Africa

Pope tours Africa, but Dalai Lama won’t be visiting anytime soon

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Pope Francis has been on African tour this week, getting an ecstatic welcome by Kenyans and Ugandans, as both countries have large Catholic population, as well as other Christian denominations.

An African visit by another notable religious leader, Dalai Lama, seems much less likely nowadays. That has nothing to with religion, nor the fact that few Buddhists live in Africa. It is all about politics, namely Chinese influence in Africa. China will strongly oppose any attempts by Dalai Lama to visits China’s partner states in Africa. These countries, largely dependent on China-relations, will most likely heed to the Chinese advise.

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Addis Ababa paves the way for Sub-Saharan urban rail

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Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, has now an operating light rail system. The first line commenced operations on September 20, 2015, while second line is still under construction. The significance of this rail system should not be undermined, given this is not Europe where every large city has effective public transport system.

Almost every large city in Africa suffers from heavy traffic, and transport systems are nothing short of chaotic. Addis Ababa has now shown that brand new rail infrastructure can be built within a densely built city. The next challenge is it to be an operational success.

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All Africa Games were held this year, but did you know it?

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All-Africa Games could be described as the “Olympics of Africa”, being a multi-sport event which (supposedly) draws all the best sportsmen and -women from all over the continent. The 12th edition of All-Africa Games were just concluded in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. The same city hosted the first event back in 1965. Brazzaville is the second city to host the Games twice, after Algiers, which acted as the host in 1978 and 2007. All Africa Games has been in almost all cases is the biggest sporting event ever held in the hosting country.

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Western countries lead the World Economic Forum’s tourism ranking

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The World Economic Forum has published the 2015 edition of its  biennial Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report. The ranking is dominated by western countries, the top three positions are taken by Spain, France and Germany. The best African country is South Africa, 48th, thus just making the top-50. Seychelles, Mauritius and Namibia are the only other African countries reaching the upper half of the table (TOP 70). Instead, the bottom 25 has 19 African countries, and that includes Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique that are actually fairly popular with tourists. The last place (141) is taken by Chad.

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Kariba dam half empty – energy crisis in Southern Africa gets deeper

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Lack of rains this year has led fall of water levels of the Kariba dam reservoir on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, and subsequently diminished power generation. The water level of the reservoir is now only 40% of its full capacityZambia generates almost all of its electricity by hydropower plants (over 99%), with Kariba Dam being the main source. Copper mining in northern parts of the country is vital for Zambian economy, but power crisis have now forced mining companies to cut back on production. These companies already suffer from low copper prices and now power shortage means significantly increased costs. Should the situation be prolonged, mines may be forced to be closed, and thousands of workers will be sent home. The power shortage is also hurting other industries and affects the daily life of Zambians.

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List of best universities in Africa released – South Africa leads the way

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African universities have recently been ranked by the Times Higher Education foundation, who recently released a TOP-30 list of African universities. South African universities lead the list, as eleven out of Top 20 African universities are from South Africa. According to the ranking, University of Cape Town (UCT) is the best university in Africa, followed by Wits University in Johannesburg and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The 20 best universities are listed below:

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World Tourism Organization 2014 stats – small growth in Africa

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World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has recently published the 2014 statistics on international tourism. These are summarised on the UNWTO Tourism Highlights (2015 edition) publication. Globally tourism has been growing almost uninterrupted since the 1950’s. Europe accounts still about half of all international tourist arrivals, but emerging regions, especially Asia-Pacific but also Middle East and Africa have seen stronger growth in the last 30 years. Asia-Pacific region has now overtaken the Americas as the second most popular region. Despite the growth since 1980’s, Africa remains a minor player in world tourism, with 2014 being a year of a slow growth, not least due to Ebola outbreak.
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African riders make their presence felt in cycle racing

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Road cycling is known as a sport dominated by white Europeans. If people were asked who is the best African cyclist, the most likely answer would be Chris Froome, Tour de France 2013 winner who was born in Kenya, then moved to South Africa but has represented UK for years now. Other than that, various (white) South Africans like Robert Hunter and Darryl Impey have been established names in the world of competitive cycling. North African countries (Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) have also performed well in continental competitions, but have made little mark beyond that. But more remarkably, new cyclists are emerging from less known countries like Rwanda and Eritrea. Ethnic African riders are participating Tour de France for the first time this year. At the early stages of he competition Daniel Teklehaimanot of Eritrea made history by wearing the polka-dot jersey, given to the leader of King of the Mountains competition.

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More unwelcome visa news – Uganda and Malawi fee hikes

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UPDATE, July 30, 2016: The cost of Uganda single-entry visa has been reduced back to 50 USD, so the double price was a short experiment ending in a foreseeable failure.  For Malawi, the current visa fees appear to be 75 USD for a 3-month-visa, or 50 USD for transit visa valid for seven days.

Just as Kenya stops issuing visa on arrival, two other African countries punish tourists by significantly increasing visa fees. Reports say that the cost of Ugandan single entry visa has been doubled from 50 to 100 USD, while the Malawi visa is or will be increased to 75 USD, while previously visa-exempt nationalities have to pay for a visa.

Western tourists are used to visit most countries of interest without having to pay for a visa, but just few of those countries are in Africa. Recent fee hikes further highlight the divide. Majority of potential tourists shun Africa due to numerous image problems the continent has, and new visa rules will not improve situation.

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African success in youth football

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This year’s edition of the biennial Under 20 FIFA World Cup held in New Zealand came to an end with Serbia beating Brazil in the final at the dying minutes of Extra time. The third place final saw two African teams playing each other, where Mali defeated Senegal 3-0.

All four African teams in the tournament reached playoffs (top 16). This is much better feat than in senior World Cup where Africa struggles to send even one team past group stage. Ghana is the only African team to win U20 World Cup, in 2005. They have also recorded two lost finals and one third place, as have Nigeria, but the latter lacks a championship. This year’s third place was the second for Mali, the first one dating back to 1999.

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