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2009: a good year 0

What follows is a review of the best stories that the Africa The Good News’ editorial office – among Afronline partners – encountered through the coverage of an enlightening and challenging year.

The giant slain – Africa and the global financial crisis

One of the biggest debates surrounding Africa this year was the fall-out the global economic crises would have on the developing economies of the continent.

Some of the larger economies, South Africa, Botswana, Algeria and Egypt all have survived the down-turn far better than expected. Other economies like Ghana, the Congo Republic, Liberia and Mozambique predict exponential growth in 2010 due in no small part to their large natural resources.

Despite the economic downturn Africa managed to attract over $1 billion in fund flows during the course of 2009. It is this unexpected resilience that led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to state that it is positive about growth in Africa going forward, while Robert Zoellick, the World Bank president, described this as ‘Africa’s century for development’.

The winds of change

Many African nations are beginning to prove their worth not only in their economic policies but also in their social and diplomatic relations.

Earlier this year Tunisia’s economy was ranked as the most competitive in Africa by the World Economic Forum (WEF). In turn Mauritius scored highest in the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s African Governance Survey, with both the private and public sectors providing the best services for their people.

The changing business tenor in Africa has allowed 26 African enterprises to make it onto the Forbes list of the world’s biggest companies, while Botswana’s investment climate was ranked the best in Africa by the World Bank.

There is also the story of Rwanda, and this year, to commend the changes President Paul Kagame has implemented, the East African nation was admitted to the Commonwealth. At an AU summit African leaders adopted a landmark refugee convention, which sees far more rights extended to the millions of people who are living in borders that are not their own.

After years of hard work many African nations are making advances in civil liberties, and this year both Lesotho and South Africa ranked in to top 10 globally for gender equality according to the WEF.

Africa’s American-son and the best of Africa

One of the most highly anticipated events of the year was American President Barack Obama’s visit to Africa. Used as a catalyst to promote good governance, Obama visited Ghana, commending the African country for the example it sets in the continent.

What this visit showcased was that Africa has many shining stars, and just like Obama they are changing the world for the better, bit by bit.

An Ethiopian scientist, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, was named winner of the World Food Prize for his development of a drought and weed-resistant sorghum. Another African hero, Kumi Naidoo of South Africa, was elected as the new director of Greenpeace. Marc Ona Essangui, from Gabon, was awarded the prodigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his efforts in exposing unlawful agreements underpinning a proposed mining project in his country.

China in Africa

No review of the year would be complete without highlighting the great strides made in Sino-African relations, and what that means for Africa. According to Martyn Davies, executive director of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Chinese Studies, African growth in 2009 came almost exclusively off the back of deals with China.

The proof is in the pudding with Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Congo Republic and Zambia all announcing deals with Chinese investors throughout this year.

Through the year China reached a new high in the purchase of West African oil, and beat the US as Africa’s top trading partner.

To solidify these relations, in November China pledged “all out help” to Africa. This sentiment was solidified in $10 billion in concessional loans with a commitment to mass infrastructure and skill sharing programmes across the continent.

Going green and the energy push

The United Nations Climate Change Summit, in Copenhagen, brings to the fore an ongoing challenge for the continent, the undeniable need for energy coupled with the responsibility of ‘going green’.

However many countries across Africa are beginning to reap the whirlwind, Morocco alone has set aside $9 billion for solar power schemes while Kenya has made a concerted effort to move into solar, wind and geothermal power generation to put an end to blackouts. Just this year the largest wind farm in Africa, the Lake Turkana Project, was announced, the Grand Inga Dam has been taken a step further and the Siemans solar farm, in the Sahara Desert, will produce enough power for the whole of Europe.

Carbon offset programmes have also been a talking point in 2009, with countries like Senegal, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda all making a concerted effort to protect their natural resources and help defer the effects of climate change. Amongst these initiatives two African projects won acclaim for ‘helping to save the world’.

Nigeria – beating the odds

Nigeria has had a fascinating year. It is unfortunate that considering the exceptional gains the country has made, the international media reported extensively on the ‘lows’ and viewed the ‘highs’ with a level of intense scepticism.

To begin the year Nigeria celebrated 10 years of democracy and broke all kinds of records to overtake Hollywood as the world’s second largest film industry.

In this same year Nigeria’s president, Amuru Yar’Ardua, surprised the world by releasing an infamous rebel leader, and thereby brokering a peace deal in the Niger Delta, the country’s violent and disruptive oil generating region. Led by the example of their leaders, 15,000 rebels gave up their arms in an amnesty deal, placing their hope in the governments promises that the region will benefit from the oil revenues their homelands generate.

In response the Nigerian government has proposed an oil industry reform bill, which will see the people of the Niger Delta receiving $134 billion in developmental funds.

As a result of the ceasefire Nigeria oil production has hit record highs, power supply has risen, international investment has poured into the Delta region and Shell has pledged to help up-skill the people of the Delta region.

Shaping Africa’s future

Africa’s innovator have set the continent, and the world, ablaze with ideas that are enabling new business ventures, growing local skills and changing the lives of Africans for the better.

– A Nigerian project, that processes abattoir water and converts the collected organic waste into fertiliser and methane, has won international acclaim.

– Earlier this year Egypt announced that it would be the first country to accept patents in Arabic.

– A novel new insurance programme uses satellite imagery to pay farmers for the damages drought brings to their livestock.

– An agency, that uses rats to discover landmines, was a finalist in Google’s Project 10^100.

– Liberia began converting old rubber trees into electricity.

– Inventors in Kenya started using the population’s primary mode of transport, bicycles, to charge mobile phones.

– An African innovation website, AfriGadget, made it onto the list of Time Magazine’s 50 Best Websites for 2008.

– A solar powered cooker was released that will allow people in rural Africa to cook a meal using the heat of the sun.

– Two young African game developers are manufacturing games for the iPhone platform.

HIV/AIDS and the war on epidemics

One of Africa’s biggest challenges is the threat posed by the many epidemics that are entrenched in the continent. With millions dying from HIV/AIDS, malaria, yellow fever, it is essential that African leaders continually strive to remove this peril.

During the recently concluded HIV/AIDS week South African president, Jacob Zuma, announced that the government will be undoing a decade of poor policies by expanding the testing and treatment programmes for its people.

In West African the largest yellow fever vaccination ever undertaken saw 12 million people immunised against the deadly virus.

With the danger of swine flu gripping the world, Egypt pledged to begin manufacturing 5 million H1N1 drug doses in 2010.

Kenya announced that the success of it’s anti-malaria campaigns could see the East African country free of the mosquito born virus.

Still the biggest killer in the African continent, malaria may become a thing of the past with a very promising vaccine being tested on 16,000 African children.

2010 – Africa’s time to shine

Next year, on the 11th of June, one of the most highly anticipated sports events will kick-off in South Africa. The 2010 FIFA World Cup is the first of the major mega-event to be played in Africa, and as such offers a unique opportunity for the continent to show the world what Africa is really about.

The FIFA Confederations Cup, held earlier this year served to whet the appetites of sports fanatics across the globe. The success of this tournament coupled with the high number of ticket sales has led South Africa to expect an unprecedented amount of attention when the fans arrive enmasse next year.

After Ghana became the first African side to win the U20 FIFA World Cup this year, there has been a renewed interest in the potential for an African side to raise the World Cup trophy. Africa’s 6 finalists will all effectively have home-ground advantage, and who knows what the result might be?

By Matthew Choate Africa The Good News

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