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COVID’s Aftershocks: Food crises, conflict, and China’s inroads in Africa

A roundup of the latest news, stats, and analysis of COVID-19’s impact in Africa. View our data tracker and sign up for our weekly newsletter, and this week, the growing food crises in South Sudan and Somalia, conflict in Tanzania and the DRC, China’s inroads with African youth, and more.

Top news

Dire states: The World Food Programme has further limited assistance to South Sudan due to funding shortages after rations were already halved in 2021. The reduction will leave an estimated 1.7 million people facing acute food insecurity without support. A combination of drought, conflict, and increased food prices stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine has left over 60% of South Sudan’s population facing severe hunger.

Running on empty: Somalia’s worst drought in 40 years has killed more than 3 million herd animals in the past year, and pushed 386,400 children to the brink of severe acute malnutrition – a condition where hunger is so severe that it leaves children vulnerable to disease and death. More than 7 million people (45% of the country) are at “crisis” levels of food insecurity or worse. Somalia is in the midst of its fourth consecutive failed rainy season. The UN’s humanitarian response has received 19% of the $1.46 billion funding needed, the lowest level in a decade.

Fighting force: Over 40 people have allegedly been wounded in Tanzania as police use violence to forcibly evict indigenous Maasai people to make way for hunting and conservation tourism. Protestors fighting the evictions from villages in Serengeti National Park were attacked with guns and machetes, according to Survival International. The government has denied the forced evacuations: Tanzania’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa claims police were only deployed to mark the territory of a future hunting reserve. Meanwhile, escalating tensions between the DRC and Rwanda have sparked protests at the border as M23 rebels captured a border town in the DRC. DRC officials and protestors maintain M23 is supported by the Rwandan government, a claim the latter denies.

Blackout: Nigeria’s national energy grid has blacked out, again. The outage affected multiple cities across five states, including the capital Abuja. Collapses have been attributed to gas supply and water management issues, vandalism, poor funding, and the age of the current grid infrastructure. Every 1% increase in blackout hours has been shown to cause a 2.86% decrease in GDP in sub-Saharan Africa. The grid has collapsed over 200 times in the past nine years.

Energy dilemma: China’s ban on foreign coal investments is impacting two Zimbabwean coal-fired plants in need of refurbishment. The two plants could produce nearly 200 megawatts of energy, alleviating Zimbabwe’s supply shortages. Some African experts are calling for a future driven by renewable energy, and a South African energy company has announced plans to increase renewable power production to seven times current levels. Meanwhile in Kenya, where 90% of power is renewable, six renewable energy projects are the subject of ongoing land rights disputes and human rights concerns. Analysis from McKinsey suggests that renewable energy investments in Africa are a must, regardless of whether gas and oil exploits continue.

Modern influencer: China has surpassed the US to become the foreign power viewed most positively by African youth, according to new survey results. Youth in Malawi, Nigeria, and Rwanda expressed the strongest support. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed expressed concern over climate change. The percentage of those feeling excited and optimistic about the future dropped by 11 points compared to 2020. Roughly 42% of the world’s youth are expected to be African by 2030.

Moral methods: Research articles that fail to acknowledge contributions from African scientists or research will no longer be published by the Lancet. Failure to do so is a breach of integrity, according to the journal’s senior executive editor. Leading African scientists and researchers have praised the move, but noted that a lack of equitable collaborations and funding remain barriers to expanding Africa’s research capabilities.

Going private: Experts are warning that the role of private creditors in the current debt crisis should not be overlooked. They are calling on the G7 to ensure that private creditors are bound to the same standards in debt restructuring processes as public creditors. Considerable analysis has focused on the uncertain role China would play in addressing the debt burdens of heavily indebted countries, whilst private creditors have often received a free pass.

Virus watch: The WHO will officially change the name of the monkeypox virus following outrage over racist depictions. Media coverage has frequently depicted individuals of African origin to demonstrate symptoms, despite no direct link from Africa to current outbreaks in North America and Europe. Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus plans to convene an emergency committee to determine if the spread of monkeypox should be considered a public health emergency of international concern as global recorded cases exceed 1,600 and the virus is showing “unusual behavior”.

The numbers

  • 10%: how much more likely women were to experience hunger compared to men during the height of the pandemic, up from 6% the year before.
  • 30,000: the number of asylum seekers in Uganda to date as people flee violence in the DRC.
  • $1.18 billion: the current 2022 funding shortfall for the UN humanitarian response in Somalia as it faces an escalating hunger crisis.

From the ONE team

  • ONE’s CEO Gayle Smith lays out what is needed to (finally) end the pandemic.
  • Read ONE’s analysis on how MDB’s can turn billions of development funding into trillions without large increases to donor financing.
  • Micaela Iveson from ONE’s Policy team spoke to Newzroom Afrika about the current food crisis.
  • Female farmers grow 70% of Africa’s food, but they face unequal access to fertiliser. Dive into the facts with ONE’s Food Security data dive.

More reads

  • Racist and exploitative videos of African children are becoming a booming industry in China. (BBC Africa)
  • The WHO and Africa CDC are engaged in a power struggle. (Devex)
  • The WTO’s enduring “market knows best” ideology renders it useless, Nick Dearden argues. (The Guardian)
  • Venture capitalist John Doerr says investors and entrepreneurs should focus more resources on the greatest challenge of the next two generations: climate change. (The New York Times)

A look ahead

On 19 June the G7 Media Ministers Meeting will take place in Bonn, Germany, alongside the Global Media Forum, where they will discuss freedom of the press, disinformation, and media diversity.

Next week, from 20-25 June the theme of “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming” will be central to discussions on the COVID-19 recovery, climate change, and trade at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

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