Information and stories about Africa.

China to Invest $1.1 Billion in Nigeria
Earlier this month Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, joined by a group of state governors and key ministers, visited China with the goal of strengthening ties with this powerful Asian nation. China is one of Nigeria’s largest trading partners, with trade between the two countries expected to reach $10 billion by the end of the year, up from $2 billion in 2005.

But Nigerians were seeking more than a revamped trade agreement from the Chinese. During his visit, President Jonathan emphasized his commitment to leveraging Nigeria’s private sector to drive development, trade, and investment links between the two countries, the investment is key. “We want China to invest more in Nigeria,” stated Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister.

On July 11, during President Jonathan’s visit, China agreed to give Nigeria a $1.1 billion low-interest loan to improve the country’s infrastructure. The money will help build roads and airport terminals in four major cities as well as a light-rail line for Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, with an estimated 37.3 billion barrels of oil reserves. China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer, just behind the United States, and the largest global energy consumer overall, so it comes as no surprise that China would look to the West African country as a way to diversify its sources of much-needed crude oil.

In return for its investment, China can expect more Nigerian oil. As part of its energy security policy, China wishes to wean itself off crude oil from the Middle East. Nigeria is viewed as an additional source to secure the free flow of the hard commodity.

This relationship also holds great potential for Nigeria. With improved infrastructure and rising demand for its crude oil, China’s investment could prove to be the fix Nigeria’s economy has been waiting for.

– Scarlet Shelton
Sources: Bloomberg, International Business Times, BBC
Photo: Earthwise News

The lack of access to modern, renewable forms of energy has both direct and indirect harmful effects on health and medical care facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 30 percent of clinics and hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa, serving approximately 255 million people, are without electricity.

The lack of electricity causes many doctors to struggle to provide clinical services after sunset. Access to energy services lengthens the workday for those in the medical profession and allows them to see a greater number of patients in a day. When facilities without electric lighting do see patients after dark, they have to depend on paraffin lamps, candles or torches that provide low-quality light, give off harmful fumes and, in some cases, present a fire hazard. These types of lights are also often more expensive per unit of energy than electric lighting.

No access to electricity can also lead to complications with life-saving operations, examinations and correct health procedures. Conducting medical examinations, not to mention invasive surgeries or childbirth, with poor lighting unsurprisingly poses additional risk to the patient. In fact, some studies have found that maternal and child mortality can be reduced up to 70 percent at night with the provision of even minimal lighting and medical devices.

Vaccines, blood work and medications cannot be stored properly when electricity is not present. Vaccines that protect against preventable diseases can lose their effectiveness when they aren’t refrigerated properly. Even when health clinics do have access to power, it is often intermittent, with outages lasting an average of 4.5 hours at a time in Kenya. Sixty percent of health center refrigerators are thought to have inconsistent power supplies.

Without electricity, the danger that is presented to patients is extremely high. By increasing Africa’s access to energy, many lives could be saved.

– Matthew Jackoski 

Source: ONE, Rhoban

5 Steps to Increased Economic Development in Africa
Recently, Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala gave a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies outlining the steps that need to be taken to improve economic development in Africa by creating jobs and reducing unemployment. Here are the five steps Okonjo-Iweala outlined for creating economic growth in Africa and developing jobs for young people across the continent.

    1. Develop a critical infrastructure. The lack of modern infrastructure in Africa costs the continent “at least 2% in GDP growth annually.” Among the systems that Africa needs to develop are an expansive electrical grid, roads, railways, and communications. These systems allow for more efficient production and transportation of goods, allowing for increased economic output. Additionally, the continent needs to work on establishing clean water and sanitation systems, which will result in improved public health.
    2. Develop human capital. Africa must invest in the skills of its people in order to advance their standard of living. Currently, “33 million primary school-aged children in Sub Saharan Africa do not go to school,” and “40% of Africans over the age of 15 and 50% of women above the age of 25 are illiterate.” Africans need improved access to education in order to work in skilled trades and earn higher wages.
    3. Build safety nets. Throughout Africa, there are few systems that are established to help citizens who are living in poverty or have been negatively impacted by natural disasters. Okonio-Iweala states that Africa must work to establish tax systems to collect revenue for providing assistance to those in need throughout the continent.
    4. Address a growing population. In 2010, Africa was home to more than 1 billion people. The population of Africa is expected to double to 2 billion people by the year 2050. In order to help alleviate poverty in the continent, a focus should be placed on family planning. By reducing the number of births per woman in Africa, the overall GDP per capita will increase, resulting in a higher standard of living for Africans.
    5. Embrace Africa’s youthful population. Africa’s youth represents the future of the continent. By establishing programs that focus on the intellectual development and health improvement of young Africans, the continent will make an investment in its future. Africa has true potential for future economic growth if the continent’s nations invest in its young population, providing them with the tools they need to be successful in a global economy.

– Jordan Kline

Sources: Visualizing, The Guardian, Achieve in Africa
Photo: UN

Slight Drop in World’s Children Without Primary Education
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the figure for the number of the world’s children with no access to schools has dropped from 61 million in 2010 to an estimated 57 million. Unfortunately, the improvement is unlikely to reach the millennium goal for primary education for all by 2015.

“We are at a critical juncture,” stated Irinia Bokova, UNESCO’s director-general. Every year UNESCO releases a report measuring the world’s progress towards the goal of universal primary education. Recent years have shown stagnation after early gains. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children at the primary age who were out of school fell by only 3 million.

The most recent numbers provide a more up-to-date picture, and also show that aid for primary education has fallen by 6% because most major donors have decreased their funding in the past year. UNESCO ranked the U.K. the largest direct donor to basic education. The US was previously the largest donor, but budget cuts in 2011 put the U.K. at the top. Germany, Australia, and Norway also increased their donations while budgets were cut in France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Canada.

The pledge for universal primary education made by UN-leaders in 2000 is looking likely to be missed, and there have already been discussions to push up the 2015 target. There was a previous target set in 1990 to achieve this goal by 2000. After this was missed the goal was moved forward to 2015.

The latest mid-year figures do reflect some progress, but partly due to previous estimates being revised. According to UNESCO, the most recent numbers show about 2 million fewer children missing school. Over half of the children missing school are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The last annual report showed that in some countries the problem is actually getting worse rather than better. In Nigeria, 40% of children ages 6-11 do not attend primary school. Despite significant increases in enrollment in recent years, UNICEF estimates about 4.7 million Nigerian children of primary school age are still not in school.

But there is some good news: southern and western Asia has seen considerable gains, cutting their numbers of children not in school by two-thirds in two decades.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, UN

The question of whether the food we eat should be engineered by scientists, and sold to farmers by tremendously wealthy corporations is a controversial topic. Owen Paterson, an MP and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from the United Kingdom has recently pleaded his case for supporting GM crops: “The farmer benefits. The consumer benefits. The environment benefits.”

The top chemical industries and their vocal supporters are proposing that the use of GM crops could produce more food for the world, thus ending world hunger. Can genetically modified crops revolutionize farming worldwide and end global hunger?

In the short term, revamping farms to produce high yielding GM crops could result in more food. However, GM crops require long term reliance on pesticides and machinery, which might be too expensive for an african farmer living on less than a dollar a day. Not only that, but the seed itself can be very expensive, since GM companies have made it illegal to save seeds to plant next season. That means that farmers in Africa, 80% of whom currently save their seeds, would need to start paying for them. Esther Bett, a Kenyan farmer, also points out that “farmers in America can only make a living from GM crops if they have big farms, covering hundreds of hectares.” She also informs us that in Kenya “we can feed hundreds of families off the same area of land using our own seed and techniques, and many different crops.”

When addressing the needs of the world’s poor, it is important to listen to what they have to say. Africans already have traditional methods of farming that have been developed over generations. Over the course of thousands of years, a variety of seeds has been bred to thrive in diverse environments, and to resist the regional blights that are unique to Africa. The genetically modified crops that have been developed so far are actually quite limited in the kinds of pests that they are resistant to. There are different farming practices to suit different environments, and crops that thrive in certain regions may not fare so well in others. According to a long term study, farmers in Ethiopia who conserved their soil and water by farming on compost-treated land were more food secure than their neighbors who relied on imported seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. It was not genetic engineering, but ingenious breeding techniques that have resulted in new strains of hardy plants like drought tolerant corn, which is used by thousands of African farmers who enjoy 30% higher yields.

What if entire continents were to replace their heirloom seed stock with a single strain of GM crop? Such heavy reliance on one type of crop could be a disaster waiting to happen, if that crop were to fail due to blight or climate change. A new study from Food and Water Watch, an NGO focused on food and water safety and sustainability, has recently discovered that over time the widespread use of herbicides on GM crops has caused weeds to develop tolerance. The last thing that impoverished farmers need are superweeds! As of now, the only thing that can be done about herbicide resistant weeds is to use more herbicide.

– Jennifer Bills

Sources: Express, The Borgen Project, The Guardian, Co Exist, Third World Network, The Guardian

More than a Ball: Alive and Kicking
Sports play an essential role in the development of children. They provide structure and help teach hard work and discipline. For underprivileged kids, it may be one of the only healthy releases from the difficult lives they have. For kids in Africa, the sport that supplies this release is football, known as soccer to Americans. Yet many African children live in environments where sports equipment – such as soccer balls – is not affordable or accessible.

Thanks to Alive and Kicking, these kids have not had to worry about how they can play soccer. The only legitimate manufacturer of sports balls in Africa, Alive and Kicking has provided over 500,000 balls to impoverished children. Their impact goes far beyond simply producing sporting equipment. Below are the positive impacts Alive and Kicking has on the people of Africa.

  1. Employment: Alive and Kicking has been helpful in improving the economies of local African communities through the hiring of citizens to help manufacture balls. They have had 120 people hired to produce the balls on their manufacturing line. Each of these people has at least six family members and the wages they earn can help provide enough for their families. The employment has helped stimulate local communities with revenue as well.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle: Some children in Africa are subject to things that no developing youth should have to endure. Their ability to play soccer with their friends and be active in a normal way is extremely beneficial. Even if it helps them escape their unsuitable environment for even a few minutes, it is a success.
  3. Replacement of Makeshift Balls: Children in poor living conditions are often forced to stitch together materials and make their own ball, and these balls do not last long. Alive and Kicking provides synthetic stitched balls that will remain in good condition in any environment.

Alive and Kicking continues to make a profound impact in Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia. But they need help. Donations are instrumental in funding the production of sports balls. A generous donation of 100 dollars would provide eight soccer balls for school systems and communities, impacting the lives of many children. A much more modest donation of 15 dollars provides a child with a ball. These gifts may be small but will play an important role in a child’s life. For more information, visit Alive and Kicking’s website.

– William Norris

Sources: Alive and Kicking, CNN
Sources: Globo

How African Artists Broke Through the Global Art World
African art sells for modest amounts in comparison to other contemporary works of art, so why are international collectors and enthusiasts racing to secure as much of it as they can? If worldwide critical acclaim and prestigious awards are any indications, African art could become a profitable investment.

With the South African country of Angola taking the Golden Lion award for best national participation at the Venice Biennale art exhibit, African art has generated extraordinary buzz amongst curators and collectors. The Bonham auction house in London holds the only annual sale dedicated to African art, and the house’s website notes that there has been “an explosion of interest” in recent years for the artwork.

“Created by artists from a multitude of cultures,” the site explains, “African contemporary art reflects the complex heritage of this dynamic continent and demonstrates tremendous potential for investment.”

El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor and teacher at the University of Nigeria, is among the acclaimed African artists whose work has generated such enthusiasm. Channeling his Ghana heritage, many of his works incorporate either clay or wood in conjunction with local goods from his culture, such as Igbo palm mortars and Ghanaian trays. Some of his famous works blend common items together to form monumental and fluid sculptures. For example, his 2007 sculpture “Dusasa II” is a 361.6 lb melding of plastic disks, aluminum, and copper wire. One of his most recent works, “TISA-TISA—Searching for Connection,” was entirely constructed using recycled materials.

El Anatsui’s work is currently featured in museums such as the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the British Museum in London. He has also created a wall-hanging sculpture for the Royal Academy in London after receiving an invitation to the establishment. In an interview with Gulf News, El Anatsui explained how art has always existed as expression of cultures such as his, and it’s thanks to advances in modern communications that awareness of other cultures has increased.

Angolan photographer Edson Chagas has also garnered international attention after his showpiece Found Not Taken allowed his home country to take the Golden Lion award. A documentary and commentary on consumerism and capitalism, Found Not Taken compiles years of photos taken in Luanda: the city Chagas was born. Although he studied photography in London, he always intended to continue his projects from his home country. Chagas hopes the award will spark more interest in both his work and the art of other Angolan artists.

This increased exposure has allowed Cameroonian curator Koyo Kouoh to secure funding in London for a contemporary African art fair. She notes that African artists are using their art to “promote their country,” and the international focus on countries such as Angola is “not just on war anymore.” Modern art plays an important role in the common perception of cultures and societies, so Africa’s rising popularity will increase awareness of the continent’s triumphs and struggles on a global scale. With economies on the rise in many of Africa’s countries, citizens such as Chagas hopes their governments will take this opportunity to provide stronger education in the arts to train a new generation of artists.

– Timothy Monbleau

Sources: BBC, BBC Economy on the Rise,
Bonhams, Poetics of Line, Golden Lion Award, Metropolitan Museum of Art The British Museum, Gulf News, Tree Hugger, Contemporary And
Photo: skunkandraven

World Bank Plan for Energy Sector Investments
The World Bank Group’s report “Toward a Sustainable Energy Future for All: Directions for the World Bank Group’s Energy Sector” was released on July 16, and lays out principles-based plans for the World Bank’s work in the energy sector. The report puts a special focus on expanding energy access and sustainable energy.

The report, also known as the Energy Sector Directions Paper, focuses on the poor in terms of their energy access, stating that “supporting universal access to reliable modern energy is a priority.” The report points out the connection between poverty and lack of energy access asserting that “economic growth, which is essential for poverty reduction, is not possible without adequate energy.”

The Energy Sector Directions Paper also emphasizes supporting renewable energy. Declining costs of renewable energies like wind and solar power are increasing their usefulness, and hydropower in particular is one of the largest untapped sources of renewable energy in the developing world. The energy sector directions paper underscored the importance of these renewable energies for sustainability and also in order to increase energy access while trying to reduce climate change. The World Bank Group asserted that they would support and invest in coal power development “only in rare circumstances.”

1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking, which causes harmful indoor air pollution. These people are mainly in either developing Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, and in rural areas. In order to foster sustainable development in these countries, plans like the World Bank Group’s Energy Sector Directions Paper need to be enacted to give the poor access to renewable energy sources.

– Martin Drake

Sources: World Bank, International Energy Agency
Photo: Value Walk

Is Ugandan Coffee Climate-Friendly?
In Mount Elgon, a region in southeastern Uganda, a new public-private partnership is helping smallholder coffee farmers adopt climate-friendly farming methods in order to increase their yield.

The region is known for the production of Arabica beans, a high-quality coffee bean that only grows in certain conditions. The Mount Elgon region is ideal for the bean, because of its rich volcanic soil, high altitude and good rainfall. However, farmers have only been able to produce one-third of the potential yield in recent years because of climate change and poor farming techniques. As temperatures rise, so does the number of pests and diseases, and the area has become prone to landslides because of an increase in heavy rainfalls, deforestation and uninformed farming practices.

This new project, initiated by the Welsh Assembly Government and funded by the Cardiff-based Waterloo Foundation, is helping farmers cope with the climate changes. The project has initiated a pioneering new approach to farming coffee beans and has introduced techniques such as using shade trees for the coffee plants, organic compost, better soil management, proper spacing between coffee trees, pruning, control of pests and the recycling of plastic. Together, these initiatives are helping to double the output of coffee. Simon Hotchkin, Sustainability of Harrogate, said, “We think there’s potential to double the output of coffee even from the best-managed farms we’ve seen. Most of these farmers have very little influence over the international coffee markets, so the thing that they can control and influence is the output and the livelihood that they generate from coffee.”

The project is also providing funding for new nurseries that over time will create over one million new trees, as part of a three-year climate change action plan. The trees will give shade to the coffee plants, over time will yield fruit, and some will be harvested for timber and firewood. The project hopes that in the future, consumers will be willing to pay more for the higher quality Arabica coffee bean, which in turn will help growers in Uganda to continue adapting to global warming.

– Chloe Isacke

Source: The Guardian, New Agriculture
Photo: Wallpapers Ad

New Developments in International Eye Care
Many in the world today suffer from vision impairments. 90% of those in need of attention for this deficiency reside in developing countries. Nearly 80% of these cases can be treated with medical attention. The issue lies in the accessibility and cost of these products, as it is difficult to deliver expensive treatments to everyone.

Enter Adlens, an inexpensive solution to the woes of developing countries. Liquid crystals inside eyeglasses create the capability to adjust prescriptions with the simple twist of a knob. Two knobs on both ends of the glasses can be turned to custom fit every person. Fluid in the glasses alters membranes that make each prescription unique. These glasses can help alleviate short, medium, and long distant sight issues for all types of vision troubles.

Over the past 20 years, significant progress has been made with international eye care. Governments have formed specialized eye care programs and even have governments addressing the issue with legislation. Countries like Ghana and Morocco have eliminated eye ailments such as trachoma.

There is still much more to be done. 285 million people across the globe still suffer from vision impairments. At an affordable price of just $80, many of these people can be given the treatment they deserve.

Adlens may not be a cure to vision impairments affecting millions across the globe, but it is a treatment that can impact many suffering from impairments, giving them the ability to see once more and live the best lives possible.

– William Norris
Sources: NY Times, World Health Organization
Photo: Seva