Battery swapping spurs Kenya’s electric motorbike drive

By Ayenat Mersie

An Airbus A350-941 aircraft of Ethiopian Airlines is pulled by a pushback tractor of air service provider DNATA at Zurich Airport near Ruemlang, Switzerland, December 14, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo 

NAIROBI, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Over recent months, sets of sturdy, brightly-branded battery swapping stations have cropped up around Kenya’s capital Nairobi, allowing electric motorcyclists to exchange their low battery for a fully-charged one.

It is a sign of an electric motorcycle revolution starting to unfold in Kenya where combustion-engine motorbikes are a cheaper and quicker way to get around than cars but environmental experts say are 10 times more polluting.

East Africa’s biggest economy is betting on electric-powered motorcycles, its renewables-heavy power supply and position as a technology and start-up hub to lead the region’s shift to zero-emission electric mobility.

The battery swapping system not only saves time – essential for Kenya’s more than one million motorcyclists, most of whom use the bikes commercially – but also saves buyers money as many sellers follow a model in which they retain ownership of the battery, the bike’s most expensive part.

It doesn’t make a lot of economic and business sense for them to acquire a battery…which would almost double the cost of the bike,” said Steve Juma, the co-founder of electric bike company Ecobodaa.

Ecobodaa has 50 test electric motorcyles on the road now and plans to have 1,000 by the end of 2023 which it sells for about $1,500 each – roughly the same price as combustion-engine bikes thanks to the exclusion of the battery from the cost.

After the initial purchase, the electric motorcyle – designed to be sturdy enough to traverse rocky roads – is cheaper to run than petrol-guzzling ones.

[1/5] Workers at ARC Ride assemble an electric motorcycle at the company’s warehouse in Industrial Area, Nairobi, Kenya November 2, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

“With the normal bike, I will use fuel worth approximately 700-800 Kenyan shillings ($5.70-$6.51) each day, but with this bike, when I swap a battery I get one battery at 300 shillings,” said Kevin Macharia, 28, who transports goods and passengers around Nairobi.

EXPANSION PLANS

Ecobodaa is just one of several Nairobi-based electric motorcycle startups working to prove themselves in Kenya before eventually expanding in East Africa.

Kenya’s consistent power supply which is about 95% renewable led by hydroelectricity and has a widespread network, was a major support for growth of the sector, said Jo Hurst-Croft, founder of ARC Ride, another Nairobi-based electric motorcycle startup.

The country’s power utility estimates it generates enough to charge two million electric motorcycles a day: electricity access in the country is over 75%, according to the World Bank, and even higher in Nairobi.

Uganda and Tanzania also have robust and renewables-heavy grids that could support electric mobility, said Hurst-Croft.

“We’re putting over 200 swapping stations in Nairobi and expanding to Dar es Salaam and Kampala,” said Hurst-Croft.

($1 = 122.9000 Kenyan shillings)

Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Morocco’s World Cup heroes given royal welcome home

By Rédaction Africanews

Tens of thousands of Moroccans thronged the capital on Tuesday to welcome home their national football team, the first Arab or African squad ever to reach the semi-final of a World Cup.

The team and their coach Walid Regragui waved from an open-topped bus as they were driven from the airport and around central Rabat, accompanied by dozens of police cars and motorbikes with flashing lights and wailing sirens.

The crowd cheered and some waved flares as fireworks crackled in the sky over the seaside capital, AFP correspondents said.

“I’m so proud of our team. Who knows — maybe next time they could win the cup,” said Adam Najah, a 27-year-old waiter from the city of Meknes.

He said he had travelled over 150 kilometres (90 miles) to “experience this historic day” and “celebrate the beautiful story of Morocco at the World Cup”.

Many supporters, clad in the team’s kits and waving red flags, had waited hours to see their heroes.

“I can’t describe my joy! They made us Moroccans, Arabs and Africans proud,” said Abdeljabbar Bouroua, 54, as the bus passed through central Rabat.

Morocco finished top of a group including Croatia and Belgium, who came third at the 2018 World Cup, before knocking out Spain and Portugal to reach the last four.

The Atlas Lions lost Saturday’s third place play-off 2-1 against 2018 runners-up Croatia, but captured the imagination in Qatar.

“I would have liked to take them in my arms and kiss them,” said 19-year-old law student Leila Messour, who came to watch the team with her friends.

“They passed by quickly but we saw them — I haven’t been so happy for a long time.”

The team later headed to the royal palace, where they were received by King Mohammed VI “in recognition of the historic achievement”.

The king, alongside crown prince Moulay Hassan, handed out awards to the president of the Moroccan football federation, the team coach and the players, country’s national news agency MAP reported.

The players’ mothers also accompanied them to the palace, MAP added, saying it was in recognition of their efforts to “instil in their children the values of patriotism, sacrifice and national belonging”.

Ivory Coast launches construction of metro project

L- French Economy Minister Bruno le Maire, R- Allassane Ouattara  –  Copyright © africanews
2022

By Rédaction Africanews 

vory Coast on Monday commissioned the construction of two major infrastructure projects in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan- that of a metro and the extension of the international airport.

The launch of the construction was attended by the French Economy Minister Bruno le Maire who signed agreements  including credit, for this project.

The purpose of my visit is obviously to mark the concrete launch of the completion of major infrastructure projects here in Abidjan. ” Le Maire said in Abidjan.

“The metro is one of the largest infrastructure projects on the continent. It is an ambitious project, a social project that will benefit millions of people in Abidjan” the French minister added.

At the end of 2019, a French consortium comprising the groups Bouygues Travaux Publics, Alstom, Colas Rail and Keolis had been chosen to build the first metro line in Abidjan.

At the time, France committed to cover the contract with a mix of loans from the French Treasury and private financing guaranteed by the French government. The cost of the work is estimated at 1.36 billion euros. The line will cross the Ivorian metropolis from north to south over 37 km, as far as the airport. The construction work has been delayed for years, but the government hopes that the metro will be operational by 2025.

US announces $2.5 billion in food assistance to Africa

AFP , Friday 16 Dec 2022

The United States on Thursday committed another $2.5 billion in food assistance to Africa, pledging to help the continent cope with rising prices blamed in part on Russia’s invasion of breadbasket Ukraine.

President Joe Biden speaks with African leaders as they gather to pose for a family photo during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. AP

President Joe Biden laid out the new commitment at the close of a three-day summit that brought nearly 50 African leaders to Washington.

Biden told leaders that the United States was concerned about rising hunger triggered “in part due to Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine.”

“Today, famine once more stalks the Horn of Africa,” Biden said.

“Food security is an essential foundation for peace and prosperity. Simply put, if a parent can’t feed their child, nothing else really matters.”

He said the United States also wanted to work with Africa on developing arable land.

“Africa has the potential to feed its people but also to help feed the world,” Biden said.

The White House said the $2.5 billion would provide emergency aid as well as medium- and long-term assistance to stabilize the African food supply.

The United States said it would also pursue a partnership with the African Union to bring together the public and private sectors and international financial institutions to address food needs.

The United States has already provided $11 billion in food assistance for the continent this year, the White House said.

The Horn of Africa has been especially hard hit after successive failed rainy seasons, with the United Nations saying that aid has staved off full-fledged famine in Somalia.

EgyptAir increases direct flights between Cairo, Moscow

BY Egypt Today staff

FILE – EgyptAir plane

CAIRO – 17 December 2022: Egypt’s air flag carrier company, EgyptAir, announced an increase in its direct flights between Cairo and Moscow to 14 flights per week, as two flights will operate on daily basis, starting from December 18, on Sunday.

The company is currently operating 11 flights per week, according to a plan aimed at attracting more air and tourism traffic, which contributes to stimulating the next tourist movement to Egypt.

The company also decided to increase direct flights between Moscow and Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada airports to reach 28 flights as of the beginning of next January, in coordination with tourism agents.

On April 15, 2022, EgyptAir resumed flights between Cairo and Moscow after weeks of hiatus in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Last February, Russia started a military operation in Ukraine. As a result of the operation, a number of sanctions were imposed on the Russian economy. International flights were also halted due to the operation temporarily.

In April, Russia was suspended from the United Nations’ leading human rights body as its invasion of Ukraine continues to provoke revulsion and outrage around the world.

Activists file case against Meta over Tigray hate posts

AFP ,

An Ethiopian man whose father was murdered during the country’s war has joined a lawsuit against Meta that is seeking $1.6 billion from Facebook’s parent company for allegedly fanning hate speech in Africa.

Kenyan lawyer Mercy Mutemi (C) speaks to the media after filing a lawsuit against Meta accusing Facebook s parent company of fanning violence and hate speech in Africa at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on December 14, 2022. AFP

The case filed in Kenya’s High Court on Wednesday by two individuals and a rights group says Meta responded inadequately to hateful content on its platform, especially in relation to the war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

One petitioner said his father, an ethnic Tigrayan, had been targeted by racist messages on Facebook before his murder in November 2021, and the social media giant had failed to move quickly to remove these posts.

“If Facebook had just stopped the spread of hate and moderated posts properly, my father would still be alive,” said Abrham Meareg, who is also Tigrayan and an academic like his father.

“I’m taking Facebook to court so no one ever suffers as my family has again. I’m seeking justice for millions of my fellow Africans hurt by Facebook’s profiteering — and an apology for my father’s murder.”

His lawyer, Mercy Mutemi, said Facebook took a month to respond to Abrham’s appeals for the content to be taken down.

“Why did it take over a month to take down a post that calls for the murder of somebody?” she said.

Mutemi said Facebook acknowledged the content violated community standards but a year later one of the violent posts was still online.

Another petitioner is Fisseha Tekle, an Ethiopian researcher for Amnesty International and a Tigrayan, who has written about the war and faced a torrent of online abuse.

The international community has condemned hate speech and dehumanising rhetoric during the two-year conflict, which has seen all sides accused of atrocities amid warnings of ethnic cleansing.

‘Inhumane’ working conditions

Meta spokesperson Ben Walters said the company was yet to be served with the lawsuit, but had “strict rules which outline what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook and Instagram.”

“We’ve removed misinformation when there is a risk it may contribute to physical harm for a long time,” he told AFP in a statement.

“In Ethiopia, we have identified and are removing a number of pre-reviewed harmful claims and out of context imagery that make false allegations about the perpetrators, severity or targets of violence in Ethiopia.”

The Katiba Institute, a Kenyan rights group and another petitioner to the lawsuit, is seeking changes to Facebook’s algorithm.

Inciteful, hateful and dangerous posts “spark conversation, attract reactions and shares as well as motivate back-and-forth discussion in the comments section,” read the petition seen by AFP.

It also accused Meta of “inhumane” working conditions for its overstretched content moderators in Nairobi tasked with overseeing eastern and southern Africa, a vast region covering 500 million people.

The petitioners claim this resulted in “systematic discrimination” against African Facebook users, citing the platform’s swift response by comparison to the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former US president Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.

The petitioners are asking the court for the establishment of a 200-billion Kenyan shillings ($1.6-billion) compensation fund for victims of hate and violence incited on Facebook.

In late 2021, Rohingya refugees sued Facebook for $150 billion, claiming the social network failed to stem hate speech directed against them.

The Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority, were driven from Myanmar in 2017 into neighbouring Bangladesh by security forces in a crackdown now subject to a UN genocide investigation.

AFP is involved in a partnership with Meta providing fact-checking services in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.Search Keywords:

Akufo-Addo taking IMF loan yet warning against begging the West – Shehu Sani

By Rédaction Africanews with Agencies 

FILE – In this Nov. 19, 2019, file photo, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo …

Shehu Sani, a former senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has reacted to Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo’s recent advice to African leaders against begging from the west.

He said the Ghanaian president cannot call on African leaders to stop begging from the West while he is doing the same.

Sani juxtaposed Ghana’s current economic engagement with the IMF with the president’s call.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Sani referred to Ghana’s recent staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

“Ghana’s President is collecting IMF loan with the right hand and using the left hand to warn African Governments against begging the west for money,” the tweet read.

Ghana on Tuesday (November 13) reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $3 billion bailout loan, as the country faces a severe economic crisis.

On the same day of the agreement, President Akufo-Addo urged African leaders to stop begging. “If we stop being beggars and spend African money inside the continent, Africa will not need to ask for respect from anyone. We will get the respect we deserve. If we make it prosperous as it should be, respect will follow,” Akufo-Addo said.

This was during the opening of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC on Tuesday, December 13.

He admonished Africans living abroad to bring their expertise and wealthy knowledge on board to help shape the image of the continent. He believes that it will take unity of purpose to succeed in changing the narrative and enhancing Africa’s image.

Biden tries to reboot US brand in Africa amid China, Russia inroads

AFP , Sunday 11 Dec 2022

When Barack Obama welcomed African leaders to Washington in 2014, many viewed the summit as historic, not just due to the US president’s background but for the pledges to make the partnership deeper and such events routine.

US President Joe Biden speaks about building a stronger economy for union workers and retirees at the White House in Washington December 8, 2022.AP

The sequel took eight years , the equivalent of two presidential terms but on Tuesday, Joe Biden will host a second US-Africa summit.

Since 2014, China viewed by Washington as its main long-term challenger has consistently outpaced the United States as the largest investor in Africa and Russia has increasingly flexed its muscle, sending mercenaries to hotspots and trying to rally opinion to blunt Western pressure over Ukraine.

Biden’s three-day summit will feature announcements of new US investment and highlight food security — worsened by the invasion of Ukraine — but, unlike China, also focus on values such as democracy and good governance, as well as fighting climate change.

But the biggest message from Biden, a lover of backslapping face-to-face diplomacy, will be that the United States cares.

Since defeating Donald Trump, who made no secret of his lack of interest in Africa, Biden has thrown his support behind an African seat on the Security Council and at the Washington, summit will call for the African Union to formally join the Group of 20 major economies, an aide said.

“We believe that this is a decisive decade. The way in which the world will be ordered will be determined in the coming years,” said Biden’s top Africa advisor, Judd Devermont.

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “believe strongly that African voices are going to be critical in this conversation,” he said.

African leaders have already been holding summits every three years with China and also have regular meetings with several US allies, France, Britain, Japan and the European Union.

All, almost, welcome 

After a row over invitations distracted attention from his Western Hemisphere summit in Los Angeles in June, Biden has been open with the guest list from Africa.

The United States is inviting all African Union members in good standing meaning not Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali or Sudan — and with which Washington has full relations, which excludes authoritarian Eritrea.

One of the most closely watched leaders expected in Washington will be Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a one-time US ally whom the Biden administration has accused of backing widespread abuses in the Tigray conflict, which has subsided with a breakthrough November 2 agreement signed in South Africa.

Also in Washington will be the presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as Blinken leads international pressure on Rwanda over alleged support to rebels advancing in its giant neighbor.

“We’ve taken some criticism, I think it’s fair to say, from some who wonder why we invited this government or that government about which there are some concerns,” said Molly Phee, the top State Department official for Africa.

“But that reflects the commitment of President Biden and Secretary Blinken to having respectful conversations even where there are areas of difference.”

Robust’ debate on trade

One key topic will be the fate of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the 2000 deal that granted duty-free access to the US market for most products from sub-Saharan nations that meet standards on rights and democracy.

The pact expires in 2025, leading African leaders to seek clarity at a time when the United States has soured on trade deals.

“We regret that AGOA trade preferences have not been utilized to the maximum,” Phee said.

She expected a “robust discussion” and said the United States may look after 2025 to engage instead with a nascent continental free trade area.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the United States was entering the summit with a “trust deficit” from Africans due to the long wait since 2014.

“The summit presents great opportunities but it also poses some risks,” he said.

“This is an opportunity to show Africa that the US really wants to listen to them,” he added.

“But now that we have high expectations, the question will be, what will be different now?”

Erdogan tells Putin to ‘clear’ Kurdish forces from northern Syria

AP , Sunday 11 Dec 2022

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday that it was imperative the Kremlin “clear” Kurdish forces from northern Syria.

File Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran on July 19, 2022. AFP

Erdogan has been threatening to launch a new military incursion into northern Syria to push out Kurdish forces that he blames for a November bomb blast that killed six people in Istanbul.

A 2019 agreement between Moscow and Ankara ended another ground offensive by setting up a 30-kilometre (19-mile) “safe zone” to protect Turkey against cross-border attacks from Syrian territory.

Erdogan accuses Russia — a key player in the Syria conflict which backs President Bashahr al-Assad — of failing to follow through on the deal.

Erdogan told Putin in a phone call on Sunday that is was “important to clear the (Kurdish fighters) from the border to a depth of at least 30 kilometres,” his office said.

Erdogan “stated this was a priority,” the Turkish presidency said.

Some of the Kurdish forces are stationed in areas under Russian military control.

Others have been fighting with the United States against jihadists from the Islamic State group.

Both Moscow and Washington have been putting diplomatic pressure on Ankara not to launch a new ground campaign.

Turkey has been pummelling Kurdish positions near the border with artillery fire and drone strikes since November 20 in response to the bomb blast.

But it has not yet poured in any major forces to support ones it already has stationed in the area.

Kurdish groups deny involvement in the Istanbul attack.

Africa CDC convenes public health officials and experts to prepare the continent to respond to future outbreaks

Public health officials, experts, researchers, and scientists around Africa will gather at a major conference at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week to take stock of how ready, in a post-COVID-19 world, African countries are to face up to the next disease threat.

‘Beyond COVID-19: Pathogen Genomics and Bioinformatics for Health Security in Africa’ will be hosted by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the autonomous health institution of the African Union (AU). The meeting will be held at the AU’s Headquarters in Addis Ababa from 29 November to 1 December 2022.

The event will draw around 120 public health officials, researchers, and scientists from 49 AU Member States, as well as local and international partners.
The symposium will, in particular, focus on the existing capacity along the full value chain of pathogen genomics and bioinformatics. This entails everything from the sequencing and analysing of disease-causing pathogens, to issues of supply chain, the generation and sharing of data, as well as international policies and agreements that govern how these processes should unfold.

Participants will review the progress, challenges and lessons from the rapid expansion of pathogen genomics in Africa, through the Africa CDC’s Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI) and the work of other stakeholders over the past two years.
These endeavours all form part of the mission of the Africa CDC, which was launched in 2017, to coordinate continent-wide responses to emerging, re-emerging and other diseases in African countries, explains Dr Sofonias Tessema, programme lead for pathogen genomics at Africa CDC. The capacity in pathogen genomics, which is key to effective emergency response, was sorely lacking, he notes.

“Africa bears a disproportionate disease burden, and we face many deadly outbreaks every year, from Ebola and Cholera to Yellow Fever and polio,” says Dr Tessema. “Therefore, one of the foundational flagship projects of Africa CDC has been the setting up of capacity for pathogen sequencing around the continent. The project was initiated well before emergence of COVID-19, but it has certainly gained momentum because of the pandemic.”

“COVID-19 is a painful reminder of how ill prepared the continent was,” points out Dr Yenew Kebede, Head of the Division of Laboratory Systems and Network and Acting Head of Division of Surveillance and Disease Intelligence at Africa CDC.
In 2019, only seven of the 55 African Union Member States had public health laboratories or affiliates with next-generation sequencing (NGS) capacity. When COVID-19 hit the world in 2020, Africa CDC – working closely with the World Health Organisation’s Africa Regional Office (WHO AFRO) and other partners – was very quickly able to roll out sequencing technologies and training as countries and international agencies struggled to monitor the pandemic and keep track of emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 disease.

Today, public health laboratories in at least 37 African countries have NGS capacity, with training and equipment planned to be rolled out to even more African countries.
“No one would have asked for a global pandemic with its tragic human, social and economic costs,” says Dr Kebede. “But in exposing our shortcomings, COVID-19 also allowed us to do within a year or two what may have taken much longer under different circumstances.”

Efforts are now also under way to build on that momentum.
“We are now ready for the next phase, as the Africa PGI moves beyond COVID-19 and as attention shifts back to more local and regional disease outbreaks,” says Prof Alan Christoffels, Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, and Senior Advisor to Africa CDC. “It has now become more urgent that we capacitate individual countries.
SANBI is one of three specialist genomics and bioinformatics centres that initially served as the backbone of Africa CDC’s genomic sequencing programme, lending support to nine regional hubs around the continent.”

These hubs are public health laboratories able to sequence SARS-CoV-2 pathogens, services that each extended to its neighbouring countries.
“We are keen that all countries in Africa develop the capacity for sequencing pathogens themselves, so that they know what they are dealing with during each outbreak,” says Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Acting Director of Africa CDC. “We therefore must support individual countries to have the technology, the skills and the protocols in place to do so, as this new tool informs their response to outbreaks,
epidemics and even pandemics.”
The Addis Ababa meeting, he adds, is a critical part of ongoing work to realise this vision.