There’s one thing readers and viewers can count on as the year winds down, and that’s a deluge of “Year in Review” stories and posts. The political changes, the celebrity news, the economic issues – media outlets contribute their take on what shaped our days and the shared history of our lives. A personal favorite is the tongue-in-cheek “2017 Jealousy List” from Bloomberg BusinessNews, an annual nod to the good work and professionalism of other journalists pursuing the stories they wish they’d written themselves.
A common thread, though, is that the lists always reflect what journalists think the top stories are, so at Africa Times we wanted to see which stories and topics our followers were most engaged with during 2017. As a participatory site, one that welcomes African perspectives and contributions from all walks of life and locales, it seemed only fair to make our list from the issues and stories you closely followed.
We might have chosen Kenya’s historic election process, the Robert Mugabe resignation in Zimbabwe, the scandal-driven shakeups in President Jacob Zuma’s South Africa or The Gambia’s new government. They’re among many important stories we’ve covered too, but these are your most-viewed news developments. So here they are, mostly – sort of – in order, beginning in East Africa.
Ethiopia: Political developments and security issues in Ethiopia were a top concern by far, especially on human rights and the stories that focused on them. In August, Ethiopia’s state of emergency was lifted, but opposition members including Oromo Federalist Congress leader Merera Gudina remain in prison.
Ethiopia in the news included Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Addis Ababa in October, and the election in May of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu to the director general position at World Health Organization. Yet far and away, the human rights situation remains a top reader priority.
Cameroon: The Anglophone crisis in this West African nation began in Fall 2015 and sadly has spanned the entire year, from the ghost-town strikes that tamped down celebrations over the Africa Cup of Nations victory in February, to the December arrest of Cameroonian-American scholar Patrice Nganang.
Reports of protester deaths, detentions, Internet shutdowns and related developments in English-speaking regions under President Paul Biya have led to international concern but little action. Hopefully, in the coming year, the efforts of diplomacy and human rights advocacy will lead to peace and stability.
Earthquakes: Some seismic activity is common on the continent, especially along the East African Rift System. Yet the big Botswana earthquake in April, measuring a 6.5 magnitude, was felt across eight countries in southern Africa and piqued a lot of curiosity. Other quakes in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Zambia and oddly in Niger in January – a bit off the beaten path for most African quakes – sparked questions.
Security in the Sahel: The growing challenges posed by migration and trafficking, counterterrorism and extremists, and the role of foreign nations across the Sahel emerged as a 2017 priority in Africa. Plans to develop the G5 Sahel force are followed closely, along with the responses of the African Union and the United Nations, and individual nations including France and the United States.
Closely linked to the news of Bamako attacks or hostages released is the hope of protecting both the people who live in the five Sahelian nations and those who are transiting through as migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. As security in the Sahel evolves, so does hope that migrant abuses and Libyan slave markets will become a dark memory of the past.
Climate topics: Africans are leading the way, if the serious attention given to climate-related stories is any indication! Stories that focus on innovation – notably, e-waste solutions in West Africa or tech answers for Cape Town’s water crisis – excite us too.
Air quality and public health, Ghana’s ‘galamsey’ mining shifts, Gabon’s new marine conservation areas, agriculture and energy investments, the list is too long to continue here and yet never long enough. Africa Times welcomes contributions across a range of relevant topics, but we especially appreciate stories on sustainability in the continent’s beautiful and diverse communities.
Democratic Republic of Congo: It’s been a difficult year for the Congolese, from President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down last December to the death of Etienne Tshisekedi in February and the political developments that have followed. The ethnically-driven fighting in the Kasai provinces and humanitarian crisis has pushed refugees into Angola, Zambia and beyond, while the additional deaths in March of United Nations experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan focused renewed attention on human rights violations.
News of corruption linked to DR Congo’s mineral wealth and Kabila has reached new heights, with multiple reports from Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the PPLAAF, an African whistleblower protection program, alongside those of Congo Research Group and others. They include the new U.S. sanctions imposed last week against Kabila associate and international businessman Dan Gertler.
Trafficking: Also from the U.S. came the June release of the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which ranks the world’s nations in terms of their efforts in combatting human trafficking. Special attention focused on Libya and the scope of the migrant crisis that has prompted global outcry and a demand to end the suffering there and along the Mediterranean Sea migration routes to Europe. As mentioned previously, migration and related policies have been a top concern for Africa Times readers.
Lesotho: News from the small southern African kingdom is, in our view, underreported and this year saw many changes to watch. Beginning in March, with the no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, to this month’s deployment of a Southern African Development Community peacekeeping force, concerns over Lesotho’s future have remained a common thread. Tom Thabane has promised to bring stability to the young and yearning population, which has yet to see any real action.
Africa and China: Beijing’s role in African development and investment, in its political alliances and its embrace of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” is always top of mind, especially on finance and economic stories. From Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visits to five African countries in January, to a long-awaited McKinsey investment report in June, to the August opening of China’s new military base in Djibouti, the world is watching China and what the future holds. That’s especially true as the U.S. administration backs off from its African diplomatic and development engagement – those are some of your top Africa Times stories too – and other nations, including Turkey, Japan and India, build relationships with African leaders.
Wang, speaking in Beijing at this month’s Symposium on International Developments and China’s Diplomacy in 2017, promised more alignment with the continent’s Agenda 2063 in 2018 and beyond.
Morocco: The North African nation has emerged as a leader on climate and sustainable development, but the human rights issues at home remain a concern. That’s especially true in Al Hoceima, which has seen heightened unrest this year following the 2015 death of fish market vendor Mohcen Fikri and the “hirak” social movement it sparked. Yet Morocco’s role on the continent – in the African Union, and in its postponed accession to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – also rests on the longstanding question of Western Sahara. Finally, migrant routes through Morocco and its role in European-Mediterranean security came under scrutiny following the August terror attacks in Spain. It’s no wonder Africa Times readers have been watching Morocco, and we’ll be watching it closely too.
Wishing you the best in a peaceful and prosperous 2018.