Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
When you work for a news organisation in a country like Ethiopia, people often tell you “nobody cares” about the stories you report. What they mean, of course, is that nobody in the West cares. Most of the time, they’re right.
But with Ethiopians about to hold national elections for the first time since a 2005 poll ended with a disputed result, about 200 protestors killed in the streets by police and soldiers and opposition leaders jailed after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused them of trying to stage a revolution, there’s every reason for the public in the West to take notice.
Their governments have been meddling in Ethiopia for a long time now – but quietly – and with an attitude that has angered some here. Western powers are engaged for sound foreign policy reasons, and although most in the West are unaware of it, for the people of this country it’s a constant coffee house topic.
Ethiopia is often referred to as the “key U.S. ally” in the Horn of Africa – a dodgy neighbourhood by any standards. It’s the West’s friend here because – despite its population being almost 50 percent Muslim – they are overwhelmingly moderate and the government is avowedly secular.
With global risk aversion decreasing there has been renewed interest in frontier markets.
They don’t come much more frontier than Zimbabwe, which is where Investec Asset Management is looking to make one of its newest investments – buying into a supermarket chain – and then for other potential opportunities.
Dawn was breaking and wisps of mist rising through the dense trees as wildlife expert and author Gareth Patterson and I set off into the forest, in search of one of the last remaining elephants of South Africa’s Knysna forests.
The Knysna forest, an expanse of 121,000 hectares of forest managed by South African National Parks, is home to the last remnants of the once abundant herds of Cape Bush elephants that inhabited the Southern Cape.
The old image of an Africa doomed to get ever poorer has certainly lost credence over the past decade even if it is a view still held by some.
Well, according to a new study, Africans are getting wealthier more quickly than previously believed and the poorest continent’s riches are also spreading beyond the narrow confines of its elite.
Confusion over the names of two similar-sounding African countries may have helped boosted oil prices to near $80 a barrel this week as traders rushed to buy oil after reports of a military coup.
A Reuters reporter received a flustered phone call from a hedge fund partner who had heard animated discussion in the market about an incident in Nigeria, only to realise that traders had muddled up Africa’s biggest oil producer with its neighbour Niger.
I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she’d grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy – probably the same age as me at the time – who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been stealing the show at African Union summits for years now. With theatrical – sometimes bizarre – entrances, rambling, grandiose speeches and his well-known penchant for dressing up, Gaddafi has gobbled up media coverage and bemused his fellow leaders.
But he probably wasn’t expecting what happened yesterday when he introduced two traditional African “kings” to speak to the assembled African leaders. Peals of laughter started to ring around the room. It began when he made the announcement and it continued as they spoke. It seems that some African delegates have begun to consider the continent’s longest serving leader ridiculous. And aren’t afraid to show it.
I’m blogging from the African Union’s annual summit in Addis Ababa and can see the Somali delegation from where I’m sitting. They’re mingling right now, cups of coffee and croissants in hand, pressing the flesh and smiling and joking with leaders and ministers from all over the continent and beyond. Delegates are responding warmly to the men who represent a government hemmed into only a few streets of the capital Mogadishu as they fight an increasingly vicious Islamist rebellion.
But you get the sense the other delegates are responding so warmly to compensate for something: The fact that the Somalis are here looking for help and nobody is really willing to stick their neck out and give it to them.
So far, media coverage of China’s involvement in Africa has mostly been about investment. Stories of Chinese engineers in hard hats standing by roads up mountains in Ethiopia. Stories of Chinese farmers moving to Zambia.
But, in a push to extent its economic reach, China is now making a very real effort to export its culture to the world’s poorest continent. Last year the Asian giant overtook the U.S. as Africa’s top trading partner, confirming to the West that it has a real battle on its hands to maintain its influence over African nations.
Whether Guinea’s absent junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara makes it back to his home country or not will be the latest test of Western powers’ dwindling influence in Africa.
Ex-colonial power France and the United States — desperate to avoid a failed state in a region which is already attracting the interest of narco-traffickers and other criminals — have both made it clear Camara should be kept well away.