6 stories to remember: Hip-hop star Akon's big Congo do; an NBA player who is 'too African', and Ebola dances and songs

In Sierra Leone, celebrations to end the Ebola lock-down, and in Kenya internet cafes escape death - thanks to the elderly

AS September nears the end, five stories reveal interesting insights into Africa, what it can teach the world, and how the world views the continent—often through prejudiced lenses.

1. Over 40,000 Congolese party on Peace Day with Akon

In the popular imagination, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) city of Goma conjures up volcanoes, refugees, warlords, and conflict.

That Goma is in the past. On September 21, Hollywood hip hop superstar Akon, who was born in Senegal, held a concert in Goma to mark International Peace Day. The crowd was one many global stars would die for – 40,000.The show featured local stars with unusual names, including Lexxus Legal. It would seem being given a complicated name at birth, or taking on one as a stage name, brings success for musicians. There is probably a good why Akon chose that as his artistic name. If he hadn’t, the world would have had to wrestle with calling him Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Bongo Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Thiam, the official name the elders in Senegal gave him.

2. NBA player with a ‘little African in him’

Perhaps names like those make things African bewildering. We would have let this next matter rest, but we think it is a good grudge to keep alive.

Not too long ago, the American basketball team, the Atlanta Hawks, made the news when its controlling owner Bruce Levenson admitted that he wrote an email in 2012 about how to favour white fans over black ones.

Turns out he wasn’t the only team official who has issues with blacks. A fortnight ago, news broke that the team’s general manager, Danny Ferry, said  disparagingly that Sudan-born player Luol Deng “has a little African in him”. His definition of “African”? Sneaky and two-faced.

Strange, because that sounds like a description of most of humankind.

3. Nigeria’s President Jonathan sides with controversial preacher against South Africa

Something is going on between Nigeria and South Africa. Last week a guesthouse belonging to the church of flamboyant and powerful Nigerian “prophet” TB Joshua collapsed in Lagos.

The death toll from the collapse has risen to 115, 84 of them South Africans who were visiting. On Monday South African minister Jeff Radebe urged the heavily-criticised Nigerian government to investigate the “tragedy”. TB Joshua is the minister to many powerful African men and women, including presidents, and he and his officials are accused of blocking investigators from gaining access the tragedy site.

The South Africans have expressed dismay at the reluctance of top Nigerian leaders and officials to criticise the church for what looks like shoddy construction work

On Saturday Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan decided to act. He visited the site of the collapsed guesthouse and offered condolences to TB Joshua!

His support for the popular preacher could widen a diplomatic rift with South Africa.

“My coming here is to express condolences to Prophet Joshua, the Synagogue of all Nations (his church)”, Jonathan said, and almost as an afterthought added, “and of course the bereaved families.”

Joshua and his supporters say the collapse was an “attack” somehow linked to a mysterious aircraft  (probably flown by the Devil?)  they claim flew over the building before it went down. It seems the Big Men in Nigeria believe that too.

4. South Africa, Russia do mega nuclear power deal

In a development that went largely unnoticed in the most of Africa, otherwise anti-nuclear South Africa, was  signing a multibillion-dollar deal with Russia on nuclear-power cooperation. The deal paves the way for the building of reactors based on Russian technology.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of an International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna on September 22.

Sergei Kiriyenko, director-general of Russia’s nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, said in a statement that the partnership deal will provide up to eight nuclear reactors to South Africa by 2023.

Kiriyenko said it would also create orders worth $10 billion to “local industrial enterprises,” but news wires said it was not clear if he was referring to Russia or South Africa.

In a separate statement, South African Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson expressed confidence that cooperation with Russia will allow South Africa “to implement our ambitious plans for the creation by 2030 of 9.6 GW [gigawatts] of new nuclear capacities based on modern and safe technologies.” That would keep South Africa at the top of the league table as Africa’s leading power generator.

5. Doing Ebola dance songs and dance

Last week the Sierra Leonean government imposed a controversial three-day lockdown aimed at stemming the world’s worst ever Ebola epidemic. The lockdown ended Sunday, with authorities claiming the identified dozens of new infections and located scores of bodies.

It was the most extreme strategy employed by a nation since the epidemic began. Sierra Leone ordered its 6 million residents to stay indoors as volunteers circulated to educate households as well as isolate the sick and remove the dead.

Authorities said 92 bodies had been recovered across the country by the end of Saturday, the second day of the lockdown.

In the early evening, even before the lockdown officially ended at midnight, residents in some parts of the capital Freetown emerged onto the streets to celebrate - with song and dance, of course. It is a hard to keep a good African down.

6. In Kenya, the elderly become digital saviours

Kenyans again, showed their tendency to upend the technology formbook.

Businessman Kevin Mutua, Xinhua reported, proved that the forecast that the mobile internet will soon kill all cybercafés, might be premature.

Mutua’s internet cafe is going strong, not dying.

He has two certain categories of people to thank – the middle-aged and the elderly.

“Over 95% of my clients are people aged 45 and above. I rarely serve young people,” said Mutua on Saturday. The young are away, accessing the internet through mobile phones.

Other internet café operators in the world might do well to pay attention to what Mutua did. “Initially I used to play loud music in the cybercafé to attract the youth and had pasted various photos of celebrities, particularly those of English football, on the wall because that is what young people wanted, but I stopped all that,” Mutua said.

He then removed the photos from the walls and stopped playing loud music. He further redesigned the room to give clients more privacy. And he is laughing all the way to the bank.

“Most elderly people are not tech-savvy. I thus guide them in every step they take on the internet. I have opened emails for them and I keep their passwords, which they use to access their accounts when they come,” he said.

The good thing about elderly people, according to Mutua, is that they do not worry about charges.

Away from Mutua, at Terrific Cybercafé on Moi Avenue in the city center, the trend is the same.

“If you do not reach out to mature clients, then you cannot survive in this business currently,” said Calvin Oketch, an attendant.

To attract mature people, the cybercafe has also stopped playing loud music, and all the computer monitors are 17 inches for better viewing.


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