Africa This Week: Internet outages in west and central Africa after undersea cable failures; UNICEF issued dire warning regarding Sudan; President Xi Jinping pledges support for Chinese investment in Angola’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors, and others

MainOne, a West African data center and connectivity provider owned by Equinix, revealed that a recent internet outage in West and Central Africa stemmed from a break in its submarine cable system. The incident occurred offshore Cote d’Ivoire along the West African coast due to an “external incident,” ruling out human activity as a cause. The outage, which affected the region on Thursday, impacted multiple subsea cables. MainOne suspects seismic activity on the seabed as the likely cause and plans to gather more data during repairs. With operations in Nigeria, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire,

UNICEF this week issued a dire warning regarding Sudan, highlighting the worsening civil war’s impact on hunger and the potential for catastrophic loss of life. The conflict between Sudan’s army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has resulted in thousands of deaths and millions of displaced people, with famine looming. UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Sudan described malnourished children in poorly equipped hospitals, with hunger pervasive and affecting millions. Up to 3.7 million children, including 730,000 needing urgent treatment, are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year. The agency urges urgent political will and resource mobilization to avert further tragedy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged support for Chinese investment in Angola’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors as the African nation seeks to diversify its economy away from oil dependency. President Xi assured Angolan President Joao Lourenco of cooperation in key infrastructure projects and facilitated Chinese companies’ involvement in various forms of collaboration. Recent agreements, including investment protection and tariff-free access to China’s consumer market, signal growing bilateral cooperation. Both leaders have agreed to elevate their partnership to a comprehensive strategic cooperative level, facilitating increased trade and investment.

Senegal’s Supreme Court this week dismissed a bid by the Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS), a major opposition party, to halt the upcoming presidential election scheduled for March 24. The PDS had sought to freeze electoral procedures, alleging irregularities and corruption leading to the exclusion of their candidate, Karim Wade. However, the court ruled the motion unfounded, affirming the Constitutional Council’s authority in approving presidential candidates. This decision averts a potential constitutional crisis and ensures the continuation of democratic processes in Senegal. Previously, attempts to delay the election had caused unrest and drew international criticism, but with the court’s decision, the election will proceed as planned in March.

A tragic incident in the Mediterranean has left as many as 60 migrants feared drowned while attempting to cross from Libya to Italy or Malta. SOS Mediterranee, a charity rescue group, on Thursday reported rescuing 25 survivors in a weak condition, with two individuals flown to Sicily for urgent medical attention. The survivors, who departed from Zawiya, Libya, seven days prior, endured days without water or food after their engine failed. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) expressed deep concern over the incident, emphasizing the need for urgent action to prevent further tragedies. Meanwhile, charity groups like SOS Mediterranea have faced obstacles in their rescue efforts, with Italy’s right-wing government accused of impeding their operations.

Kenya has opted to suspend its deployment of 1,000 police officers for an international security mission in Haiti amid uncertainties following Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s announcement of resignation. Abraham Korir Sing’Oei, the principal secretary at the foreign ministry, emphasized on Tuesday the necessity of a stable authority in Haiti for the deployment to proceed. The decision sparked concern from the U.S. State Department, although they expressed confidence that the deployment would proceed once a suitable government is established in Haiti.

Morocco on Tuesday initiated the delivery of 40 metric tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza, marking the first use of the Kerem Shalom border crossing for such aid in five months. This operation, coinciding with the start of Ramadan, aims to mitigate the hardships faced by Palestinians due to the ongoing conflict. The aid, secured through Morocco’s diplomatic relations with Israel, was transported by air to Israel and then by truck into Gaza, coordinated by the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Three prominent Libyan leaders have announced their agreement on the imperative need to establish a new unified government to oversee long-awaited elections on Sunday. The leaders involved include President of the Presidential Council Mohamed Menfi, Head of the High State Council Mohamed Takala, and House of Representatives Speaker Aguila Saleh. They issued a joint statement calling for support from the UN Mission in Libya and the international community for their proposals. The leaders have agreed to establish a technical committee to address contentious issues. This agreement was reached during a meeting in Cairo, convened at the invitation of Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Menfi expressed optimism about the outcome, deeming it a crucial step towards fulfilling Libya’s aspirations for elections.

The U.S. Treasury on Monday sanctioned an international network accused of fundraising and money laundering for the al-Shabaab group in Somalia. This network includes 16 entities and individuals across Africa, the UAE, and Cyprus. These sanctions, which follow similar actions taken in October 2022, aim to disrupt over $100 million in annual revenue generated by the group, primarily through extortion. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate, has been fighting the Somali government since 2006 to establish rule based on Sharia law. The U.S. also emphasizes that al-Shabaab’s threat extends beyond Somalia, affecting global security and governance.

Egypt’s Finance Minister Mohamed Maait on Sunday announced significant strides in reducing the country’s budget deficit, including the sale of real estate assets and securing a support package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Maait revealed plans for Egypt’s primary budget surplus to exceed 3.5% in the upcoming fiscal year, starting in July. Egypt anticipates over $20 billion from the recent IMF-led package, which includes $3 billion in funding from the World Bank. A major contributor to deficit reduction is the $24 billion deal to sell development rights to Ras al-Hikma, a prime Mediterranean resort destination, to Abu Dhabi. Egypt’s budget has been affected by decreased revenue from sources like the Suez Canal, along with increased spending due to currency depreciation and higher interest rates.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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