CAN 2015: Who will win the African Cup of Nations?

CAN 2015Now that the first round of the African Cup of Nations has gone through, several countries have qualified for the next stage: Congo and Equatorial Guinea qualified in Group A, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Group B, Ghana and Algeria in Group C, and Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea in Group D.

CAN 2015 Fixtures
CAN 2015 Fixtures

There will be some BrazzavilleKinshasa rivalry as the two Congos are set to face each other in the first quarter final on Saturday, while the host Equatorial Guinea will take on Tunisia. Ghana and Guinea will face each other in the third quarter final, while Côte d’Ivoire will meet Algeria in the last one.

African Cup of Nations' Trophy
African Cup of Nations’ Trophy

In soccer, all teams have the same chances, but very often, experience and/or good discipline/organization always pays. Algeria, as Africa’s top team in the FIFA world ranking, is a big name this year; even though they did not perform so well in the first round, they are expected to do better. However the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire have the most experience at this stage of the competition. That will be a good game to watch. The same story applies between Ghana and Guinea: Ghana has been the better of the two teams and also has a more experienced squad with Asamoah Gyan at their helm. Between the two Congos, a slight edge is given to DRC with their secret weapon in the person of Yannick Bolasie. Between Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia, any guess is a good one, even though having the host nation advance further in a competition is always a good thing. With this said, which team do you think will advance to the semi-finals, and which team will lift this year’s African Cup of Nations’ trophy?

The World’s Reward


ONCE there was a man who had an old dog, so old that the man desired to put him aside. The dog had served him very faithfully when he was still young, but ingratitude is the world’s reward, and the man now wanted to dispose of him. The old dumb creature, however, ferreted out the plan of his master, and so at once resolved to go away of his own accord. After he had walked quite a way he met an old bull in the veldt.

Don’t you want to go with me?” asked the dog.

Where?” was the reply.

To the land of the aged,” said the dog, “where troubles don’t disturb you and thanklessness does not deface the deeds of man.”


Good,” said the bull, “I am your companion.”

The two now walked on and found a ram. The dog laid the plan before him, and all moved off together, until they afterwards came successively upon a donkey, a cat, a cock, and a goose. These joined their company, and the seven set out on their journey.


Late one night they came to a house and through the open door they saw a table spread with all kinds of nice food, of which some robbers were having their fill. It would help nothing to ask for admittance, and seeing that they were hungry, they must think of something else. Therefore the donkey climbed up on the bull, the ram. On the donkey, the dog on the ram, the cat on the dog, the goose on the cat, and the cock on the goose, and with one accord they all let out terrible (threatening) noises (crying). Continue reading “The World’s Reward”

Blague Africaine: Temps de Voyage / African Joke: Travel Time

Travel5Un professeur demande à ses élèves : «pour quelqu’un qui voyage à 6h et arrive à 6h, combien de temps a duré le voyage ? ».

Les élèves répondent : « c’est un piège, le voyage n’a pas eu lieu ».


Travel1A teacher asks his students: ” For someone who embarks on a trip at 6 AM and arrives at 6AM, how long did the trip last?”

The students reply: “This is a trap, the trip did not take place.”

Papyrus Ebers: One of the World’s Oldest Medical Document

Ebers Papyrus - remedy of cancer
Ebers Papyrus – remedy for cancer

Today, we will be talking about the Papyrus Ebers or Ebers Papyrus, which is among the oldest and most important medical papyri of Ancient Egypt and of the world. This papyrus is a medical papyrus of herbal knowledge, and dates back to c. 1550 BC. It is believed to have been copied from earlier texts. It is 110-page scroll, and is about 20 m long. It is among the world’s oldest preserved medical documents.

From c. 33rd century BC until Persian invasion in 525 BC, Egyptian medicine remained one of the world’s most advanced, and was used in some non-invasive surgery, setting of bones, and an extensive set of pharmacopeia. Even Homer of the Odyssey recognized this when he said, “In Egypt, the men are more skilled in medicine than any of human kind” and “the Egyptians were skilled in medicine more than any other art“.

Georg Ebers
Georg Ebers

The Papyrus Ebers is one of the oldest medical papyri still well-preserved. It was given the name Ebers, after the man who purchased it in Luxor (Thebes) in the winter of 1873-74, Georg Ebers, a German Egyptologist and novelist. It is written in hieratic Egyptian writing and preserves the most voluminous record of ancient Egyptian medicine known. It contains about 700 magical formulas and remedies, for things such as asthma, evacuation of belly, bowels, birth control, guinea worms (this remedy is still the standard practice today, over 3500 years later), and even cancer. There is also a chapter titled Book of Hearts, which deals with mental disorders such as depression and dementia.

Ebers Papyrus - remedy for asthma
Ebers Papyrus – remedy for asthma

One of the most common remedies described in the papyrus is ochre, or medicinal clay, which was prescribed for intestinal and eye complaints. Yellow ochre was prescribed as a remedy for urological complaints.

The Papyrus Ebers is currently kept at the Leipzig University‘s library (Ebers was chair of the Egyptology department there) in Germany. If you are in Leipzig, go visit. Please check out the Ancient Egyptian Medicine website, which talks in details not only about the Ebers Papyrus, but also about other famous Papyri such as the Edwin Smith Papyrus (c. 1600 BC), the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus (c. 1800 BC), and herbal remedies, and nutrition of Ancient Egypt.

Sekou Touré: Vive l’Indépendance (Time Magazine 16 Feb. 1959)

Sekou Toure, Cover Time Magazine, Feb. 16, 1959
Sekou Toure, Cover Time Magazine, Feb. 16, 1959

I had to share with you this Feb. 16, 1959 Time Magazine gem of an article on President Sekou Toure of Guinea, the first country to say ‘NO’ to France. As you will see, even the so-called ‘dictators’ of the world have graced the cover of Time Magazine when they were still ‘deemed’ good. Some of the article is a bit a mockery of Africans for wanting independence from their colonial masters, as it is referred to as ‘haste’ in the article (could you really have faulted Africans for wanting freedom?). Enjoy! The full article can be found at: Below are a few words.


Finally, Sékou Touré, 37 President of the new Republic of Guinea, a trim figure in a European busine suit, rose and raised his arm.
Vive l’indépendance!” he shouted, and three times the crowd roared back, “Vive l’indépendance!” “Vive l’Afrique!” he shrieked in a voice close to frenzy. Once again, the cry was three times repeated. There was no reason for Touré to do more. The crowd had seen and heard him, and that was enough.


Broad-shouldered and handsome. Sékou Touré is as dynamic a platform performer as any in all Black Africa. He is the idol of his 2,500.000 people, and the shadow he casts over Africa stretches far beyond the borders of his Oregon-sized country. As the head of the only French territory to vote against De Gaulle‘s constitution and thus to choose complete independence, he has been suddenly catapulted into the forefront of the African scene. ….

Part dedicated idealist and part ruthless organizer-perhaps the best in Black Africa-Guinea’s Touré should have problems enough just coping with the disruption that inevitably came with independence. But he, too, has dreams as wide as a continent. “All Africa,” says he, “is my problem.”

Samori Toure holding the Coran
Samori Toure holding the Coran

In a sense, he was born in the right place and with the right ancestry to favor a big role. Though Africa was, until the Europeans came, the continent that could not write, it had known its times of glory. Guinea was once part of the powerful Mali Empire that stretched from the French Sudan, on the upper reaches of the Niger, to just short of West Africa’s Atlantic Coast. When its 14th century ruler, the Mansa (Sultan) Musa, made his pilgrimage to Mecca, he traveled with a caravan of 60,000 men, and among his camels were 80 that each bore 300 lbs. of gold. … he turned the fabled city of Timbuktu into a trading center and a refuge for scholars.   … But the legend lived on of the warrior Samory, whom Sékou Touré claims as his grandfather.

Sekou Toure
Sekou Toure, one of Samori Toure’s grandson

When De Gaulle stopped off at Conakry on his swift tour of Africa before the referendum, Touré thundered in his presence: “We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery.” Angrily, De Gaulle canceled a diner in time he was to have had with Touré, and the split was final. A few weeks later, 95% of the people of Guinea voted no to the De Gaulle constitution.


African Cup of Nations 2015: Let the Fun Begin

CAN 2015We feared for our beloved Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) when Morocco, the host declined to host! It was like, what? Why wouldn’t you want to host an event you signed up to host years ago? Thankfully, Equatorial Guinea stepped in to host the 30th edition, CAN 2015, 2 months to the event. We raise our hats to the host country, Equatorial Guinea, because it is a real feat to organize such a continental event in such short notice. So, for the next month, we will all be vibrating to the rhythm of the African Cup of Nations. We will watch some of Africa’s most renowned teams, and some not so well-known, and some of the continent’s best players display their greatness. We hope that every game will be amazingly good, and that every single player on the field will give their very best for their country. Yes… the African Cup of Nations is truly an African event to showcase the grace, endurance, and play of Africans on their continent. What more to applaud?

Why the name: Lagos?

Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

Today, I will talk about the most populous city in Africa. If you thought Lagos, that vibrant and chaotic city in Nigeria, you guessed right. Growing up, I always thought the name Lagos was some anglicized version of a native name given by a local Yoruba tribe. Now in retrospective, I see how far my guess was from the truth.

It turns out that Lagos actually means ‘Lakes’ in Portuguese. There are different explanations for the name itself: according to some historians, Lagos was the name given by the Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeira when he visited the area in 1472, naming the area around the city, Lago de Curamo, or Lake of Healing. Other historians think that the area was named after the city of Lagos in Portugal, a maritime town which had been the main center of Portuguese expeditions down the African coast, and whose name was derived from the latin word Lacobriga.

Lagos, Nigeria (Wikipedia)
Lagos, Nigeria (Wikipedia)

In reality, the area that is known today as Lagos was originally occupied by the Awori tribe, a subgroup of the Yoruba people. Under the leadership of the Oloye Olofin, the Awori moved to an island called Iddo, and then later to the larger Lagos Island. In the 15th century, the Awori settlement was conquered by the Bini people of the Benin Kingdom, and the island became known as ‘Eko‘ under Oba Orhogba, the Oba of Benin at the time. To this day, Yoruba people still refer to Lagos as Eko.  Lagos became a major center for slave trade during the 18th century.

Map of Lagos
Map of Lagos

The site of the city of Lagos is made up of a group of islands separated by creeks in a lagoon (Lagos Lagoon) sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands and long sand spits, all located in the Bight of Benin, a part of the Gulf of Guinea.

Annexed by the British in 1861, the area became known as the British Lagos Colony. The remainder of modern-day Nigeria was seized by the British in 1887, and became a British Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914, whose capital was Lagos. Lagos was the capital of the British Colony of Nigeria, until after independence in 1960, when it became the capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It remained its capital until 1991, when the capital was moved to the purposely-built city of Abuja (it is a planned city just like Brasilia, and was mainly built in the 1980s). On 14 November 1991, the presidency and other federal government functions were relocated to the capital city of Abuja. During the 20th century, Lagos’ population increased twenty-fold and urbanization has kept expanding into the continent. It is in part due to this uncontrollable sprawling that the government decided to move the capital to Abuja.

Lagos, Independence Square, 1960 (Source:
Lagos, Independence Fountain, Tinubu Square, 1960 (Source:

The port of Lagos is Nigeria’s leading port, and one of Africa’s busiest and largest. Lagos has one of the largest and most extensive road networks in West Africa, and is renowned throughout Africa for its seemingly insurmountable traffic congestions. It is also known as the birthplace of the Afrobeat, a musical movement which was the brainchild of the great Fela Kuti. Lagos is also the home of Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry (named in reference to Hollywood and Bollywood). In all, Lagos is mostly a business-oriented and fast paced city; it is indeed the economic capital of Nigeria, and its lungs. I guess one could say, without Lagos, there is no Nigeria.

National Geographic just published an article on Lagos. Do also read the article by the Financial Times, Lessons from Lagos. Enjoy the video below.

In your opinion, which one of the two versions for the origin of the name Lagos is the most accurate?

Proverbe sur rester soi-même / Proverb on staying true to oneself

Singe / Monkey

Même si le singe prend la peau du sanglier, il meurt comme singe (Proverbe Pygmées – Afrique Centrale). – Restez ce que vous êtes; ne pas vouloir se montrer plus qu’on est.

Even if the monkey takes the skin of the boar, it dies as monkey (Pygmy proverb – Central Africa). – Remain who you are; never try to show oneself as more than one is.

Reclaiming African History: Cape Coast Castle, a Slave Fort in Ghana

Cape Coast Castle (Wikipedia)
Cape Coast Castle (Wikipedia)

The Cape Coast Castle is one of the 30 slave forts of Ghana. In 2009, the US president Barack Obama and his family, made a point to visit the Cape Coast Castle. So why should you learn about it?

Well, it took 50 years to build the three-story building that forms today’s Cape Coast Castle. It was originally built by the Swedes (the Swedish Africa Company), starting in 1653 (it was then known as Fort Carlsborg or Carolusborg) for timber and mineral exportation, and then taken over by the Dutch before the British wrestled it away. The original cannons, cannon balls, and mortars used to defend the fort can still be seen today, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Cape Coast Castle in 1682
Cape Coast Castle in 1682

The brick courtyard of the castle, which Ghanaians commonly refer to as Cape Coast Dungeon, has two 18-foot water wells and four graves. The first grave is for the Rev. Phillip Quarcoo, the first black Anglican pastor in the area. Beside him lies C.B. Whitehead, 38-year old British soldier who was killed by a Dutch soldier in the courtyard. Besides them are the graves of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and her husband George MacLean, the British governor of Cape Coast from 1830 to 1844. I am not sure how a woman could possibly live next to such atrocities; maybe by rationalizing that the people being imprisoned, were not human beings?

The open auditorium on the top floor of the former administration building now hosts an exhibit chronicling the history of slavery on Ghanaian shores.

Cape Coast Castle in 1890 (National Archives UK - Wikimedia)
Cape Coast Castle in 1890 (National Archives UK – Wikimedia)

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Cape Coast slave fort imprisoned about 1000 men and 300 women for any given 3 months period, before they were crammed into ships bound for a life of slavery in the Americas. Its corridors are full of dungeons where only dim light coming from tiny windows let the light and air in. 200 males will be kept in space meant for 50 people or less, where they will spend over 23h a day for three months, and will only be brought briefly out to eat. Ironically, Christian services were held in the fort while these poor souls were screaming for their lives underneath.The majority of captives ranged between 15 and 35 years of age.

Women were locked in 2 similar dungeons, 150 of them per chamber. They will be raped daily by the British soldiers, who would come into the cells and select the ones to spend the night with. Any slave who challenged the authorities was thrown into the condemned cellwhich held 30 – 50 in a room no bigger than most walk-in closets. There, they would die deprived of food, water, light, and oxygen, clawing the brick walls and floors as they suffocated.

Cape Coast Castle (WZM - Wikipedia)
Cape Coast Castle (WZM – Wikipedia)

To descend into the exposed brick castle feels like entering the depth of the underworld (I can only imagine how those captives felt going through there). There are five dungeon chambers for men. The strongest ones were separated during branding, when hot iron rods were used to mark their chests, and then chained and shackled together in the first chamber. The last cell has a hole in the wall, which leads into a deep dark tunnel which was used to take slaves underneath the castle’s courtyard, leading them to the “door of no return.” Cape Coast Castle was once the most active slave trading hub in West Africa.

Slavery was not just a European affair, but an African one as well, since many African chiefs traded slaves  (rarely their own people – but people from other nations) to the Europeans in exchange for goods. Thus, the Ghana House of Chiefs – a body comprising all the country’s traditional kings and chiefs- has placed a plaque on one of Cape Coast castle’s walls, asking for forgiveness to the souls of those who were sold. When will European nations also ask for forgiveness?