What others loved or laughed about Africa in 2015 and you might have missed; Beautiful, funny, strange

From the surprise of mobile banking, oldest human species, great runners hanging up their shoes, to predictions of presidential deaths

WE look at 10 important stories about Africa that captured the imagination of others, but didn’t make it big in the headlines on the continent. Some have happy endings, others are tragic, and a few “innocent” and funny. Still, they all reveal interesting faces of Africa:

1. Bill Gates: Africa went a year without any polio

The billionaire philanthropist and founder of Microsoft  wrote this about one of the significant things of 2015%:

“On July 24, Nigeria marked one full year without a single new case of locally acquired polio, the crippling and sometimes fatal disease.

“It is the last country in Africa to stop transmission of wild polio. This milestone represents a huge victory—one that some experts feared would never come…Nigeria’s efforts show that smart strategies can work even under the most difficult conditions.

“When the global campaign to eradicate polio began in 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries. The list is now down to just two: Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve come more than 99% of the way to eradication. I am confident we can finish the job.”

2. Mobile banking exceeds optimistic projections

Bill Gates also picked a second highlight of 2015 from Africa, writing that; “Mobile banking is one of the best tools we’ve ever seen for helping people lift themselves out of poverty.

“Today, more than two billion people have no access to financial services, severely limiting their ability to borrow, save, invest, and participate in the mainstream economy. But that is changing fast.

“A new report by scholars at the Brookings Institution shows that many countries are making national commitments to financial inclusion and helping mobile banking reach critical mass.

“Kenya is a good example of what’s possible. Today 75% of adults there have accounts with a bank or mobile-money provider, up from 42% in 2011.

“Other countries that are making huge strides include Brazil, Rwanda, Tanzania, Bangladesh, and India.”

3. Sweet and sour; a good year for Africa

The Chinese news agency Xinhua, wading through the gloomy headlines, reported that: “During the year [2015], overall political stability has paved the way for economic growth.

“Some 10 African countries, including Nigeria, Togo and Tanzania, held elections, and unlike before, most of these elections had been conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner without electoral violence.”

4. Lake Bogoria, Kenya and Cape Town, South Africa have got it

National Geographic released its best travel photos from 2015. Two locations in Africa made the list:

Lesser flamingos take flight over Lake Bogoria in Kenya. The alkaline waters of Bogoria and other Rift Valley lakes support the cyanobacteria that the birds feed on. This photo was taken by Martin Harvey

“I took this picture at an amusement park down by the [Victoria and Alfred] Waterfront in Cape Town,” says Philip Grube, who entered the 2015 Traveler Photo Contest. “It was a clear blue sky when I saw these kids crawling, running, and trying to balance themselves in these shiny plastic bubbles in a pool of water. The reflection of the water in combination with the effect of the bubbles under the blue sky looked somehow surreal.” This photo was taken by Philip Grube

5. Oldest human species found in Ethiopia

A find of a jaw bone in Ethiopia, at 2.8 million years old, made the list of the top science stories of 2015.

6.  The great man Haile Gebrselassie hangs his running shoes

The incredible athlete, Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, considered of the greatest runners of all-time ended his career in November as he started it in childhood - barefoot.

But unlike his daily dash to school he had 40,000 people for company in the bustling capital of his native Ethiopia at the Great Ethiopian run. He turns 43 in April.

7. Singer Taylor Swift dreaming of a very white Africa

American singer sang a song, and then…reports National Public Radio (NPR):

“Another popular piece [of 2015] touched on Taylor Swift and the colonial era in Africa.

“The music video for Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” features mid-20th century costumes and shows off vast expanses of striking African landscapes. Nearly everyone in the video is white.

“Commentators Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassaga Arinaitwe walked us through why they think this glamorous version of colonial days was a big problem: “Colonialism was neither romantic nor beautiful. It was exploitative and brutal.”

8. Africa’s big men who didn’t die in 2015

A Malawian newspaper, Nyasa Times, reported the story of Malawian prophet, Austin Liabunya, who says he has faced routine death threats since he delivered prophecies of doom on Presidents Peter Mutharika of Malawi and 92-year-old Zimbabwe veteran Robert Mugabe.

Liabunya prophesied at the start of 2015 that Mutharika would resign soon over incompetence and illness and that Mugabe would die before 2015 was out.

Liabunya used very colourful language, reportedly saying; “Mugabe’s biological clock will not tick beyond this year” after which Zimbabwe will be “restored to be in the top five of the richest countries in Africa.”

He also predicted that Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema would win the special elections held later in January, following the death the previous year of president Michael Sata.

It’s a year and 3 days since his prophecies, and the results are in. Mutharika didn’t resign. The lights did not go out on Zimbabwe, and Hichilema didn’t win – he was narrowly defeated by Edgar Lungu.

9. Model sans underwear ends in Zimbabwe jail

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s homophobic views are world renowned, but few imagined that his country, which has a popular street carnival with scantily dressed women – including regular Brazilian imports these days – was also prudish and conflicted about semi-nudity.

Apparently, it is.

A Harare Polytechnic College student, Panashe Zhaware, 21, made headlines and got into trouble after images were leaked of her flashing her intimate bits at judges during a July beauty pageant.

She was charged with public indecency when she appeared before a magistrate, and and released on $100 bail.

Said one breathless report: “According to the prosecutor, nothing was reported amiss when other models went on stage.

“However, when Zhaware’s turn came, she went on stage without her panties.

“The prosecutor said the model held her dress and stretched it wide open exposing her genitals to everyone in the room.”

It’s instructive that she was charged with indecency, not cheating.

10. A python and its spiky snack

This story fascinated people outside Africa, and less so on the continent. Perhaps to many Africans, it was a political metaphor about their leaders – and an event that they wish for, but doesn’t happen often enough:

A python in South Africa opted for an unusual snack in June, and the decision cost the poor reptile its life, Live Science reports.

The 12.8-foot-long (3.9 m) python swallowed a porcupine whole. Dining on porcupines isn’t all that unusual for pythons in Lake Eland Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. But what happened next is not the norm. The python fell off a rocky ledge while digesting its meal, and park rangers think that, upon the snake’s impact with the ground below, the porcupine’s spikes may have pierced the python’s digestive tract, causing the animal’s death.

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