Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Israel this week started deporting a planeload of migrants to South Sudan early on Monday, the first of a series of weekly repatriation flights intended as a stepping stone to dealing with much greater influxes of migrants from Sudan, Eritrea and Ivory Coast.
About 60,000 Africans have crossed into Israel across its porous border with Egypt in recent years. Israel says the vast majority are job seekers, disputing arguments by humanitarian agencies that they should be considered for asylum.
Many in Israel see the Africans as a threat to public order and to the demographics of the Jewish state. Street protests, some violent, have put pressure on the government, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of Africans “flooding” and “swamping” Israel, threatening “the character of the country”.
The government has seized on the few hundred South Sudanese migrants, whose de facto refugee status was rescinded by an Israeli court this month, and whose government, sympathetic to Israel, is happy to take them back
Think scientific excellence and Equatorial Guinea may not
immediately spring to mind.
Still less might you think of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo,
whose 30-year rule over the tiny central African oil producer
country has left him with an international reputation for
corruption and civil rights abuses.
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.
One day this year, in all probability, the “billionth African” will have been born, a milestone that will only benefit the poorest continent if it can get its act together and unify its piecemeal markets.
Nobody knows, of course, when or where in its 53 countries the child arrived to push Africa’s population into ten figures.
The U.N. merely estimates that in mid-2008 there were 987 million people, and in mid-2009, 1,010 million.
Given the difficulties of obtaining accurate data from the likes of Nigeria, where provincial population figures are often hostage to the ambitions of local politicians, or any data at all from the likes of Somalia, experts are reluctant to hazard any greater degree of accuracy.
There is less doubt, however, about the underlying trend — that Africa’s population is set to grow faster than in any other part of the world in the coming decades, and to double by 2050.
To some, the statistics from the U.N.’s population division will invite comparisons to the Asian giants, and inspire hopes of a flood of investment from Africans and outsiders to meet the needs of a continent likely to be home to one in five people by the middle of this century.
By contrast, China’s projected population of 1.4 billion in 40 years will be shrinking, while India will only be adding an annual 3 million to its 1.6 billion people.
To others, the numbers are stark reminders of the mammoth task Africa’s leaders face in providing the food, jobs, schools, housing and healthcare that are still so sorely lacking.
UNFPA, the U.N.’s population arm, summarises by saying that sub-Saharan Africa faces “serious political, economic and social challenges” and points to the last two decades as evidence that more people does not mean more wealth.
“Twenty years of almost three percent annual population growth has outpaced economic gains, leaving Africans, on average, 22 percent poorer than they were in the mid-1970s,” it says.
Are Africa’s leaders ready and willing to create the truly unified common market needed to boost investment, trade and economic growth, or are short-term national interests likely to prevail, consigning Africa to a century of overpopulated poverty?
Eighteen-year-old Mokgadi ‘Caster’ Semenya is being celebrated as a national hero in South Africa after winning the 800 metres at the World Athletics Championships, but the decision by international athletics officials to order a gender verification test has stirred deep anger – and brought accusations of prejudice against the country and the continent.
Many in South Africa feel a victory by their talented young athlete is being tarnished by bad losers and a world all too ready to mock. Sensitivities to prejudice are never far from the surface in the country where apartheid white minority rule ended just 15 years ago.
Nelson Mandela, a global symbol of reconciliation after the end of apartheid in 1994, appeared at the ruling ANC’s last election rally before Wednesday’s vote, delivering a last minute campaign boost for party leader Jacob Zuma.
Wearing a Zuma t-shirt, he sat beside the ANC leader, who has been fighting corruption allegations for eight years. The case was just dropped on a technicality and some South Africans still question his innocence.
South African prosecutors are considering a legal request by ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma to drop the graft charges against the man who is expected to be the next president after the elections in April. Zuma has always denied any wrongdoing and his followers say the charges were politically motivated.
A decision to drop the charges would give the African National Congress a big boost ahead of what is expected to be the most closely-contested poll since apartheid ended in 1994. It would also remove a major distraction for Zuma in office and the prospect of court appearances that could tarnish South Africa’s standing abroad.
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.
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.
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.