(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.

Dr. Dennie M. Beach – Ancestry Results: my people are from Angola

I am proud to report based on my DNA results my relatives originated from Mbundu people living in Angola which is good news.

DMB Certificate of Ancestry 9-21-2015

 

find out Ancestry at http://www.africanancestry.com/home/

 

 

 

(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.

 

(The Economist) For most urban Africans, owning anything other than a slum home is out of reach

LAGOS, the congested commercial capital of Nigeria, has a population variously estimated at anything from 12m-21m. But what is certain is that people are moving to the megacity and its smaller counterparts across the continent in droves—and not into brand new flats with recently acquired mortgages.

With around 40% of its people living in cities, sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s least urbanised region. But it is changing fast: the UN predicts that its urban inhabitants will more than treble in number to 1.1 billion by 2050, accounting for 56% of the region’s population. By 2030 Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg and Luanda will have joined Kinshasa and Lagos as megacities, each with more than 10m people.

Most of that growth will be in slums, which are currently doubling in size every 15 years while they shrink in many other parts of the world. They’re not always cheap to live in, either. Economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, residents devoted almost a third of their non-food expenditures to rent. More than 90% of them are tenants. In Kenya’s countryside, by contrast, 90% of households pay no rent at all, typically because they built their own shelter on informally owned land.

Rural migrants who want to take advantage of the opportunities Africa’s cities have to offer often have no choice; formal housing is unaffordable in most countries. The cheapest new, privately-built formal house in Ethiopia cost $68,783 in 2013, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, a South African non-profit. A 100 square metre state-subsidised apartment sold for $16,600, 35 times the average Ethiopian’s earnings (by comparison, in Britain the ratio is around five times). Even in Mali the cheapest legally-built private homes in the region, at $5,800 (plus another $1,000 to $4,000 for land, depending on location) are out of reach for most.

It is no surprise that sub-Saharan Africa has the smallest mortgage market in the world. Just 3.7% of adults in urban areas had any type of home loan in 2011, according to a World Bank report released this week. The value of Nigeria’s mortgages more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2011, but was still equivalent to no more than 0.5% of GDP, compared with more than 25% in South Africa.

That won’t change until more of the region’s land is registered (just 10% was in 2013) and the tangles of state and customary ownership are resolved. Rwanda’s computerised land registry is the kind of reform that might help. It cut the time it takes to transfer a property from a year to a month. Countries from Ghana to Uganda are trying similar reforms. African cities will also have to invest huge sums in sewage systems, roads and other infrastructure if they want to house the millions of people who are likely to move there in the coming years. In the meantime Africa’s slums will continue to swell.

The article was published on The Economist.

(The Conversation) A short guide to some of Africa’s best, and cleanest beaches

December 13, 2015 11.19pm EST

Africa has some of the best beaches in the world. Tourists will be flocking to them soon as those in the southern hemisphere take summer holidays and those from the north look for ways to escape their winter.

So where are Africa’s top beaches?

In drawing up the list I have taken both an objective as well as subjective approach.

For the objective assessment I have used the ratings of the Blue Flag awards as well as my own research. South Africa is the first country outside Europe as well as the first African country to implement the Blue Flag scheme. It currently has 39 fully complied beaches with another 30 in the process of complying.

For my subjective list I have drawn on my own experience and knowledge as well as experiences of friends and family.

The top performers

Africa has some wonderful beaches. A serious traveller or beachgoer should certainly visit at least one of them once in a lifetime. The list below is not in order of preference, but offers would be travellers different opportunities and experiences.

Most of South Africa’s Blue Flag beaches are in the Western Cape followed by KwaZulu-Natal and then the Eastern Cape. Blue Flag award beaches have to comply with 33 criteria including safety, cleanliness, environmental management and water quality. The award can be revoked if a beach does not comply.

Camps Bay in Cape Town is listed as a Blue Flag beach Shutterstock

The longest running Blue Flag beaches in South Africa and a must visit are Grotto Beach in the Western Cape, Humewood Beach in the Eastern Cape, and Ramsgate and Marina beaches KwaZulu-Natal.

From a more subjective standpoint I would recommend Tofo Beach at Inhambane in Mozambique. This is an 8 km stretch of beach that also offers diving and great sea life. Added benefits are facilities for rest and relaxation – as well as excellent prawns.

Tofo Beach, Mozambique Shutterstock

Namibia also offers tourists beautiful beaches. One of my favourites is the Skeleton Coast. It offers space and great marine life as well as ship wrecks. Crowded beach won’t be a problem. There might in fact be nobody around depending on when you visit.

Shipwreck at Skeleton beach, Namibia Shutterstock

Another country that offers wonderful beach experiences is Kenya. The beach I propose is Shela Beach in Lamu. It is also a UNESCO Heritage Site and is generally accepted as the country’s top beach.

Shela Beach, Lamu, Kenya Shutterstock

I also have to include Angola. This is the new kid on the block and I propose Mussulo Bay peninsula. This is for the adventure traveller, offering wonderful beach as well fishing.

Ilha do Mussulo Beach, Luanda, Angola www.skyscrapercity.com

And then the islands

One of my ultimate favourites is Tanzania. I must admit I love Zanzibar. It offers great diving, snorkelling and swimming. This is a little piece of heaven on earth. Enjoying the locally produced gin is a treat as well.

Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania http://www.sand-and-land.com/html/english/ocean.htm

If we move to Madagascar, my choice is Sainte-Marie Island. It offers beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees. Once again, diving and great sea life are on offer as well as good food.

île Sainte-Marie, Madagascar www.lelibertalia.com

It would unfair if I didn’t include Malawi. My choice falls on Likoma Island, which is part of Lake Malawi. This is one of Africa’s jewels. Clear clean water, great for swimming, diving or snorkelling, and friendly communities.

Likoma Island, Malawi www.ilovemalawi.blogspot.co.za

And then there is the Seychelles’s Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue. It is regarded as one of the world’s greatest beaches, truly something out of this world.

I could add more beaches in the west and north of the continent. But this list at least provides a taste of what Africa can offer. Hopefully the Blue Flag award scheme will be implemented in other African countries so that the continent can get its lion’s share of beachgoers, one of the biggest generators of revenue globally.

The article was published on The Conversation.

(Reuters) Zuma’s firing of South African finance minister dismays investors, ANC supporters

Screen shot 2015-12-10 at 3.33.10 PMBy Joe Brock and Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 10 South African President Jacob Zuma’s sacking of his respected finance minister in favour of a relative unknown has shocked investors and emboldened critics who say the 73-year-old is driving the economy to ruin.

Even some supporters of the African National Congress (ANC), Nelson Mandela’s erstwhile liberation movement that has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994, expressed dismay about Wednesday’s appointment of a Zuma loyalist to the crucial post.

Zuma gave no details as to why on Wednesday he dismissed Nhlanhla Nene, who has overseen the Treasury for just under two years, other than to say he had “done well… during a difficult economic climate”.

Markets reacted unambiguously, with the rand plunging to a record low against the dollar, losing just over five percent since Nene was removed. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s banking index lost 13.5 percent on Thursday.

New Finance Minister David van Rooyen acknowledged he had taken on “a colossal assignment”.

Local media speculated this week that Nene might be on the chopping block after he rebuked Dudu Myeni, the chairwoman of state-owned South African Airways and a close ally of Zuma, for mismanaging a 1 billion rand ($67 million) deal with Airbus.

Myeni is executive chairwoman of Zuma’s charitable trust, the Jacob Zuma Foundation.

The main opposition party went on the attack. “It is clear that if you stand up to Zuma, you don’t stick around,” Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, told Reuters. “Zuma has reached new heights as a leader who puts himself ahead of his country and the economy.”

Zuma’s office did not respond to Reuters requests for comment. The ANC said in a statement it “notes and respects” the president’s decision.

“TOO MUCH CORRUPTION”

The sacking and the financial fallout hit a raw nerve with some ordinary South Africans. “With the rand getting battered like this, firing Nene is not the right move,” said Dominic Ratau, a 74-year-old pensioner and lifelong ANC loyalist, expressing his dissatisfaction with Zuma.

“I’ve been an ANC supporter because of the older generation who were running the party. But this guy is leading the country to disaster. He’s allowed too much corruption.”

Nene’s reluctance to rubber-stamp an ambitious plan to build a number of nuclear power stations to ease severe electricity shortages, a project that might cost as much as $100 billion, is also seen as contributing to his downfall.

His successor van Rooyen is an ANC lawmaker who sits on parliament’s finance committee.

Van Rooyen said he would implement policies aimed at creating favourable investment conditions after he was sworn in. “Mine is a colossal assignment coming at a time when the global economic outlook is not favourable, more especially for emerging markets,” van Rooyen said.

Many economists have questioned van Rooyen’s ability to steady an economy being hammered by the collapse in prices of South Africa’s commodity exports that range from coal to gold, and raised concerns that public spending could spiral out of control.

Credit agency Fitch downgraded South Africa last Friday, leaving the continent’s most sophisticated economy just one notch about “junk” status, and said on Thursday Nene’s firing “raised more negative than positive questions”.

A Reuters poll on Wednesday showed analysts expect the economy to grow just 1.4 percent this year and 1.6 percent next, 0.1 percentage points lower than last month’s forecasts.

WHO’S NEXT?

Nene’s removal has raised speculation about more casualties within Zuma’s team, after the axing in September of mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who investors said had done a decent job in a tough but crucial portfolio.

South Africa is gearing up for important local elections next year where the ANC is expected to be run close by the Democratic Alliance in urban areas, including the economic hub of Johannesburg. The countryside remains an ANC stronghold.

Significant erosion of ANC control in metropolitan powerbases could strengthen Zuma’s opponents, especially if South Africans blame him for the floundering economy.

“Zuma’s power is becoming more brittle and his lines of support stretched thinner and thinner,” said political analyst Nic Borain. “He is engaging in actions that parts of his party find repulsive and there is a point beyond which a system under stress can quickly unravel as the connections snap.”

A #ZumaMustFall Twitter campaign kicked off within hours of Zuma’s announcement, echoing one earlier this year calling for the removal of colonial-era statues.

SCANDAL

Zuma, a polygamous Zulu traditionalist with little formal schooling, has been beset by scandal throughout his career. In 2005 he was charged with raping a woman he knew to HIV-positive, but was found not guilty when the court ruled the sex was consensual.

Last year, the Public Protector, the top anti-corruption watchdog, ruled that he had “benefited unduly” from a 246 million rand state-funded security upgrade to his private home that included a swimming pool and amphitheatre.

Despite this, he has maintained his authority and standing in the ANC. His presidential term ends in 2019. Were he to be forced out early, his ex-wife and African Union head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, are the front-runners to succeed him.

($1 = 14.9655 rand) (Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Mfuneko Toyana; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by James Macharia and David Stamp)

This article was published on Reuters.

 

(Global Risk Insights) Africa seeks more equitable deal at UN Climate Summit

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Despite contributing only a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is being hit hardest by the effects of climate change. Now armed with a common approach, African leaders are pushing for a more equitable and prosperous deal in Paris.

Photo Credit: Global Risk Insights

As the UN Climate Summit in Paris enters its final week and negotiations are ramped up, leaders from developing nations will continue to push for a more equitable deal. Already officials at the conference have cleared a major hurdle, producing a draft accord on Saturday 5 December. That leaves a week for ministers to clinch a historic agreement, with many optimistic that the Paris Summit can erase the disappointment of past talks, including Copenhagen in 2009, which ended in failure and frustration.   

Yet even with a blueprint being reached, major sticking points, not least between developed and developing states, must be overcome if a positive and more equitable outcome is to be reached. That will not be easy. 

Africa, small island developing nations (SIDS), and other least developed countries (LDC’s), have all argued that their contribution to climate change has been minimal. Unsurprisingly, they demand favourable concessions when it comes to the prickly issues of climate finance, new targets for countries based on carbon dioxide stock taking, and the overall responsibilities of developed versus developing countries. These issues are referred to in the draft agreement but remain unresolved.

For its part, Africa has laid out a number of proposals that will be keenly debated this week. Now armed with a common position and an expert team of around 200 climate negotiators, both of which were sorely missing in past multilateral talks, including in Montreal in 2005, Africa has submitted three main requests. 

First, it asks for $11bn a year from the international community to help it adapt to climate change in the future; having contributed little to the problem, its leaders are loath to pick up the bill.

Second, as it aims to bring electricity to 600 million people across the continent, it is seeking an additional $55bn a year in investments until 2030 in order to help it transform its energy sector, much of which will be powered by renewables.

Finally, it urges countries to reconsider the demands they make of one another; limiting the global temperature rise to 2C by the end of the century may appear more achievable, but African leaders argue a revised target of 1.5 degrees is needed in order to avert climate disaster.

These are tall orders, to be sure. But those in Africa point to the fact that they have too often drawn the short straw when it comes to climate change.

Despite accounting for roughly 15% of the world’s population, the continent contributes less than 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, says James Wan at the Royal African Society. And more often than not, it is Africa that bears the brunt of global warming, with flash flooding and crippling droughts occurring with unfailing frequency. 

Until now, the West appeared relatively unmoved by Africa’s desperate plight and moral posturing. But recent forecasts by the World Health Organization paint a devastating picture, not just for Africa.

With a likely drop in country GDP’s across Africa, widespread crop eradication amid falling rainfall, the prospect of millions being pushed back into poverty, deepening security concerns in the region, and the possible spread of disease and climate refugees, African leaders are right that the West can ill-afford to view climate change as a problem of the Global South. Whether they like it or not, the fates of Africa and the rest of the world are indelibly linked. 

Beyond such gloom, however, African officials are quick to point out the potential benefits of implementing greener alternatives now. Not only have the majority of African states committed to bigger cuts than other higher-emitting nations, but they have also proposed the prospect of a nascent energy revolution – one that would benefit both Africa and the rest of the world.

As well as possessing much of the world’s most prized natural resources, Africa is home to some of the world’s most promising renewable energy reserves. ‘The potential,’ writes Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, ‘is breathtaking.’ He says the continent can source an additional 10 terawatts of solar energy, 1,3000 gigawatts of wind power, and 15GW of geothermal power. Taken together, that ‘would not just solve Africa’s own energy problems but also those of other countries near and far.’ Energy investment and further cooperation between Africa and the West will be pivotal in turning such dreams into reality.

But add to that the fact that the forests in central Africa, which account for roughly a fifth of the world’s stock, act as one of the greatest carbon sinks in the world, and it is easy to see that Africa, more than ever, can play a crucial role in helping the world reduce its greenhouse emissions. 

What does this mean for the Paris Climate Summit and Africa? Despite these lofty ideals and more consensus and cooperation than ever before, a binding resolution calling for a rise of 2C or less seems doubtful.

The past few years have seen countries favour Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), voluntary pledges. These bottom-up pledges will remain the dominant commitment by states this time around, too, not least because of the freedom they confer to those who invoke them.

Without the burden of legal obligations, states can implement initiatives and targets that suit their needs best; the downside, of course, is that there is no one at the end of the line to ensure that they make good on such promises. That means Africa’s pleas to keep any temperature rise below 1.5C will not be heeded.

Climate funding, meanwhile, will remain a thorny issue and it is doubtful Africa will receive the full $11bn per year it wants. A fairer deal for Africa thus seems somewhat out of reach, at least this time around. 

Still, some positive signs are emerging: last week, France committed over 2bn euros to renewable energy projects across its former colonies over the next five years. Other projects will no doubt follow, even if they do not meet Africa’s starry-eyed expectations. That is no reason to celebrate, of course.

But for Africa – and all those at Paris – these gradual steps must feel somewhat encouraging after the bitter disappointment of Copenhagen five years ago. 

This article was published on Global Risk Insights.