Information and stories about Africa.


The Chinese-Algerian PartnershipCrowning a decade of substantial investment, the Chinese government gifted Algeria, its “comprehensive strategic partner” since 2014, with its very first opera house. After suffering through over half a century of political upheaval and extreme violence, Opera d’Alger represents the Algerian people’s hope for a future characterized by peace and cultural resurgence.

In 2010, the Chinese government announced a $40 million gift to Algeria in the form of the country’s first opera house, to be built in Algiers. After six years of planning and construction, the Opera d’Alger was completed in 2016.

Internationally, those keeping tabs on China’s rapid economic growth and increasing foreign investments see the Opera d’Alger as a symbol of Beijing’s considerable economic influence in Algeria. It is true that the Chinese-Algerian partnership has created close economic ties between the two countries. Since 2013, China has been Algeria’s top importer. According to Analyze Africa, a digital database providing macroeconomic data from leading global sources, “China’s influence in Algeria’s economy is undoubtedly most pronounced in the construction sector. Chinese firms have won billions in government infrastructure contracts in the past 15 years.”

Before 2015, when energy prices were favorable and Algeria’s economy was stable, the government announced a housing development plan to combat the rapid population growth and urbanization that had catalyzed a serious housing crisis, which had pushed many Algerians into slums and even into homelessness.

The government program, one of the most ambitious in the region, promised free, modern housing to those in need. Chinese firms fulfilled the majority of this exorbitant demand for construction; Chinese corporations have built nearly 250,000 homes in the country since the beginning of the 2000s. In addition to low-cost housing projects, Chinese construction contracts have included an East-West highway, an airport and shopping centers.

The foundation of the Chinese-Algerian partnership began in the 1950s, when China was the first non-Arab country to recognize Algeria’s bid for independence from France. Though ultimately successful in securing independence, the Algerian revolution was marked by extremely violent terrorist acts and a high civilian death toll. The post-revolutionary government in Algeria failed to achieve true stability, and in 1991 a civil war erupted between the state and various Islamic rebel groups. Algerian civilians once again suffered extreme and brutal violence, and tens of thousands of citizens were “forcibly disappeared”, never again to be heard from by their families.

Now referred to as the “Black Decade” in Algeria, the national recovery and reconciliation process is, according to many, still incomplete. The government’s housing program has been regarded as a significant step toward reconciliation with the Algerian people, but experts have criticized its efficacy, and the state’s newly instituted austerity measures necessitated by depressed energy prices have delayed its completion.

China’s gift of an opera house, then, is especially symbolic as a “home” for all. A glance through the events promoted on the Opera d’Alger’s Facebook page is indicative of the inclusive spirit its directors hope to promote in Algerian society. One of the first performances considered to be of a world-class standard given at the opera house was “Beyond Bollywood”, a theatrical showpiece of various traditional and modern forms of Indian dance. Recent performances include a concert dedicated to the memory and legacy of Algerian culture given by the National Ensemble of the Algerian Opera, a performance entitled “Rhythms and Colors of Algeria” given by the Algerian Ballet, “Agora: Greek Musical Fusion” and a rock concert by Algerian band Ithrene.

Though a concert of selected opera scenes from repertory standards such as Verdi’s La Traviata and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro was given at the Opera d’Alger earlier this month, a complete opera has yet to be staged at Opera d’Alger. It is likely that the Chinese-Algerian partnership will be furthered by tour performances by the Peking Opera.

Noureddine Saoudi, the director of the house, stated in a recent interview that aspiring artists will soon be able to participate in free creative master classes at the Opera d’Alger, as he and his colleagues hope to see the opera become a “radiant centre of culture and arts”.

With a recent history fraught with conflict and violence, and fresh disappointment caused by the current economic downturn, the Chinese government’s gift of Opera d’Alger seems to have come just in time to renew the Algerian people’s hope to rebuild their communities and usher in a new era of pride in their homeland.

Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Counterfeit Medicine in AfricaThe global counterfeit medicine market is enormous, making up an estimated 10 percent of medicines sold globally. It is especially prominent in developing nations, in which up to 30 percent of all medications are found to be counterfeit or substandard. In Africa, this means that 120,000 people per year die from counterfeit anti-malarial drugs alone. Such is relatively unsurprising, when considering that an estimated one third of anti-malarial drugs in Sub-Saharan Africa are thought to be counterfeit.

One of the primary issues in tackling this issue of counterfeit medicine in Africa is a lack of public awareness; many individuals simply do not know they risk purchasing counterfeit or substandard medicine. Those entrenched in the cycle of poverty are most often the victims of counterfeit medicine, as they typically have a smaller variety of medicinal options available to purchase- meaning that they might unknowingly have no choice but to purchase a counterfeit drug. Further, the poor generally opt for cheaper medicines, unaware that such medicines are often counterfeit. This lack of variety and financial accessibility ensures that the counterfeit medicine market preys on the poor in particular.

In the effort to address the issue of counterfeit medicines, Nigeria has emerged as a world leader. The nation’s strategy focuses on three areas: public education regarding counterfeit medicines, increased regulation for medicinal imports to stem the flow of counterfeit medicines and reinforced points of entry to mitigate the smuggling of counterfeit medicines. Since it first began this strategy in 2001, Nigeria has successfully reduced the incidence of these drugs by 90 percent, clearly demonstrating that the issue can be successfully minimized through intentional actions.

Nigeria’s stance as the leader in the battle against counterfeit medicine made it the logical base for Sproxil – a company that has created a mobile phone-based technology to verify the authenticity of purchased medicines. Medicinal companies can register their products with Sproxil, receiving individualized scratch-codes to be placed on their products. Once the product reaches a consumer, the consumer scratches off the code and texts it to Sproxil, who then verifies the code in its database. If the code is not verified, the consumer is immediately alerted and given a number to report it. Considering the widespread use of technologies such as MobileMoney in Africa, the structure of Sproxil is ingenious and entirely conducive to the lifestyle of the average consumer.

To date, Sproxil has provided over five million anti-counterfeit labels, contributing to Nigeria’s strategy of public education regarding counterfeit medicines. The company seeks to expand beyond Nigeria, into Kenya and India next. The effectiveness of simple education and verification techniques in Nigeria serve as a wonderful example of successful strategies against counterfeit medicine in Africa, and also the world on the whole. If other developing nations are able to adopt a similar education and verification-based strategy to combat the counterfeit medicine market, the future is bright, indeed, for the increased mitigation of the issue on a global scale.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in NigerNiger is a landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa that struggles to feed its population. Three major factors that contribute to hunger in Niger are overpopulation, scarce water supply and armed conflict.

The food crisis in Niger is made worse by the staggering birth rates of the region. With an average of 7.6 children per woman, Niger’s population is growing fast.

This growth raises questions regarding how to feed these children. An estimated 2.5 million people have no secure source of food.

Niger has poor access to contraception, so the population is likely to continue increasing and put more strain on its already meager food supply.

Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou is working with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to better modernize the infrastructure of the country in an attempt to feed the growing population.

“We have launched the Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens initiative, aiming to reduce poverty — which mainly affects women and rural populations — to 31 percent and enabling the complete eradication of hunger in Niger by 2021,” Issoufou said.

Niger is a landlocked country located just beneath the Sahara Desert. As a result, finding access to water can be difficult.

Niger’s food sources are vulnerable since the country relies heavily on subsistence rain-fed agriculture. The variance in rainfall and the harsh climatic conditions contribute to the chronic food insecurity.

AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina addressed members of Niger’s government on Sept. 26, 2017, in an effort to show how the AfDB plans to help mitigate the lack of water.

“I am convinced that the construction of the Kandadji dam, one of the projects we are financing here in Niger, will enable your country to overcome challenges in agriculture and energy. Once complete, the Kandadji dam will produce 1.5 billion square meters, 125 megawatts, and will allow about 45,000 hectares of land to be irrigated.”

Ongoing Boko Haram-related conflict has caused an influx of Nigerian refugees. Population displacement has left locals in the Diffa region of Niger food-insecure.

Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, has rampaged across the region for years, forcing more than two million people to flee their homes and farms. Across the border of Niger and Nigeria, trade has come to a halt. Markets have shut down because vendors have nothing to sell.

Because of Boko Haram-induced terror in Nigeria, refugees flee north into Niger. This places even more stress on the overpopulated and food-insecure country.

Farmers in Niger and Nigeria have begun to change their tactics, planting crops that lay low to the ground so as not to be easily spotted by raiding soldiers. However, this is a desperate solution to hunger in Niger that only direct actions from world powers can fix.

Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Sub Saharan AfricaWith cancer claiming the lives of about 450,000 Africans per year, drug manufacturers – in a deal with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) – have decided to bring life-saving treatments to tens of thousands Africans in need of major healthcare improvements.

The agreement was made between two major pharmaceutical companies: Pfizer, located in the U.S. and Cipla, one of the giants in the Indian pharmaceutical world. Both will cut the prices of 16 cancer treatment drugs, including chemotherapies, for six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that are most affected by the disease.

The six countries receiving major discounts on cancer medicines are Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. A press release by the ACS reveals these are the countries in major need of health improvement, as 44 percent of all cancer cases occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa each year happen in these six targeted countries.

According to the Pharmaceutical Journal, there were an estimated 626,000 new cases of cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, leading to a total of 447,000 deaths by cancer. The World Health Organization predicts this figure could double by 2030 if nothing is done, with killings reaching almost one million Sub-Saharan Africans. In comparison to the U.S., with 90 percent of women surviving five years with breast cancer, Uganda and Gambia have survival rates of 46 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Some of the factors explaining the start of Africa’s cancer crisis are the lack of training for providers, shortages of medications and the insufficiency of diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Another barrier to quality care for cancer patients in Africa is linked to biology. In fact, there are differences in tumor biology between African cancer patients and patients in developed countries. As an example, African patients often have bigger tumors than patients in other regions, which demands much more care as well as adequate infrastructure to research solutions for curing the disease.

Funding is also a major problem for Sub-Saharan Africa, as global funding for cancer prevention and treatment in lower-income countries represents only two percent of global health spending. This is far lower than the health spending for diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

Having access to high-quality and affordable cancer treatment facilities and medicine in Sub-Saharan Africa has become a major goal for ACS and its partner organizations. On top of this agreement, they are preparing long term strategies that will improve the lack of care facing many African patients for years to come.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in GabonOn a continent where a number of countries struggle with the issue of hunger, the western African nation of Gabon has proven to be a relatively optimistic case. Hunger in Gabon has gone down in absolute terms over the past decade.

In general, western Sub-Saharan Africa has improved its hunger situation in recent years. The prevalence of undernourishment in the region has been reduced from 24.2 percent in 1992 to 9.6 percent in 2016. In Gabon alone, the proportion of undernourished people went from 9.5 percent to 2.7 percent between 1992 and 2016. For Gabon, one of the most notable gains has been the wellbeing of children. Prevalence of growth stunting in children has dropped from 26.7 to 17.5 percent and the under five mortality rate has decreased from 9.1 to 5.1 percent in the span of 1992 to 2016. A big part of this improvement in western Africa has been the developments in infrastructure in the region. This has led to increased agricultural productivity.

Another reason for the decrease in hunger, including hunger in Gabon, is the increased cooperation between western African states. Several organizations have sprung up, including the Economic Community of West African States, the West African Monetary and Economic Union, and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel. Additionally, the region has adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, which, among other things, aims to right gender imbalances, promote nutrition and encourage investment in agriculture.

There are still some factors that may be perpetuating hunger in Gabon. According to the Hunger Reduction Commitment Index Africa, Gabon lacks access to agricultural research, functioning social protection systems and equal access for women to agricultural land. Gabon also lacks a constitutional right to food. However, access to land was rated as “moderate,” which is an improvement.

Overall, hunger in Gabon still persists. However, the country is making strides in the right direction. If it continues to cooperate with its neighboring states and expand the access of its people – especially in the rural zones – to the resources they need, it will continue down the path to ending hunger.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Pixabay

Africa's Solar Powered Water CartsAccording to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the average distance that women and children in Africa and Asia walk to collect water is 6 kilometers. Often, they find that their destination contains unclean water that is unsafe for human consumption. Women and children, whose job is to collect water, are too busy to focus on self-empowering opportunities, such as education or health concerns, perpetuating the cycle of poverty in their local communities. But help could very well be on its way, thanks to a new, potentially lifesaving product known as the Watt-r. It is the very first of Africa’s solar-powered water carts.

The concept of the Watt-r is simple: this cart aims to make carrying water from sources to villages much easier and significantly more efficient. The cart is powered by clean, environmentally friendly solar energy, rather than human labor. Furthermore, the cart’s capacity is far more than a pair of human hands: in a single trip, it will likely be capable of carrying up to a dozen 20-liter containers of water. This is the same amount of cargo that 25 people would be able to carry.

When not in use, the cart stores solar energy for locals in villages to power cell phones and other small electronics, while the entrepreneur using it sells water.

The creators behind Africa’s solar-powered water carts have stated that they hope their product will go beyond transporting water – this could include crops, medicine, tools and many other types of cargo safely and efficiently.

However, the question still remains: how will it foster economic growth, if people are still walking to collect water?

Ultimately, the Watt-r’s goal is to not only improve the speed and efficiency of collecting water but also foster entrepreneurship of those collecting it. The creator of this product, Jose Paris, estimates that an entrepreneur making daily micro-payments on the cart would be able to pay it off in a mere three years. “There is a market for this service already and people are paying for it”, he says, citing already-existent kiosks in Nairobi selling cans of water in the streets.

Africa’s solar-powered water carts have the potential to completely revolutionize communities that employ them. The increase in transport efficiency and speed, electricity provision, and entrepreneurial opportunity allow them to be employed by the world’s 663 million who currently struggle to access reliable or clean water sources – and empower them to improve the stability of water, income and opportunity in their lives.

Brad Tait

Photo: Google

Education in Djibouti
Located directly north of Somalia and east of Ethiopia on Africa’s eastern coast, Djibouti is a small country – it only covers 8,950 square miles, making it slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. About 865, 267 people live in Djibouti and the country is also home to the U.S.’s largest African military base. Close ties to the U.S. have fortunately brought Djibouti foreign aid, which the country has put toward the welfare of its citizens, including improvements to education in Djibouti.


6 Facts about Education in Djibouti:

  1. Improving education in Djibouti is at the forefront of its government’s development policies. In 2000, the government of Djibouti began a reform of their education system, focusing on expanding access and improving the quality of schooling. More recently, in 2010, the government released another plan for educational improvements, spanning from 2010 to 2019. Some of the objectives included in this plan are to achieve 100 percent primary education enrollment by 2019, achieve gender equality by 2019 and to develop preschool education in collaboration with the private sector, communities and local institutions.
  2. In 2007, Djibouti’s primary gross enrollment rate – the percentage of children enrolled in primary school – was only 50 percent. In 2014, it hit a high of 68 percent, but has since dropped to 64.8 percent in 2016.
  3. Djibouti’s education is a 5-4-3 system, meaning primary or elementary school is five years, lower secondary or middle school is four years and upper secondary or high school is three years. Students in Djibouti begin school at age six. In 2016, about 64.3 percent of students completed primary school and only 44 percent of students completed lower secondary school.
  4. Although Djibouti is working toward gender equality in education, wide gaps between males and females still exist. For example, more female students are out of school than male students, with 46 percent of female students out of school in 2015 and 39.3 percent of male students out of school in the same year. Additionally, 68.6 percent of male students were enrolled in primary school in 2016, while only 60.9 percent of female students were enrolled in the same year.
  5. As of 2007, there were 81 public primary schools, 24 registered private primary schools, 12 secondary schools, and two vocational schools in Djibouti. Comparatively, in Delaware, where the population is 952,065 – making it close to that of Djibouti’s – there are 110 primary (elementary) schools and 64 secondary schools. While Djibouti’s primary education offerings by number of school is close to that of Delaware’s, its number of secondary schools is drastically lower, representing the sharp decrease in children continuing their education beyond primary school in Djibouti.
  6. The main causes of non-enrollment for students in Djibouti are poverty and social problems, legal-status issues, disability and sociocultural issues, including child labor.

Although education in Djibouti still lags behind more developed nations, efforts to improve education have already made strides forward for the children of Djibouti and improvements and plans have been crafted through to 2019. With continued attention and effort put toward education, the future for Djibouti youths is looking up and may very well continue to improve.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Migration and PovertyThe relationship between migration and poverty may seem a little far fetched. From a general perspective, the two ideas seem disparate. An immigration/emigration officer for deals with people moving from one country to another (sometimes across entire continents). Alternately, poverty (and the alleviation thereof) deals with providing food, water and shelter. However, the two are not just intertwined; poverty is often the causative agent for migration.

The history of human migration and poverty starts at the very dawn of humankind, when our ancestors have still lived in Africa. Back then, early humans did not have the technologies that we have today, such as a writing system or mathematics.

Why is this important? It’s important because back then, human tribes already knew (at some primitive level at least) that in order to find a location with better resources, they needed to move to somewhere else. Consequently, humans have spread (and adapted) to all corners of the planet.

Even today, people generally migrate in order to have better access to resources, be they food or work opportunities. For people living in poverty, such as migrants from Ireland during the potato crisis, it was food. For people who are not direly poor, such as academic migrants, they migrate in order to find academic or employment resources.

But then, one can ask: does migration benefit everyone? Surely, once all the land has been populated and with the academic job market being ferocious, there should be no migration? Well, unfortunately, the topic is infinitely more complex than that.

Thousands of years ago, the only useful resource was food. Nowadays, “wealth” is a complex term that encapsulates a variety of resources: food, money, familial relationships, job prospects, culture and so on.

Some people leave countries because they don’t like their culture, (Switzerland was once described as a prison) because of familial relationships, (U.S. Americans moving across the country to be with family) or for job prospects (Poles moving to the U.K.). Because these migrations have been going on for literally thousands of years, we now live in a world where everyone has traces of multiple ethnicities.

Immigration and emigration has provided individuals with the ability to gain important skills and responsibilities in different communities. Additionally, population movement can help thousands find safer homes. Consequently, mindlessly stopping migration from happening can prevent these individuals from not only rising up in life, but also from achieving basic safety and survival. In fact, MarketWatch recently posted an article explaining why the U.S. still needs immigrants.

This is why migration and poverty are connected closely to one another. Foreign policy should definitely consider this relationship when discussing poverty reduction. The problem of migration cannot be halted by scribbling a few laws in place. However, with the alleviation of poverty, fewer people will find the need to emigrate for reasons of survival and resource necessity.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

ChowberryChowberry is an app combating hunger and food waste in Nigeria. The app was invented by Nigerian software developer Oscar Ekponimo. According to the Nigerian Tribune, Ekponimo has partnered with the program Project FoodAccess to connect impoverished Nigerians and non-governmental organizations with cheap food.

Chowberry works through several steps. The first step involves local grocery stores. As the store’s food products near their expiration dates, the stores begins reducing the food prices each day. The app alerts Nigerians and food organizations about the lowered food prices. Project FoodAccess specifically matches the food with families they register need it the most. These include families with young mothers and female breadwinners.

Chowberry helps to alleviate the problem of hunger, which affects Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 223 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry or malnourished from 2014 to 2016. Nigeria itself has been declared unable to feed its entire population by the World Food Programme.

Ekponimo himself has a personal experience with hunger. After his father had a stroke and could not work, his family could not afford to feed themselves. Chowberry has given Ekponimo the opportunity to help others going through similar situations.

The app has had a significant impact within different areas in Nigeria. The three-month trial run has fed 200 families and 150 orphans. Many Nigerians have requested that the program expand to more communities.

Chowberry also has assisted the 20 participating grocery stores. Food that would have been thrown out before now gets sold to families in need at a profit to the store. The helpful software has gained international recognition as well, winning the Rolex Award of Enterprise in 2016.

Ekponimo hopes that he can expand Chowberry to feed the hungry in other African countries. With continued innovation from people like Ekponimo, technology like Chowberry could be used to help put an end to hunger in Africa and around the globe.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Zambia's AIDS Response Fast-TrackHIV/AIDS affects millions of people in Africa. Zambia and other countries in Africa are greatly impacted by HIV/AIDS daily. Even though Western countries are working to improve the HIV/AIDS rate in Africa, countries in Africa are working even harder to help their people. Zambia’s AIDS Response Fast-Track Strategy recently launched with important goals for 2017-2021.

Zambia’s AIDS Response Fast-Track Strategy sets out a plan to achieve the global Fast-Track prevention and 90-90-90 targets, where 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their HIV status. The strategy also aims to ensure that 90 percent of people who know they are HIV positive are accessing treatment and 90 percent of people on treatment have decreased their viral loads.

The strategy establishes clear approaches to increase the HIV response for everyone, set yearly targets at the national and state level and estimate costs and resources required. Zambia’s AIDS Response Fast-Track Strategy will provide more facility-based and community-led programs. The strategy will increase HIV testing and help counsel districts that have high HIV rates. The Fast-Track Strategy will also target key populations and partner with other healthcare services regarding HIV testing.

HIV treatment and care services will be guaranteed through the strategy. The most important goal of the strategy is to eliminate all new HIV infections among children. A significant impact has been made in the past few years on new HIV infections. New HIV infections have decreased from 69,000 in 2005 to 59,000 in 2016. The rate of women receiving medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission has increased to 87 percent.

Fast-Track Cities was launched on World AIDS Day in 2014 in Paris. Over 70 cities with high HIV rates have signed the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities Ending AIDS, including Zambia’s capital Lusaka. The strategy was created by a team led by the National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council and UNAIDS. The International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT), UNAIDS and the City of Paris are supporting Fast-Track Cities. By participating in this initiative, Zambia can bolster its own Fast-Track Strategy and bring better care and prevention to its people sooner.

Treasure Shepard

Photo: Flickr