FRIDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2016

There is only one race, the human race

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The ancient origins, anatomical, linguistic and genetic distinctiveness of southern African San and Khoikhoi people are matters of confusion and debate. They are variously described as the world’s first or oldest people; Africa’s first or oldest people, or the first people of South Africa.

They are in fact two evolutionarily related but culturally distinct groups of populations that have occupied southern Africa for up to 140,000 years. Their first-people status is due to the fact that they commonly retain genetic elements of the most ancient Homo sapiens.

This conclusion is based on evidence from specific types of DNA. This evidence also demonstrates that other sub-Saharan human populations retain genetic bits and pieces of DNA from non-KhoiSan primordial humans. These pre-date their out-of-Africa colonisation of the balance of the world.

What is important in the debate on the origins of, and diversity among, population… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2015

Poverty is big business in the West

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At the end of World War II, with Europe reduced to rubble, the United States put into action the Marshall Plan to rebuild the torn continent. Inundating Europe with money resulted in a succession of economic miracles that spread through the continent and launched it to pre-war economic levels in less than a decade.

Another consequence of the War was decolonization, which rippled across Africa and the rest of the colonial world over the next 20 years. The countries born from this faced the enormous task of lifting millions of people formerly subjugated under colonial rule out of grinding poverty. After the Marshall Plan for Europe, foreign aid was given to developing countries to assist them, too.

Two generations later, little progress has been made, and that which has been made has had very little to do with foreign aid. What went wrong?

Poverty Inc., a film directed by Michael Matheson… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

THURSDAY, 12 NOVEMBER 2015

On the cusp of an African energy revolution

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It is no secret that much of Africa has a scanty network of traditional infrastructure like telephone lines, banking services and electric grids. But it is also becoming less secret that, paradoxically, this deprivation is actually an opportunity in the modern world. The continent can afford to experiment without breaking anything important.

Take Kenya’s reverse electrical revolution.

Kenya produces 2,294 MW of electricity using a mixture of hydroelectric stations, oil-driven generation plants and geothermal sources. (For scale, Itaipu Dam on the border between Paraguay and Brazil alone generates 14,000 MW -- a mere 17 percent of the county’s power.) The result is that, as of 2015, only 28 percent of Kenyans are connected to the spotty electricity grid, leaving the rest of the country to contend with the danger and unhealthy side effects of smoky hurricane and tin lamps to light up the nights, and bedtimes… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 2 NOVEMBER 2015

In Liberia, cultural colonialism takes a large toll on the family

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Among the Liberian victims of the Ebloa epidemic last year were scores of
single mothers who left young families behind. Photo: Plan UK

 

Families in the West face problems different to those in African countries, as some of the African participants in the recent Vatican Synod on the Family pointed out. And yet the mainstream media paid very little attention to these voices. At the end of the three-week event, Bishop Anthony Borwah of Gbarnga, Liberia (pictured below), spoke with Fabrizio Piciarelli of Rome-based Family and Media about the challenges facing the family in his country.

Bishop Borwah, who lost who lost two brothers in Liberia’s first civil war (1987-1990), wrote his Licentiate thesis in the Communications School of the Pontifical Cross of the Holy Cross on the media and  conflict. It is entitled: The Role of Journalism in the… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

THURSDAY, 29 OCTOBER 2015

Nairobi’s matatus: in the midst of chaos, a transport system that works

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Photo: Medium.com

 

Advancements in urban public transportation have spawned some of the most advanced technologies in the world. Some cities have turned it into an art. For instance, Tokyo’s urban rail efficiently moves 40 million people daily on over 4700 km of track.

However, the case is not as simple in many other cities. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, has more than 3 million people, according to the 2009 census. The city moves around on over 20,000 matatus – buses, minibuses and vans – which reach practically all its corners and beyond, all the time.

While part of Tokyo’s urban rail, like the urban transit systems of most cities in the developed world, is owned or subsidised by the government, all of Nairobi’s matatus are owned and operated privately. The government is only involved in regulating and taxing the industry, paving the way for a flowering of private enterprise… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2015

What Africa loses as villagers move to the city

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I have spent a total of less than five years in my home village, and therefore know very few of the people there, even extended family members. This, combined with my short-sightedness, has made me cross paths along the village roads with many people who expect me to know them without saluting them. When they do greet me, they are treated to the unpleasant surprise that I don’t know them by name. As a result, I have been labelled more than once as being rude.

In Africa, greetings are essential to the fabric of life, and culture is vibrant with greetings for all times, seasons and occasions. Greetings are not a luxury you get when you go for business meetings, they are expected of you whenever you meet with someone, anyone. The greeting themselves constitute a ceremony, and no business begins until everyone knows how the wife of uncle… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER 2015

From Nollywood to New Nollywood

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Trailer for Thy Will Be Done, a recent Nollywood film.

The video-film industry of Nigeria has been described as one of the greatest explosions of popular culture that Africa has ever seen. It is the first economically self-sustainable film industry in Africa.

Initially through the use of video technology, and now affordable digital technology, Nigeria produces more than 2000 films per year. The industry, popularly called Nollywood, is currently ranked as the second-largest in the world in terms of output after India’s Bollywood.

Nollywood’s popularity has spread across the African continent, to the African diaspora in Europe, North America and Australia. It has even gone as far as the Caribbean and Pacific Islands.

Born out of adversity

The first seeds for the emergence of the industry were planted in the late 1980s. Nigeria was experiencing difficulties as a result of political unrest and measures imposed by the click here to read whole article and make comments


 

THURSDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2015

A martyr for both science and faith

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South Africa will be celebrating a hero of conscience on Sunday – Benedict Daswa, a Catholic school teacher who was murdered in 1990 for opposing witchcraft. A delegate from Pope Francis will beatify him as a martyr in Limpopo, the northeasternmost province.

The video above relates his life and describes his impact on his local community.

Daswa, a Catholic convert, was born in 1946. He and his wife Eveline had eight children. He was respected for his community spirit, his hard work and his piety. In 1977 he became principal of a local primary school.

However, he made enemies for opposing traditional witchcraft. In 1976, his local soccer team was on the skids and some of his team mates wanted to consult a sorcerer. Daswa resigned and started his own team. 

In late 1989, the local district was hit by heavy rain and lightning. When the storms returned in January 1990, the elders… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 8 SEPTEMBER 2015

True grit: the secret of Kenyan runners

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A dirt running track with goats grazing on the infield, the noonday sun beating remorselessly down from an impossibly blue sky, a tight group of lithe runners sprint down the homestretch, puffs of dust rising from each footfall, sweat streaming down their faces, every muscle strained to the limit…

The Kamariny Stadium in the sleepy little town of Iten nestled high up on the side of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya is truly a field of dreams. It is in the vicinity of this town and this dirt running track that countless elite Kenyan runners have prepared for their onslaught on the diamond league circuit, big city marathons, Olympic Games and world records.

In Beijing this year, Kenya topped the medals table for the first time in the IAAF World Championship history with 7 gold, 6 silver and 3 bronze to beat athletic giants USA and Jamaica. Last year,… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

FRIDAY, 7 AUGUST 2015

Should Shakespeare be taught in Africa’s classrooms?

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Paterson Joseph as Brutus in Gregory Doran's 2012 production of Julius Caesar (RSC)

Should William Shakespeare be taught in Africa’s schools and universities? It’s a question that emerges, sometimes flippantly and sometimes in earnest, when conversations about post-coloniality and decolonisation turn to literature and culture.

It’s a useful and necessary question that I - as a scholar who teaches and writes about Shakespeare in a South African context - am often asked. Indeed, it’s one that I ask myself frequently.

But it is also a clumsy question and it needs rephrasing – or, at least, the terms in which it is couched need further investigation if we are to attempt a nuanced, coherent answer.

Africa is not a country

The first problem is in generalising about the African continent. Education systems and their infrastructural or economic contexts are vastly different. This is not only… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

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Africa is a continent that is big, joyful, generous, enthusiastic and optimistic. Harambee tells its stories: from its love of life and family, to people who have withstood great odds to stories of innovation achieved with limited resources. Our partner is Harambee Africa International, a Rome-based NGO. We want to hear from you. Contact Eugene Ohu, the editor, at harambee@mercatornet.com


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