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February 26 2014

8 Dishes From Africa We Dare You To Try

Mopane worm. Photo released to be used freely by  Arne Larsen.

A live Mopane worm. Photo released to be used freely by Arne Larsen.

As we conclude “Food Month” here at Global Voices Online, let's take a look at eight dishes from Sub-Saharan Africa that might take you out of your culinary comfort zone. We dare you to try them”

1. Madora (mopane worms):

Delicious Mopane worms ready to serve. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com

Delicious Mopane worms ready to serve. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com

Madora (Gonimbrasia belina) is a species of moth found in much of Southern Africa, whose large edible caterpillar, the mopani or mopane worm, is an important source of protein for millions of indigenous Southern Africans.

If you want to try mopane worms, follow Zimbo Kitchen instructions here:

Before you run-off, madora are high in protein to the extent that it’s just what the doctor ordered. Here is the power of protein according to WebMD – “protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood“. No wonder why the folks in rural Zimbabwe escape many diseases suffered by us urbanites.

In Zimbabwe, this delicacy is often prepared in a simple and straight forward manner – frying. This is how I intend to do them today with a little variation of my own involving black pepper. You are good to go when you choose this combo: sadza, green veggies and mbuya’s tomato and onion soup to accompany this dish even though it’s still possible to have madora on their own as a crisp snack or with other combinations. Enough said, let’s start frying!

2. Nsenene (grasshoppers):

A male grasshopper. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Bruce Marlin.

A live male grasshopper. Photo released under Creative Commons license by Wikipedia user Bruce Marlin.

Nsenene” is the Luganda name for a long-horned grasshopper (more commonly called bush cricket or katydid) that is a central Ugandan delicacy as well as an important source of income. The insect is also eaten in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Follow these seven steps to make your grasshopper dish.

3. Bullfrog:

African bullfrog. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Stevenj

African bullfrog. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Stevenj

Science in Africa blog explains how the frog is eaten in Namibia:

In Namibian traditional cuisine the entire frog is eaten, with the exception of the alimentary canal, which may be fed to dogs or poultry.

It continues:

Generally people are advised to wait until the Giant Bullfrogs start croaking or until “after the third rain” before eating them. Despite this caution people in some areas choose to eat frogs prematurely. However when they do so very specific anti-poisoning preventative measures are usually taken.

People from the Oshakati/Ongwediva [northern Namibia] area prevent poisoning by lining their cooking pots with pieces of dry wood from a tree locally known as Omuhongo (not to be confused by Omuoongo, the Marula tree). This wood apparently neutralises the frog poison while also preventing the frog skin from sticking to the pot bottom. “Nobody becomes ill from the disease when this cooking method is followed. In the Okambebe/Oshikango areas, where the Omuhongo tree appears to be unknown, people use the Omuva and Oshipeke trees instead. “Only two small pieces cut from Omuva or Oshipeke, when used to line the bottom of the pot while cooking frogs, will prevent the disease from attacking the culprit.

4. Mazondo (Beef trotters):

Mazondo (beef trotters) ready to be eaten. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com.

Mazondo (beef trotters) ready to be eaten. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com.

Mazondo (Beef trotters) are amongst one of the favourite dishes for most Zimbabwean men and some women too. It’s best to slow cook them on your stove if you’re not cooking them pamoto (using firewood). The way to prepare them is pretty straight forward, much like pork trotters, maguru (tripe) or even beef stew which are prepared in more or less the same way here in Zimbabwe.

5. Termites:

Termits (white ants) in Sudan. Public domain photo from the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Termites (white ants) in Sudan. Public domain photo from the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Termites are also known as “white ants”, although they are unrelated to ants. They are a delicacy in many African cultures.

Here are photo instructions on how to fry flying termites.

6. Blood and milk:

Thomson Safaris blog notes:

[...] but much more fascinating [about the Maasai diet] (and possibly a little off-putting to the western palate) is the tradition of drinking raw blood, cooked blood, and blood-milk mixtures.

This is the traditional method of obtaining cow's blood:

they [Maasai] eat milk and blood which is harvested by puncturing the loose flesh on the cow's neck with an arrow. The wound is closed after a gourdfull of blood is obtained. This operation can be repeated every month or so with no harm to the cow. The Masai typically drink blood mixed with milk.

Brave enough to try it? Make a blood and milk concoction as follows:

Cow blood can be cooked with fresh or sour milk as follows: Pour the fresh blood through a sieve to separate it from the clots. Mix three parts liquid blood to one part milk (or equal parts blood and sour milk). Cook over low heat, stirring often, for twenty to thirty minutes. The mixture should thicken like scrambled eggs. If desired, butter, fried chopped onions, or salt can be added during cooking. Serve with Ugali, Fufu, or boiled Plantains, or Rice.

7. Mbewa (mice):

Mice is a well-known delicacy in northern Malawi, where it is known as “mbewa”, as well as in eastern Zambia.

The YouTube video below from Peter Larson shows roasted mice for sale:

Writing about “mbewa”, Peter Larson says:

Malawians are largely divided as to the culinary merit of Mbewa. Most love the Mbewa and consider it a delicious snack food. Others decry them as unfit for eating. Mbewa are caught and roasted over a fire, but clearly not roasted long enough to burn off the copious amounts of visible fur. Malawians then garnish them with salt and cayenne pepper and gnaw on them like jerky, consuming them completely, bones and all.

If you want to know all the social and cultural dynamics involved in mice-eating and, more importantly, how to hunt your own mice for dinner, read this blog post.

8. Palm tree larvae:

Next time you are hungry, try this one! Photo released under Creative Commons by Luigi Barraco.

Next time you are hungry, reach for one of these! Photo released under Creative Commons by Luigi Barraco.

Palm tree larvae is a delicious tropical treat and a great source of protein.

Follow cooking instructions [fr] from Cuisine Au Kamer to make your own delicious plate of palm tree larvae:

Nettoyer les larves: les laver à grande eau les ouvrir avec les doigts et enlever le liquide marron qui se trouve à l'intérieur des larves

Disposer directement chaque larve nettoyée dans la marmite qui sera utilisée pour les cuire. L'enlèvement du liquide marron à l'intérieur des larves colore les doigts en couleur marron, mais cette couleur s'enlève au lavage.

Préparer les condiments nécessaires: ail, basilic africain, oignon, pèbè, feuille de gingembre (odzom). Mélanger avec les larves et mettre au feu doux. Ne pas ajouter de l'eau. laisser cuire 25 à 30 mns à feu doux, le temps que les larves produisent leur huile, puis servir.

Wash really well with water, open the larvae with your fingers and remove the brown liquid that is inside the larvae.

Put each larva directly into the pot (don't worry if the brown liquid stains your fingers, this color can be removed with washing).

Prepare the necessary condiments: garlic, African basil, onion, pébé [a local spice in Cameroon], ginger leaves. Mix with the larvae and cook on a low heat. Do not add water. Cook for 25-30 minutes on a low heat until the larvae start melting, and then serve.

February 18 2014

10 Dishes From Sub-Saharan Africa Everyone Needs to Try

We simply cannot let February, which is Food Month here at Global Voices Online, pass without sharing with you ten delicious dishes from Sub-Saharan Africa. Make sure to add them to your recipe collections!

1. Kamba wa nazi (Prawns in coconut sauce)

Kamba (Prawns/shrimp) is loved in the coastal region [East Africa]. Shrimps taste better if cooked for just a few minutes on high heat. In the past I preferred fried shrimp only, but shrimp cooked with coconut milk is something that I would advise everyone to try. Believe me; you may never want fried shrimp ever again if you try this recipe. This recipe is exotic.

Follow the instructions from the YouTube video below from Miriam Kinunda:

2. Efo riro (Nigerian vegetable soup)

Efo Riro is a Nigerian vegetable soup. Image used with permission from Dobby Signature.

Efo Riro is a Nigerian vegetable soup. Photo used with permission from Dobby Signature.

Efo riro” is a Yoruba word which simply means “Vegetable soup” and it’s enjoyed by many. This is because it’s really versatile and could be eaten with meals such as Rice, Yam and any type of Swallow. When I got to the market to buy the ingredients for cooking this meal, I actually got so confused when it came to choosing which Leaf to use for the soup.

3. Ceebu jenn (Senegalese rice and fish)

Senegalese national dish cebe..... Photo released in the public domain by Wikipedia user KVDP.

Senegalese national dish Ceebu jenn. Photo released in the public domain by Wikipedia user KVDP.

There are about as many variations for spelling ceebu jenn (thieboudienne, thiep bu dinenne, ceebujenn…) as there are to making it. This rice (ceeb) and fish (jenn) recipe is the national dish of Senegal and can also be made with beef (ceebu yapp). If the dish looks familiar, it’s because it’s a descendent of paella.

4. Seswaa (Botswana's slow-cooked shredded beef)

Watch the video below to learn from Freedes Em how to make this scrumptious recipe from Botswana:

5. Matapa

Matapa is a typical Mozambican dish prepared with young cassava leaves piled with garlic and flour extracted from the tubers, cooked with crab or shrimp. Many Matapa dishes add cashew nuts and can be eaten with bread, rice or alone.

Cook Guru Mozambique Cuisine has simple instructions for you to make your own Matapa:

Matapa...ooh, what a delicious dish! Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Are you ready to eat Matapa? Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Ingredients:

- 1 kg of shrimps
- 750 gr of peanuts
- 1 kg of cabbage leaf or cassava leaf
- 1 coconut
- 2 L of water
- salt to taste

6. Ghana's Benne (sesame) soup with guineafowl (or Cornish game hens)

Below are the ingredients needed:

1. Fowl (I'm using 2 Cornish game hens, around 4 lbs, total)
2. 1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
3. 1 cup of tahini (or less if you prefer)
4. 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
5. About 2-inch chunk of fresh peeled ginger
6. 1 onion (about 1 cup, red, if available)
7. About 4 habanero, or other milder chile peppers, seeded and membranes removed, if desired. (When ground they should make about 1 Tablespoon of pepper paste). Americans use milder chile peppers, remove seeds, etc.)
8. 6 small-to-medium tomatoes (or about half a large 28 oz can of tomatoes; I imagine this might also be a small can, but I never have them in the house): enough to get 1 1/2- 2 cups when blended.

Read the full cooking instructions from Betumi here.

7. Doro wet (Ethiopian/Eritrean stew made from chicken and hard-boiled eggs)

Watch the YouTube video below made by Makonnen Wolde to learn how to make Doro wet:

8. Injera

Doro wet (above) is traditionally eaten with injera, a spongy flat bread made from the millet-like grain known as teff:

Ingredients

5 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon yeast
enough warm water to make a thin batter

Begin by combining the flour, baking powder and yeast in a large bowl. Add enough water to make a batter the consistency of thin pancake batter. Cover the bowl and set it aside.

Full cooking instructions are here.

Ethiopian/Eritrean injera (flat bread), which can be eaten with dishes such as Doro wet. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Rama.

Ethiopian/Eritrean injera (flat bread), which can be eaten with dishes such as Doro wet. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0 FR) by Wikipedia user Rama.

9. Chapati (flat bread)

Chapati or “chapo” as we fondly refer to them in Kenya, is a very popular flat bread that is a staple in many homes in East Africa. The dish has it's origins in India as do many of our foods in Kenya. This owing to the large Indian population that has lived in Kenya since the 19th century, and whom we consider as our fellow Kenyans. Though this flat bread shares the same name with another flat bread in India, the preparation of the dough and the type of flour used make them different. The Indian chapati is made of a combination of whole wheat flour (atta) and all-purpose flour whereas the East African version of the chapati uses only all-purpose flour. When making the East African chapati, oil is used whereas no oil is used in kneading the dough for the Indian chapati. In that regard, the East African chapati is more similar to the Indian flat bread called “Paratha”. But what's in a name? A chapati by any other name would still be delish :)

Chapati and chapati roll. Photo released under Creative Commons  (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user Kalyan.

Chapati and chapati roll. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user Kalyan.

Learn chapati cooking instructions here.

10. Ndole (spinach/bitter leaves and peanut soup):

Writing about Cameroonian dish Ndole on her blog, food blogger Immaculate writes:

At the top of my favorite Cameroonian food is Ndole, which is always present at parties ,and when cooked properly flies off the table. It is an absolutely irresistible combination of peanuts, bitter leaves (substitute spinach), meat (stock fish, shrimp,) crayfish (dried shrimps) and oil. If I could eat this every day I would, It is rich, high in calories and loved by many. It tastes like a stew spinach dip with all the spices and meat.

Follow Immaculate's instructions here to make your own Ndole.

Sub-Saharan Africa has many more yummy dishes to offer the world than those listed above. Make sure that you explore the blogs linked in this post for more!

Reposted bytowsertowser

February 16 2014

Revisiting the Era of Foreign Domination in Cameroon

Dibussi Tande revisits the era of foreign domination in Cameroon in the context of the Guiness Mount Cameroon Race:

The first three editions of the Guinness Mount Cameroon Race were won by local Bakweri runners. By the time of the 4th edition in 1976, an aura of superstition had already enveloped the race. There was a widely-held belief, even among non-natives, that efas’a moto, the mountain god, would never allow a “stranger” to “conquer” the sacred lair of the Bakweri people who lived at the foot of the mountain. In fact, during the first three races, there were numerous stories of supernatural happenings up the fog-covered mountain which disoriented and frightened non-native runners into submission. This would all change in 1976.

February 05 2014

Meet 3 Talented African Lady Geeks Involved in New Media

The new technology sector is booming on the African continent. The force behind this growth is mainly driven by the talent and passion of young Africans for innovation and information technology. However, these talented young people are also well aware that various areas of the tech industry in Africa are still a work in progress: skill development, competitiveness and equal opportunities for all.

We asked three talented bloggers from Francophone Africa for their opinions on new media in their region and what being a female geek (known as a ‘geekette‘) means for them.

Mariam Diaby [fr], who is based in Côte d’Ivoire, defines herself above all as an entrepreneur interested in all things digital. Her studies took her as far as London to the London South Bank University.

Julie Owono is studying law in Paris and is currently studying to take the bar exam. Originally from Cameroon, she contributes regularly to online publications such Global Voices and Quartz Magazine and is head of the Africa office of Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders).

Lalatiana Rahariniaina, based in Antananarivo, Madagascar, has been blogging since 2008. Passionate about writing and photography, Lalatiana shares her views on Malagasy society on her French-language blog Ampela Miblaogy (Woman Who Blogs). One of the winners of Radio France International's Mondoblog competition in 2011, she received training from the Atelier des Médias [fr] – RFI in Senegal. Atelier des Médias is a francophone social network that studies the evolution of media around the world.

Mariam Daby with permission

Mariam Daby. Photo used with her permission

Global Voices (GV): Do you think of yourself as a geek (or geekette)? 

Mariam Diaby (MD): Alors là, pas du tout. C'est vrai que j'ai toujours adoré les jeux vidéos (même si je n'y joue plus très souvent), que mon premier réflexe est de “tripatouiller” tout nouvel appareil technologique qui me tombe sous la main, que l'informatique a fait partie de mon cursus universitaire et que je travaille dans le domaine, mais non, je ne suis pas une Geek. Je suis juste attentive au monde des NTIC.

Mariam Diaby (MD): Not at all. It's true that I've always loved video games (even if I don't play them very often), that my first instinct is to play around with any new device that falls into my hands, that IT is major part of my studies at university, and that I work in that field, but I'm not a geek. I just pay close attention to the world of IT.

Julie Owono (JO): Qu'est-ce qu'être une Geekette, aurais-je envie de demander. Dans l'imaginaire, Geek et son féminin Geekette représentaient des êtres peu sociables, toujours le nez dans leur ordinateur, à la poursuite du dernier gadget électronique. Cette vision a sûrement changé aujourd'hui, et si Geekette, c'est être une personne qui utilise de manière intensive les nouveaux médias, dans un but précis, je pense en effet pouvoir dire que j'en suis une. Internet et les outils qui en sont des dérivés offrent des possibilités en terme de démocratie, de participation multi-acteurs dans le jeu politique, de gouvernance, de transparence, toutes ces questions qui m'importent. Je suis à ce sujet très fière d'un outil nommé Feowl sur lequel j'ai travaillé, et qui permet de mesurer le défaut d'électricité dans les métropoles africaines.     

Julie Owono (JO): ”What does it mean to be a geekette?” is what I want to ask first. It used to be that geeks and geekettes were thought of as unsocial, with their noses pressed to their computer screens, searching for the latest electronic gadget. This perception has surely changed today, and if being a geekette means being someone who uses new media intensively with a specific goal, I think I could say I'm one. The Internet and related tools offer possibilities in terms of democracy, multi-stakeholder participation in politics, government, transparency, all of these things which are important to me. In this respect, I'm really proud of a tool I'm working on called Feowl, which allows the electricity deficit in African cities to be measured.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina (LV): Si geek veut dire être passionné dans un domaine précis – dans mon cas le blogging – alors je pourrai peut-être en faire partie. Je tiens juste à préciser que ma vie n’est pas que virtuelle.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina (LV): If being a geek means being passionate about a specific topic – in my case blogging – then maybe I am one. But just to be clear, my life is more than just the online world.

GV: How are female African geeks seen in the world of new media?

MD: Je crois que les femmes africaines ont su s'imposer ces dernières années. Des femmes comme Marieme Jamme représentent le visage de la “Technology African Woman”. Il n’ y a pas de différence entre femmes et hommes, il n'y a que les compétences qui parlent, et sur ce point il n'y a rien à redire. Pour moi, elles ont le mérite qui leur revient.

MD: I think African women have known how to find a place for themselves in recent years. Women like Marieme Jamme represent the face of the ‘Technology African Woman'. There is no difference between women and men, what's important is their skills, and on that point there's no more to be said. For me, those women deserve a lot of credit.

Julie Owono avec sa permission

Julie Owono. Photo used with her permission

JO: Il faut d'abord signaler que nous ne sommes malheureusement pas si nombreuses… ou alors nous nous cachons bien ! J'organise parfois des formations portant sur l'utilisation des nouveaux médias, les candidatures féminines se font rares ! A quoi cela est dû, peut-être est-ce à cause de l'éducation distributive, en fonction des genres, qui irrigue encore le système éducatif et l'inconscient de beaucoup de parents dans l'éducation qu'ils transmettent à leurs enfants : les filles auraient plus des âmes de littéraires que de techniciennes. Il faut croire que les choses ne sont pas si différentes ailleurs qu'en Afrique, mais fort heureusement, elles sont en train de changer progressivement. On voit se développer sur le continent de plus en plus de programmes pour encourager les vocations de femmes technophiles, et celles-ci, surtout parmi les jeunes générations, ont une idée différente de leur place dans ce monde des nouveaux médias, et de leur rapport avec ces nouveaux médias. Et puis, le fait d'avoir de plus en plus de modèles ne peut qu'aider. J'ai moi-même été, et suis toujours, très inspirée par le parcours d'Ory Okolloh. Donc pour répondre, la geekette africaine c'est encore une perle trop rare, mais c'est aussi un formidable réservoir d'idées, de projets, et de progrès.

JO: First of all, it needs to be said that there aren't many of us… or we're hiding somewhere! Sometimes I organise training events for using new media, and female participants are rare! Why that is, maybe it's because of distributive education, based on gender, which still guides the principles and subconscious of lots of parents in educating their children: girls are seen as literary, not technical. Things aren't very different outside of Africa, but happily they are changing slowly. We're seeing more and more programmes being developed to encourage girls to choose technical careers, and these women, particularly in younger generations, have a different idea of their place in the world of new media and their relationship to new media. And the fact that they have more and more role models must help too. I myself was, and am, always inspired by Ory Okolloh. So as an answer, the African geekette is still too rare, but she's also an incredible reservoir of ideas, projects and progress.

LR: Je ne pense pas que dans le monde des nouveaux médias on distingue particulièrement les femmes des hommes. Cependant, si on parle de Madagascar, on constate qu’il y a peu de femmes par rapport aux hommes qui s’intéressent réellement aux nouveaux médias.

LR: In the world of new media, I don't think we really discriminate between women and men. But if we talk about Madagascar, you can see that there are few women in relation to men really interested in new media.

GV: Regarding ‘bro’ culture in Silicon Valley, is the glass ceiling more difficult to break through in the world of new media?

MD: Je ne pense pas du tout, au contraire. Les réseaux sociaux sont tellement efficaces en terme de viralité, qu'il est encore plus facile de diffuser l'information sur les geekettes comparé aux médias traditionnels.

MD: I don't think so at all. To the contrary, social networks are so effective in terms of going viral that it's even easier to diffuse information about geekettes compared to traditional media.

JO: Finalement, à force de vouloir être totalement différent, “disruptive” comme on dit, le secteur des nouveaux médias a fini par ressembler aux secteurs d'activités plus traditionnels : un monde sexiste, où les femmes n'aurait qu'exceptionnellement un rôle important à jouer. Pour autant, contrairement à avant, le plafond de verre est peut-être moins insurmontable : avec Internet, et l'ouverture que cet espace offre, il peut être un peu moins compliqué d'accéder à un réseau d'autres femmes ayant réussi, et de se faire introduire, d'être soutenu lorsqu'on a des idées, de mettre en application ces idées avec trois sous pour commencer, recevoir des financements, avoir des modèles de réussite (je pense à Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer et al.), comme je l'écrivais plus haut. Le plafond de verre il est surtout dans le mental à mon avis : penser que pour y arriver dans ce domaine, il faudrait avoir le cerveau d'un homme dans un corps de femme.

JO: At the end of the day, by seeking to be completely different, ‘disruptive’ as we say, the new media sector has ended up resembling more traditional branches of business: a sexist world, where women only rarely have an important role to play. Nevertheless, compared to before the glass ceiling is maybe less impossible to break through; with the Internet and the opportunities that it offers, maybe it's a bit less complicated to get in touch with a network of other women who have succeeded, to be introduced as a newcomer, to be supported in our ideas, to start working on these ideas without the need for a huge amount of capital, to get financial aid, to have successful role models (I'm thinking of Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer etc.), as I mentioned before. In my opinion, the glass ceiling is above all psychological: thinking that to get somewhere in this field, you need to have a man's brain in a woman's body.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina avec sa permission

Lalatiana Rahariniaina. Photo used with her permission

LR: Je ne crois pas. Dans le cas de Madagascar, comme je l’ai dit précédemment, les intérêts des femmes sont ailleurs. C’est ma façon de voir en tout cas. Mais j’avoue que c’est un défi permanent entre les tâches, les devoirs, les activités qui m’incombent. Et c’est peut-être l’une des raisons de cette grande absence des femmes malgaches dans le monde des nouveaux médias. Sinon, puisqu’on parle du sujet, le glass ceiling n’a pas sa raison d’être. Si les femmes veulent vraiment s’y mettre, je ne vois aucune raison qui pourrait les en empêcher. Il faut arrêter de se passer pour des victimes. C’est une grande opportunité pour montrer ce dont femmes sont également capables de faire sans toujours vouloir « s’immiscer » ou entrer « de force » dans une « culture bro ». A croire qu’on doit demander la permission aux hommes. Pourquoi ne pas créer notre « propre culture » ? Petite précision, je ne cherche pas à dénigrer qui que ce soit en disant cela – genre groupe d’hommes contre groupe de femmes. C’est juste pour dire que de notre côté, nous les femmes, nous pouvons également faire les choses, alors faisons-les.

LR: I don't think so. In Madagascar, as I said before, women's interests lie elsewhere. That's how I see it, anyway. But I admit that it's a constant challenge, between the tasks, the obligations and the activities that fall to me. And maybe that's one of the reasons for this absence of Malagasy women in the field of new media. But seeing as we're on the subject, there is no reason for the glass ceiling to exist. If women really want to do so, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't achieve their goals. The victim culture needs to stop. It's a great opportunity to show that women can achieve just as much without always wanting to ‘interfere’ or push their way into the ‘bro’ culture. You would think we need men's permission. Why not create our own culture? Just to be clear, I'm not trying to take away from anyway by saying that – I don't see it as women against men. All I want to say is that we, as women, can also do things, so let's do them!

GV: What are the strengths and weaknesses of geek culture in your country?

MD: En Côte d'Ivoire, nous avons des Geeks, des informaticiens et des sympathisants de la technologie. Parmi les Geeks, il y a ceux qui pensent innovation et développement, et il y a les autres. Nos technologues font bouger les choses à petits pas avec la communauté qui grandit, mais l'accès technologique n'est pas optimal pour qu'une culture geek s'impose et que notre Silicon Valley locale éclose réellement. Cependant, ces dernières années, ça bouge fort avec les forums et évènements technologiques.

MD: In Côte d'Ivoire, there are geeks, IT technicians, and people who like technology. Among the geeks, there are some who focus on innovation and development, and some who don't. Our technologists are making progress in small steps with a community that is growing, but access to technology isn't good enough for a geek culture to really get off the ground and for our own Silicon Valley to really flourish. Despite that, in recent years there has been a lot of movement, with forums and technology events.

JO: La culture geek au Cameroun évolue rapidement, elle est dynamique, inventive. Elle se créé ses propres opportunités, et je pense qu'elle fera évoluer la société. Sa principale faiblesse : les pouvoirs publics camerounais n'ont pas encore compris l'intérêt d'investir massivement dans les nouvelles technologies. C'est d'ailleurs le sens d'une préoccupation que j'ai quand je pense à mon pays : le coût prohibitif de l'accès à Internet. Quelle culture geek peut sereinement s'épanouir sans un Internet de bonne qualité et à un prix raisonnable ?

JO: The geek culture in Cameroon is changing rapidly, it's dynamic, inventive. It's creating its own opportunities, and I think it will make society change too. The main weakness is that the administration in Cameroon hasn't yet understood why it should make huge investments in new technology. That's the reason behind one of my preoccupations when I think about my country: the prohibitive cost of Internet access. What sort of geek culture could blossom without high quality Internet at a reasonable price?

GV: What would you like to see changing in the near future regarding IT?

MD: De la vulgarisation  des investissements pour la formation et l'équipement. C'est entre autre, ce dont le secteur IT a besoin en Côte d'Ivoire.

MD: Greater investment in education and equipment. That's one of the things the IT industry needs in Côte d'Ivoire.

JO: Plus de femmes bien sûr, et un Internet beaucoup moins cher en Afrique Sub saharienne.

JO: More women, of course, and much cheaper Internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa.

LR: Une meilleure utilisation des outils TIC par les citoyens.

LR: People making better use of ITC tools.

January 23 2014

On Love, Politics and the Francophone Culture

Julie Gayet at Deauville film festival  via wikipedia  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Julie Gayet at the Deauville Film Festival via Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

The global community is now well aware of the tumultuous love life of French President François Hollande. Hollande's affair with French actress Julie Gayet and the ensuing illness of his current partner and still-considered French First Lady Valérie Trierweiler have made the cover of newspapers worldwide over the past week. Hollande is also a father of four with former partner Ségolène Royal, a politician who came in second during the 2007 presidential elections in France.

So his love life is a tad complicated, but he is hardly the first French president to have an unorthodox family structure (François Mitterand and Felix Faure come to mind). By most accounts, French voters do not factor in the private lives of their politicians when it comes down to the ballot. In fact, a survey by the Pew Research Center suggested that French voters may be more lenient towards infidelity than others:

Just 47% of the French say it is morally unacceptable for married people to have an affair, the lowest percentage among 39 nations surveyed in 2013 by the Pew Research Center. In fact, France was the only country where less than 50% of respondents described infidelity as unacceptable. Instead, four-in-ten think it is not a moral issue, while 12% say it is actually morally acceptable.

The French perspective on infidelity and politics has often puzzled many of its English-speaking neighbors. Adam Gopnik in the United Kingdom articulated the cultural dissonance between the two cultures that sprung from the Hollande's affair going public: 

France is not a puritanical society – it accepts that human appetites for sex and food are normal, or “normale”, to use a word much prized there, and that attempts to suppress either, will make men and women nervous wrecks at least [...] 

Puritans are the least buttoned-up people in the world. They can't wait to pin a scarlet A for adultery on someone's clothing, or hold a public humiliation ritual. Nothing could be more illustrative of this than the tone of outraged indignation directed by British tabloid journalists at their reluctant French press equivalents in the past week. 

A few readers disagreed with Gopnik's take. “Sean in Belgium” argued that one needs only to look at the recent mass protests in favor of family values and the ban on prostitution in France to see that the theory does not compute:

It is a caricature of the complexities of French attitudes simply to say that desire is accepted. This, after all, is the country that has just banned prostitution.   

Love and privacy in other French-speaking countries

Given the cultural impact that France has had on the countries within its former empire, one cannot help but wonder: Do the relaxed views on the issue extend to France's former colonies?

At first glance, it would seem that the French laissez-faire attitude did not extend to other Francophone countries. The aforementioned survey by the Pew Research Center noted that a large majority of polled citizens in Senegal, Lebanon, Tunisia and Canada viewed extramarital affairs as morally unacceptable. In Côte d'Ivoire, citizens are often puzzled by France's choice when it comes to matters of love and relationship.

Elsewhere, reactions were more diverse. In Morocco, prominent author Tahar Ben Jelloun empathized with the privacy that public figures ask for when it comes to their love life. Here is his open letter to Hollande's partner Valérie Treilweiler [fr]: 

Je pense à vous en ce moment où votre vie intime, la vôtre et celle de votre compagnon, est sujet de curiosité malsaine, une espèce de cambriolage en plein jour où l'on saccage tout sans penser aux conséquences non seulement sur votre existence, mais aussi celle de vos enfants.[..] Je pense à vous parce que je sais la douleur et la violence, je sais aussi l'attente et l'espoir. Une histoire d'amour est née entre vous et celui qui allait devenir président. Les gens sont durs et s'imaginent que la vie de ceux et celles qui sont sous les lumières de l'actualité ne mérite que des claques. [..] À présent, il vous faudra choisir : continuer à vivre à côté d'un homme qui est ce qu'il est et qui ne changera pas, ou bien tourner cette page douloureuse et trouver votre place

These days I think of you a lot, now that your intimate life, yours and your companion's is being subjected to morbid curiosity, a kind of robbery in broad daylight where your life is being destroyed without a thought for the consequences to not only your life, but that of your children. [...] I think of you because I know that suffering and that violence, as I also know the expectation and hope [of love]. A love story was born between you and the man who would become president. People are cruel and they think that the life of those who are in the spotlight of the news cycle only deserves punishment [...] Now you must make a decision to either continue to live next to a man who is who he is and will not change, or turn this painful page and find your own place. 

In other former colonies, citizens are not shy about discussing matters of the heart. In fact, some seem to relish the use of the word “love”. In Madagascar, former transitional President Andry Rajoelina changed the motto of the country to include the word: “Fitiavana, Tanindrazana, Fandrosoana” (Love, Homeland, Progress). The former First Lady Mialy Rajoelina is in charge of an Association called FITIA (Love), a charity that helps the education of disenfranchised children. 

Her emphasis on sharing compassion seems to have resonated with many Malagasy people, as shown by Twitter user @tagnam:

Who has not signed the petition to keep #MialyRajoelina as the first lady yet ?

In Cameroon, the 237 Online community blog reflected on the rights to privacy for their public figures. Maximilien Ombé wondered how such an affair would be covered [fr]:

On se demande si c'est possible qu'au Cameroun les médias aient le droit de publier des informations relatives aux loves stories des hommes publics notamment du Chef de l'Etat Paul Biya.

One wonders whether Cameroon media would have the right to publish information on public figures’ loves stories such as Head of State Paul Biya.

Dieudonné Mveng added [fr]:

Dès lors qu'on est politique qu'on est une personnalité on est la boussole de la société. La population prend exemple sur nous. C'est aux personnes publiques de bien se tenir.

As soon as a person goes into politics and becomes a public figure, they by default becomes a moral compass for society. The general population takes its cue from them. It is therefore a responsibility of public figures to behave as role model. 

Ampère Simo concluded [fr]:

La règle qui doit guider les médias et les professionnels de l'information dans le traitement des affaires touchant à la vie privée des individus consiste à ne révéler que ce qui est d'intérêt public.  

The rule that should guide the media and any news writers in the treatment of cases involving the privacy of individuals is to only reveal what is relevant to the public interest. 

It seems that while Francophone countries have not embraced the laid back attitude of France towards the love lives of their elite, they are also more willing to move past affairs and love stories to focus on the more pressing public issues.

January 13 2014

Fighting Corruption in Comoros, Cameroon and Madagascar

CPI Index 2013 for ssAfrica via Transparency International CC-License-BY

Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 for Sub-Saharan Africa via Transparency International CC-License-BY

The people of Comoros, Cameroon and Madagascar haven't got much faith in the honesty and integrity of the public sector, according to Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The report measures perceived levels of public sector corruption and ”serves as a reminder that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world,” as stated on their website. On a scale going from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), more than two-thirds of the indexed countries scored less than 50.

Comoros and Madagascar tied for 127th of 177 countries, with scores of 28. Cameroon fared worse, coming in at 144th with a score of 25.  

Let's take a closer look at the state of affairs in these three French-speaking African countries. 

Comoros

State of corruption

March against Corruption in Moroni in November 2013 via Comores actualités - Public Domain

March Against Corruption in Moroni in November 2013 via Comores actualités – Public Domain

Toyb Ahmed in Moroni for AlWatan Info summarized the state of corruption in Comoros [fr]:

Les Comores sont placées au 127ème rang sur 177 pays évalués, avec la note de vingt-huit points sur cent. L’archipel grignote encore six places en comparaison au classement de 2012. l’installation de la Commission nationale de prévention et lutte contre la corruption (Cnplc) par le président Ikililou Dhoinine avait posé la première pierre. Dans la foulée, le chef de l’Etat avait concrétisé sa volonté de transparence dans la chose publique par la signature du décret d’application instituant l’Autorité de régulation des marchés publics (Armp). La Justice comorienne est régulièrement pointée du doigt, accusée de laxisme dans la répression des actes de corruption.

Comoros is ranked 127th out of 177 countries with a score of 28 points. The archipelago gained six places compared to the 2012 ranking. The installation of the National Commission for the Prevention and Fight Against Corruption (Cnplc) by President Ikililou Dhoinine has laid the foundation for the fight against corruption. The head of state has proven his commitment to transparency in public affairs by signing the application decree establishing the Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement (ARMP). The justice system of Comoros is regularly singled out, accused of laxity in cracking down on acts of corruption.

Solutions

Al-hamdi Abdillah Hamdi, a citizen reporter based in Moroni, proposed the following measures to decrease corruption levels in Comoros:

On peut noter la mise en place de la Commission anti corruption et l'organe de contrôle des passations des marchés publics.
L'avocat franco-comorien Me Ben Ali Ahmed avait récemment dressé un constat d'échec dans la lutte contre la corruption en indiquant que les mauvais comportements n'ont pas changé d'un iota. En plus des pratiques peu musulmanes dans les administrations publiques et leurs incapacités à rendre des comptes aux citoyens, les forces vives de la nation regrettent régulièrement l'impunité dont bénéficient certaines autorités.

The establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Supervisory Body for the Approval of Government Procurement should be noted (as measures against corruption). The Franco-Comorian lawyer Mr. Ben Ali Ahmed recently indicated some failures in the fight against corruption by saying that the previous corrupt actions (in the government) has not changed one iota. Additionally, some practices in public administrations are unworthy of our Islamic faith and many public servants have shown no accountability towards the citizens they serve. As such, we citizens, the lifeblood of the nation, are often disappointed with the impunity granted to certain authorities in power. 

Cameroon

State of corruption

The high level of corruption in Cameroon remains a great source of concern. Despite international pressure and many plans and laws against corruption dreamed up throughout the past decade, the practice remains a constant in the daily lives of Cameroonians.

Reportedly, over 50 percent of Cameroonian households have paid at least one bribe [fr]. According to Samuel Ekoum, president of the Cameroonian NGO SOS Corruption, the state of Cameroon loses on average 400 billion CFA francs (about 832 million US dollars) per year because of corruption.

Solutions

Various organizations are implementing several programs to monitor the distribution of aid in Cameroon; one such project is highlighted in the following video, in which an NGO monitors the proper use of aid funds in estate development projects:

Ben Christy Moudio in Douala provided an analysis of why the fight against production has often failed in his country [fr]:

Dynamique Citoyenne, réseau de suivi indépendant des politiques publiques et des stratégies de coopération, réclame à nouveau que les hautes personnalités dont le président de la république Paul Biya concernées par cet article, se plient aux injonctions de la loi en déclarant leurs biens. Le non respect de ces dispositions légales étant entre autres un facteur qui favorise les détournements des derniers publics et la corruption au Cameroun. Justement, le classement 2013 de l’indice de perception de la corruption  a repositionné comme en 2012, le Cameroun à la 144e place. l’incapacité du Cameroun à s’insérer dans une logique démocratique et à réellement mettre en œuvre les mécanismes de lutte contre la corruption justifient l’attribution dans cet indice de la note de 25/100.

Dynamique Citoyenne, a network of independent entities monitoring public policies, claims that dignitaries including President of the Republic Paul Biya comply to the order of the law by declaring their assets. Non-compliance with these provisions are a few of the factors that promote the embezzlement of public funds and corruption in Cameroon. The 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index released on December 3 ranks Cameroon in 144th place. Cameroon's inability to conform to a democratic process and effectively implement mechanisms to fight corruption fully justify the attribution of the low score of 25/100 on the index.

Madagascar

State of corruption

In the 2013 CPI,  Transparency International released the following on the rising level of corruption in Madagascar [fr]:

Parmi les secteurs les plus corrompus à Madagascar, l’on peut citer la gendarmerie nationale, les collectivités territoriales décentralisées, la justice, le service foncier et l’éducation. 58% des enquêtées estiment que le niveau de la corruption a augmenté durant les deux dernières années et le secteur juridique est vu comme étant l’organisme public le plus corrompu. 32% de la population enquêtée ont affirmé avoir payé un pot-de-vin, soit pour accélérer le processus auprès d’un service public quelconque, soit parce que c’est l’unique moyen pour un aboutissement, tandis que 54% ont déclaré que les actions du gouvernement pour combattre la corruption sont inefficaces.

Among the most corrupt sectors in Madagascar, we can cite the armed forces, the regional and local authorities, justice, land service and education. 58 percent of respondents believe that the level of corruption has increased over the past two years and the legal sector is seen as the most corrupt government agency. 32 percent of the surveyed population reported having paid a bribe to speed up the process of a public service because it was the only way to do so, while 54 percent reported that government actions to combat corruption are ineffective.

Solutions

The justice system plays a crucial role in ensuring that corruption is kept at a minimum. Preserving its independence is key to making sure that any anti-corruption measure is sustainable. According to Transparency International Global Corruption Report, a few principles to ensure the credibility of the system can be applied (PDF): 

  • Judges must declare their revenues to an independent agency
  • the members of the supreme court ought to be elected by their peirs
  • the rules of assignment of the judges need to be made public
  • All payments to the court must produce a receipt
  • A procedure of quick appeal against corrupt officials must be put in place

December 12 2013

Nelson Mandela's Death: ‘Left Us in Body, But His Spirit Is Eternal’

Since former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's death on December 5, 2013, people throughout the world have reflected on the beloved leader's life and the legacy he leaves behind.

Here are 6 reactions from around the world :

United Kingdom

Musa Okwonga, a poet and author based in London, noted on his blog that Mandela was first and foremost a revolutionary who went to war against injustice in his country before he was a symbol of peace and reconciliation:

Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. [..] You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” [..] Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

Madagascar

Mialisoa, a blogger in Antananarivo, Madagascar, expressed her deep respect and gratitude for the life lessons she's taken from Mandela in a post titled Bonne Route, Monsieur [fr] (Safe Travels, Sir):  

Un jour, Monsieur, je m’assoirais près de mes enfants et je leur lirais votre histoire. Un jour, mes enfants s’assoiront près de leurs enfants et ils leur liront votre histoire. Grâce à vous, je sais et grâce à vous, je continuerais à apprendre:
Je sais de qui parler, lorsque viendra le temps d’expliquer à mes enfants ce qu’est un homme de courage et de conviction.
Je sais de quels principes s’inspirer lorsque viendra le temps d’élever les miens.
Je sais l’importance de la réconciliation. Avec soi-même et avec son prochain.
Je sais la valeur du pardon.
Je sais le précieux de l’égalité.
Je sais qu’il est possible de rendre les hommes et soi-même, meilleurs.
Je sais le bien que créent l’humilité, l’humour et l’audace. [..] 
Je sais, Monsieur, que je n’en sais pas assez. Je sais bien que je suis loin de savoir. Aussi, la meilleure manière de vous rendre hommage, Monsieur, est de continuer à apprendre et apprendre à agir. Et que Dieu nous vienne en aide, car le temps d’agir est maintenant venu.
Monsieur, merci. Je vous souhaite une bonne route.

One day, sir, I will sit with my children and read them your story. One day, my children will sit with their children and read them your story. Thanks to you, I know and thanks to you, I will keep learning:
I know of whom to speak, when the time comes to explain to my children what makes a man of courage and conviction.
I know what principles to draw on when the time comes to raise mine.
I know the importance of reconciliation. With ourselves and with our fellow people.
I know the value of forgiveness.
I know the value of equality.
I know it is possible to make humankind and ourselves better.
I know the good that humility, humor, and boldness can do. [...] 
I know, sir, that I do not know enough. I know very well that I am far from knowing. So the best way to pay tribute to you, sir, is to continue to learn and learn to act. God help us, for the time to act has now come.
Thank you, sir. I wish you a safe journey. 

Toavina, a political analyst from Antananarivo,  recalled on his Facebook page Madagascar's role [fr] in supporting Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), the  resistance movement against apartheid and now South Africa's governing political party: 

N'oubliez pas chers Malgaches, que MADAGASCAR a aidé le peuple Noir Sud-Africain ! Nous avons hébergé sous la Deuxième Rep la Radio de l'ANC. Piet Botha, Ministre des affaires étrangères de l'Afrique du Sud est venu à Madagascar pour discuter du cas de l'afrique du Sud avec l'ancien président Ratsiraka. De Klerk est aussi venu à Mada dans les années 90.

Do not forget, dear Madagascans, that MADAGASCAR helped the back people of South Africa! We broadcasted ANC's radio station during our Second Republic. Pik Botha, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, came to Madagascar to discuss the South African situation with former President Ratsiraka. De Klerk also came to Madagascar in the '90s. 

Mali

While it was hard for him to find the words, Boukary Konaté, a Global Voices contributor in Bamako wanted to commemorate the man [fr]:

« repose en paix », car je n’ai pas de mots. Je n’ai pas de mots car tous les mots sont insignifiants pour exprimer ce que je veux dire. Alors, je me tais, je me tais dans mes murmures internes

“Rest in peace,” for I have no words. I have no words because no words are sufficient to express what I want to say. So, I'll stay silent, I'll keep quiet with my inner thoughts.

He added [fr]: 

Je suis fier qu'il y ait une Rue Mandela et une Ecole Mandela à Bamako au Mali. Je vais toute de suite pour une interview avec le Directeur de l'Ecole Mandela.

I am proud that there is a Mandela Street and a Mandela School in Bamako, Mali. I'm going to have an interview right away with the Mandela School's principal.

Here is the school in question:

This teacher at the #Mandela school began the morning by talking about the man with his first-grade students #Mali pic.twitter.com/0gwSg5lrPg
— Boukary Konaté (@Fasokan) December 6, 2013

Niger

Aminatou, a women's right activist in Niamey, Niger shared this thoughts [fr] about Mandela and education:

Mandela est une source inépuisable d’inspiration. Sa phrase sur l’éducation résonne fortement aux oreilles de tous :
« L’Éducation : l’arme la plus puissante que l’on puisse utiliser pour changer le monde. »

Mandela is an endless source of inspiration. What he said about education resonates strongly with everyone:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

France

Archippe, a French-based Cameroonian blogger and president of Internet sans frontières, pointed out a lesson for African countries to take away on his Facebook page [fr]:

Nelson Mandela nous aura enseigné une chose essentielle à nous africains, à nous humains: on peut vraincre par les armes, le nombre, la rhétorique, mais la vraie victoire, celle qui marque les siècles, est celle de l'esprit enchanté. Le corps de mandela n'est plus, son esprit est éternel.

Nelson Mandela will have taught us, us Africans, us humans, one essential thing: We can conquer with weapons, with numbers, and with rhetoric, but the real victory, what leaves its mark for centuries, is that of the soul. Mandela has left us in body, but his spirit is eternal.

An Algerian leader, through Alexandre Adler, a well-known french political blogger, commented on the impact the “Mandela approach” [fr] of inter-ethnic reconciliation could have had in Algeria:

Il y a quelques années, un dirigeant algérien nous confia que la «ligne Mandela» de réconciliation inter-ethnique aurait évidemment mieux convenu à l’Algérie de 1962 que le départ précipité des Européens et des juifs qui fut consommé en moins d’un an. Mais, ajoutait-il, «à cette époque, nous n’avions pas les idées de Mandela, et celles-ci nous serviraient bien aujourd’hui».

A few years ago, an Algerian leader confided that the “Mandela approach” of interethnic reconciliation would have evidently been better for Algeria in 1962 than the sudden departure of Europeans and Jews that came to pass in less than a year. “But,” he added, “At the time, we didn't have Mandela's ideas, and today they would serve us well.”

December 05 2013

Five Little-known Energy Resources in Africa

Electricity supply problems are once again news in several African countries with recurring power outages in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Madagascar, to name just a few of those most recently affected.

In Benin, a private Nigerian company supplies much of the country’s electricity.

A report on the Kongossa blog [fr] describes the current situation in Cameroon.:

Malgré des investissements réalisés ces dernières années par la firme américano-camerounaise AES-SONEL chargée de la production, du transport, de la distribution et de la commercialisation de l’énergie électrique, le problème est loin d’être résolu.[..] Si à Douala et Yaoundé, les coupures d’électricité durent en moyenne quatre à six heures, dans d’autres localités des pays, notamment dans les zones rurales, des témoignages concordants rapportent que les coupures d’électricité peuvent durer jusqu’à trois jours d’affilé

Despite investments made these past years by the American-Cameroonian firm AES-SONEL in charge of production, transportation, distribution and sale of electrical energy, the problem is far from being resolved. [...] Power cuts in Douala and Yaoundé last on average four to six hours while in other areas of the country, notably in rural zones, eyewitnesses consistently report that power cuts can last up to three days in a row.

In Côte d’Ivoire, outages are so frequent that they are listed on the Facebook page of an imaginary supervillain, Delestron [a play on words with the French term for outage], created by Ivoirian internet users.

Finally, in Madagascar, many communities are furious with the national electricity company Jirama, accused of frequent failures to meet requirements. For example, in the community of Ambohibao Iavoloha [fr]:

Par exemple, la coupure totale sans avertissement qui a eu lieu entre le 06 et 11 novembre dernier. A partir du 11 au 15 novembre, les habitants ont été confrontés au délestage et l’électricité ne revient que le lendemain vers 2h du matin. Tel est le cas de l’électricité mais la faible pression de l’eau de la Jirama fait aussi grogner les habitants.

For example, the complete loss of power which happened without warning from November 6th to the 11th. From November 11th to the 15th, inhabitants had to put up with controlled outages and electricity was only available around 2am the following day. That is the situation regarding electricity, but the low water pressure from Jirama also gives inhabitants something to grumble about.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst off since only 8.4 percent have access to electricity. However, in light of the growth projected [for Africa], the needs of the continent are certainly going to increase. In 2007, annual energy consumption from primary sources was only 15.4 British thermal units (Btu) per person. By comparison, global energy consumption per person per year was 70.8 Btu while that of Americans was 337.1 Btu (almost 22 times that of the mean in Africa).

However, the African continent is not lacking in natural resources which could meet the energy requirements. Any problems are exacerbated by the global intensification of the race towards energy independence. Many countries are turning to the natural resources of the African continent to supply their energy.

PIDA Africa Electricity Transportation Map

Programs for production and transportation of electricity in Africa by 2040. Map by PIDA, used with their authorisation.

Here are five of the lesser known energy sources  on the African continent:

Heavy Oil of Madagascar

Although Madagascar oil remains relatively unknown internationally-speaking, it has been the object of much speculation. Despite the political crisis, interest in the oil of Madagascar [from overseas] has never lessened. Madagascar news website author Antsa explained [fr] Japan’s interest:

Une délégation japonaise a rencontré les responsables du ministère des Hydrocarbures, à la recherche d'information sur la situation actuelle du secteur des ressources pétrolières, ainsi que des lois et règlementations en vigueur. «Malgré la crise politique, les investisseurs sont restés et d'autres viennent encore pour l'exploration de pétrole. Même s'ils ne sont que dans la phase d'exploration, des avantages sont déjà acquis, à l'exemple de la création d'écoles, d'hôpitaux, l’amélioration et le renforcement de capacité, etc. De plus, le gouvernement ne paie rien, malgré le partage de production», a informé le DG des Hydrocarbures. Notons que trois compagnies pétrolières japonaises ICEP, Jog Meg et Mitsibushi, s'intéressent actuellement à Madagascar.

A Japanese delegation met with representatives from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to find information on the current situation within the petroleum resources sector, as well as on the laws and rules in force. “Despite the political crisis, investors have stayed while others continue to come for the oil exploration. Even if they are only in the exploration phase, some advantages have already been seen, for example, schools and hospitals have been built or expanded, etc. What is more, the government pays nothing, despite sharing production”, stated the Hydrocarbons Manager. Three Japanese petroleum companies – ICEP, Jog Meg and Mitsibushi – are currently interested in Madagascar.

This growing interest from petroleum businesses could however bring risks. Holly Rakotondralambo, Madagascar partner of Friends of the Earth, explained [fr]:

Alors que les prix du pétrole et des métaux sont de plus en plus élevés en raison d’une demande mondiale croissante, les grandes entreprises et les investisseurs se ruent sur Madagascar. Dans un contexte politique très fragile, ce phénomène risque d'exacerber des conflits avec les populations et de dégrader, encore davantage, des écosystèmes très riches déjà en sursis.

Although oil and metal prices are higher because of growing global demand, big business and investors are rushing to Madagascar. In an extremely fragile political context, this phenomenon threatens to worsen conflicts with the people as well as further despoiling rich ecosystems already living on borrowed time.
natural ressources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by  Front Patriotique Malagasy on Facebook, with his permission

 
Natural resources of Madagascar and the companies competing to exploit them. Map published by the OMNIS agency on Facebook, used with permission

 

Tar Sands of the Republic of Congo

Tar sand deposits are an important source of synthetic crude oil. However, they are difficult to exploit and controversial because of their environmental impact. Italian company ENI is the first oil company to exploit the African tar sands. In the Congo, ENI collects tar sands 70km from Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, in the Tchikatanga and Tchikatanga-Makola regions. Exploitation of these bitumen-rich sands can be risky, as explained here by the blog Vivement la désintox [fr] [I can’t wait for the detox]:

Exploiter les sables bitumineux est la façon la plus sale, la plus chère et la plus énergivore de produire du pétrole. Extraire 1 baril de pétrole bitumineux nécessite 5 barils d'eau et émet jusqu’à 5 fois plus de gaz à effet de serre que le pétrole conventionnel. L’extraction des sables bitumineux est également synonyme de déforestation et de pollution des eaux. En effet, afin de séparer le pétrole du sable, les compagnies injectent des solvants qui polluent massivement les sols et les rivières.

Exploiting tar sands is the dirtiest, most expensive, most energy-demanding way to produce oil. Extracting one barrel of tar oil takes five barrels of water and releases up to five times more greenhouse gases than normal oil. Extraction of tar sands is also synonymous with deforestation and water pollution. In order to separate the oil from the sand, the companies inject solvents which pollute massively the soil and rivers.

The Windmills of Cape Verde

The Cape Verde islands are the site of the largest windmill farm in Africa. The electricity production equipment on four of the islands could lead to the greatest supply of electricity from wind energy in the world (in proportion to the size of the country), as explained in the following video:

Juan Cole explained the country’s wind energy gamble:

The lack of electricity and its high price have been serious obstacles to economic development and job creation, and thus major reasons for mass emigration of the population. Whereas European wind power often depends on substantial subsidies, the project in Cape Verde is based on strong winds. Electricity generated from wind power is distinctly cheaper than the power sources used hitherto in the islands.

The Potential of Solar Energy in Benin

With energy consumption growing rapidly in Benin, (and estimated to grow by 11% in future years by the state Electrical Energy Company), lack of investment in the sector coupled with losses during distribution and transportation (of around 18-30%) are the main reasons of the current necessity for controlled outages. Leomick Sinsin, a blogger from Benin, described the potential advantages of investing in photovoltaic energy [fr] in his country:

Avec un rayonnement variant de 3 à 6 kWh par m² selon la position géographique, le principal atout d’une installation solaire en Afrique est sa capacité à fournir suffisamment de puissance pour répondre aux besoins quotidiens. D’autre part, l’avantage d’un système solaire est la décentralisation du système de production. Quand l’on connait la vétusté des infrastructures existantes, nul ne saurait contredire le bien fondé d’un système où le site de production juxtaposerait le point de consommation. Le bon exemple est la maison isolée avec des modules surplombant la toiture. [..] Le dernier argument et pas des moindres est le travail d’efficacité énergétique qu’ impose une installation solaire. Un système solaire est une énergie intermittente qui dépend de plusieurs paramètres comme la météo, la qualité de l’installation etc. De ce fait, la consommation implique un recours vers des appareils sobres et peu énergivores. Nous réduisons ainsi le niveau de consommation tout en préservant le même niveau d’utilité.

With power varying from 3 to 6 kWh/m2 depending on geographical position, the main advantage of solar installations in Africa is their capacity to provide enough power to answer daily needs. Another advantage of solar power systems is decentralisation of production. Knowing the antiquity of the existing infrastructure, no-one could be against starting a system where the production site is beside the point of use. A good example is a remote house with panels on the roof. [...] Last but not least, the work towards energy efficiency that a solar installation imposes. Solar power gives intermittent energy which depends on several parameters such as the weather, quality of the installation, etc. As a result, its usage implies a move towards energy-saving equipment. In this way the level of consumption can be reduced while keeping the same degree of usability.

Geothermic energy from the Rift Valley

Recently, several energy companies have stressed the importance of geothermic energy as both a response to the energy needs for countries within the Horn of Africa [Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia] and the Rift Valley as well as an integral part of the program for “green growth”. SciDev.Net reported that Djibouti could become a major player [fr] in geothermic energy:

Le potentiel d'énergie géothermique de la région du Lac Assal de ce pays, qui se trouve dans la vallée du Rift, est à l'étude [..] La production d'énergie sur le lac Assal pourrait commencer en 2018 pour un coût de US$ 240 millions, générant 40 à 60 mégawatts. La BAD recommande que les partenariats entre les secteurs public et privé développent ces projets d'énergie en raison de leurs coûts élevés.

The potential of geothermic energy in the Lake Assal region of this country in the Rift Valley is being studied [...] Energy production around Lake Assal could start in 2018 for a cost of 240 million US Dollars, generating 40 to 60 megawatts. The BAD recommend that public and private sector partnerships develop these energy projects due to their high cost.

G. Pourtier added that Ethiopia is also starting to explore thermal energy [fr]:

Située à 200 km au sud d'Addis-Abeba, la capitale éthiopienne, la nouvelle centrale produira d'abord 20 MW à partir de 2015, puis 500 MW en 2018 et enfin 1 GW quelques années plus tard [..]. La surface acquise par Reykjavik Geothermal en Éthiopie couvre 6500 km2, dont 200 km2 ont déjà été identifiés et où la température s'élève à 350°C.

Located 200 km south of Addis Abbaba, the Ethiopian capital, the new power station will start producing 20 MW from 2015, then 500 MW in 2018 and finally 1 GW several years later [...] The area acquired by Reykjavik Geothermal covers 6500 km2, of which 200 km2 have already been identified as having temperatures reaching 350°C.

November 21 2013

PHOTOS: The Thrill and Agony of World Cup Qualifying Matches

A few do-or-die matches to qualify for the 2014 World Cup were played worldwide last week in Africa and Europe. Despite the of-repeated claim that those games are just that, games, how people behave before and after some matches show that there is a little more at stake that what everyone would like it to be.

Here are reactions caught on film from four of those deciding matches, which ended in complete elation for Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and France, while Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ukraine and Tunisia saw their hopes of heading to Brazil vanish with the final whistle.

Algeria vs. Burkina Faso

Algeria qualified thanks to a late goal scored on Burkina Faso in additional time.

The crowd in Algiers felt the World Cup fever, as seen in this photo by Twitter user Bilel.:

Photo taken in Algeria, we are totally invested in this #AlgeriainBrazil, my face!

Algerian bloggers added humor to the joy of qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil:

The tension during the first leg of the match-up on October 12 led some supporters to resort to racial insults towards the black referee, as captured in these screenshots by Paulin Diasivi:

During the match Burkina vs Algeria, some racists tweets by Algerian supporters

Côte d'Ivoire vs. Senegal

Côte d'Ivoire was also involved in late game drama when they managed to tie Senegal in Dakar 1-1 to qualify. The joy was visible in the team's dance as the game came to an end:

Côte d'Ivoire pull out a win after 90 minutes of play, the Elephants will go to Brazil

Brazil, here we come

Cameroon vs. Tunisia

Cameroon's World Cup play-off win over Tunisia was less dramatic with a 4-1 victory. Still, there was a bit controversy as Tunisia claims that two Cameroonian players were not eligible to play. Yaoundé, the economic capital of Cameroon, nevertheless was still beaming with pride after the win:

Cameroon is heading to the World Cup

Given the political dissidence in Tunisia, some supporters may not be as sad as expected with the elimination of their national team. The current government is quite unpopular within  the country's secular community because of stricter religious measures, and a win for the country's football team could have been seen as a win for the government : 

Cameroon 4-1 Tunisia, the hypocrites on “Twitter” [ed's note: pretend to be sad while cheering the elimination of Tunisia] vs. ”at home”, fess up now…LOL 

France vs. Ukraine

France had the deepest hole to climb out of to qualify after they lost the first leg 2-0 against Ukraine. In an miraculous come back, France won 3-0 in the second leg of the match-up, prompting raucous celebration from French fans and shows of despair from Ukrainian supporters:

Tonight, the stadium was shaking! The images from the crowd #Brazil

October 07 2013

‘A Good Blogger Must Already Have the Intrinsic Qualities of All Good Journalists’

Digital journalism is booming in Africa thanks to the efforts of people like Cameroonian blogger and multimedia journalist Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, whose online alias is DorothyDaf.

A winner of the prize for “Best African ICT Blog, Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards 2013″, she recently spoke with Dibussi Tande (@dibussi) about the state of affairs in this field, and the qualities needed to excel in it. 

Dorothée Danedjo, receiving the

Dorothée Danedjo Fouba receiving the “Best ICT Blog 2013″ Award. Photo courtesy of Danedjo Fouba.  

 

Dibussi Tande (DT): Congratulations on having won the “Best African ICT Blog, Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards 2013″. What does this mean to you?

Dorothée Danedjo Fouba (DDF): To me, this prize represents a great recognition of my journalistic work, particularly in multimedia journalism. And one could say it is a tribute to work well done.

DT: Your blog has received awards in two consecutive years from Highway Africa. What is special about dorotheedanedjo.com?

DDF: My blog is oriented towards the Internet and new technologies for journalists and communicators. Specifically, it gives tips and teaching tools for audio and video podcasts. I think what distinguishes it from the others is: that it tries to present information in both French and English in an educational manner.

DT: In addition to your blogging, you host a show about multimedia on CRTV, and you have recently obtained a master's degree in professional design for online media education, from the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. What is the origin of your passion for information and communications technology (ICT), and for digital journalism in particular?

DDF: Let's just say that I've always been attracted to anything that is technical, since I was a child. Perhaps it's true that I have a talent for writing, but at heart, I am a scientist. Anything that can be demonstrated in a technical manner is interesting to me, and that is why, over time, I turned towards digital journalism, because I always wanted to find out how these technologies can be used as tools of the profession.

DT: What attracted you to blogging? The desire to fulfill something that was missing in the profession, a passion for the written word, etc.?

DDF: As I was saying, I am a hybrid, a product of both writing and love of technical knowledge. I turned toward blogging, not only because it helped me to overcome a professional deficit, given the fact that it is not always easy to deal with all subjects in ordinary writing, because of the role of editors, but also to show to others what I think about the methods and approaches that can be adopted to connect media with new technologies.

Dorothée Danedjo receiving the

Dorothée Danedjo Fouba,  receiving the Best ICT Blog 2012 Runner-up Award. Photo courtesy of Danedjo Fouba

 

 

DT: In your opinion, what is the reason for the noticable lack of blogs in Cameroon, or even in Africa, which focus on ICT?

DDF: I think that their absence can be explained by the fact that one has to invest a lot of time to create a blog that focuses mainly on ICT. Or, by definition, a blog is a personal journal, and thus, it is managed by one individual. That is not easy. In addition, it requires a certain amount of digital culture and personal effort to be able to collect information. We generally prefer to write political propaganda, essays on culture, and to “seek pity”, in the political sense, about certain topics. Or sometimes, it is simply due to laziness.

DT: Most media outlets in Cameroon are slow to adopt new technologies, have a very hesitant online presence, and do not sufficiently take advantage of social networking resources. What explains this phenomenon? Lack of financial means, unreliable internet infrastructure, or simply a lack of information?

DDF: I would blame it mostly on ignorance, and on fear of the unknown. We are afraid of anything which is new, and which would bring about a change in our habits or methods.

DT: In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good digital journalist or blogger?

DDF: A good digital journalist or good blogger must already have the intrinsic qualities of all good journalists, which is to say: to find, collect, and distribute accurate and proven information, in a clear, concise, and precise manner, and in accordance with ethics and moral obligations regarding information publishing. They also need to have a strong sense of curiosity, and knowledge of how to create online content using digital tools.

DT: A few years ago, you advanced the idea that new media may be able to save African literature. What was that about, exactly?

DDF: That idea was in 2011, if I remember correctly. It consisted of looking into how one could create an online network for distribution of African books. My concept would be realized in the form of a specialized portal site, used to transform ordinary books into e-books. This solution could be based, strategically, on bulk SMS.

DT: In 2011, you outlined a proposal for a digital library based on two literary portals called Kamerbooks and Afrobooks. What is that project about?

DDF: Yes, indeed, that project was the result of my ideas about the uses of new medias for African literature. Two years ago, when I was looking for the ways and means to set this up, I almost got conned by a self-described Cameroonian “web entrepreneur”. Now, I am working to realize the project in as short a time as possible, and I remain open to proposals from potential partners.

DT: In March 2012, you won another pan-African prize, the African FOSS Reporter Award, which is a prize for African reporting on free and open-source software. How can these free software programs be catalysts for socioeconomic development in African nations?

DDF: In reality, the low-cost nature of this type of software, the freedom that we have to modify and to distribute it, and the resulting anti-virus protection, are such that they inevitably catalyze development. Imagine for a moment that the Cameroonian administration were using these: first, the cost of importing anti-virus would be reduced to zero, and second, the costs of buying licensed software would be cut by at least half. This undoubtedly would represent a huge gain, that would permit job creation for some of the unemployed, whom, as you know, are so numerous in developing nations.

DT: Is there a difference between “DorothyDaf”, the blogger, and Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, the veteran journalist who works at the Ministry of Communication?

DDF: Ha ha, not really. “DorothyDaf” is just an abbreviation of Dorothée Danedjo Fouba. Responsibilty for everything that I do on paper as “DorothyDaf” is entirely assumed by Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, under the general inspection of the Ministry of Communication of Cameroon. Both tasks involve my freedom and my responsibilities as a journalist, in every way.

DT: One last question : You are only 30 years old, but you already have a closet full of trophies and distinctions, including a new master's degree, among others. How do you see the rest of your career?

DDF: As for the rest of my professional career, first on the horizon will be the realization of a multimedia teaching platform for online media education, which I began to develop during the year of my master's degree program at Ingenieris Cameroon: Matic.edu (Medias assisted by ITC). I hope to have the good graces and health, which only Christ can give, to be able to see it to fruition.

Thank you for your interest, and for the encouragement you have given to me.

September 30 2013

Heavy on the Politicking, Light on the Substance in Cameroon's Elections

While some candidates running for seats in Cameroon's National Assembly [fr] and municipal council are doing their best sway voters with sweeping but vague promises typical of elections, others are trying to buy it with money and gifts, such as beer and pistachios.

Either way, many of those running for elections on 30 September 2013 are falling short of providing a well-defined platform so voters know where the candidates stand on the issues. Since the start of the electoral campaign 15 September, many Cameroonians tuning into the races haven't heard anything concrete coming from the numerous candidates.

As Crescence Nyindi stated in an article [fr] published on the site Echos des Grands Lacs:

proposer des programmes cohérents n'est pas la chose la plus aisée pour certains partis politiques engagés dans la course.

Proposing coherent platforms is not the easiest thing for some political parties in the race.

 

Les départements au Cameroun par région - Domaine public

Departments of Cameroon by region – Public domain

Some political parties’ manifestos are lacking in ambition and innovation, leaving something to be desired. 

In an article [fr] on his personal blog, blogger Mathias Mouendé Ngamo presents the manifesto of the Cameroon People's Party (CPP) by Edith Kah Walla, “which aims for 132 seats in these municipal elections” in some administrative constituencies in the country, including that of Douala 1st district. The manifesto is divided into three main areas of focus: political, economic and social. As an example, the party intends to [fr]:

former par an 1000 jeunes en informatique, « afin de qu’ils correspondent au nouveau profil de l’emploi recherché par les entreprises.

Provide IT training to 1000 young people every year, “so that they can acquire new skills required by businesses.

The candidate seems to suggest that the country does not have enough trained and competent young people in these fields yet.

The same assumption seems to agree with this Social Democratic Front candidate, who promises [fr]:

 du travail aux jeunes et une éducation plus accrue notamment.

Work for young people and more education.

Certain candidates from the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais), the leading political party, don't see the need for innovation either. They prefer to continue along the same track as the previous manifestos. This is notably the case for the CPDM candidate running for Mayor of Yaoundé 4th [fr], who wants to continue the work she began during her previous term. 

Vue sur Yaoundé, Capitale du Caméroun -Domaine public

View of Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon – Public domain

The worst offenders are those candidates who use unorthodox practices bordering on corruption to attract the sympathy of the electorate. They prefer to seduce them with beer and food, rather than with a plan of action worthy of the name, transforming their so-called electoral meetings into parties, as Joseph Olinga explains in this post [fr] picked up by cameroun24.net:

Un candidat à un siège à la représentation nationale bien connu du bataillon, est en campagne dans un marché de la ville de Douala. Après un tour des installations sommaires sur fond de youyous, le candidat à la députation interpelle une vendeuse de mets de pistache et lui achète tout son plateau. Un exploit qu’on ne vit pas tous les jours. La vieille dame visiblement éberluée promet «solennellement» d’accorder son suffrage au candidat. Les mets achetés sont aussitôt distribués aux badauds qui ont envahi le théâtre. Et, puisque que la consommation du piment nécessite une bonne bière, notre candidat visiblement au fait des us locaux débloque, séance tenante, une centaine de mille pour l’achat du « précieux liquide». Youyous, valses d’applaudissements et fin du meeting. Le tout dans une ambiance de bénédictions au bénéfice du candidat que la clameur confie à Dieu.

A well-known candidate for a seat at the national level is campaigning in a market in the village of Douala. Following a brief tour of the facilities, to a background of ululating cries, the candidate spoke to a market trader selling pistachios, and bought the entire tray. Something we don't see everyday. The old woman, visibly perplexed, “solemnly” promised her vote to the candidate. The food he bought was immediately given out to the bystanders nearby. And, seeing as these nuts always need good beer, the candidate, clearly aware of local customs, spent 100,000 CFA francs [about 1,134 US dollars] on buying the “precious liquid”. Ululations, waves of applause, and the meeting ends. All in an atmosphere of benediction to the candidate's benefit, entrusted to God by the crowds.

Recurring scenes during the campaign season, he underlines [fr]:

Un autre candidat bien connu de l’opposition gare son véhicule. Le « Messie » est aussitôt entouré par une horde de conducteurs de mototaxis, des vendeurs et quelques curieux. «J’espère que vous voterez pour nos listes aux municipales et aux législatives », leur lance-t-il (ndlr). Quelle question ? «Considérez que vous êtes déjà élu» scandent les populations. Une liasse de billets de banque est remise «au doyen». Distribution des affiches aux invités, salve d’applaudissements et fin de meeting. Le candidat se remet à bord de son véhicule escorté par une dizaine de mototaxis le tout sur une chanson populaire revue en l’honneur du désormais député.

Another well-known opposition candidate parks his car. The “Messiah” is soon surrounded by a horde of motorbike taxi drivers, traders and other curious members of the public. “I hope you'll be voting for our lists in the parliamentary and municipal elections,” he says to them (editor's note). Is it even a question? “Act as if you're already elected” chant the crowd. A wad of cash is given to the most senior person present. Posters are distributed, applause, and the meeting ends. The candidate gets back into his vehicle and is escorted by a dozen motorbike taxi drivers singing a popular song customised for the candidate, now honorary deputy.

Surreal scenes, which illustrate perfectly the mediocrity of some “politicars”, political schemers thirsty for power, as the blogger Franck William Batchou names them. Their behaviour is designed to mask the absence of political manifestos, and if widespread, could suggest that Cameroonians are not aware of the importance of these elections, and the significance of their vote. Thankfully, not all are fooled.

Faced with the inconsistency of most manifestos, people seem to have decided to take the matter into their own hands by asking the different candidates about subjects close to their hearts. This is particularly true of civil society organisations which, by means of the “health at the ballot box” (santé aux urnes) project, want to bring the candidates’ attention to the problems faced by many Cameroonians in accessing healthcare. Calls which we hope won't fall on deaf ears.

Whatever happens, voters will have the last word. Theoretically, at least.

August 21 2013

Photographing the African_Diaspora in New_York

Photographing the #African_Diaspora in #New_York
http://africasacountry.com/photographing-the-african-diaspora-in-new-york

In a world ever more saturated by images, understanding how to read pictures has never been more important. In a course this summer at the #New_School in the GPIA, students learned how to read images, and also how to make them. We began by looking at other people’s photographs and thinking about the choices […]

#PHOTOGRAPHY #Aaron_Leaf #Ashanti #Bronx #Brooklyn #Cameroon #Fula #Gladys_Ekoto #Nigeria #Toni_Akindele

August 06 2013

Tchip: The “Shaking My Head” Meme from Africa

Nadéra Bouazza explains what being “tchippée” [fr] means for french speaking black communities. Tchip is the sound one makes when he/she disapproves of the behavior/action of someone else (roughly similar to the “shaking my head” internet slang). The “Tchip” sound is used across most black communities and has become an internet meme:

Will Smith as the animated illustration of the sound

Will Smith as the animated illustration of the sound “Tchip” by the blog La Tchipie – Public Domain

 

August 02 2013

News Websites Indicted over Land Grab Report

News Websites Rue89 and Basta Mag are indicted [fr] following charges by French investment and industrial holding group Bolloré over a report in which they implicate Bolloré [fr] in land grab activities [fr] in Africa. The report lists the group's  activities in Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Politis, a weekly analysis website, reacted to the news on twitter :

 

Freedom of Press : Basta ! and Rue89 are indicted following charges by Bolloré Group : Our friends at Basta…

Rue89 is a partner of Global Voices en Français.

May 03 2013

Hostages and Ransom Payments: What is France's Policy?

Around three months after the French President François Hollande’s decision to stop paying ransoms to hostage takers, the Moulin-Fournier family were finally released, to the immense relief of their family and friends. However, there is still no information to shed light on how this liberation occurred.

Video of the hostages following their release via zoominwal [fr]:

In January 2013, François Hollande told the families of French citizens around the world that France would henceforth follow a policy of refusing financial dealings with the hostage-takers. The time of giving in to ransom demands had come to an end.

This change had been considered during the Sarkozy era, due to payment of ransoms increasing the greed of kidnappers. Abdoulaye Bah of Global Voices noted in 2010 that [fr]:

Plus de 90% du financement des groupes terroristes proviennent de paiement de rançons. [..] Tant que les pays occidentaux paient pour libérer leurs otages, les groupes terroristes garnissaient leurs «comptes».

More than 90% of funding for terrorist groups comes from ransom payments. [...] As long as western countries pay to free their hostages, the terrorist groups will add to their “accounts”.

The crisis in Mali accelerated the process [fr]. Since when, intelligence service agents have tried to adapt their negotiation methods, breaking with the French techniques which had prevailed until that time. The adopted model was along the lines of those used in Britain and America.

French Negotiation Techniques compared to those of Britain and the US

Bernard Kouchner talked of the different approaches [fr] when trying to resolve hostage situations:

On oppose souvent un modèle français qui paie et un modèle anglo-saxon qui ne paie pas mais les choses ne sont pas si claires que cela, chaque affaire d'otage est unique et plus complexe qu'on ne le croit.

People often compare the French method, which pays, and the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ method which doesn’t, but things are not as simple as that, each hostage situation is unique and more complex than can be imagined.

Contrary to in Britain and the US, where it is clearly spelled out to citizens that government policy will not make any type of concession regarding individuals or groups who take hostages, France has not set out a precise policy in its official documents, and instead only used to warn against kidnappings.

François Hollande therefore set in action a radical change when he made his clear announcement of France’s refusal to give in to ransom demands. However, the lack of transparency over the latest liberation of hostages in Cameroon leads the onlooker to believe that the actual situation is more complicated.

How were the Moulin-Fournier family freed?

The French family were taken hostage on February 19, 2013 in Cameroon, and claimed by Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group. The hostages were freed on April 19. News website Slate Afrique asked Did France pay a ransom to Boko Haram? [fr] the day after their liberation:

Des questions qui se posent avec d’autant plus d’acuité que l’on se souvient des revendications de Boko Haram, lorsque la secte nigériane a confirmé être l’auteur de l’enlèvement de cette famille française, dans la localité de Dabanga, dans l’extrême-nord du Cameroun, le 19 février dernier

These questions take on ever greater importance when we remember Boko Haram’s demands when the Nigerian sect confirmed responsibility for the kidnapping of this French family, near Dabanga in the extreme north of Cameroon on February 19

The article also remarked upon the discretion of the French and Cameroon governments on this affair.

The French government has reaffirmed that it did not break its resolution and that it did not pay a ransom. The members of Boko Haram had let it be known in a video uploaded on February 25 that they wanted family members “imprisoned in Nigeria and Cameroon” to be freed. The Nigerian government then intervened, however, details of any negotiations [fr] were not disclosed.

As for the Moulin-Fournier family, they told the media through crisis management consultants gestiondecrise.com [fr] about their tough experience without disclosing any information concerning the conditions of their release. The question of what is French policy in hostage situations therefore remains open.

April 30 2013

Cameroon: Blogger Enoh Meyomesse Still in Jail

Cameroonian writer and blogger Enoh Meyomesse has been held in jail in Yaoundé, Cameroon's capital city, for over 17 months. Accused of stealing and illegally selling gold, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by the Military court of Yaoundé, after a process that several organizations considered illegitimate. Many suspect that Meyomesse, who received the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award in 2013 and is now an honorary member of the PEN American Center, faced a political trial aimed at silencing one of the most prolific intellectuals of Cameroon.

Liberez Enoh by PEN American Center is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

Liberez Enoh by PEN American Center. (CC BY-NC 3.0 Unported)

Several events reveal the nervousness of the regime regarding the Enoh Meyomesse case. On February 22, 2013 the Committee for the Liberation of Enoh was supposed to take part in a press conference organized by Tribunal Article 53, a Cameroonian NGO, on the situation of the blogger and writer. But the conference was banned [fr] on the grounds that the statement sent to the prefectorial authority was incomplete. In this video, shot on February 22, organizers deny the allegation while public forces expel participants from the conference venue. PEN has created an interactive timeline on the jailing of Enoh Meyomesse.

In addition, since April 5, 2013, Enoh has been forbidden [fr] by the Superintendent from using the computer room of Kondengui prison, where he is incarcerated. Enoh used computers to draft three books: Poems of hope, The elite against the people from 1884 to the present day, and Cameroon: Desert of human rights. In a letter addressed to the prison Superintendent, Enoh Meyomesse expresses his surprise at how he has been treated at Kondengui.

Despite this hostile environment, mobilization continues for the release of Enoh Meyomesse. With substantial assistance from his lawyers, Enoh's appeal against his sentence was received and his case will now move from the military to the civil court.

Advocates around the world have begun to voice support for Meyomesse. A Paris-based collective composed and sang this song, based on one of Enoh Meyomesse's poem Noël en Prison (Christmas In Jail).

Cameroon will have its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council on May 1, 2013. Several international organizations have recommended that the country end the persecution of writers and protect online freedom of expression.

 

Advocates are petitioning for the release of Enoh Meyomesse. To join the campaign, read, sign, and share the petition by clicking here.

April 25 2013

Mapping Tool to Track Insecticide-Resistant Mosquitoes

Cameroonian blogger Edouard Tamba posted on twitter about the first online mapping tool to tool to track insecticide resistance in mosquitoes that cause malaria : IR Mapper.

R Mapper consolidates reports of insecticide resistance in malaria vectors onto filterable maps via irmapper.com

Interactive map that consolidates reports of insecticide resistance in malaria vectors onto filterable maps via irmapper.com

February 19 2013

African Reactions to the Pope’s Resignation

The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to resign with effect from February 28, 2013 provoked many reactions in Francophone Africa, both in traditional media and on social networks. The predominant feeling was that of admiration for the Pope combined with the wish that certain African leaders would follow his example.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Photo Catholic Church (England and Wales) on Flickr, licence CC by-nc-sa/2.0

Varied opinions, with underlying admiration

In a well-reported article from Togocouleurs blog entitled ‘Must the Pope Die Pope?’, Charles Lebon wrote that [fr]:

La nouvelle est tombée ce 11 février comme un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein. Ce coup aurait été moins violent si c’était le décès du pape, qui, dans ce cas et trop souvent prévisible, obligeait les journalistes à attendre sous les fenêtres du saint homme en agonie avec micro, camera et bougie. Mais ce n’était pas le cas. Il s’agit de la démission du souverain pontife au sens de : « renoncer à sa charge ».

The news hit on February 11 like a thunderclap in a quiet sky. The shock would have been less violent if they had announced the death of the Pope who, on this occasion, as on many others, made journalists wait under his windows in agony with a microphone, camera and candle. But this was not the announcement that was made. It was actually the resignation of the reigning pontiff, in the sense of: ‘renouncing his burden’.

Diery Diallo’s blog quoted Father Jacques Seck of Dakar [fr] :

Je dis que je suis heureux que le Saint-Père (Pape Benoît XVI) ait pris cette idée personnellement. Les hommes de Dieu que nous sommes (…) ne sont pas des fonctionnaires qui travaillent. Je suis heureux que le Saint-Père à la tête de l’Eglise nous donne l’exemple. Les évêques, Cardinaux, Pape, ne sont pas des fonctionnaires, quand ils ne peuvent plus ils cèdent la place aux autres », a réagi Abbé Jacques Seck sur les ondes de la Rfm. Rappelons que le Pape Benoit XVI a annoncé sa démission de ses fonctions de Pape pour le 28 février 2013. Il a donné comme raison, son âge avancé qui ne lui permet plus d’exercer le ministère Pétrinien.

I say that I am glad that the Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) has taken this step personally. Men of God such as we [...] are not functionaries with a job. I am pleased that the Holy Father as the head of the Church has given us the example. Bishops, Cardinals, the Pope, are not functionaries, when they can no longer go on, they give their place to others.” reacted Father Jacques Seck on the airwaves of RFM. Let us remember that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from his papal duties would take effect on February 28, 2013. As reason, he gave his advanced years which no longer allow him to fulfil the duties of the Holy See.

On the facebook page of Radio France International, a widely-listened to station in Francophone Africa, many reactions were posted [fr] during a programme dedicated to this event:

File:Benoît XVI synode 2008.jpg

Many Africans seem to wish their leaders would be inspired by the courageous act of Pope Benedict XVI. Source photo:
commons.wikimedia.org

From Conakry in Guinea Hilal Sylla [fr] wrote that:

Pour peu que cela ait du sens, cette démission de Benoit XVI me renvoie au Film culte sur l'église et les illuminatis. Une façon de dire que l'église n'a plus de force dans un monde dominé par tant de perversion. Une question : la fin du monde n'est-elle pas proche?

Although it doesn’t make much sense, Pope Benedict’s resignation reminds me of the popular film about the church and the Illuminati. A way of saying that the church no longer has strength in a world dominated by so much perversion. One question: Is the End of the World nigh?

For Samuel Azabho [fr] from Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Cette démission est normale par le fait de l'age. son pontificat est positif dans la mesure où il est le précurseur de la lutte contre la pédophilie. je pense qu'il était un homme de décision. Et celui qui doit venir après lui doit relever le défis de l'avenir de l'église catholique et de toute l'humanité peu importe sa race et ses origines.

This resignation is not unusual because of the matter of his age. His papacy was mainly positive in so far as it was the precursor of the fight against paedophilia. I think that he acted as a decisive man. And whoever follows him must be up to the challenges in the future of the Catholic Church, and of all humanity, no matter his race or origin.

From Yaoundé, Ben Mbele remarked that [fr]:

nous pouvons cependant dire ke le pontificat de benoit xv1 n'a pa été un fleuve trankil, de son discours sur l'islam et la violence en passant par le scandal des prêtres pédophiles et enfin du débat sur le mariage gay,au demeurant notons ke la décision salutaire de benoit xv1 fera un précédent car il lancera le débat sur la modification du droit canon en matière du mandat du pape, personnellement il ne faut pa trop attendre du nouveau pape en matière d’émancipation sur certains sujets car la plus part des cardinaux actuels ont été nommé par benoit xv1 et jean paul 2 eux très conservateurs.

However, we can say that the papacy of Benedict XVI has not been plain sailing, from his speech about Islam, through the scandal of paedophile priests, finishing with the gay marriage question, for all that, we note that the salutatory decision of Benedict XVI will set a precedent because it will launch a debate on whether Canon Law regarding the Pope’s mandate should be modified, personally I don’t think we should expect too much from the new Pope regarding emancipation of certain groups of people because most current cardinals were named by Benedict XVI and John Paul 2, and are very conservative.

Alpha Ulrick Marcellus from Brazzville, in Congo thought that [fr]:

La décision du Pape est courageuse. Il ne démissionne pas mais il renonce, il renonce au ministère pétrinien. Une décision qui n'est pas facile à prendre. Son pontificat a été à mon avis celui des grandes épreuves, des discours aux vérités sans détours et choquant. Benoit XVI à donné le meilleur de lui-même, dans la direction d'une Église en conflit avec un monde de plus en plus excentrique. Pour le futur Pape plaise à Dieu de choisir celui qui est apte, valide à prendre des décisions courageuses contre les déviations que le monde légalise pour préserver l'intégrité de la foi et de l'Église.

The Pope’s decision was courageous. He did not resign, but renounced, he renounced the Holy See. Not an easy decision to take. In my opinion, his papacy was one of great trials, of shocking and hard-hitting speeches about truths. Benedict XVI has given the best of himself, for a Church in conflict with a world becoming more and more eccentric. Let us hope that, for the future Pope, God chooses the one who is best-suited, capable of taking courageous decisions against the deviations that the world legalises, to preserve the integrity of faith and of the Church.

The BBC also broadcast special programmes about Francophone Africa, which were played by local radio stations. The BBC’s facebook page about Africa has more than 17,000 fans [fr]. During the programme about this resignation, Africa Live on February 16, many Africans gave their points of view. Michel Djadji Anigbe from Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, wrote that [fr]:

Relativement à la décision de démission du Pape, son motif me laisse perplexe et pantois. Comment un grand intellectuel tel que lui a pu accepter ce pontificat avec tous les sacrifices que cela demande. Surtout avec ce que son prédécesseur, le vénérable Pape Jean Paul II , a fait du sien. De plus, son argument est trop facile avec le scandale qui nous a été servi par l'affaire de son majordome. Et quand on sait aussi que le Vatican n'est pas ignorant et étranger à tous ce qui passe actuellement dans le monde.

Relative to the Pope’s decision to resign, his motive leaves me perplexed and speechless. How could a great intellectual like him have accepted this papacy with all the sacrifices which that demands? Especially with what his predecessor, the venerable Pope John Paul II, had achieved with his. What is more, his argument is too simplistic regarding the scandal of this business with his majordomo. And when you also realise that the Vatican is not ignorant of or a stranger to what happens in the world today.

Didier Didou Mady posed an interesting question [fr]:

Le rejet de la démission du Pape est-il envisageable au regard du droit canon? Quoi de plus normal que les touristes au Vatican visite à la fois le pape et l'ex-pape. Difficile d'avoir un pape infatigable!

Is the rejection of the Pope’s resignation conceivable with regards to Canon Law? What could be more normal than tourists at the Vatican visiting the Pope and the ex-Pope at the same time? It is difficult to have an indefatigable Pope!

An Example for some African leaders?

Africa has many badly run countries. Is this linked to the fact that on this continent we also find heads of State who have been in power the longest?:

Many Africans have commented on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI by relating it what has happened on their own continent. Josiane Kouaghe from Cameroon wrote [fr] on his blog:

Passés ces moments de disputes, les vraies questions s’imposent. Et les comparaisons ne tardent pas à suivre. «Ah…Il me rappelle Nelson Mandela. Tu te rappelles, en 1999, quand il a démissionné après seulement cinq ans? », demande Éric Ntomb, 64 ans, à son ami. «Tu parles Éric. C’est la même chose avec le pape. Il n’est là que depuis 2005. Si seulement nos dirigeants africains pouvaient faire comme lui», répond l’ami en poussant un long soupir. L’ami dit haut ce que des millions de personnes pensent bas. Et je vous arrête. Ne dites pas que le pape a démissionné parce qu’il est un homme de Dieu. Non!  Il dirigeait le plus petit et puissant État du monde.

After these disputes, the real questions make themselves felt. And the comparisons are quick to follow. “Ah, he reminds me of Nelson Mandela. Do you remember, in 1999, when he resigned after only five years?” Eric Ntomb, 64, asked his friend. “Now you’re talking Eric! It’s the same thing with the Pope. He’s only been there since 2005. If only our leaders in Africa could do the same as him”, answered the friend with a deep sigh. The friend said out loud what millions of people think deep down. And I am stopping you! Don’t tell me that the Pope resigned because he is a man of God. No! He was leading the smallest and most powerful state in the world.

Josiane Kouagheu then reviewed the list of African presidents who resigned their duties voluntarily:

However, by far the most famous of all African leaders to leave power voluntarily was unquestionably Nelson Mandela, in 1999, a fact which has invited these comparisons between Mandela and Pope Benedict XVI.

February 11 2013

10 Best African Food Blogs

MyWeku compiles a list of 10 best African food blogs for 2013: “There are seemingly a million food blogs out there, but only a handful showcase African food. Even so it has still been a struggle to pick 10 of our favourites for this year (2013).”

January 17 2013

2012: A Year of Revolt and Social Change in Francophone Countries: Part 2

[All links in French unless stated otherwise.]

We continue with the second part of our 2012 review of the Francophone world.  The first half of the 2012 review (which can be found here [en]) focused on the armed rebellions and society projects linked to the economic crisis.  Part two will review the civil rebellion and governance problems experienced in Togo, Chad and Madagascar, the citizen initiatives in Senegal, the fight for more transparency in public affairs in Cameroon and the ongoing debates on society in France.

Protests in Togo, Chad and Madagascar

Togo is currently in full political transition following the highly controversial presidential elections of 2005 which resulted in the son of the ex-President Gnassingbé Eyadema, Faure Gnassingbé Eyadema [en], taking power. The group ‘Let’s Save Togo’ (Collectif ‘Sauvons le Togo’ (CST)) counts several human rights defence groups and political parties among its supporters. Its main condemnation (amongst others) is the exploitation of certain institutions and the subsequent confiscation of riches from these institutions by the rich minority whilst the local population is plunged into mounting poverty.  The demonstrations against the ruling power have been the setting for many violent clashes with the police during the year, as shown in the following photos and videos:

Repression at the demonstrations on 13 June 2012, by the group Let's Save Togo on Flickr with permission

This video shows police officers severely injuring a demonstrator [Warning: These images may shock certain audiences]:

In Chad, a coalition of organisations for the protection of human rights has expressed similar demands over the need to protect people’s right to the freedom of expression and to implement reforms for more social justice.

In Madagascar, the non-payment of salaries and bursaries to teachers and students has caused violent protests in May and in November. The protests against the current crisis are not limited to students and teachers: cattle farmers and even banks have been protesting against the chronic insecurity of the country.

étudiants en grève à Madagascar par jentilisa avec autorisation

“Sort out this problem because we are suffering”  students on strike in Madagascar by Jentilisa (used with permission)

 

Post-election pride for Senegal but tough times ahead for Cameroon

Senegal:

The pre-electoral period was a particularly turbulent time in Senegal.  The decision to endorse A.Wade’s candidacy for a third term by the Constitutional Counsel triggered a wave of violence and organisation of protests by the Senegalese opposition. The vote finally supports the opposition’s case that backed Macky Sall to victory on the 25th March. A new citizen initiative has allowed observers to verify the results of the elections in real time and to avoid any questioning of the validity of the verdict from the ballot boxes. Here is a video of the headquarters of Sunu 2012 during the night of the second round of the presidential election:

Cameroon: (by Julie Owono)

As well as being a country that is particularly hostile towards homosexuals, Cameroon has surpassed this by making front page news in 2012 during the Olympic Games in London when seven athletes withdrew from the national team.  They decided to stay in Britain instead of returning to their country. Philippe Menkoué from Global Voices has tried to make sense of their choice and suggests that the work and life conditions of professional athletes in Cameroon have strongly contributed to this decision:

Ces fugues viennent tout simplement mettre en évidence le malaise qui anime la jeunesse camerounaise toute entière. Ainsi, d’après le blogueur camerounais Florian Nguimbis, ces athlètes ne sont pas à blâmer, mais plutôt le système tout entier.

The story of these fugitives simply shows the misery that is facing young people in Cameroon. According to the Cameroonian blogger Florian Nguimbis, these athletes are not to blame – rather it is the fault of the whole system itself.

The 2011 elections that saw P.Biya reelected with more than 75% of the vote seems to have made Cameroonians sceptical over the possibility of any deep reforms to the current system.

France: Change of power or Power to change? (by Suzanne Lehn

Campaign posters by JC Benoist on Wikimedia CC License -3.0-BY

The most memorable event of 2012 would have been the presidential election in which the socialist François Hollande won in the second round against the departing president Nicolas Sarkozy, followed and confirmed by legislative elections. The electoral process was scrutinised abroad and people again started trying to guess the winner before the official announcement of the results.

But problems linked to the economic crisis are starting to show: the stigmatisation of foreigners- common across the whole of Europe, to which the new government is trying to combat with new measures to favour Romany peoples’ access to jobs and to soften French immigration policy. A jarring note or a symptom of something deeper, Black Fashion Week in Paris was affected by visa problems. The following questions of society were also present during the debates and actions of internet users: male chauvinism in daily life, violence against women condemned in an international newspaper, debates against the abolition or regulation of prostitution and drunk driving.
An election promise which should become law soon but not without difficulty is for universal marriage – or marriage for all, which has provoked protests and counter-protests and has revived homophobic rhetoric. The defense of regional and local languages, through the ratification of the European Charter for Regional Languages, was scrapped on the 31 March.
France also saw two potentially fruitful developments at the international level: the first, a joint initiative between France and the World Bank to put an end to the “outrageous exploitation of African reserves”, and the second, a meeting in Strasbourg in October 2012 organised by the European Council to mark the first World Forum for Democracy.
At the end of February, the European Parliament in session in Strasbourg postponed the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. This was postponed following constant mobilisation of criticism against the strong bias in favour of authors’ rights in regards to Internet content.

We finish this round-up of 2012 with a little success story of a French film’s exceptional 5 Oscar wins “The Artist” – although not a typically sounding French film, it is homage to the silent movie era of which France was a pioneer.

Anna Gueye, Julie Owono, Abdoulaye Bah, Suzanne Lehn and Philippe Menkoue all contributed to this post.

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