Oh my Africa – February 2015

It’s just over a week into February and already there are three unique and remarkable competitors for this post.

Mugabe almost won with his complete denial of tripping over a red carpet and the resulting memes that have swept the internet.

Also tempting was the riot at the Africa Cup football semi-finals.  Equatorial Guinea fans were pissed that their team was losing and started throwing stuff.  Apparently, police tried to quell the uprising but we viewers at home could only see the helicopter they sent in three separate times which didn’t accomplish anything.  I think they just wanted to show off and/or play with, their whirlybird.

I’m going with the local story though, this compelling read from the Namibian, an English-language newspaper over here:

As far as I can tell, a newspaper’s job is to inform its readers; tell them stuff they do not already know.
One thing all Namibians are very well aware of is that it is not raining.
Yet, in the first paragraph, readers were informed that a new bulletin “indicated that rainfall was generally low in the north-west and north-central parts of Namibia in November and December”.  And that satellite images of vegetation also indicated below-average grazing conditions in some of the northern areas.
Surely, this million-dollar satellite could be put to better use.
The article goes on to tell us that the rest of the season could bring normal or below normal rains.  Which could reduce crop yields and delay harvests.  It all depends on an El Niño event that might occur in the 2014/2015 season.

But, it concludes, “not all El Niño events have resulted in low rainfall in the region, with some areas being more regularly affected than others”.
Thank goodness for the falling dictators and rioting soccer fans to fill the rest of the newspaper.

Oh my Africa – January 2015

Maybe my mind is in the gutter here, but perhaps this is not the best name for something you want people to eat.  It’s a good example of how snappy abbreviations and misspellings for product names, though extraordinarily popular for some reason, aren’t always a good idea.  Yet, the commonality of this product in stores around the country, and probably southern Africa, suggests I’m alone in my opinion.  Any thoughts?

Crackers anyone?

Cracker anyone?


Oh my Africa – November 2014

I’m bound to read any news article that has the word ‘bizarre’ in the title, but unfortunately, this one ended in ‘puts newly discovered species in jeopardy’.

Yes, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the new plant species, along with 900 other plant varieties and 1,400 chimpanzees, are unprotected against roaming people, their cattle, and other destructive activities.  Some folks misread some maps, or perhaps didn’t read the maps at all, and put the reserve’s borders more than 50 kilometers west of where they should’ve been.

To add salt to the wound, this newly discovered flowering plant, Dorstenia luamensis, found only on a few cliff faces inside this once protected area, was named after the park, the Luama Katanga Reserve, which no longer exists.  Established in 1947 near Lake Tanganyika, and a globally important biodiversity hotspot called Kabobo, the actual borders were confused during the DRC’s civil wars, and now the government has reserved a chunk of not-so-globally-important land.

“The moral of this story is that keeping track of parks – and especially getting maps and boundaries correct – matters hugely for biodiversity. The call to action here is to fix the records and re-protect the reserve before this unique plant and all the biodiversity it contains…are destroyed,” said James Deutsch, Vice President of Conservation Strategy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), whose scientists discovered the plant and the mapping error.

Although the WCS has lobbied the DRC government to fix the mistake, they have taken no action.

The new plant. Credit: Miguel Leal/WCS


Oh My Africa – September 2014

Namibia “has begun the construction process of a historic solar project”, according to The Namibian, a creatively-titled English-language newspaper over here.

Why historic? Because it’s the country’s “first utility-scale ground mounted PhotoVoltaic (PV) power plant.”

Why is this in my collection of weird, funny, and ridiculous things in Africa?  Because Namibia, the land of 300 days of sunshine a year, the land with a sun on its flag, just now, nearly 15 years into the 21st century, stopped piddling around with coal long enough to build a solar power plant.

This may have something to do with its serious energy deficit, and that it imports nearly all of its energy from other countries, and that those deals are on the verge of expiring, but hey, at least they’re doing something.

As the Namibian reports: “The 4,5 megawatt (MW) renewable energy power plant will supply over 1% of Namibia’s domestic power generation.”

Hey, like I said, at least it’s something.

Baked mud

The sun. It don’t mess around.


Oh My Africa – June 2014

We’re all guilty of stereotypes.  I believe it is human nature to categorize things, especially unfamiliar things, into nice, tidy standards.  But in a self-perpetuating cycle, publishers are using our stereotypes to sell products which further the stereotype, because as it turns out, we really do judge books by their cover.

The folks over at the blog Africa is a Country recently posted about a meme created to show how African literature routinely gets the “acacia tree treatment”.  Basically, they write, “the covers of most novels ‘about Africa’ seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.”

Their proof:


As if all of Africa exists in a permanent state of sunset.

After reading the blog, I was compelled to see if it was true for Namibian books as well.  Though there aren’t many works of literature set in this country, there’s a whole heap of photography books.  Let’s hope their contents vary more than their covers:

So, Namibia is a sandy, lonely place with elephants, trees, and a sun.  Like all stereotypes, that frustratingly ignores all the rest the country has to offer.

According to a book cover designer interviewed on this topic by the Washington Post, publishers package books based on readers’ expectations because that makes them comfortable.

It won’t be the publishing houses then, who step up and teach people how other parts of the world really are.  So, as the Post points out, we’ll have to do it ourselves, through social media and blogging; show the world through our own words and pictures how life on our side actually is.  We’ll have to be brave, honest, and open.  But readers will have to be, too.

Maybe then, by the time my book is finished, they’ll be ready for a bit more unconventional photo for the cover:


Oh My Africa – May 2014

This month’s OMA is brought to you by our one and only neighbor to the south.

I just recently discovered this comic strip but, apparently, it’s pretty popular down there, possibly even the most popular South African comic strip, despite the fact that its premise is a black woman (Eve) working as a maid in a white woman’s house (Madam).  The website claims they “have become icons of a changing South Africa”.  I don’t understand…

Anyway, here’s a recent one in honor of President Jacob Zuma’s re-election.  As far as I know, Zuma has no musical inclinations – it’s supposed to be a metaphor.

This might have something to do with the claims that the national South African television broadcaster, SABC, banned campaign ads from parties competing against the ANC (Zuma’s party), or ads that spoke negatively of them.

Just a guess.

Oh my Africa – 11 April 2014

I’m going to start the OMAs (short for Oh my Africa, my new blog series of funny, ridiculous, and entertaining things from around the continent) off with a truly special offering from right here in Namibia.

The country recently celebrated its 24th birthday and to mark the occasion, it bought itself a N$5,750 banner to put up over the main CBD thoroughfare in Windhoek, appropriately named Independence Avenue.  Apparently, it was more than just a birthday present, though, it was a test, to see if Namibians were paying attention.

You may have noticed a couple of errors there – “indepence” not being a word, and that “celebrate” should have an “s” on the end of it.  But these were not mistakes, says Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakanda, the state secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.  It was “shock therapy”, he told the Allgemeine Zeitung, Namibia’s German-language newspaper.  “Now we know that the public is attentive and the nation is behind us”, he said.

I, for one, am relieved to hear that.

The banner was then taken down and replaced with one where “independence” was spelled correctly, but “celebrate” was still missing its “s”.

Later, the printers were blamed and Minister Joel Kaapanda apologized for any inconvenience.  He then assured the public that “an internal investigation team will establish who was responsible for the mistake and the culprit will face disciplinary action.”

Investigating typo-culprits and a 5k piece of plastic? I think all we really learned from this ordeal is how good the government is at wasting money.