Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
The first World Cup in Africa also highlights a dramatic change driven by forces more powerful than football.
While the competition may help change Africa’s image in the minds of any outsiders still fixated on cliches of bloodshed and famine, those in the know long ago spotted Africa’s emergence from no-go zone to frontier market and are seeing the returns.
If you had put $1,000 in Nigerian or Kenyan stock markets at the start of the year, you would have made a profit of around $150. If you had done the same with the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 index, you would be nursing a loss.
Global fund trackers EPFR reported a 40th consecutive week of inflows to African equity funds this week. India’s Bharti Airtel completed a $9 billion purchase of Zain’s African operations in another vote of confidence in the continent.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o had been hesitant to write his memoirs, but wanted to give his children a wake up call about what life was like when you had to walk miles to school - not to mention being a political prisoner.
A giant of African literature, he has never been afraid to challenge the establishment. Yet while he recounts his time in prison with humour today, he has never moved back to Kenya full time since going into exile nearly 30 years ago despite being one of the country’s best-known writers.
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.
This past holiday season in Kenya was quite a contrast to the preceding year.
While in 2008 December was dry and dusty, last month was marked by heavy rains across the country, making for soggy barbecues and muddy cars for the many urban Kenyans who usually like to spend Christmas with their families in the rural areas.
The rains have killed 20 people and displaced many more through flooding. But they are vital, given the country’s reliance on agriculture, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP and employs about two thirds of the entire population.
A major obstacle to producing enough food has been the dry weather which hit many African countries last year, including Kenya, where 10 million people urgently needed food when rains failed. Now Kenyan farmers have been asked to grow drought tolerant crops to help prepare for the effects of climate change.
Nancy Opele has been growing sweet potatoes on her farm in Kenya’s western Trans Nzoia district. She started growing the potatoes in 2003 after researchers approached farmers and introduced them to the crop.
It’s easy to avoid going to a hospital or clinic for an HIV test but what would you do if those carrying out the tests came to your house? The Kenyan government recently launched a door-to-door testing campaign and here’s how people in the country are reacting to the programme.
In the village of Asega in the Rift Valley, life is slow and newcomers are rare, so when health workers turned up recently there was a lot of curiosity. They came to test residents for HIV as part of a government initiative.
For telecoms-tycoon-turned-philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, it’s one step forward, two steps back. For Benno Ndullu, governor of the central Bank of Tanzania, the whole thing is bound to stall unless problems are ironed out first.
For many Tanzanians, it’s a threat to their jobs, language and prospects.
But for the leaders of the five-member East African Community (EAC), signing the common market protocol on Friday represents the future fortunes of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda combined.
Kenya’s Maasai warriors are known for being fearless lion killers but times have changed and the country’s lion’s population is in danger of being wiped out. Now the Maasai in southern Kenya are taking part in an initiative to preserve the big cats.
For thousands of years the Maasai co-existed with huge herds of wildlife. Their lion-killing rituals kept down the number of lions preying on the game while their fearsome reputation as warriors kept the herds safe from other humans. The result, Kenya’s wildlife heritage is a wonder of the modern world.
Successive failed rain seasons in Kenya have led to a drought that experts say is the worst in the country since 1996.
And it is not just a problem for Kenya. Aid agencies estimate more than 23 million people will need food aid in the Horn of Africa region.
Sudath Perera has every reason to be content. He started up his textiles factory outside the Kenyan capital Nairobi nine years ago; today, he employs 1500 workers and turns over between 18 and 20 million U.S. dollars a year.
“We are contributing to the local economy by creating employment,” he says. “And indirectly there are a lot of local suppliers also relying on us.”