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South Africans Gripped by Voting Fever

Barring minor incidents, it is a case of so far so good, as South Africa showed its democratic might. With each person who owns a smartphone being a broadcaster, they revelled in photographing inked thumbs (the sign of having voted) or creating short videos and posting these. Democracy went viral across the country by Wednesday morning as South Africans went to cast their ballots in the sixth national and provincial ballot. There are 48 political parties contesting the polls this year, up 300% from the number that did so in 1999. This tells the story of a democracy festival with voters presented with a healthy smorgasbord of options to choose who will represent them. The South African political landscape is settling into a three- party system with this election largely being one among the ANC, DA and the EFF which polls suggest will scoop up between 80% and 90% of all available votes. By establishing a track record of running efficient, credible and largely free and fair elections, the IEC has proven itself to be one of the resilient institutions of democracy. It forms a healthy spinal column for the electoral system and marks South Africa’s young democracy as an outlier at a time when the credibility of elections is taking such strain across the globe. The IEC is managing over 28,000 voting stations and it has overseen the printing of 50-million ballot papers of an extraordinary length. Its staff have put in place 220,000 ballot boxes, set up 44,529 voting booths and distributed 56,255 stationery packs.


Fred Swaniker has been on a Roll over these Last Two Months

Last week he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Important People in the World. And last month, the organization he founded, African Leadership University, was named one of the 50 Most Innovative Companies in the world by Fast Company Magazine. Swaniker successfully launched the African Leadership Academy eleven years ago. This pan-African high school located in South Africa attracts the best and the brightest from across the continent, and its college placement record reads like every parent’s dream: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. Despite the global recognition of the fine work he does in recruiting and educating Africa’s “talented tenth,” Swaniker was not happy that these brilliant young minds were leaving the continent behind to pursue their higher education. Swaniker’s response? Build the Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge of Africa. Sound ambitious? If anyone can do it, it is Swaniker. Over the last four years he has launched three African Leadership Universities in Mauritius, Rwanda and Kenya.  The universities have reinvented tertiary education for the new millennium. They have also reinvested the university concept for a uniquely African context.


Cairo at the Centre of an Organ Trafficking Ring

An Al Jazeera investigation has revealed that an Egyptian hospital and officials at the Yemeni embassy in Cairo were involved in a large-scale organ-trafficking ring from 2014 that included hundreds of patients and brokers from Yemen and Egypt. Through interviews and documents obtained by Al Jazeera, the investigation exposes officials who have been giving out false papers for personal gain in order to facilitate the organ trafficking. The organ-trafficking ring preyed on poor Yemenis willing to travel to Egypt and sell a kidneyfor $5,000 in a desperate bid to gain income that would keep them going, at least for a while. At the time, Yemen was not yet home to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the destructive war that has left 80 percent of its population in need of humanitarian assistance. But it was already the poorest country in the Middle East with half the population living below the poverty line.


MTN’s Largest Market is also its Most Problematic

While it dominates market share and infrastructure, the South Africa-owned giant’s biggest battles are with the local authorities rather than other telecoms rivals. Over the past five years, MTN has faced potential fines of up to $15 billion in Nigeria for a range of alleged misdeeds. A permanent resolution is crucial as MTN looks to continue doing business in its most important market. Amid murmurs and a denial of shutting down its Nigerian unit, there’s ample sign of how costly these disputes can be for investors. After the tax debt claims by Nigerian authorities, MTN’s stock tanked and closed at a nearly 12-year low. MTN has long maintained that its legal tussles with Nigeria’s government will not dent its interest in its biggest market despite investor concerns. Indeed, the company has committed to launching a mobile money service this year in Nigeria. Regardless, the disputes have had an impact: MTN has already revised plans for a highly anticipated initial public offering on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. While it will still list its shares locally, the company has taken up a listing by introduction option which will see it only list already existing shares without raising new funding or issuing new shares.


A New Plan to Save the Casbah from its Creeping Decline is in Trouble

Much of the capital is boiling over with stifled anger at 20 years of police-state repression. But the Casbah, in the heart of Algiers, is strangely quiet, the ancient stone alleys empty in the glare of the sun. There is no need for demonstrations in the historic district to underscore the dead hand of the state. Even before revolution convulsed Algeria this year, its decay was evident all around and some have taken offense some for government’s invitation to the French, the former colonizers, for help in saving the Ottoman-era district. During Algeria’s war of independence from France, which ended in 1962, the Casbah played a critical role as a place to organize and hide insurgents. At independence, the poor fled for the more modern neighborhoods abandoned by the departing French. The ultranationalist, modernizing Algerian government had little interest in the neighborhood, founded in the 10th century. International efforts to save the neighborhood have been limited, for fear of further offending the prickly Algerians. Intensely nationalistic, the government for decades has been reticent about seeking outside help of any sort.


Testing if Universal Basic Income in Africa Works

From Kenya and southern India to Alaska and Finland, cash payment schemes have been claimed to show that UBI “works”. In fact, what’s been tested in practice is almost infinitely varied, with cash paid at different levels and intervals, usually well below the poverty line and mainly to individuals selected because they are severely disadvantaged, with funds provided by charities, corporations and development agencies more often than by governments. Experiments in India and Kenya have been funded, respectively, by Unicef and Give Directly, a US charity supported by Google. They give money to people on very low incomes in selected villages for fixed periods of time. Giving small amounts of cash to people who have next to nothing is bound to make a difference – and indeed, these schemes have helped to improve recipients’ health and livelihoods.  


Sudanese Use Ramadan to Reflect 

Youth volunteers unrolled long green carpets before distributing loaves of bread and bowls of stew to the seated faithful. Nearby, dozens of others cheer and wave Sudanese flags. It is Ramadan in Sudan, and at a sit-in in Khartoum, where thousands of people have camped out since April demanding an end to military rule, no one seems ready to go home — and few seem to have lost their energy for protest. Instead, the protesters have organized an iftar to break their fast, with food for more than 2,000 people, according to volunteers. Despite the heat during the day, student protester Khalid Sharif Ibrahim Abdallah says they will keep demonstrating until they see real change in government. Muslim faithful do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.


The World Bank plans to Boost Lending to African Countries to Help Fight Poverty

David Malpass, who has pledged to step up the bank’s antipoverty mission, visited Madagascar, Ethiopia and Mozambique from April 29 to May 3, meeting leaders and stakeholders and visiting World Bank-funded projects. Malpass said he had visited Africa because the continent was a central part of the World Bank’s focus on alleviating poverty, as well as to assess the damage done by a cyclone that battered Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in March. The bank said on Friday that it had increased emergency support for the three affected countries to $700m. “The key take-away is that the economic challenges [in Africa] are really big, but the countries themselves are trying to work with those challenges and the World Bank is having programmes so that can help with that process.”


How Repair Work on one of Johannesburg’s Major Highways has Impacted South Africa’s Biggest Banks

Lenders are stepping up security after the closure of parts of the M2 freeway diverted traffic through the central business district — already flooded with pedestrians, buses, street vendors and minibus taxis. In a city that’s no stranger to crime, the snarl-ups made bank workers sitting ducks as thieves struck one car after the next, stealing whatever they can at gunpoint. To combat the thugs taking advantage of the gridlock, businesses are meeting weekly with city officials and metropolitan police who direct traffic and monitor crime hotspots. First National Bank provide shuttle services for staff, let employees work from home, come in during off-peak times or use satellite offices. The banks are among a handful of companies like AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. to have stayed in the central business district after the end of white minority rule 25 years ago. Other corporations moved north to plush buildings in suburbs like Sandton, known as Africa’s richest square mile, Illovo or Midrand.


African Men’s Traditional Wear Inspires New York Fashion Show

When British designer Ozwald Boateng announced he’d be staging a fashion show about “AI,” most people assumed he was talking about artificial intelligence. But to Boateng, who presented a collection at New York City’s legendary Apollo Theater, AI stood for “authentic identity.” And the show’s looks left no doubt about his commitment to that ideal. The looks took West African design touches (Boateng is of Ghanaian heritage) and combined them with nods to the Harlem Renaissance. Fitting, as the Apollo is one of Harlem, and the country’s, most iconic showplaces for black culture. In addition to being a spectacle in its own right, the show is one of many events taking place all over Harlem and the rest of New York City between 2018 and 2020 to mark the centennial of the Harlem Renaissance. Models, who included a few famous faces like “The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams and musician Jidenna, showed off natty three-piece suits made of kente cloth, brightly patterned silk headwraps and enormous wooden circle bracelets that resembled the lip plates traditionally worn by Mursi tribeswomen in Ethiopia.


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