Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Will bandages mend broken ties in the DRC?

CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/EXPLOSIONThe relations between First Quantum and the Democratic Republic of Congo have gone from bad to worse in recent months, after the country expropriated the miner’s $765 million Kolwezi copper tailings project in September.  

A recent court ruling in the DRC has also cast a cloud over the future of the company’s Frontier and Lonshi mines, located in the south of the country. The widely covered dispute has led the DRC to accuse First Quantum of running a smear campaign against the country, the feud nearly foiled the DRC’s efforts to secure a $8 billion debt relief deal from the World Bank.   

But in a rare conciliatory gesture First Quantum said it is responding to an aid request from the DRC, after a fuel tanker explosion killed at least 230 people and left nearly 200 injured in the Central African country. The company said it has obtained two tonnes of bandages, creams, painkillers and antibiotics from South Africa and is in the process of transporting the medical supplies to the DRC. 

First Quantum, which expects the shipment to reach the DRC on July 8, said it plans to coordinate its efforts with the United Nations mission in the region.  Can an airplane full of bandages help fix a multi-million dollar international dispute? Only time will tell.

Africa optimism rising

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SAFRICA-When some of the most influential figures in emerging markets finance spoke to a group of Reuters editors, they were asked about top picks for growth beyond the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

One continent came up again and again – Africa – and one country in particular – Nigeria. Goldman Sachs global head of economic research, Jim O’Neill, highlighted the improvement in the growth-environment index of Africa’s giant over the past decade.

Nile River row: Could it turn violent?

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The giggles started when the seventh journalist in a row said that his question was for Egypt’s water and irrigation minister, Mohamed Nasreddin Allam.

The non-Egyptian media gave him a bit of a hammering at last week’s talks in Addis Ababa for the nine countries that the Nile passes through.

from Global Investing:

Libya: a mixed bag

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It has debt levels to die for and huge amounts of oil, but economically it's lagging and political concerns remain.  Speakers at a Libyan trade and investment forum this week saw the North African country as a mixed bag.

RTR25J1A_CompRobert Tashima, an editor for Oxford Business Group,  highlighted the country's "elephantine" levels of FX reserves, and the privatisation of 80 companies so far, with telecoms and steel sales slated for this year.

from Global News Journal:

If Guinea Can…

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conakryIf  Guinea can pull off free and fair elections this weekend, it will lay the foundations for what could be one of Africa's most unexpected and significant good news stories.

True, any new government must still deal with widespread poverty, a shattered economy and an army that just nine months ago was involved in mass killings and gang rapes of opposition marchers.
 
But such has been the catalogue of military putsches, tainted votes and constitution-tinkering by incumbents in the immediate neighbourhood that a genuine election in Guinea should send a signal across West Africa and beyond.
 
"If it can happen in Guinea, it's lesson for other countries and an incentive to (the world) to maintain engagement," said Rolake Akinola, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group.
 
On one level, Sunday's elections are a fluke - the result of a bullet fired by a former aide at former junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, grazing his skull and putting him out of action and in temporary exile in neighbouring Burkina Faso.
 
But on another level, they stem from a profound hunger among Guineans to put their dysfunctional past behind them and an international awareness that the country -- crucial to regional stability -- had reached tipping point.
 
The United States, European Union, France, Japan, Spain and others have piled in with an estimated 40 million euros of funding for the election process.
 
And Washington and Paris have discreetly but emphatically lent their weight to the regional diplomacy that has kept Dadis Camara out of the picture.
 
Of course, such direct intervention would be unthinkable in countries which had not plumbed the depths reached by Guinea.
 
But if things hold together in Guinea, it should bolster the arguments of those in rich world capitals who argue in favour of engagement -- whether via targeted sanctions, shuttle diplomacy or outright financial support when merited.
 
It should also encourage military leaders in Niger to make good on promises to hold elections and return rule to civilians, and Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to ensure presidential elections in his country that are now five years late.

Africa takes the stage in London

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nottageAfrica is providing a lot of fine material for the London theatre these days.

A rare outing for Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman was a highlight at the National last year. This was followed, also at the National, by Matt Charman’s The Observer,  which unpicked preparations for an election in an unnamed African nation.

More recently, Lynn Nottage’s excellent Ruined, which dealt with tough themes relating to women’s lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has just finished an acclaimed run at the Almeida in Islington.

Searching for it — not quite feeling it — in Polokwane

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Searching for it — not quite feeling it — in Polokwane The fan fest sounded like a wild party with the vuvuzela horns booming through the empty streets of Polokwane town, one of the smallest of 10 venues for the first World Cup on African soil. Everyone must be there, we thought as there was little going on for a Saturday night in the northern South African town. Even the local Nandos restaurant on the main street shut by 8 p.m. But on closer inspection the soccer fan fest — loud as it was — was also pretty deserted. Soccer fever has yet to reach Polokwane. A sleepy town of just 500,000 people, it was hard to imagine Polokwane, which means place of safety, would host its first World Cup soccer match in less than 24 hours. In Johannesburg or Cape Town you could definitely “feel it”. Here we weren’t so sure. Driving through the town’s eerily deserted streets searching for a restaurant where we could eat and watch the soccer, we discovered that was not an easy find. It was also hard to imagine what long-term benefit the town would see from being a host city. While for the four matches to be played in Polokwane the few hotels on offer for tourists were full, in between there were plenty of rooms at the inn. No team was staying nearby which would bring with it the paraphenalia of adoring fans or news-hungry media and the associated business. Those playing were flown in for pre-match training, again the day of the match and ferried back straight after. Police closed down the roads near the stadium on the edge of town the night before. But those fearing traffic similar to the four-hour long queues witnessed in Johannesburg trying to get to Soocer City need not have bothered. The streets were empty, the car parks empty and — just 30 minutes before kick-off — the stadium was half empty. By the second half, the stands were just about three-quarters full, though the blasts of the vuvuzelas compensated for the missing supporters. The Peter Mokaba stadium almost looked like they hadn’t had time to finish painting it, with the stark grey concrete of the outer wall in direct contrast with Soccer City in Johannesburg’s brightly coloured exterior. The inside was still coated in construction dust and most of the refreshment stands remained shuttered and closed during the match. Just two hours after the players left we found ourselves the lone figures in a dark stadium struggling to see the keyboard as we tapped out the finishing touches to our stories. Even the name of the stadium was controversial. Mokaba was the African National Congress (ANC)’s youth league leader who, like his current counterpart Julius Malema, was fond of the phrase “Kill The Boer,” which upset many Afrikaners. Ironically there’s not even a local soccer team to make use of the sparkling pitch. Residents said the Rai Stars disbanded long ago and the nearby promising Black Leopards team are based more than 150 kilometres away in a less than World Cup standard stadium. <http://www.blackleopardsfc.com/10_stadium_info.htm> The Dynamos train 100 kilometres away. Neither team play in the country’s top league. “You can’t help thinking this huge stadium will just be derelict and empty in a few years time,” said one hotel worker.

Polokwane StadiumThe soccer fan fest sounded like a wild party with the vuvuzela horns booming through the empty streets of Polokwane town, one of the smallest of 10 venues for the first World Cup on African soil.

Everyone must be there, we thought as there was little happening on a Saturday night in the northern South African town centre.

Juwama vs. the Nile Republic – South Sudan searches for a new name

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salvakiirWhat’s in a name? An entire cultural and national identity if you are from Sudan’s oil-producing south.

The region of southern Sudan is now less than seven months away from a referendum on whether it should split away to form Africa’s newest country.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

‘You call this noise? What is a million vuvuzelas?’

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SOCCER-WORLD/By Ruona Agbroko

If it hadn't been for Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, the 1-0 defeat to Argentina could have been much worse for the African side. That is one reason why the Nigerian supporter contingent, even if outnumbered by the Argentinian fans, remained upbeat throught the match.

The green-white-green stripes of the Nigerian flag were seen on toddlers, their parents and even foreigners at Ellis Park Stadium in central Johannesburg.

New Africa about much more than football

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SOCCER-WORLD/The first World Cup in Africa also highlights a dramatic change driven by forces more powerful than football.

While the competition may help change Africa’s image in the minds of any outsiders still fixated on cliches of bloodshed and famine, those in the know long ago spotted Africa’s emergence from no-go zone to frontier market and are seeing the returns.

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