John Amanam: Making Super Realistic Prostheses in Africa for Africans

Meet John Amanam, the Nigerian artist/engineer building super-realistic prostheses for Africans in Africa. I really liked his work: this is a self-thought man who used to work in the Nollywood industry, with no real training in prostheses, but a love of sculpture and most importantly of his fellow human being. After noticing family members who had lost limbs, he set out to make realistic-looking and affordable limbs with ebony, or mahogany shades, the shades of his fellow brothers and sisters. In essence, he is giving back confidence to those who have lost limbs. Enjoy!

Local African Sellers Growing Some Profits from Lockdowns

Kenya_map
Map of Kenya

In this era of the coronavirus and social distancing, many local vendors in some countries of Africa are seeing bigger profits than ever because of the slower competition from imported products. This should be the time to encourage local economies, and rebuilt local industries. In the article below, you will be appalled to find out that Kenya was importing fish from China (which has probably been fished on African coasts anyway) when they have a fishing industry! Why not eat local products? Why are our governments allowing these imported products to be cheaper than the local ones (it is true of Senegal and countless other African countries with products from France and the EU)? Why are foreign products not taxed properly so as to allow for the local industry to grow? I know this time is short, but it is always important to start somewhere. It is important to take advantage of these uncertain times to strengthen ourselves as all other countries are doing!  This article is from the  BBC: Fishermen cash in as Chinese imports drop.

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Grilled fish on a charcoal stove / du poisson braise sur un rechaud a charbon
Grilled fish on a charcoal stove / du poisson braise sur un rechaud a charbon

Sales of fresh fish in Kenya have risen as imports from China have dropped amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sellers in Dunga Beach on the shores of Lake Victoria report a jump in trade of about 40% over two weeks.

The fishermen are really now smiling at the Lake Victoria region because we are receiving more visitors. Dunga is really crowded with a lot of the residents of Kisumu coming to buy the fresh fish because people fear the Chinese boxed fish due to the coronavirus,” says Maurice Misodhi, a fisherman and leader at the Dunga Beach Management Unit.

Local fish costs about twice as frozen fish from China, of which Kenya imported more than $23m (£19m) worth in 2018.

Chinese fish used to make up about 50% of the market but this has fallen since imports stopped in November and the virus outbreak later took hold.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, local fishermen complained that cheap imports harmed local trade so much that they often resorted to eating their catch themselves or giving much of it away.

Kenya_flag
Flag of Kenya

But the scarcity of Chinese fish isn’t good news for everyone. Caroline Ochieng, a fish seller says she is struggling to make a decent profit because Chinese fish is cheaper than local lake fish.

That is the reason we want the China fish to be in supply as well as that from our own lake – so that as we do business we don’t feel the burden.

There are worries that local fishermen won’t be able to keep up with new demand for fresh fish. But for now at least, they are making the most of the surge in trade.

Chad Repaying $100m Debt to Angola with Cattle

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African Cows

I just learned of Chad repaying its $100 million debt to Angola with … cattle, and I simply loved the idea! When you are plagued with a slave currency such as the FCFA, why not go back to the old ways of exchange and trading? Chad owed Angola money, Angola needed cattle, Chad provided the cattle to clear its debt, and now both countries are squared: everyone is happy! Isn’t it the way the world works anyway: you need something, I supply it, and you pay me back by supplying me with the goods you have. Enjoy this article from the BBC!

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Chad1
Map of Chad (Source: Lonely Planet)

Chad is repaying Angola a debt of $100m (£82m) with cattle, Angola’s state-run newspaper has reported.

The unusual agreement is seen as creating a win-win situation for both nations – Chad is short of cash while Angola needs cattle.

More than 1,000 cows arrived by ship in Angola’s capital, Luanda, as the first payment, Jornal de Angola reported.

In total, Angola would receive 75,000 cattle over 10 years, meaning it has accepted payment of $1,333 per animal.

Chad would send a further 3,500 head of cattle later this month, the report added.

Chad-Angola Cattle trade
The cattle trade between Chad and Angola

Chad had proposed repaying the 2017 debt with cattle, and Angola had agreed because it would help the southern African state rebuild its cattle population in drought-affected areas, the state-run daily paper said.

Angola is often hit by drought, causing animals to die of hunger and thirst and leaving many villagers destitute.

… Chad is described by the the World Health Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) as a “livestock farming country par excellence”, with about 94 million head of cattle. 

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Lobsters and Octopuses are Back in Kenya

Kenya_map
Map of Kenya

Pollution, overpopulation of some areas, as well as over-fishing have wreaked all sorts of havoc for the ecosystem of our planet. One such ecosystem being destroyed is the coral reef along the coasts of Africa. Below are excerpts from an article from the Guardian about Kenyan efforts to reclaim their coral reefs, and bring back the lobsters and octopuses. As the marine life is re-established, let’s hope the industrial fishermen stay away!

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Lobster_SA
African Lobsters (From South Africa – Source: WildOceans.com.au)

Three years ago, coral reef along the Kenyan coastline was almost totally destroyed in some areas. Rising surface sea temperatures had triggered devastating bleaching episodes for the fourth time in less than two decades, and with the whitening of coral came a dwindling of marine life. Overfishing only exacerbated the problem.

For coastal communities dependent on the sea for their livelihoods, the degradation of the coral reef and its effect on the marine ecosystem threatened to overturn an entire way of life. In some areas surveyed by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), as much as 60-90% of coral was destroyed.

A fightback was needed and so the institute began working with local communities to rehabilitate degraded coral reefs along the country’s coastline. Among the areas targeted was Wasini Island, a tiny strip of land off Kenya’s south-east coast. The results have been startling.

Women on the island have led an initiative to restore degraded coral that has shown how coral restoration techniques can revive marine ecosystems and create sustainable livelihoods for communities that depend on fishing and eco-tourism.

Octopus
Octopus (Source: Wikipedia)

The fish have started coming back since the restoration activities began,” says Nasura Ali, of the Wasini Beach Management Unit, which has about 250 members, of whom roughly 150 are women. More than 40 people have been trained in restoration techniques.

A year-long study by the KMFRI had tested the viability of raising coral fragments from areas affected by bleaching events, explains Jelvas Mwaura at the KMFRI’s department of marine environment and ecology. Many of the corals transplanted from coral gardens to degraded reef areas for the study survived, providing new habitats for fish species including jacks, groupers, emperors and sweetlips.

This success led to funding from the Kenya Coastal Development project (KCDP). Locals on Wasini Island have since grown more than 3,000 corals.

Coral reefs provide shelter and breeding grounds for hundreds of species of marine life. Fish populations in waters around the island have increased three times as much as in other areas, says the KMFRI.

Kenya_flag
Kenyan flag

… The women of Wasini Island have also been restoring fish populations by cultivating seagrass. Overfishing of certain species, such as trigger fish, had led to the disappearance of seagrass because trigger fish fed on the sea urchins that devoured it. Using gunny bags made of sisal to protect the seedlings and prevent them from getting washed away, the women replanted seagrass seedlings on the ocean floor.

In addition to providing food, seagrass plays a key role in the overall coral reef ecosystem, providing shelter to juvenile fish after they hatch by shielding them from strong waves until they mature and move into the coral reefs.

Vanillanomics or the Economy surrounding Vanilla

Vanilla1
Vanilla

The term Vanillanomics is not from me, but from the article below on Bloomberg. I just wanted to let you in on the Vanilla trade, and more. Sad to note that these very rich regions, i.e. rich in vanilla are always in the most remote, poorest, and inaccessible areas of the country. This is the same throughout Africa, whether you are talking about the cobalt of DRC which is lifted from its mines by special planes bypassing the national airports, or the cocoa of Côte d’Ivoire, or the diamonds of Sierra Leone, or even the coffee of Cameroon… and much more. Enjoy! The full article can be found on Bloomberg Business Week.

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First, we needed a 4×4 of some sort, along with a driver willing to chance roads that are sometimes passable, sometimes not. The man we found struck us as the quietly skeptical sort, but after a few hundred rutted kilometers, any hesitations he’d been suppressing hardened into emphatic certainties. “The only people who drive on this road,” he told our photographer and me, via our translator, “are people who want to kill their cars.” Yet he gamely pushed ever deeper into Madagascar’s tropical north, until our mud road descended a hill and was swallowed by a wide river. It was the end of the line for the driver. He seemed relieved.

Madagascar
Madagascar

Somewhere on the other side of that water, dozens of farmers would soon converge upon a regional vanilla market in the village of Tanambao Betsivakiny. Growers would negotiate with buyers working on behalf of exporters and international flavoring companies, and together everyone would hash out a collective, per-kilogram price for the crop. Most buyers would pay cash on the spot, and the farmers would hand over several tons of green, freshly harvested vanilla beans.

Those humble beans, whose essence is associated with all that’s bland and unexciting, have somehow metamorphosed, butterfly-style, into the most flamboyantly mercurial commodity on the planet. In the past two decades, cured vanilla beans have been known to fetch almost $600 per kilogram one week, then $20 or so the next. Northeastern Madagascar is the world’s largest producer of natural vanilla, so every boom and every bust slams this region like a tropical storm. When prices peak, cash floods the villages. When prices fall, it drains away.

Madagascar_Vanilla
Vanilla bean

Madagascar was largely integrated into global trade centuries ago. The island is bigger than France, with cultural traditions that vary by region, unique biological treasures, and a developing tourism economy. The capital, Antananarivo, is full of laborers, lawyers, bureaucrats, bankers, artists, entrepreneurs, intellectuals—everything a 21st century city of 1.5 million needs. Yet Madagascar is also one of the poorest countries on the planet. You see and feel its disparities most sharply in its more remote pockets, including in the vanilla-growing region of the northeast. The extreme isolation of those communities, their dominance over the international supply, the dramatic changes they undergo during price swings—all of it has turned this part of the country into a semicontained observation lab that exposes both the genius and the insanity of globalized commerce. …

Madagascar’s First Locally Owned Sea-cucumber Farm

Sea Cucumbers_1
Sea cucumbers (Source: Tommy Trenchard – BBC)

Honestly, I had never heard of Sea Cucumbers before, and at first when I heard about it, I thought “cucumbers grow in the sea?” Later I found out that sea cucumbers are actually a marine species belonging to the same family as that of the starfish… and so I had to highlight this photo-journal article on the BBC website, especially as it pertains to Madagascar, the big Isle. Enjoy some excerpts below.

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In much of the Far East, sea cucumbers are a delicacy, fetching a high price for their purported health benefits.

In Tampolove, a tiny windswept village of mud huts and sandy paths squeezed between the coast and the forest in south-west Madagascar, they have provided a major boost to the local economy and environment. The delicacy is transforming the lives of people who have typically earned no more than a dollar a day, while at the same time helping to alleviate the pressure on marine species.

Sea Cucumbers
Sea cucumbers as they are being harvested at night in Tampolove, Madagascar (Source: Tommy Trenchard – BBC)

Sea cucumbers belong to the echinoderm family, along with starfish and urchins, and come in all shapes and sizes. They spend their days buried in silt, emerging at night to feed, sifting through the sediment for particles, a practice that provides an essential filtration service that benefits the wider ecosystem. Yet in recent decades rampant overfishing to feed demand in Asia has left wild sea-cucumber stocks declining around the world.

The sea-cucumber farms in Tampolove are part of a scheme to protect the environment and improve lives in this neglected part of the country. In 2004 the local community, with the support of a British NGO, Blue Ventures, came together to decide what to do about the rapid decline in fish and octopus stocks in their coastal waters. They set up an association, comprising representatives from several villages on this stretch of coast, whose responsibility it would be to manage fishing and the environment. They called the protected area Velondriake, which translates from the Vezo language as “to live with the sea”.

 

Burkinabe Woman Turns Water Hyacinth Into Gold Mine

Burkina Faso - Mariama Mamane1
Mariama Mamane (Source: UNEP)

In Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, a young scientist, Mariama Mamane who won the Young Champion of the Earth in the year 2017, is turning water hyacinth, an invasive species, into fertilizer, bio-gas and energy.

Mariama’s pilot program prevents desertification, creates food security and converts a problem into a livelihood opportunity for people in Burkina Faso. Her project, “JACIGREEN”, offers an innovative eco-solution introducing a plant-based purification mechanism to help manage fresh water and improve access to drinking water. It simultaneously implements a system to produce organic fertilizer (via anaerobic composting) and electricity (from biogas recovered from the water hyacinth transformation process). Her goal is to “Improve living conditions of population through sustainable agriculture and renewable energy for energy deficient rural communities in West Africa.”

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Water hyacinth invasion in Lake Victoria (Source: Lilian Ochieng, The East African)

Recall that Achenyo Idachaba of Nigeria has been exploring other alternatives making arts and craft products with the Water hyacinth (Jacinthe des eaux) in Nigeria. For those who do not know what the water hyacinth is, it is a plant which has been suffocating rivers around the globe, and has proliferated in places such as Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest body of fresh water) not only depriving the lake of its oxygen thus reducing nutrients for fishes, blocking water ways, and breeding all sorts of new diseases. This plant is not native of Africa.

Please help me applaud the work of Mariama Mamane. She was featured in this UN video below turning plant to power in Burkina Faso. Enjoy!

The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa

10,000FCFA (BEAC-1992)
An old 10,000 FCFA from Central Africa

This is yet another favorite on the African Heritage blog.

Please take a moment to reflect on this colonial tax African countries have been made to pay for the past 70+ years, particularly in view of the new West African money ECO which is trying to come to life. We applaud the idea of a common currency in West Africa, and in Africa as a whole… remember that this was Kwame Nkrumah‘s dream and the forefathers of the African Union, but when we hear France’s puppet Alassane Ouattara of Côted’Ivoire say  that the ECO will be just another name for the FCFA, we can only scream against it, or rather against France’s scheming yet again to impoverish African countries. What France is doing to African countries, by getting over 500 billion dollars every year for free (Africa is funding Europe!), is the same thing that Nazi Germany did to France with their currency at the time of World War II: the FCFA was inspired from it. Yet… after pillaging Africa yearly and raping her daily, they do not seem to hold their economy down, dealing with unemployment, and the Yellow Vests! Free money is always like that: because you did not work for it, it always seems to run out quickly! It’s about time they think of a partnership… but then it is France, so that will probably never happen!

African Heritage

Carte des pays de la zone CFA Carte des pays de la zone CFA

African countries continue to pay colonial tax to France 50 years after their independence. This system is an abomination destined to keep African countries poor forever! Here are some excerpts from the article by Mawuna R. Koutonin. For the full article, go to France Colonial Tax , and do not forget to check out the article I wrote a while back on the Franc CFA: slave currency! Also, please read the book by Pr. Nicolas Agbohou on the subject:  ‘Le Franc CFA et l’Euro contre l’Afrique.’

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Did you know that many African countries continue to pay colonial tax to France since their independence till today?

sekou-toure-time-cover-021959-600 Sekou Toure, Cover Time Magazine, Feb. 16, 1959

Sékou Touré of Guinea decided in 1958 to get out of french colonial empire, and opted for the country’s independence, the french colonial elite in Paris got so…

View original post 1,235 more words

Nigeria signs African Free Trade Area Agreement

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The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA; source: African Union (A.U.))

This is a big news for the African continent as it will now allow for free trade across the continent, increasing trade among countries which should have always traded between themselves. This is what was envisioned by Kwame Nkrumah, all the independence fathers, and more recently by Muammar Kadhafi (Africans and the Trap of Democracy) at the AU: so it is high time it took place. I just pray that this actually works, and that it is not just a way for European goods which already go through some African countries without any tax or control (French speaking Africa), to flood Africa’s biggest economies. The excerpt is from the BBC; to read the full article go to the link.

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Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

African superpower Nigeria has signed an agreement which aims to increase trade between African countries….

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the landmark agreement at the African Union (AU) summit in Niger. The first step is to cut tariffs for goods from countries within the bloc but the timeframe to do this is yet to be announced.

The AU says that the African Continental Free Trade Area – called AfCFTA – will create the world’s largest free trade area. It also estimates that implementing AfCFTA will lead to around a 60% boost in intra-African trade by 2022.

Only 16% of international trade by African countries takes place between African countries, according to research by the African Development Bank in 2014.

At the moment some of that intra-Africa trade ranges from fresh fish from the Seychelles to petrol from Angola.

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African Union Summit group photo in Niamey, Niger on 07 July 2019 (Source: African Union (A.U.))

[…] Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy and has long been a regional leader […]

Nigeria has a lot to gain from increasing access to its goods and services to a wider African market. But many of those consulted also feared increased regional integration would lead to unfair competition for jobs and the goods they produce.

With Nigeria signed up, AfCFTA’s dream of increasing intra-Africa trade, which currently lags behind the volume of trade the continent does with Europe, is now one step closer.

Now that AfCFTA can offer access to the enormous Nigerian market, they are in a much stronger position to negotiate with regional bodies in other parts of the world.

Tourism in Africa: The Difficulty for Africans to obtain Visas in Africa to Visit African Countries

THE-MOST-POWERFUL-AFRICAN-PASSPORTS-TO-HAVE-GHANA-MEDIA-WORLD
Some African passports

Traveling in Africa is not easy, particularly for Africans. Yes… you read it well: it is difficult to travel within Africa if you are African! Why is that, you might ask? Because as African, you will need a visa to almost all the countries on the continent! Not only are the visa fees colossal, but the time to wait for some of these are pretty long, the long lines, the information for the visa changes almost every month (South Africa, I am looking at you) but also there are not that many airlines servicing those countries, especially after the now defunct Air Afrique went bust. Nowadays Ethiopian Airlines, Asky Airlines, RwandAir, Kenya Airways and others are ramping up to help with these, but it is not easy.

Dangote
Aliko Dangote

Imagine that as a citizen of African country X, I need a visa to visit almost all countries on the continent (except those in the same economic region as mine), and those visa fees are pretty hefty. On top of that, I need a visa to visit all other countries in the world as well. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian (better passport than mine), expressed the same frustration as mine when he said in 2016, that he needed 38 visas to travel within the continent, while European nationals just waltz into most African countries without visa! How fair is that? And talk about the service at some of those consulates? Or the cost of sending your documents or traveling to a neighboring country because there is no diplomatic representation in yours just to apply for a visa! Moreover, even though you are paying for these visas, and it will benefit the visited country, some of these consulate representatives act as if you were asking them for a favor.

1000 FCFA (BCEAO)
1000 FCFA (BCEAO)

It also costs more to fly to many of these neighboring African countries from within Africa, than to fly to Europe, or Asia, or even America from Africa. It is as if, the contact with other Africans was purposely discouraged so as to make sure that Africans never unite, never learn from past mistakes, remain secluded, and never trade with each other (this, in addition to that slave currency FCFA: France’s Colonial Tax on Africa). For indeed, what could justify that it costs more to fly to Liberia from Ghana than to fly to the UK from Ghana, but a clear wish to stop Liberians from communicating with Ghanaians and realizing that they could trade with each other, instead of the Europeans who are farther away. O Africans, when are you going to wake up and be in charge of your destiny?