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Global Focus


A weekly programme looking at issues challenging our assumptions and way of life across all the continents. This as the world is going through deep and rapid changes.






A weekly programme looking at issues challenging our assumptions and way of life across all the continents. This as the world is going through deep and rapid changes.




Seychelles, blazing a trail in marine conservation

As the world grapples with the climate emergency, Seychelles is leading the way in marine conservation – ten years ahead of United Nations deadlines. A marine expedition into its deep waters has analysed a huge swathe of unchartered Indian Ocean territory, providing invaluable research. “The Seychelles are a beacon for ocean conservation, ocean science and ocean management. They’ve really taken the lead where others are catching up,” says Oliver Steeds, founder and mission director of Nekton, the research foundation that carried out deep ocean explorations in the Seychelles in March/April. The Seychelles archipelago is the first instalment of Nekton’s work towards a State of the Indian Ocean summit in October 2022. Nekton’s First Descent expeditions into the Indian Ocean will next move to the Maldives this year. The third island where the last expedition is to take place is not known yet but Oliver Steeds hopes it will be one linked to France, because its “influence in the Indian Ocean is really important, namely in such places like Reunion and Mayotte”. “We very much hope that France is going to be a key actor in helping to galvanise sustainable blue economy and the conservation priorities in the Indian Ocean,” he adds. The Indian Ocean, the third largest ocean in the world, is also known to scientists as the forlorn ocean, because there is so little known about it. Seychelles President Danny Faure, in his address to the world in a submersible 124 metres below sea, said “we have better maps of Planet Mars than we do of the Indian Ocean floor”. “To support our conservation efforts, it is vital that we have more data, more information,” Faure added. Historic expedition To conduct its field research, Nekton Mission and the 16 scientists on board the Ocean Zephyr spent 48 days exploring the waters of the Seychelles in 75 manned submersibles descents, mapping 30,000 square metres of seabed in 3D, collecting 20 terabytes of marine data and gathering over 1,200 samples. “This expedition is historic for Seychelles. We’ve never had similar expeditions in the past,” says Alain de Comarmond, the principal secretary at the Seychelles ministry of environment, energy and climate change. “In the past, we had gone to do research as deep as 30 meters. That’s it. This expedition gave us a good coverage of bio-diversity across our 115 islands.” Nekton’s mandate is to work for and on behalf of the host nations. The partnership involves ongoing capacity building and training of Seychellois scientists. Steeds said all the data and biological samples collected by Nekton will be owned and vested by the government of the Seychelles. “We want to demonstrate a case study, an economic, political, environmental one for marine spatial planning and identifying where those areas of protection need to be. We want to help Seychelles develop a sustainable Blue Economy. If Seychelles can’t do it, it’s going to be very hard for others to follow,” Steeds declares. Protection of Seychelles’ ocean Seychelles has committed 30 percent of its 1.35 million sq km of waters to marine protection by 2020, ten years ahead of the United Nations 2030 target for Sustainable Development Goal no. 14, known as the Life Below Water goal. Most of the work has already been accomplished, with only some four percent left for Seychelles to reach its deadline. The island nation developed a marine spatial plan since 2014 that covers its entire marine territory and holds a large mandate from marine protection to sustainable economic growth. A 2016 financing scheme which consisted in swapping part of its debt for climate change adaptation programmes was crucial for the island’s marine conservation strategies. The team working on this Marine Spatial Plan for the Seychelles – which has identified marine areas falling under varying degrees of protection – worked closely with the Nekton team in selecting priority sites for the explorations. The descents took place in the...


Pain of Yazidi genocide remembered in France

Yazidis gathered in the north of Paris to commemorate the genocide which began on 3 August 2014. The survivors and their children are refugees in France. They all have a vivid memory of that day when they left a part of themselves in the Sinjar mountains. The laughter and shouts of children playing on the narrow stretch of green grass liven up the Nelson Mandela Sports Centre in Sarcelles. They are playing next to the only monument in France commemorating the beginning of the Yazidi genocide on 3 August 2014. The town of Sarcelles, north of Paris, inaugurated the memorial on 22 May 2019. Not far away, there are two other monuments commemorating the Armenian and Assyrian genocides. The Yazidi children are blissfully unaware of the sombre occasion; the adults have gathered to remember the beginning of the Yazidi genocide which took place in Sinjar region in north eastern Iraq. Thousands were killed by the Islamic State armed group who regarded the Yazidis as heretics. The women were raped and enslaved. The boys were enrolled as child soldiers. Those who refused to convert to Islam were executed. The Yazidis, or Ezidis, have their own language and culture. Their centuries-old religion is among the oldest monotheistic pre-Abrahamic faith. Raising awareness Farhad Shamo-Roto organised the event in Sarcelles. He is the president of Voice of Ezidis, an association he recently created to raise awareness about his people, compile information about the genocide and provide help to the Yazidis living in refugee camps in Iraq. 25-year-old Shamo-Roto came to France on 4 November 2017 and was later granted refugee status. He believes remembrance is important, however painful it may be. “On this day, the Yazidi families, each with a horrific story, want to be together and it’s important that our children and the next generation understand what happened to us,” he explains. “We also want to show the Ezidi people living in tragic conditions in Iraq that we are remembering you and our heart is bleeding at every moment.” Escaping to Sinjar mountains Shamo-Roto was a 20-year-old biology student in 2014. He was in his home-town of Guhbal in Sinjar region when ISIS started closing in, blocking all the routes to the small town. “It was one of the hardest few hours in my life. With my family and relatives, we fled Guhbal on 3 August 2014, after midnight. We walked 20 kilometres to reach the mountains,” he remembers. “We knew the terrorists were coming to kill us. We knew they intended to kidnap our daughters. I had one cousin and two sisters. Our lives were not important. We were just trying to save them because we knew that the ISIS fighters were going to turn the girls into sexual slaves,” he added. A 24-year-old Yazidi girl, who spoke to RFI under conditions of anonymity, said 3 August brings back very painful memories. “This day is like hell for me. It hurts so much,” she says with eyes red from crying. “The past is past but I did not forget and I will not forget.” “Normally, I smile and look happy because I have to be strong for my family and the people around me,” she adds. From Kocho village to Paris Samson Husein is a 43-year-old mother from the village of Kocho in Sinjar region. Her husband and three sons were taken by ISIS. She doesn’t know if they are still alive. She came to France in December 2018 as part of a resettlement programme set up by French President Emmanuel Macron with the support of 2018 Nobel Peace Laureate Nadia Murad, a female survivor of ISIS. This programme aims to provide protection to 100 vulnerable Yazidi women and their children, victims of ISIS. Samson Husein is now living in France as a refugee with one son and two daughters. She does not think she could ever get rid of her immense sadness. “This month is the most difficult time in my life. I lost everything. I lost my mother, my husband, five of my brothers. I lost 74 members of my family. They were taken from Kocho,” she says. “The only...


Building tolerance towards elephants through empowering local communities

Elephants are at the centre of debates in which southern African countries demand control over their wildlife resources and want the ban on ivory trade to be lifted. Strategies are being devised to encourage tolerance and overcome human-elephant conflict as both species compete for natural resources. “In many ways, southern Africa has become a victim of their conservation success, as far elephants go,” says Dr Russell Taylor, the Transboundary Conservation Planning Advisor for the World Wildlife Fund. Southern Africa continues to hold by far the largest number of elephants on the African continent. Of the 475,000 elephants in Africa, 293,447 are located in the region. And nearly 75 percent (around 220,000) of southern Africa’s elephants are to be found in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA). This vast 520,000 km² expanse stretches across Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Established in 2006, its goal is to manage the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem. Human-elephant conflict But conflict between elephants and humans is on the rise. With a growing elephant population and burgeoning human numbers, the scarcity of natural resources makes it difficult to accommodate both wildlife and people. The elephants move out of their usual range looking for food and water. In so doing, they can damage crops, property and sometimes cost lives. “A year’s livelihood can be destroyed in one or two nights by crop-raiding elephants, for example,” says Dr Taylor. Water resources are becoming increasingly scarce because of climate change, leading to humans and elephants competing for the same resources. As a result, water tanks and reservoirs for livestock have been destroyed by elephants. “If we don’t provide legal alternatives to human-elephant conflict, people themselves will take matters into their own hands and they could fuel the elephant-poaching crisis which is really on the increase in southern Africa,” declares Taylor. The population living in the immediate vicinity of the elephants is poor and the temptation to engage in poaching is great: a single elephant tusk can fetch up to ten times the average monthly salary. Taylor fears that if measures to ensure harmonious co-existence between elephants and local communities are not put in place, some people might join the crime syndicates behind the poaching crisis. Two world views “Efforts by southern African elephant range states to sustainably manage their populations are subjected to constant media scrutiny which often does not take into consideration the aspirations of the KAZA range states.” This is an extract from the final communique issued at the end of the Kasane Elephant Summit on 7 May in Botswana. It was attended by the presidents of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The southern Africans are pointing to the divide between Western perceptions of how wildlife conservation should be carried out and the reality for the people on the ground, living next to the elephant population. “People are very resentful of what has been happening lately and things are reaching a crisis,” adds Taylor. And this is particularly true in the two KAZA countries with the largest elephant populations. Botswana holds the largest number of elephants within the KAZA states with over 130,000 individuals. It is followed by Zimbabwe where the elephant population is over 82,000. Local communities, crucial conservation partners Recent biodiversity global assessment reports have concluded that conservation is doing least badly in areas where the indigenous population is left to look after indigenous wildlife. According to a World Bank report, indigenous peoples – who makes up less than 5 percent of the global population – protect 80 percent of planetary biodiversity. Given the level of resentment within some local communities in KAZA countries, it might prove a challenge to engage them to work with the elephants and not against them. Dr Taylor believes it...


18th century manuscripts reveal life in Louisiana under French rule

Eighteenth century documents in French and Spanish retracing life in Louisiana have been made available online, free of charge. The Colonial Documents Collection provides a unique window into the daily life of the people – free and enslaved – who then lived in Louisiana, and brings history closer, three centuries later. “The Council declares the negro Louis guilty as charged of stealing by day and by night and of repeated burglaries and of running away… condemns him to make a public atonement before the principal door of the Parish Church with a rope around his neck, holding in his hand a fiery torch weighing two pounds, asking in a loud voice God’s pardon… after which he will be conducted on the square… to have his arms, legs, thighs and back broken alive on a scaffold… placed on a wheel, face upturned to heaven to end his pains.” This is an excerpt of a ruling issued on the 10 of September 1764 by the Superior Council of New Orleans. It is one among220 thousand documents from the 18 century, handwritten in Old French and in Spanish – when Louisiana was a colony of France, then Spain – which have been digitised by the Louisiana State Museum and are now accessible online. Researchers, students, historians and genealogists across the world no longer need to travel to New Orleans to work on this period of history but can access the digitised records from their computers anywhere in the world and for free. “The collection has blue-prints of the city as well as maps and even playing cards that were used for bartering or trade,” says Jennifer Long, Digital assets manager of the Louisiana State Museum. The thousands of documents record minute details of life in New Orleans and Louisiana through notarial acts, civil and criminal court cases, ledgers of slave sales or disputes among families. The documents do not only provide an insight into American colonial history but also invaluable information about the French and Spanish colonial rule in the 18 century. A French territory in the USA The French ruled Louisiana from 1682 to 1762, a territory far larger than the current state of Louisiana. It was then ceded by France to Spain as a war debt and became a Spanish colony between 1763 and 1803. “The first part of the collection ranges from 1714 to 1769 [the French Superior Council] in French and the second part of the collection ranging from 1769 to 1804 [the Spanish Judiciary] are written in Spanish,” explains Jennifer Long. According to the Louisiana Historical Center's website: The Superior Council was both the governing body and high court of France’s Louisiana colony. While virtually all of its administrative records were removed to France before or at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, records pertaining to the colony’s inhabitants remained in Louisiana. Under Spanish rule, the Superior Council was replaced by a cabildo, or city council, with similar functions and authority; Spanish notaries continued the civil law practices of their French predecessors. The slave trade Among the manuscripts of the colonial collection is the 1724 edition of the Code Noir signed by Louis XV and promulgated in New Orleans. The articles of the Code Noir regulated the life, death, purchase, religion, and treatment of slaves by their masters in all French colonies. As a strategic port on the Mississippi river, New Orleans was a major marketplace for the slave trade. “There are many accounts of slaves being brought to New Orleans from Africa, Havana, South-America. We have ledgers of names that can also be used for genealogy purposes. There are also many descriptions of very cruel acts against the enslaved,” says Jennifer Long. There's a 1794 court case where an Antonio Lozada prosecuted a Pedro Guerrero for such bad treatment of a female slave, whom Lozada rented to Guerrero, that she had a miscarriage. The records also provide valuable information for genealogists. According to the Louisiana Historical Center's website: During the...


2018 in retrospect: Science in France

2018 saw France host a landmark event in the history of science: the redefining of the kilogram. There were also Nobel-winning advances in laser technology, and we'll soon be getting a feel for Martian vibrations, as scientists land a seismometer on the red planet. On 16 November in Versailles, the General Conference on Weights and Measures adopted a resolution to update the definitions of the International System of units based on fundamental constants of nature. This means that the kilogram, whose standard was a platinum iridium cylinder stored in a vault near Paris, will from now on be defined by Planck’s Constant. The year also saw a French scientist winning a Nobel Prize. Professor Gerard Mourou of Ecole Polytechnique won this year’s Prize in Physics (along with Professor Arthur Ashkin and Professor Donna Strickland) for developing a special laser technique with important applications in the fields of industrial machining, ophthalmology and particle physics. French scientists are also playing important roles in two space missions that were launched this year. First, a magnetometer developed by researchers from the University of Orléans, which is a part of the Parker Solar Probe (launched in August) that aims to study the nature of the Sun’s atmosphere. And Philippe Lognonné, of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, who is the principal investigator of the seismometer instrument that will measure vibrations on Mars. The seismometer, part of the InSight mission that landed on Mars on 26 November, could reveal what lies beneath the Martian surface.


2018 in retrospect: Sport

France’s second World Cup triumph, exactly two decades after the first, leads the list of sporting highs of the past twelve months. Their victory in Moscow also saw Didier Deschamps become the third man in history to win international football's greatest prize as both player and manager. Les Bleus' 4-2 final victory over Croatia and Paul Pogba's subsequent dressing room celebrations feature in RFI's 2018 Sports Retrospective. Also, Caroline Wozniacki speaks frankly about her rheumatoid...


2018 in retrospect: Culture in France

2018 has been a colourful year of culture in France. Among the highs and lows: scandals and deaths, new worlds, old worlds. And even webbed worlds. The year opened and closed with dramatic cultural arachnids. In January, in La Monnaie de Paris, Louise Bourgeois’ famous giant metal spiders held court alongside other female artists in a show entitled Women House. 2018 closes with another look at the webs we weave, this time a full immersion in the world of spiders with Argentinian artist...


2018 in retrospect: France

France's year of blue and yellow - blue football jerseys in summer as the world's football champions. Yellow vests in winter for violent protests against government policy. Here is a look at the main events that marked French politics and society in 2018. France wins the FIFA World cup On 15 July 2018, France became "champions du monde" for the second time in World Cup history. France beat Croatia 4-2 in a match that media called one of the most exciting World Cup finals of the modern era. French stars like Kylian Mpabbe, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba became national heroes, along with the team's coach Didier Deschamps. 'Benallagate' In July, a scandal marked the beginning of a long period of political turmoil in France. Alexandre Benalla, a former security aide to President Emmanuel Macron was filmed manhandling protesters during a May Day rally. Under public and media pressure, Benalla was dismissed from the Elysées Palace, while President Macron took responsibility for the incident. A month later, in August, Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, probably the most popular minister of Macron's government, resigned on national radio. This was followed by the resignation of Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, another key government figure. A cabinet reshuffle followed in which former socialist MP Christophe Castaner was appointed as France's new Interior Minister. The Yellow Vests Political turmoil in France climaxed with the Yellow Vest Movement at the end of the year. The phenomenon started out as a grassroots movement against a new fuel tax implemented by President Macron. But the movement spread across other domains and protests soon turned violent. There were unimaginable scenes in Paris for several weekends from 17 November – armoured cars, tear gas, vandalism and looting. Macron, who initially remained aloof, was forced to intervene personally with measures like a raise in minimum salary and tax cuts for the retired. This – or perhaps the nearing Christmas holidays – saw the movement to lose steam towards the end of the year. Protesters turned up in fewer numbers, though the violence of some participants continued to mar a largely peaceful movement. The movement was ongoing at the end of 2018. Other events in France Holocaust survivor and French politician Simone Veil became the fifth woman to find a resting place at Paris' Panthéon mausoleum. President Emmanuel Macron welcomed some 80 world leaders in Paris to commemorate 100 years since the World War I Armistice. Two terrorist attacks – at a supermarket in the southern town of Trebes and a Christmas market in Strasbourg left ten people dead and dozens injured. The deaths of popular French rock star Johnny Hallyday, and of the legendary Frenco-Armenian crooner Charles Aznavour. (Report by Arnab Béranger)


2018 in retrospect: Africa

2018 was a bustling year on the African continent filled with elections and inaugurations that marked shifts in power from Liberia to Zimbabwe but also on a more grassroot level like in Tunisia where the capital elected its first female mayor. Moving away from years of tension also seemed to be on the menu for many countries, including Ethiopia and Eritrea, who resumed friendly exchanges after falling out two decades ago. However, regional unrest in Cameroon, Nigeria and DRC could not be ignored. Some countries clamped down on online freedom of speech, such as Uganda where vocal opposition politicians including pop star-turned-lawmaker Bobi Wine were imprisoned and allegedly beaten by government forces. This year also saw the international recognition of “Dr Miracle”, the Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege who has spent over twenty years carrying out reconstructive surgery on women who had been victims of rape and sexual violence. He jointly received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, along with women’s rights campaigner Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman who escaped from the Islamic State armed group after being sold into sex slavery. France also promised to return 26 pieces of art that had been take from Benin during the colonial era while Senegal inaugurated a Black heritage Museum. Report by Marjorie Hache


2018 in retrospect: International News

2018 saw a thawing in relations between the two Koreas, women in Ireland being granted legal access to abortion and those in Saudi Arabia, the right to drive. Meanwhile in India, homosexuality was decriminalised. Some things did not change, such as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, gun regulations in the United States and unrest in Syria and Afghanistan. And European countries remain at loggerheads on how to deal with refugees arriving on their shores. Wildfires in Greece, Sweden and California, and other natural disasters were further reminders that not enough is being done to take care of our environment. Trade wars and sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump on China and Iran threatened to cement a growing international divide, while the rise of far-right parties across the world and the United Kingdom's failure to agree on a gracious exit from EU remain a cause for concern for many. Leaked data via social media and cyber and chemical warfare also made world headlines, and the freedom of journalists to report has also fallen squarely in the firing line – both in countries at war and in some that would call themselves democractic. The case of Washington Post correspondent, Jamal Khashoggi, brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate, has so far not led to any serious investigation.


French chef Lucas Felzine chases umami across continents

Chef Lucas Felzine has twinkling eyes and a kind smile. He's a chef that uses words like soul, emotions and feelings when talking about how he cooks, a cook who is constantly after the elusive umami taste and takes pleasure in mixing the unexpected to bring new sensations to his customers When he was a chubby three-year-old, Felzine used to drag a chair next to the stove where his grandmother was cooking, climbing on top of the chair to add whatever took his fancy to the pot and instructing his grandma to taste his concoction. Even as a little boy, Felzine had a predilection, coupled with the confidence, for experimenting with food. His Parisian Mamie never discouraged him, even though she did not lie to little Lucas about how the food tasted. Irresistable attraction Thirty years later, Felzine set up his own restaurant, Uma, in the heart of Paris, not far from the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre Museum. A restaurant that explores Nikkei cuisine with a French touch à la Felzine. Nikkei cuisine was born in Peru, a fusion between the Japanese cuisine brought in the 19 century with the first migrants and the local Peruvian food. The name is a word used on both the Asian and American continent. It means horse in Japanese and water in Quechua, an indigenous Latin American language. Uma is also short for umami, the fifth taste after sour, bitter, sweet and salty, named by chemist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. Umami is also that elusive taste that combines all flavours. Felzine says it is difficult to pinpoint exactly and describes it as something one is irresistibly attracted to. Similar to a child’s taste for ketchup. Cooking with soul “I want, when people taste my food, that they have a lot of sensation. I want to touch their soul,” says Felzine The chef believes in making almost everything himself, from smoking fish to making various condiments and curries, sometimes with as many as 30 ingredients, like his black Peruvian curry inspired by the Chef Pascal Barbot. Felzine works with a few suppliers around Paris for fresh produce and one in south-western France, a biochemist who upped and left Canada with his anthropologist wife and now grows, among other exotic curiosities, huacatay. That is a herb from South America “between basil and mint with a bubble gum taste at the end”. The biochemist is also growing papaya trees in Samadet. Felzine is constantly exploring new ways of preparing food, even deconstructing what he has created to build something different or totally new. So, even though the menu of the restaurant does not change continually, there might be some alterations in the kitchen. Boredom and routine are words he abhors. “I like to discover something new, all the time, everyday,” he says. Explosion of flavours In his kitchen, one will find mostarda from Italy, aji panca from Peru, tamarillo from the Andes, to name but a few of an array of ingredients he enjoys experimenting with. His preparations involves a high number of ingredients and often result in a wealth of flavours exploding on one’s taste buds. Felzine’s skill lies in striking the right balance so that they all play their part harmoniously in a composition concocted by the chef. “When you follow your instinct, it’s OK,” says Felzine, “If you use all your senses, you see all, you know all.” Chef William Ledeuil, whom he worked with, once told him that he liked his sensitivity. At that time, an inexperienced Felzine was taken aback by such a comment. Now he understands that his instinct and his feelings are what set him apart and drive his creativity. “Every dish is different, you transfer your sensitivity, your emotion, angry or happy,” he explains. Gyozas have it all Gyozas, the Chinese-origin dumplings now popular around the world, are Uma’s signature dish. They allow Chef Lucas Felzine to write a culinary partition fusing Japan, Peru and France in one bite. He says it is the best representation of Nikkei food. “I can put all that I want in a...


Zambian gemstone jeweller looks to dazzle the Chinese market

Lusaka-based gemstone company Jewel of Africa is taking aim at the Chinese market after establishing exports to the US, pushing their “home-grown” precious stones. The family-run business runs its own mines, cuts and polishes gems and runs retail outlets, employing around 100 locals. The Zambian jeweller is looking to further its expansion into the lucrative Chinese market. “People are getting to know more about gemstones and about the quality and value of Zambian gemstones,” Sandra Kasaby, Jewel of Africa’s marketing and operations manager told RFI at the recent World Export Development Forum. Jewel of Africa uses gemstones such as garnet and tourmaline. “We like to say that we have the best amethysts,” says Kasaby, pointing out that their emeralds are also very popular. The Zambian firm produces showcase jewellery worth over 100,000 US dollars in value and at the bottom of the range from 50 US dollars upwards. “We cater to all walks of life,” says Kasaby, describing clients including the Moroccan King, diplomats as well as young gentlemen looking to propose to their girlfriends. The jeweller prides itself on taking precious stones direct from the earth straight to their workshop. “Our slogan is ‘mine to you’, so we are at every step of the chain,” says Kasaby. “We mine, we cut, we polish, we jewellery manufacture, we retail and resize, repair and also certify jewellery and gems.” Export Jewel of Africa has already taken advantage of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) which enables countries in sub-Saharan Africa to access the US market tariff-free. “Thanks to that we are able to export to the US,” says Kasaby, outlining the trade shows they attend and the buyers they have in different US cities. The next step is to further their appeal in China. “We have a lot of Chinese coming to Jewel of Africa to buy our gemstones, especially emeralds,” says Kasaby. “We see that as an opportunity to market that,” she adds. Jewel of Africa has recently been chosen by the Chinese embassy in Zambia to represent the country at exhibitions in China. Consumers in China are becoming “more knowledgeable about gemstones and jewellery, and more astute in their purchases”, according to a report by the Gemological Institute of America. The report describes China as the second-largest jewellery consumer in the world. Constraints The business does, however, face some headwinds. Finance can be a problem and trade policy in Zambia also creates some obstacles. “Mining is very expensive and it’s difficult to get access to credit here in Zambia,” says Kasaby. The company sometimes teams up with foreign partners to try and access lower interest rates. The other issue relates to the ATA Carnet system which provides a framework for temporary import-export. Zambia is not a member of the system, impacting the ability of Jewel of Africa to bring jewellery for exhibitions duty-free and tax-free. To visit trade fairs with expensive jewellery this often means putting down a large deposit with customs, which can affect cash flow, according to Kasaby. The company is one of a kind in Zambia, says Kasaby - nobody both mines and produces jewellery. Their biggest competition on the African continent comes from South Africa, she says. Most of their competitors in South Africa are focused on diamonds, leaving Jewel of Africa to specialise in coloured gemstones. The company is proud to provide “opportunities for people to grow”, says Kasaby, outlining the training Jewel of Africa gives to new employees whether in sales or manufacture. “Coming from three to over 100 people in 25 years is a pretty good accomplishment,” she adds. Reporting assignment supported by the International Trade Centre


Djibouti emerges as arms trafficking hub for Horn of Africa

The rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea has repercussions that go beyond diplomacy on the Horn of Africa. A recent investigation shows that while Eritrea is no longer isolated, Djibouti is emerging as the new regional arms trafficking hub. The small strategically located state acts as a transit location for weapons trafficking between Yemen and northern Somalia through the AMISOM mission among others actors in the trade. The findings are the result of an investigation carried out by EXX Africa (specialist intelligence company that delivers forecasts on African political and economic risk to businesses) in illegal weapons trade on the Horn of Africa. In its research, the results of which are contained in the report titled The Arms Trade In The Horn Of Africa (the report has been partially published on EXX Africa website behind a paywall and is available upon request), the UK based company states that many Djibouti -based companies engaged in the country’s thriving marine sector have been implicated in the illegal weapons trade. Djibouti's growing economy Djibouti is one of the world's fastest growing economies and opens onto one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. It is strategically located on the Horn of Africa with access to both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Djibouti is only 32 kilometers away from Yemen and shares borders with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somaliland and Somalia. The country also hosts a number of foreign military bases - France has its largest African military base there, the US military base there caters for some four thousand troops and can act as a launch pad for operations in Yemen and Somalia, while Japan, Italy, Germany and China also have a military presence in Djibouti. According to EXX Africa’s executive director, Robert Besseling, most of the weapons appear to be coming from Houthi controlled territory in Yemen - the Khokha district of Hodeidah province - shipped in the direction of Djiboutian ports from where they are passed to armed groups in northern Somalia supported by the government in Djibouti. Besseling added that his team uncovered evidence of some of these weapons reaching armed groups in Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia. However, he said he has no evidence that Djibouti is directly arming the Al-Shabab terrorist organisation. The investigation also shows that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is involved in supplying illegal weapons to armed groups in northern Somalia. “The Djibouti contingent deployed to AMISOM which is allowed to take weapons to Somalia, under very strict arms embargo, has been shipping some of those weapons to armed groups previously and still currently supported by Djibouti’s government,” Besseling says. Djibouti fills in the gap left by Eritrea The rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the Eritrean peace overtures towards foreign countries (diplomatic ties restored with Somalia and Djibouti) is not only reshaping the region’s geo-politics, but is also likely to shift the dynamics of arms trafficking in the region. During its years of isolation, Eritrea turned to illicit arms trafficking that “facilitat[ed] shipments of weapons to embargoed destinations like Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia," the report reads. The report also claims that Eritrea has also been involved in “arming and training Al-Shabaab militants as well as Ethiopian rebel groups like the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).” Now that Eritrea is emerging from decades of isolation, it is likely to reduce its “central role in arms trafficking in the Horn of Africa," Besseling says. He adds that such a situation “would open up a vacuum in arms trafficking into which Djibouti could step into”. The EXX report states that senior Djiboutian military officials, government officials and heads of state-owned enterprises have ties with companies involved in the funding and facilitation of arms trafficking into the Horn of...


The funny yet serious world of black comedian Daliso Chaponda

Malawian comic Daliso Chaponda says his way of coping with the world is through humour. He does so with much irreverence while getting laughs out of sensitive and complex issues. Chaponda is convinced laughter has a better chance of shifting views. On an average day two to three strangers will come up to Daliso Chaponda asking for a selfie, that modern translation of autograph. For the time being he finds it delightful, as not that many people recognise him as the comedian and Britain’s Got Talent contestant. But this is surely about to change: he keeps adding more dates to his UK tour while still finding time to perform in Africa. Nomadic nation Chaponda says he is part of “this new nomadic nation” of “international children” who grew up in different countries. He was born in Zambia of Malawian parents. As his father was working for the United Nations, he lived in Somalia, Kenya, Zambia, Switzerland, Malawi, to name but a few. As an adult he spent some time in Canada and, since 2006, has been living in the United Kingdom. This exposure to different cultures makes him feel that he is part of both Western and African culture but at the same time, he says, he is a citizen of nowhere. “I realise how much I don’t fit in, in both places," he comments. "In England it is obvious: I am African, I have to keep reapplying for visas, I’ve got some African values. "But when I go home to Malawi, I feel even more of an outsider because I do not speak the vernacular language, I believe in equal rights for homosexuals, I am not as religious as some of the people there. So, I can’t say that I fit in that culture as well." Colonialism, old and new Chaponda’s humour touches on a wide range of topics but he has a talent for getting laughs out of sensitive issues such as colonialism or slavery. He talks about the troubled relations between the UK and Africa much the same way Francophone Africa talks about “La Françafrique”, a term used to describe the murky, incestuous relationship France entertains with its former African colonies. That is to say, after decolonisation, the colonial powers did not really leave. “Government can leave but money never leaves,” explains Chaponda. “If you own a mine, you are never leaving because that mine provides millions if not billions of potential earnings.” In his show Chaponda jokes about a current UK/Malawi deal, dating back to 1955, which allows British companies to send tax-free revenues back to the UK. He also cites a report on 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange which control resources in Africa worth one trillion US dollars. “Even when things are renegotiated, it is in small increments and it is rarely ever beneficial," he says. "Then you have people like [former Zimbabwean president Robert] Mugabe taking this absurd view to chase them out and repossess everything. And that doesn’t help because it creates its own brand of chaos.” Chaponda doesn’t lay the blame on one side only, he believes the Africans are also responsible for “this horrible situation because of the mismanagement and corruption happening in African governments”. Self-loathing The comedian has a way of making people laugh at more subtle and complex issues. One of his routines raises this notion that “white is better”. To illustrate this Chaponda tells the true story of his mother, who used to work as doctor in a hospital in Malawi, and how she was cast aside when a foreign white male doctor came to work at the same hospital. “All of the patients, who were predominantly black, queued for this white doctor because they perceived he was better, even though he didn’t have the experience in tropical diseases that my mother has because she grew up there and done her education there," he remembes. "Often the white doctor would then, ironically, ask my mother for a consult. It is a pervasive sense of self-loathing.” An attitude that permeates all aspects of life. Chaponda recalls how in Malawi black waiters in...


Overcoming personal struggles, refugee students in eastern Chad hit the books

Adam Barka University in Abéché, the fourth largest city in Chad, is teeming with students, including a few non-Chadian undergraduates. These are refugees from Darfur, Sudan, and from the Central African Republic, who have been given scholarships by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, with contributions by the German government. RFI's Laura Angela Bagnetto sat down with three students to find out about their lives as refugees, and university students. "My father said, 'you have to study because things are bad in this country, the Central African Republic, you can't stay here. We can't all die together.'" -- MKader Sihannasou, third year university student, studying economics, refugee from Bangui, CAR "The most difficult challenge we face is that the communities we are living in are not the same as the communities we were raised in. We don't have family and relatives if we are in need, so because of this there is great difficulty in renting a house...and sometimes the community will not accept you."-- Mohamat Usman Ali, student and president of refugee students association "My ultimate ambition since I was seven years old is that I want to be a president of Sudan. As people say, 'I have a dream'. Before that, I have to work hard so as to achieve my goal."-- Rahman Mohamed Yebet, law student


Botswana's new 30-year-old minister unlocking private sector growth and investment

Botswana’s new president unveiled his cabinet at the start of April and named a 30-year-old woman as his minister of investment, trade and industry. Bogolo Kenewendo is said to be Botswana’s youngest ever government minister and boasts an impressive CV, having taken part in Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative and obtained a master’s degree in economics. Social media users welcomed her appointment, heralding it as an example of the potential of young Africans on a continent with a number of older, veteran leaders. Global Focus spoke to Kenewendo about her new government portfolio and what has inspired her in achieving so much in such a short time… How does it feel to be appointed a government minister at 30 years old? I am honoured, I am ecstatic and humbled by the trust that his Excellency President Masisi has bestowed upon me. Also truly honoured by the support and the congratulations and best wishes that I have received from the entire public in Botswana and across the globe. What are your main priorities as the new minister of investment, trade and industry? Really, my job is to support the president’s priorities. He outlined in his inauguration speech that he is looking to create jobs, he is looking to grow, to have private sector development. We are looking at inclusive growth, this is something that my ministry will be working really hard at. Also in promoting investor attraction because over the years we’ve had a lot of competition from other countries. So we’ll be working on our Doing Business agenda and the reforms agenda as well, and we will be looking at more cooperation with the private sector to ensure that there is a conducive environment for private sector growth. Then looking at the development of local industry to ensure that Motswana are also quite active in the Botswana economy. Last but really not least, to ensure that Botswana continues to be that beacon of growth and hope on the African continent. There’s been a lot said about the need to diversify Botswana’s economy away from the diamond trade. How do you think that can be done? Diversification indeed has been a word that’s been on the tip of the tongue for many years. The challenge has been that the government has been trying to be at the forefront of diversifying the economy. I believe that it is our partners, the private sector, that should be at the forefront of diversifying the economy while we ensure that we are playing our role of facilitating business and not being in the business of doing business. We need to ensure that it’s not only a doing business environment where we talk about regulations that are conducive, but also that there is a good environment for investments. That we are able to help unlock those opportunities that exist in the domestic capital markets, but also in the international markets as well. The great challenge – and one thing that I should note – is that we’re no longer looking at diversifying away from minerals or away from diamonds. This is diversifying in and out of minerals. So we want to develop the value chain in diamonds, we want to talk about beneficiation. That applies to several other minerals that we have and beyond that into more industry and service-related industries. You spent time working in the private sector as a consultant. Why did you decide to go into government? I used to be quite frustrated in the private sector thinking that things were not moving from where we stood. When the opportunity came for me to join government, I thought this is an opportunity I should grab and work on the other side of the fence. To see if I can’t help to bring the private sector closer and deal with some of the issues that I used to advocate for. I used to be quite a strong private sector development advocate when I worked at Econsult Botswana and those are some of the issues that I’ll continue to look at as the minister of trade. And beyond that are still within the mandate that the president has set...


Saudi French deal-making with a backdrop of soft and hard power

The recent official visit of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Paris and his meeting with France’s youthful leader, Emmanuel Macron, seems to have sealed that “new partnership” both countries were seeking. Have they found new strategic partners in each other? The French combination of soft and hard power appeals to the Saudis and 14 billion euros-worth of deals, to begin with, means the business community is on board. “Saudi Arabia’s ties with France go back nearly a century as diplomatic relations were first established in 1926. And matters that impact France are likely to impact Saudi Arabia and vice-versa. And you will find among the Saudis a great deal of respect for French companies, their brands and their products.” Khalid Al Falih, Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy, industry and mineral resources - and former CEO of Aramco, the national oil company - set the tone for Saudi-French relations and trade ties while addressing a gathering of government officials and businessmen from both countries organised by the French foreign affairs ministry in Paris. The business deals were signed during Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s three-day stopover in France. They were in sectors ranging from water to entertainment, health, tourism, petrochemicals and transport. The largest was a seven-billion-euro project to build a petrochemical complex in Jubail which is expected to create 8,000 local direct and indirect jobs. There were other deals that were ready to be signed by French companies and authorities during that visit but Saudi Arabia and other parties were not ready to move ahead. Among the delayed deals was a 12 billion euros investment over 12 years between RATP-Dev and Arriyadh Development Authority for the Riyadh metro. Compared to the 764 million euros of Saudi arms orders to France in 2016 (the latest figures available), French arms sales don’t appear to constitute the bulk of trade between Saudi Arabia and France. That’s a terrain largely occupied by the United States. The new Saudi Arabia that Mohammad Bin Salman - who is also referred to as MBS intends to build with his Vision 2030 needs substantial foreign investment. And jobs for a young population; half of the 20 million Saudis are under the age of 25 with unemployment hovering between 12 and 15 percent. “We are aiming to double our GDP, create six million jobs by 2030 and have four trillion dollarsinvestment in non-oil sectors”, explains Raedah Abunayan, a member of the Majlis Al Shura consultative council which advises the King on policies and legal matters. France, a new strategic partner The French government responded with great enthusiasm to the Saudi plans for economic transformation. Vision 2030 wants to steer the country away from its heavy reliance on oil as a main source of revenue. After Brexit, France is likely to become the kingdom’s first partner in Europe. At least, it is the ambition of President Emmanuel Macron to ensure France takes a lead in Europe when dealing with Middle East matters (whether its European partners will follow is a different story) and that it emerges as a partner the players in the region know is willing to listen to them. France is the third foreign direct investor in Saudi Arabia. But it occupies only nine per cent of the market while less than one percent of French exports goes to the kingdom. It is hardly surprising that there is a keen interest for more French investment towards the second largest economy of the Middle East. French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian assured the Saudi ministers of his government’s willingness to contribute to the economic success of both countries and that French companies are eager to invest in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-France CEO Forum was held under the auspices of his ministry. Le Drian and MBS – we are told by a Saudi minister – are “old friends”. Under the former Hollande government, Le Drian was Defence minister (2012 - 2017) and MBS’s counterpart then. It was...


Powerful theatre reveals horrors of FGM closer to home

When UK playwright Charlene James wrote Cuttin' It in 2014, she meant it to be the starting point for conversations about Female Genital Mutilation. Although illegal in UK since 1985, FGM is still being practiced on young girls. Cuttin' It toured a number of secondary schools in London and Birmingham for a month earlier this year. The play won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright in 2015 and the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play in 2014. This time round, it was staged by the Young Court at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Romana Flello, the Young Court manager, felt it was important to raise awareness about the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as well as violence against women and girls. Furthermore, FGM is on the curriculum on the schools' programme. Each school visit involved a pre-show workshop followed by a post-show Q&A with the pupils led by Flello. Playwright Charlene James insists that FGM is not only practiced in Somalia even though the characters in her play are two Somali teenagers from Kismayo living in Britain. "This is not just happening in Africa, Indonesia or those far away places that we can just off from. It's happening in this country, in cities like Birmingham, London, Glasgow," says James. It was while watching a documentay by Leyla Hussein, the Cruel Cut that James first became aware of FGM. "This one [issue] just got to my gut really and I just felt like I needed to speak about it." Cuttin' It is also about the multi-layared identities of children of immigrants. Something James is familiar as her parents came from Jamaica to settle in Birmingham. "You are trying to assimilate into a country that your parents weren't part of. You want ot embrace your culture but you might not fit in. I think it was important to show how do you have those dual identities and how you are juggling that. There is that clash which I think is really interesting of how those two marry together and FGM is one of those things" explains James. Follow the Royal Court Theatre on Twitter @royalcourt Follow Romana Flello on Twitter @RomanaFlello Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt Extracts of the play, Cuttin' It, courtesy of the Young Court Sound editor: Alain Bleu


Volunteer doctors care for Myanmar's Rohingya refugees

Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar are packed in crowded camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, where many urgently need medical attention. A group of surgeons has braved challenging conditions to help members of Myanmar’s Muslim minority in the Tangkali refugee camp. Many of the ailments the refugees are suffering from are easily treatable if properly diagnosed and given the right treatment at the start. But harsh living conditions in the refugee camps and the lack of basic health facilities are worsening patients’ conditions. A medical delegation of highly skilled specialists recently travelled to Tangkali camp, near the Myanmar border, to provide much-needed treatment to hundreds of refugees. Physicians Across Continents (PAC), an international medical humanitarian organisation, partnered with Lonely Orphans, a UK-based NGO working with displaced Rohingyas, to bring 10 doctors, mostly surgeons, from Palestine, Sudan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Tangkali camp, close to Balukhali camp. The doctors saw around 500 patients in less than seven days and undertook 100 surgical procedures including 10 major ones in a hospital in the nearby town of Cox’s Bazaar. They say that most of the cases that came to them were easily treatable, in normal conditions, but made worse because of the refugees’ lack of access to basic health care or even clean water in the camps. Degrading conditions It was Syed Ikhlaas‘s second humanitarian trip to the Rohingya refugee camps in Banglagesh. But the head of programmes and operations for Lonely Orphans is still taken aback by how “degrading and humiliating” the Rohingyas’ situation is now. Back in Myanmar’s Rakhine state some of them enjoyed a fairly good life as teachers or doctors, he points out. “There are children, even adults, defecating in public because they don’t have toilet facilities,” Ikhlaas reports. “We’ve noticed … very dirty water. They have to walk at least a mile, two miles to reach some water. “These camps are extremely condensed. The location is very sandy. There is a lot of dust and sand in the air. The children are playing in this. There are a lot of cases of breathing difficulties. We had… asthmatic cases… pneumonia. A lot of women had issues with thyroids… so severe they needed operations.” Dr Jamal Ghosheh, a Palestinian neurosurgeon who led the medical delegation, said that there were recurrent cases of patients who were not correctly diagnosed or given the right treatment. He cited cases of hydrocephalus (water in the brain) which can be cured by diverting the excess fluid through a tube inserted in the brain down to the abdomen. “As a neurosurgeon, I saw a number of patients with spine problems and peripheral nerve injuries because of gunshots to their legs and arms,” says Ghosheh. A neurosurgeon with some 20 years’ experience, he is also one of the founders of Physicians Across Continents and is currently working in private hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza as well as in various countries in the region. Five-year-old shot in leg A clinic was set up in Tangkali camp for the doctors to treat the Rohingyas, from elderly to infants. The working conditions were quite challenging, as the most basic facilities are not available. “The challenges were tremendous,” explains Ghosheh. “You need a simple blood test, there is no way you can get that in the camp; you need an X-ray there is no way you can get this. We did not have an ambulance. We did not have the basic equipment, staff and follow-up on these patients.” Among the hundreds of patients, the case of five-year-old Minara stands out. The little girl was “deliberately” shot in the knee by a Myanmar policeman while attempting to cross the border into Bangladesh with her family, they say. As was the case for many other Rohingyas, their house was burnt down and that is why they fled the onslaught of violence by the Myanmar army to seek refuge in Bangladesh, joining the 1.2 million who have arrived since...


Taking a look at Sierra Leone presidential candidates and issues

Sixteen presidential candidates are campaigning in Sierra Leone for the country's top position as President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress Party steps down after two terms. Voters will go to the polls on March seventh to pick their next leader. RFI's Laura Angela Bagnetto speaks to Lans Gberie, a Sierra Leone political analyst with Martello Risk group, who outlines the top candidates and the issues voters want them to tackle.