Overcoming long-standing cultural barriers is the invisible bond that binds women across countries and regions in Africa. Though small steps are being made, research also continues to reveal ways in which women are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In West Africa for instance, women are the mainstay of fishing. But they are underpaid, undervalued and largely invisible. Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood and Sayra van den Berg Bhagwandas set out how COVID-19 has compounded the particular challenges that women face.

Unpaid labour burdens, unequal inheritance rights and outright discrimination also mean that women are less likely to seek leadership positions. Damilola Agbalajobi says that these factors help explain why there are few women in the Nigerian political scene. She offers tips on what can be done about it.

In Kenya, progressive clauses in the 10-year-old constitution are beginning to change the gender equation in the country’s courts. There are many more women magistrates, more judges and now for the first time the chief justice is a woman. Martha Gayoye explains why having more women in charge of courts matters.

Moina Spooner

Commissioning Editor: East and Francophone Africa

Women make smoked fishes - locally called Okporoko - at Egede informal settlement in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

Women are a mainstay of fishing in West Africa. But they get a raw deal

Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, University of St Andrews; Sayra van den Berg Bhagwandas, University of St Andrews

The contributions that women in West Africa's fisheries make to the sector are widely un(der)paid, undervalued and largely invisible.

Nigeria has few women in politics: here’s why, and what to do about it

Damilola Agbalajobi, Obafemi Awolowo University

The equitable participation of women in public life is essential to building and sustaining strong, vibrant democracies.

Kenya has its first female chief justice: why this matters

Martha Gayoye, University of Warwick

Justice Martha Koome's ascendance to the role of Chief Justice raises hope and expectations among many for a better world for women and children.

Arts, Culture + Society

The #JerusalemaDanceChallenge showed how Pan African styles can be forged

Francesca Negro, Universidade de Lisboa

A year later, it's clear that the dance promotes a conscious concept of Africanity – sowing feelings of tolerance and contentment that have conquered international audiences.

A cave site in Kenya’s forests reveals the oldest human burial in Africa

Alison Crowther, The University of Queensland; Patrick Faulkner, University of Sydney

A small child buried almost 80,000 years ago in a cave in Kenya shows how ancient humans treated the dead.

South Africa’s romcom revolution and how it reimagines Joburg

Pier Paolo Frassinelli, University of Johannesburg

The rise of the black romantic comedy in South Africa dovetailed perfectly with the advent of streaming services - creating a box office phenomenon.

The N-Word: a volcano kept active by the flickering embers of racism

Sanya Osha, University of Cape Town

It took black folk unimaginable resources of creativity, humanity, humour and generosity to detoxify the N-word for their own collective sanity.


Restricting digital media is a gamble for African leaders

Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz, Michigan State University

Digital media shutdowns in Africa will lead to higher economic costs and greater public outrage.

As press freedom continues to struggle in Kenya, alternatives keep hope alive

Wambui Wamunyu, Daystar University

No matter what tactics are used to muzzle, restrict, limit, or censor information, trustworthy information that serves the public good can still find its way to those who matter most: the citizens.

Chad’s ‘covert coup’ and the implications for democratic governance in Africa

Laura-Stella Enonchong, De Montfort University

The recent spate of military takeovers, most recently in Chad, highlights a developing trend by armed forces in Africa which overtly subvert constitutional governance.

Why Zambia’s upcoming poll risks tipping the balance against democracy

Nicole Beardsworth, University of Warwick

Distrust of the electoral commission runs deep in the opposition, which may well lead to increased tensions ahead of and following the polls.

Business + Economy

Sub-Saharan Africa’s food security has turned out better than feared. But risks remain

Wandile Sihlobo, University of the Witwatersrand

Government support for farmers, higher rainfall and grain imports have helped sub-Saharan Africa stave off food insecurity, but the region isn't out of the woods yet.

How COVID-19 is likely to slow down a decade of youth development in Africa

Wim Naudé, University College Cork

Since 1999, extreme poverty has declined while rates of young people in education and employment have risen. Without investment though, the impact of the pandemic could see this progress imperilled,

Environment + Energy

Climate change risk is complex: here is a way to assess it

Nicholas P. Simpson, University of Cape Town; Christopher Trisos, University of Cape Town

A holistic view of climate change risk considers climate hazards, exposure, vulnerability and the responses to these. It also takes into account how multiple risks interact.

Early humans used fire to permanently change the landscape tens of thousands of years ago in Stone Age Africa

Jessica Thompson, Yale University; David K. Wright, University of Oslo; Sarah Ivory, Penn State

Combining evidence from archaeology, geochronology and paleoenvironmental science, researchers identified how ancient humans by Lake Malawi were the first to substantially modify their environment.


How the pandemic is hurting university students’ mental health

Emmanuel Ojo, University of the Witwatersrand; Annie Burger, Stellenbosch University; Anthony J Onwuegbuzie, University of Cambridge; Bryan Jason Bergsteedt, Stellenbosch University; Samantha Adams, Stellenbosch University; Talitha Crowley, Stellenbosch University

Ultimately, these studies will help us to make sense of how the pandemic is reshaping higher education.

Tracking science: a way to include more people in producing knowledge

Glynis Joy Humphrey, University of Cape Town; Louis Liebenberg, Harvard University

The term "citizen science" is intended to widen the network of people whose contribution to science is acknowledged. But the word “citizen” can be problematic.

Health + Medicine

Vaccinating Africa against COVID-19: riding a roller coaster of poor information

Heidi Larson, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Raji Tajudeen

Recent uncertainty over blood clots and vaccine expiration dates have taken a toll on public confidence.

It’s possible to build stronger systems to deliver oxygen: here’s what it takes

Hamish Graham, Royal Children's Hospital; Adegoke Falade, University of Ibadan

An effective oxygen system requires prompt recognition of who needs oxygen, a reliable oxygen supply and safe delivery to those who need it.


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