Africa this Week (21/04/2024)

Ghana is in the process of restructuring its international bonds, with an IMF official on Friday stating that hurdles are not insurmountable but rather a matter of time. The country’s economic growth has been better than expected, leading to optimism for the future. However, negotiations with bondholders have faced challenges, including the need to align with IMF debt sustainability targets. Despite this, progress is being made, and a resolution is expected in the coming weeks. The IMF emphasizes the importance of ongoing discussions, stating that a bondholder deal is not necessary for the approval of the next loan disbursement.

Nigerian chess master Tunde Onakoya successfully set a new record on Saturday after his attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest chess marathon began on Wednesday. Playing for 60 consecutive hours, he aimed to raise $1 million for charity, focusing on chess education for children. Supported by hundreds, including Nigerian star Davido, and backed by Nigerian officials, he’s garnered global attention, having raised above $42,000. Motivated by his journey from Lagos slums to chess success, Onakoya’s mission extends beyond the record, aiming to distribute one million chess sets to underserved communities by 2030 through his NGO, Chess in Slums Africa, and the Gift of Chess initiative.

The crisis in eastern Congo deepens as Belgium’s ambassador to Congo on Friday suggests that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should file a complaint with the International Court of Justice over Rwanda’s alleged failure to respect its border. This recommendation comes amidst ongoing struggles against M23 rebels, who have displaced hundreds of thousands of people since launching an offensive in 2022. Accusations against Rwanda for supporting M23, including providing weapons and soldiers, have been denied by Rwanda. In response, Rwanda accuses Congo of supporting another rebel group, the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The conflict is rooted in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, with ethnic dynamics playing a significant role. United Nations experts have presented evidence of Rwandan involvement with M23 and Congolese army support for FDLR.

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, announced a delay in the country’s staff-monitored program with the IMF until the third quarter of 2024, citing the recent introduction of a new currency, Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG). The program is crucial for Zimbabwe’s efforts to rebuild trust with the international financial community by demonstrating sound economic policies. The government aims for ZiG, backed by gold, to stabilize the economy and curb inflation. However, challenges persist in its adoption, with informal market traders selling it at a higher rate than the official exchange. Ncube emphasized the need for ZiG to become fully operational before engaging with the IMF. Additionally, discussions on clearing Zimbabwe’s debt arrears are underway, with a focus on securing sponsors, including the World Bank and African Development Bank, to address the $6 billion external debt.

A severe heatwave in West Africa, possibly worsened by climate change, has led to extreme temperatures surpassing 40°C (104°F), causing widespread impacts. According to a report by World Weather Attribution on Thursday, the intensity of the heatwave, reaching once-in-200-year levels in some areas, can be attributed to human activities such as burning fossil fuels. The heatwave has resulted in numerous heat-related deaths, although exact figures remain uncertain. Climate scientists warn that without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, such extreme heat events will become much more frequent in the future, potentially occurring up to 20 times a year. Adaptation to these changes will be crucial for communities in the affected regions.

Kenya’s military chief, General Francis Ogolla, was tragically killed on Thursday along with nine others in a helicopter crash shortly after takeoff. The helicopter was returning from a visit to troops in northwest Kenya to combat cattle rustling. President William Ruto expressed sorrow over the loss, describing Ogolla as a valiant general who served his country diligently. Ogolla, a distinguished four-star general, had a long and esteemed military career, having previously served as head of the Kenyan Air Force. Despite previous political controversies, Ogolla was promoted to his position last year based on merit. The cause of the crash is under investigation. This incident adds to a series of aviation accidents in Kenya, including a helicopter crash in June 2021 that claimed the lives of 10 soldiers near Nairobi.

Burkina Faso’s military government has expelled three French diplomats over allegations of subversive activities, according to a letter from the Burkina foreign ministry. The French foreign ministry denied the accusations and expressed regret over the decision. The expelled diplomats, including two political advisers, were given 48 hours to leave the country, though specific details of their alleged activities were not provided. Sources suggest the expulsion may be linked to meetings with civil society members. Since seizing power in a 2022 coup, Burkina Faso’s military junta has strained relations with France, leading to the expulsion of French troops, the recall of the French ambassador, and the suspension of some French media.

Britain’s House of Lords once again rejected Rishi Sunak’s proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, suggesting amendments that would delay but not halt the controversial policy. Despite facing opposition, including from within his party and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sunak aims to push the legislation through before an upcoming election. The House of Lords voted in favor of amendments, including one insisting the legislation complies with international law. However, the legislation is expected to pass this week, despite potential legal challenges. Sunak’s plan, aimed at curbing illegal immigration via dangerous channel crossings, has faced legal hurdles in the past, including being declared unlawful by the UK Supreme Court. The new law seeks to override these challenges by designating Rwanda as a safe destination and limiting appeal options for asylum seekers.

The United Nations received pledges for about two-thirds of the $1 billion sought to bolster humanitarian aid to Ethiopia, which is grappling with conflict, drought, and floods. The fundraising event, hosted by the UN in partnership with Ethiopia and the UK, aims to provide life-saving assistance to 15.5 million people and food aid to 10.4 million. The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia has been exacerbated by cycles of drought, floods, and conflict, with millions facing water scarcity, depleted pastures, and reduced harvests. The United States pledged nearly $154 million in humanitarian assistance to address urgent needs arising from conflict, insecurity, and climate shocks. Conflict and climate-related shocks have left over 21 million Ethiopians in need of humanitarian aid this year, with 10.8 million facing critical food insecurity during the lean season. Pledges from 21 countries totaled $628.9 million, with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union being the largest donors. The ongoing conflict between the federal government and forces led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties, famine-like conditions for hundreds of thousands, and the displacement of millions since November 2020.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, visited Tunisia on Wednesday to bolster cooperation on migration issues. Highlighting economic support, agreements were made in the energy and education sectors. Emphasizing legal migration, Meloni cited a decree allowing 12,000 trained Tunisian citizens to come to Italy. This marked her first visit as prime minister and her fourth overall. Italy’s development plan aims to create opportunities in Africa, discouraging risky Mediterranean crossings.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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