Who/What do we Celebrate in Africa in 2021 ?

Although 2021 has globally been a tough year, there are still events that lend to celebration. As we turn the page of 2021 and delve into 2022, it is good to note that in 2021, a lot of “firsts” have taken place on the African continent. Below are a few of the events that brought joy. There are many more, of course, but I selected 11. Enjoy, and add in the comments other celebratory events that have marked the continent this year.

  1. Hulda Swai_1
    Professor Hulda Swai

    Tanzanian professor Hulda Swai wins the 2020 prize of the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Continental Awards for Scientific Excellence in February [Professor Hulda Swai of Tanzania Wins Distinguished Science Award: ‘Women are as good as men’]. This is a highly prestigious scientific award in Africa.

  2. In May, a Malian woman gives birth to 9 babies (from natural conception). This marks the first single birth and survival of nonuplets in the world. Halima Cisse, a Malian woman, has given birth to nonuplets, 5 girls and 4 boys, in a hospital in Morocco [World Record: Malian Woman gives Birth to Nine Babies].
  3. Herero_chained
    Chained Herero men

    Germany agrees to pay Namibia €1.1bn over historical Herero-Nama genocide in May of this year. This is historic, late, and probably not enough compared to the loss in human lives… yet it is important! The money will be paid over 30 years in aid programs…  (probably a way to siphon money back to Germany, while appearing to be giving something), and pales in comparison to the billions worth of Namibian diamonds and cobalt mine that will profit German companies in fine print [Germany in Namibia: the First Genocide of the 20th Century].

  4. Laurent Gbagbo
    Laurent Gbagbo

    In June, after 10 years of imprisonment, and over 20 years of persecution, Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Cote d’Ivoire finally lands home amidst celebrations from his supporters in the country and abroad [Laurent Gbagbo is Back in Cote d’Ivoire]. Although there have been subsequent disappointing actions on his part, it is nonetheless a victory over the International Court of Justice, and all the persecution Blé Goude (How long shall they kill our prophets…?), him, and countless others have gone through, and remains a major cause for celebration, as it shows that, for a just cause, perseverance and determination always bear fruits.

  5. In June, Petra Diamonds pays Tanzanians for its abuse [Petra Diamonds pays £4.3m to Tanzanians ‘abused’ by its contractors]; this is significant as it shows that it is not impossible to demand reparations from these giant companies that pollute our lands and abuse us. It sets a precedent.
  6. Tokyo2020
    Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo (Olympics.com)

    Late July marks the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after one year of postponement, and Africa wins new victories. Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui offers the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming; Hugues Zango of Burkina Faso gives his country its first ever medal at the Olympics by winning the bronze medal in the men’s triple jump; while Eliud Kipchoge successfully defends his Olympic title at the marathon becoming the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons [African Wins at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics].

  7. In October, Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah is awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature, making him the fifth African to win the illustrious prize [Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah awarded Nobel Prize of Literature]. As you can see, the African literary scene is flourishing.
  8. Somalia_The Gravedigger Wife
    “The Gravedigger’s Wife” by Khadar Ahmed

    A Somali love story, the Gravediggers’ Wife is this year’s FESPACO winner [Somali Love Story, The Gravedigger’s Wife, is this year’s FESPACO winner]. The FESPACO, which is one of Africa’s biggest film festival, took place this year after the pandemic and lockdowns, and an 8-months delay because of security reasons [FESPACO 2021: One of Africa’s Biggest Film Festival is back!].

  9. 100 years after René Maran, an African wins the prestigious French Prix Goncourt. The award was given to Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. This is the first time that a Sub-saharan African person wins the prize, and the third time for a Black person in the almost 120-years history of the title [100 years after René Maran, An African wins the Prestigious Prix Goncourt], even though people of African descent make up so much of the French population over the past century.
  10. Benin_Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin Man shark
    Benin Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin man shark (Musee du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac)

    In November, France returns some artifacts of the kingdom of Dahomey to the present-day country of Benin; these were looted when the French burnt down the capital of King Behanzin at Abomey over 120 years ago [France returns 26 Artifacts from Behanzin’s Era to Benin]. Similarly, the Benin Bronze cockerel held at the University of Cambridge from the famed Benin Kingdom [Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground] has been returned to Nigeria. This is still little, as they should all be returned to their rightful owners; it should not even be up to negotiation.

  11. Congolese Rumba has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage. Congratulations to both Congos, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for working together. We do hope that this is just the first step in a collaboration that will extend to other domains including economic success and beyond [Congolese Rumba Wins UNESCO Protected Status].

Now, there are a lot more such as David Diop winning the International Booker prize for his book “At Night All Blood is Black” which focuses on Tirailleurs Senegalais; or the Senegalese influencer Khaby Lame being ranked number 2 on Tik Tok for his wordless humor which transcends language barriers and cultures (he is the fastest growing Tik Tok influencer with 120 million followers); or even Madagascar’s secretary of police, Serge Gelle, swimming for about 12 hours to reach shore after his helicopter crashed in the Indian Ocean off the northeast coast of the country. When rescued, Gelle said “My turn to die has not yet come, thank God.” So let us all be grateful for this year, and for the people and events who have brought joy to our lives, and let us move forward to a new year. 

African Wins at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia winning the Gold during the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo 2020 (Source: ca.sports.yahoo.com)

This week more history has been made for Africa at the Olympics. Records have been broken and Africans have responded present with strength.

Tunisia, with Ahmed Hafnaoui offered the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming. Then, Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won silver in the Men’s 58kg Taekwondo.

Hugues Fabrice Zango getting his triple jump (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Burkina Faso got its first ever medal since the creation of the Olympic games. Hugues Fabrice Zango won the bronze medal in the Men’s triple jump. It was really good to watch him, and I am proud for this son of the land of Thomas Sankara. Moreover, he won his medal, Burkina Faso’s medal on the 61st anniversary of the country’s independence (as you know most Francophone countries are not really independent from France because of the FCFA, but this is a story for another day).

Namibia Christine Mboma came back from behind to win silver in the Women’s 200m in front of some of the world’s best. Now remember that Christine Mboma and her compatriot Beatrice Masilingi were barred from running their favorite distance, 400m, just a month ago, and had to all of sudden readjust to run 200m. They were declared ineligible for the longer race because of a genetic condition that raises their testosterone levels. South African Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion in the 800m (2016 and 2012), is the most famous DSD (difference in sexual development) athlete who has been stopped from running in Tokyo. All three 800m medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympics – Semenya, Burundi’s silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan bronze winner Margaret Wambui – were DSD athletes… I am not sure I understand the whole issue, because for me, I wonder how one can be born female and then one day some organization tells them that they are not female. I find it hard to fathom. So let’s see what will happen. Mboma is the first Namibian female to win an olympic medal… she is following in the tracks of the great Namibian athlete Frankie Fredericks (Frankie Fredericks: Sprinting to the Finish for Namibia).

Christine Mboma of Namibia (Source: indianExpress)

Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria won Silver in the Women’s freestyle 68kg. Ese Brume did not disappoint and won Nigeria’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympic Games, taking bronze in the women’s long jump.

Ethiopia Selemon Barega gave Ethiopia its first Men’s 10,000m gold since Kenenisa Bekele in 2008. Lamecha Girma won silver in the Men’s 3000m steeplechase. Gudaf Tsegay won bronze in the Women’s 5000m race, while Letesenbet Gidey won the bronze medal in Women’s 10000m.

Uganda Joshua Cheptegei, the World champion and world record holder, ran a controlled race to take the men’s 5000m gold; last week, he had also won silver in the Men’s 10,000m. Jacob Kiplimo won the bronze medal in the Men’s 10,000m racePeruth Chemutai became the first Ugandan woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal on Wednesday – triumphing in the Women’s 3,000m steeplechase.

Eliud Kipchoge winning gold at the Men’s marathon (Source: OregonLive.com)

Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, who had been training with legends like marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge thwarted World champion’s Sifan Hassan’s plans of winning a distance treble in Tokyo by retaining the women’s 1500m title by pulling ahead after the bell and winning gold. Her compatriot Peres Jepchirchir won the women’s marathon, defeating world record holder Brigid Kosgei  in the closing stages and winning in 2h27min20s, and Kosgei had to settle for silver. Hellen Obiri took home silver in Women’s 5,000m, while Hyvin Kiyeng won bronze in Women’s 3000m steeplechase. The men’s 800m gold went to Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir of Kenya, and his teammate Ferguson Rotich took silver. Timothy Cheruiyot took silver in the Men’s 1500m, while Compatriot Benjamin Kiven took bronze in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Eliud Kipchoge successfully defended his olympic title at the marathon; he is only the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons.

South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker won gold, and broke the Women’s 200m world record for breaststroke on Friday. This earned her a call from the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to congratulate her on her victory. Schoenmaker had previously won silver in the Women’s 100m breastrokes, while Bianca Buitendag took silver in surfing

Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali triumphed in the Olympic Men’s 3,000m steeplechase – ending Kenya’s 41-year unbeaten run on the distance.

Egypt’s Giana Farouk (Lotfy) won bronze in the Women’s kumite karate. Seif Eissa, Hedaya Malak, and Mohammed Elsayed Elsayed all won bronze medals in the Men’s 80kg taekwondo, Women’s 67kg taekwondo and Men’s 67kg Greco-Roman wrestling respectively.

Faith Kipyegon winning the 1500m (Source: si.com)

Ruth Gbagbi of Cote d’Ivoire won bronze in the Women’s 67kg Taekwondo. She had won Bronze also in Rio 2016. Ghana also took home bronze in the Men’s Feather (52-57kg) boxing with Samuel Takyi.

Lastly, Team Botswana (Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe, Zibane Ngozi, Bayapo Ndori) surprised everyone by giving a beautiful performance and winning the bronze amidst some of the world’s bests in the Men’s 4x400m relay.

Overall, it was a good game… As we turn the page of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which took place in 2021, we do hope that the Paris 2024 Olympics will be better for Africa, and that the world will be in a better place.

African Representation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia winning the Gold during the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo 2020 (Source: ca.sports.yahoo.com)

Africa is well-represented at the Tokyo olympics this year. Even though it has only been 5 days, Africans have already won quite a few medals, starting with a gold metal from the Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui in 400m freestyle swimming, and silver medals for South Africans Tatjana Schoenmaker and Bianca Buitendag in 100m breastrokes and surfing, and Mohamed Jendoubi of Tunisia in Taekwondo; while Ruth Gbagbi of Ivory Coast, Hedaya Wahba and Seif Eissa both of Egypt all took bronze in Taekwondo.

This year, five new events have been added: surfing (not sure how many countries play this sport to be at the Olympics?), sport climbing (what sort of climbing is this? I have climbed so many trees I should be an olympian), baseball/softball (how many countries actually have teams for these, except those influenced by the US?), skateboarding (Olympics sport?) and Karate (It’s about time – always wondered why this global discipline was not part of the Olympics anyways).

There are quite a lot African athletes participating at the 2021 Tokyo 2020 olympics. Below are a few to keep an eye out on :

Algeria: Taoufik Makhloufi (gold in London2012 and 2 silvers Rio2016)

Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo (Olympics.com)

Botswana:  London 2012 silver medalist Nijel Amos is highly anticipated

Burkina Faso Triple jumper Hugues Fabrice Zango,

Burundi: Francine Niyonsaba (Rio2016 silver 800m)

Cote d’Ivoire: Ruth Gbagbi (bronze at Rio 2016), Cheick Cisse (gold at the last Olympics – Ivory Coast’s first gold medal ever) in Taekwondo, and the amazing runner Marie-Josee Ta Lou.

Egypt: Azmy Mehelba in shooting, Giana Farouk in Karate, Seif Eissa (won bronze yesterday) in Taekwondo

Eritrea: Merhawi Kudus in cycling (Eritrea’s first participation in cycling)

Ethiopia’s star runners Letesenbet Gidey and Selemon Barega

Gambia: Gina Bass in running

Kenya: we are highly expecting the amazing Brigid Kosgei  and Eliud Kipchoge (marathon world-record holder, gold medal in Rio 2016), and Rio 2016 silver Javelin winner Julius Yego.

Morocco: Khadija Mardi in boxing, Ramzi Boukhiam in surfing

Mozambique: Deisy Nhaquile in sailing

Niger: Abdoulrazak Issoufou Alfaga (Rio 2016 Silver – Taekwondo)

Nigeria: the anticipated long jumper and runner Blessing Okagbare, and Ese Brume

Seychelles: Rodney Govinden in sailing (second participation for the Seychelles)

South Africa: the super star swimmer Chad Le Clos (2012 gold, 2 silvers in 2016), Akani Simbane in running, Caitlin Rooskrantz in gymnastics (first participation of South Africa), Tatjana Schoenmaker (swimming) and Bianca Buitendag (surfing), Erin Sterkenburg (surfing), Boipelo Awuah (skateboarding – she is the youngest African athlete at the Olympics this year)

Tunisia: Ons Jabeaur in Tennis, Ines Boubakri (2016 Rio bronze medal) in fencing, this year’s gold winner in 100m freestyle Ahmed Hafnaoui, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics gold medalist Oussama Mellouli (long-distance swimmer), Mohamed Jendoubi

Uganda: Runners Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptegei

Zimbabwe golfer Scott Vincent

Tunisian Swimmer, Ahmed Hafnaoui, wins shock swimming gold

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia winning the Gold during the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo 2020 (Source: ca.sports.yahoo.com)

The Olympic games, the 2020 games that were postponed to 2021 are currently under way in Japan. The event, Tokyo 2020 (not sure why it is still called Tokyo 2020, when it is taking place in 2021, but… hey I don’t make these rules) has started, with an African already taking home gold in… 400m freestyle. That’s right, 18-year old Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui won a shock gold medal in the men’s 400m freestyle on Sunday.

=====

He won from the outside lane after qualifying slowest, but finished with stunning pace to beat Australia’s Jack McLoughlin with a time of three minutes 43.36 seconds. “I just can’t believe it. It’s a dream and it became true. It was great, it was my best race ever,” said Hafnaoui.

It was Tunisia’s fifth ever gold – and third in swimming.

US swimmer Kieran Smith took bronze at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Hafnaoui, son of former Tunisian national basketball player Mohamed Hafnaoui, competed in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, finishing eighth in the 400m and seventh in the 800m.