African press review 16 December 2015

Boko Haram insurgents may have killed as many as 700,000 people in north-eastern Nigeria. Does the world any longer need the World Trade Organisation? Jacob Zuma's recent rash of finance ministers has been good news for the local goldmining industry. And Egypt is a bad place to be a journalist.


Punch daily newspaper in Nigeria carries some shocking statistics on the activities of the Boko Haram Islamist organisation.

The Nigerian House of Representatives heard yesterday that 700,000 lives have so far been lost to the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the north-east of the country and another 2.2 million people have been displaced in the zone, the Abuja-based daily reports.

The figures were revealed as the Nigerian government debates the establishment of a North-East Development Commission intended to “receive and manage funds from allocations from the Federation Account and international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency”.

Click here to read more articles

The bill has cross-party support and passed its second reading yesterday.

The main story in regional paper The East African looks forward to this week's meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The report says ministers should decide whether the WTO continues to try to negotiate major trade deals or find it a more modest mandate, like arbitrating international trade rows.

According to The East African, the Geneva-based organisation, which has more than 160 members, has been trying and largely failing to agree on a worldwide package of trade reforms since a meeting in Doha in 2001 hatched an ambitious plan for doing away with trade barriers. Years of talks have failed to produce any major successes.

The Nairobi meeting should decide on the appropriate future direction of the world trade body.

The Nairobi-based Daily Nation gives the WTO meeting the front-page honours, saying hopes of African countries gaining access to the markets of rich countries were dashed yesterday, after representatives of Western powers said they saw little prospect of an agreement.

Africa and other developing, countries want rich economies to stop subsidising their farmers and allow competition.

They also want rich countries to open their markets to processed goods from poor countries.

But, says the Daily Nation, rich Western countries are shockingly hypocritical in trade matters.

Whereas they claim to be helping African countries to end poverty, they pay their farmers subsidies which enable them to sell their goods cheaply.

Slideshow Mandela

In South Africa, financial paper BusinessDay reports that President Jacob Zuma has unwittingly thrown a lifeline to the country’s struggling gold industry.

Zuma’s decision to fire respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene drove the rand to a record low, instantly reducing labour and other costs in the local currency for mining companies, relative to the US dollars they earn by selling gold.

Shares of Harmony Gold are up 25 per cent since Zuma's decision to sack Nene was anounced last Wednesday.

South Africa has since seen further changes at the financial helm, Nene's short-term replacement being himself replaced after just four days by Pravin Gordhan, who who was finance minister from 2009 to 2014, before he was replaced by, you guessed it, Nhlanhla Nene.

Gordhan was quick to reassure investors, saying sticking to spending targets was "sacrosanct".

Fitch Ratings offered a stark reminder of how difficult his task would be in rebuilding investor confidence, saying the reappointment of Gordhan did not enhance belief in the government’s effectiveness and left questions over the direction of South African economic policy.

In Cairo The Egypt Independent carries the news that Egypt has been ranked as the world’s second worst jailer of journalists, coming in after China, in a 2015 Reporters Without Borders report, which counted 22 journalists being held in detention in Egypt. That's just one fewer than in China.

The non-govermental pro-democracy group Freedom House categorises Egypt as "not free" in its press freedom index and gives the country a grade of 73 out of 100. If that sounds good, you should know that 0 is the best score possible and 100 would be the worst.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app