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Egypt discreetly marks Suez Canal’s 150th anniversary




The man-made canal was excavated between 1859 and 1869, in an ambitious project to connect the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, and cut shipping times for growing international trade from Europe to Asia.

The Suez Canal is “not a prerogative of one nation,” declared Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat credited with masterminding the project, drawing from the dreams of the pharaohs who dredged a similar channel 4,000 years earlier.

“It owes its birth to, and belongs to, the aspirations of humanity,” he said in an 1864 speech.

A million Egyptians, using camels and mules as beasts of burden, laboured over the decade-long construction, according to official figures. And tens of thousands died in the process, experts say.

The first ships sailed down the 164-kilometre (102-mile) canal on November 17, 1869, with hopes that fair winds would permit a faster route to and from Asia, avoiding a lengthy and perilous circumvention via the tip of southern Africa.

But the waterway’s history has followed the turbulent ebbs and flows of the volatile Middle East region.

Its watershed moment came in July 1956. Egypt’s iconic late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, a staunch defender of Arab unity, defied British and French interests and nationalised the Suez Canal Company which ran the waterway.

The decision, which saw Nasser’s popularity rise at home, triggered an international crisis. France and Britain — countries which both controlled the company at that point — as well as Israel attacked Egypt around three months later.

The canal also served as a frontline during Arab-Israel wars in 1967 and 1973.

‘Record-breaking’ asset

Today the vital sea route is managed by the Suez Canal Authority and was expanded in 2015 to accommodate modern, larger vessels. It has grown into a major economic asset, providing passage for 10 percent of all international maritime trade.

But the region’s volatility is never far away. Running along the southern rim of the Sinai, the canal is today heavily secured by the Egyptian army which is battling a long-running insurgency against Islamist militants in northern Sinai.

Dug in the 19th century using “rudimentary tools”, today the waterway has become “a lifeline to Egypt,” Osama Rabie, head of the authority told AFP.

In 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi staged a grand ceremony for the opening of a new 72-kilometre (43-mile) lane parallel to the canal after 12 months of excavations.


The authority has since boasted new cargo and transit records saying the new lane has facilitated the crossing of larger shipping convoys and decreased transit times.

In August “a record breaking number” of 81 ships carrying a total of 6.1 million tonnes transited the canal in one day, the authority said.

“The tonnage has lept,” according to Jean-Marie Miossec, shipping specialist and professor at the University Paul Valery-Montpellier.

He believes the growth is linked to an “increase in container traffic between Asia and Europe as well as Europe and the Indian subcontinent”.

“By expanding the canal, Egyptian authorities offer augmented potential, especially with regard to vessel sizes and transit time,” he said.

Revenues for the fiscal year 2018-2019 reached $ 5.9 billion, up 5.4 percent from the previous year, the authority said in August.

And Egypt is planning for revenues to rocket to $13.2 billion in 2023.

Stamps, museum

Sumptuous feasts and banquets even attended by French Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, were held during the initial inauguration in 1869.

But in stark contrast, no celebrations are planned for the canal’s 150th anniversary.

Arnaud Ramiere de Fortanier, from the association in the memory of Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Suez Canal, believes the anniversary is “bit tricky”.

“The issue of 1956 went wrong,” he said, maintaining that for the company’s former shareholders the entire Suez crisis was mishandled by all sides and was a “disaster”.

Rather than highlighting the canal’s pre-1956 history, Egyptian authorities are preferring to underscore the canal’s current performance and its contributions to the country’s battered economy.

“Everyone writes history their own way,” said French ambassador Stephane Romatet, noting Egyptians only started benefiting from the canal after the 1956 nationalisation.

In Egypt and France, stamps bearing images resembling de Lesseps have been printed to mark the anniversary.

And a conference entitled “The Suez Canal: a place of memories” is to be held in Egypt’s famed Bibliotheca Alexandrina on November 13.

Egypt has also dedicated a museum, currently under construction, to the canal in the city of Ismailia at the historic premises of the Suez Canal Company. But no opening date has yet been set.


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Baringo: 2 dead, 15 hospitalised after eating githeri ▷ Kenya News




– Seventeen people hired at a farm in Iltepes were given a githeri meal after work

– They started experiencing stomach discomforts and were rushed to a county hospital

– Two have since passed on but 15 are in critical condition and are receiving medication

– Samples of the food have been taken to the government chemist for analysis

At least two people died on Friday, December 13, in Baringo following a suspected case of food poisoning. has learnt that the duo was part of 15 other people who were working at a farm in Marigat sub county and were served with a githeri meal after work.

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Baringo: 2 dead, 15 hospitalised after eating githeri

Governor Stanley Kiptis visiting victims of the suspected food poisoning in hospital. Photo: Baringo Capital News.
Source: Facebook

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Confirming the incident, Baringo County Commissioner Henry Wafula said the 15 survivors are hospitalised at Baringo Referal Hospital where they are fighting for their lives.

“The young men were working on a farm at the Marigat scheme. The owner of the farm is known as Eric Omondi.

After they finished their work, he gave them some food but it seems that the meal was not good,” said Wafula.

READ ALSO: Wimbo wa King Kaka wazua joto kali

Baringo: 2 dead, 15 hospitalised after eating githeri

Samples of the food have been taken to the government chemist for analysis. Photo: Eng John Macharia.
Source: Facebook


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Wafula said that samples of the food have been taken to the government chemist with the aim of establishing its contents.

According to Baringo Health Executive Mary Panga, some of the victims are in critical condition with most of them presenting stomach complications.

“For now we are just managing the condition according to the symptoms they are presenting. We will be able to know what we are dealing with after we get results from the chemist,” said Panga.

Bodies of the deceased are being preserved at the Kabarnet County Referral Hospital Mortuary.

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S.Africa’s businesses marooned by rolling blackouts [ARTICLE]




“We have to close the store immediately because people can steal… the card machines also don’t work without electricity,” a 23 year-old clothing retail worker told AFP.

Since 2008, state utility Eskom has sporadically implemented rolling blackouts — rationing up to 4,000 megawatts at a time — to help prevent a collapse of the electricity grid, a process known as “load shedding”.

But this week, the crisis suddenly worsened as Eskom rationed 6,000 megawatts from the national power grid, prompting the worst cuts in the country so far.

The power outages have caused many businesses to lose out on hours of sales during the peak festive season, threatening an already fragile economy.

“Most of them have to close shop as they can’t afford alternative solutions such as generators and renewable energy such as solar systems,” the CEO of the Black Business Council, Kganki Matabane, told AFP.

Across town about 60 kilometres (40 miles) south of Johannesburg in the crucial industrial manufacturing hub known as the Vaal Triangle, industrialists reel from the unstable supply of power.

“The big industries that start up furnaces lose an obscene amount of money when there are blackouts,” said Jaco Verwey, vice-chairman of the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce.

“Firstly they lose money on downtime. Secondly they lose money on restarting again because they need more electricity to restart their furnaces.”

The organisation boasts around 450 member businesses, 33 of which pay a combined electricity bill of 100 million rands ($6.8 million) a month.

Businesses, big and small, are plunged daily into darkness for nearly five hours at a time, sometimes even multiple times a day.

Electrifying losses

Large underground mines, among the largest contributors to GDP, suspended some shifts this week to avoid trapping miners in the belly of the earth when the electricity cuts out.

AngloAmerican spokesman Sibusiso Tshabalala told AFP that its “South African operations have been impacted by Eskom load shedding”.

“While we have response plans … this is not a sustainable solution as it is costly to run generators,” he said, adding that sustained power outages resulted in reduced revenues and production.

Hundreds of tourists, hoping to catch the aerial cableway at the top of Table Mountain, were left stranded for nearly three hours this week after load shedding escalated to stage 6.

Even telecommunications networks were forced to beef up on backup power to maintain customers’ connectivity during load shedding.

African giant MTN reportedly spends up to 100 million rand on battery generators for every three days of electricity blackouts.


But for some, like retailer Shoprite, the outages have resulted a spike in sales of alternative energy and lighting products such as candles, paraffin, gas bottles, emergency lights and kettle braais.

“South Africans often use load shedding as an opportunity to cook on the braai (barbeque),” the Shoprite group told AFP.

Eskom blames its old and poorly maintained coal-fired power stations which struggle to keep up with the electricity demands of Africa’s most industrialised economy.

The debt-laden utility generates around 95 percent of the country’s electricity.

South Africans were so livid about the power outages that President Cyril Ramaphosa cut short an official visit to Egypt to come back and meet with Eskom executives.

Upon his election in May, Ramaphosa vowed to turn around all state entities but Eskom has proved to be “the villain that leaps out of the bath in a rage when you thought that he was dead,” as author and analyst Howard Feldman describes it.

Ramaphosa critics, as well as his supporters, say he will need to improve the economy if he wants a second term in power.

‘Nail in the coffin’

Many say the current crisis is a result of years of mismanagement and corruption during the decade of Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

Despite multiple bailouts, including the latest $4 billion lifeline by parliament, Eskom said it expects overall debt to rise to the equivalent of $30.8 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, up from $30 billion a year earlier.

Eskom forecasts a net loss of 20 billion rand for the year.

Calling it “too big to fail”, Ramaphosa unveiled plans to improve the utility’s performance by breaking it up into three units, saying that the current system was “unreliable” and “unpredictable”.

Power insecurity has weighed on the sluggish South African economy, already dogged by high and rising debt, low growth and record-high unemployment of 29 percent over the last decade.

“Job creators are retrenching staff and/or going out of business,” warned the CEO of the National Small Business Chamber, Mike Anderson.

Analysts at wealth asset management company Anchor Capital said the level of load shedding has heightened concerns that the economy could slip into another recession.

Indigo Ellis, an analyst at Verisk Maplecroft echoed this sentiment, saying “power cuts are (the) nail in the coffin for economic growth”.

Growth contracted further by 0.6 percent in the third quarter of 2019, after falling 3.2 percent in the first quarter.


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Behind the glitz, Nigerian entertainers struggle to cash in [ARTICLE]




But behind the glitter, the reality of the film and music sectors in Africa’s most populous nation can often be far less glamorous: wages are low, there are no social protections and copyright law is rarely enforced.

That comes despite the country boasting the second most productive film industry in the world and some of Africa’s biggest pop stars.

Hits by singers like Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido play non-stop on stations across the continent and Nollywood churns out some 2,500 movies each year.

Despite the successes, revenues from Nigeria’s entertainment and media sector in 2018 lagged well behind that of the continent’s other leading economic powerhouse South Africa at $4.5 billion compared to $9.1 billion, PwC said.

That difference is not down to output or demand as Nigeria produces more, exports more and has a domestic market of some 200 million people, four times bigger than South Africa.

Instead industry insiders insist it is a problem of organisation.

South Africa has better systems for ensuring royalty payments for artists, stronger legal protections and more modern facilities such as film studios, concert venues and cinemas.

‘Not taken seriously’

In a bid to help remedy the issues facing the industry, veteran Nollywood star Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde came up with the first entertainment business fair, known as TEFFEST.

It is aimed at bringing together actors, singers, producers, insurers, lawyers and managers to better organise the sector.

“The entertainment industry has grown without structures, without a roof,” Jalade-Ekeinde, nicknamed “Omo Sexy”, told AFP.

“For decades, we were not taken seriously and the big corporation companies didn’t consider us.”

The situation has changed as the industry has grown and now companies like Netflix are looking to step up their involvement in Nollywood and international labels attempting to tap Afropop stars.

“We produced, we grew, we became something suddenly and now the corporate world is trying to understand how we work and how they can deal with us,” Jalade-Ekeinde, AKA “the Queen of Nollywood”, said.

But the problems riddling the industry means it is often difficult to invest.

“There is nothing to celebrate here,” said Efe Omoregbe, manager of singer 2Face and former board member of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), which was dissolved by the government due to an internal conflict.


“We should be fixing and addressing major structural issues (…) We live in a culture of abuse when it comes to copyrights.”

PwC estimates that 80 percent of the pirate CDs globally can be found in Nigeria and singer Brymo says that in almost 20 years performing he has never received any money from his songs playing on local radio stations.

“Internationally, we make money through digital distribution platforms that have taken over rapidly, but locally it’s mostly with gigs or endorsement deals,” he said.

Contracts or handshakes

Lawyer Simeon Okoduwa said he tries to insist on artists signing a contract with producers before working with them.

“Too many film shoots or recordings are still done based on promises and handshakes,” he said.

This is an issue that leading actor Michelle Dede knows only too well.

The star always demands a written contract before starting her next film — and says the largest production companies now do offer written contracts as standard.

“Before producers thought I was being pretentious,” she said.

Despite the improvements she still decries the lack of protections for performers or a minimum wage for actors and others involved in the industry such as make-up artists, cameramen and technicians.

Nollywood is a vast employer in Nigeria — with some estimates saying it offers jobs to one million people — but much of that is very precarious.

“We make more money on building a brand than acting,” said Dede.

“But I shouldn’t be focusing on how many likes I get on Instagram, I should be working on my roles.”

Despite the drawbacks, the entertainment industry is still a major draw in a country where almost half the population live in extreme poverty.

But Dede said she still has no regret of leaving her job in marketing in London to launch herself in Nollywood.

“Nothing makes me happier than acting,” she said.

“Even though the pay is not good, there is no way I would give up on that.”


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