Who/What did we Celebrate in Africa in 2014?

Beji Caid Essebsi, new President of Tunisia
Beji Caid Essebsi, new President of Tunisia

Like every year, I have to tell you about the good things that happen in Africa, and all the things we celebrated. Here are 10 of them.

1. I have to say it again: Blaise Compaore’s demotion. Blaise Compaoré was booted out of office in 2014. Thomas Sankara‘s murderer taught that he will be eternal in power, and on October 30th 2014, the people of Burkina Faso said ENOUGH!

2. Presidential Elections finally took place in Tunisia, 3 years after Ben Ali‘s toppling at the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring’, and the election of the people’s choice as president: Beji Caid Essebsi. We are glad the people of Tunisia’s choice was respected.

Some members of the South African Team - MTN Qhubeka(Source: bicycling.co.za)
Some members of the South African Team – MTN Qhubeka(Source: bicycling.co.za)

3. Mrs Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in as interim president of the Central African Republic on 23 January 2014. She was chosen as a neutral person to lead the country of the conflict that rages in the area; she is the first woman appointed in such a position in the history of the country.

4. For the first time in the history of Cycling, there was an African team competing in a great race. 6 Africans (two Erithreans and 4 South Africans) ran in Spain for the South African team, MTN-Qhubeka.

5. Two African teams advancing into the last round of 16 at the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup: namely, Nigeria and Algeria. Even though both teams were eliminated in the last round of 16, Algeria particularly put up a good fight against Germany (who went on to win the World Cup) and made us proud.

6. The African version of Robocop designed by two female engineers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of them being Thérèse Inza.  This is a traffic cop who regulates the traffic, and even gives tickets to the cab drivers, and those who do not want to follow the code of the road.

Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong’o

7. There were 3 Africans nominated at the Oscars in main categories this year: Chiwetel Ejiofor(Nigeria) in the ‘Best Actor’ category, Barkhad Abdi (Somalia) in the ‘Best Actor in a Supporting role’ category and Lupita Nyong’o (Kenya) in the ‘Best Actress in a Supporting role’ category. Lupita made us proud by winning the Academy Award for ‘Best Actress in a Supporting role’ for her role in 12 Years a Slave. She was also named the ‘Most beautiful Woman’ by People magazine (I never really understood that People Magazine award: as if they had searched through the 3.5Billion women in the world before giving this award!) and ‘Woman of the Year’ in Glamour, and was announced as the ‘New Face’ of Lancôme, a first for a Black woman.

8. Nigeria became Africa’s # 1 economy after rebasing its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 1990 to 2010 constant prices. Nigeria just surpassed South Africa as Africa’s top economy, and the world’s 26th largest economy.

9. U.S President Barack Obama hosts 50 African Heads of State and government officials at the historic US-Africa Leaders Summit.

George Weah
George Weah

10. George Weah, the only African to have won a FIFA World Player of the Year (in 1995) and won Ballon d’Or, won a senate seat in Liberia yesterday Dec. 29th. The 2005 presidential contender (he had won the first round of the elections then) of Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf won the senate elections against Robert Sirleaf (President Johnson-Sirleaf’s son). This was a landslide victory; it is a step forward, and progress is always to be acclaimed!

2014 FIFA World Cup: Historic Advance for African Teams

2014 FIFA World Cup
2014 FIFA World Cup
Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has brought a lot of surprises thus far: the sharp exit of the defending champions Spain, the exit of Italy and England, the advances of countries like Costa Rica, Belgium, Colombia, or Switzerland into the last round of 16.  Above all, what has brought joy to me, a fellow African, is the advance of two African countries for the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup into the last round of 16: namely, Nigeria and Algeria (never mind that their names both finish with ‘geria‘).  I am glad to see that my predictions of seeing Algeria move forward into the round of 16 came true, and agreed with Maradona’s.  I am also thrilled to see Nigeria (whom I had thought were in a good group and had big chances of advancing) progress.

Flag of Algeria
Flag of Algeria
Schedule for 30 June 2014, FIFA World Cup Round of 16
Schedule for 30 June 2014, FIFA World Cup Round of 16

Today, both countries will face France and Germany respectively (France – Nigeria and Germany – Algeria). We wish them the very best as they carry the hopes of the entire continent up, and we hope to be elated by the strength of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and the dexterity and perseverance of the Fennecs of Algeria.  May the best teams win!

2014 FIFA World Cup: All the African Teams

2014 FIFA World Cup
2014 FIFA World Cup

Tomorrow, the world will vibrate to the rhythm of samba, carnivals, and Copacabana… Yes tomorrow, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will start in Brazil, and 32 of the best soccer nations will compete at this great planetary event.  This will one month of soccer, pure joy, fun, and above all talent;  Talent expressed by players from around the globe.  Legends will be made, new faces discovered, and dreams will take off.

Five African teams will grace the tournament: Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria.

We do hope that at least one African team will advance into the round of 16, and beyond.  Here are some of the African stars to watch out for.

2014 FIFA World Cup groups
2014 FIFA World Cup groups

The Desert Foxes of Algeria are a good team to contend with, in another relatively easy group with Russia, South Korea, and Belgium.  This should hopefully be an easy one.  Maradona predicts Algeria “will cause a surprise”, while Rivaldo says “the possibilities of reaching the second round are abundant”.

Samuel Eto’o Fils, captain of Cameroon’s Indomitaple Lions, is incontestably one of the best forwards on the planet, and one of the greatest strikers of his generation. This might be his last world cup, and Cameroon’s first in 8 years.  The Pichichi, and winner of several honors including African Ballon d’Or, will have to be ready to affront Brazil, the host country, Mexico, and Croatia in group A.

Didier Drogba, captain of Cote d’Ivoire’s Elephants, like Eto’o is also one of the best on the planet.  After playing for Chelsea and winning countless trophies, he is now in Turkey with Galatasaray FC.  This will probably be his last world cup.  We wish him, and the Ivorian team the very best.  They qualified with gusto to this competition.  They have a relatively easy group with Colombia, Japan, and Greece.  I will put my money on them moving to the next round in the tournament.

Armadillo, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot
Armadillo, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot

Relying on their strength at the back, with captain and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria will have to face Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Iran.  The Super Eagles have undergone a radical transformation under Stephen Keshi, which has made them win last year African Cup of Nations‘ tournament. With good discipline, they should be able to advance in the competition as well.

The Black Stars of Ghana were fancied to repeat, or even improve on, their run to the quarter-finals in 2010 in South Africa.  That was until the draw was made and they were pitted with the world’s second and third-ranked sides.  Asamoah Gyan and his teammates will play against Germany, Portugal, and the United States. This is the “group of death”.  Ghana is a very good team; if they manage to make it to the round of 16, then they will quite far at the World Cup.  We wish them the very best in the competition.

Brazil 2014 World Cup
Brazil 2014 World Cup

Throughout the years, I have placed high hopes on African teams and have always been disappointed.  I might once again be disappointed.  However, this is planetary tournament, and the fun of it makes one root for any good team.  For the world cup winner, I believe Brazil, the host country has home court advantage, as well as a pool of great talents.  Let us hope that will be enough to make them winners.  I also think Argentina of Lionel Messi will be a really great contender, as well as Spain, the last world cup winners.  Overall, let the world cup start, with all the fun, and may the best team win!!!