Ethiopia has planted 5.5bn seedlings as part of the Great Green Wall © Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ethiopia has planted 5.5bn seedlings as part of the Great Green Wall © Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Top 10 Africa stories in 2021

16 December 2021

SM looks back at the most popular stories from Africa in 2021. 

1. Chocolate makers sued over supply chain child labour

Seven of the world’s largest cocoa manufacturers were being sued over accusations of child labour in their supply chains.

Human rights group International Rights Advocates said Nestlé, Cargill, Mars, Mondelez, Hershey, Barry Callebaut, and Olam would use child labour “until they are forced to stop”.

The lawsuit, filed in Washington DC in the US, concerned eight individuals from Mali who alleged they were trafficked as children and forced to harvest cocoa in Cote D’Ivoire for one or more of the companies.

However, the US Supreme Court later dismissed claims Nestlé and Cargill perpetuated child slavery.


2. Lemon prices soar as shoppers seek to ward off Covid

The popularity of hot drinks rich in vitamin C to ward off Covid-19 in Kenya led to rocketing lemon prices.

Fruit and herbal juices known as dawa – the name means “medicine” in Swahili – are a common way of treating ailments in Kenya and coronavirus was no exception.

While the government warned dawa was not a cure for the virus, it did urge people to consume vitamin-rich food and beverages to boost immunity levels.

One popular version mixed fresh lemon juice, turmeric, honey and garlic.


3. Ghana makes e-procurement compulsory for public sector

Ghana’s Public Procurement Authority (PPA) revealed plans to award all public contracts through the Ghana Electronic Procurement System by the end of 2023.

In 2019 SM reported Ghana claimed to have become the first country in West Africa to establish an e-procurement system for public sector purchasing.

Acting PPA chief executive Frank Mante said while several public bodies were already using the system, the government planned to make it mandatory for public bodies.

He said the system, which aimed to curb irregularities and unnecessary costs in the procurement process and guard against cartels, would be rolled out in phases to ensure all public procurement officers could be trained to use it.


4. Maersk calls for military action to tackle piracy

Shipping giant Maersk called for military action off the coast of West Africa to combat piracy after raiders attempted to board one of its vessels.

The company said it feared kidnap and ransom following the attack on the Maersk Cardiff in the Gulf of Guinea as it sailed from Tema, Ghana, to Cameroon.

Aslak Ross, head of marine standards at Maersk, said: “The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed to secure adequate mitigation in the short term, and where local governments and international stakeholders must step up efforts to counter the problem in the longer term.”


5. Ports in chaos due to civil unrest in South Africa

Operations at the South African ports of Durban and Richards Bay were severely limited due to civil unrest.

State-owned company Transnet, which oversees operations at the ports, said it was concerned for the safety of employees and declared force majeure.

Transnet said the entire supply chain to the ports was closed, with some staff unable to access operations as a result of road closures and the unavailability of public transport.

Violence spread across South Africa in protest at the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.


6. Guinea coup sparks bauxite supply concerns

The price of aluminium rose to a 13-year high amid concerns over bauxite supply following a coup in Guinea.

The country accounts for around 25% of all bauxite used to make aluminium, exporting 82m tonnes last year.

Global risk management company Verisk Maplecroft noted aluminium future prices had increased more than 1%, highlighting the importance of Guinea’s bauxite supply to global markets.


7. Citrus sector a 'litmus test' for new supply chain law

The citrus sector in South Africa was set to be a “litmus test” for a new German supply chain law.

NGOs made the claim after the German Parliament adopted the law in June, which requires large companies to regularly and systematically address human rights and environmental risks in their supply chains.

study by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the South African campaigners Khanyisa accused German supermarkets of perpetuating “dire” labour conditions on citrus farms.

They cited labour violations including lack of access to drinking water, acute pesticide poisoning, and harassment of trade union representatives.

The report said German supermarkets had considerable power to influence the farms, which grow oranges, lemons and tangerines.


8. Firms partner to 'increase fairness across coffee supply chain'

Dutch retailer HEMA and supplier UCC Coffee Benelux teamed up to create two traceable single-origin coffees from Colombia and Rwanda.

The companies said the collaboration would help increase transparency, credibility, and fairness across the whole coffee supply chain, as well as build farm-to-consumer trust by providing detailed information about where the product has been sourced.

The Colombian coffee has been supplied by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation and Volcafe, and the Rwandan coffee by Supremo NV, a subsidiary of ECOM Group. Retailers and consumers could trace the two coffees back to their origins using an app.


9. $20bn pledged for African Great Green Wall

The African Great Green Wall initiative – an ambitious project to build a swathe of trees across the Sahara and Sahel regions – received pledges for more than $20bn in funding.

French president Emmanuel Macron announced the World Bank would commit more than $14bn in funding at the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity, co-organised by France, the United Nations and the World Bank. 

The African Development Bank pledged to raise a further $6.5bn.

Plans to create the African Great Green Wall along the southern margin of Africa’s Sahara Desert, running 8,000 km from the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea, have been underway since 2007.

But the initiative, which will cross 11 countries, has been stymied by lack of funds and by September 2020 had covered only 4% of its planned area.


10. Zimbabwe opens 'first ICT factory'

Zimbabwe opened its first ICT factory in a move the country hoped would stimulate the creation of a local technology industry.

The ZITCO plant in Msasa, Harare, was a joint venture involving state telecoms company TelOne and Chinese company Inspur.

The factory would assemble computers, laptops, tablets, prepaid electricity meters and smart water meters, and had the capacity to produce 150,000 devices annually.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the plant would help provide local alternatives to foreign IT hardware.

“ICT is the way to go. We need to modernise our economy, we need to catch up with the rest of the world, the developing world, as well as the developed world,” he said.

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