Gabriele Asare, posted on YouTube
Laurent Guilard posted in the Daily Motion
High up in the wooded flank of the Guinea Highlands, a land of icy streams and alpine pastures, rises the stripling Niger, and its affluents, the Dion, the Sankarani and the Milo. Southward, beyond the rocky watershed, the mountain streams have bored their way down the cliffs and are lost in the vast stifling rainforest that blocks off the Highlands from the Gulf of Guinea. But on this northern flank, each river has carved out a delightful valley of its own, and the most delightful of all is the Milo Valley, an African garden of Eden.It was here, in the district of Konya, that the kola trade had flourished since the Middle Ages, providing its own bonanza. The kola nut was grown in the clearings of the forest, marketed in the valley and then carried laboriously across the wilderness for hundreds of miles to the mud villages and mud cities of the Sudan and beyond. The nut, one of the few stimulants allowed by Islam, was served as a luxury throughout Islamic Africa, and the Middle East. To organize this demanding trade came the Dyula, Muslim immigrants from the coast. The Dyula metropolis was Kankan, a teeming village of mud huts on the banks of the river Milo.The lines of trade pushed out and became more sophisticated. The arterial trade routes designed for the delicate and perishable kola nut-- fair markets, dry storehouses, trustworthy guards, able porters -- could also supply delicate girl slaves from the forests. In return back came ingots of salt from the Sahara and the luxuries of North Africa that the caravans had brought from still further away: fine cloth from Morocco, pottery from Tunis, horses from Arabia.
Sometimes, a passage in a book can, in a few sentences, transmit the essence of an entire world. Thomas Pakenham's ‘vast, scholarly and delightful’* 1991 epic, The Scramble for Africa details many of the European campaigns, and the figures who led them, into the interior of the continent for the sake of crown and glory. The above passage, conjuring a tropical Switzerland is itself so intriguing and magical, and in Pakenham's history, sets the scene for the French campaigns from both the coast and the desert to source the Niger River. The book as a whole is a vast, essential chronicle how the global slave trade, stretching its wicked tentacles deep into the the remotest redoubts of the region—increasing their vulnerability just as the European armies penetrated further into indigenous domains.Today, the heart of the Guinea Highlands is nominally protected by a National Park designation: The deep verdancy at the center of the above in the Google Earth image is the Parc National Haut-Niger. Three symmetrical clouds float over its center. At right, a slightly larger bit of cloud hovers just to the west of a white-grey mass that is the city of Kankan. The Niger, quickly widening as it enters southwesternmost Mali, can be seen at upper right. West African Manatees have been scientifically verified as far upriver as this border region; the Parc's population, thought to be several thousand, have reported dugong sightings deep in the park's interior, thousands of miles from the delta, and the Gulf of Guinea.
As she looked for her car key she asked if I must get back right away or would I like to come with her for a short drive through town.
‘Bori at night is simply fascinating,’ she said…
She certainly knew the city well, from the fresh-smelling, modern water-front to the stinking, maggoty interior.
We drove through wide, well-lit streets bearing the names of our well-known politicians and into obscure lanes named after some unknown small fish. Even insignificant city councillors had their little streets…
I began to wonder whether Jean actually enjoyed driving through these places as she claimed she did or whether she had some secret reason, like wanting me to feel ashamed about my country's capital city. I hardly knew her but I could see she was that kind of person, a most complicated woman.
We were now back in the pleasant, high-class area.
‘That row of ten houses belongs to the Minister of Construction,’ she said, ‘They are let to different embassies at three thousand a year each.’
So what, I said within myself. Your accusation may be true but you’ve no right to make it. Leave it to us and don't contaminate our cause by espousing it.
‘But that’s another Chief Nanga Street ’ I said aloud, pointing to my left.
‘No. What we saw near the fountain was Chief Nanga Avenue,’ she said and we both burst out laughing, friends again. ‘I’m not sure there isn’t a Road as well somewhere,’ she said. ‘I know there is a Circle.’
Then I promptly recoiled again. Who the hell did she think she was to laugh so self-righteously. Wasn’t there more than enough in her own country to keep her laughing all her days? Or crying if she preferred it?
‘I have often wondered,’ she said, completely insensitive to my silent resentment, ‘why don't they call some streets after the many important names in your country’s history or past events like your independence as they do in France and other countries?’
‘Because this is not France but Africa,’ I said with peevish defiance.
She obviously thought I was being sarcastic and laughed again. But what I had said was another way of telling her to go to hell. Now I guessed I knew why she took so much delight in driving through our slums. She must have taken hundreds of photographs already to send home to her relations. And, come to think of it, would she— lover of Africa that she was—would she be found near a black man in her own country?
…‘I was wondering whether I could see you again,’
‘Do you want to?’
‘Why not? Let me call you tomorrow?’An excerpt from the end of chapter 5 of Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People, written in 1966. Posted today on the first anniversary of his passing. It’s a shame that, if people read any Achebe at all, it is only his best-known work, Things Fall Apart, which is monumental, but not his only masterpiece. In looking for this passage, which I thought was a brilliant, multivalent telling of an African city, I came across so many other great little moments just in the 137 pages of this story, which I enjoyed just as much as his other books.
Resource-rich African countries are busy setting up sovereign wealth funds, but critics say the funds may not serve the long-term interests of poor countries that still need to invest in basics such as schools and roads.
Three oil producers, Angola, Ghana and Nigeria, started funds in the last two years. Before them, only Botswana, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea had such schemes. Other countries are following. Zambia and Liberia announced plans for funds last month. Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have similar intentions.
The funds can serve useful purposes, analysts say. Commodity earnings can be split into one fund for infrastructure and another for savings that can be used as collateral for even bigger amounts.
"Africa needs higher savings," said Razia Khan, the head of Africa research at Standard Chartered Bank. "If it is done properly, the sovereign wealth fund and the accumulation of long-term savings essentially means that countries are improving their creditworthiness and opening up access to bigger sources of financing on more favourable terms. It does not preclude investment in infrastructure."
But critics say Africa could reap more from its resources by investing in education, energy, and transport to feed other industries, rather than parking the money in liquid but low-yield assets in safe havens, as sovereign funds tend to do. Many successful wealth funds belong to countries with surpluses and rich citizens, which can afford them. That is not the case with many sub-Saharan African governments struggling to feed or educate their people, said Kwame Owino, the chief executive at the Nairobi-based Institute of Economic Affairs.
"It would be a luxury to have. The political will may exist, but the economics of it suggest that a sovereign wealth fund is not a good idea for many sub-Saharan countries," he said.
"In many of these countries as well, transparency is a big problem and the amount of leakage that takes place in public funds is a reason to be concerned."
Liberia is looking at various models of wealth funds, including Norway's, the world's most transparent sovereign wealth fund, Finance Minister Amara Konneh said. The west African country also wants to avoid the so-called "Dutch disease", where a dependence on resource extraction causes other industries to wither.
Botswana's $6.9 billion Pula Fund was the continent's most transparent on the Linaburg-Maduell index, with a rating of 6 out of 10. Nigeria's $1 billion kitty had a rating of 4 in the third quarter of 2013. The country added $550 million to the fund in February.
"We have a real governance deficit," said Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based independent analyst. "My concerns are that in a majority of these countries where there is a commodity-related windfall, it is proven already that in those countries the governance is the poorest of all the African countries." He cited Nigeria and Angola as example.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for more than three decades, appointed his eldest son to run the country's $5 billion fund in 2013. That undermined confidence in how it will be managed, given the country's reputation for squandering or siphoning off petrol dollars...Angola's money bags have been stuffed with cash since the end of the country's civil war in 2002. It is now investing in developed-market equities and bonds issued by sovereign agencies, investment-grade companies, high-yield emerging market assets and Africa's hotel sector. Nigeria's reserve was created in 2011 for three main purposes. One is infrastructure, another is a collective savings account and another is a so-called stabilization fund, to cushion against commodity price shocks. A remaining 15 percent is unallocated.
Collaborative research and mapping for Nairobi’s Public Transit[We] are working toward standardizing and opening transit data for Nairobi’s Matatus — the informal and de facto city bus system — and expanding our findings, tools, and processes globally. Building on past Kenyan-based digital mapping efforts and open source transit software, the group will produce a comprehensive framework for collecting, opening and mapping Matatu transportation data toward a mobile and equitable Nairobi. Currently underway, a primary round of data collection and local student design workshops are growing the understanding of this otherwise misunderstood and complex system. The first series of tools will be entering development this spring to improve on data collection and transport information management in the decentralized Matatu system. This project uses Nairobi’s active mobile phone community to develop a standardized Matatu bus route for Nairobi informal buses. By developing crowd sourcing applications we hope people in Nairobi can develop, contribute, maintain and own their own transit information.
Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast have decided to turn over operation of the Abidjan-Ouagadougou railway to mining company Pan African Minerals, and the line will be extended to its planned manganese mine, Burkina Faso's prime minister said.Burkina's premier Luc Adolphe Tiao told Reuters that French conglomerate Bollore's contract to operate the 1,260 km railway from the Ivory Coast port of Abidjan to Burkina's capital Ouagadougou had expired.
"We've decided to create a new railway company. This company will be in charge of rehabilitating and operating the line," Tiao said in a recent interview.Pan African Minerals, which is developing a large manganese mine at Tambao in the northeast of Burkina Faso, will control 55 percent of the new operator, Tiao said.
The start-up of production at Tambao is a priority for the government of Burkina Faso as it seeks to diversify its economy and tax revenue away from reliance on gold and cotton.Tiao said the governments had sent a letter to Bollore last week to notify it of their decision. The railway currently handles 40 freight trains and 12 passenger trains a week, according to Bollore's Web site.
Bollore will hold 25 percent in the new rail operator, and the two governments will each control 10 percent, he said.
A spokesman for Ivory Coast's Transport Ministry confirmed that a letter was sent to Bollore last week with the plans for the new company.
An official spokesman for Bollore Africa Logistics, the transport and logistics division of the French conglomerate in Africa, could not immediately be reached for comment.A source at the French firm confirmed, however, that a new company would be created, in which Bollore would hold 25 percent and Pan African minerals 55 percent, to renovate the railway line and extend it as far as the town of Kaya, which lies some 100 km northeast of Ouagadougou and 210 km south of the Tambao mine.
The source said the contract for Bollore's Sitarail unit to provide freight and passenger services on the Abidjan-Ouagadougou line runs until 2035. The new operator will be in charge only of manganese shipments from the mine, the source said.
The prime minister said that Pan African Minerals, which is controlled by Romanian-British entrepreneur Frank Timis, was expected to start production at its manganese mine in 2017.
An extension of the rail link from Ougadougou to Tambao should be completed by 2017 in time for the start of production, he added. The Tambao mine has raised its estimate of reserves to a total of 100 million tonnes of manganese and will produce 5 million tonnes per year, Tiao said.
The extension of the Abidjan-Ougadougou railway is part of ambitious regional plans to create a rail networking [sic] linking several capitals in West Africa.Technical studies are underway to extend the planned line from Kaya to Niger's capital Niamey, according to the government of Niger. The study is due to be completed in March 2014.
Studies are also underway to extend an existing line in Benin, which runs from the port of Cotonou to the town of Parakou, as far as Niamey.The background story on the switch control from French industrial giant Bollore to Romanian-British billionaire Frank Timis's Pan African Minerals is also intriguing.
As with the London version, I have taken quite a few geographic/artistic licences for the purposes of design clarity and readability. My thinking is ppp: companies with deep pockets could sponsor the design & build of some of the stations to reduce the strain on the public purse, and in return pick the name of their choice (see Zenith, Silverbird, IBTC). On the other hand, some of the station names strongly signal a poetic sense of place, as with Palace (for the Oba’s Palace on Lagos Island), and 1004, standing for the eponymous flats. Again, for ease of use, I have left out the Five Cowrie Creek that separates Lagos Island from Victoria Island below it – those familiar with the morphology of Lagos can project it onto the map in their imagination.While this is all fun, as in my own case, would that we lived in a world where such public works projects were reality, rather than bloggers' graphic follies. More positively, a light-rail system is in the works for the urban area, supposedly set to open imminently, and various high-speed rail projects are advancing in Nigeria.
What a joy Lagos would be with this metro system (it could be part overground, and part underground, depending on geology). As with the London version, I have kept a light rail system heading due East towards Ajah and Epe from the shared stations of Lekki/The Palms – this is it to cater for the marshy terrain along the Lekki peninsular.
Just imagine how convenient it would be if Lagos had this metro. The highbrow set could take the Falomo line (Piccadilly renamed) from their Bourdillon mansions to catch a classical music concert at Muson – at last not having to worry about parking and ‘settling’ awon boys; one could shop for a picnic at The Palms, then drink and eat it all on the new-look Bar Beach; or one could stock up on no-one-need-knowjuju fetish-wear at Oyingbo market before heading for the Silverbird cinema (connecting onto the Circle line at Kuramo Waters).
A painstaking investigation conducted by the Independent Authoritative Heritage has established how some motorcyclists are locally transforming their motorcycles into tricycles to enable them ply the main streets in Monrovia and its environs. Motorcycles are widely refereed to here as ‘Pehn-Pehn’, while on the other hand; motorcyclists are called ‘Pehn-Pehn’ riders.Note how the locally jury-rigged motorbikes are described in such deceptive fashion in both the reporting and by the passengers and by-standers, in contrast to the admiring manner in which the imported 'tricycles' are referred.
This latest development comes in the wake of the mass importation of tricycles into the country. The tricycles have since taken the place of motorcycles, which were banned by the Government of Liberia (GOL) late last year from plying the main streets of Monrovia and its environs.
The government said it took the action in order to reduce the high rate of accident cases caused by ‘pehn-pehn’ riders. The government’s action also followed an incident which involved a motorcyclist and a bus drive in which the motorcyclist lost his life and the busallegedly set ablaze by some motorcyclists in revenge of the death of their colleagues.
In the same vein, the motorcyclists were reported to have wounded several police officers, including Col. Darlington George, Deputy Police Commissioner for Operation.
Accordingly, on Tuesday, February 25, 2014, our reporter ran into one of the transformed motorcyclists on Benson Street, Monrovia. The rider, believed to have gone for lunch, parked the self-made tricycle at the intersection of Gurley and Bensons Streets.
It is not clear whether authorities of the Liberia National Police(LNP) are aware of this made in Liberia tricycles.
But some onlookers, who spoke to our reporter, said they had seen similar made in Liberia tricycles commuting passengers in central Monrovia without any attempt by traffic police to question the riders.
“These locally made tricycles are different from the imported ones- we do not know why the police are not detecting them. The police are not just serious people in this country. All they do is to run behind cabman for $5 dollars business leaving behind potential threat to citizens,” remarked one of the bystanders.
Beautifully colored with yellow, the cage contained an old safari motorcycle as if it is an imported one.
According to our reporter, the bystanders were seen arguing among themselves that the tricycle was not a locally made one, but rather imported from India, one of the countries where tricycles are common in the transport industry.
The well self-designed tricycle has a distance beauty that convinces anyone that it is being imported from a foreign country. The local manufacturer is reported to have used wheelbarrow tyers at the back of the tricycle, while the front tyer is believed to be the original tyer of the Safari (Honda) motorcycle.
Already plying the streets of central Monrovia, observers say the new technique by motorcyclists is believed to be working well, as there has been no report of police detecting such technique even though their presence is felt at major street intersections downtown Monrovia.
Meanwhile, the government last week announced that there were plans to stop tricycles from plying the main streets in Monrovia and its environs.
Against this backdrop, the government is cautiously calling on business owners and the general public to stop the importation of the tricycles into the country.
As in the case of motorcycles, the government pointed out, this is part of its ongoing measures aimed at protecting lives and properties, as well as reducing accidents cases, mainly in Monrovia and its environs.
The President challenged the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to ensure that the Mesurado River is cleared of garbage, to allow those boating to have a garbage-free environment at all times...
The President seriously frowned at the Waterside section of the river, where makeshift latrines are built along the bank, terming them as unacceptable and should be removed immediately.She also instructed the committee to include the clean-up of Providence Island, to make it a tourist attraction and, at the same time, to complete the construction of the monument on the island. When completed, the monument will address one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that such a structure be erected in honor of those who paid the ultimate price for peace in Liberia.President Sirleaf encouraged parents to join the government and its partners in the effort to create an enabling environment for Liberian children. The park, she said, will go a long way in allowing the Liberian child to play once again, where they will know no war. She called upon parents to be good partners in achieving this objective.