Top of the Blogs 2019

Social media channels are exploding in Africa. Millions of people write blogs, share photos, videos or inside information on what is currently going on in their country. To keep you updated on the issues discussed in the continent's blogger scene, we publish a "Top of the Blogs" at the end of each week - interesting new blog posts commenting on media, culture, politics and news from all over Africa.

Top of the Blogs 2019 #10

Overview: 1 June – 7 June 2019

In this week’s Top of the Blogs we take a look at the Democratic Republic Congo twice: once again, an overloaded boat capsized on Lake Mai Ndombe. And: DRC’s new president is now able to start taking care of the nation’s problems since the appointment of his new (but old-guard) prime minister. In Sudan, the African Union increases pressure to build a transitional government by suspending the country from the organisation. We conclude with the challenge of measuring air pollution in African cities.

DRC’s new president faces fresh challenges with old-guard premier

After four months, the Democratic Republic of Congo finally has a new prime minister: Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba. Ilunga finds himself in a tense situation between President Felix Tshisekedi's Party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, and former president Joseph Kabila’s Party for Reconciliation and Democracy. With the appointment of his prime minister, President Tshisekedi should set a political agenda to solve DRC’s problems, such as poverty and the Ebola outbreak in the north of the country.

Another capsized boat in Congolese waters

Another boat capsized on the Lake Mai Ndombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It seems 30 of the 300 passengers lost their lives. The number of these fatal accidents in Congolese waters has been increasing due to overloaded boats in bad condition as well as non-compliance with safety standards. #AfricaBlogging’s Nsenga Kola sees a lack of transport alternatives for DRC’s population. Authorities have to act, he points out.

Sudan: a chance for the AU to refine support for countries in crisis

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) had excluded Sudan from the organization, until a civilian-led Transitional Authority is established. In April 2019, the military overthrew Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir after months of protests. Until today, Military Council and the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition negotiating on behalf of the protesters, have failed to build a transitional government. After the military took violent action against civilian protests, the African Union increased pressure by suspending Sudan. An inevitable step, as Adem Abebe says: the challenges in Sudan are a chance for the AU to prove itself in supporting African countries in crisis.

How bad air pollution is in Africa

Air pollution is a huge issue in African cities. However, the extent of the problem is not clear since the quality of the air is not even measured in most of the areas. According to a new UNICEF report published to mark World Environment Day at the beginning of June, only six percent of African children live within 50 kilometers of an air quality monitoring station. In her article Yomi Kazeem points out the dangers of the air pollution.

Top of the Blogs 2019 #9

Overview: May 18th till 24th, 2019

While the votes of Malawi’s election this week are still being counted and a close result emerges, the South Africans are waiting for incumbent president Ramaphosa to announce his new cabinet: three professors weigh in on who and what is needed to move South Africa forward. In this week’s Top of the Blogs we look at how the right to freedom of assembly is handled in Uganda. We end with sad news of the death of great Kenyan writer and intellectual Binyavanga Wainaina.

Malawi elections: A three-horse race too close to call

Malawi went to the polls this week. Final results have not been announced yet but after 75 % of the votes being counted, a close result is emerging. Malawi’s current president, Peter Mutharika, leads the contest with 40 % of the votes. #AfricaBlogging writer Jimmy Kainja predicted a head-to-head race between the three most promising candidates and takes a closer look at each.

Ramaphosa’s cabinet: Who and what is needed to end South Africa’s malaise

This weekend South Africa inaugurates Cyril Ramaphosa as president and the country wait expectantly for the announcement of his new cabinet. Mzukisi Qobo, Cheryl Hendricks and Seán Muller, professors at the University of Johannesburg, point out that Ramaphosa needs to pursue major improvements in the next years – ideally with help of a cabinet consisting of old and new faces.

Public Assemblies: Why the “tomato seller” argument is flawed

“Therefore, if you want to assemble publically or to procession, it must be for a legitimate reason.” This is what the Ugandan President wrote on his website recently. Masake Anthony from #AfricaBlogging criticizes Museveni for this phrase – and his whole attitude toward the right of freedom of assembly being supported by a controversial law that has been in force since 2013. According to the writer people were not able to enjoy their democratic rights to the fullest as long as some assemblies were considered “more legitimate” than others.

Binyavanga Wainaina’s biggest legacy was challenging Africans to free their imaginations

Africa mourns Binyavanga Wainaina. The award-winning author and journalist died at the age of 48 after a short illness this week. People around the world valued him for standing up for the rights of homo- and bisexuals. The Kenyan stood out due to his “idiosyncratic” style of dressing and his call to political action through his writing. In his obituary, Abdi Latif Dahir calls Binyavanga “a foremost witty contrarian, a sharp intellectual, and a beautiful writer with preternatural competence”.

Top of the Blogs 2019 #8

Overview: May 4th till 10th, 2019

South Africans lined up this week to vote in the country’s sixth election since the end of Apartheid 25 years ago. We take a look at young voters, the role of local radio and the challenge of deciding who to vote for. But South Africa is not the only country grappling with democratic values. In Benin, security forces fired on demonstrators protesting against the country’s flawed legislative elections. We finish this week’s “Top of the Blogs” with a story about the creative initiatives of refugees in the Kakuma camp in Kenya.

South Africans are lining up at the polls, but young voters are staying home

Sleeping in could be a sign of protest in South Africa’s May 8 election. As the country headed to the polls 25 years after its first euphoric election, it seems disillusionment has set in, particularly among those who are as old as South Africa’s democratic regime – the twenty somethings. Nine million South Africans eligible to vote have not registered to vote, most of them young people.

Local radio is plugging gaps in South Africa’s mainstream media coverage

Beyond the choreographed photo opportunities and big rallies, there is a local dimension to South Africa’s election campaign that is going largely unnoticed by the national media. As a result, important insights into political dynamics are being missed. Research has shown that the mainstream media have a blind spot when it comes to community perspectives. A new initiative hosted by the Wits Radio Academy seeks to draw on community radio reporting to help fill the gap.

Election Thoughts: South Africa, 8 May 2019

“I made a difficult decision regarding which party to vote for in South Africa’s National elections – more difficult than any of the previous,” says #AfricaBlogging writer Jacques Rousseau. He says that the difficulty of the choice is also due to more negative considerations, namely that any and every choice was awful, and the feeling of choosing the least bad option was stronger than ever before.

Benin’s unrest reflects a broader worrying trend in West Africa

While South Africans went out to vote in the country’s sixth election since the formation of its democratic government 25 years ago, several countries’ democratic reputations are under threat across West Africa. Last week, Benin was propelled into the international spotlight as security forces fired on demonstrators protesting against the country’s deeply flawed legislative elections. But Benin is just the latest country in the region to experience political troubles.

From fashion to farming: Surviving and thriving in Kakuma refugee camp

The Kakuma camp in Kenya’s dry north-east is home to nearly 150,000 refugees, mostly from South Sudan and Somalia. The inhabitants of the world’s fourth largest refugee camp are heavily restricted in what they can do and where they can go. However, the people in Kakuma have also started innovative initiatives to learn skills and find alternative sources of income and fulfilment.


Top of the Blogs 2019 #7

Overview: April 27th till May 3rd, 2019

World Press Freedom Day

Today is World Press Freedom Day so we have prepared a selection of the top opinion pieces related to press freedom, journalist safety and media credibility and independence in Africa – including an article by our KAS Media Africa Director on the risks of reliance on media philanthropy.

I have nothing against philanthropy

KAS Media Africa’s Director Christoph Plate believes that media philanthropy, no matter with what good intentions, can in the long-run undermine journalistic ethics. In this opinion piece he warns that giving things for free creates the typical donor-recipient dependency, with African media outlets reliant on foreign donors who mean well but know very little. It also contradicts the role of a self-sufficient media, serving as the Fourth Estate, no matter how disputed the term might be.

Threats to press freedom are taking on different forms across Africa

Journalists across the continent face threats every day. Many are incarcerated or intimidated for covering sensitive stories. This is despite the fact that progressive laws have been passed in a number of countries. These are designed to protect the fundamental rights to free expression and access to information. And yet some governments in Africa still show little respect for freedom of expression laws.

Why restoring accuracy will help journalism win back credibility

Journalism will be saved by good journalism, and good journalism happens when media organisations invest in things like fact-checking , writes media academic Glenda Daniels. Fact-checking is laborious, time-consuming and complex. If modern newsrooms are serious about producing good journalism, and fighting back against the proliferation of falsehoods that dominate so much of the news cycle today, professional fact-checkers are crucial.

World Press Freedom Day: SA drops in international rankings

Reporters Without Borders has dropped South Africa’s ranking three places after confirming that ‘press freedom has yet to be consolidated in South Africa’. The country now ranks 31st out of 180 countries. According to Reporters Without Borders, the reasons for South Africa’s drop in status include that ‘the State Security Agency spies on some journalists and taps their phones’. Others are harassed and subjected to intimidation campaigns if they try to cover ‘certain subjects involving the ruling ANC party, government finances, the redistribution of land to the black population or corruption’.

It’s time to rethink philanthropy journalism in East Africa

Journalism is about freely exchanging information based on news, views or ideas. This is the reason why the context within which journalism is practised matters. In East Africa, this context is challenging because intimidation and harassment of journalists is rife. Critical media outlets are being shut down on flimsy grounds and others starved of government advertisement. Thus, support to journalism and media in general is meaningful only if philanthropists collaborate to support a long-term sustainable media ecosystem.

Top of the Blogs 2019 #6

Overview: April 13th till 19th, 2019

Limited access to internet increases people’s vulnerability to misinformation and fake images in many African countries, like Malawi. South Africans might have come to the conclusion that there has been a recent ‘wave of protests’ by poor people, but actually this is nothing new. One month after Cyclone Idai the released numbers describing the devastation are truly distressing. To finish this week’s “Top of the Blogs” we also take a look at Trump’s latest immigration plans targeting specific African countries and feature an interview with the DRC’s “president-elect” Martin Fayulu.

High Cost of Internet vs. Fake Images

Pictures do not lie – unfortunately this is no longer strictly true. We are now living in a time of mass information manipulation, mass distribution and redistribution of information. New telecommunication technologies are the reason why all of this is possible yet the high cost of data might be compounding the spread of misinformation.

How portrayal of protest in South Africa denigrates poor people

Poor people in South Africa often feel that the only way they can be heard is to protest. Recently it seems that not even this gets them a hearing. The effect is, not for the first time, to denigrate poor people by offering a distorted picture of their lives and to keep alive spurious claims about protest which hail back to the era when the apartheid system governed the country.

One month later: Cyclone Idai’s devastation by the numbers

One month ago, Cyclone Idai crashed into Mozambique. The storm was so powerful that it drove into neighbouring landlocked Zimbabwe and Malawi. The flood waters are receding and the scale of the devastation is becoming clear. One month after the storm the death toll is now above one thousand with damages estimated at $2 billion.


“One day Congo will explode”: What now for the DRC’s “president-elect”?

According to election observer data 62-year-old businessman and politician Martin Fayulu won the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) less than four months ago. And yet he is not president. Still, he is widely believed to have been the true victor of the DRC’s 2018 elections. African Arguments spoke to him about his next steps.

Trump’s latest immigration plan targets African countries whose citizens overstay visas

Trump’s administration is considering a new immigration measure to impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens have a track record of overstaying beyond the validity of their short-term US visas. As it turns out, several African countries whose nationals have high rates of overstaying their visas - including Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - could be on the receiving end if the measure is seen through.


Top of the Blogs 2019 #5

Overview: April 6th till 12th, 2019

The ANC Youth League’s plan to burn piles of journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s new book should be condemned as an attack on South Africa’s democracy. The country is only one month away from its upcoming elections and as the date approaches a new study finds that the ANC is likely to be really successful. In this week’s “Top of the Blogs” we also talk about the impact of Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe on the society in the county and the vision of Universal Health Care in Africa through digital technology.

Mr President, draw a line in the sand on book burning

The ANC Youth League in the Free State planned to burn piles of journalist and author Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s new book, Gangster State, which revealed allegations of how ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule led the province with an iron fist. This opinion writer feels the book burning threat is a moment that requires astute leadership; disapproval is not sufficient. This is a moment for Cyril Ramaphosa as President of the Republic to condemn the ANC Youth League’s actions for what they are — an attack on our democracy.

Ramaphosa’s presidency is drawing voters back to the ANC: new study

Trust in South Africa’s president is the single most important predictor of the potential party choices at the ballot. This is the result of the latest research into the voting preferences in the country. The study was conducted by the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg. If voting behaviour follows suit this could be the key to understanding the success of the African National Congress (ANC) on election day – May 8.

Robert Mugabe’s True Legacy: A Nasty, Materialist and Populist Individualism

There have been a number of books written on Robert Mugabe in his many leadership roles. There are stories written about him as a leader of a guerrilla movement, as a prime minister, as a president and even from a western perspective as a dictator. Many more will be written about him. But what concerns this blogger most are the lived realities of Mugabe’s legacy.

Bridging the Digital Divide for Universal Health Coverage innovation in Africa

In this digital era, using digital technology to ensure access to quality healthcare is no longer an option; it is the way to go. There are mountains to climb when it comes to achieving Universal Health Care in Africa – poverty, inadequate infrastructure, lack of political will among others. Yet, technology has proved that Africa can leapfrog into the future. ​​​​​​

Top of the Blogs 2019 #4

Overview: March 30th till April 5th, 2019

This Sunday Rwanda marks 25 years since the genocide and even a quarter century later the debate about the media’s role during the mass slaughter remains. In this week’s “Top of the Blogs” we also discuss the connection between climate change and the Cyclone Idai and we talk about the first press conference after the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight that brought more clarification on what happened minutes after take-off. Finally, we take a critical look at the news of an alleged cure for HIV.

Debate continues about the media’s role in driving Rwanda’s genocide

Twenty-five years ago, the Rwandan government launched a meticulously planned genocide against its Tutsi minority. It killed approximately 800 000 people in 100 days. We can’t reflect on the history of the 1994 genocide without considering the critical role the media. Did radio broadcasts directly incite violence?

Cyclone Idai and climate justice

Nearly two weeks after Cyclone Idai struck the coast of Mozambique, near Beira, the flood waters are receding to reveal a shattered landscape and confirmed deaths in the high hundreds. There is a need to focus on broader global implications. The causal connection between climate change and extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Idai, is clear.

Ethiopia says pilots repeatedly followed Boeing’s instructions before crash

The preliminary investigation report on an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed a month ago showed that pilots “repeatedly performed all the procedures provided” by Boeing to bypass a new flight system that can destabilize its plane but were not able to control the aircraft. This week officials provided a first statement on what actually happened minutes after take-off.

Gambia: How Yahya Jammeh Stole a Country

For more than two decades, Yahya Jammeh ruled over Gambia. His administration was implicated in widespread human rights abuses and several waves of brutal crackdowns on dissents – he also embezzled almost $1billion of public funds as this intensive investigation shows.

Two people ‘cured’ of HIV. But we don’t have a cure for HIV

News of a potential cure for HIV shouldn't lead us to complacency. There are 37 million people in the world with HIV, nearly half who can't access treatment. Last month, The New York Times and others published – in violation of a media embargo – world-shaking headlines of a “cure” for HIV.


Top of the Blogs 2019 #3

Overview: March 23rd till 29th, 2019

No lights, no internet, no power – ‘load shedding’ has again become a familiar part of the daily lives of South Africans. And the world is fighting plastic pollution: while the European Union decided to ban single-use plastic this week, Zambia has just implemented a ban on plastic carrier bags. We also talk about the massacre in Mali and the closing of the Rwanda-Uganda border in this week’s “Top of the Blogs”.

South Africa’s electricity blackouts have become worryingly normal

These days it does not take much to bring joy to the people in South Africa. A flicker of a lightbulb or the recurring buzzing of the fridge easily becomes the cause for celebration when the power turns back on after load shedding. The national power supplier Eskom has been scheduling the blackouts, affecting different areas at different times.

A bloody scandal in Mali

More than 150 people from two small villages, Ogossagou and Welingara, in central Mali were attacked at home, murdered and their villages were burned. Mali might be in a worse state now than it was just before the jihadists took over two-thirds of the country seven years ago, says the author.

How The Gambia is going about its search for truth and reconciliation

“Before you can act, you have to get the truth, to get the facts together,” said the Gambia’s president Adama Barrow when he was elected in 2016. One of his first promises was to establish a truth commission to chronicle past atrocities. He considered this a necessary first step towards national reconciliation and peace-building. The commission began sitting on 7 January, 2019.

The Rwanda-Uganda border is closed - Lads have to postpone their search for brides

A village in Rwanda and a village in Uganda who are only separated by a few meters have grown into one community over the years. The Wednesday and Saturday market became a major activity in the lives of the people on both sides of the border and were known as a hunting ground for lads to find a potential marriage partner. But now with their presidents fighting like an old married couple, the two communities have been separated.

Zambia implements ban on plastic carrier bags

Several multi-national chain stores have started implementing the government’s ban on the sale and distribution of plastic carrier bags to customers in Zambia. Several shops across the nation are now providing alternative plastics for their customers.

Top of the Blogs 2019 #2

Overview: March 16th till 22nd, 2019

This week we take a closer look at the internet: while some African governments have already blocked internet connectivity only three month into 2019, others are facing the challenges of the spreading of fake news. And then there are alleged miraculous happenings, such as a clip of a pastor bringing someone back from the dead that is doing the rounds on social media. But let’s start with a look at the floods caused by cyclone Idai and its effects in Malawi.

Why Malawi is failing to protect people from floods and what needs to be done

Malawi is the third poorest country in the world, more than 80 percent of the people are reliant on agriculture and farm on little pieces of land in marginalized areas. A lack of economic diversification, different employment possibilities and access to social services means that floods can easily become a disaster – like the most recent one.

Why science matters so much in the era of fake news and fallacies

If it is fake, then it is not news. Fake news is a direct antithesis of science. While science gets to what approximates the truth, fake news is a perversion of reality. Social media has become the center of the paradox: the new technologies enable us to spread more information than ever but also make it possible to facilitate fake news.

African strongmen are the biggest stumbling blocks to internet access on the continent

The less democratic a country is, the higher the chances of state-initiated shutdowns, a recent study found. Five African countries – Gabon, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo – have already blocked internet connectivity just three month into 2019. And they have one other characteristic in common: authoritarianism.

Raising the Dead: Too Many Questions, But More than Enough Answers

A clip on social media showing a South African pastor laying hands on a human corpse, whereupon he allegedly rises from the death, has gone viral. The incident has raised eyebrows and started a discussion about the true sense of religion among many South Africans.


Top of the Blogs 2019 #1

Overview: March 9th till 15th, 2019

Misinformation means the Democratic Republic of Congo is facing a bigger battle against the Ebola virus while its neighboring state Zambia struggles with another attempt from government to undermine the independent press. In this week’s “Top of the Blogs” we also take a look at the closure of Burundi’s UN human rights office and the potential of African urban farming.

Democratic Republic of Congo: No, Ebola is not a myth

It is seven months since the tenth Ebola epidemic broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The number of victims is still increasing and there have been more than 500 reported deaths and several hundred registered cases. But that is not the only challenge: the greatest difficulty is the fake news and mistaken beliefs about Ebola.

Zambian Government Closes Independent Media Critical of the Ruling Party

Zambian authorities’ latest attempt to undermine the independent press is directed against Prime Television. The station received a one month suspension of its broadcast license after its reportage on the recent by-election which the ruling party lost. Critics say that the crackdown of the independent press always seems to heighten around election periods.

How good urban farming can combat bad eating

Unhealthy diets risk more health issues across the world than unsafe sex, alcohol, drugs and tobacco use combined. This is according to a new study that reports 820 million people are underfed and many more consume a low-quality diet. In Africa, achieving a healthy diet will require a range of initiatives but the answer could be traditional food and inner-city farms, says the author.

Why the closure of Burundi’s UN human rights office is a major setback

Burundi’s government is forcing the United Nations to shut down its local human rights office after 23 years. The government declared it had made sufficient progress in human rights so the U.N. office in Bujumbura was no longer justified. But U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says that there were still credible reports of serious human rights violations in Burundi.

Why the world needs an African ecofeminist future

Women across Africa are coming up with alternatives for the orthodox economical models. The author argues that their battle for ecological sustainability on the continent should function as a role model for the rest of the world.