african inspired

Will violence flare again in Kenya?

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WHAT does it say about the fairness of a vote when a senior election official is murdered a week before polling day? On August 8th Kenyans will pick a president, governors, MPs and senators. Yet instead of being excited about the chance to elect a new government, many are terrified. On July 31st Chris Msando, the chief technician in charge of the electronic voting system, was found dead in Nairobi, the capital, his arm broken and his body displaying signs of torture. Who killed Mr Msando is far from clear. The opposition blames the government; a spokesman for the president calls this accusation unfounded. The killing removes one of the few people trusted to ensure that the voting system works and sends a message to other electoral officials that they, too, are at risk. The chairman of t...

Morocco and Algeria keep building more barriers

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Not the best way to enhance trade HAD Algeria and Morocco honoured their agreement back in 1989 to form an economic union, along with Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania, they would be among the Middle East’s largest economies. Their poor border regions would be booming crossroads. Over the decade to 2015, reckons the World Bank, their two economies would each have almost have doubled in size. Instead, Algeria grew only by 33% and Morocco by 37%, as both governments instead reinforced their barricades. Their north-west corner of Africa remains “the most separated region on the continent”, says Adel Hamaizia, an Algerian economist. While sub-Saharan countries agree common currencies and trade zones, Algeria digs deeper ditches. Morocco revamps its berms and renews its razor wire. Concrete wall

How to tackle one of Africa’s nastiest problems

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Incurable, but preventable IN A clearing close to the entrance of Kenya’s Meru National Park, a bronze statue of a buffalo can be seen standing on a plinth. Despite the best efforts of local elephants who occasionally mistake it for a real buffalo and attack it, it is there to commemorate the site of the final outbreak of rinderpest, a cattle disease similar to measles, which was eradicated in 2011. Rinderpest has plagued Africa and other parts of the world ever since cattle were domesticated. In the 1980s an outbreak, originating in Sudan, killed millions of bovines across the continent. Eradication was a triumph of veterinary medicine, as rinderpest became only the second disease, either animal or human, to be wiped out, the first being smallpox. It is exciting, therefore, that a tea

Israel’s submarine scandal

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The more the merrier IN A police guesthouse somewhere in Israel, a retired naval captain is writing his explosive memoirs. Michael Ganor’s story will not dwell on his exploits on the high seas. It will talk of bribe-trousering generals and politicians. Mr Ganor was the representative in Israel of ThyssenKrupp, a German industrial firm, and the middle-man in some of the largest arms deals in recent years between Israel and Germany. On July 21st he signed a state’s witness arrangement with Israel’s justice ministry, agreeing to serve a reduced sentence of a year in prison and to pay a 10m-shekel ($2.8m) fine in return for disclosing all that he knows. Corruption in public life is far from unknown in Israel. A former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, went to prison last year for accepting bribe

After conquering Benghazi, what will Libya’s new strongman do next?

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STUBBORN and self-serving, Khalifa Haftar has long been seen as a spoiler of efforts to end the conflict in Libya. The forces under his command in the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) have mostly added to the chaos, not helped to resolve it. Yet General Haftar was greeted like a statesman by Emmanuel Macron, the French president, in Paris on July 25th. There he encountered Fayez al-Serraj, a rival who leads the UN-backed government based in Tripoli, the capital. Their first meeting, three months earlier, produced nothing. So it came as something of a shock when the two leaders announced a ceasefire and their intention to hold elections in 2018. “The cause of peace has made great progress,” declared Mr Macron. In fact, the deal is but a small step. More agreements are needed before

China goes to Africa

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IN CRISP white uniforms and standing to attention beneath a fluttering red flag with five golden stars, the sailors on board the People’s Liberation Army ships setting sail for Djibouti on July 11th represent a significant step for China. When they arrive they will open the Middle Kingdom’s first military base abroad since the Korean war. It is a canny first foray. China has prepared the ground with low-key deployments of blue-helmeted troops to UN operations in places such as South Sudan. And it has placed the base in a country that is likely to cause the least offence. America already has a large airfield and naval station in Djibouti. From there it conducts counter-terrorism operations, and watches the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, both much used by smugglers trafficking drugs, weap

The perils of lobbying in Africa

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THE first rule for public-relations firms is not to become the story. In South Africa Bell Pottinger, a British firm, has done just that. In May, e-mails between one of the firm’s employees and Duduzane Zuma, a son of President Jacob Zuma, were leaked to South African newspapers. Bell Pottinger had been hired by a company owned by the Gupta family, a trio of Indian businessmen brothers who are chummy with the president, to bolster their image. One can see why they might seek such help. A report by a former public protector last year accused them of orchestrating “state capture” on behalf of the president, and their names have become a campaign slogan for the opposition. The e-mails showed how the firm had proposed to push the idea that criticism of the president—and the Gupta family—was

Would-be successors to the ailing Nigerian president are circling

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Osinbajo the loyal POLITICS is the survival of the fittest, and Nigeria is no exception. “The Hyenas and the Jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom,” the first lady, Aisha Buhari, wrote on Facebook on July 10th, in response to a senator who had described her husband as “the absent Lion King”. Muhammadu Buhari has been in London being treated for a mysterious illness since May 7th, after spending a seven-week stint there earlier this year. His only recent communication has been a few written statements mourning deceased politicians. Despite many rumours, Mr Buhari is probably not dead himself. The vice-president (and acting president), Yemi Osinbajo, rushed to London for a few hours last week. On his return he said his boss was recovering fast and would be back “very shortly”. But

To escape repression, critics are leaving the Gulf

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FOR two years Ghanem al Masarir al-Dosari, a Saudi satirist, has fronted an online comic look at the news in a show called “Fadfada” (Natter), which pokes fun at his kingdom’s royal highnesses. He portrays the young crown prince and de facto ruler, Muhammad bin Salman, in nappies, and calls him “al-dub al-dasher”, loosely translated as “fat crumpet”. His YouTube channel attracts millions of followers, most of them Saudi. “Back home, I’d have lost my head,” he says. But Mr Dosari broadcasts from the safety of a north London suburb, he hopes out of reach of the royal sword. Ever since the leading pan-Arab newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat, launched in Britain in 1978, London has served as an Arab media hub. Fleeing the censors at home, journalists found freedom in exile. Fresh crackdowns, censor

A new drug of choice in the Gulf

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Not the real thing THE traditional way is not always the most successful. Saudi Arabian border guards this month arrested a Sudanese man accused of smuggling more than half a million drug tablets into the kingdom from Jordan on the back of a camel. Just as tastes in food and drink vary from region to region, so do preferences for drugs. The one the Sudanese man was allegedly trafficking, known as Captagon, is the Arabian peninsula’s most popular illegal drug. True Captagon (generic name: fenethylline) was produced as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. America banned it in 1981 after its addictive and other pernicious characteristics became clear. Most other countries have followed suit. The pills flooding into Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states sometimes have a fe