Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Ivory Coast…it’s all about the crisis

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Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa grower, kicked off the 2009/10 season on bleak note on Thursday, with the head of the body overseeing the industry warning that even the most optimistic forecasts predicted a fall in production.

 

“Our plantations have suffered from the crisis,” said Gilbert Ano, echoing concerns about the West African country’s cocoa trees becoming too old, not being looked after properly by under-supported farmers and producing less cocoa as a result.

 

In talking about the “crisis”, Ano used the increasingly prevalent explanation for why things in Ivory Coast — once the region’s most stable, with an economy that boomed while neighbours stagnated or went to war — are not going very well.

 

He is referring to the political and military quagmire his country has been stuck in since a brief 2002-2003 war, during which rebels captured the north of the country. United Nations and French peacekeepers have since overseen a fragile peace, during which a return to war has been averted but elections have failed to take place.

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.

Libya: the son also rises?

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Since the end of international sanctions against Libya, leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam has symbolized hope in the West that a secretive, authoritarian oil and gas exporter can reform itself from within.

The sharp-suited, western-educated Islam has called for a new constitution, a freer press and an independent judiciary, music to the ears of the U.S. and of European governments all desperate to give a moral basis to their re-engagement with the oil-rich north African state.

from MacroScope:

Frontier sovereign wealth funds

Macroscope has discussed the growth of sovereign wealth funds many times (see here or here). Just to recap, the global state-owned SWF industry is set to more than double in the next 10 years from the current $3 trillion, according to estimates from Deutsche Bank.

John Green, global head of business development at Anglo-African bank Investec, argues that Africa will play a key role in the expansion of SWFs in years to come.

South African sci-fi

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There has been some excellent writing and drama from South Africa over the years, and much of it is serious stuff.

One thinks perhaps of Athol Fugard and J.M. Coetzee. Even the titles — Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Disgrace — convey a certain gravitas, at the very least.

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.

Aid to Africa — just a lottery?

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French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet is floating the idea of an on-line lottery to raise aid for Africa.
 
The plan is pretty modest – the aim is to raise around 10 million euros a year for projects such as boosting school access to girls in Africa.

Critics are already writing it off as an empty gesture, particularly as Africa is suffering from billion-dollar aid shortfalls as recession hits rich donor countries.

All change for Nigeria?

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Nigeria’s central bank sliced through the hubris of the business elite with its $2.6 billion bailout out of five banks and the sacking of their heads in what looks as though it could be a new era for corporate governance in Africa’s most populous country.

Recently appointed Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said lax governance had allowed the banks to become so weakly capitalised that they posed a threat to the entire system, and described the move as the beginning of a “restoration of confidence” in sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy.

Lesotho takes tourism plunge

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A day at the races? Abseiling down a waterfall? These are among the attractions residents hope will lure tourists to Lesotho.

It is struggling with drought and an HIV/AIDS crisis that is believed to have infected about a third of adults.

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