine’s Zelensky Has ‘Fruitful’ Chat with Mozambique
[Last] Wednesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky had a telephone conversation with his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi, which he called “fruitful”. In the last month, Ukraine opened embassies in Maputo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Rwanda, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during an African tour by the country’s Special Envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Maksym Subkh. In Mozambique, Subkh spoke glowingly about relations with Ukraine, which stretch back to the war of independence of the 1970s, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, and where many guerillas from Mozambique were trained…Nyusi is yet to meet Zelensky, but the stage has been set for it at the Global Peace Summit, also known as the Ukrainian World Congress, which is set for Switzerland…Zelensky reached out to Nyusi and numerous other African heads of state, some with close ties to Russia…”Food security will be one of the main topics at the summit in Switzerland, so Mozambique’s participation is of great importance for us,” Zelensky posted on his X (formerly Twitter) account. News24

Nigeria: Dubawa Launches AI Tools to Check Misinformation
Nigerians can now verify information on WhatsApp in seconds by simply texting the Dubawa Chatbot to ask whatever questions they may have. The Chatbot, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool developed by Dubawa, a project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) went live on Monday when it launched in Abuja alongside the Dubawa Audio platform…[Monsur Hussain, the head of Innovation at the CJID] also said the Dubawa Audio platform can monitor radio programmes, listen to them and extract verifiable claims from them. He said a lot of claims made on the radio are usually undocumented due to the nature of the radio. This makes it difficult to track claims made on it for verification…But the Dubawa Audio platform can be programmed to monitor certain radio programmes, transcribe them and extract verifiable claims for fact-checkers. Premium Times

How Nigeria’s Economy Cratered in President Tinubu’s First Year
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu’s first anniversary, on May 29, comes as the country is set to slip two places to fourth on the ranking of Africa’s largest economies, according to the IMF. The president had promised to deliver higher economic growth, a million new jobs and security reforms. On his first day, he removed a decades-long subsidy on petrol that had made it relatively affordable for consumers. He charged the central bank’s new leadership to pursue a market-driven exchange rate. The bank has hiked the benchmark lending rate by 7.5 percentage points since February to tame inflation. But Nigeria’s inflation has climbed to a three-decade high instead — up to 33% from 22% over the past year…Nigeria’s naira has lost about 60% of its value following two devaluations in June and January. The IMF projects the size of the economy to be $253 billion this year, a steep drop from over $470 billion in 2022. Semafor

‘Major Non-NATO Ally’: What Does Biden’s New Kenya Pledge Mean?
United States President Joe Biden pledged to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally on Thursday, which will make Kenya the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to hold the designation…A major non-NATO ally (MNNA) refers to a country that is not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), yet has a deep strategic and security partnership with the US…The MNNA status entails certain economic and military benefits alongside benefits in areas of defence trade and security cooperation, but it “does not entail any security commitments to the designated country”…The designation will allow Nairobi to buy military technologies that would be harder for other countries to obtain from Washington…MNNAs are eligible for loans of materials and equipment for research, development or testing. US-owned War Reserve Stockpiles can be placed on MNNA territory.
MNNAs can be considered for the purchase of depleted uranium ammunition…Additionally, firms of the MNNA can bid on contracts to repair and maintain US Defense Department equipment outside of the US. Al Jazeera

Kenya Begins Public Hearings into Alleged Abuses by UK Troops
Kenya has launched public hearings into allegations of human rights violations and abuses of power by British troops based in the former colony. The British Army Training Unit Kenya (Batuk) is an economic lifeline for many in the central town of Nanyuki, where it maintains a permanent base, but soldiers stationed there have also been accused of committing offences including murder…Kenya’s parliament announced last week it would hold four public hearings, including one in Nanyuki, into alleged abuses by British troops stationed in the country…The start of the public hearings coincided with a visit by Britain’s minister of state for development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, who met the Kenyan president, William Ruto, on Tuesday to discuss building ties…Kenya became independent from Britain in 1963 but ties remain strong and the two countries have a defence agreement allowing for several thousand British troops a year to carry out exercises on Kenyan soil. The Guardian

Business, Security on Agenda as Gabon’s Transitional President Visits France
Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, Gabon’s interim president, [began] his first official visit to France this Tuesday with an entourage of several ministers and will be received by President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace. Bilateral relations, subjects of common interest such as climate and forests, and the progress of Gabon’s transition will be high on the agenda for discussion during Oligui Nguema’s trip to Paris. The interim leader’s working visit will also serve to distance Gabon from Sahel countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which have been shaken by a string of coups d’etats and the rejection of French influence in the region. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema will be received at the Élysée Palace by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Friday 31 May. However, some see this visit as the Gabonese head of state seeking legitimacy from France. RFI

EACJ Suspends Sessions as Severe Funding Crisis Hits
The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has cancelled its court sessions for June, which were to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, citing a lack of funds. In a statement Monday, the court said that cases before the Appellate Division that were to be conducted in May did not take place as well…The EACJ hears cases on violations of the rule of law, one of the fundamental and operational principles set out in the East African Community Treaty. Established in 1999 and headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, the court hears cases from all member states — the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Somalia. The regional court is convened quarterly, in March, June, September, and November for the First Instance Division and in February, May, August, and November for the Appellate Division. However, operational and financial problems continue to bog it down, leading to a backlog of cases…The EACJ does not have a budget of its own and lacks the autonomy to run and manage its own affairs. Delayed remittance of the annual contributions has left the EAC struggling to run its operations, forcing overreliance on donor funding. The EastAfrican

Djibouti Fights Deadly Malaria Wave with GMO Mosquitoes
Genetically engineered mosquitoes have been released in the tiny East African country of Djibouti to combat a surge in malaria infections caused by an invasive vector. This initiative started on Thursday, comes as Djibouti, one of Africa’s smallest nations with just over a million residents, grapples with a dramatic increase in malaria cases, skyrocketing from just 27 in 2012 to more than 70,000 in recent years, according to the WHO. The health body attributes the spike to the arrival of Anopheles stephensi, an invasive Asian mosquito species that transmit the deadly disease…Dubbed a method that “uses mosquitoes to fight mosquitoes”, Oxitec’s genetic technology targets female mosquitoes, which are predominantly responsible for malaria transmission. The technique involves releasing genetically engineered male mosquitoes into the wild, which then mate with females. The introduced gene prevents female offspring from surviving to adulthood, effectively reducing the population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes do not bite and therefore cannot transmit malaria. CNN

South Africa’s Afrigen Targets Local Diseases with mRNA Vaccines
South African biotech company Afrigen is collaborating with a Nobel Prize-winning scientist to develop groundbreaking gene therapy treatments that target diseases that have plagued Africa for decades. The Cape Town-based company is working with the University of Pennsylvania’s Drew Weissman, who won a Nobel Prize for developing mRNA vaccines used to fight COVID-19…Gene therapy refers to forms of treatment that add a new gene or repair a mutated one inside the human body…Afrigen’s model involves developing the technology and expertise to create vaccines and therapeutic drugs which it then shares with partner manufacturers. It has a mandate to share technology and expertise with vaccine producers and research institutions under an initiative backed by the World Health Organization. Semafor