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.

U.S. Companies Brace for Wider Scrutiny of Chinese Deals

WASHINGTON—Lawmakers are moving to stanch the flow of U.S. technology to foreign investors, creating potential problems for a number of American companies that have bet big on partnering with China. The Senate and House, with the backing of the White House, are working on bipartisan legislation to broaden the authority of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., a multi-agency body that has oversight of deals that could lead to the transfer of sensitive technology to rival countries.

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.

No More Mail Privilege for China as U.S. to End Deep Discounts on Packages

WASHINGTON—The U.S. opened a new front in its mounting economic conflict with China, starting a process to withdraw from a 144-year-old international postal body whose discounts allow Chinese merchants to ship small packages to U.S. customers at sharply lower rates. In announcing the move by the State Department, senior White House officials said Wednesday that the U.S. will go ahead with a threat to set its own “self-declared” rates for packages from abroad.

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.

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.

Shutdown Sidelines Safety Inspections of Imported Products

WASHINGTON—The partial government shutdown over President Trump’s demand to wall off the Mexican border has opened up a hole for unsafe products to enter the U.S., the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday. The agency has been forced to furlough workers stationed at ports who inspect imports of household appliances, exercise equipment, toys and other goods that could pose a safety hazard, said Ann Marie Buerkle, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Com

Chinese mine in Afghanistan threatens ancient find

MES AYNAK, AFGHANISTAN - It was another day on the rocky hillside, as archaeologists and laborers dug out statues of Buddha and excavated a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. A Chinese woman in slacks, carrying an umbrella against the Afghan sun, politely inquired about their progress. She had more than a passing interest. The woman represents a Chinese company eager to develop the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine, lying beneath the ruins. The mine is the centerpiece of

Lead from old car batteries poisons Senegalese town

THIAROYE-SUR-MER, Senegal — First, it took the animals. Goats fell silent and refused to stand up. Chickens died in handfuls, then en masse. Street dogs disappeared. Then it took the children. Toddlers stopped talking and their legs gave out. Women birthed stillborns. Infants withered and died. Some said the houses were cursed. Others said the families were cursed. The mysterious illness killed 18 children in this town on the fringes of Dakar, Senegal's capital, before anyone in the outside world noticed. When they did - when the TV news aired parents' angry pleas for an investigation, when the doctors ordered more tests, when the West sent health experts - they did not find malaria, or polio or AIDS, or any of the diseases that kill the poor of Africa. They found lead.

U.S. Manufacturers Push FTC to Crack Down on False ‘Made in America’ Labels

WASHINGTON—Manufacturers of U.S.-made products, hoping to capitalize on President Trump’s aggressive stance on China, are calling for tougher action against companies that make bogus “Made in the USA” claims. The Alliance for American Manufacturing wants the Federal Trade Commission to get companies to pay restitution, or at least admit fault, the first time they falsely label products as American-made. The FTC’s longstanding policy has been to only seek money after a second violation.

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...

Nigeria's oil fires stoke claims of villagers to spoils

KEGBARA DERE, Nigeria -- The fire burned strong for 45 days and 45 nights, blanketing the village with ash and torching the young cassava plants in Ada Baniba's field. As she weeded, the flames flared out of the leaking oil pipeline behind her. It wasn't that no one could put the fire out. It was that no one would _ not the oil company that owned the pipeline, not the government and not the villagers breathing the fumes. The tale of Kegbara Dere's fire shows just how desperate the long-neglected communities of Nigeria's oil-rich river delta have become.

Children suffer, but was drug study to blame?

KANO, Nigeria -- A security guard in this dusty Nigerian city is living with tragedy -- a 14-year-old son whose dazed eyes, slow speech and uneven gait signal brain damage. Mustapha Mohammed says he knows whom to blame -- Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker. New York-based Pfizer is facing four court cases over a decade-old drug study in Nigeria that included Mohammed's son. The company, which denies any wrongdoing, is accused of using a 1996 meningitis epidemic to push through a sloppily

Liberians leave U.S. to build businesses back home

MONROVIA, Liberia – Ciata Victor gave up a high-paying tech job, a spacious condo and a first-world life in Maryland to return home to an African capital that barely has electricity or running water. After 26 years of watching from afar as her native Liberia was ravaged by coups and war, Victor says she’s home to stay. And she’s started a business — running a seven-computer Internet cafe using a generator and a borrowed satellite hookup.

Few trust in Congo's currency

KINSHASA, Congo — Patrons heading to an outdoor bar in Congo's capital often stop first at a nearby money-changer, where they fork over just enough U.S. dollars for a beer. Then they sit down to enjoy their bottle, confident the value of what's in their wallets will not depreciate - at least not while they drink. The exchange is a glimpse into a giant shadow economy that gave up on anything government-backed over years of war, dictatorship and neglect.