The True Size of Africa (30,220,000 km²)
I'm a graduate student and creative consultant in Los Angeles. My academic research focuses on international affairs, social psychology and human behaviour. I am also interested in technology, politics, economics, security studies, foreign policy, literature, film, fine art, mathematics, physics, biology, history, design, professional sports, astronomy, agriculture, linguistics and education.
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The True Size of Africa (30,220,000 km²)
Darwin’s Nightmare is a 2004 Austrian-French-Belgian documentary film written and directed by Hubert Sauper, dealing with the environmental and social effects of the fishing industry around Lake Victoria in Tanzania. It premiered at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, and was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
The film opens with a Soviet made Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane landing on Mwanza airfield in Tanzania, near Lake Victoria. The plane came from Europe to ship back processed fillets of Nile Perch, a species of fish introduced into Lake Victoria that has caused the extinction of hundreds of endemic species.
Through interviews with the Russian and Ukrainian plane crew, local factory owners, guards, prostitutes, fishermen and other villagers, the film discusses the effects of the introduction of the Nile perch to Lake Victoria, how it has affected the ecosystem and economy of the region. The film also dwells at length on the dichotomy between European aid which is being funneled into Africa on the one hand, and the unending flow of munitions and weapons from European arms dealers on the other.
Arms and munitions are often flown in on the same planes which transport the Nile perch fillets to European consumers, feeding the very conflicts which the aid was sent to remedy. As Dima, the radio engineer of the plane crew, says later on in the film: the children of Angola receive guns for Christmas, the children of Europe receive grapes. The appalling living and working conditions of the indigenous people, in which basic sanitation is completely absent and many children turn to drugs and prostitution, is covered in great depth; because the Nile perch is fished and processed for export, all the prime fillets are sold to European supermarkets, leaving the local people to survive on the festering carcasses of the gutted fish.
Ota Benga was a Congolese Pygmy who lived a portion of his life in the Monkey House at the Bronx Zoo.
The year was 1906, and New Yorkers flocked to see, for the first time in any American zoo, a human being displayed in a cage.
The sign posted on his enclosure read “The African Pygmy, ‘Ota Benga.” Age 23 years. Height 4 feet 11 inches. Weight 103 pounds. Brought from the Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Central Africa by Dr. Samuel P. Verner. Exhibited each afternoon during September”
On September 10, 1906 the story of Ota Benga appeared on the cover of the New York Times. The article reported that “the pygmy was not much taller than the orangutan, and one had a good opportunity to study their points of resemblance. Their heads are much alike, and both grin in the same way when pleased.”
The exhibit was immensely popular, with Sundays often attracting over 40,000 visitors. It was also incredibly controversial. African-American newspapers around the nation carried editorials strongly opposing Benga’s treatment. Dr. R.S. MacArthur, the spokesperson for a delegation of black churches, petitioned the New York City mayor for his release.
Under threat of legal action, the Zoo’s director Dr. William Hornaday had Ota Benga leave his cage and circulate around the zoo, but he returned to the monkey house to sleep.
African-American clergyman James H. Gordon continued to protest to zoo officials, “Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes. We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”
The zoo finally removed Benga from the grounds. Toward the end of 1906, Benga was released into Reverend Gordon’s custody. Gordon placed Benga in the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, a church-sponsored orphanage which he supervised.
As the unwelcome press attention continued, in January 1910, Gordon arranged for Benga’s relocation to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he lived with the McCray family. He arranged for Benga’s teeth to be capped and for him to dress in American-style clothes so that he could be part of local society. Tutored by Lynchburg poet Anne Spencer, Benga could improve his English, and he began to attend elementary school at the Baptist Seminary in Lynchburg.
Once he felt his English had improved sufficiently, Benga discontinued his formal education and began working at a Lynchburg tobacco factory. Despite his small size, he proved a valuable employee. Nicknamed “Bingo”, he often told his life story in exchange for sandwiches and root beer.
In 1914, when World War I broke out, Benga became depressed as his hopes for a return to the Congo faded. On March 20, 1916, at the age of 32, he built a ceremonial fire, chipped off the caps on his teeth and shot himself in the heart with a stolen pistol.
Contributed by Dina Sharif
From the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2010 data based on murders per 100,000 population. ____________________________________________________________________
1. Honduras - 82.1
2. El Salvador - 66
3. Ivory Coast - 56.9
4. Jamaica - 52.1
5. Venezuela - 49
6. Belize - 41.7
7. Guatemala - 41.4
8. St. Kitts and Nevis - 38.2
9. Zambia - 38
10. Uganda - 36.3
103. United States - 5
150. Canada - 1.8
It never occurred to me to browse through the credits of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, to find out who was underneath the monstrous black mask.
The man was Bolanji Badejo, a 7ft tall Nigerian design student picked up from a bar in West London to fill the title role. He worked on the film for 4 months. Spending every day wrapped in a suffocating custom fitted rubber suit, working to exude a presence of pure evil.
Despite his incredible contribution to the film’s success Badejo never received any publicity for his involvement. Ultimately, it would be his only film role.
For a monthly fee of $50,000 plus expenses, the U.S. agency offered a tantalizing prospect to the Rwandan government: a burnished image, a sophisticated media campaign – and a chance at “drowning out” those pesky opposition voices on the Web.
It was 2009, and the authoritarian regime in Rwanda was facing mounting criticism of its human-rights record. It was accused of censoring the media, suppressing freedom, shutting down newspapers and creating a climate of fear. So it turned to a public-relations agency, Racepoint Group, that had already polished the image of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The contracts reveal the increasingly high-tech tactics of the publicity war between African strongmen and their foreign critics – a war in which many governments are becoming more aggressive and sophisticated in their efforts to deflect attention from their human-rights abuses.
Here are some other examples,
Equatorial Guinea ($60,000 a month)
This oil-rich country with one of Africa’s worst records for corruption and human-rights abuses, hired a U.S. consultant, Qorvis Communications, for $60,000 a month in 2010 and 2011 to massage its public image. Its long-time ruler, Teodoro Obiang, who seized power in a military coup, enjoys an estimated fortune of $600-million in a nation where most people survive on less than a dollar a day. He has ruled Equatorial Guinea for 32 years.
Angola ($675,000 annually)
Another repressive oil-rich country, Angola, signed an agreement in 2008 with a U.S. company, Samuels International Associates Inc., to improve its global image and “facilitate” its meetings with senior U.S. officials for an annual fee of $675,000. Its autocratic president, José Eduardo dos Santos, has ruled Angola for 32 years.
Known for arresting hundreds of opposition politicians and repressing the media, the Ethiopian leader, Meles Zenawi, spent more than $2.5-million on three U.S. lobbying firms in 2007 and 2008. Its elections have been widely criticized as unfair and undemocratic, but it is a major recipient of Western aid. Mr. Zenawi, has ruled Ethiopia for 21 years.
Senegal ($150,000 plus a monthly $50,000 fee)
When Senegal’s president, Abdoulaye Wade, decided last year that he wanted a third term in office, despite a constitutional ban, he signed a contract in October with a U.S. law firm, McKenna Long & Aldridge, promising to pay $150,000 plus a monthly $50,000 fee for the company to prepare a research paper on the third-term question and to “share” the research with U.S. and Senegalese officials. Mr. Wade has ruled Senegal for 12 years.
From The Globe and Mail
The Chacma Baboon is moving towards a position of dominance in Africa’s southern plains. Equipped with intimidating size (100lbs) and incredible intelligence the species has abandoned the shelter of the forest and now roams freely in massive troops of 50 or more. Like many primates, the Chacma Baboon displays patterns of learning and social progression. Although they remain primarily omnivorous creatures, in the last decade some troops have adopted a primarily carnivorous diet.
Chacma Baboons are learning how to hunt and then sharing that knowledge within their social community. They have developed tactics for hunting a wide variety of animals, and have also learned how to steal the kills of other predators. Males Baboons will confront leopards and cheetahs by forming a line and strutting in a threatening manner while baring their large canines and screaming. Through this strategy of cooperation the baboons are becoming apex predators within their environment.
Much of Africa, Somalia in particular, has had a tough time since independence in the 1960s, becoming synonymous with staggering levels of misery and leading many people to simply shrug and mutter “here we go again” when they hear of a new drought or a new war. But this current crisis in Somalia is on a different order of magnitude than the typical calamity, if there is such a thing. Tens of thousands of people have already died, and as many as 750,000 could starve to death in the next few months.
But support — meaning dollars — has been frustratingly scant. While many more lives are at stake in Somalia’s crisis, other recent disasters pulled in far more money. For instance, Save the Children U.S. has raised a little more than $5 million in private donations for the Horn of Africa crisis, which includes Somalia and the drought-inflicted areas of Kenya and Ethiopia. That contrasts with what Save the Children raised in 2004 for the Indonesian tsunami ($55.4 million) and the earthquake in Japan earlier this year ($22.8 million) — and Japan is a very rich country.
“Americans are incredibly generous when they understand that children are in desperate need,” said Carolyn Miles, president of Save the Children. “If they knew millions of children were facing death in Somalia, I believe they would give. Unfortunately, all American’s see is a hostile land of militias, warlords and 21st-century pirates.”
If you had $10 to donate towards a human development initiative, would you rather have it go to buy some rice, or some concrete?
The energy sector is the lifeline in the development of any nation and therefore access to reliable and affordable energy supply on a sustainable basis, particularly by industry, agriculture, and the commercial sectors, is an important catalyst for achieving high economic growth and poverty reduction. For the West African state of Sierra Leone’s less than 10% of total population has access to electricity, compared to 49% in Ghana, 46% in Nigeria, 96% in North Africa, 73% in Asia, 99% in China and a 76% global average.
For Sierra Leone the biggest single challenge is making the transition away from costly emergency electricity generation. Right now petroleum imports, the bulk of which are for electricity generation, account for 26% of total imports in Sierra Leone. The most obvious answer to this problem is the investment in hydroelectric capability. The Bumbuna Dam project of 2009 was a significant initial step; finished in 2009 it now produces 50MWh of electricity, sending regular electricity to most parts of Freetown.
While it is not the primary sort of investment most people think of when it comes encouraging human development, this effort towards hydro-electric infrastructure has dramatically improved life for thousands of people; returning life to a young generation of entrepreneurs.
Akimatu Turay is a perfect example of how the hydro-electric project is impacting the nations citizens. Turay runs a streetside stall selling biscuits, sweets, and cigarettes under a large multicolored umbrella. Two bare bulbs strung from a nearby building light up his wares. For 25 cents, he will charge your mobile phone.
Turay says since the powerplant was switched on, he has seen many changes. Business is much better. In the past, when there was very little light, he had to use a generator which cost him a lot of money. The lights still go off every now and again, but the money he saves on diesel, he says, he invests into his business.
Turay says his two lightbulbs are essential for attracting customers. And with an average income of $7 a day just from charging mobile phones, he is pleased with the new power.
Mohamed Conteh, 14, posed for photographer Fernando Moleres on the day he recieved a three-year sentence for marijuana possession in Sierra Leone. Mohamed will serve his time in a primitive prison that lacks mattressess, electricity, sewage and running water.