Saturday 19 August 2017
(Reuters (Eng) 05/23/17)
Fossils from Greece and Bulgaria of an ape-like creature that lived 7.2 million years ago may fundamentally alter the understanding of human origins, casting doubt on the view that the evolutionary lineage that led to people arose in Africa. Scientists said on Monday the creature, known as Graecopithecus freybergi and known only from a lower jawbone and an isolated tooth, may be the oldest-known member of the human lineage that began after an evolutionary split from the line that led to chimpanzees, our closest cousins. The jawbone, which included teeth, was unearthed in 1944 in Athens. The premolar was found in south-central Bulgaria in 2009. The researchers examined them using sophisticated new techniques including CT scans and established their age...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/22/17)
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa need to get their budgets in order, diversify their economies and look after their poorest people. If they do that, there is no reason why the region cannot have the strong growth needed to meet the aspirations of a young and growing population. That, at least, is the three-pillared prescription from the International Monetary Fund as expressed by one of its top Africa researchers, Celine Allard, in an official IMF blog post and podcast. Allard co-authored the Fund's regional economic outlook, released earlier this month. It found that sub-Saharan economic growth hit only 1.4 percent last year, the lowest level in two decades and well off the 5-6 percent rates normally reached. It was also well...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/20/17)
France will step up the fight against resurgent Islamist militants in north and west Africa and will work more closely with Germany to help the tinderbox region, President Emmanuel Macron said on his first trip outside Europe on Friday. Visiting Mali days after taking office, Macron vowed to keep French troops in the Sahel region until there was "no more Islamist terrorism" there. He said operations would be escalated in response to signs that militant groups were regrouping and uniting. "It is vital today that we speed up. Our armed forces are giving their all, but we must speed up" efforts to secure the Sahel, he told a news conference in Gao, Mali, where he held talks with President Ibrahim...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/19/17)
A Niger opposition leader is to go on trial on Tuesday on charges of incitement to violence and sedition, his lawyer said, in a case that critics say highlights growing repression under President Mahamadou Issoufou's government. Amadou Djibo, leader of the Front for the Restoration of Democracy and the Defence of Democracy (FRDDR), could be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in jail if convicted, according to Niger's criminal court. Djibo was arrested on Tuesday while returning home from a mosque and appeared before a judge on Thursday, his lawyer Mossi Boubacar told Reuters. Opposition parties say they have organised a protest march for Saturday in the capital, Niamey. The charges stem from a speech delivered to the main...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/19/17)
When rich countries wrote off billions of dollars of African debt in 2005, they hoped governments would think twice about borrowing again in costly foreign currencies. Over a decade later, most sub-Saharan African countries still rely on U.S. dollar-denominated debt to finance their economies. Some investors say this is sowing the seeds of future debt crises if local currencies devalue and make dollar debt repayments more expensive. Aside from South Africa and Nigeria, governments have not yet done enough to develop capital markets that would have allowed them to raise more money in their own currencies, investors say. United Nations trade body UNCTAD estimates that Africa's external debt stock rapidly grew to $443 billion by 2013 through bilateral borrowing, syndicated...
(Bloomberg 05/18/17)
Steinhoff International Holdings NV plans to list its African assets separately as the acquisitive retailer seeks a new prize for shareholders following this year’s failed merger talks with Shoprite Holdings Ltd. The company said Wednesday it will seek to list businesses including clothing retailer Pepkor and furniture chain JD Group Ltd. on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, about 18 months after moving its primary listing to Frankfurt from the South African commercial hub. The new business could be worth as much as 60 billion rand ($4.5 billion), said Evan Walker, a money manager at 36one Asset Management in Johannesburg, although the valuation could also be as low as 40 billion rand depending on how much debt Steinhoff puts into the vehicle...
(AFP (eng) 05/17/17)
At least 179 people, almost half of them children, have died of meningitis since January in Niger, where some 3,000 suspected cases have been reported, the United Nations said Wednesday. "From January 2 to May 7 2017, a total of 3,037 suspected cases of meningitis, including 179 deaths, was reported in the country," said the UN's humanitarian agency, OCHA. "The fatality rate is 5.9 percent." Meningitis is caused by different types of bacteria, six of which can cause epidemics. It is transmitted between people by coughing and sneezing, close contact and cramped living conditions. The illness causes acute inflammation of the outer layers of the brain and spinal cord, with the most common symptoms being fever, headache and neck stiffness...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/17/17)
Gay and lesbian Africans who fled abuse in their home countries face a "culture of disbelief" which makes their experience of seeking asylum in Britain traumatic, a Nigerian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights (LGBT) campaigner said. Aderonke Apata, 50, who fled persecution in Nigeria, said the practice of assessing Africans' sexual orientation claims based on Western standards was problematic. "They expect an LGBT person to have used sex toys, to go to gay clubs," Apata, an asylum seeker who founded African LGBT charity, African Rainbow Family, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Apata has been trying to claim asylum in Britain for 13 years, but her case was refused several times after a judge ruled that she was pretending to be...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/16/17)
Surveying his village's stocks of rice, sesame, millet and other food in a storehouse piled high with bags, Amadou Hassane is satisfied - but still a little anxious about the oversupply of baobab leaves. With the rainy season set to start soon in Niger, Hassane and his fellow farmers need buyers for their leaves before the rains come, driving the prices down as fresh leaves sprout and supply surges across the western region of Tillabery. "Life is hard because it is difficult to know when the first rains will come," Hassane told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, holding a list of each farmer's contribution to the village's stockpile. "But we are lucky to have this warrantage system in place, because it...
(Bloomberg 05/16/17)
When the impoverished West African nation of Niger imposed a ban on donkey exports last year, a small community of traders just over the border in Nigeria was devastated. “Before the ban, you could see thousands of donkeys here,” said Mohammed Sani, a 45-year-old trader in the Nigerian town of Jibiya, as he wiped the sweat off his brow. “Now look at them: there’s no more than 50, crippling the business.” Donkeys are being slaughtered at an alarming pace to feed a global trade in donkey hides that’s fueled by soaring demand in China, where the skins are used to manufacture a gelatin believed to have anti-ageing and libido-enhancing properties. The gelatin, known in China as e’jiao, is so popular...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/13/17)
Tackling climate change in Africa could help resolve multiple problems ravaging the continent, from drought to refugees and violence, the head of the African Union said on Friday. The mix of global warming with economic woes and political conflicts keeps peace from taking hold, said Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Union's new chairman, at Chatham House, an international think tank. "There is a link between climate change and prosperity, as well as peace, on the continent," Mahamat said in French with an interpreter. "Africa is among the least polluting continents, and yet it is the continent that suffers most," he said. Mahamat, the former foreign minister of Chad, was chosen to chair the 55-member, Addis Ababa-based organization in January. In Africa's...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/11/17)
Zeinabou Halidou cannot stop smiling and thumbing through a wad of banknotes as nearby several members of her village women's group operate machinery to grind nuts and produce soaps and oils. The scene is a huge change from years past for the women in this farming and pastoralist community in western Niger, where droughts and poor harvests used to send desperate women into the bush in search of wild fruit to feed their families. Now their families have enough to eat in bad times - and they are putting away savings, even as they face more frequent droughts, unreliable rainfall and other climate change pressures. "The tools we've been given and skills we've gained have given us opportunities we could...
(Bloomberg 05/10/17)
West African nations are preparing to deploy a military force to counter a surge in ambushes and bombings by Islamist militants that more than 15,000 international troops have failed to contain. Militants are targeting not only United Nations peacekeepers in Mali but increasingly carrying out assaults across its borders. That’s prompted five nations in the arid region south of the Sahara desert known as the G5 Sahel to agree to assemble a 4,000-member force by the end of the year, Malian Defense Minister Tiena Coulibaly said in an interview. Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania will also contribute soldiers. “The frequency of attacks is certainly increasing in both Mali and northern Burkina Faso,” Sean Smith, a West Africa analyst at...
(Fox News 05/10/17)
After five years of no major attacks on merchant vessels, piracy around the Horn of Africa seemed to be on hiatus. Acts of piracy in those treacherous waters have fallen sharply since 2012, according to statistics released by the United States Navy. The Navy credits aggressive patrolling by international forces and increased vigilance by the commercial shipping industry for the decrease. However, in the past month, Somali pirates have intercepted five ships, raising concerns that piracy has returned to the Indian Ocean, beginning with the kidnapping of a Sri Lankan crew from the Aris 13 oil tanker on March 13th (they were later released without a ransom). Nobody thinks the problem will end until a stable government is restored in...
(Reuters (Eng) 05/09/17)
When Moumouni Abdoulaye and his fellow herders in western Niger used to set off on scouting missions in search of water, they feared for their livestock - and for their own lives. Unable to rely anymore on their traditional methods of predicting the weather amid increasingly erratic droughts and floods, and lacking modern climate information, they struggled to predict where, and when, they might find water in the vast arid region. "We were living in limbo. Without knowledge, we constantly risked our lives," said Abdoulaye, seeking shade under a tree from the fierce midday sun in Niger's Tillabery region. But a project to involve the region's semi-nomadic people in the production of locally-specific, real-time weather forecasts - and provide them...
(Voice of America 05/05/17)
As Africa grapples with a severe drought, and famine threatens millions of people, experts at the World Economic Forum on Africa this week in the South African city of Durban say food security needs to be a major part of discussions on advancing the continent economically. The annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland is usually a high-powered event, but at this week’s Africa meeting of the international organization, the continent’s big players are welcoming the humble farmer, now known as the “agripreneur.” Agricultural economist Paul Makube, with South Africa’s First National Bank, told VOA it makes sense to talk about farming when discussing building competitive markets, and boosting innovation and technology. “For business to prosper, you need a situation where...
(AFP (eng) 05/04/17)
Eight migrants, five of them children, have died of thirst in the Niger desert while making their way to Algeria, a key destination for would-be migrants to Europe, a security source told AFP. "These migrants died of thirst on the way to Algeria," the source, who asked not to be identified, said late Tuesday. The group, a man, a woman and five children aged between six and 12, "were abandoned by a smuggler" and "all died of thirst", he added. Online news site Air-info, which is based in northern Niger, said the eight were part of a larger group headed for Algeria, and that four men who had been rescued were found "completely dehydrated". Last June the bodies of 34...
(Xinhuanet 05/04/17)
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa Competitiveness Report 2017 released in Durban Thursday called for urgent policy reforms if the continent intends to create more jobs for its growing young population. According to the report issued at the 27th WEF on Africa, fewer than one-quarter of the 450 million new jobs required in the next 20 years will be created if current policies remain unchanged. The report called for structural reforms in the economies to create more jobs for the youth entering the market. African countries have to prioritize improving infrastructure, skills and adoption of new technology and quality of institutions. To improve competitiveness in the short term Africa needs to increase housing construction through investment, better urban planning and...
(AFP (eng) 05/03/17)
Arriving on motorcycles and donkeys, in cars, or even on foot, hundreds of people have flocked to a site in southern Niger hoping to strike gold. The news spread like wildfire: gold had apparently been discovered deep in Kafa-Koira, just south of the country's capital Niamey. "I came to try my luck," Kadri Issia tells AFP, with a pickaxe slung over his shoulder. He comes from Dan-Zama, some 10 kilometres (six miles) north of the site. Not far from an airport, a dried-up stream bed surrounded by thorny shrubs is teeming with fortune seekers. They use a run-down track winding through heavily-populated neighbourhoods to reach the spot. In only two days, the normally empty site became a buzzing scene with...
(Voice of America 05/03/17)
African military expenditures have finally slowed down after more than a decade of steady increases, according to a new report on global defense spending. The main reason, the report found, is a drop in oil prices. “The sharp decreases in oil prices has affected quite a number of African countries, namely South Sudan and Angola. This has kind of driven almost the entire regional trend,” said Nan Tian, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) Arms and Military Expenditure Program, the organization that authored the report. The SIPRI report found military spending in Africa in 2016 was down by 1.3 percent from the previous year and totaled about $37.9 billion. Despite the drop, Africa’s military spending remains...

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