Here’s the latest cross-posting from my Africa Update newsletter! We’ve got the paradox of powdered milk in cattle-loving Somalia, the national airline of Chad, challenges of urban planning in Kenya, free African documentaries online, and more.
West Africa: Because Dakar lacks public space, kids play on the beaches, despite a high risk of drowning in the strong Atlantic currents. Stereotypes about single women in Nigeria make it difficult for them to rent apartments on their own. “Many Nigerian small businesses are products of ‘necessity entrepreneurship’ and therefore would not exist if there were more large-scale employers offering better salaries.” This was a thought-provoking article about why former combatants in Côte d’Ivoire generally refrained from going to work as mercenaries in Mali.
Central Africa: There’s a large Congolese refugee population in Kenya, but they lack access to support since they usually stay in Nairobi rather than in designated camps. An activist group in the DRC has launched an online portal to track the quality of election implementation. Kabila has finally named his successor in the DRC’s presidential race, but there’s little reason to expect that this will change the quality of governance. The competitiveness of elections is limited by the fact that all Congolese presidential candidates must pay US$100,000 to get onto the ballot. Lisez cet article : « Au Rwanda, la transformation agricole à marche forcée. » Chad is launching a new national airline, which is clearly the most important priority for a poor, conflict-prone country.
East Africa: Read about the informal courts maintaining order in IDP camps in South Sudan. Over 40,000 Kenyans have been denied compensation for alleged torture during the colonial era after a British judge said their case exceeded the statute of limitations. Kenyan activist groups are repurposing famous dates from the democracy struggle to call attention to extrajudicial killings. This is a great story about the challenges of setting up Kenya’s first domestic athletic shoe brand. Nairobi tried to get its private buses to go cashless, but they failed to get buy-in from an obvious constituency: the drivers. Many Somalis drink powdered milk instead of fresh because a lack of regulation makes fresh milk dangerous, but one dairy is trying to change that. Deaf footballers in Somalia have set up their own league after being blocked from joining existing leagues. This was an interesting piece about path dependence and the end of sanctions in Sudan, where people who are accustomed to working outside the formal banking system are reluctant to re-engage with it.
Southern Africa: In Botswana, a new antiretroviral drug could save the lives of HIV patients, but there are concerns about whether it may lead to birth defects, since pregnant women are rarely included in studies of drug safety. The Magamba Network offers regular polling data on citizen sentiment in Zimbabwe.
Urban planning in Kenya: Residents of poor areas in Nairobi are mapping their neighborhoods to make it more difficult for the government to demolish them and then claim they don’t have records of who lived there. Kibera residents are also speaking out against the “poverty tourism” which brings foreign visitors to their neighborhoods to gawk at them. Kenya’s president has a plan to build social housing, but one critic points out that the mortgage rates are still out of reach for most people who really need access to better living conditions. Buildings in Nairobi are being demolished for encroaching on rivers, but some commentators are asking how the demolitions will meet the city’s broader mission of urban regeneration.
Infrastructure week: Kenya and Ethiopia are close to completing construction for cross-border electricity transmission, in a step towards creating a regional power pool. Foreign architects are accused of building schools for form rather than function in Nairobi. The perils of distributive politics are clear in Uganda, where a politician destroyed boreholes he had installed in his constituency after he lost an election. In Kampala, race-based restrictions on housing from the colonial era are still visible in the build environment today.
Arts and culture: A Beninese artist planted a copy of a 19th century royal throne at an archaeological dig to protest the fact that the original throne is held at a museum in France. A dozen authors from the Middle East and Africa who were invited to the Edinburgh International Book Festival had their visas denied for unclear reasons. AfriDocs has a number of African documentaries available to watch online for free. Check out the online resources for teaching African decolonization at the National History Center.
Fellowships and workshops: The Women for Africa Foundation offers visiting positions at Spanish centers of excellence in science for female researchers from Africa. If you’re a writer in Nairobi, don’t miss this great writing workshop being offered by Nanjala Nyabola and others on August 28. Journalists should apply for the African Investigative Journalism Conference from October 29 – 31.