VOLCANO CLOUD CREATES HAVOC FOR AFRICAN EXPORTS
Apr. 20 (GIN) – Fish, flowers, fruit and vegetables were tossed or fed to cows throughout Africa as a volcanic eruption in Iceland paralyzed flights to European markets.
In Kenya, some 10 million flowers — mostly roses — were thrown while asparagus, broccoli and green beans grown for export to Europe were fed to Kenyan cattle because storage facilities were filled to capacity.
Horticulture is Kenya’s top foreign exchange earner, making $922 million last year from the export of roses, carnations and lilies. Some 5,000 day laborers are now on lay off since the ash cloud stopped air traffic, showing how one event can have drastic consequences for an export economy.
Other producers facing steep losses are pineapple growers in Ghana; and flower farmers in Ethiopia, Uganda, Egypt and Zambia. w/pix of dumping flowers in Kenya
U.S. TRADE BILL FOR AFRICA FALLS SHORT
Apr 20 (GIN) – A U.S. bill touted for its trade benefits to African countries has been a mixed bag at best and a bust at worst.
The African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa), now 10 years old, expanded some countries’ economies like a balloon, bringing the largest manufacturing investments of any single time and tens of thousands of jobs, only to later deflate when the economy turned sour.
Agoa offers duty-free access into the US market for African manufactured exports but the treaty has enticed mostly Asian-owned textile firms to invest in countries like Lesotho, Madagascar and Swaziland.
“The success of Agoa is mixed,” Felicia Dlamini, a developmental economist, said in a press interview. “Yes, it brought jobs but the quality of the jobs left something to be desired. Workers were not trained or promoted to management positions. Tax revenues did not materialize. The short-term benefits (of Agoa) were good but the long-term benefits are questionable.”
Meanwhile, Swazi labor minister, Magobetane Mamba, after a recent tour of textile plants, lamented practices he observed that were in apparent violation of the country’s industrial laws with workers exposed to danger or even death by lacking protective clothing or masks. He said he expected answers on this apparent exploitation.
SWAZI WOMAN HAILED AS “FEARLESS” ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST
Apr. 20 (GIN) – Public interest lawyer Thuli Brilliance Makama of Swaziland is among this year’s winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work attempting to halt the killing of suspected poachers by private park rangers in national parks.
The “poachers” in some cases come from communities forced off traditional lands and left with no legal way to feed their families. In one well-documented case, a young man, Musa Gamedze, accused of poaching was shot and killed in front of his family and children.
In another case, 32-year-old Sicelo Mamba was shot and killed after he bagged an impala on private land where game was raised for sale to parks. Under Swazi law, rangers can shoot and kill poachers caught in the act.
Makama and her organization Yonge Nawe Environmental Action Group represent the suspected poachers against Big Game Parks. Makama is also calling for the court to declare unconstitutional the part of the Game Act that shelters staff of private safari companies from prosecution.
Makama and the five other winners will receive $150,000 apiece “for their efforts to make the world a better place.” w/photo of N.Makama
THEATRE WORLD MOURNS THE PASSING OF ACCLAIMED ACTOR
Apr. 20 (GIN) – African master of the spoken word, renowned actor and musician Sotigui Kouyaté, passed away Apr. 17 in Paris, France, reportedly of pulmonary disease.
Born in 1936 in Mali, he was an oral historian or “griot”, whose knowledge was authoritative among the Mandinka people.
He explained his heritage in an interview: “…I’m a storyteller, a griot. Rightly or wrongly, they call us masters of the spoken word. Our duty is to encourage the West to appreciate Africa more. It’s also true that many Africans don’t really know their own continent. And if you forget your culture, you lose sight of yourself. It is said that “the day you no longer know where you’re going, just remember where you came from.” Our strength lies in our culture. Everything I do as a storyteller, a griot, stems from this …”
A longtime collaborator of British film and theatre director Peter Brook, Kouyate wrote and staged a number of plays himself. For his role in the movie “London River”, he won Best Actor title at the Berlin Film Festival and the French government’s highest cultural honor at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, when he was made an officer of arts and letters.
In an unrelated development, legendary Nigerian bandleader, King Sunny Adé, was forced to call off his North American tour, scheduled to start in Canada and come to the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan in May after two percussionists in his 17 piece band died in a car accident.
Attempts to get American visas for replacement members of the band proved unsuccessful. w/pix of S.Kouyate
KENYAN SETS NEW RECORD AT BOSTON RACE
Apr. 20 (GIN) – Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot of Kenya trounced the Boston Marathon on Monday, setting a new course record in the process.
His time of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 52 seconds shattered the previous record of 2:07:14, set by four-time winner Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (unrelated) in 2006.
Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia won the women’s race in 2:26:11, three seconds better than Tatyana Pushkareva of Russia in the third-closest women’s finish in event history. Defending champion Salina Kosgei of Kenya was third.
Tekeste Kebede of Ethiopia was second in the men’s race, finishing 91 seconds behind Cheruiyot, followed by last year’s winner Deriba Merga of Ethiopia and Americans Ryan Hall and reigning NY champion Meb Keflezighi.
It’s the first time two Americans have finished in the top five since 2006. No American has won the men’s race since 1983.
The champions each receive $150,000 and a golden olive wreath from the city of Marathon, Greece. The 21 year old Cheruiyot will get a $25,000 bonus for setting the course record.