The other side of Africa

A blog about the other side of Africa. The one not shown by the media! The positive Africa, Africa as its viewed by Africans, people who have actually been there, people who live there.... Not ur typical discovery channel Africa with people dying from maleria!! Welcome to the True Face of Africa!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

IBM links researchers, African students

IBM Corp. is placing bets on African countries where it has launched a mentoring program for college students.

The project, called Makocha Minds, using the Swahili word for "teachers," puts 250 of IBM's top researchers in regular contact with engineering, math and computing students at universities in 10 sub-Saharan countries: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Botswana, Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria.

The participants chat mainly by e-mail or phone, but in-person meetings could happen eventually.

The students usually want general guidance on becoming successful or pursuing advanced degrees, rather than help with their homework, said Mark Dean, head of IBM'S Almaden Research Center in Silicon Valley and leader of the project.

Dean said the project lays groundwork for IBM to do business in Africa, where potentially groundbreaking research is being pursued on diverse topics like plant genomics and nuclear power.

"We believe that Africa is that next emerging opportunity," he said. "We need to be familiar with different cultures and languages and operations in the African countries. What we want is the African people and African businesses to look at IBM as a trusted provider."

Other technology companies have tried strengthening their interactions in Africa, including Google Inc., whose foundation has backed business-plan competitions in Ghana and Tanzania. However, experts in international technology development said IBM's mentoring program appears unique

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'Fast economic growth' in Africa

The economic outlook for Africa is improving after a decade of growth of 5.4% for the continent that matches global rates, the World Bank has said.
The trend indicates that a fundamental change is occurring in Africa, a World Bank official told the BBC.
But the bank's latest report, Africa Development Indicators 2007 (ADI), says ongoing investment is needed to sustain long-term development on the continent.

Otherwise, a split may grow between affluent nations and stagnant ones.

The report looked at more than 1,000 indicators covering economic, human and private-sector development, governance, the environment and aid.

It concludes that growth in many African countries appears to be fast and steady enough "to put a dent on the region's high poverty rate and attract global investment".

The World Bank's chief economist for Africa, John Page, said he is "broadly optimistic" that there's a fundamental change going on in Africa.

For the first time in about almost 30 years we've seen a large number of African countries that have begun to show sustained economic growth at rates that are similar to those in the rest of the developing world and actually today exceed the rate of growth in most of the advanced economies," he told the BBC.

The key, said Mr Page, was that "Africa has learnt to trade more effectively with the rest of the world, to rely more on the private sector, and to avoid the very serious collapses in economic growth that characterized the 1970s, 1980s and even the early 1990s."

The report points to wide variations in Africa, however, highlighting three distinct groups of countries:

The big oil-exporting countries
Those with expanding, diversified economies
And those which have few natural resources, are conflict-prone and are experiencing slow or no growth.

Uneven growth rates between these groups risks splitting the continent between countries which become affluent and eradicate poverty and those which continue to stagnate.

For example, 60.5% of total net foreign direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005 went to oil exporting countries.

South Africa and Nigeria account for more than half of the region's gross domestic product.

Poor infrastructure and the high cost of exporting from Africa compared to other regions of the world has been holding the continent back rather than any failures of African enterprise or workers.

Volatility in sub-Saharan Africa has dampened investment, the report says.

Corruption is also a factor that may limit needed investments in education and health.

"Perhaps the easiest illustration of that is in the resource-rich economies where the resources often accrue to a small number of corporations and to government," said Mr Page.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nigeria: Policy on Foreign Ownership of Banks Out December

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday disclosed that it would by December 31, 2007 release a new framework on foreign ownership of Nigerian commercial banks.

It noted that foreign ownership of local banks had set back Nigeria's economic development.

The governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo made the statement in Enugu at the 11th edition of a seminar organised for finance correspondents and business editors.

THISDAY had exclusively reported a few weeks ago that the Bank would soon launch a new framework on foreign ownership of Nigerian banks.

Soludo who spoke in New York at the "Nigeria Meets the World Summit" organised by THISDAY had hinted that owing to growing foreign interest in the Nigerian banking sector, the apex bank would soon roll out a framework that would restrict foreign ownership of banks in the country.

He said the framework would deter foreign institutions from taking over the top ten banks in Nigeria, as they collectively account for 71 per cent of the country's banking system.

Speaking at the seminar in Enugu yesterday, Soludo said the CBN was currently putting finishing touches to a study on foreign ownership of banks the world over and Nigeria in particular, which would culminate in the formulation of a formal policy.

Soludo explained that the decision of the CBN was premised on what it had observed in terms of the relationship between ownership and control of the nation's financial system and economic development.

"We want to clarify this issue and that is what we have said repeatedly about limiting foreign ownership in banks. We are currently working on the policy and before the end of the year, we shall come up with a clear framework.

"It does not have much to do with corporate governance but has to do with the empirical evidence about the relationship between ownership and control of the financial system and economic development of a nation especially at the level of our own economic development," he stressed.

He however, explained that the Central Bank is not preventing foreign banks from investing in the economy, stressing that what the regulatory authority would not allow is the acquisition of just any local bank.

"Foreign banks are allowed to come into Nigeria and set up shop. If they meet the N25 billion requirement, we will give them a fresh licence but if they want to take over some of the existing ones, we will be reluctant to approve that.

"We are open to foreigners coming in and applying for a licence. We know if the history of the ones in existence is anything to go by, they are unlikely to be as aggressive as First Bank or United Bank for Africa or any of the Nigerian banks, in going out to every nook and cranny of the country and being very responsive to the local needs of the Nigerian economy," he stated.

Painting scenarios of foreign ownership of banks in Singapore and Mexico, he pointed out: "Singapore introduced a formal policy allowing foreign banks to come there and operate, and there are over a hundred of them. But they went to the extreme of restricting the number of branches that they could have. You are allowed to do anything and everything except attempting to acquire any of the three conglomerates, which constitute the local banks.

"The three local conglomerates constitute 90 percent of banking infrastructure there. There is sound logic to this. Lots of countries in the world restrict even entry of foreign financial institutions. This is the heart beat of the economy, if you close it, the economy stops breathing."

He made references to the Mexican experience where they gave foreign institutions free rein to the extent that today, foreigners own about 90 per cent of the entire banking sector.

The Mexican government, Soludo disclosed, is today compelled to establish government-owned banks to carter for the development of the economy," he said.

He cited the case of Citibank, which has been in the country for about 25 years with only five or six branches. He also noted that most of the decisions on its day to day operations are taken from outside the country.

"Now if you study the operations of foreign owned banks in Nigeria, Citibank has been here for about 25 years. Yet, it has only about five or six branches across different locations, and decision making is obviously taken from somewhere else, including decisions on loans," he explained.

Consequently, he assured the CBN "would soon come out with a formal paper because we are studying this globally and also in Nigeria."

CBN he concluded, has observed the fundamental significant differences in terms of the behaviour emanating essentially from ownership whether it is foreign-owned or Nigerian-owned and "we will be able to elaborate on this when we bring out the policy and background study.

"We are lucky that in Nigeria, up till this moment we have a banking system dominated by Nigerians, and it is of strategic importance for us to manage it effectively," Soludo said.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

A very controversial article by Uzodinma Iweala, the author of "Beasts of No Nation," a novel about child soldiers. Any comments?

Last fall, shortly after I returned from Nigeria, I was accosted by a perky blond college student whose blue eyes seemed to match the "African" beads around her wrists.

"Save Darfur!" she shouted from behind a table covered with pamphlets urging students to TAKE ACTION NOW! STOP GENOCIDE IN DARFUR!

My aversion to college kids jumping onto fashionable social causes nearly caused me to walk on, but her next shout stopped me.

"Don't you want to help us save Africa?" she yelled.

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."

There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one's cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West's prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ousmane Sembène, 84, Dies; Led Cinema’s Advance in Africa


Ousmane Sembène, the Senegalese filmmaker and writer who was a crucial figure in Africa’s postcolonial cultural awakening, has died at his home in Dakar, Senegal. His family, which announced his death on Sunday, said Mr. Sembène had been ill since December. He was 84.

Widely seen as the father of African cinema, Mr. Sembène took up filmmaking in the 1960s, in part because he believed that film could reach a wider and more diverse African audience than literature. “Black Girl” (1965), his debut feature, is commonly referred to as the first African film. Combining realistic narrative techniques with elements of traditional African storytelling, it tells of a young woman named Diouana who commits suicide after traveling to Europe with her French employers.

Diouana’s identity crisis foretold some of the central themes of Mr. Sembène’s later work — he directed 10 features and numerous shorts — and of the nascent African cinema more generally. The tensions between tradition and modernity and between newly independent African nations and their erstwhile colonial masters are sources of drama and comedy in his films, which are nonetheless focused on the lives of ordinary people, frequently women.

“Xala” (1974), which many critics consider his finest film, takes a humorous look at polygamy, traditional African medicine and the contrasts between urban and rural life. Neither mocking nor nostalgic in its treatment of traditions, it is as much driven by the personalities of its characters as by its ideas about African life. At the same time, the characters’ foibles are clearly symbols of political and social dysfunction.

A similar logic obtains in later films like “Guelwaar” (1993) and “Faat-Kiné” (2001). Writing about the latter movie in The New York Times, Elvis Mitchell noted that some of its scenes could have been “whipped up into a tempest of tear-jerking” but that Mr. Sembène’s “trademark empathy” and sense of detail served as antidotes to melodrama. Even when he addressed painful and controversial subjects — as in “Moolaadé” (2004) which chronicles a middle-aged woman’s campaign to halt the practice of female genital cutting in her village — Mr. Sembène tempered moral fervor with warmth and humor.

Ousmane Sembène was born on Jan. 1, 1923, in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. He left school at 14 and moved to Dakar. There and in France, he worked as a fisherman and an auto mechanic, among other jobs, before being drafted by the French Army in World War II. His experiences as a dockworker in Marseilles formed the basis of one of his novels, “The Black Docker.”

He studied film at Gorky Studio in Moscow, turning to the medium because, as he put it in 2005, “everything can be filmed and transported to the most remote village in Africa.” After making three short films, he submitted the script for “Black Girl” to the Film Bureau of the French Ministry of Cooperation, an agency set up by the government of Charles de Gaulle to assist African filmmakers. The script was rejected, and while Mr. Sembène was able to complete the film independently, some of his later films would run into trouble with both French and Senegalese authorities. “Mandabi” (“The Money Order,” 1968), was attacked in Africa for its portrayal of political corruption and economic devastation, and “Emitai” (1972) was suppressed in France for five years because of its harsh depiction of colonialism.

“He could criticize Africa, he could criticize racism and he could criticize colonialism,” said Manthia Diawara, professor of comparative literature and Africana studies at New York University, in a telephone interview on Sunday. “He never spared anybody.”

In spite of occasional controversy, Mr. Sembène’s mastery and originality were celebrated both in Africa, where he served as an inspiration for later filmmakers, and internationally. He won prizes at the Venice Film Festival in 1968 (for “Mandabi”) and 1988 (for “Camp de Thiaroye”), and at Cannes in 2004 (for “Moolaadé”). He was a founder, in 1969, of FESPACO, the biennial festival of film and television held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Cheick Oumar Sissoko, a fellow filmmaker and the Malian minister of culture, said that with Mr. Sembène’s death, “African cinema has lost one of its lighthouses.”

Mr. Diawara added: “He really is the most important African filmmaker. The one that all subsequent filmmakers have to be measured against.”

The Sun has set on Ousmane Sembene

A Filmmaker Who Found Africa’s Voice


Ousmane Sembène, by consensus the father of African cinema, was nearly 40 when he started making films. (He was 84 when he died over the weekend at his home in Dakar). By 1960, the year that Senegal, his native country, won its independence from France, he was already a novelist of some reputation in Francophone African circles.

He had also played a significant role in political and aesthetic debates that had gathered force as the postwar movement toward African decolonization accelerated. He took a radical, pro-independence line against what he took to be the assimilationist tendencies of proponents of Négritude, the more established literary movement associated with writers like Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor.

Senghor, a poet and scholar (and the first African elected to the Académie Française), went on to become Senegal’s first president. (He died in 2001.) Mr. Sembène, in his role as Africa’s leading filmmaker, would remain a thorn in Senghor’s side, as uncompromising a critic of Africa’s post-liberation regimes as he had been of French colonial domination.

In a 2004 interview with “L’Humanité,” the daily newspaper of the French Communist Party (which Mr. Sembène joined as a dockworker in Marseilles in the 1940s), he noted that “in more than 40 years since Senegal’s liberation we have killed more Africans than died from the start of the slave trade.”

In films like “Ceddo” and “Xala” he pointed an angry, often satirical finger at the failures and excesses of modern African governments, Senghor’s in particular, and his unsparing criticism made him a controversial figure.

Nonetheless, it is hard to overstate his importance, or his influence on African film and also, more generally, on African intellectual and cultural self-perception. Mr. Sembène was in many ways not only Senghor’s political and aesthetic antagonist but also his biographical and temperamental opposite. Senghor, who had received an elite education in metropolitan France, believed, at least in the 1950s, that Africans in territories ruled by France could carve out an identity for themselves within the larger cosmos of French language and civilization.

Mr. Sembène, whose formal schooling ended in the sixth grade, received his French education not at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, but rather on the Marseilles docks and in the radical trade union movement. Like Sékou Touré and Frantz Fanon, his allies in the radical wing of the anti-colonialist movement, he believed that Africans would experience true liberation when they threw off European models and discovered their own, homegrown versions of modernity.

“What was unique about Sembène was he began to challenge the dominant figure, Senghor,” recalled Manthia Diawara, a professor of Africana studies at New York University who grew up in Mali in the 1960s. “He valorized African languages over French. He began to say that independence had failed. He celebrated the equality of Africa with Europe. And it was very good for us to see a man who was self-taught, who did not come out of the French educational system, who went on to write these books.”

The books were quickly superseded by his films. “I came back to Dakar, and I made a tour of Africa,” Mr. Sembène told L’Humanité, reflecting on his return home in 1960 after nearly 20 years in France. “I wanted to know my own continent. I went everywhere, getting to know people, tribes, cultures. I was 40 years old, and I wanted to make movies. I wanted to give another impression of Africa. Since our culture is primarily oral, I wanted to depict reality through ritual, dance and performance.”

And so he developed a filmmaking style that was populist, didactic and sometimes propagandistic, at once modern in its techniques and accessible, at least in principle, to everyone. He frequently made use of nonprofessional actors and wrote dialogue in various African languages.

“The publication of a book written in French would only reach a minority,” he said. In contrast, he envisioned a “fairground cinema that allows you to argue with people.”

The arguments take place within his films as well as around them. In “Moolaadé” (2004), one of his last movies, a group of women rises up against the traditional practice of female genital mutilation, challenging the authority of the village elders as well as of the priestesses who perform the ritual. The film’s structure is antiphonal (given Mr. Sembène’s Marxist background, you might say dialectical), allowing the defenders and opponents of tradition to have their say before justice and enlightenment prevail.

Like all of Mr. Sembène’s films — he made 10 features in all — “Moolaadé” is grounded in African daily life. And yet, to a non-African viewer, it rarely feels exotic or strange. As an artist, Mr. Sembène was both a populist and a universalist.

“He showed us a way out of tribalism,” said Mr. Diawara, an expert on African cinema (and the co-director of a 1994 documentary about Mr. Sembène) in a recent telephone interview. “Sembène’s films are translatable. They’re never going to be blockbusters, but you can show one of them in China, in France, in Africa, in the United States, and people will know what it’s about.”

Mr. Sembène was thus a thoroughly African artist, one who achieved global stature by virtue of his concentration on local matters. He may, indeed, have found a bigger audience at international festivals outside Africa than he did at home. But that may have more to do with global conditions of distribution than with the movies themselves, which are lively, funny, pointed and true.

Mr. Diawara recalled a story that Mr. Sembène liked to tell about his travels across Africa in the ’60s. Mr. Sembene had finished showing his film “Money Order” in a small town in Cameroon when he was approached by a local policeman, whose attention made him a little nervous.

“Where did you get that story?” the officer wanted to know. Mr. Sembène replied that the plot, which chronicles the chaotic and corrupting effects of money from France on a Senegalese family, was his own invention. “But it happened to me,” the policeman said.

Fatiha (Part3)

When she woke up, she had the lower part of her body bind and couldn’t feel anything. Her eyes were dull and she was tired after a long battle between life and death. Fatiha's mother had circumcised her daughter as she was herself circumcised and as her own mother was. Nobody could blame her since she just followed traditions which were all she knew. She believed that circumcision was the best thing that could happen to her daughter and that without it her daughter would never fully be a woman. At an early age, she had learned to follow tradition and culture, to be submissive and suffer in silence so that she would be happy in this life and the next. She was feeling the pain of her daughter but she thought it was a necessary pain and a step that she had to take towards her life as a future woman.

After that episode, Fatiha never blew kisses to the wind for Mounir. Fatiha matured and grew up from night to day. She entered in the mutilator’s hut as a young innocent child and she exited as a woman. She was a child, with the body of a child and the eyes of a woman. From that day on, Fatiha never smiled. Some people say that when she grew old she would take long walks alone and look at the stars mumbling sentences that only she understood. She would repeat the word 'Mounir' with tears in her eyes. Those who knew her, say that she knew well the art of life and was an artist of nature.

God is without any doubt, the artist par excellence, the only black dot in his master-work was to create men who had the choice between being humans and being subhuman.

The End


Sahel: a part of Africa
Touareg: African ethnic group

An estimated 85 million to 110 million women and girls alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is the term used for removal of all or just part of the external parts of the female genitalia