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5 must-reads from around Africa

By Faith Karimi, CNN
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 0733 GMT (1533 HKT)
Huawei 4Afrika will run on Windows Phone 8 and will be pre-loaded with select apps designed for the continent. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Huawei 4Afrika will run on Windows Phone 8 and will be pre-loaded with select apps designed for the continent. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

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(CNN) -- Every week, we bring you some of the most interesting stories from around Africa. Here are the five you need to know.

New smartphones for Africa

Africans in select cities will have more choices when it comes to smartphones.

In a move targeting the world's fastest-growing mobile market, Microsoft is teaming up with Chinese company Huawei to sell a Windows smartphone in seven countries.

Huawei 4Afrika phone will use a Windows Phone 8 operating system, and is preloaded with apps tailored to the continent.

Africa is the world's second-largest mobile market after Asia, and the fastest growing in the world, according to GSM Association, an industry trade group.

The phone will be introduced in Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Angola.

Unrest in the birthplace of the Arab Spring

The assassination of an opposition leader sparked massive protests in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring movement that toppled a series of leaders in North Africa.

Chokri Belaid was shot dead outside his home Wednesday, sending angry protesters to the streets of the capital all week.

Belaid was an outspoken critic of the moderate Islamist-led government, which he accused of not doing enough to take on hardline Salafists.

Tensions have simmered between Islamists and their secular opponents in the nation. In addition, analysts say, citizens are frustrated with the slow social progress since dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown two years ago.

"As the fruits of the Spring have been soured by ugly, often violent political conflict, Egypt has monopolized the world's attention," wrote Bobby Ghosh, deputy international editor for TIME magazine. "Tunisia's own postrevolutionary complications have gotten little notice."

Fire guts core of Burundi's economy

Burundi took a major economic hit recently when a central market in the capital burned to the ground.

The devastating blaze was a major setback for the tiny African nation's fledgling economy.

A major employer and income earner, the market sells products such as clothing and construction material, and generates $4 million daily, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor.

"The market was the epicenter of the nation's economy, providing goods to the entire country, as well as the neighboring Congo and Rwanda," the report this week said.

Only about 10% of 5,000 merchants at the market in Bujumbura were insured, leaving many with no way to regenerate their main source of income.

Fire crews at the scene watched helplessly as the late January blaze raged. They had no water in their pumps, the report said.

French troops start leaving Mali in a few weeks

France says its troops will start pulling out of Mali in March, and hand over control of the vast northern desert area to African forces.

The French-led offensive to flush out rebels has killed "hundreds" of militants, France said this week. It did not specify the exact number, but said the troops are still experiencing sporadic resistance in the north.

At Mali's request, France launched the offensive against militants in its former colony a month ago. The ground attacks and airstrikes in the north have sent Islamist fighters fleeing.

This week, France asked the United Nations Security Council to approve a peacekeeping force for Mali.

But French forces may have to stay longer than they planned.

In an editorial titled, "The battle moves to the mountains," Economist magazine said the rebels are lying low in nearby rugged terrain until the French declare "mission accomplished."

"France would have to keep elite troops in Mali for a long time to defeat these men," it said.

Islamic extremists carved out a large portion of the north last year after a chaotic military coup.

Nigeria among top nations in remittances worldwide

Nigerians abroad sent home loads of cash last year. About $21 billion to be exact, earning a spot as No. 5 among nations that remitted worldwide.

The top 5 countries were India, China, Philippines, Mexico and Nigeria, according to the World Bank.

At No.6, Egypt was the only other African nation in the top 10 list, with about $18 billion, double what it sent four years before.

"International migrants are weathering the effects of the ongoing global economic crisis," the World Bank said.

They send the money despite pricey odds.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the most expensive region to send remittances, according to the International Organization for Migration.

It costs 12.4% of amount transferred to send money in the region. In South Asia, it's nearly half of that -- 6.5%.

Billions of dollars more in remittances are not documented because migrants use unofficial means, according to the organizations.

CNN's Jethro Mullen contributed to this report

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