‘The Africa Issue’ is a new semi-weekly brief aimed at curating a collection of topics across the continent to help us all get to know more about the socio-cultural and economic happenings across Africa.
A PETA video footage from Angora goat farms in South Africa which showed goats being dragged and sustaining injuries from shearing, has resulted in a ban on mohair by almost 70 clothing retailers, including Hennes & Mauritz AB, Esprit Holdings and Inditex - threatening the demise of the $117 million industry in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer of the mohair fiber.
South Africa produces about 50 percent of the world’s mohair and exports mainly to countries in Asia and Europe. Mohair from South Africa is used to make suits by companies such as Ermenegildo Zegna Group.
Sierra Leone appointed its first chief innovation officer, Moinina David Sengeh, to head the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation - operating within the office of the President.
Sengeh, who is 31, studied at Harvard and MIT for his Ph.D. where his thesis focused on improving prosthetic comfort for amputees. He’s also working with IBM Research Lab in Nairobi focusing on the design and deployment of healthcare technologies in Africa. You can watch his 2014 TED talk here.
A mobile collapsible museum (a project by ANO Institute of Contemporary Arts) will tour Ghana over the next year as its creators use art and culture to take back the narrative of what the Ghanaian culture is and have the people who lived it and experienced it every single day be the dictators of that narrative.
IBM has been working with the Kenya-based food logistics startup Twiga Foods to facilitate micro-lending options for food vendors and small farmers, who struggle to secure loans and develop a credit history. Unlike commercial banks, these mobile-first finance startups don’t require credit scores, bank statements, lending history, and collateral, in order to provide affordable credit to customers in Kenya, Tanzania, and beyond.
Blockchain technology could be used to help lower the barrier to entry for financial systems establishing new markets and products. Its decentralized ledger is could allow users to keep track of transactions and forestall malpractice. Kenya also hopes to use the blockchain system to tackle land registration and corruption.
A photography exhibition ’Africa Is No Island’ at The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech, which brings together the work of approximately 40 emerging and established photographers who are working from a distinctly African perspective. The artists examine universally relevant cultural concepts of tradition, spirituality, family and the environment, within the context of modern African experiences and daily life.
This platform itself has become a “visual territory”, overcoming borders and reporting different perspectives on, around and from the African continent. The curators have chosen works based on the following three themes; “Je suis ma représentation” (I am my own representation), “Dessiner des géographies” (Drawing Borders) and “Recueillir l’histoire” (Transcribe History).
The African Continental Free Trade Area, is a project driven by the African Union to eliminate 90% of tariffs on intra-Africa trade of goods and services and create a single continental market with free movement of business people - with 44 of the 55-member African Union having signed the deal. Intra-Africa trade currently stands at about 16% of the continent’s total, compared with 19% in Latin America and 51% in Asia. Among those who have not yet signed are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Countries such as South Africa and Kenya with larger manufacturing bases and better road networks, railways and ports are most likely to benefit from further regional integration. However, Nigeria fears that the free-trade area would open up Nigeria to the dumping of cheap products and cause job losses if the demand for locally produced goods falls.
Sierra Leone’s diamond-rich Kono district has been a magnet for migrant workers – mostly young, single, uneducated, unemployed men seeking their fortunes - making the artisanal diamond mining sector Sierra Leone’s second largest employer (after agriculture). A research case study conducted by University of Bath aimed at looking into the challenges of the diamond mining sector, and its problems of exploitation and poverty.
Diamond mining remains one of Sierra Leone’s most lucrative export industries, with annual production of up to $250m. But due to poor governance and widespread corruption, only a fraction of this wealth returns to the areas where diamonds are mined, where many diamond diggers end up in exploitative relationships with buyers and middlemen. Watch the trailer for an upcoming documentary on this issue.
Long noted for its progressive stance on equality, Rwanda is the birthplace of a contest that champions female tech wizards, as a group of female tech entrepreneurs decided it was time to ditch Miss Rwanda for a different kind of competition, one that judged women on brilliance rather than beauty - Ms Geek. The first Ms Geek Rwanda was crowned in 2014, and the competition has since expanded to include other African countries under the unifying banner of Ms Geek Africa. Open to girls and women aged 13 to 25, contestants are encouraged to use technology to solve everyday problems in their communities. Finalists receive business training and the winner is awarded financial backing to help realize her idea. The contest was set up as part of a nationwide effort to transform Rwanda from a small agricultural economy into an engine of technological innovation, with women and girls at the forefront of the revolution.
This year’s Ms Geek Africa is Salissou Hassane Latifa, 21, from Niger, whose winning design is an app that helps communication between people caring for accident victims and the emergency services, and allows medical staff to advise on basic first aid before they arrive at the scene.
President Macron thanks Malian migrant who climbed four storeys to save boy dangling from 4th-floor balcony. As an undocumented migrant in France, Mamoudou Gassama knew it was best to keep his head down, to not draw attention to himself. But when he spotted a young child dangling from the balcony of a fourth-floor Paris flat he felt he had to act.
Gassama was invited to meet French president Emmanuel Macron and was promised documents allowing him to stay, and a fast-track process to gain French nationality. He was also offered a job with the Paris sapeurs pompiers, the city’s fire and emergency service. He was also awarded a medal for an act of “bravery and devotion”
Today in post-apartheid South Africa, the disparity in education, skill, and income still continues. Recently released World Bank reports shows that the gap is not only widening, it is intergenerational. A country where more than half of the population already lives in poverty, and a further 27% of the population live in a state of susceptibility to poverty, South Africans in the top-earning income bracket earn nearly five times more than the average low skilled jobs.
The middle class has particularly suffered from South African economy’s inability to create new jobs. Most of the new jobs are in the services sector, while low-skill agriculture and manufacturing jobs are on the decline. Unemployment disproportionally affects black South Africans, perpetuating apartheid’s inequality.
Thank you for reading through this edition. Hope you found a couple interesting articles to spark your next conversation. I’d definitely appreciate your feedback on the format, content and interest for future briefs. Know a story out there that should be worth spreading, send over to me!