Dateline Africa: 1 November 2022 – 28 February 2023

Eleven African countries are in the top 20 of the 2023 list of humanitarian crises in the world produced by the International Rescue Committee. Somalia is top of the list, with Ethiopia second, followed by the DRC (4th place), South Sudan (7th), Burkino Faso (8th). The top 20 include the following unranked neighbours, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali, Sudan and Nigeria. The annual listing focuses on “countries most at risk of new or worsening humanitarian crises in the year ahead”. Founded in 1933 in response to a call by Albert Einstein, the IRC works in more than 40 countries.


25 February: Nigerians voted in presidential and national assembly elections, preserving 24 years of unbroken democratically elected rule, the longest stretch since independence in 1960. However, this does not make Nigeria a successful democracy. With a 27% poll turnout – the lowest in its electoral history – the election was dubbed “fraudulent” even before the results were released. The losing candidates wasted no time in challenging the poll as rigged and at the last count six states had asked the Supreme Court to void the results.

This is a developing story and the details reported here were accurate at the time of publication. The new incumbent, Bola Tinuba, also known as the “godfather” for his divisive, behind- the-scenes political manoeuvring, looks to be as useless and disappointing as his predecessor, Muhammad Buhari – who was not on the 2023 ballot because he had already served the maximum eight years in office – who had already left Nigeria poorer, volatile and more insecure in the face of intensifying extremist attacks.

24 February: The African Union (AU) criticised Tunisia and urged it to avoid “racialised hate speech” after President Kais Saied ordered the expulsion of undocumented migrants – from sub- Saharan Africa. He said immigration was a plot aimed at changing Tunisia’s demography. For years, North African countries have been a stepping-stone for migrants hoping for a better life to reach Europe. Many die during the journey.

24 February: The South African government “noted” the decision by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international watchdog, to list South Africa as a “jurisdiction under increased monitoring”, commonly referred to as FATF’s “grey list”, based on its record in combating the financing of terrorism and money laundering by criminals. South Africa has promised to work actively, swiftly and effectively to address all problems with its existing systems for combating such forms of ongoing financial abuse.

17 February: Insecurity – caused both by bitter conflicts and a lack of food – topped the agenda at the annual summit of the African Union, which opened in in Addis Ababa.

9 February: South Africa declared a state of national disaster in the face of the most serious rolling electricity power cuts to date. This allows the government to resort to emergency procurement procedures with fewer bureaucratic delays but with less oversight. The promise was that hospitals and water pumping stations would be spared load-shedding, something the former CEO of Eskom, Andre de Ruyter, later warned would place the power grid under very serious threat of collapse.

9 February: A report from World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms 10 African countries have reported cholera outbreaks. Worst hit continues to be Malawi, which is facing its worst cholera outbreak in two decades. Neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia have also recently reported cases. Also affected are Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria. In March South Africa reported its first cases. The spread of the disease has been attributed to the climate crisis as well as conflict on the continent.

6 February: The number of people killed in violence linked to “militant Islamist groups” groups in Africa jumped by 48% in 2022, according to US military research. At least 19,109 people were killed, most of them in the Sahel and Somalia, surpassing the previous peak in 2015, and 15,258 “public violence deaths” were recorded in 2022 in Nigeria alone (according to Nigeria Watch). Such figures are hard to interpret without context and on-the-ground fact checking.


21 January: Thulani Maseko, a peaceful humanitarian and an activist lawyer against the brutal dictatorship in Eswatini/Swaziland, was assassinated at his home. After extensive unrest in 2021, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) – chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa – compelled King Mswati to promise a “national dialogue”. The promise was never honoured and SADC never followed up.

16 January: A court in Egypt sentenced 38 people to life in prison for their role in anti-government protests in September 2019. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s authoritarian president, has muzzled dissent, as evidenced in the finding that Egypt is the country in Africa with the most journalists in jail, according to The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York. Egypt’s total of 21 jailed journalists compares with Eritrea (16), Cameroon (5), Rwanda (4), Morocco (3), DRC (2), and Algeria, Burundi, Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia (1 each). Ethiopia banned journalists from covering the devastating civil war with Tigray rebels.

11 January: Rebels in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray began handing over heavy weapons under a peace deal struck in South Africa in November 2022. The two-year civil war has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

11 January: Ghana became the fourth country to request debt restructuring under the G20s Common Framework initiative. The Finance Ministry will also want to include non-Paris club members, such as China, in debt relief talks. The country owes $1.9 billion to Paris club members, who are the major creditor countries that aim to find co- ordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries. China, who is not a member of the Paris Club, is Ghana’s biggest bilateral creditor with $1.7 billion of debt. Ghana’s government has slashed public spending, as it tried to contain a debt crisis that caused interest rates to soar and its currency to sink. It was in talks with the IMF over another rescue package, its 17th. Ghana has spent 22 of the past 35 years under the fund’s supervision. It is one of the most prosperous countries in the region and a lively democracy, but whenever they can get money, the politicians spend it (often on themselves and public servants).

8 January: Sudan’s political parties began talks aimed at restoring a civilian-led transition to democracy. Sudan’s military rulers reached a deal in December 2022 with pro-democracy leaders to establish a civilian-led government that will manage a transition to democracy. A previous power-sharing agreement struck after a coup in 2019 fell apart after a second coup in October 2021

6 January: The body of a man discovered stuffed in a metallic box in Kenya was identified as that of a popular Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) activist and fashion model Edwin Chiloba, amid the escalation of violence against the LGBTQ+ community.

3 January: President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania lifted a six-year blanket ban on the rallies of opposition political parties. Three weeks later, the main opposition leader, Tundu Lissu, returned from self-imposed exile in Belgium. He had lived there since surviving an assassination attempt in 2017 when he was shot 16 times. Rallies are an elemental feature of Tanzanian politics. The next presidential election is in October 2025.


22 December: Ghana announced it has suspending payments on most of its bilateral debt, a move the Ministry of Finance said was aimed at bringing the country’s unsustainable debt level under control. The country spends between 70% to 100% of government revenue on debt payment.

21 December: Water began filling the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Project (JNHPP) dam on the Rufiji River in southern Tanzania. Funded by Tanzania, with construction managed by the government of Egypt, the plant will produce 2,115 megawatts of electricity by 2024 and more than double the capacity of the national grid. Said to be the fourth biggest dam in Africa, it will provide a reliable supply of both water and power for an economy long plagued by water rationing and power shortages. The dam impounds water from several rivers in the Selous Game Reserve. It will allow flood control and irrigated farming in the Rufiji delta, but is associated with extreme environmental risks.

21 December: President Adama Barrow, democratically elected as the leader of the Gambia in 2016, defeated an attempted coup engineered by supporters of the former long-term incumbent, Yahya Jammeh, now in exile in Equatorial Guinea. The Gambian army detained four soldiers linked to the alleged coup plot. Senegalese-led West African peacekeeping forces have been protecting Barrow and his  government.

16 December: The ANC conference in South Africa re-elected Cyril Ramaphosa as President of the party. A second deputy secretary general was added to the party leadership, turning the “top six” into the “top-seven”, though that’s unlikely to help the beleaguered ruling party given the lacklustre raft of members who were elected to fill its National Executive Committee.

14 December: Andre de Ruyter, the Eskom CEO, resigned as South Africa’s electricity consumers faced the worst rolling power blackouts ever. He had been appointed just three years before to lead a team to rescue South Africa’s state-owned electricity company, which has been hollowed out by state capture, looting and corruption. Shortly after his resignation de Ruyter reported an attack on his life by poisoning.

11 December: The bodies of 27 migrants from Ethiopia were found in Zambia, dumped by human traffickers by the roadside after they suffocated to death in a closed container. They were believed to be on their way to South Africa.

7 December: Ndambi Guebuza, the son of Mozambique’s former president, Armando Guebuza, was sentenced to 12 years in prison over a US$2.2bn debt-and-corruption scandal. He has appealed.


28 November: Zimbabwe stopped generating hydropower on the Zambezi River because of the extremely low level of the Kariba Dam. By 15 December the level of usable storage was 1.73%, compared to 21.36% on the same day in 2021. The water level in the lake decreased steadily in 2022 on account of low inflows from the mainstream Zambezi River and its tributaries. Hydropower will be restored only when the rainy season delivers new water, in the first quarter of 2023. The Kariba Lake reservoir has not been at full capacity since 2011 and, in this era of climate change, may only fill up again under rare circumstances. Kariba provides the bulk of electricity consumed in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

18 November: At the COP27 climate- change summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, “loss and damage” took centre stage. Rich countries, whose industrialisation has largely caused climate change, promised to set up a fund to redress the harms already done, or certain to be done, in poorer ones. Loss and damage became a new pillar in climate politics, alongside mitigation (limiting further damage) and adaptation (making countries more resilient).

Citation: New Agenda: South African Journal of Social and Economic Policy No 87, First Quarter 2023, March: p9.

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