Luanda, Angola one of the fastest developing cities in Africa

mali Luanda’s harbor front in the evening

When Angola gained its colonial independence in 1975, its capital city of Luanda had a population of 400,000. Since then, the city has grown more than tenfold. With a population of more than five million, Luanda is the third-largest portuguese-speaking city in the world (behind only Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo) and is quickly becoming one of the capitals of modern Africa. Thanks to rich natural resources, improving infrastructure, and booming construction, Angola’s capital has become one of the leaders in the advancement of Africa, and an important city on a worldwide scale.

Booming Economy

Since the end of the Angolan civil war in 2002, Luanda has enjoyed a period of stability accompanied by remarkable economic expansion. Thanks to it’s exceptional harbor, the city has always been a major exporter of Angola’s natural resources, including rich mineral deposits and the valuable offshore oil fields on the country’s Atlantic coast. Recent investment in these resources by Petroleum companies like Total have only made Angola’s trade more efficient (and lucrative), and given the country one of the world’s fastest-growing GDPs.

Luanda's oil service center Angola is one of Africa’s leading exporters of oil

The city’s decade of economic growth has been accompanied by dramatic development, with the initiation and completion of numerous large-scale construction projects, including a major highway and an international airport, orchestrated by Brazilian company Obredecht. These projects, largely fueled by foreign investment, give a sense of the city’s truly international profile, as well as showing the confidence of investors in Luanda’s continuing development.

Overcoming Obstacles

Such dramatic growth, however, does not come without issues. Among the difficulties Luanda faces in its development are poor infrastructure and serious overcrowding, as a city originally built for 400,000 inhabitants now holds ten times that many. It’s an especially positive sign for Luanda’s future, then, that these problems are now being addressed. Thanks to fiscal resources from Angola’s strong economy and a recently expanded role for Luanda’s provincial government, more attention is being given to these issues. Numerous projects are now underway to improve the city’s infrastructure, including the development of an airport, and cleaner tap water.

Pierre Falcone at KilambaPierre Falcone, President of Pierson Capital, at the site of the Kilamba development

Furthermore, international businesses like Odebrecht and Pierson Capital group are undertaking large-scale projects that will address the overcrowding. The company’s president, Pierre Falcone, played a major role in securing vital investments is from the China International Trust, and is just one of many high-profile businessmen to invest in the growth of Luanda. Pierson Capital is now overseeing the construction of major housing developments around the city, like Luanda 2 and Kimbala, which by 2015 will have 200,000 inhabitants, 240 businesses and 17 schools.

With such positive development accompanying it’s economic strength, Luanda’s future seems very bright indeed. As the capital of one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, it’s sure to become one of the Continent’s leading cities and can serve as a model for development across the continent as a whole.

Transition to Stability in Mali

mali French troops mobilizing across Mali

Timbuktu, 03/21/2013 - Yesterday, it was reported that another French soldier has died in the ongoing conflict in Mali. A suicide bomber strapped a vest of explosives to himself near a French military checkpoint in Timbuktu and, upon detonation of his device, killed one French soldier. This marks the fifth death of a French soldier since their direct involvement began on January 10th of this year, and will certainly give France further motivation to end the conflict in Mali as soon as possible.

The struggle began with a military coup that dislodged the democratic leadership that had controlled the country. The military claimed that they were not being supplied with enough equipment and arms to combat the Tuareg rebels. Since Mali gained its independence in 1960, the Tuareg have staged many rebellions in an attempt to create their own country called Azawad, in northern Mali. Ironically, when the military took control of the government, they did not have the power structure to continue the governance of the country, creating a power vacuum that the Tuareg quickly took advantage of. With the Malian military occupied with the south and keeping power there, the Tuareg finally seized control of many northern cities. However, being that their fighting force was not incredibly strong, they were taken out of power by al-Qaeda linked radical Islamist groups. Once these groups had established themselves in northern Mali, they governed the area with a very strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) that has caused many humanitarian inquiries. Among the new restrictions were bans on music, drinking, and smoking. They had also begun to destroy historical landmarks, calling them idolatrous due to their strict interpretation of the Qur’an, creating outrage in many cultural organizations worldwide. Since the cities then came under direct rule of radical militants, floggings, public executions, public stoning,and amputations had become commonplace. They also cut off access to utilities in many of the cities that they occupied, compounding the humanitarian disaster.

International Response

This succession of events led to the involvement of the international community and France in particular. The day after the military had declared control of the country, France sent a military force into the region that consisted of 2,150 troops. The United States supplied intelligence, air support, and monetary assistance, as the threat of a new haven for al-Qaeda is in direct conflict with their foreign policy. Many other countries combined including China, India, Senegal, and many others combined to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause, with the EU contributing around 67 million euros.

mali Malians in Timbuktu before the civil war

The mission to re-establish a stable government to all of Mali has been incredibly successful thus far, mainly due to the French military presence in the region. They successfully took back control of Timbuktu, Gao, and finally Kidal, all of which were massive strongholds for these radical Islamist militants, and thus sites of immense humanitarian abuses. Kidal was the last major city to be controlled by the militants, and was a huge step for the French initiative.

Potential U.N. Involvement Moving Forward

Marc Fonbaustier
Herve Ladsous (left) with Marc Fonbaustier (right)

Now that the bulk of the conflict is over, France looks to the UN to take over with the peacekeeping force that had been suggested earlier in the conflict once it was a more stable situation. U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous (pictured above with French diplomat Marc Fonbaustier) had said that the UN would deploy a peacekeeping force “at the appropriate time.” He continued “I think that the Security Council will be looking at a resolution in the next two or three weeks and then we will move ahead for full deployment.” The force (expected to number around 6,000 members) is expected to be in place well before the July 31st elections as the country looks to restore the democracy that had stood since 1992. Some Malians, however, are uneasy about the force, fearing that it will create a divide between the north and south like Sudan. The international community hopes that they will accept the resolution so that Mali does not fall into chaos like many other African countries have when the French soldiers inevitably leave, which may be sooner rather than later given the latest death of one of their own and the stir that it has caused.

Infrastructure Development Necessary in the Maghreb

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March 14, 2013 – Two years and two months ago, the people of the Maghreb showed that they had had enough of the socio-economic conditions that were crippling the region. It began in Tunisia with their revolution, then spread like wildfire, igniting revolutions driven by hope of a secure political and economic landscape that would bring them out of the mess that their governments had created. Just over two years later, Tunisia is no longer at war, but the political and economic landscape is far from stable because nothing concrete has been done to ameliorate the collective situation of its people.

While the Tunisian politicians debate which party will have the most power, governmental structure, and whether or not they will officially be Islamic, the people who fought the revolution are being made to wait. Since the politicians are preoccupied creating the structure, it is up to the private sector to create the body that will occupy it when it is ready. Public works projects should be the first step in bringing Tunisia, and its revolutionary counterparts across the region, back to stability. It will supply jobs for civilians of all socio-economic situations, while providing immense benefits to the people and easing unrest.

“Preparing to welcome 200,000 people within three years, Kilamba has become one of the largest development projects in Africa…”

Since the economic situation in these areas is perilous, they may need to call upon foreign investors to aid them in accomplishing these projects. Pierre Falcone and Pierson Capital, an investment firm based in Chicago, funded the trans-maghreb highway in 2010. They have also taken the lead in the creation of an entire city called Kilamba outside of the capital of Luanda. By following this example of foreign direct investment, it will be much easier for these (and any recovering or developing country) to jumpstart their economies, and in politically charged areas like the Maghreb, appease the masses calling for progress. After two years of turmoil, if the population continues being denied any concrete progress, the government is liable to fall once more in favor of the chance that a new regime could provide it.

Although it may be up to private companies to take up the mantle, the governments of the Maghreb have significant pull over such corporations, as they have the ability to write policies that would make it more advantageous to build in their country than in others. If businesses see that building in North Africa is a good investment with favorable policies towards foreign investors, they are infinitely more likely to choose it as the location of their next project but it is up to the governments to choose the right path that will take their country out of the muck and towards a prosperous future.

Daunting Outlook for the AIDS Crisis in South Africa

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Johannesburg -

Thursday, the Health Minister of South Africa announced that the number of people infected by AIDS, especially among young girls, is on the rise. The latest study shows that a shocking 28% of school-aged girls are currently infected with AIDS. The numbers among boys of the same age group is much lower, only 4%. This suggests that it is not the fault of young boys having unprotected sex, it is much older men. A disturbing trend has emerged, with young girls prostituting themselves to much older “sugar-daddies,” as health minister Motsoaledi called them. Not only is the age difference and prostituting of young girls alarming from a moral standpoint, it is also contributing to the spread of a debilitating virus.

Although South Africa has the strongest AIDS treatment program in the world, the demand (about 6 million of 50 million are infected) may prove too great to support. Since the financial crisis began in 2008, countries have focused more and more on stabilizing their own economies, and are contributing less to charitable causes. Notably, the United States, who provides around 500 million dollars in support each year is enduring budget cuts that will force them to cut that number in half by 2017. Thus far, the South African government has been able to provide services such as voluntary testing and awareness presentation, while encouraging condom distribution in schools. However, it remains unknown what programs will be cut when funds drop so significantly in the near future.

In spite of the difficult situation that they find themselves in, there is an encouraging side as well. Since these services are readily available, it appears that students are taking advantage of them. The low number of infected males suggests that they are using protection, which has been backed by a recent study showing that 80% of males in the area and age group are in fact using condoms on a regular basis.

The problem remains in the cultural numbness to the idea that older men sleeping with young girls is wrong. If that were to change, the AIDS crisis would be cut off at its source and save a generation of suffering. However, with rising costs and demand, the outlook is not encouraging. AIDS remains the most common cause of an early death in Africa, causing nearly 50% of all premature deaths. 20 Years ago, it was the 12th leading cause, but it has dramatically increased since then and continues to do so today. The organizations combating the virus will have to bolster their resolve and find a way through the financial crisis and the falling contributions that it represents, but there is still hope for those affected by the pandemic.

Isabel Dos Santos is richest woman in Africa

Isabel Dos SantosAngola’s president Dos Santos is famous for being the president of his country for over 30 years. He is also famous for the wealth he has developed over the years by being a board member of all the major companies of his country, mainly those that handle the country’s natural resources such as petrolium and diamonds. Now president Dos Santos will be also knownn to be the father of Africa’s richest woman, Isabel Dos Santos.

Born on April 1st, 1973, 40-year-old Isabel Dos Santos has just been named by Forbes Africa’s richest woman. She started building up her wealth thanks to her dad, who gave her stakes in the country’s main public companies. Then one day, she started building her own business, buying shares in portuguese companies. Her husband, Sindika Dokolo, is also the son of a wealthy man who founded his own bank.

While Forbes doesn’t give out the exact amount of Isabel Dos Santos’ wealth, it lists the companies in which the “princess” of Angola bought shares:

  • ZON Multimedia, Portugal largest cable TV provider, 28,8%
  • Banco BPI, Portugal largest traded banks, 25%
  • Unitel, Angola’s largest mobile network, 25%

Forbes also mentions that the Dos Santos family’s wealth comes from the obscure business of oil in Angola. Since the end of Angola’s civil war, the price of angolan oil has boosted, and it has been reported that billions of dollars in profits from oil have disappeared when it transitted through the public administration.

Rajoelina makes a personal visit to Rio+20

Rajoelina at Rio+20Earlier this week, Madagascar’s transition president, Andry Rajoelina, took off for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to attend the UN conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) taking place from June 20 to 22.

The Rio+20 Conference is a milestone as a 20 year follow-up to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Thousands of participants from governments, NGOs, the private sector and other groups, convened at Rio+20 to find solutions to how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity, and ensure our environment’s protection on an increasingly crowded planet to bring us towards the future we want.

While Rajoelina did not hold a press briefing before his departure, Prime Minister Beriziky Omer emphasizes the importance of having Madagascar represented in the comity of Nations. “Everything is a priority when it comes to the interests of Madagascar. We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the international community […] The participation of the President of the Transition in the conference is a signal about the importance we attach to development and the environment.”

With a personal visit to Rio+20, Rajoelina tends to the needs of Madagascar, and equally demonstrates his awareness towards global concerns.

Source: UNCSD 2012
Photo Credit: Yikaury Maria

Prime Minister Omer Beriziky declines invitation from Richard Branson

Beriziky at JNNBritish billionaire Richard Branson, owner and founder of Virgin Group, visited Madagascar last week to attend the first tourism fair organized by the National Tourism Office in Madagascar (ONTM), and to also work on a project to protect endangered lemurs. Although Branson enjoyed his time in the country, and even took an opportunity to play golf, he also had something else in mind. Branson wanted to open an air route between London and Antananarivo, and seek a lodge on the Big Island to come on Holiday.

To discuss these ambitious plans, Branson hoped to meet with Prime Minister Omer Beriziky during his stay. Before returning to London, Branson invited Beriziky to dinner; however, the Madagascan Prime Minister declined the invitation because he had planned a trip to Toamasina on June 9 to celebrate the 7th annual National Day of Nutrition (JNN), followed by a visit to Sambava on June 11 to meet with vanilla producers.

Beriziky’s priority to tour the provinces over meeting with Branson tells us a lot about his intentions to run in the upcoming presidential election, especially if Transition President Andry Rajoelina and his rival, former President Marc Ravalomanana, are prevented from running.

Source: Indian Ocean Newsletter
Photo Credit: Primature