sub-Saharan Africa

Endangered species portrait:  The African Wild Dog (Lycaon Pictus).

Sophisticated pack hunters in sub-Saharan Africa, subsisting on everything from antelope to warthog.  They’d eat you too.  I think it’s important to preserve the animals that could as it’s a reminder that in the infancy of our evolution, we were prey.

Terracotta head

Nigeria, Nok region

ca. 600 BC-AD 250

Although probably a fragment of a nearly life-size male seated figure, this head is remarkably well preserved. The Nok terracottas may have been part of a shrine or temple or were placed on a tomb. The identities of the portrayed figures remain unknown, but the adornments and elaborate hairstyles and headdresses seem to indicate that they represent notables or leaders.

From the Cleveland Museum of Art
West Africans have some of the healthiest diets in the world
It's comprised of lean meats, vegetables, legumes, and staple starches, with less processed foods.
By Lily Kuo

“Using self-reported diet surveys from 187 countries that are home to 89% of the world’s adult population, researchers led by Fumiaki Imamura from the University of Cambridge analyzed the intake of healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fish, as well as foods containing fiber and omega-3s. They also looked at the consumption of unhealthy foods such as sugary drinks, saturated fats, sodium, and processed meats.

Taken all together, Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly West Africa, ranked better than wealthier regions in North America and Europe, probably because of a diet comprised of lean meats, vegetables, legumes, and staple starches, with less processed foods than countries that fared worse (such as the US and Russia).”

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Male terracotta figure

Sokoto style, Nigeria

c. 200 B.C. to A.D. 200

This sculpture depicts a political ruler, a religious leader, or a person of high social rank. Although his precise identity is not known, his features offer some clues. His beard is a timeless and conventional masculine symbol of advanced age and wisdom; the incised lines around his neck probably represent a coiled necklace with pendants or rings of fat; and the staff, scepter, weapon, or adze slung over his shoulder is a symbol of power and leadership. The Museum’s hollow figure is stylistically similar to terracotta sculptures that have been unearthed in Sokoto State in the northwestern corner of Nigeria. A carefully modeled hairstyle and elaborate beard frame his face; heavy, down-turned eyelids conceal his pierced eyes; incised lines form eyelashes; and his mouth is opened slightly. Textured patterns under  his eyes further emphasize them. These features combine to give the figure a severe expression. His disproportionately large navel, indicative of a herniated navel, is common in the sculptures of sub-Saharan cultures.

Dating Sokoto sculpture is problematic. Unlike the terracottas dating from 500 to 200 BC excavated in Nok, a village near the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, the Sokoto figures have not, until recently, been documented in situ. The few examples that have been analyzed by thermoluminescence yield dates as early as 200 BC to AD 200.(1) This male bust is the oldest work of art from sub-Saharan Africa in the Museum’s permanent collection.

Dallas Museum of Art


“Quand le village se réveille …” (When the Village Awakes) is a project to collect and share the culture and traditions of Mali through new information and communication technologies, sharing texts, videos, audio, and testimonies drawn from elders – the guardians of tradition, culture, and collective memory of African society.

When the Village Awakes: A New Malian Culture Blog

Parasites and poor antenatal care are the main causes of epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions worldwide, and it is well known that it is significantly more prevalent in poorer countries and rural areas. The study of more than half a million people in five countries of sub-Saharan Africa is the first to reveal the true extent of the problem and the impact of different risk factors.

The study - conducted at International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health (INDEPTH) demographic surveillance sites in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana - screened 586 607 residents and identified 1711 who were diagnosed as having active convulsive epilepsy.

These individuals, along with 2033 who did not have epilepsy, were given a questionnaire to complete about their lifestyle habits. The team also took blood samples to test for exposure to malaria, HIV and four other parasitic diseases that are common in low-income countries.

The team found that adults who had been exposed to parasitic diseases were 1.5 to 3 times more likely to have epilepsy than those who had not. Epilepsy has previously been linked with various parasite infections, but this is the first study to reveal the extent of the problem.

Professor Charles Newton from the Wellcome Trust programme at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who led the study, said: “This study demonstrates that many cases of epilepsy could be entirely preventable with elimination of parasites in Africa, some of which - for example, onchocerciasis - have been controlled in some areas. In some areas the incidence of epilepsy could be reduced by 30-60 per cent with appropriate control measures.”

In children, the greatest risk factors for developing epilepsy were complications associated with delivery and head injury. Interventions to improve antenatal and perinatal care could substantially reduce the prevalence of epilepsy in this region, say the authors.

The study focused on people with convulsive epilepsies as they are the most reliably detected and reported and there remains a substantial stigma attached to patients with the disease.

“Facilities for diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management of epilepsy are virtually non-existent in many of the world’s poorest regions, so it’s vital that we take these simple steps to try and prevent as many cases of this debilitating disease as possible,” Professor Newton added.

The findings were published today in the journal ’Lancet Neurology’. The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust, with support from the University of the Witwatersrand and the South African Medical Research Council.

Wild birds 'come when called' to help hunt honey
Honey hunters in Mozambique rely on the help of honeyguide birds - and a new study reveals their two-way communication.

New findings suggest that the famous cooperation between honeyguide birds and human honey hunters in sub-Saharan Africa is a two-way conversation.

Honeyguides fly ahead of hunters and point out beehives which the hunters raid, leaving wax for the birds to eat.

The birds were already known to chirp at potential human hunting partners.

Now, a study in the journal Science reports that they are also listening out for a specific call made by their human collaborators.

Experiments conducted in the savannah of Mozambique showed that a successful bird-assisted hunt was much more likely in the presence of a distinctive, trilling shout that the Yao hunters of this region learn from their fathers.

“They told us is that the reason they make this ‘brrrr-hm’ sound, when they’re walking through the bush looking for bees’ nests, is that it’s the best way of attracting a honeyguide - and of maintaining a honeyguide’s attention once it starts guiding you,” said Dr Claire Spottiswoode, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, UK, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, who led the study.

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Thanks to Prepaid Africa

Door of Yes Return: Art & Ouidah, Benin

New Contemporary Art Museum: Fondation Zinsou

From Fondation Zinsou: 

On the occasion of the inauguration of its new museum of Ouidah, the Zinsou Foundation presents a selection of works from its collection of contemporary art. This first exhibition includes works by both local and international artists Romuald Hazoumé, Cyprien Tokoudagba, Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré, Lilanga George, Samuel Fosso, Seni Awa Camara, Jean-Dominique Burton, Bruce Clarke, Chéri Samba, Mickäel Bethe Selassie , Aston, Kifouli Dossou and Solly Cissé.

From Global Times:
First sub-Saharan Africa museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary African art

Until last year, the few tourists who visited the small west African town of Ouidah were likely headed to the Gateway of No Return, a massive monument to the area’s bleak history as a slave trading hub. But the town may soon become known for an attraction of an entirely different sort: the first sub-Saharan Africa museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary African art.

FG Excited As Nigeria Is Set To Host 2014 World Economic Forum On Africa

Nigeria is to host the 24th edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Abuja next year.

The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, made the announcement at the close of the 23rd edition of the WEF in Cape Town, South Africa on Friday.

Okonjo-Iweala thanked the WEF for choosing Nigeria as the next host, expressing the readiness of the country to make the next edition as exciting as possible.

She said that the choice of Nigeria was appropriate given its position and huge economic potential.

“I think we epitomise a lot of things about Africa. We have the excitement, the passion, the entrepreneurship, the private sector drive and the glow for the future.

“But we also epitomise all of the difficult challenges of the continent such as infrastructure deficit, governance issues, corruption and transparency,” she said.

According to her, a combination of these opportunities and challenges in one country makes Nigeria the most exciting place to be on the continent.

Okonjo-Iweala said that the future of Africa was bright, judging by the commitment and passion demonstrated by participants in the forum, especially the Young Global Leaders, who represented the youths of the continent.

The Director General, Nigeria Economic Summit Group, Mr Frank Nweke Jnr, said that Nigeria was excited to be the host of the next WCF.

He said that President Goodluck Jonathan had already mandated the team to organise a successful forum.

Warum Entwicklungshilfe KEIN Fass ohne Boden ist

Es kann leicht der Eindruck entstehen, dass viele im Westen Entwicklungshilfe inzwischen als Fass ohne Boden betrachten. Diese Auffassung ist bei flüchtiger Betrachtung nachvollziehbar. Immerhin werden die Staaten der sogenannten Dritten Welt nun bereits seit Jahrzehnten finanziell, humanitär und technisch aus dem Westen (und zunehmend auch Ostasien) unterstützt – und dennoch scheinen sie sich nicht aus ihrer Armut nicht befreien zu können.

Entwicklungshilfe ist aber alles andere als ein Fass ohne Boden – und es gibt jedes Jahr neue Erfolge, auch wenn sie im Westen wenig gesehen werden. Nicht nur ist es zahlreichen ostasiatischen Staaten gelungen, sich in den vergangenen 30 Jahren aus teilweise bitterster Armut zu befreien – auch in den ewigen „Problemstaaten“ in Subsahara-Afrika sind deutliche Fortschritte zu verzeichnen – von Kindersterblichkeit über Lebenserwartung bis hin zu Bildung und Entwicklung des Bruttoinlandsprodukts.

Die Weltbank hat im Oktober ihre Prognose für das Wirtschaftswachstum in Subsahara-Afrika für dieses Jahr angehoben – sie sagt nun durchschnittlich 4,9 Prozent Wachstum voraus. Das ist durchaus ordentlich. Schon seit den 1990er Jahren haben viele afrikanische Länder ihre Dauerkrise aus zumindest zum Teil überwunden und sind auf einem stetigen Wachstumskurs.

Um den Fortschritt in Perspektive zu setzen, wähle ich ein Land, in dem die Verhältnisse zu den schlimmsten der Erde gehören: Somalia. Somalia hat mit 51,20 Jahren eine der geringsten Lebenserwartungen weltweit. Doch damit liegt die Lebenserwartung eines der ärmsten und am schlimmsten von einem Bürgerkrieg betroffenen Länder der Welt schon auf dem Niveau des friedlichen Deutschlands des Jahres 1910. Und damals war die Lebenserwartung in Deutschland schon explosionsartig angestiegen – von um die 40 Jahre bei der Reichsgründung 1871. Die globale Lebenserwartung steigt weiter, jedes Jahr. Im weltweiten Durchschnitt liegt sie inzwischen bei rund 70 Jahren – höher als 1960 in Deutschland.

Was hat nun Entwicklungshilfe damit zu tun? Es gibt Stimmen, die behaupten, Entwicklungshilfe würde eher schaden, als helfen, da sie abhängig mache und demotivierend wirke. Teilweise wird auch kritisiert, dass vor allem egoistische Wirtschaftsinteressen bei der Entwicklungshilfe eine Rolle spielten. Es gibt deutliche Hinweise darauf, dass der noch amtierender deutsche Entwicklungshilfeminister Dirk Niebel (FDP) die Entwicklungshilfe vor allem so versteht, was erklärt, warum er sich nicht auf die ärmsten Länder der Welt, sondern auf wirtschaftlich interessante konzentrierte.  

Es ist aus meiner Sicht tatsächlich ein Schwachpunkt vieler Entwicklungshilfeprojekte, dass sie zu wenig evaluieren – also mit empirischen Daten herauszufinden versuchen, welchen Effekt ihre Maßnahmen tatsächlich haben – auch wenn auch hier deutliche Fortschritte erzielt wurden, unter anderem durch die Arbeiten der französischen Ökonomin Esther Duflo.

Einer jedoch, der von Evaluation und Empirie geradezu besessen ist, ist Bill Gates. Seine Bill & Melinda Gates-Stiftung setzt dort an, wo Entwicklungshilfe aller Wahrscheinlichkeit am allermeisten hilft: bei der Gesundheitsversorgung der Kinder und bei Impfungen gegen schwere Erkrankungen.

Warum ist das so? Mangelnde Bildung und mangelnde Intelligenz sind zwei Faktoren, die extrem stark mit Armut korrelieren. Und schwere Krankheiten, Mangelernährung und mangelnde Gesundheitsversorgung – insbesondere in der Kindheit – wirken sich stark negativ auf die Entwicklung und die Intelligenz aus.

Umweltfaktoren haben einen riesigen Einfluss auf die Intelligenz – das zeigt folgendes Beispiel besonders drastisch: In Großbritannien werden bereits seit über 100 Jahren Intelligenztests in breiten Teilen der Bevölkerung durchgeführt. Obwohl in 100 Jahren ganz sicher keine evolutionär-genetische bedingte Veränderung des Intelligenzquotienten (IQ) zu erwarten ist, ist der gemessene IQ explodiert. Ein durchschnittlich intelligenter Brite des Jahres 1900 würde, wenn er heute einen britischen Intelligenztest des Jahres 2013 absolvierte, einen IQ von rund 70 erreichen – und damit als geistig behindert gelten. Das Großbritannien des Jahres 1900 war ein Industrieland mit allgemeiner Schulpflicht (bis 10 Jahre).

Ein weiteres Beispiel für die Bedeutung von Umweltfaktoren für die Intelligenz:

Clark und Hanisee untersuchten den Lebensweg von aus Entwicklungsländern adoptierten Kindern, die unterernährt waren und traumatische Kindheitserfahrungen gemacht hatten. Die Kinder wurden von amerikanischen Familien aus der oberen Mittelschicht adoptiert. Entgegen der Annahme, dass diese Kinder unter schweren Beeinträchtigungen leiden würden, erwiesen sie sich als überdurchschnittlich intelligent und überdurchschnittlich sozial kompetent. Beim Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test erreichten sie einen IQ von 120, auf der Vineland Social Maturity Scale erreichten sie im Schnitt 137 Punkte. 100 Punkte gelten als Durchschnitt, 137 als außerordentlich gut. Clark und Hanisee kamen zu dem Ergebnis, dass unterernährte und traumatisierte Kinder sich als erstaunlich resilient erweisen, wenn sie in stabile Familienverhältnisse adoptiert werden.[43] 

Quelle: Wikipedia

Mit Entwicklungshilfe insbesondere in den Bereichen Gesundheitsversorgung, Beseitigung von Mangelernährung, Impfungen und Bildung können in Subsahara-Afrika Bedingungen geschaffen werden, die das Intelligenzniveau der Bevölkerung deutlich heben und somit den vermutlich wichtigsten Grundstein für eine positive wirtschaftliche Entwicklung legen.

Ein anderes Problem löst sich dann mit wirtschaftlichem Wohlstand übrigens auch ganz von allein: In sämtlichen Ländern der Welt war es bislang so, dass wachsender Wohlstand mit geringerer Kinderzahl einherging. Afrika wird auch hier keine Ausnahme bilden.
Africa Has Greater Potential Than India: Stanchart

Standard Chartered remains committed to expanding its presence in Africa to tap the vast potential of the continent’s high-growth economies, the firm’s executive director told CNBC.

“Seven of the ten fastest growing countries in the world are in Africa. It has huge consumer potential. Last year, the African consumer spent over a trillion dollars, which is more than consumers spent in India,” V Shankar, who is also CEO of Standard Chartered Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas explained to CNBC’s “Access: Middle East” on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

Last year, the London-based bank made revenues of $1.6 billion from the continent, a figure it’s looking to double in the next five years. “We are planning to add a hundred new branches, we said by 2015,and we’ve already added 27 last year”.

Sub-Saharan markets are attracting interest from bankers around the globe, inspired by lackluster economic growth and saturation in many developed economies. Other heavyweights of the likes of JPMorgan and China’s ICBC have been bolstering their presence. For Standard Chartered, new business is being discovered in both wholesale as well as consumer banking.


The Somalia you never see.
Africa's youth impatient for generation change

In North Africa, young people’s frustrations drove them to topple their leaders. There has been no youth-driven revolt in sub-Saharan Africa, but the frustration is no less palpable.

Kiranda and other young people like him are fed up with hearing their rulers blame the colonial era for the inadequacies of the education system. That is so far back in the past that it is no longer a valid excuse for the absence of reform, they say. The education system should be overhauled so it can offer young people proper training for the world of work, Kiranda believes.

Africa has a young population. Two thirds of Africans south of the Sahara are under 25, yet the needs of young people are not given priority. In Uganda, there are youth quotas for representation in the local and national assemblies, but their impact on political life appears minimal. 

“Even when the young people try to speak out  they are not being listened to and they are always reminded of the fact that they were not there when the liberation movement was taking place,” he said.

Kiranda complains that older politicians don’t understand that young people don’t simply want to talk about the future, they want to help shape the present, here and now.

Meet Niti Bhan. International consultant. Marketing strategist. Research manager. And Founder and Chief Curator of “The Prepaid Economy: African Edition.”

In recent years there has been a noticeable emergence of blogs and websites that share the common mission of shining more light on a neglected and misconstrued Africa. Entertainment, sports, politics, and social justices issues are just a few areas that have been highlighted on various multimedia platforms, sharing information and voicing the opinions of Africans and non-Africans alike regarding matters relevant to the continent.

Niti’s contribution, The Prepaid Economy: African Edition, is dedicated to highlighting the advancement of African nations in the field of business, technology, and their economics, with a particular focus on the “prepaid” or rather, the informal economy and its aspirations towards joining the emerging global middle class.

With a growing readership, it’s only appropriate to give her  a proper introduction and shed light on the mystery person behind Below is a quick snippet of a question and answer session that will be conducted on Thursday 10:00 am ET/ 10:00 pm GMT+8

Question: What is was your motivation behind starting the tumblr blog

Answer: "In the fall of 2010, a research project on ‘Innovation under conditions of scarcity’ took me to East Africa for the first time, to Kenya specifically where we were going to do exploratory user research on the 'jua kali’ or informal fabrication and manufacturing industry. That experience opened my eyes to what was happening in parts of Sub Sahara - I remember feeling a strong sense of imminence, like just before a big storm where you have a sense that something big is around the corner but you can’t see it yet. Africa was on its way, even then it was already in the air in Nairobi.

I began having long talks on skype and twitter and email with my Kenyan friends about this emerging future that I could sense in East Africa yet the mainstream global media narrative was still that of the teeming, poverty stricken, war ridden, hungry eyed black babies that mainstream media splashed as “Africa”.

“How can we change this? We are not global media” was the general feeling at that time yet we were all on social media - blogging and writing and tweeting and talking. I remember telling a particular friend of mine - a very strong and accomplished woman who was CEO of a fast growing software house in Nairobi - that we couldn’t sit around and wait for “someone” to come along and change the narrative for us but we had to change it ourselves in order to see it differently. Until we ourselves saw Africa and Africans and their future and potential differently, nobody else would. Even a lone voice could be found online, I said, and here’s what I’m going to do as my 2 shilling worth.

In January 2011, a friend in Boston offered to publish a series of articles on the Emerging Africa story, if I would write down what I was sensing and seeing. Involution Studios hosted these articles and they very generously followed up with a podcast. It was during the background research for this article series that the this tumblr you’re reading, better known as prepaidafrica, was born.

Today, just over 2 years later, there are over 30,000 of you following this tumblog, we’re listed in the front page of the Business section of Tumblr’s Spotlight directory and we’ve taken on our very first employee - Beulah Osueke, as community engagement manager. You’ll be hearing her story next week.“

If you’re interested in finding out more about Niti Bhan, there will be a question and answer session this Thursday 10:00 am ET/ 10:00 pm GMT+8. Feel free to ask questions about her professional career, seek career advice, or
 inquire about business, entrepreneurship, technology, and/or trade in Africa.