Tue. Feb 25th, 2020


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Plastic Bag Bans are Working and are Especially Effective in African Nations

Plastic Bags Ban Tanzania

As of June 1, travelers to Tanzania will have to pack very carefully. The country announced the implementation of the second phase of its plastic bag ban on May 16. Visitors are advised to avoid packing or carrying any plastic bags as they’ll have to leave these at a designated desk in the airport. The first phase of the country’s anti-plastic initiative began in 2017 to “protect the youth and environment,” with an initial ban on the manufacture of plastic bags and in-country distribution. Phase two extends to tourists. There are exceptions to the new rule for medical, industrial, construction, agricultural, and waste management packaging, as well as for the small “ziploc” bags used to carry toiletries (as long as these leave the country when the visitors do). Still, Tanzania aims to be plastic bag free, and it’s just one of 34 African nations fighting against single-use plastics with such bans. In fact, the African continent is leading the world in plastic bag regulations. Notably, 31 of these bans have been passed in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, the penalties for ignoring the ban are the world’s most punitive. Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and users found with plastic bags face up to $38,000 in fines or four years in prison. The ban has faced resistance, and enforcement is also a problem—it’s spotty, which means that plastic bags are still circulating despite the potential penalties. Still, in a country that once used about 100 million plastic bags a year, according to UN estimates, the reduction efforts are notable and seem to be effective. Rwanda is aiming to be the world’s first plastic-free country, and its prohibitions appear to be working. The UN named the country’s capital, Kigali, the African continent’s cleanest city, thanks in part to a 2008 ban on non-biodegradable plastic.


Changing the Message about Disease in Africa

Disease in Africa

Dayn Amade, founder of Maputo-based technology company Kamaleon, is calling for the World Health Organization and aid groups to reassess how people on the African continent are educated about disease prevention. Amade is the creator of a digital platform called the community tablet, an interactive platform through which people can be educated and informed about issues impacting their lives. The device, which runs on up to six large, solar-powered LCD screens and is transported on a trailer, can be attached to anything from a car to a donkey, enabling it to reach even the most remote or isolated rural communities. Amade offers his tablets as part of the solution to educating those most affected by the disease. Created in 2015, Amade claims the device has helped to educate over a million people across 90 communities. Presentation is critical when explaining health initiatives, Amade said. Using images of people of the same ethnic appearance, dress and dialect as the audience can make people more receptive, encouraging them to feel they are being engaged by one of their own rather than just handed a printed pamphlet.


Will it be out with the Old in Malawi?

Peter Mutharika

Malawi’s outgoing President, Peter Mutharika, 78, takes another shot at extending his political career on Tuesday in an uncertain presidential election, where he will face an opposition leader and two members of his own government. More than 6 million voters of the poor and agricultural southern African country, which is highly dependent on international aid, will also elect their MPs and local councillors on the same day. Peter Mutharika, who has been in power since 2014, is running for a second term against seven other candidates. His presidency has been tarnished by corruption cases, despite his commitment to fight this scourge. He was personally involved in a $3.9 million bribe case. He first stated that he was “convinced that it was an honest donation”, before being forced to repay $200,000. During campaign, Mutharika carefully avoided mentioning the scandal. Mutharika’s main opponents on Tuesday – his Vice-President Saulos Chilima, his Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi and opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera – naturally made the fight against corruption one of their main campaign arguments.


The DRC’s Underground Doctors

DRC’s Underground Doctors

Some doctors fighting the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history are afraid to wear scrubs. They mask their identities to avoid harassment and violence in Congo, where the epidemic is spreading at the fastest rate since it started in August — and where rampant misinformation fuels a distrust of outsiders in medical garb. The World Health Organization has logged 119 attacks this year against health workers. Eighty-five have been wounded or killed. Fear is changing tactics among aid staffers, who set out to convince communities that Ebola is real and they were there to help end it. Now some downplay their mission in public, swapping white coats for street clothes and attention-grabbing SUVs for motorbikes that blend into traffic. “Our staff has to lie about being doctors in order to treat people,” said Tariq Riebel, emergency response director in Congo for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global aid group.


Rwandan Genocide Survivor Starts Empowerment Programme

Safi Mukundwa

Safi Mukundwa knows what it means to be young, fearful and desperate. She was just 8 years old when she hid among bloodied bodies, emerging as the only one in her family to survive the 1994 genocide that swept through Rwanda. She remembers the man who killed her mother and brother. “I told God that if I can get out of this place alive, I will dedicate my life to helping others,” she says. Now 33, Mukundwa has made good on that commitment through Safi Life, the nonprofit organization that she inspired. Its mission is to educate, empower and advance young Rwandan women. Safi Life was formally launched in 2012, growing out of a friendship between its namesake and Devon Ogden. Both women were college students when Ogden, an American from California, visited Rwanda in the summer of 2007 and heard Mukundwa’s testimony at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. They met over lunch, and Ogden eventually asked how she might help the young Rwandan. The foundation’s Facebook page brims with photos of college graduates. In early 2018, Safi Life launched an outreach project to aid young women, especially those who are single and pregnant or with young children. It opened a center in the Kigali suburb of Karembure, welcoming dozens to learn knitting, tailoring and other income-producing skills. The project, called Ndashoboye, a Kinyarwanda word that means “I am capable,” also provides mentoring on how to run a business. A second center opened in January in Ndera, a few kilometers from the capital city’s downtown.


SA Tourists in the Line of Fire

SA Tourists Giza

At least 17 people were wounded in an explosion that targeted a tourist bus on its way to visit Egypt’s Giza pyramids. The bus was carrying 25 South African citizens when a device exploded near the bus, while the windshield of another vehicle was damaged. Tourists arrived in Cairo airport at noon Sunday and were on their way to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza when the blast hit their bus, a tour guide and one of the tourists told CNN outside Al-Haram Hospital where they were taken. Ten tourists and seven Egyptians were brought to Al-Haram Hospital with minor injuries. Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Rania A. Al Mashat called it a “minor explosion” in a Twitter post. “Of the 28 passengers on the bus we can confirm some minor injuries with three being treated at the hospital as a precaution,” she wrote. South Africa’s government issued a statement on Sunday, saying the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, had been informed about the incident.


Mozambique’s Muslims Struggle to Observe Ramadan

Mozambique's Muslims

In an ordinary year, the villagers would be observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sunset and praying, but this year, life seems extraordinarily difficult. Many are trying to rebuild their lives nearly a month since Cyclone Kenneth ripped through the northern coast, where the majority of Mozambique’s Muslims live. The country’s central region was still reeling from Cyclone Idai that made landfall over two days in mid-March causing devastation across three Southern African countries, killing over 1,000 people. A handful of men and very few women regularly attend prayers in the mosque where the old roof has been badly damaged. In previous years the meal would be shared with poorer members of the community, Amad says this Ramadan there is no communal meal. Instead, worshippers come for sunset prayer with small lunchboxes of food to break the fast with others. 


Human Rights in Kenya’s Domestic Affairs

Kenya's Domestic Affairs

A charity in Kenya is calling for the introduction of laws to protect domestic workers, commonly referred to as housegirls, to ensure their safety. In Uganda, young women are leaving their homes to try and find jobs as domestic workers, but for some their new lives can lead to mistreatment and abuse. BBC Africa Eye has been investigating why young women living near Uganda’s border are leaving their villages to find work in Kenya.  On arrival in Nairobi, the girls find accommodation in informal settlements, several of them decide to share a house to cost share on costs. Meanwhile, the influx of girls migrating from Uganda to Nairobi looking for housemaid jobs is making life difficult for local house helps. The girls come in illegally; they are desperate and can take any amount of money. One Kenyan domestic worker tells BBC,” Employers now prefer Ugandan workers for they accept low wages and don’t travel back to Uganda often.” She says employers now pay locals very low wages because the Ugandan ladies are setting the bar too low.


South Sudan Trims the Fat

South Sudan

South Sudan will close some of its embassies abroad as the war-torn country seeks to trim government costs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Mawien Makol Ariik said. Most of the land-locked East African nation’s revenue comes from oil sales, which have been hampered by a decline in prices and an uprising in neighboring Sudan where its exports are shipped from. Ariik said didn’t say how many embassies would be shut.  Last week the government sacked 40 overseas diplomats for not showing up for work, some of them for years. The foreign ministry in Juba said it had tried in vain “to engage with these diplomats who went Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) over the past few months and years”, including some posted to embassies in the United States and United Kingdom. None had replied or returned home after finishing their postings – prompting their mass firing in a terse memo issued by the foreign ministry.


A Resilience of an African Art Scene that Refuses to Go Away Quietly

African Art Scene

Just when everyone thought the Algerian political crisis had caused its Pavilion to disappear from the official map with the country’s first-time participation in the Venice Biennale postponed to 2021, some of the artists chosen for the show, curated by Hellal Mahmood Zoubir, have decided to stage a guerrilla exhibition, titled Time to Shine Bright. Since its independence in 1962, Algeria has mostly been absent from major international cultural events. As a major African country, artists believe Algeria, like Ghana and Madagascar, deserves to have its first pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, alongside other newcomers like Malaysia and Pakistan. It is not only that Algerian artists wanted to present their work within an artistic project of a pavilion, but believe it is a responsibility and a civic duty to honor the country of Algeria and its flag at the most important Biennals. The Venice Biennale is an international intellectual competition of contemporary arts, and for some the aim is to compete and win the Golden Lion.


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