Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Africa takes the stage in London

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nottageAfrica is providing a lot of fine material for the London theatre these days.

A rare outing for Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman was a highlight at the National last year. This was followed, also at the National, by Matt Charman’s The Observer,  which unpicked preparations for an election in an unnamed African nation.

More recently, Lynn Nottage’s excellent Ruined, which dealt with tough themes relating to women’s lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has just finished an acclaimed run at the Almeida in Islington.

Last night saw the press preview of Moira Buffini’s Welcome to Thebes, which transposes ancient Greek myths to another unidentified African country (Liberia?) emerging from years of war.

I haven’t yet seen many reviews of Richard Eyre’s fine-looking production at the National, but the Guardian’s Michael Billington gives it a reasonably respectful nod.

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.

The cash cost of war

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We often hear of the human cost of war. We don’t often see the cash cost laid out so baldly as in the price list that went with my colleague Abdi Sheikh’s feature from Mogadishu on the arms market that thrives in the city amid Somalia’s tragedy.

Among popular weapons, a 120 mm mortar costs $700, plus $55 for each mortar bomb. A 23 mm anti-aircraft gun (truck mounted), fetches a hefty $20,000.

Africa? No thanks.

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The pivotal marketing position when South Africa were still bidding for the 2010 World Cup was the assertion it would be a tournament for all of the continent. ‘Africa’s bid’ was the pay-off line used throughout the successful campaign.

Using famous footballing personalities from around the continent, South Africa garnered widespread support with its all-inclusive approach against their Arab rivals in the race to win the right to host the event.

Rwanda: legacy of a genocide 15 years on

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This April marks 15 years since the Rwandan genocide, an event that still casts a dark shadow over the region. It was a killing spree that lasted just three months, but that left 800,000 people dead, most ethnic Tutsis, killed by soldiers and civilians from the majority Hutu ethnic community.

It took an army of exiled Tutsi Rwandans, led by Rwanda’s current president Paul Kagame, to stop the killings. That government, still in power 15 years later, has vowed that a Rwandan genocide can never happen again. It’s a policy that has had a deep impact on the whole region, especially on Rwanda’s bigger neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

France and Africa. New relationship?

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Before Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, he made clear he wanted to break with France’s old way of doing business in Africa – a cosy blend of post-colonial corruption and patronage known as “Françafrique” that suited a fair few African dictators and the French establishment alike.

He has made the same point during his past visits to the continent.

“The old pattern of relations between France and Africa is no longer understood by new generations of Africans, or for that matter by public opinion in France. We need to change the pattern of relations between France and Africa if we want to look at the future together,” Sarkozy said in South Africa early last year.

from Global News Journal:

Trekking through the mountains to Congo’s “De Gaulle”

Emmanuel Braun was named as Reuters Video Journalist of the Year this month for his coverage of Africa.

The call takes me by surprise. It is our contact at the CNDP, the rebel movement in eastern Congo, telling us its leader Laurent Nkunda has agreed to meet us in his stronghold in the Masisi Mountains.

Is East Africa ready for oil?

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Buoyed by recent discoveries of commercial scale oil deposits in Uganda, east African policy makers, foreign oil explorers and their local partners trooped to a five-star hotel on the Kenyan coast this week to reflect on the progress and chart future strategies.Viewed as a frontier region for oil exploration, east Africa’s first major oil find was made by Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil companies in the Albertine Basin, which spans the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (whose improving relations are making the exploitation of the reserves look morel ikely).Before that, Tanzania had found vast reserves of natural gas in Songo Songo and Mnazi Bay areas.Just like Rwanda, which hopes to revolutionise electricity generation in the region through methane gas from Lake Kivu, Tanzania hopes to power cars from the gas and generate much needed electricity from its natural gas.The regional economic power house Kenya has, however, had disappointing results so far in its search for oil.Although 32 wells have been sunk here since the 1950s, only traces of oil and gas have been found. It is now reprocessing data gathered over that period in the hope new knowledge and technology will reveal hidden deposits.Drilling, an expensive affair that prospectors say can cost a firm $200 million for one well, took a commercial break in the 1980s. But it has also seen a resurgence of interest, thanks to last year’s rise of crude in global markets.Kenya issued 14 exploration licenses last year and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is set to sink its first well in the second half of this year in the eastern province.Kiraitu Murungi, the nation’s energy minister, told the meeting in Mombasa they were praying day and night for the new well and data reprocessing to show signs of oil.On the other hand,  Uganda — long reliant on Kenya’s ageing oil refinery for its supply of petroleum products — has grand plans for its newfound oil resources.They include the construction of a state of the art modern refinery at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion to process its oil as well as oil from any new finds in the region.Uganda’s energy and mineral development minister, Hillary Onek, spoke of the plans with a grin and added that the region, believed to share common geology, could be headed for a better future as it taps its oil and gas reserves to power development.However, as officials and oil prospectors retired to the hotel’s restaurants and beach bar for a drink in the evenings, they must have wondered if a few obstacles may not block the path to that prosperous future.The global financial crisis is weighing heavily on the finance base of some companies prospecting in the region.Lack of local skilled manpower in oil and gas industry is also worrying. So is the big question of how to equitably manage revenues from oil and gas so that oil and gas do not turn into a curse for the region as they have elsewhere on the continent.Is east Africa ready to handle oil and gas? Will oil discoveries help local communities?

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.

from Photographers' Blog:

Death all around

A Congolese refugee in a tattered baseball cap, worn clothes and blue flip-flops begged me for a cigarette at Kibati, a camp for 65,000 people displaced by fighting in eastern Congo.

I scolded him, saying smoking was bad for his health, as if anything could be worse for your health than living in this conflict-racked corner of Democratic Republic of Congo.

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