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To The Slopes Of Kilimanjaro

It has been nearly five months since i first set foot on red African soil. The memory of my first breaths, of the moist morning air, the smell of a new continent and the beaming smiles of a wholly new culture seem like things of the past. Yet there are days when i draw my first breath and my mind flutters back to the early days of June.

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How does one describe a country like Rwanda? Starving children and dirt roads dont do justice to a country that has tripled its per capita income in 16 years, a country whose capital recently named the safest, cleanest and most organized capital in the world by the United Nations? If i was doing my internship in Somalia or the Sudan, maybe i could get away with throwing up some pictures of misery and despair and generalizing Africa as one big, suffering mass of starving people. But Africa, and Rwanda especially is so much more. Vibrant cultures infused with a long history, a culture of hospitality unmatched in the world, and some of the brightest smiles are things we rarely see in the West.  My entry wont dwell on the negatives commonly associated with Africa, but one tiny, poor nation’s attempts to claw itself and its people out of poverty, conserve a national treasure and prove to the world that Africa is more than child soldiers, famine and “ethnic” violence.

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Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, has long been pushing for a technological revolution as a way to combat Africa’s economic malaise. Kagame has made Information Technology (IT) a priority in Rwanda, as part of his plan to transform his impoverished nation into the Switzerland of central Africa. In order to attract IT companies, Rwanda has placed great emphasis on its educational system. Primary school enrollment has risen from 900,000 pupils in 1994 to 2,000,000 in 2008, and continues to rise. In addition, the Rwandan government has increased accessibility to education by providing tuition-free education for the first nine years of schooling.

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Rwanda is a poor nation, even by African standards. It lacks major resource deposits, is situated well away from trade routes and is dangerously overpopulated. However, it has one resource in abundance. This resource is women, of all ages and social backgrounds. Rwanda has capitalized on the strength of women by empowering them to change their communities and take control of their lives. View full article »

The West African nation of Liberia is in an unenviable spot. After two decades of turmoil and civil war, this small nation is finally starting to get back on its feet. The civil war left 1 in 12 people dead, destroyed the economy and set back an entire generation, depriving them of a chance at a childhood, education and a normal life. Slowly, Liberia is starting to recover. A peaceful election in October 2005 brought to power the first female president in Africa. The economy picked up again, and although 85% of Liberians live below the poverty line, there is a sense of freedom and progress. View full article »

Coffee is currently responsible for the livelihood of over 100 million individuals in developing nations. Due to its immense popularity, Coffee is also the backbone of many economies in the developing world. However, the modern coffee system is exploitive, and in many cases it does more harm than good to its producers. The price of coffee is influenced by the market, and many farmers struggle to make a basic substance earning from their farming activity. The story of “coffee exploitation”, and fortunately how to overcome it is best highlighted by the coffee cooperative of Maraba, located in Rwanda. View full article »

Sierra Leone is a country with a colorful, and sometimes haunting past. Formed as a refuge in the 18th century for freed slaves and impoverished individuals of African ancestry, Sierra Leone existed as a British colony for over 150 years. Following independence, Sierra Leone was touted as a nation with vast potential. Endowed with large diamond deposits, plenty of arable land and a natural environment suited for large scale tourism, Sierra Leone joined the family of independent nations with high hopes. Unfortunately, the euphoria of independence soon gave way to disdain, as the ruling elite systematically plundered Sierra Leone’s wealth and marginalized its people. View full article »

The Rebirth of Rwanda

April 6th marks the anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. Sixteen years ago, this tiny, central African nation descended into a 100-day bloodbath that left between 800,000 to 1 million dead. The international community looked on, distracted or unwilling to come to the rescue of a nation that had no strategic or economic interest in the developed world.  Following the debacle of Somalia in 1993 (Black Hawk Down) and the quagmire in the former Yugoslavia, the American government, which usually spearheads UN efforts, was weary of intervening in African conflicts with no direct strategic effects on its policy. This inaction cost Rwanda dearly. However, against all odds, Rwanda seems to be rising from the ashes, a role model in an often turbulent continent. View full article »

In my first post, i briefly touched on the disadvantaged position African farmers find themselves due to western agricultural subsidies. One of the most glaring cases of this phenomenon is the West African cotton industry, which provides a livelihood for 16 million people. View full article »

The African Century?

Recently, i have noticed a number of interesting statistics and pieces of information about Africa’s economic development. Even during the present recession, a number of countries ( Rwanda, Angola, Malawi…) have continued to grow economically, and at quite high rates at that. Africa has also managed to court different markets and investors, with Chinese companies investing 1 billion dollars in the continent in 2007. As well, Africa-China bilateral trade has reached over 70-billion dollars per year, and Africa provides China with over 1/3 of its oil imports. View full article »