Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

The African brain drain

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          Africans living in the United States are twice as likely to graduate from college as the average American.These African students often come from families who value education as a way to get on in life and place a high value on working and studying hard.Sara Tsegaye, a straight-A student at UCLA, is one example of that success. Her parents fled Ethiopia in the late 1980s, first to Sudan and then, when Sara was one year old, they moved to San Jose, California.Sara’s father works on a mobile ice cream truck in San Jose and her mother used to be a factory worker before she got laid off.”We manage to pay for school because I’ve been working since I was 11,” Sara told Reuters Africa Journal. “I’ve been working with my dad on his ice cream truck, he’s been paying me and I’ve been saving the money. Also I had two jobs in high school and I saved up a lot of money. I understand the value of money.”Sara wants to work with an NGO or a non-profit organisation after she graduates. She wants to travel and she wants to make a difference in the world. Other African students say they want to go home once they get a bit of experience in their careers.But Africa is suffering from a massive brain drain just now and it’s questionable whether enough of those highly motivated students from America will return home in large enough numbers to really make a difference.

Weapons of war

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When Hillary Clinton visited the Democratic Republic of Congo in August, she spoke out against rape and said women should not be used as “weapons of war”.

The Secretary of State wanted Congo’s government to do more to stop sexual violence and prosecute offenders in an area where armed groups still use rape to terrorise local people seven years after the war was meant to have ended.

Can gold save Burkina Faso?

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Is the soaring gold price a ticket to a better life for struggling freelance miners in Burkina Faso?The impoverished West African country is trying to revive its gold mining industry, spurred by the global financial crisis and the need to reduce the economy’s dependence on cotton.Near the village of Mogen in northeastern Burkina Faso, artisanal miners are engaged in a dangerous hunt for gold in hand-dug pits.Landslips kill miners almost every year, although mostly during the rainy season. When it’s dry, children help sift the soil in search of the nuggets that pay for food and school fees.On a good day, a miner will unearth around five milligrams of gold, which earns about $10. But often they come up empty.Jeremi Nacanabo, who helps run an association of informal gold miners, told Reuters Africa Journal: “We don’t have the technology to take out the gold. Right now we’re working in a traditional way, which creates enormous problems and causes many accidents.”But gold mining in Burkina Faso is experiencing a revival after a halt in the late 1990s caused by poor management and inadequate capital.Analysts say poor prices for cotton, the country’s main export, have rekindled interest in mining. The financial crisis is tempting investors to buy low-risk assets such as gold, which is now selling for about $1,000 per ounce.Burkina Faso revised its mining codes in 2003 to attract foreign investors with tax breaks.The goal is to join the ranks of Africa’s top producers — South Africa, Ghana and Mali — within the next three years.In the dusty northeast of the country, the Taparko-Somita mine, which is run by theCanadian-listed, Russian-controlled company High River Gold, is the first of four gold mines that have begun operating in the past two years.Together they produced 5.5 tonnes in 2008 and they are heading for more than that this year. The government takes a 10 percent free stake in each mine.Local miners, who once worked for themselves, are finding jobs with the mining companies. They earn a salary, work in safer conditions and are given training.But even with the recent gold rush, Burkina Faso is still struggling to revive its economy and provide basic services for its 13 million people.Of course everyone can’t be part of the gold mining revival, but global demand for Burkina Faso’s natural resources could at least provide some trickle-down benefit for the economy.

Madagascar: forest pharmacy under threat

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Millions of years ago, Madagascar separated from the other continents and evolved separately. Today it has about 12,000 plants most of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Many of these plants have medicinal properties, but their habitat is under threat.

In the town of Tolear, people rely on herbs as the nearest hospital is far away. Traditional healers combine plants and a little bit of magic to cure patients.

Aid – a new model?

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A project in Ethiopia that helps destitute women become self-reliant by providing them with paid employment has attracted a lot of attention from politicians visiting Addis Ababa for an international get-together.

Alem Abebe is a 14-year-old girl who left home three years ago and made her way to the capital. She now earns 50 US cents a day working at the Abebech Gobena project in one of the city’s slums. It’s not enough to send money home, but enough to survive — and to pay for night school.

The struggle against drought in northern Uganda

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The people of Karamoja in north-eastern Uganda have made ritual sacrifices for as long as anyone can remember, slaughtering their precious animals to ask for rain.

But even this age-old belief hasn’t been able to protect the Karamajong from a drought that has now gone on for 4 years. They still sacrifice because they have nowhere else to turn.

A crackdown on Albino murders?

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In a small courtroom in eastern Burundi, state prosecutor Nicodeme Gahimbare waves a bone at the judges and the eight men lined up in front of them, as he states his case.

It’s a human bone.

The eight men are on trial for murdering albinos and trying to sell their body parts across the border in Tanzania, where some people believe that using albino body parts in witchcraft can bring wealth and good fortune. Some of the body parts found are now on display for all to see.

Sitting on top of the world

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At 26, Annick Vangah is on top of the world. She’s in the driver’s seat of a 7.2-ton public bus in Abidjan, one of the biggest and busiest cities in West Africa and Ivory Coast’s commercial capital.

Until 2002, only men were allowed to drive the buses owned by Abidjan’s public transport company SOTRA. Today, Vangah is one of 19 women behind the wheel of the city’s public buses. The company’s nearly 1,900 other drivers are all men.

Polo sets out its stall in Lagos

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Polo has a large and growing following in Nigeria and every year fans get the chance to see some of the country’s best players at the Lagos International Polo tournament. This year more than 200 participants registered for the event.

It’s the biggest polo tournament in Africa. This time around 30 teams took part and more than 3,000 people came to watch.

How will South Africa handle the World Cup?

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International football body FIFA expects about half a million fans to come to South Africa for the World Cup, which starts a year from now.

The country is experiencing its first recession in 17 years but it is hoped that the
infrastructure being built for the World Cup and the expected influx of tourists will give the economya boost.

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