News in Africa: 01/24/2013

Happy Thursday, fellow Persephoneers, and this means another round of news from Africa! After the jump, I’ve got updates on the conflict in Mali, AU decisions, and women’s rights. I’ve also discovered an enterprising entrepreneur, and of course, there is a bit about the Africa Cup of Nations. Let’s jump right in!

Let’s get the not-so-happy news out of the way first, starting with Mali. In spite of France’s President Hollande expressing a desire to distance his country from African affairs, it seems like they just keep stepping in to various internal affairs. Last week, I mentioned how France sent 2,000 troops to help the Malian government troops turn back the al Qaeda-backed militants in northern Mali. At that point, France was calling for other African nations to step in and help out, pushing for an “Africanization” of the conflict. On the one hand, Chad has responded by sending troops. On the other hand, France received financial backing from the rest of Europe to continue to help in the conflict in Mali where they were able to reverse the rebel advance. So”¦ this might be a gradual process for France.

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked country in southern Africa. Although it made a favorable impression on me when I visited it back in 1998, it is not a country without its problems. The tiny nation has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS and all of its side effects. It also has a ruling king who has been criticized by the likes of Amnesty International. To me, that doesn’t typically denote greatness. So King Mswatti III is currently looking for a hangman–oh joy!–so that prisoners on death row may be executed. Me? I’m not for capital punishment, and this seems especially cruel. In related news, this is the same country that has used (and encouraged) jail as a tool for parents to punish disobedient children. That last link talks about a young pregnant woman and her boyfriend getting jailed by the young woman’s mother. What the heck, Swaziland? I’m trying to be objective here, but seriously, you’re making it hard.

Back in 2008, I went to a local discussion on the conflicts in Sudan. Presenting were two UN members, a Sudanese human rights advocate, and her colleague, a photojournalist. The one factoid that stood out the clearest to me from that whole discussion was when she said that Sudanese women were more likely to die in childbirth than to ever learn how to read or write. Sudan is not alone in these kinds of statistics. In fact, although Africa represents only 14% of the world’s population, it accounts for over half of all maternal deaths worldwide. That is staggering. Because of this, the African Union is trying to focus on making healthcare more accessible for women. An initiative that started in Mozambique has gained popularity in 36 other African nations. Results include opening midwifery schools so that there are fewer unattended births. Personally, this kind of news makes me want to dance for joy.

In general, I’ve noticed a trend across Africa that has been increasingly supportive of the continent’s women, which is fantastic. (Side note: obviously, there is still a long way to go, but things are changing and moving forward, thanks in a big way to Africa’s incredible women leaders with brass ovaries and a whole lot of moxie. Still, seeing this kind of progress is exciting.) With the increasing support for African women comes a push for more training for women. Dr. Betty Achan Ogwaro, South Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, says that it is essential to train women, especially in rural areas. Ogwaro points out that when people go to rural areas to train villagers, the men attend the training while the women work in the fields. Ogwaro says that women, who are responsible for most of Africa’s food production need to be at these training sessions. She adds that, “Women are the backbone of the economy in Africa and should be supported.” (<–this!)

I’m not sure if this is a step forward or back or if it’s a standstill, but whichever it is, I feel like it’s worth noticing! Curvy African women now have their own beauty pageant: Miss Curvy Africa. Oh wait, it’s only for women with curves who keep a “flat tummy.” Maybe it’s not that progressive after all…

But wait! I have a story about an Ethiopian entrepreneur that will knock your socks and shoes off–and replace them with fair trade shoes made by local artisans out of upcycled and new materials. Move over, TOMS, these shoes are gorgeous and doubly ethical. Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu started “SoleRebels” in 2004 with the intention of providing jobs for those around her and creating an in-demand product. She achieved both goals with her company becoming one of the most thriving businesses in Ethiopia and becoming the first fair trade green footwear firm certified by the World Fair Trade Organization. Check out the groovy footwear over at SoleRebels and consider buying some of these unique shoes! I want to buy all of them…

And a quick update on the Africa Cup of Nations! Most recent matches: Ivory Coast beat Togo 2-1, Tunisia beat Algeria 1-0, and South Africa beat Angola 2-0. Just as a reminder, these are the countries that qualified for the competition: South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Zambia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Morocco, Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Angola, Niger, Togo, Congo DR, Burkina Faso, and Algeria. As usual, South Africa is hosting the event.

What did you think of the news this week? Anything you read recently that left you excited about Africa’s future?

By Dormouse

Bilingual (and a half) white girl who spent thirteen of her formative years in Africa. She is a writer, mentor, coffee drinker, wife, cat owner, language lover, photography dabbler, aspiring speaker, and a lifetime student. She keeps her writing going over at

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