Monday, September 26, 2011

Angola's 'Sparkling Industry': Diamonds

Diamonds are Angola's second-largest export earner after oil.  Angola is the fourth-largest diamond producer in the world and is reputedly in the top three in terms of gemstone quality. Endiama (Angola’s state diamond holding company Empresa Nacional de Diamante de Angola EPmanages the Angolan state’s shareholdings in the diamond sector.

The majority of diamond mining in Angola is on an industrial basis. Angola produced a total of 8.55 million carats in 2010 and had estimated gem sales worth $956 million. Artisan mining accounted for around 6 per cent of Angolan sales that year. 

By far the largest mine is Catoca, which aims to be the world’s third largest by 2020. Catoca is owned by Endiama 32.8%, Alrosa SA 32.8%, Daumonty Finance 18% and Odebrecht Mining Services 16.4%. 

Angola joined the Kimberley Process Certification scheme in 2000. The scheme was established to prevent ‘blood diamonds’ from being sold through the rough diamond market and to assure customers that when they bought a diamond they were not financing wars or human rights abuses. The process has achieved some success. 

As part of further efforts to improve conditions for artisan diamond miners, the government has developed a plan to offer support and legal protection. Some Angolan mines are nearing commercial exhaustion but there are still diamonds to be had. It is not profitable for industrial companies to exploit them, so there is a niche for small mining operations, said Endiama spokesman António José Freitas.

The government’s aim is to increase local incomes, cut unemployment and combat poverty, so it is encouraging the formation of small co-operatives with up to five members to work in one-hectare claim areas.

The right to mine is restricted to Angolans over 18 years of age who have lived in the mining area for at least ten years. No foreign citizens are allowed in claim areas and it is forbidden to transfer a licence. Conditions include obligations to exploit all existing diamonds in the claim area and to sell them to Sodiam. The use of industrial equipment is banned and tools limited to basics such as hoes, machetes, shovels, picks and buckets. (Sonangol Universo Magazine, 2011)

Friday, September 16, 2011

African Folklore: How Serval Got His Spots

(A Ndebele fable) In the beginning, Serval used to be the same tawny color as Lion, but he was much smaller and nowhere as strong. The other animals often teased him, calling him, "Lion's little cousin."

Serval dreamed of having a magnificent coat like Leopard or Zebra. If he could not be big and strong, he could at least be handsome.

One day, when Serval was going about his daily hunt, he met Puff Adder.
"Oh, kind Serval," pleaded Puff Adder,  "I am feeling very ill and none of the other animals will help me."

"No wonder!" exclaimed Serval. "You are such a nasty creature that all animals go in fear of you. But because you are ill, I will help you just this once. But you must promise to keep your fangs to yourself!"

Puff Adder agreed willingly to be on his best behavior, so Serval to him home and looked after him.  It took a long time for Puff Adder to get better as he was indeed very ill. Thanks mainly to Serval's care and attention, he eventually recovered.

Before Puff Adder left, he thanked Serval for his kindness. To show his gravitate, he said, "I will give you anything within my power in return for your kindness."
Serval replied, " There is nothing I would like more than a beautiful coat."
"That I can do," answered Puff Adder.  "I will have to bite you, but do not fear that my poison will harm you. It will only be a very small amount."

So Puff Adder bit Serval carefully. Though it made Serval feel a bit sick, he quickly recovered.  Soon his skin broke out in a rash and his tawny coat changed to a golden color mottled with black spots. Serval was overjoyed. He was now one of the most handsome creatures in the bush.

As a sign of respect for each other, Puff Adder and Serval do not trouble each other to this day. (From: When Lion Could Fly: And Other Tales from Africa, by Nick Greaves and Rod Clement)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Defining Angola's Poverty

(Capital Press Report)  Recent reports reveal that more than 30% of the Angolan population is relegated to the status of a 'poor condition', under defined parameters which evaluate the capabilities of ordinary citizens policy to purchase a common meal, translated into a simple dish of rice and beans, have adequate access to basic social services and live in a decent home. 

Analysts for Catholic University of Angola's research center say two in three Angolans still live on $2 or less a day.  In a study by the Institute of National Statistics which focuses on a series of social variables, 37% of Angola's population is poor, living with an average monthly income below 4,739 Kwanzas (approximately USD$50), an amount defined as the national poverty line in Angola.

The Statistics Institute reports that inadequate access to food and deprivation of some dimensions of well-being are factors that cause 37% of the Angolan population to be referred to as being in a situation of poverty and only surviving on one meal per day.

Available data indicates that one in three Angolans revealed have an inadequate consumption of goods services. The analytical report of the data on this survey also reveals that every person in Angola has a monthly consumption of 6.449 Kwanzas (approximately USD$70), which corresponds to the amount of consumable income needed to meet the consumption needs of food and non-food items as well as wellness and comfort. (Angonoticias)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Renaissance of Angolan Art

Following their country’s emergence from decades of strife, Angola’s artists are making their unique contribution to the wider contemporary art scene of southern Africa. The interest in Angolan art is growing rapidly.  This interest is fueled by the creative output of the local artists who are now beginning to appear, and reappear, and also by the global interest being shown in all art coming from Africa through exhibitions such as the highly successful Africa Remix, just concluding its tour to Europe and Japan.

Trienal of Luanda, is an art 'mega-project' with a budget around $6 million, was recently with a continental-focused African Imagery Observatory. The main objective of the Trienal is to build a new Center of Contemporary Art in Luanda which houses an art collection of 500 items representing 25 African countries.

An example of one Angolan artists’ exposition at the Art Center is entitled Angola Combatente, which opened in Luanda’s Soso gallery. This is a project to promote young Angolan artists and to give them an opportunity to determine the cultural and political contours of their country. The show was a big success and demonstrated different approaches of the Angolano combatente (Angolano combatante means Angolan soldier, a term created to show that in time of war the Angolan population were all soldiers and patriots). In the provinces and in collaboration with the local administrative bodies, the Trienal will be presented as an open-air cinema show, projecting the events as they happen in Luanda.

Meanwhile, Africa Remix features the work of several leading Angolan artists: Fernando Alvim, Paulo Capela, António Ole, Frank Lundangi and N’dilo Mutima.

Born in Luanda in 1963, Fernando Alvim is a leading influence in Angolan contemporary art. He has created several art-related projects in Europe, the United States and Africa. Fernando Alvim has participated in art exhibitions all over the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Biennale of Sidney, Australia, the Art Museum of La Rochelle, France, the Contemporary Art Centre of Calouste Gulbenkian, Portugal, La Louviere, Brussels, and also in Dakar, Senegal.

Paulo Capela, a self-taught artist and fervent Catholic, places his own paintings and drawings alongside objects in private shrines to represent an ideal world in which communism and capitalism co-exist.

António Ole, a famous Luanda-born painter and philosopher, is admired by collectors the world over. He has as one of his long-term projects the creation of a series of photo-walls featuring museque dwellings which, through images of decay, destruction and war, speak of the will to survive and thus of Angola’s past, present and future.

Born in  Maquela do Zombo in 1950, Frank Lundangi left the country to become footballer in France, but found his way through painting and sculpture, and now lives in Paris – one of the most sought-after African artists there.

N’dilo Mutima , another young artist and photographer is also gaining a strong reputation in Europe.

The influence of these five and whose inspiration has been shaped by the recent past, will have a significant effect on the art of southern Africa during the next decade at least. (Taken from Sonangol Magazine)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Emigration Role Reversal

During the height of Angola's civil war, many Angolans fled for safety to Portugal, the African country's old colonialist and imperial power.  Given the commonality of language, burgeoning economy and job opportunities in Portugal during the 70's to 90's, many Angolans prospered well.

Now in a reversal of traditional migration patterns, thousands of young unemployed professionals are escaping Portugal's crippling economic crisis by finding jobs in the former colony of Angola.  In the midst of national economic restructuring, Portugal's youth unemployment rate is 26.8%, with more than 95,000 people jobless between the ages of 16 and 25; many of the migrating, skilled youth have masters and PhD degrees that are valuable in a developing Angola that needs skilled people to rebuild its infrastructure.

Portugal’s foreign ministry says it registered 45,000 Portuguese citizens as resident in Angola in 2007-08. A year later the figure had jumped to 92,000. Today over 3,000 Portuguese companies operate in Angola and many of the Portuguese building companies such as Teixeira Duarte, Soares de Costa and Mota Engil have been switching from the home market to Angola’s to take advantage of Angola’s burgeoning economy.

In another reversal, an economic one, now Angolan state and private investors are eyeing Portugal’s assets recently freed up through Portugal’s privatization plans.  Recently, the IMF made the sale of BPN, a national bank, a condition for Portugal to get its recent financial bail-out. Other large Portuguese energy, mining and banking firms are under scrutiny for purchase by wealthy Angolan state and private investors. (Excerpts from BBC Report and The Economist)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Learning to Read for a Better Future

September 1st marked the opening of the International Literacy and Learning Week in Angola's capital, Luanda.  The meeting, focusing on "Literacy and peace, fights hunger and poverty" aims at exchanging experience between linguists of national vernacular languages. According to Angola National Director of Education of Adults, Guiherme Tuluca, " National language literacy helps fight hunger and poverty as it opens horizons for the population to change habits with a view to better build a domestic economy with qualified staff and workers."

Being a former Portuguese colony, Angola predominately speaks the Portuguese language.  Of 42 individual languages in Angola, there are six national or official languages: Portuguese, Kikongo, Kimbumdu, Mbundu, Chokwe and Oshiwambo. The literacy rate among Angolan males is 82.1% while only 53.8% of Angola females are literate. A high rate of Angolan illiteracy occurs in the predominately rural, remote areas where girls drop out of school at higher rates than boys and thus have a very low exposure to primary education.

Angola National Director of Education of Adults, Guiherme Tuluca adds in relation to building a better economy through literacy, "A trained peasant better analyzes the fertilizers and land information and produce markets.  An improvement in a farmer's own harvests helps boost the family's economy.  Tuluca urged the need for the rural population to benefit from the program. (Angop, Save the Children)