Monday 31 March 2008

Bob Geldof on George Bush on Africa

Time magazine gave Bob Geldof space recently to describe his trip following some of George Bush's African tour – and time in the company of the leader of the free world. It's a fascinating piece, though hard to know how much freedom Geldof – or Dubya – had to approve all the copy. You've got to marvel at the president when he says "US solutions should not be imposed on African leaders" So just on certain other leaders, huh. . .?

Strangely, this article differs from the version supposedly reproduced in The Sunday Times. Not just minor subbing changes, but in somewhat different quotes from Bush in each piece, and reflections from Geldof that don't appear in both articles, as if both were sourced from a longer one. Go figure – as the "curious and quick" (Geldof's words) George W might say.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Anger in the Niger Delta ©

This excellent documentary feature (wait for the naff studio intro to finish) by Mariana van Zeller is broadcast on UK Channel 4 TV on 30 March 2008, or you can watch the whole thing on the Current.Com website. Although it was shot in March/April 2007, it shows graphically the conditions for oilfield communities, which have not improved over the last year. The clip below is the first of four parts in a 24-minute film.

As Mariana notes: "Despite the tens of billions of dollars worth of oil produced here every year, the delta remains desperately poor."

Watch the guy who says "I'm telling you out of anger, because God knows, I'm angry". . .

Clip ©

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Corruption in Mali

More news from the incredibly energetic and generous Tan Wee Cheng, from Singapore, who notes in his recent post from Timbuktu:

"Upon arrival, a half-Turaeg-Songhai guy named “Alibaba”, obviously a member of the local tourist syndicate aka mafia with a name that sounded probably less trustworthy than he had intended, picked me up and sent me to Hotel Colomb on a motorcycle ride through desert wastes into town. Alibaba tried hard to sell his guide services. After I dumped my luggage, we walked next door to the tourist office where Alibaba showed me his photo on the tourist office’s register of travel guides. In my presence, the official at the tourist office also concurred with Alibaba’s assertion that new rules require tourists to walk around town with a guide, as too many tourists had upset locals by taking photos indiscriminately. With a guide, permission to take photos would be more readily granted. No choice but to agree to a half day guided tour for an outrageous sum of FCFA 10,000 (about US23), in a country where GDP per capita is less than US$1 a day."

Can anyone confirm this new state of affairs?

Later, in Djenné:

"The Mosque of Djenne was once opened to tourists. Some years ago, it was closed to non-Muslims when a European director was found filming a skimpily dressed model in the mosque. We were approached by an acquaintance who is a mosque official. He said I could go into the mosque if I pay him FCFA 20,000. I declined the offer. Why should I pay FCFA 20,000 (30 euros) to see a mosque? Simply too expensive. World Heritage Sites elsewhere don’t charge that much. This also once again marked the problem of corruption in Africa. They should allow tourists to enter but charge a high but more reasonable entrance fee of, say, FCFA 5000, which is probably okay for a WHS. This would get quite a number of visitors and generate income for the community. (Rules on modesty should be enforced with fines). Instead, individual officials benefit from the very small group of visitors willing to pay ridiculous sums of money."

CFA5000 is plenty – in fact, frankly it's a crazy amount of money if you simply want to gurantee maximum revenue, as you'll put off probably 30% to 50% of potential visitors (Peace Corps, VSOs, low-budget travellers, etc) who wouldn't pay more than CFA1000–2000 ($2–$4) for the privilege.

You can read the rest of Wee Cheng's post here.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Guinea Bissau – carnival and hotel news


Most of the little news coming out of Guinea-Bissau is about the country's steady decline into West Africa's first narco state (what a delightfully horrible term), with elements in the army and navy apparently colluding in the trans-shipment of cocaine from South America. So Rose Skelton's piece in last Friday's Guardian on the Bissau carnival was excellent good news. It must be one of the least-known, most rarely acknowleged carnavals in the world. If people can hop on charter flights and party away in Olinda, Brazil, then why not in Bissau, half the distance? Not that the world needs any more charter flights. But if you are going to fly to a carnival. . .

You can read the story here. And Rose's HowdiBohdi? blog is well worth following (link on the left).

Photo © Rose Skelton

Bissau has a good new hotel, writes Tan Wee Cheng (thanks Wee Cheng), whose blog is also linked on the left):

"Hotel Kalliste, centrally located at Praca Che Guevara. The exterior looks horrible but the rooms are immaculately clean, new and modern and the hotel has strong bank vault-like exterior doors, probably as a safeguard against major political disturbances. CFA 30,000 to 40,000 per night. Has a good café-restaurant and a room with jackpot machines."