To fight poverty in Africa, a new-old solution: cash handouts

The Christian Science Monitor | December 11, 2016

Shake a stick anywhere in Africa, and you’re bound to bump into someone trying to figure how to make the continent's poor less poor, whether it’s an NGO doling out pregnant goats to Ugandan villagers, a wheezing Mercedes truck carrying sacks of USAID-sponsored grain into eastern Sierra Leone, or Madagascan government officials negotiating with Asian garment makers to build massive textile factories inside their borders. But what if the answer were far simpler -- just to give the poor money and let them do with it what they please? 


The U.S. Finally Did Something Right in Africa - and It's About to Stop

Foreign Policy | December 5, 2016

Since 2001, non-oil exports from sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. have tripled, from $1.4 billion to $4.1 billion. In the capital of Lesotho, apparel factories now crowd the industrial district, churning out sweatshirts and skinny jeans for American brands like Levis, Walmart, and Costco. The garment industry is now the country’s largest private employer, exporting more than $250 million a year in products to U.S. clothing companies... But the AGOA-driven march of progress in countries like Lesotho is extraordinarily fragile. 


Major HIV Vaccine Trial in South Africa Stokes Hope

The Washington Post | November 25, 2016

All eyes are on South Africa, where researchers will begin inoculating thousands of volunteers Monday in the latest effort to develop a vaccine that prevents the disease. It is only the seventh full-scale human trial for a virus that infects more than 2 million people and kills more than 1 million every year.

“If this study shows efficacy . . . this would be a tectonic, historic event for HIV,” said Nelson L. Michael, director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, which led the Thailand study.


On Cities.

On Cities.

Are bike lanes racist and classist? That’s the debate in South Africa.

The Washington Post | October 28, 2016

Practically speaking, bike lanes are far from Johannesburg’s most pressing transportation concern. Less than half of 1 percent of the population of 9 million uses a bike to go to work, and the local government spends about three times as much on council members’ travel as it had planned to spend on bulking up its bike lane infrastructure.

But symbolically, they loom large. In a city deliberately sliced up by segregationist city planning, questions of where and how people are able to travel have deep, often painful resonance.


South Africa's Tower of Dreams

Slate / Roads & Kingdoms | February 6, 2015

The building, along with the neighborhood of high-rises around it, had long functioned as something of a vertical waiting room for admission into urban South Africa. Adjoining the city’s largest train and bus station, it was the landing point from which thousands of immigrants, refugees, and rural migrants took their first tentative steps into Africa’s wealthiest city, and their presence made the area dizzyingly cosmopolitan. Congolese nightclubs jostled up against bootleg Nollywood film stores and Ethiopian restaurants; the knots of gossiping women gathered on street corners chattered in Zulu, Yoruba, French, and Somali.

And for a journalist like me, Ponte seemed almost too good to be true: a building that doubled as a neat metaphor for contemporary South Africa—a carefully wrought fortress of white privilege that had fallen into disrepair and violence before emerging, haltingly, into a more inclusive but far more uncertain version of itself.


Cure for Broken Metropolises: the Insta-city

The Christian Science Monitor | September 20, 2015

Welcome to the era of the private insta-city. Around the world, developers are increasingly grafting new cities onto the edge of existing ones in an attempt to solve one of the planet’s most vexing problems: megalopolises that don’t work. From Asia to Africa to the Middle East, they are building whole communities that promise to free hundreds of thousands of residents from the litany of urban ills. Indeed, in cities that often struggle to give residents the most basic of services – water, electricity, paved roads – many see such private developments as the only functional way forward.


See more: on housing apartheid in Cape Town, on the shuttering of a clubhouse that symbolized power and privilege in Johannesburg, on a literal bridge over South Africa's income divide, and on private cities in South Africa and in Uganda


On Migration.

On Migration.


Eritrean Refugees in Israel Sent to Uganda and Rwanda

Al Jazeera English | November 24, 2016

The sky was still an inky black when the flight from Cairo touched down at Entebbe Airport near Kampala, the capital of Uganda, one morning in mid-January, the fluorescent glow spilling from the small terminal providing the only source of light.

It had been 15 hours since Musgun Gebar left Tel Aviv, and the journey staggered him in its brevity. Four years earlier, when he had travelled the other way - from Eritrea in East Africa to Israel - he had done so on foot, a punishing journey across the Sahara and the Sinai that took more than a month.

Kidnappers stalked the route, food was scarce, and half of the people with whom he had travelled didn't survive. But this time, he simply sat down in a small cushioned seat and waited, snapping selfies and eating salty meals from aluminum tins until, suddenly, he had arrived.  


Refugee Runners: The Olympics Fields its First Team Without a Country

The Christian Science Monitor | June 2, 2016

This August, when the 205 country delegations march into Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games, the procession will also be joined by a very different kind of Olympic team. For the first time in history, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is fielding a small team of refugees – between five and 10 athletes who will represent not a country, but all those without one.

 Melinda Josie / The New York Times

Melinda Josie / The New York Times

Standing Watch Over a New Life

The New York Times Magazine | November 24, 2015

Before I came to South Africa, I was at a refugee camp in Mozambique for six months. From that camp you could see a certain mountain. The shape of it was like a woman lying down. People there told me that if you go beyond that mountain, you’re in South Africa. They said it was a place where they take care of refugees. In South Africa, I heard, you could have a regular job and a regular life.

What they didn’t say was that to officially become a refugee in South Africa, you must go to the immigration office every day and wait in a line that never moves. You must sleep there, with newspapers for blankets, so that you don’t lose your spot. They also didn’t say that even when you have papers, the only jobs you can get are the ones South Africans don’t want.

See more: on looking for legal status from Asmara to Tel Aviv to Kampala, on Swagger, Confidence, and the stories Zimbabwean migrants tell with their unusual names, and on the undertow of xenophobia in South Africa and its origins


Other features.

Other features.

Ebola's Shunned Heroes: The Women Bringing up the Bodies in Sierra Leone

Newsweek | August 17, 2016

Between 7 and 8 percent of the couple of thousand workers in Sierra Leone’s Ebola burial teams were women, according to the Red Cross and Concern Worldwide, two of the major nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that employed them. (The Sierra Leonean government didn’t keep any official statistics on this, but so invisible was their presence that many people here still refer to burial crews—those anonymous figures in puffy white protective gear who became the outbreak’s macabre mascots—as the “burial boys.”)

“Taking that job went against tradition,” says Fatmata Jalloh, a woman in her 40s who helped bury the dead in Kailahun. Carrying bodies, hauling them into graves—“people told me this wasn’t a job that a woman should do.”

 Tommy Trenchard / Alamy

Tommy Trenchard / Alamy

How Ghana's Gory, Gaudy Movie Posters Became High Art

The Atlantic Online | February 4, 2016

When Frank Armah began painting posters for Ghanaian movie theaters in the mid-1980s, he was given a clear mandate: Sell as many tickets as possible. If the movie was gory, the poster should be gorier (skulls, blood, skulls dripping blood). If it was sexy, make the poster sexier (breasts, lots of them, ideally at least watermelon-sized). And when in doubt, throw in a fish. Or don’t you remember the human-sized red fish lunging for James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me?

“The goal was to get people excited, curious, to make them want to see more,” he says. And if the movie they saw ended up surprisingly light on man-eating fish and giant breasts? So be it. “Often we hadn’t even seen the movies, so these posters were based on our imaginations,” he says. “Sometimes the poster ended up speaking louder than the movie.”



What's in a Name? For this Namibian Town, it's all About Colonial History

The Christian Science Monitor | March 18, 2016

The trouble started three years ago, when then-Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba announced that the seaside town’s name would be changed from Lüderitz – after nineteenth century German colonial explorer Adolf Lüderitz – back to !Nami#nus, an indigenous Nama-language term for the area. 

Instantly, this sleepy town of 12,000 transformed into a dramatic new front in a long-simmering war that stretches across southern Africa, over whether or not colonialism should be literally wiped off the face of the map.


See more: on the rise of Africa's largest homegrown humanitarian organization, on the shipping containers left behind in Africa and how shipping containers left Africa behind, on the coming of South Africa's first Catholic saint, on the Nigerian evangelical missionaries fanning out around the world, and on South Africa's first black astronomer.