Africa: What’s Up with WhatsApp?

When Kenyan entrepreneur Mugethi Gitau started a business making all-natural hair and skin products in 2016, she didn’t worry about how to manage orders and customers. She went to the messaging platform she uses for nearly all her communication: Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp. “WhatsApp is already there,” Gitau says. “So it's the easiest way to reach somebody.” WhatsApp’s ubiquity means it is intertwined with every aspect of business and personal life in Kenya. But for entrepreneurs like Gitau, the symbiotic relationship could be about to get a lot more complicated.

Islamic State in Africa Tries to Lure Members From al-Shabaab

NAIROBI, Kenya—Islamic State’s push to co-opt one of Africa’s deadliest jihadist movements has come with an attempt to present a softer face to potential recruits. Over the past year, the jihadist group also known as ISIS and Daesh has launched a broad recruitment campaign across Somalia to pry foot soldiers and senior operatives from al-Shabaab, a two-decade-old insurgency allied with al Qaeda that has made it very clear they have no desire to switch franchises. Stung by battlefield losses to

Peaceful Protest Emerges Amid Congo’s Violence

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo—Election delays and deadly clashes threaten to plunge this resource-rich country the size of Western Europe back into civil war, but have also given rise to peaceful activism in the country’s most violent region. In eastern Congo, which was at the epicenter of a brutal 1998-2002 conflict and where suspected rebels killed at least 36 people late Saturday, this new wave of peaceful youth activism...

Kenya’s Push to Close World’s Largest Refugee Camp Fuels a Sense of Displacement

DADAAB REFUGEE CAMP, Kenya—Brownkey Abdullahi was born here in the world’s largest refugee camp 23 years ago and has never lived anywhere else. Now the Kenyan government has distressed its Western allies by renewing a push to close it, throwing residents’ lives into confusion and uncertainty. “I’m somebody who doesn’t know where to move if they tell me to move from here,” she said on Tuesday by telephone from Dadaab, where she was born to Somali parents.

In Africa, a Booming Catholic Church, and its Growing Pains, to Greet Pope Francis

KAMPALA, Uganda—The pews are so packed at Christ the King Church in Uganda’s capital that people squeeze hip-to-hip during weekday services. On Sundays, hundreds spill out onto the sidewalk, where tents handle the overflow. Such scenes are emblematic of Catholic congregations in Africa—where Pope Francis is traveling to for the first time this week. Demand is such that some communities in Uganda are building parishes first, then seeking priests to staff them.

Human-Population Boom Remains Largest Threat to Africa’s Lions in Wake of Cecil’s Killing

NAIROBI, Kenya—The killing of a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe has sparked world-wide outrage, but the largest threat to Africa’s big cats is a human-population boom that is shrinking the animal’s habitat and posing worrying questions about its future in the wild. The wild African lion population has declined 42% over 21 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, to fewer than 20,000 lions. The African lion...

Antigay Sentiment Poses Dilemma for Kenya Ahead of Obama Visit

NAIROBI, Kenya—When men shouting antigay slurs threatened to bust into Ronald Waswa’s apartment here this month, his landlord called the police. But the officers didn’t just stop the intruders—they held Mr. Waswa and his three roommates for 10 hours, beating them while trying to extract confessions they were gay. “They said, ‘You’ll have to wait for Obama to save you,’ ” recalled Mr. Waswa, a 21-year-old unemployed man who still has...

World’s Newest Country Struggles to Survive

NAIROBI, Kenya—South Sudan is running out of money, which along with a civil war and mass food shortages is putting the world’s youngest country at risk of becoming its youngest failed state. In the past two years, the U.S. government has spent more than $1 billion to try to help stave off escalating violence in South Sudan, government figures show. Other Western countries have also given massive amounts. Secretary of State John...

Uber Battles Locals for Future of African Taxis

NAIROBI, Kenya—In the traffic-clogged, potholed streets of Kenya’s capital city, there is a battle waging for the future of the African taxi ride that is pitting local startups eager to become the “Uber of Kenya” against, well, Uber. The winner will help answer a question dogging those who work in technology in the developing world: whether chaotic, impoverished cities like Nairobi will create the tools that bring the “bottom billion” online, or if apps that have already taken off in the U.S. and Europe can be exported here.

Boko Haram’s Abduction of Girls Still Grips Nigeria

YOLA, Nigeria—In the year since Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from their dormitories in northeastern Nigeria, the missing girls have come to symbolize an insurgency that doesn’t need a large footprint to terrorize a population. Protests continue nearly weekly in the capital Abuja to urge the government to do more to free the more-than-200 girls. Each time a town has been retaken from the Islamist militants,...

Al-Shabaab’s Kenya Killings Fit Broader Strategy

NAIROBI, Kenya—When al-Shabaab militants raided a Kenyan university last week, some opened fire indiscriminately and others singled out Christians to execute. The carnage appeared calibrated to achieve two goals: a high death toll and headlines proclaiming a holy war. Over the past two years, the Somali militant group has increasingly portrayed itself as a band of international Muslim crusaders out to kill Christians, even though their far more frequent attacks in Somalia have killed mostly Mus

How a Facebook Fakery Fooled Africa Reporters

As rebels fought last month to overthrow Gambia’s autocratic leader, reporters who cover Africa frantically called Gambian government landlines for comment, with no luck. But one source had the information they sought: a Facebook page for President Yahya Jammeh. “Rest assured that the Enemies of the People have been defeated,” it proclaimed. Unfortunately for the numerous media houses that cited the page, it was a fake—a parody...

Liberian Slum Takes Ebola Treatment Into Its Own Hands

MONROVIA, Liberia—Two months after Liberia’s largest slum fought a government-imposed Ebola quarantine, residents are in a desperate push to conquer the deadly virus—with or without the government’s help. It is a marked change from August, when many in West Point argued Ebola was a hoax and some residents even dumped the highly contagious corpses of Ebola victims into a nearby river to avoid handing them over to the government’s...
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