(NY Daily News) CARIBBEAT: Longwood Arts Project celebrates Africa, puts culture on display in monthlong Bronx exhibition

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, January 24, 2016, 4:00 AM

“Bronx: Africa,” a multi-disciplinary art exhibition celebrating the expressions and impact of African cultures, is being presented next month in Bronx by the Longwood Arts Project.

The influences of the borough’s sizable African population and Bronxites of African descent are also recognized in the show of in-gallery and online presentations starting with an opening reception on Feb. 3, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The exhibition, curated by LeRonn Brooks, is on display through May 4.

The “BRONX: AFRICA,” art exhibition will open on Feb. 3 and includes works such as “Ascension or Dude Ascending Staircase, 2011” (above) by Eto Otitigbe. The exhibition, curated by LeRonn Brooks, is on display through May 4 at the Longwood Arts Project Gallery at Hostos Community College.

Photo Credit: NY Daily News

Artists on display the gallery include Seyi Adebanjo, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Howard Cash, Elvira Clayton, Dennis RedMoon Darkeem, Lisa DuBois, Nicky Enright, Janet Goldner, Ijeoma Iheanacho, Imo Imeh, Hakim Inniss, Natasha Johnson, Ahmed Tijay Mohammed, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Ibou Ndoye, Eric Orr, Eto Otitigbe, Thurston Randall, Ibrahima Thiam, Osaretin Ugiagbe, Misra Walker and Tammy Wofsey. Online artists in the exhibition are Olaniyi Akindiya, Kenneth Anderson and Ray Felix.

“BRONX: AFRICA celebrates the influence of contemporary African cultures that strengthens and connects us with the many peoples of African descent, the diaspora, mixed heritage and migration-dispersion that call the Bronx home,” say organizers.

The gallery is on the campus of Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse (at 149th St.) For information, call (718) 518-6728 and send mail to longwood@bronxarts.org. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, from noon to 5 p.m.

The article was published in the New York Daily News. 

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(The Daily Nation) African Union to push for Africa’s voice in UN

The African Union General Assembly in session. Photo Credit: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

The African Union General Assembly in session.
Photo Credit: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

By Aggrey Mutambo

African Union chairman President Mugabe has been strident in his consistent call for the reform of the UN, arguing that Africa, and also Asia, needed to be heard and that their voices be heard. He has never been a fan of the status quo dominated by former colonialists and western hegemons, a situation that extends even to global financial architecture. 

Correspondents

THE African Union is to revive its push to reform the most powerful arm of the United Nations when leaders converge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week.

Despite resistance from five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Heads of State and governments of an AU committee have recommended that member-states discuss the issue again.

The 26th Ordinary Session of the AU General Assembly for heads of state and government will be held on January 30 and 31.

Its theme in 2016: African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women.

Last week, the Committee of 10, a group of countries, was formed to lobby for UN reforms and resolved to put the issue as the first item on the agenda.

Other members are Algeria, Libya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Zambia, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Congo.

Heads will arrive in Addis at the tail-end of the summit, endorsing or rejecting decisions reached by their foreign ministers.

AFRICA’S LACK OF INFLUENCE

The Security Council is charged with maintaining global peace.

It also admits members to the UN and can approve changes to the agency’s charter.

It has 15 members, but only five are permanent and hold veto powers. They are Russia, China, France, the UK and the USA.

Despite being the recipient of most declarations on peace and security, Africa can have only non-permanent members who do not influence major decisions.

On Tuesday, Foreign Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the push for reforms would go on.

“The Security Council does not reflect 21st century political and economic realities. This underrepresentation is discriminatory, unfair and unjust. The C-10 agreed to sustain push for reforms as per the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration,” she said.

Kenya, alongside Equatorial Guinea were the main lobbyists for the “Africa Common Position” in 2005.

Despite meeting with permanent members of the Security Council last year, there was no substantial commitment to change anything.

AU wants at least two African countries have permanent slots in the Security Council. The C-10 proposed that the AU assembly resolves also to push for removal of veto powers if no African nation is included in the permanent category.

“The AU heads of state will decide on the timeframe and reaction to be addressed on UNSC. The C-10 will present its report to the heads of state summit,” Ms Mohamed explained.

Africa accuses the permanent members of being undemocratic and using the security council to safeguard their interests. In 2012 and 2013, Kenya was bitter when its attempts to have cases facing

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto at the ICC were deferred, after the US and the UK abstained from the vote.

The first hurdle is the five permanent members but to exact changes to the council requires more than political lobbying. Other countries like Germany, India, Brazil and Japan also feel they should be in the security council.

In fact, the UN itself formed a task force at the turn of the century to collect views on reforms. The team proposed an increase in membership of the security council from 15 to 25.

The suggestion was blocked by the current members who feared their power to veto would be diluted.

The article can be found on AllAfrica.com. 

(Yahoo) Zuma’s office admits Africa isn’t biggest continent

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during his visit to the Lodewyk P. Spies Old Age Home in Eersterust, Pretoria, December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma speaks during his visit to the Lodewyk P. Spies Old Age Home in Eersterust, Pretoria, December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s presidency issued an embarrassing correction on Monday to rectify an erroneous reference last month by President Jacob Zuma to Africa being the “largest continent”.

Speaking at a business dinner on Dec. 9, Zuma, who has no formal education, also described Africa as so big that “all continents put together will fit into Africa”.

The comments were seized upon by Zuma’s opponents, who argue that his lack of schooling makes him unfit to lead a sophisticated emerging economy.

It was unclear why the presidency decided to issue the correction after a delay of nearly six weeks.

“Africa is in fact the second biggest continent in terms of population size, and the biggest continent in this regard is Asia. The President regrets the error,” the statement said.

Zuma’s comments about Africa’s size came hours before he fired respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in favor a relative unknown, triggering financial turmoil that sent the rand, bonds and stocks plummeting.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

(CNN) Guggenheim: The future of design is Africa

By Thomas Page, for CNN

(CNN)Is African design having a moment?

Not according to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a denizen of contemporary art. Rather, the curators believe the continent’s artists and architects are shaping the future of design entirely.

In their latest exhibit, Making Africa — A Continent of Contemporary Design, the museum showcases some of the freshest names in the art world as a whole (they just happen to all be African).

Shaping a new world order

"The Guy with Style" (2013), from the series "Moments of Transition" by Mario Macilau Alito.

Co-curators Amelie Klein and Petra Joos note that despite common perceptions that shape Africa as a land of “famine, corruption, or imposing landscapes,” one of the most defining features of the continent is innovation.

“The world as we know it is in transformation — politically, economically, socially, culturally and technologically. Anyone wanting to know how design can facilitate or even accelerate this change would be well advised to look to the south, especially at Africa, where the changes are very evident,” she says.

“African design covers a fascinating spectrum of concerns that goes beyond recycling, traditional craft, or humanitarian design.”

Road to Bilbao

"Sunsum" (2015), by David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates.

Researching for the exhibition “was a long process” Joos says, telling CNN about the many trips she took to Lagos, Dakar, Cape Town, Nairobi and Cairo. However she adds that it was mainly local artistic communities calling the shots.

“We had think tanks with intellectuals, directors and artists,” she explains. They asked questions such as “What is design?” “What is Africa?” “What is African design?” the results of which found their way into the show’s prologue.

“It’s interesting because there was a lot of difference of opinion,” says Joos. “They agreed; sometimes they disagreed. The visitor will see that in the exhibition.”

Split into four sections, Making Africa negotiates many areas: “Prologue” addresses Western preconceptions; “I and We” looks at African solutions and responses to communication — both at an intimate and societal level; “Space and Object” discusses environmental influences on creativity; and “Origin and Future” explores the notion of time.

Overall, 120 artists helped participate in exhibition, which includes the work of design heavyweights like Nigerian photographer J.D. Ojeikere and British-Tanzanian David Adjaye. These titans of the scene make their presence felt alongside the likes of Afrofuturist Ikire Jones and sculptor Cheick Diallo. All have equal footing when telling the story of contemporary African design, and help showcase the diversity of its creative community.

Read more: David Adjaye imagines Lagos in 2050

Stretching out across the globe

The Kingdom of Taali M (2013), by Pierre-Christophe Gam.

Joos notes that the size of the African diaspora abroad has led to cross-pollination in the world of design, whereby Africans abroad influence and are influenced by the cultures that surround them.

“We did an exhibition a few years ago when we only invited African artists living on the continent, but now it’s absolutely impossible, because we have so many Africans going back and forth. They’re living in Africa, but also in Paris, in London, even the United States.”

This manifests itself in their work, she argues. “They’re absolutely connected to everything,” she says. “They are not limited by European design, for example. They know what’s going on everywhere, and filter that through their culture and traditions.”

Unlike European design however — which Joos argues is “more formal” and “industrially realized” — Africans are reveling in the journey towards the final object. “Africa [is] a hub of experimentation, generating new approaches and solutions of worldwide relevance, and [is] a driving force for a new discussion about the potential of design in the twenty first century.”

“The process is more important than the result,” Joos says; “this informal creativity is so African. It’s not European, it’s not American, and it makes a big difference to us.”

‘Making Africa — A Continent of Contemporary Design’ runs until February 21.

The article was published on CNN.

(BBC) Hashim Amla resigns as South Africa captain after second Test

Hashim Amla resigned as South Africa captain immediately after his side drew the second Test against England.

The 32-year-old had been in poor form but made a double century to inspire his side’s fightback after England made 629-6 declared in Cape Town.

“I believe I can be of greater value as a fully focused batsman and senior player at this time,” said Amla.

AB de Villiers will lead South Africa in the third Test in Johannesburg, which starts on 14 January.

After his appointment as successor to Graeme Smith in June 2014, Amla captained the world number one side in 14 Tests.

He won four and drew six but came under pressure during a 3-0 series defeat in India.

Amla said he had been considering quitting before the start of the series against England and the loss of the first Test by 241 runs in Durban last week.

Until his marathon effort at Newlands, Amla, a veteran of 90 Tests and 7,108 runs, had not hit a century in Tests since December 2014.

“I honestly feel a lot of the criticism that Hashim has faced in the last couple of weeks is very harsh,” South Africa coach Russell Domingo said.

“He is one of South Africa’s greatest players. There hasn’t been enough respect shown of his achievements as a player.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
“I can’t see it affecting South Africa negatively. AB de Villiers is a stronger leader and very astute cricketer and they now have a liberated Amla in good form.”

De Villiers honoured to take over captaincy

De Villiers, who already leads the one-day side, had raised doubts about his future in Test cricket during the first Test because of his busy workload, and handed over the wicketkeeping duties to Quinton de Kock for the second match.

The 31-year-old said: “It is an incredible honour to captain South Africa in any format. The captaincy has obviously come at short notice and is the realisation of a lifelong dream.

“At the moment my priority and focus is placed on leading this team to what can be a memorable series win against England. This Test squad is motivated and determined to turn our performances around and I’m looking forward to taking up that challenge as captain.”

Hashim Amla graphic

Cook pays tribute to ‘nice guy’ Amla

England captain Alastair Cook said he felt sad to learn about Amla’s resignation.

“You’re under pressure as a captain for a lot of the time,” said Cook.

“It’s always sad when someone steps down because to captain your country is a huge honour and a real privilege.

“He’ll have his reasons and I wish him all the best – he’s a really nice guy.”

Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat said Amla “still had a huge role to play in shaping the success of our team”.

He added: “He is just that type of a person and we are very fortunate to have him in our stable.

“I want to thank AB for readily accepting the challenge of rebuilding our Test team as we seek to remain the best team in the world.”

The article was originally published on BBC.

(All Africa) 10 Things to Watch in Africa in 2016

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC. Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC.
Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

ANALYSIS

By Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen

Staying Power: Referenda in the Republic of Congo and Rwanda have paved the way for presidents Sassou Nguesso and Kagame to extend their tenures. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabila appears intent on remaining in power beyond the end of his second term in November 2016. Kabila’s political machinations have been met with violent protest and international opprobrium. By contrast in Benin, incumbent president Boni Yayi has resolved to step down when he completes his second term in February 2016.

Africa Debt Rising: Sovereign bond issuance rose dramatically as commodity markets peaked in 2014, before tailing off as the price of oil and export minerals collapsed. With budget deficits approaching unsustainable levels in many countries and the supply of cheap debt in decline, some African governments face tough choices – cut spending or dramatically improve domestic revenue collection. This new reality will be inescapable for Zambia and Ghana in an election year. In 2015, their currencies were devalued substantially and visits from the IMF further raised concerns about the sustainability of debt levels. 2016 may see the IMF revert to a more familiar role of supervising austerity measures, albeit in a less conspicuous fashion than during the structural adjustment era; whilst Ghana accepted IMF support, Zambia has so far rejected a financial bailout package.

Economic Opportunity: African economies that rely heavily on oil and other commodity exports – including Nigeria, Angola and Zambia – continue to suffer due to low or declining prices. But this setback also provides an opportunity to focus on diversifying their economies. In Nigeria, there is much talk of revitalising agriculture. In East Africa, efforts are being made to reduce economic inefficiencies and improve productivity: progress in regional telecom reform, for example, demonstrates much from which the rest of the continent can learn.

Insecurity in Nigeria: Many Nigerians voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of his campaign commitments to tackle corruption and defeat Boko Haram. The arrest of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki for allegedly overseeing illicit and financially fraudulent transactions worth billions of naira is highly symbolic. Despite an announcement that the government has “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram insurgency, military action has not yet been convincing and the threat remains. The renegotiation of the Niger Delta amnesty and recent agitation by Biafran separatists illustrate the security challenges facing Buhari’s government.

Urban Transport: In September 2015 Addis Ababa opened the first part of a new 17km light rail system funded in part by Chinese investment. A similar venture that forms part of the urban plan in Lagos has been beset by delays. However, Governor Ambode of Lagos State has promised that the first line will be operational by December 2016. Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system failed to open as planned in October 2015 but is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. New urban transport networks will need to be affordable for the everyday commuter if they are to successfully reduce congestion and improve the productivity of cities.

Flying Donkeys: The world’s first civilian cargo drone station is set to open in Rwanda in 2016. “Flying donkeys” will be capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km and could help to overcome some infrastructure challenges. Regulation concerning the use of unmanned vehicles is in the process of being drafted by Rwanda’s civil aviation authority and a successful pilot should see a nationwide network of cargo drone routes established.

 

Sorting out the Union: The post-election crisis in Zanzibar has highlighted the shortcomings of Tanzania’s current political configuration and reignited calls for power to be shared more equitably among the constituent parts of the Union. Tanzania remains the only African nation to possess a dual-government structure, a lopsided arrangement that falls short of being a fully-fledged federation. Zanzibar retains its own executive, legislature, and judicial system; while a parliament in Dodoma and a president in Dar es Salaam take decisions for both the mainland and the Union as a whole. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, may consider constitutional reform as a solution to the impasse in Zanzibar; however, he will face resistance from his own party, which has repeatedly rejected changes to the status quo.

The Prominence of Social Media: African youth harnessed the potential of modern communication tools to mobilise protests in Burkina Faso and South Africa, successfully preventing a military coup and halting significant rises in university tuition fees. Twitter hashtags are becoming important tools for mobilisation and are likely to become more prominent as the cost of communication decreases. Governments are already responding to this perceived threat. Tanzania rushed through four pieces of legislation relating to access to information, media, statistics and cybercrime in 2015, while Nigeria may adopt a social media bill in 2016.

The Battle for the ANC: In South Africa, rumours have been circulating about plots to oust President Zuma mid-term. Zuma famously usurped Mbeki as ANC president at the national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, positioning him to become head of state, following the April 2009 elections. Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was an assertion of his authority that backfired. With the ruling party likely to lose control of important metropolitan authorities at municipal elections in 2016, the campaign to succeed Zuma will dominate South African politics right up until the next ANC national conference in December 2017.

A Changing Climate: In 2015, flooding in Freetown and Accra devastated urban areas whilst El Niño brought drought to rural Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Unpredictable weather will be a continuing feature in years to come, despite the agreement reached at COP21 in Paris. Long term commitments can work alongside short-term solutions: improved urban management and support for the growing of drought resistant crops like finger millet. But weather can also offer opportunity for the continent. Renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and geothermal, has been cited as a key avenue for tackling the power deficit on the continent by African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina.

Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen are researchers at ARI.

(Newsweek) The Real Africa, Through the Lens of African Photographers

By On 12/22/15 at 2:00 AM

Africa has long been irresistible to art photographers. The diversity of its 54 nations, its natural phenomena—even, say some photographers, the difference in light compared with Europe and the U.S.—have spawned vast bodies of work and helped inform the way many in the international community regard the continent. The problem is that these photographs have, until recently, been taken by non-African photographers. Through their lenses, we have seen the continent’s beauty and its rawness, the savannahs and the cities—but rarely have we seen this through the eyes of those who actually call Africa home.

The problem comes from a mix of access and interest. African photographers have been showcasing their work within the continent for years. One of the best-known photography festivals in Africa, the Bamako Encounters biennale in Mali, which has run since 1994, is aimed at promoting trends in contemporary African photography and video. The West, however, has been slow to take note. Of the 48 photographer-members represented by Magnum Photos—arguably the most famous and prestigious international photo agency—just one, South African photographer Mikhael Subotzky, lives in Africa.

“Photography is a $10 billion industry, and what part of that does Africa have?” asks Aida Muluneh, a photographer and founder of the Addis Foto Fest in Ethiopia, a biannual event since 2010. “The majority of photos of Africa come from [non-African] white photographers.” That lack of visibility is problematic for more than just monetary reasons. Since the majority of archived images of Africa were taken by non-African whites, many of the continent’s surviving historical documents show not the experience of Africans but the experience of colonizers and the native Africans they often subjugated.

01_01_AfricanPhotography_02 People fill vessels with fuel from an overturned tanker. African photographers are revealing previously hidden sides of the continent. George Osodi/Panos

But a shift is occurring in the international arts community, and combined with the increasing affordability of cameras and improvements in smartphone lenses, it has led a new generation of Africans to the photographic medium. Some are photojournalists, while others work largely in art photography, sharing their experiences and viewpoints with a global audience. New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently exhibiting 100 years of portrait photography from West Africa. The increased exposure has benefited emerging photographers, who are being scouted by international galleries and agents at a much higher rate than ever before.

“Many African photographers are using their work to explore identity, and often this identity is linked to the past,” says John Fleetwood, head of the South African photography school Market Photo Workshop. “Colonial photography prompted the world to become used to a certain image of Africa, and photographers from the continent are now trying to represent it in a different way.”

Sammy Baloji is one such artist. In 2014, he was made a graduate of Rolex’s mentoring program, which pairs young, gifted artists with more experienced ones for a year. Baloji, who splits his time between his hometown in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Belgium, exhibited at London’s Tate Modern in 2011 and at this past year’s Venice Biennale. Much of Baloji’s work focuses on the Congo and the ways he and his countrymen confront their colonial past.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the Congo, as it was formerly known, gained independence and an identity separate from its colonizer, Belgium, though peace was still slow coming. Shortly after its emancipation, coups and a bloody civil war hit the Congo. Ever since, the country has struggled to reconcile its identity before and after colonization—a confusion that comes through in Baloji’s work, which frequently features images of the country’s past superimposed on photographs from its present.

“Many people in the DRC think we have lost our culture—that is, our pre-colonization culture,” says Baloji. “The role of colonization was not just exploiting minerals but educating people in a Western way that erased what came before.”

In one of Baloji’s earlier exhibitions, 2006’s “Mémoire,” washed-out color photographs of the Congolese city of Lubumbashi are overlaid with black-and-white archival images of workers who toiled in the industrial city’s Belgian-owned mines. In one haunting image, two Congolese laborers, one chained by his neck, work in a ditch, watched over by two men. The ghostly, enslaved figures are the only clear markers on the landscape—modern buildings and what appear vaguely to be cellphone towers in the far background are so faded as to be almost unrecognizable.

George Osodi, a Nigerian artist and former photographer, earned international recognition for his photographs of his country—especially a series in which he exposed some of the injustices taking place in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. As oil companies flocked to the south of Nigeria, their activities began to slowly poison the environment and force many Nigerians into poverty. Though the Delta is one of the country’s most profitable regions, its people remain some of the most destitute in all of Africa. Osodi’s photographs, from six years of documenting the area, show slums, billowing clouds of black smoke and the flames of gas flares. In one of the most jarring photographs in the collection, a charred skull looks directly into the camera—the remains of a villager killed in 2003, when oil pouring from a compromised pipeline exploded. In another, from 2006, titled Water Drum, a young girl grips a plastic bucket by the rusting water container—an oil barrel stamped with the white logo of Exxon Mobil Corp. Osodi’s work is currently on display at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England.

01_01_AfricanPhotography_01 A girl holds onto a jetty as a boy paddles a canoe on Lagos Lagoon in the Makoko district. George Osodi/Panos

Osodi says he entered the world of photography because “a lot of things, unjust things, were happening. There was mismanagement of the country, and this needed to be documented visually.” Just as Baloji is driven to make sense of his surroundings and find identity and a sense of self in them, Osodi says he “had a drive to photograph things that needed to be changed. I needed to photograph to make people aware—that was my driving passion.”

It’s a passion that could have real benefits for the international understanding of African identity. “Photography in Africa has grown dramatically in its popularity, because people want to understand the diversity of the world,” says Fleetwood. As more and more people across the continent gain access to photographic equipment and realize there is a demand for their images, African photography could become a common fixture on the global art scene.

(Deutsche Welle) Will Africa have its own ‘Arab Spring?’

The Arab Spring happened five years ago but this is not an anniversary to celebrate as Tunisia remains the one success story. But that hope for freedom has inspired some African countries.

On December 17, 2010, a young vegetable seller set himself on fire in the small city of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. This act sparked massive protests against the then president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which eventually forced him from power. The movement, utilizing social media to organize mass protests, spread to neighboring countries and led to the overthrow of Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the events of the Arab Spring were observed with skepticism and uncertainty but also a lot of admiration. However little changed. But then in 2014 mass protests of young people drove Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaore, from power.

After 27 years in power, Compaore was seeking a constitutional amendment to allow him to run for another term. He was forced to flee to neighboring Ivory Coast. Now after the November 2015 elections, the people of Burkina Faso are also hoping for a long period of democratic and peaceful rule.

“African Spring?“

The upheaval in Burkina Faso was the first peaceful revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa. But was it the hesitant start of an “African Spring?”

“Civil society organizations were very involved in looking into how one could get people to rise up in a country with little democracy,” said the political scientist Robert Kappel from the GIGA Institute in Hamburg.

Protests in Burkina Faso Mass protests in Burkina Faso forced the sitting president to flee

According to Kappel, social media also played a big role and these tools were used to organize small gatherings. These small actions eventually came together to bring young people on to the streets. As protestors from all over the world knew, censorship of social media can always be circumvented.

In 2011, the Arab Spring “let loose a euphoria for activists all over the continent,” said Na’eem Jeena, the director of the South African research institute Afro-Middle East Center. This was especially evident in Zimbabwe where President Robert Mugabe has ruled with an iron fist since independence. And while little has changed, Jeena thinks that it at least gave the opposition and activists in the southern African country the feeling that mass protests can achieve something.

Protests also broke out in Sudan in 2012 with massive demonstrations against poverty and lack of opportunity. The crowds resembled those in neighboring Egypt. President Omar al-Bashir ordered a tough crackdown sending in police with batons and teargas and arresting opposition leaders. The protests soon stopped.

A local Arab Spring

Jeena thinks that the emotions of the Arab Spring are also felt in South Africa, though most citizens are not looking for a revolution. The spirit of the protests against apartheid in the 1980s is still present, especially in the townships. There residents have been protesting for better housing, more access to electricity and for more jobs for decades.

“We speak often here of a South African spring,” said Jeena.

Recently tens of thousands of students hit the streets to protest higher university tuition under the hashtag #FeesMustFall. Protestors later joined together under #ZumaMustFall calling for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma.

“I think the feelings of confidence and protest that grew out of the protest in North Africa have spread to other parts of the African continent over the past five years,” said Jeena.

(Fortune) How Big Data is Helping Fight AIDS in Africa

Photo Credit: sorbetto — Getty Images

Photo Credit: sorbetto — Getty Images

By  |  | DECEMBER 14, 2015, 11:57 AM EST

Sometimes knowing the facts leads to surprising solutions.

HIV transmission from mother to child is a major, and preventable, factor in the ongoing prevalence of AIDS in Africa. While transmission rates are below 5% with effective prenatal treatment, the World Health Organization says they can range up to 45% without treatment—unfortunately, a common situation in the developing world.

Postnatal testing, then, is often vital in spotting infections in newborns, and treating them. But even as testing has become more accessible in Africa, it has remained slow, with devastating results—untreated infant HIV is usually fatal within a year. The problem isn’t just the time needed for the actual tests, but also the unpredictable ways that samples traveled from clinics to labs.

To tackle the problem, Mozambique brought in logistics expert Jérémie Gallien, a professor at the London Business School. Before looking at health systems, Gallien had consulted on retail logistics, including for the fast-fashion chain Zara and a dominant online seller he prefers not to name. And he’s found common ground between selling sweaters and saving lives.

Gallien says the basic conundrum of medical planning is the same as that in retail—striking the right balance between instant gratification and system-wide agility. When a retailer puts all its stock in stores instead of distribution centers, or a medical authority puts all of its drugs in clinics instead of a central facility, they can sell or treat patients at those locations much more quickly. But if they bet wrong on demand, moving materials where they’re needed becomes much more challenging.

Balancing those concerns comes down to understanding a specific problem, and in Mozambique, Gallien, with co-authors Sarang Deo and Jónas Oddur Jónasson, found a surprising answer. To speed the return of test results, they recommended that testing facilities, instead of dispersed, be highly centralized. While slightly slowing average sample transportation times, the added efficiency in test processing would more than make up for it.

That conclusion was based on tons of data, gathered through partnerships with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the National Institute of Health in Mozambique. “We got access to a data set of more than a year of shipments from clinics to the labs, then back, time stamped,” says Gallien. That was more than 30,000 records, also including information on patient outcomes and engagement.

Those records let Gallien get a precise but broad-scale view of transit times, which averaged 10 days.

“Increasing the transportation time to 13 days, you end up needing two lab locations,” he says. That would have led to a more complex problem of which samples go to which lab—which Gallien compares to the retail relationship between customers and warehouses.

The data also revealed a more complex human component of the problem—the relationship between turnaround time and caretaker followup. When test results took more than 30 days, babies’ mothers were much less likely to come back to get their results—or treatment.

“There’s all kinds of stigma and psychological impact having to do whether you transmitted the virus to your infant,” says Gallien. “It’s [a] very challenging, difficult psychological context in the first place,” and the discouragement of slow test results can trigger disengagement. Though far less dire, it’s not hard to see the parallels in retail—speedy fulfillment makes it easier for customers to make decisions, and stick with them.

Authorities in Mozambique are still processing Gallien’s recommendations, but he says Uganda has already begun to implement a similar set of solutions. The move to data-based planning, he says, opens up big possibilities for improving global healthcare.

“Particularly in these environments where there’s limited resources, limited time—this could really improve outcomes.”

The article was published on Fortune.

(The Conversation) African stories to get and keep kids reading during school holidays

Holidays are a great occasion for reading, whether kids are doing so alone or a family is sitting down together with a book. But what do you do if the bookstore doesn’t have books in your language, or they’re just too expensive? This is often sadly the case in Africa, a continent that’s home to more than 2000 languages.

A project that started in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Lesotho – and has spread to Niger, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Mozambique – may hold some solutions for families who want to read African stories with their children.

The African Storybook has collected more than 2300 stories in 62 African languages. They are all free for download or printing, and offer fascinating insights into how people on the continent tell stories that explore sometimes tough themes and ideas.

Here are some stories from the project’s website that children of all ages can enjoy during the long school holiday – and once they’re back in class.

1. Leaving one home for another

Children’s books can tackle big themes in the simplest ways. African Storybook: Catherine Groenewald (CC-BY)

Holidays with grandmother is a story many children and adults can identify with: leaving home in the city to visit one’s grandparents and the countryside.

In rapidly urbanising Africa this is a familiar theme for many, as the older generation often stays behind while the younger generation looks for work in towns and cities. But family ties are strong, and visits to the ancestral village are cherished. In Holidays with grandmother, Odongo and Apiyo enjoy taking care of animals and playing in the bush, and of course their grandmother’s lovely cooking and chai.

It is available in English, Kiswahili, Lunyole, Ng’aturkana, Oluwanga and Sepedi.

2. The moral of the story

Traditional African stories often convey a moral lesson or caution against greed and other vices, such as the Ghanaian story Anansi and turtle. Anansi the spider greedily eats all the food before his dinner guest Turtle gets a chance. But what can Anansi do when Turtle invites him over to her place for dinner – under water?

African Storybook: Ingrid Schechter (CC-BY)

Other stories are far more serious, like Tingi and the cows. It is based on real events and is about soldiers entering a village as seen from the perspective of a young boy.

On the surface there is little drama beyond soldiers stealing cows and a boy hiding. But as we all know soldiers plundering villages is often far more serious than the theft of cows. Tingi and the cows invites the reader to think – and talk – about what happens when soldiers march into a village.

It is an excellent starting point for a conversation about fear and brutality that has affected people across the continent, including many children. It’s a reminder that not all children are lucky enough to fully enjoy the holidays.

3. Reading can be silly and fun

Adults may be concerned with teaching moral lessons and warning against dangers and transgressions, but children often prefer stories that are just funny, even silly or nonsensical. In Mr Fly and Mr Bighead the two characters want to cross a river. But Mr Bighead’s head is so big that he sinks. Mr Fly, on the other hand:

… laughed so much that his mouth tore in two from one side to the other!

Children love stories that are silly and nonsensical. African Storybook: Joshua Waswa (CC-BY)

Similarly, in The adventures of Supercow, a cow lives an ordinary life by day – well, not that ordinary for a cow, since she spends her days flying a kite and kicking a ball. But by night she is a supercow, saving lives and fighting crime.

This story has been translated into 21 languages, matched by only one other story on the African Storybook. This is A very tall man, and it’s another funny story that children will love. Although the number of translations is a weak proxy for demand, it hints at which stories are more popular.

Going global

The African Storybook caters, as the name indicates, to African languages. But sharing traditional and contemporary African stories is also important, not least for children from elsewhere to partake in the rich oral tradition and experience a positive picture of the continent.

The creation of the Global African Storybook Project has made this possible. Stories have been translated into Cantonese, Danish, Esperanto, German, Hindi, Jamaican Creole, Japanese, Mandarin, Nepali, Norwegian (bokmål and nynorsk), Persian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Tagalog – 16 languages in total, and growing.

This gives children from all over the world the chance to read stories from and about Africa.

Telling your own stories

The best stories are the ones you make yourself. This is not only possible with the African Storybook, it’s encouraged. Many of the stories on the website are adaptations of stories that others have written. The picture database has thousands of pictures that can be used to make a new story, or added to an existing story.

My favourite picture-based story is the brilliantly simple The hungry crocodile. In merely six concise sentences, which have been translated into six languages, the author Christian G. tells a story:

Pictures can tell a thousand words. African Storybook: Wiehan de Jager (CC-BY)

The hungry crocodile
Once there was a very hungry crocodile.
He searched for food slowly and quietly.
And then…
POW!!! The crocodile strikes!
After that he is no longer hungry, and he is happy.
Until he gets hungry again.

Adapting a story is an easy way for children or adults to start making their own stories. Holiday time, an adaptation of Holidays with grandmother by three Ugandan teachers, is one example of this.

Stories can serve many purposes, and with the African Storybook and Global African Storybook Project, African children stories are more accessible than ever before – in African and non-African languages alike. Happy holidays and happy reading!

This article was published on The Conversation.