Also: French spies help a dictator solidify power β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ β€Œ 

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Friday, 26 November


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Hi intriguer. What's full of joy, gets you sneaky drunk, and is over 800 years old? If you guessed 'the Christmas markets that are starting to spring up all over Europe', then you probably also know that historians believe the granddaddy of all Christmas markets was Vienna’s Dezembermarkt, which dates back to around 1296. Clever you!

  • Nigeria hopes to get ahead of the crypto curve
  • Somalia stands on the precipice again
  • Ethiopia expelled Irish diplomats, a Gaddafi is barred from running in the Libyan election, and low-key good news from Sudan.



Need to know

  • Governments are finding it hard to resist the temptation of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Last month, Nigeria became the first African country to launch a digital currency.

  • Cryptocurrencies are big in Nigeria. Like one-in-three-Nigerians-have-used-crypto assets big. Nigeria ranked 1st globally for cryptocurrency adoption in 2020 according to Statista, but cryptocurrencies aren't the same as CBDCs (more on that later).

Go deeper

Nigeria's new digital currency is called β€˜e-Naira’ because, surprise surprise, its an 'electronic' version of Nigeria's currency, the Naira. Nigeria now joins the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank as the first places in the world to launch national digital currencies.

It's important to keep in mind that cryptocurrencies and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are very different:

  • Cryptocurrencies are decentralised, pseudonymous and encrypted on the blockchain.
  • CBDCs are basically just a digital version of normal currency, issued by the government and not encrypted.

That's why even though Nigeria banned cryptocurrencies in February this year, the Nigerian Central bank can still launch a CBDC and not fall foul of that ban.

The benefits of a digital currency

Central control - Because cryptocurrencies are decentralised and anonymous they are, by definition, impossible to control centrally. The Nigerian Government (and probably every other government) does not want a parallel economy it cannot control to spring up under its nose.

Convenience - Trading in e-Naira is faster and cheaper than sending bank transfers, which is something Nigerians have been complaining about. Remittances make up nearly 4% of Nigeria’s GDP making digital currency a very attractive tool. In the future, the government wants to use e-Naira wallets to send welfare transfers directly to its recipients.

What's next?

  • Nigeria wants to reduce demand for other unregulated crypto currencies by giving Nigerians its own digital Naira. But Nigerians trade cryptocurrencies precisely because  they’re not controlled by the Nigerian Central Bank, who by the way, have presided over a currency that has lost 30% of its value against the US dollar in the last five years.



AMISOM forces patrol the outskirts of Mogadishu. Credit: Feisal Omar/ Reuters

Need to know

  • Since its independence from Italy and Britain in 1960, Somalia has rarely known political stability. For the last 14 years, the African Union has had an active peace mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to help fight the jihadist militant group al-Shabaab.

  • In February, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (who also goes by β€˜Farmaajo’) signed a controversial law allowing him to remain in power for a second term. The resolution was slammed by critics who accused Farmaajo of a power grab.

Go deeper

At least eight people have been killed in a suicide blast that targeted a UN convoy in the capital Mogadishu on Thursday morning. Al-Shabaab, the obvious suspects, claimed responsibility.

The political situation in Somalia is rapidly deteriorating, and these attacks were calculated to make things worse. Sadly, Somalia has all the ingredients necessary for a rapid escalation of conflict:

β™Ÿ Security stalemate - The AMISOM peace mission has been present in Somalia for more than a decade with little success on the peace front. Some Somalis are  tired of foreign agents in the country.

🏦 Fragile institutions - Not only did President Farmaajo amend the constitution to extend his time as president, he has also fallen out with his Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

πŸ—³ Uncertain elections - Elections are still planned, but there will inevitably be serious question marks around their legitimacy.

πŸͺ– A powerful destabilising force - Al-Shabaab has been taking advantage of the situation. As highlighted by the recent attack, it has intensified attacks in recent months knowing the country is particularly vulnerable.

What's next?

  • It feels like Somalia is at a fork in the road. The upcoming elections could either put Somalia back on a path to stability, or make things a lot worse. The UN Special Representative for Somalia has encouraged the country’s political leaders to forge ahead and hold the presidential election already (our words; his sentiment). 
  • AMISOM troops can probably keep a lid on things a while longer, but commentator Patrick Gathara believes real progress will only be made if the central government can regain legitimacy in the eyes of its people.

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πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Ή Ethiopia: The Ethiopian government has expelled four Irish diplomats due to Ireland’s official stance on the ongoing war in the Tigray. As the security situation worsens in Ethiopia, several governments have recommended their citizens leave the African country.

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬ Egypt: According to investigative website Disclose, information passed on by French intelligence agents was used by Egyptian President Al-Sisi to carry out a string of executions. (Disclose’s report is very much worth reading).

πŸ‡±πŸ‡Ύ Libya: The son of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi has been barred from running in Libya’s upcoming elections. The electoral commission decided to exclude him due to his conviction for war crimes in 2015, but he is far from the only controversial candidate running for office.

πŸ‡²πŸ‡¦ Morocco: The government has signed a defence agreement with Israel, making it easier for Rabat to buy high-tech Israeli military gear. According to Amnesty International, the infamous Pegasus spyware has already made its way to Morocco.

πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡© Sudan: After violent protests against last month's coup, Sudan’s military junta has invited deposed Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok to join a transitional government. Many remain unconvinced about the military’s continuing role in government, and want a return to full democracy.



What better way to take your mind off the world for a weekend than binge some excellent TV. And what better way to get to know us here at Team Intrigue than for us to give you our recommendations on what we consider to be excellent TV. You be the judge!

πŸ‘©β€πŸ¦± Valentina: I know you already know about it, but 'Fleabag' is just as good the second time around. Humorous? Check. Real? Check. Sexy priests? Oh you better believe that’s a check.

πŸ‘΄ John: 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' is back for its 11th season. It’s more of the hilarious same, but I’m a little worried that I find myself constantly saying: β€œwell, I totally agree with Larry. Again”.

πŸ™πŸ»β€β™€οΈ Helen: If you haven’t watched β€˜Succession’ what are you even doing with your life? It’s a voyeuristic and darkly funny look at the Murdoch sorry, the totally-fictitious-entirely-made-up media empire of cantankerous billionaire Logan Roy. Remember, definitely not Murdoch.


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Have a great weekend! See you Monday for all the global affairs news from North & Central Asia.

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⁃ Written by Valentina Calvi, John Fowler, and Helen Zhang.

Across: 3. Demarche 5. Multilateral 7. Detente 8. Extradite 9. Cable 10. Posting Down: 1. FTA 2. Chancery 4. Bilateral 6. Accords