Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

The dream just got harder

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Two new proposed sets of new footballing legislation would make it even more difficult for Africa’s top soccer talent to achieve their dream of playing in Europe.

The proposed 6+5 regulation that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been vigorously touting will mean less chance for African players to find lucrative employment with clubs in Europe, where the vastly better pay makes it a destination of choice for so many footballers from this continent.
Blatter wants to ensure more local players feature in domestic football, which over the years in Europe has become blurred by liberal EU labour laws and the mass migration of footballing talent in all directions.
It is 10 years ago, for example, since a club in the English Premier League last fielded an all-English side and, although as a product the premier league has become a world brand because of its world starts, there is a move now to restrict the number of foreigners playing in England and elsewhere.

UEFA president Michel Platini has received backing for his plan to scrap international transfer for players aged under 18, which will mean African talent will have to wait until past their 18th
birthday before being able to head off to Europe.

While Platini’s plan is designed to prevent young players from around Europe being exploited by unscrupulous agents, it will also stymie the path of the continent’s best young talent.

Can shea nuts help the women of Mali?

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By Rainer Schwenzfeier

How can African countries earn more from their raw materials. And how can the women of Mali improve their ability to trade with buyers in the West?

Korotouma Doumbia, a 29-year-old from south-west Mali, has no education or formal skills but she manages to earn the family income. She harvests shea nuts and turns them into shea butter, a popular ingredient in many western cosmetics.

Togo need a miracle

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It is hard to fathom what the motivation for Jean Thissen’s decision would be. He takes on the job as national team coach of Togo just over two weeks before the resumption of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers and with the very real prospect of having to do without his best player.

Thissen is the third new coach to take over at the helm of a side who are still in the World Cup race and set out at the end of this month on the final leg of the fight for one of the five berths for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Will Bashir warrant worsen war?

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Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has seen off other challenges in almost 20 years in power and there is no sign that he is going to give in to the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Some supporters of the court’s move hope it will eventually persuade Sudan’s politicians to hand over their leader in a palace coup, end the festering conflict in Darfur and do more to repair relations with the West.

Does Africa respect its writers enough?

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The reception would have done justice to royalty or a movie star when Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe paid a rare visit to his homeland recently, some 50 years after penning his book “Things Fall Apart”.

That book has a firm place on school syllabuses in much of Africa and is studied around the world. Achebe, now 79, has been acclaimed as the father of modern African literature and as the continent’s greatest living writer – his books being very accessible as well as giving a penetrating insight into the struggles of his people.

Will democracy work in Ethiopia?

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Six Ethiopian opposition parties have joined forces to go up against the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in next year’s parliamentary elections, but their chances of bringing change look slim at best and they complain of heavy-handed tactics by the ruling party.

The foremost opposition figure in Africa’s second most populous country, Birtukan Mideksa, a 34-year-old former judge, has been in solitary confinement since December. She was jailed after the first democratic poll in 2005, which ended in rioting that was bloodily suppressed, was pardoned in 2007 and rearrested last year after renouncing the terms of her pardon.

A tournament too far?

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A new soccer tournament is being played out in Ivory Coast this week to indifference from most of the continent. The African Nations Championship is proving to be the damp squib it always looked in danger of becoming.

The CHAN, keeping up the rich tradition of abbreviations for African sporting events, is a tournament designed to give more international competition to players based on the continent.

Time to stop aid for Africa? An argument against

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Earlier this month, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argued that Africa needs Western countries to cut long term aid that has brought dependency, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. The comments on the blog posting suggested that many readers agreed. In a response, Savio Carvalho, Uganda country director for aid agency Oxfam GB, says that aid can help the continent escape poverty – if done in the right way:

In early January, I travelled to war-ravaged northern Uganda to a dusty village in Pobura and Kal parish in Kitgum District. We were there to see the completion of a 16km dirt road constructed by the community with support from Oxfam under an EU-funded programme.

Is Africa a good bet?

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For those looking to invest in Africa, the best prospects are in Nigeria and Ethiopia according to a new index of potential investment destinations published this week.

But should anybody want to put money into Africa at a time the global financial crisis and falling prices for export commodities, on which the continent is so reliant, have discouraged investors who had begun to see some African countries as promising frontier markets?

U.S. under fire over Ugandan rebel hunt

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A multinational offensive aimed at wiping out Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels – and planned and equipped with U.S. support during the dying days of the Bush administration - has scattered fighters who have unleashed a wave of massacres on Congolese villages.
 
LRA fighters have killed nearly 900 people in reprisal attacks in northeast Congo since Ugandan troops, together with Sudanese and Congolese soldiers, launched a military operation in December against fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony, whose two-decade insurgency has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted 2 million. (See Alertnet briefing for more)
 
Reuters reported on the U.S. involvement in December. The New York Times said recently that the Pentagon’s new Africa Command (Africom) had contributed intelligence, advice and $1 million in fuel. The Washington Post argues the operation has been so unsuccessful it amounts to little more than “throwing a rock at a hive of bees”.
 
Foreign Policy magazine said that the LRA, who failed to sign a planned peace deal in April, would be hard to stamp out and that the operation was putting the Pentagon’s reputation at risk.
 
There are sceptical voices in the blogosphere too.
 
“One of the first publicly acknowledged Africom operations has turned into a general debacle, resulting in the death of nearly a thousand civilians and sending untold numbers of children into sex slavery and military servitude,” Dave Donelson says on his Heart of Diamonds blog.
 
Writing in Uganda’s Monitor, Grace Matsiko said the offensive was proving a real test for officers of Uganda’s army (UPDF).
 
“Uganda should brace itself for a protracted war, should Kony and his top lieutenants continue to evade the UPDF dragnet,” the journalist wrote.
 
Meanwhile, aid agency MSF has accused the United Nations force in Congo, the world’s biggest, of failing to protect civilians from Ugandan rebel attacks – accusations the world body has rejected as totally unfounded. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also accused U.N. peacekeepers of inactivity and of living alongside the LRA for three years and doing nothing about the guerrillas.
 
While expressing his horror at the what he called ‘catastrophic’ consequences for civilians from the offensive, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes has said the joint force still needs to see the operation through.
 
Should the offensive continue or is it time to halt it? If so, what should be done about the rebels? How big an impact should the conduct of this operation have for the U.S. Africa Command’s future role?

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