Awake To Africa African Safaris Tours Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:01:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 All eyes are on Gaza, but what about the Congo’s Goma? Sun, 12 Oct 2014 21:04:48 +0000 5-m23-march-on-goma2While all eyes have been on the Gaza this week, another major conflict is slipping past the radar of most people. Unfortunately it appears that an African conflict is less interesting to the west and its media than a Middle Eastern one.

On Monday, armed rebels from the M23 (which stands for March 23 Movement) rebel movement took the city of Goma, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have vowed to “liberate” the rest of the country and topple the country’s President Kabila.

According to Reuters, the M23 were able to take control of the city, which borders Rwanda, after UN peacekeepers gave up and government officials retreated from the city after days of clashes between the rebels and Congolese army.

Rwanda’s role

Various leaders, including the UN, African Union and those from surrounding areas have called for the M23 to leave Goma, which the group is refusing to do. Rwanda has been accused by the United Nations of supporting the rebel group, an allegation which the Rwandan government has denied. In a report released last week the United Nations said that not only was Rwanda supporting the creation and expansion of the group, funnelling weapons, facilitating recruitment and providing military reinforcement, but that the M23 group is actually controlled by Rwandan Defense Minister General James Kabarebe.

Over one million people live in Goma and many have been fleeing for their lives. The charityUNICEF says that over 100,000 have been displaced as a result of recent fighting, with many of those affected being children under the age of 18.

The international reaction – it’s not enough

On Wednesday, President Obama wrote a letter to Congress in which he said: “The situation in or in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has been marked by widespread violence and atrocities that continue to threaten regional stability, continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States…For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency to deal with that threat and the related measures blocking the property of certain persons contributing to the conflict in that country.”

The UN Security Council has also unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the rebels’ seizure of the city and calling for sanctions against leaders and backers of M23 although it is unclear what, if any, impact any of this will have.

The real question is why this issue is not being given more attention and why more people are not calling for an end in the same way that they are in Gaza. Do African lives mean less?


The view from the ground – see our photos has an eyewitness on the ground, in the shape of British documentary filmaker Orlando von Einsiedel who is currently in the region working on a documentary film about the people in the Virunga National Park who are working to save the last of the world’s mountain gorillas.

Being so close to the conflict, von Einsiedel has been able to capture images and give us his own view on what is going on in the region. His photos are compelling and give a true sense of what is currently happening in the region.

]]> 0 Sat, 20 Apr 2013 16:59:46 +0000 April 2013 Posts

]]> 0
African Update What You Need to Read This Week Wed, 12 Dec 2012 16:00:34 +0000 Business:

Awake To Africa What To Read This Week

Mobile Phone User



Society + Politics:

Malawian President Joyce Banda

Photograph: Amos Gumulira/AFP/Getty Images


]]> 0
Africa is Booming, But Caution is Still Necessary… Mon, 26 Nov 2012 13:24:36 +0000 Tolu Ogunlesi

Fellow Guardian Africa Network contributor and journalist Tolu Ogunlesi has written a frightening and fascinating piece about being subject to an armed robbery in Lekki, Lagos just last week.

While we are all for promoting the good that’s going on in Africa, the reality is that such incidences – Tolu was forced into the boot of his car and was lucky to escape death – are not uncommon. Unfortunately, such incidences, as common as they are undermine progress.

Here’s an excerpt from Tolu’s article:

Around midnight on Saturday 11 November (make that Sunday 12 November), I drove into a band of armed robbers somewhere in Lekki.

Before then I, Otunba of the Lagos Night, had never – not in my seven or so years in this city – run into armed robbers. I knew, in that instant, these ones were not ‘friends’. I’m used to running into my ‘friends’ at night in Lagos.

Nigerian policemen, evil as they are, don’t haul you out of your car – without first asking for identification and ‘papers’. They don’t bark insane orders menacingly at a lone male in his car, don’t surround a lone male with AK47s pointed at him, don’t collect his car keys, don’t strip him of his watch, don’t empty his pockets in seconds. Yes, they ask you to open your boot; will ask you what the suitcase in the boot contains. But Nigerian policemen don’t ask you to get into the boot. They don’t slam the boot shut. They don’t pile into your car and drive off with you in the boot.

I know Nigerian policemen can be crazy and all. We’ll talk about that another time.

I spent the next hour in the boot of my car, unsure of my fate, unsure if these were car-snatchers, or something worse.

You can read the piece in full here.

This also comes off the back of a piece published last week about the realities of doing business in Africa. It gave a refreshingly honest account of the challenges that are still ever present and basically concluded that the statistics about the continent’s growth do not reflect what it is like on the ground. It is worth a read.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The statistics often associated with the rise of Africa as a business destination don’t reflect the reality on the ground,” said Dianna Games, CEO of Africa@Work – a company dedicated to facilitating business in Africa – at a roundtable discussion held at South Africa’s UCT Graduate School of Business recently.

She said that the main insights into African business that emerged from her research for her latest book, Business in Africa: Corporate Insights, were that the reported strengths of African economies are not what they seem, the fastest growing economies having the least diversification; there is a growing suspicion among governments of multinational corporations; the potential for meaningful acquisitions and partnerships has been greatly ignored; supply chain development is slumbering in the African sun; there is very little commitment to intra-regional trade; a stubborn ignorance persists among South Africans about the different parts of Africa; and unskilled workers, poor brand and reputation building, and ownership of property remain key obstacles to overcome.

“Only once you’re on the ground, running a business, does the real Africa emerge; unique in every way and bafflingly complex.”

She said that several investors have failed, over-eager to capitalise on Africa’s commercial opportunities but ill-informed about how to go about doing that.

“In an era of Afro-optimism we fail to see how small and dysfunctional these countries and economies are,” said Games. “The biggest economies could come to a complete standstill overnight.”

None of this should really come as any surprise – after all, Africa’s problems have not suddenly gone away. Both Ogunlesi’s piece and the article above, however, should give people some food for thought. Things are booming, but caution is still necessary.

]]> 0
Beyond The Single Story of The African Woman Tue, 20 Nov 2012 15:52:47 +0000 0 White House Launches Doing Business In Africa Campaign Mon, 12 Nov 2012 13:19:41 +0000 Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

Keen to bolster its relationship with Africa, the White House today launched its Doing Business in Africa campaign. At an event in Johannesburg, South Africa, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank gave a statement in which she emphasized America’s ongoing commitment to deepening trade, investment and economic ties with the continent.

]]> 0
Africa: How It Became The New Bandwagon Tue, 02 Oct 2012 04:41:56 +0000 While there are those of us who have been writing about, discussing, dissecting, showing different perspectives of, and living and breathing Africa for a long time, it is only in recent years that western media has started talking about Africa and Africans in terms beyond the usual AIDS, corruption, starving children, dictators, internet scam, one-dimensional stereotypes.

However, it is very clear now, with today’s launch of The Guardian’s Africa network that the tide has turned and that a more positive view of Africa is becoming more commonplace in the media. At the very least, if positivity is not the order of the day, there is – thankfully – a lot more interest and curiosity about the Africa that exists outside of the usual stories.

Given that the mantra of many newsrooms is “if it bleeds, it leads”, it would seem strange for publications to turn away from writing about the worst aspects of African life and focus on its successes. If misery loves company, please believe that misery also sells a large number of newspapers and grabs multitudes of online eyeballs. Once in a while, though, publications like a story with a twist in its tail; a story that challenges  perceptions because it goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. Africa is one of those.

In reality, the change in western media’s perspective on Africa has come about primarily as a result of a change in global economics. As European and American economies began to contract and slide deeper into recessions, economists noticed that some the economies of some countries, countries that they least expected, were doing the reverse. They also noticed that a number of these economies, such as Ghana and Angola,  were African. Indeed 7 of the 10 world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa. While western nations have been experiencing growth of less than 3% per year, a number of African nations have seen impressive growth of over 5% year on year.

Business publications like the Financial Times and The Economist (which, ironically, had deemed Africa a ‘hopeless continent’ just a decade ago) started to discuss these ‘emerging’ economies in new terms. They started to cover success stories. They started to look at the opportunities and possibilities in these underserved and untapped markets. Analysts and investors started paying closer attention with management consulting firms like McKinsey publishing special reports on Africa’s rise. Foreign companies started opening up shop.

Another reason for the shift in perspective was that western leaders started to become increasingly threatened by, suspicious of and concerned about the closer economic ties that were being forged between Africa and China, as well as Africa’s relationship with India and Russia. While the west was busy disparaging the continent, refusing to budge from its paternalistic, colonialist, Africa-needs-us mentality, China, India and Russia were getting on with investing heavily in Africa apparently sans the golden handcuffs that usually come with western aid/investment.

awake to africa

From a foreign policy point of view, China’s inroad into Africa is of particular concern to western leaders (America in particular), because China’s communist influence poses a clear ideological threat to western democratic ideals. With Africa still in the early stages of democratic rule in many nations and its political affiliations still fragile, western leaders feel the need to keep an eye on what is going on there for fear of further loosing their footing.

In the China v America competition for influence, power and ideas, the alliance between China and this unexpected third party (Africa) became media fodder because it was surprising. Very few in the western media expected to see Africans and the Chinese getting on so well.

The rapid spread of technology also meant that we Africans could use the internet to start telling our own stories. No longer were we relegated to being gazed at from afar, subject to the skewed perspective of  journalists who couldn’t locate Africa on a map let alone understand the continent’s history, and diversity of cultures, customs and present day realities.

It also meant that Africans who had been raised in the diaspora, and/or who were studying, living or working there also had a voice. They could connect online and share ideas. Again, as recessions started taking hold in the west, African who had emigrated started going home, taking their education, skills, ideas and paradigms gleaned and mixed and created outside of the continent back to the continent. A reverse brain drain – a brain gain as it has been dubbed – began to take place. Publications like ARISE magazine started popping up, showcasing what has been called Afropolitan culture.

There are more reasons – such as the huge population growth in Africa, a growing middle class, a large youth population, the rise of African culture outside of Africa, such as the growth of the African music industry and Nigeria’s film industry Nollywood, that has fuelled this interest. All of these things mean more money: more opportunity for investors, more money coming into Africa and more money available for Africans to spend. The African picture now looks like growth, growth and more growth – and western media could not ignore this reality for too long.

Admittedly, the US has been slower to pick up on these changes in its media although that is also starting to change. I personally know that the US government is keen to open America’s eyes to the realities of the opportunities in Africa. Just last week the Congressional Black Caucus hosted its annual Africa Braintrust event. It was entitled: “Africa Rising: A continent of opportunity”.

I’m glad that things are changing, because there’s nothing worse than having to read stereotype after stereotype about oneself and one’s people and land. It’s even worse when that narrative is in the public sphere and others relate to you as though it is the absolute truth.

Yet, I am somewhat wary of this mainstream bandwagon jumping. It is, after all, Africans who have fuelled this interest. We were the ones who have been showcasing and talking about Africa all this while, leading it to this tipping point. We talked about it when nobody wanted to hear us, when their idea of who we were meant more than anything else.

So, it’s vital that Africans continue to have the say about our continent. Now that Africa is becoming trendy it will be all too easy for our voices to be drowned out, replaced by writers on the hunt for the next story, replacing our voice and our perspective with their own.

Let’s keep on talking, keep on sharing, keep on letting people hear our perspectives. Finally, the rest of the world is now more open than ever to hearing us. Africa is indeed on the rise.

]]> 0
Time Magazine photos capture ‘The Two Sides of Nigeria’ Mon, 01 Oct 2012 04:52:58 +0000 Here’s an oldie but goodie that we dug up from the archives…Check out this fascinating 2007 Time magazine photo essay which showcases “The two sides of Nigeria” from the poverty of the slums to the lavish side of of Nigerian life evidenced by Lebanese poker players, to glitzy large Nigerian weddings.


]]> 0