THIS has been a vibrant year for a continent that never has a dull day. We thank you, our readers, for giving us the daily motivation everyday to cut through the noise to highlight what really mattered to you, and for taking the time to read. We have compiled the year’s 25 most popular stories as voted by you using your eyeballs. Let’s do this all over again in 2016! At the end of the article, we share what we think we learned.
1: Universities’ ranking
In July a new ranking of African universities was released at Times Higher Education summit in Johannesburg. The significant difference was that this list had been created using a methodology specifically suited for an African landscape in what is hoped to be the start of a debate around the much-coveted higher education on the continent.
2: African super foods
In May, the Ethiopian government announced plans to partially lift its ban on exports of the all-important teff grain, which has been touted as the newest “superfood” in the food circuits, especially in the West. Foods such as quinoa and spelt are touted for their nutritional value, and M&G Africa toted up 10 such “superfoods” that pack a serious nutritional punch, from Fonio in the Sahel to Moringa, hibiscus, Kenkiliba and the tamarind. You dined big on it.
3: Ethiopian infrastructure
The launch of a light rail system in Ethiopia in September, the first in sub-Saharan Africa, had lots of Africans purring in delight. Urban transport has proved a headache as the continent rapidly urbanises, and this story had all the elements: African infrastructure, China’s role on the continent, urbanisation and a focus on the Ethiopian model that has yielded an amazing pace of growth.
4: Xenophobia in South Africa
Attacks on foreign nationals, especially African, in Africa’s most industrialised economy are not uncommon, but this year violence drew a united response from across the continent—it was all unacceptable. To its credit the South African government also drew a line despite some early missteps and has largely managed to get a grip on it short-term. The crisis also raised the question about African leadership and why many have felt the need to seek opportunities elsewhere.
5: Bye bye East Africa
It initially came across as an April Fool’s joke, but it is true—the African continent is splitting in two and the and the result will eventually be a huge new continent, leaving Africa without its Horn. The reason is a geologic rift which runs down the eastern side of the continent which will eventually be replaced with an ocean. We explained why, but many of you still remained incredulous.
6: Tanzania’s yo-yo election
Tanzania in October held what was described as the highest presidential race in its history, with the ruling CCM party, in power since independence, seen at major risk of being toppled. Ahead of the poll its top official January Makamba penned a brave opinion piece offering 10 reasons why he felt the CCM would hang on. He was proved right eventually as John Magufuli was elected, but it was a piece that raised opprobrium. (In a related development, Magufuli’s austerity and discipline drive has effortlessly kept many riveted.)
7: Climate Change
With a landmark climate deal agreed last week in Paris, the focus has naturally been on the effects on the continent and what Africa can do in mitigation. As such there was demand for news around the environment, explaining why a story we did in September last year on Africa’s Indian Ocean countries taking part in mock tsunami readiness scenarios drew much traction.
8: Africa’s Genetics
Africa is known as the cradle of mankind, and is more genetically diverse than the rest of the world combined. In June we highlighted ten genetic mutations found in Africans that have persisted due to the beneficial traits they confer, as well as capturing some surprising down sides. You loved it.
9: US military in Africa
In October the US made a decision to send 300 troops into Cameroon to help the regional fight against Boko Haram militants—made globally infamous by the kidnapping of schoolgirls last year. Nigeria, which has been hardest hit, welcomed the decision, but we dug further to show that the US has been quietly ramping up its military presence on the continent, in what is a giant security belt across Africa.
10: The African ‘con-and-porn’ pastor
Religion tends to be big in Africa, and this is why an opinion piece by M&G Africa regular commentator Palesa Thinane-Epondo on why some men of the cloth are taking Africans for a ride struck so many chords. Palesa argued that the gullibility of some worshippers was more a failure of the system, sending many to seek refuge elsewhere and leaving them vulnerable.
11: EAC Frenemies
EAC leaders share jokes while mediating Burundi crisis.
The situation in Burundi where the fallout over a controversial election has pushed the fragile country again to the brink has rightly worried many. But the focus has also been on the perceived silence of the African continent over the developing crisis, despite its opposition to outsiders imposing solutions. The mediation effort has largely foundered, leading to the situation where East African Community bloc leaders seemed to be less than concerned over a coup that took place when Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza was in their midst.
12: Nkurunziza-Rwanda spat
Nkurunziza survived the coup, and was in his element warning neighbour Rwanda over his perception that the country supported the putschists. Any war would be fought on the other side of the border, he said, as tensions with Rwanda president Paul Kagame, who had criticised his third-term bid, came to the fore.
13: Lesotho’s instability
The southern African nation has a recent history with political instability, and the shooting of its army chief in June set alarm bells ringing following an eventful few weeks that saw ex-prime minister Tom Thabane flee to South Africa.
14: Africa’s most popular foods
You evidently like your food, much as we love dishing it out to you. Which is why our list of the continent’s most popular foods continued to be a favourite with readers. You even asked for a sequel of 20 more foods. You most likely will not be satisfied—Africa’s cuisine is much too diverse—and we will make sure your plate remains laden.
15: CIA’s Failed Predictions
US activities in Africa continue to intrigue many, and in January we looked at CIA projections about Africa in 2015, made in 2005. Many were off the mark, including forecasts that Nigeria would ‘outrightly collapse’. However, in its defence, the spooks also got many right.
16: Museveni Wisdom
Uganda president Yoweri Museveni, who is running for re-election early 2016 for the umpteenth time, can often be incoherent, but in April he poured out his heart on the fortunes and misfortunes of the Somali militants Al-Shabaab, who have also targeted his country. It was intriguing, and clear, reading.
17: Mugabe Regrets Something
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, who turns 92 in February, rarely concedes he is wrong, which is why his admission that he had blundered by giving ill-equipped black farmers land seized from whites set many tongues wagging.
He has since moved to tax idle land, in what is seen by some as mellowing with age.
18: Ethiopia’s Rise
The Horn of Africa country has captivated the world with its fast pace of economic growth, just 20 years down the road from a time it was synonymous with famine and poverty. In September we highlighted how the turnaround came to be, and the forces driving it.
19: Kenya’s Unsual Money Man
Kenya earlier this year picked a new central bank governor, and for a “Big Man”, he was as unorthodox as they come. Patrick Njoroge already had tongues wagging when he revealed that at 54, he was single, and by choice. He also turned down luxury official cars, chase vehicles and a palatial house that come with office, opting to live in a communal setting akin to a monastery, with fellow members of the Catholic institution of Opus Dei, which is known for its frugal ways. We then declared him ‘unAfrican’.
20: Sexist Africa
Do you know that in Guinea a husband can oppose his wife having a separate profession? Or that in DR Congo a wife must obtain her husband’s permission to “provide a personal service”? These are among the continent’s most sexist laws, which we highlighted in an infographic.
21: Rwanda is Just Green
The country has been more in the news this year for the push to allow its leader run for a third term, but in April a respected international guide picked to as among the world’s 20 greenest places, providing some environmental diversion from the politics. The World Travel Guide ranked it third, leaving many green enthusiasts very happy.
22: Planet of the Apes…
The international furore over a colony of chimpanzees used for research and abandoned on a Liberian island provided our first viral story of the year, setting up petitions that demanded the New York Blood Centre, which carried out the studies, continue to pay for their upkeep following an about-turn. Many were livid about the fate of the chimpanzees.
23: Will the real middle class stand up
For many years, Africa’s middle class has been seen as a bedrock of its rising economy, fuelled by a report by the African Development Bank that counted as many as 300 million middle class Africans on a continent of just over a billion.
But this was pegged on their spending, which is perilous. When a new report looked at assets, which are more resilient in the face of economic shocks, this number shrunk to 18 million.
24: Who Went Young?
Some 17 elections were scheduled for this year, and many have been dominated by a push to have some leaders serve third terms, prompting Senegal president Macky Sall to in an interview say there was life after an African presidency.
On a continent where many leaders would not be too upset at dying in office, we looked at those who instead departed while young.
25: Swiss Bitings
In a story that brought us a lawsuit, we highlighted the Africans that had been named following the leaking of computer files from the Swiss arm of Europe’s biggest bank HSBC which revealed how many clients were being creative around paying their taxes. The fact that you read it so much made the legal headache so worthwhile.
26: Grace ‘in Charge’
Mugabe succession stories on our platform have this year more than any other kept many enthralled by the twist-a-minute story, but it is the tantalising prospect that First Lady Grace is slowly edging the veteran 91-year-old leader aside that has many clicking avidly. The latest claim is that through a ‘palace coup’ the 50-year old is in charge. It really is intriguing.
27: Chinese Party Truants
China has this year been a major topic on the continent, from its foreign policy ambitions to what its slowing economy means for its main source and export markets in Africa. This is why the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation this year was keenly followed, held in South Africa with nearly 50 heads of state and government attending. But every host likes to keep a keen, if sneaky, eye on absentees, which is why those that also did not show up mattered.
What we think it all means:
These stories are very different, and on the face of it looks like the people who read them have nothing in common. However, after closely studying your comments and poring over the analytics, we think they do. We see many things, but share a few here.
Though still low compared to Japan, for example, Africans are living longer as life expectancy continues to improve. Today the largest number of Africans live in relative freedom from extreme poverty and repression, and most of them are electing their governments.
We have the largest generation of Africans today passing on their inheritance to their children, and dying peacefully in their sleep. A lot of these inheritances are in the countryside, for example farms. For practical reasons, therefore, we see an increased interest in the state of the land and environment today and the years to come from readers across Africa – and from people outside the continent who have various reasons to want to know how Africa will secure itself in that regard. So environmental stories have become more important.
Also, as the African middle class grows, and the old path available to earlier generations that could afford to to send their children to study in the west becomes more difficult, there is a growing interest in studying on the continent. In addition, the privatisation of education in recent years has led to the rise of quite a few innovative universities.
The growing African middle class is looking for the best education opportunities at home, and we see a sharp rise in interest in African universities as a result.
This is partly connected to the “African Rising” story. If Africa is rising, many parents and students seem to think Africa knowledge will pay off even more.
Connected to that, we see many people seeking hard evidence of the “Africa Rising” story. Mail & Guardian Africa readers, like most other people, are looking beyond slogans. Stories of the real size of the middle class and markets, actual investments, economic success cases like Ethiopia, thus get a lot of attention, as do departures from the stereotype about failure – the first democratic transition from a ruling to opposition party in Nigeria that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power – where world powers like China and the US fit in, spirituality, how it expresses itself in culture (natural hair, music) and the future of women.
And a lot of it has to do with the continent’s very youthful population, and the even more intimate links with the African diaspora. The signs are that their interest in Africa is less historically intellectual. They want things they can see, feel, and touch. Food is as good as one can get. A food story just gets everyone drooling.
There is also a fascination with what a new Africa looks or might look like, and we see great interest in countries like Rwanda, as representing that, and on the opposite side a strange curiosity about leaders like Zimbabwe’s soon-to-be-92-year-old Robert Mugabe representing a passing age.
There is less anger than one would have seen 10 years ago, probably because to this digital generation people like Mugabe probably come across one of those immortal wrinkled power figures from a sci-fi film.
SOURCE : MG AFRICA