Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

Akissi: kids' comic about a mischievous girl in Cote D'Ivoire


Akissi is a French-language comic about the adventures of a little West African girl, now available in English translation thanks to the astoundingly excellent Flying Eye, a new kids' imprint of London's NoBrow. It was created by Marguerite Abouet, whom you may know from Aya, a series of comics for adults set in Cote d'Ivoire, widely available and appreciated in English translation.

Akissi's adventures are both universal and absolutely particular to her milieu. My young daughter -- born and raised in London -- has never kept a pet monkey, had a tapeworm come out of her nose, or had to contend with an older brother who wouldn't take her pigeon hunting; but Akissi's struggles with authority, her close friendships, and her misunderstandings are immediately recognisable to my daughter and her friends when they come over, and I've read the book aloud to them a good half-dozen times since I brought it home last week. It's the perfect combination of gross-out humour, authority clashes, and general mischief to capture a kid's interest.


Akissi comprises seven short stories, each of which stands alone, and, as with all of the NoBrow titles, it is a beautiful package -- great binding, endpapers, paper stock, and spine -- suitable for both your own library and as a handsome gift. It's on sale in the UK now, and will be out in the USA in June.

Akissi [Amazon UK]

AKISSI [Flying Eye]

Report: Salaries of mining union leaders in South Africa paid by mining companies

Just one year after the "Marikana massacre," an investigative report in South Africa's Daily Maverick reveals "a furtive conflict of interest, with mining houses footing the bill for top National Union of Mineworkers office bearers’ salaries...unionists are being paid high salaries by the very people from whom they are supposed to protect their members. The 'arrangement' is just about to end, in spite of union leaders' unhappiness and an unpredictable labour and political backlash." Xeni

Akata Witch: young adult hero's journey of a Nigerian witch

World Fantasy Award-winning novelist Nnedi Okorafor's debut young adult novel is Akata Witch, a beautifully wrought hero's journey story about Sunny, a young girl with albinism born to Nigerian parents in America, and then returned to Nigeria, where she discovers that she is a Leopard Person -- a born sorcerer.

The structure of Sunny's journey to mastery of her wild talent is familiar enough, the stuff of much-loved Rowling and Duane novels. But the world of Leopard People, beautifully presented by Okorafor, makes it sing with freshness. The increasingly difficult challenges that Sunny and her three friends -- a coven predicted in legend and come to Nigeria just in time to save the world from a murdering sorcerer bent on apocalypse -- are each more fascinating and pulse-pounding than the last, and the magic they practice has that dream-logic plausibility of the best fantasy.

Young readers and adults who try Akata Witch will find it a marvellous and uplifting read, heartwarming in its portrayal of true freindship, heartbreaking in its portrayal of headstrong youth and the perils of pride. Woven throughout is an implicit commentary on America's relationship to Africa, the distinct identities of African Americans, Nigerians, and other West Africans, and the adolescent pain of trying to please your family even as you are discovering yourself. Highly recommended.

Akata Witch

Zambia's fictional 1960s space programme


Rick sez, "Spanish photographer Cristina De Middel's fictional documentation of a failed 1960s space programme in Zambia - The Afronauts - has just been nominated for the 2013 Deutsche Borse photography prize."

Zambia's first (unofficial) space programme

Twitter suspends account of Somali Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda

Two days after a group of Somali islamist militants vowed to execute Kenyan hostages, and tweeted a video of a captive pleading for the Kenyan government to help free them, the Al-Shabaab Twitter account @HSMPress was suspended. A Google cache is visible here. Warning: includes gruesome photos. The group took a French intelligence officer hostage, then apparently murdered him after an unsuccessful attempted raid by the French military which the US assisted). An @HSMPress press release about that killing is available on Twitlonger.

The Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Twitter account has been around since 2011, promoting the group's vision of strict sharia law in Somalia, 140 characters at a time. The US State Department was reportedly looking in to shutting it down ages ago. Wonder what took them so long?

For its part, Al Shabaab blames its "Christian enemies" for suspending its Twitter account. And they do sound rather miffed about being blocked on the popular social networking platform.

Read the rest

China's health aid in Africa leads to flood of fake drugs

At The Pulitzer Center website, a feature on the work of investigative journalist Kathleen E. McLaughlin, an American reporter working in Africa whose current work focuses on how China’s health programs, hospitals and medical teams in Africa affect the health landscape. While they do "provide access to life-saving drugs, vaccines and medical care," supply chain problems affect the patient population negatively. One of the biggest problems? Fake drugs, which can in fact kill people.

Read the rest

African sf anthology

Liam sez, "On the tail of the CC-licensed Muslim SF Anthology: there's a recently-released collection of African SF stories, called Afro SF. It's a collection of stuff written by folks in and around the African continent, so there's a fairly wide spread of content and focus. It's pretty new, and pretty neat, although it isn't CC and it is, at present, only available as a slightly-pricey e-book. Still, SF, some of it quite good (writers like Sarah Lotz, Biram Mboob) marginal voices, and all." (Thanks, Liam!) Cory

Hip Deep Angola radio series, part 3: A Spiritual Journey to Mbanza-Kongo

ANTONIO MADIATA, player of the lungoyi-ngoyi, the 2-stringed Kongo viola.

Ned Sublette writes, "This summer I had the tremendous experience of going to Mbanza-Kongo, in the north of Angola, where I recorded material for an episode of Afropop Worldwide Hip Deep and a still unfinished piece of writing."

You can hear it on Soundcloud, and it has also been broadcast on PRI affiliate stations around the US.

"Meanwhile, it's being broadcast against a background of turmoil in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo," Ned adds. "See this and this."

I've written about the earlier installments in the series, and encourage you to listen and enjoy. More about this chapter, below.

Read the rest

Self-taught 15-y-o from Sierra Leone is a king-hell maker

This short documentary about a teenager from Sierra Leone who taught himself electronics and got a residence at MIT is inspiring and humbling -- what a kid!

15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music under the moniker, DJ Focus.

Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the "Visiting Practitioner's Program" at MIT. THNKR had exclusive access to Kelvin and his life-changing journey - experiencing the US for the first time, exploring incredible opportunities, contending with homesickness, and mapping out his future.

Self-taught African Teen Wows M.I.T.

Africa for Norway: raising money in Africa to help poor Norwegians struggle through the frozen winter

Ntwiga wries, Who says Africa can't contribute: Radi-Aid has Africans singing and working together to send radiators to our cold brethren in Norway in this their time of Christmas need. Choice tidbit: 'It's kind of just as bad as poverty if you ask me... Frostbite kills too.'"

Africa For Norway - New charity single out now! Official christmas video

Improvised footballs from Africa


Photographer Jessica Hilltout travelled Africa documenting homemade footballs/soccer balls improvised across the continent. Shown above, a ball from Mozambique, made by Domingo. Left, a Ghanian ball from the Anokye Stars.

Balls (via Kottke)

Illiterate kids given sealed boxes with tablets figure out how to use, master, and hack them

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child presentation at the MIT Tech Review EmTech conference recounted an inspiring experiment in which illiterate Ethiopian village-kids were given solar-charging laptops in sealed boxes, and quickly taught themselves how to operate, then master, then hack, these devices, acquiring basic literacy and technological literacy at the same time.

MIT Technology Review's David Talbot reports in a piece reprinted on Mashable.com:

The experiment is being done in two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa. One village is called Wonchi, on the rim of a volcanic crater at 11,000 feet; the other is called Wolonchete, in the Rift Valley. Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them, Negroponte said.

Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

Elaborating later on Negroponte’s hacking comment, Ed McNierney, OLPC’s chief technology officer, said that the kids had gotten around OLPC’s effort to freeze desktop settings. “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that,” McNierney said. “And the fact they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.”

“If they can learn to read, then they can read to learn.”

In an interview after his talk, Negroponte said that while the early results are promising, reaching conclusions about whether children could learn to read this way would require more time. “If it gets funded, it would need to continue for another a year and a half to two years to come to a conclusion that the scientific community would accept,” Negroponte said. “We’d have to start with a new village and make a clean start.”

Given Tablets But No Teachers, Ethiopian Kids Teach Themselves (via Reddit)

UK government spent millions arming and training Congolese and Sudanese soldiers

The UK government has spent £2.4m on training and arming the military forces in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- two places where soldiers are known for atrocities, gang-rape, torture, electoral fraud and vote suppression, and gross human rights abuses. The Guardian's Diane Taylor and David Smith report:

The Enough Project, which works with the American actor George Clooney to expose human rights abuses in both Sudan and Congo, says the two countries are the scene of some of the world's most serious mass atrocities.

In information revealed in a freedom of information response from the Ministry of Defence a total of £75,406 has been spent on providing 44-week courses at the elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for Sudanese and Congolese forces. Other support includes military logistics, advanced command and staff courses, strategic intelligence and evaluating challenges to state sovereignty.

A total of £952,301 was spent on international peace support, which includes border security and stabilisation.

As the Sudanese opposition leader Dr Gebreil Fediel said from London, "If it was and is the intention of the UK authorities to teach Sudan's police and security officers how to conduct these matters in a democratic manner, it has failed. The brutality and genocidal activities of government of Sudan state organs against its own citizens is widely documented."

UK spent millions training police from oppressive regimes

Chinese-built ghost town in Angola - the first of many to come?


The BBC's Louise Redvers reports on the ghost town of Kilamba, Angola, a horrendously expensive high-rise enclave built by Chinese companies on a line of credit secured with Angolan oil, which has only seen 220 apartments out of 2800 sold. Kilamba is the most ambitious of several new towns being built outside of existing Angoloan cities by Chinese firms.

It's like a bizarro-world version of the Keynsian idea of getting the economy going by paying one group of laborers to dig holes and another to fill them in. But in this case, one group of workers are paid to pump oil, which is offshored to China. In exchange, a group of Chinese workers is paid to build a gate-guarded enclave for a non-existent pool of mega-rich locals that no one can afford to live in, and which gradually turns into a massive liability. Profit!

The place is eerily quiet, voices bouncing off all the fresh concrete and wide-open tarred roads.

There are hardly any cars and even fewer people, just dozens of repetitive rows of multi-coloured apartment buildings, their shutters sealed and their balconies empty.

Only a handful of the commercial units are occupied, mostly by utility companies, but there are no actual shops on site, and so - with the exception of a new hypermarket located at one entrance - there is nowhere to buy food.

After driving around for nearly 15 minutes and seeing no-one apart from Chinese labourers, many of whom appear to live in containers next to the site, I came across a tiny pocket of life at a school.

It opened six months ago, bussing in its pupils in from outlying areas because there are no children living on site to attend.

Angola's Chinese-built ghost town (via Super Punch)

Science fiction in Africa


Here's a 23-minute BBC World Service documentary about science fiction in Africa, hosted by Zoo City author Lauren Beukes, who speaks to various luminaries, writers and commentators, including District 9 creator Neill Blomkamp.

Beukes hears from film-makers Neill Blomkamp (South Africa - director of the international hit District 9), Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya), blogger Jonathan Dotse (Ghana), writer Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA) and others on how their particular experiences have influenced their work.

Science fiction often explores the interaction between people and technology. In Africa that theme plays out in surprising ways, from making an appointment with a traditional healer over email, to women in remote villages collecting water while chatting on their mobiles.

It’s this mix of magic and technology, challenge and innovation that shapes the science fiction coming out of the continent.

Leaving behind the traditional visions of a high-tech Tokyo, futuristic LA or dystopian New York, and challenging clichéd views of the entire African continent, this is a science fiction being told by the people who live there.

Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa? (via Afrocyberpunk)