Mauritania – ‘“land of a thousand poets’

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is website.png

If you ever looked for a country that fits the picture of the Arabian fictional movie, Aladin, one would not rule out Mauritania. The Northwest African country has a rich repertoire of oral literature including epics, riddles, folk tales and legends, Islamic poetry and prose with storytelling fitting the Mauritanian tradition for centuries. And what further infatuates this fantasy thinking is, about a third of the topography is desert with flat parts, covered with arid plains and occasional oasis. Though, Mauritania is in fact located in Africa at the intersection of North Africa (the Maghrib) and West Africa. In size, the country is roughly one and a half times of Texas. Its area is 398,069 square miles (1,031,000 square kilometres), and its divided into 4 geographical sections, the Saharan, the Sahelian, the Senegal River Valley, and the coastal zones. The country has various indigenous groups that is blended seamlessly with the French and Moorish cultures helping to shape the art of storytelling in the country, a reminder of the country’s colonial past. As romantic this may sound, the country sadly though, is one of the last countries in the world where people are still born into slavery, and literally owned by other people, facing a lifetime of abuse, and forced labour.

“In Mauritania, there are flagrant breaches of the conventions that the country has ratified: slavery in all its forms, whether traditional or modern; racism and discrimination, especially against people of African descent; torture; enforced disappearances; secret imprisonment; and restrictions to freedom of opinion, expression, association and conscience”, these were the words of anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeidin 2014out of a cell in Aleg prison. And even though Mauritania’s population is around 4.6 million (Worldmeter, 2020), and is known as the fourth least densely populated country in world it still has some lagging issues in other social inequalities. Since independence, successive Governments have struggled to improve poverty in the capital city Nouakchott, probably because of migration to urban areas and because the capital tends to attract the poorest of the poor. The employment rate has not improved, and groups that have not benefited from social progress, such as youth, women, and low-income workers, that are increasingly marginalized. Only 55% of children aged 6 to 11 are enrolled in primary school, one-third of households live in precarious housing, and 38% of the population has access to electric lighting. Based on all these social indicators Mauritania is classified by the United Nations as a Least Developed Country (LDC).

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost IS MRU 45,00 Mauritania Ouguiya (R 2, 11) and the price of litre petrol is MRU 43,00 Mauritania Ouguiya (R 2, 03). Mauritania inflation rate for 2019 was 2.30%, a 0.75% decline from 2018. The inflation rate in Mauritania was recorded at 2.90% in June of 2020.

Despite all these challenging issues faced by Mauritanians, there are some opportunities too, namely in the Oil and Gas sector. In 2018, BP invested in the Mauritania-Senegal FLNG plan. The Greater Tortue Ahmeyim LNG project will produce around 2.5 million tonnes per year, with first gas expected in 2022. There are expansion plans for a hub on Yakaar-Teranga and one on Birallah in Senegal that will benefit Mauritania as the partner in the plan. The Mauritania-Senegal region has now evolved from a frontier to an emerging hydrocarbon opportunity attracting the attention of the global industry. Mining also continues to offer great potential. Among the many unexplored natural resources are gold, diamonds, copper, gypsum, and hydrocarbons. But one of the most remarkable assets is the countries geographical location which is at the crossroads of North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Mauritania is also the nearest tropical destination to Europe, an asset that some foreign investors have already used to their advantage, in the fruit and vegetable sector. There are also plans to build a bridge over the Senegal River, linking Rosso to Saint-Louis, Senegal. Having these communication links in place will make trade between Mauritania and its neighbours easier, and will help to integrate Mauritania more fully into the Maghreb and West Africa. Many Mauritanians have faith in the supernatural powers of holy men called marabouts, or murabitun. It is believed that their baraka, or divine grace, allows them to perform miracles. The people of Mauritania now hope the new government can deliver to their needs, and combat the decades of issues facing them by bringing opportunity to the country, and hope as Aladin did for Agrabah.

Cape Verde – “The way forward”

As a very small island economy in the Atlantic Ocean situated in the Sahelian belt off the coast of Senegal in Western Africa, Cape Verde has managed to defy the odds and transform itself from an extremely poor country into one of the better performing economies in Africa in just over three decades. The history of Cape Verde is very much one of the connections to other places. Human and natural resources circulated between the African coast and the islands and from there to Europe, the Americas, Brazil, and the Caribbean Islands. There are only nine significant islands in this West African and Atlantic archipelago, and their joint population is around half a million. In the 21st century or present-day Cape Verde is known as a popular tourist destination for its glorious powder-white beaches and turquoise shores.

The success of the transformation of Cape Verde is rather owed to the last 35 years and the three phases which it was divided into, the period from independence in 1975 to 1990 when the nation’s foundations were laid, a second from 1991 to 2000, and the current decade. Through these three phases, the policies of successive governments have supported the common characteristics of prudent public resource management and sound public institutions, combined with strategies that were adapted to the changing global economy. All these positive changes were noticed then by former African Development Bank Group (AfDB) Donald Kaberuka which said that “the country is poised to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals”. However, nothing in the world can be quintessential or pristine so there are some challenges too. Poverty, unemployment, lack of diversification affects a large part of the population and infrastructure is still poorly developed. The country also struggles with drug traffickers, and income inequality and social exclusion remains critical. To add further distresses Cape Verde finds itself in the Sahel climate system which is subjected to periodic droughts and very low annual precipitation. With global climate change, drier and hotter weather patterns are forecasted, and this can be detrimental for the environmental degradation that is caused by soil erosion, low fertility, and deforestation. The unique characteristics, especially its geography and miniature size, makes it difficult for agriculture labour because of the lack of rain but also due to the nature of the geography of the islands with it causing famine in 1975. It led to the migration of people out of the country and now there are many more people of Cape Verdean descent living outside than inside the country due to the sporadic famine.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 140$00 Cape Verdean Escudo (R 25, 45) and the price of litre petrol is 101$60 Cape Verdean Escudo (R 18, 42). The inflation rate for consumer prices in Cape Verde moved over the past 35 years between -2.5% and 11.2%. For 2019, an inflation rate of 1.1% was calculated. According to the updated IMF forecasts from 14th April 2020, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, GDP growth is expected to fall to -4% in 2020 and pick up to 5.5% in 2021, subject to the post-pandemic global economic recovery.

Despite the problems, the country has had many remarkable achievements in its economic and social development. In 2004 Cape Verde’s was elevated from the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to Middle-Income Country (MICs) and became the first country in the world whose upgrade is an outcome of efficient and well developed economic and social policies and strategic partnerships with a variety of countries and institutions. The country is fast becoming a development showcase and a source of hope for the continent and boasts West Africa’s highest standard of living. This makes it a very safe, welcoming, and friendly country to visit, just one of the reasons the archipelago is so popular with holidaymakers.

Burundi – Hope in the abyss

Unlike the borders of most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the boundaries of Burundi were not drawn by European powers. Rather, they reflect a state that was developed by the Burundian monarchy. The country was originally populated by the Twa, a Pygmy hunter-gatherer population. But from the beginning of the Common Era, the vast majority of Burundi’s Hutu population appeared and sometime later in the 16th century the Tutsi entered the country and developed a monarchy which was founded, by Ntare Rushatsi. And ever since there has been political unrest between the Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority ethnic groups. Few real cultural differences are distinguishable between the two peoples, and both speak Rundi (Kirundi). Such linguistic homogeneity is rare in sub-Saharan Africa and emphasizes the historically close cultural and ethnic ties among the peoples in Burundi.

Geographically, Burundi is a country found in the Great Lakes region of Central and East Africa. It is a landlocked country that is small but densely populated. It is slightly smaller than the state of Hawaii, but with eight times the population with around 9.8 million people living in the country. To date, it is the 20th most densely populated country in the world, but sadly this has serious effects on the environment. With the country’s lands largely consisting of agricultural and pasture, overpopulation has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss with the three parks Kibira, Rusuzu, and Ruvubu National Parks filling the most detrimental effects from the growing population. Fundamentally Burundi is a developing country with poverty, weak infrastructure, corruption, poor access to education and healthcare, malnutrition, political instability, and unemployment that are the major problems facing Burundians. Most Burundians have no access to a mobile network while internet cafes are limited to towns and cities, in a country where 80% of the population lives in a rural setting. However, in January 2019, the Parliament of Burundi voted to move the capital city from Bujumbura to Gitega to promote urbanization and infrastructural development. So, in the current day if a Burundian sends you a WhatsApp it is due to internet access ability of 4.5% relative to 1.2% a decade ago. There is no wonder in the fact that in 2018, the World Happiness Report ranked the citizens of the country as the least happy in the world.

Burundi has one of the lowest per capita GDP of any nation in the world. Burundi has a low gross domestic product largely due to civil wars, corruption, poor access to education, and the effects of HIV/AIDS. Cobalt and copper are among Burundi’s natural resources. Some of Burundi’s main exports include coffee and sugar. Burundians love their cows, not only for the meat and milk but because cows are traditionally a show of wealth. Regardless of your economic status, if you have a cow, then you are a rich person in Burundi. The more cows you have, the better your social status.

On the Neil Economic scale, a can of coke costs 1,520 Burundian Franc (R 13,24) and the price of litre petrol is 2,300 Burundian Franc (R 20,03). The inflation rate for consumer prices in Burundi moved over the past 40 years between -2.8% and 36.5%. For 2019, an inflation rate of -0.7% was calculated. The inflation rate in Burundi was recorded at 7.70% in July of 2020.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in the World, Burundi can boast with some champions on the world stage. Gustave The Gigantic Man-eating Crocodile Is from Burundi. Gustave reigns terror along the banks of the Ruzizi River and the northern shores of Lake Tanganyika where he is believed to have killed more than 300 people. He is believed to be the biggest crocodile in the world at over 18 feet and 2,000 pounds. Another being, 5000m runner Venuste Niyongabo who won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Ironically though, it has never won a regional title at the African Games.

“Ubumwe, Ibikorwa, Iterambere” means “Unity, Work, Progress” in Kirundi however, unity and progress have been elusive since independence in 1692. Burundi’s people are seeking hope in the abyss that will bring political change to the system that will protect their livelihood.

Benin – The diminutive opportunist

If you look geographically at Benin, it seems to be a country that has been squeezed in on the African continent on the last minute. Even more strange the country is known as the cradle of ‘voodoo’. The locals call it ‘Vodun’ which means ‘spirits’. And before you start imaging voodoo dolls and all the black magic stuff, I would like to stop you here. Coming back to the reality, Benin or officially the Republic of Benin and formerly Dahomey, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, by y the Bight of Benin to the south, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. In terms of area, Benin is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania and two-third the size of Portugal. The capital Porto Novo was developed as a port for the slave trade with the area nearby referred to as ‘Slave Coast’ from as early as the 17th century. During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, a large number of slaves were shipped to the New World. The last ship of slaves departed from Dahomey for Brazil in 1885. However, there is a lot to learn from this small country that still retains much of its authentic culture and tradition.

Benin is also one of the most politically stable countries in West Africa. However, compared to most other West African nations, Benin has enjoyed relative peace and stability with even its colours on the National flag representing courage, wealth and hope. The most characteristic sights of Benin are the petrol stations. The price of the original petrol is above the financial reach for the majority of people in this country. So, the people found new ways to sell petrol and one crazy but sufficient way was selling petrol in containers with even public transport like buses and taxis. If that was not unique enough for you to read, they refer to white people visiting the country as  “yovo”. Do not be surprised to find people and kids shouting this word behind you if you happen to visit the country. Most of the population is agrarian and lacks the basic requirements of modernity such as quality education, affordable quality healthcare with AIDS straining the health care system and modern economic means of livelihood. However, if you would like to see all these unusual events, you can visit the country by arriving at its only international airport which is located in Cotonou.

When it comes to the economy of Benin, it has grown consecutively for several years, but slowed down in 2017, as its closed trade links to Nigeria expose Benin to risks from volatile commodity prices. Benin’s economy is heavily reliant on the informal re-export and transit trade with Nigeria (estimated at approximately 20% of GDP), and on agriculture. Despite a recent downward trend, the poverty rate remains high, at 46.4% in 2018, with a poverty line of $1.90 a day in purchasing power parity. Like the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Benin’s monetary policy is managed by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), which keeps the CFA franc pegged to the euro. In recent years, the government has tried to attract foreign investment by continuing its efforts to improve the business environment, ongoing civil unrest, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and infrastructure gaps have deterred most investors (Economic Freedom Index, 2020).

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 487.50 CFA franc (R 14, 64) and the price of a litre of petrol is 505.50 CFA franc (R 15, 18). Though Nigeria inflation rate fluctuated substantially in recent years it tended to increase through 1999 – 2018 period ending at 12.1 % in 2018 with a 4.43% decline from 2017.

There are however a lot of positives to take out of a country like Benin. First, the country can build its future by taking greater advantage of its geographic proximity to Nigeria and its access to the ocean through the port of Cotonou. Secondly, it can create productive cities by starting to process its abundant agriculture resources. It can help enhance its infrastructure and human capital by addressing the issues of coastal erosion and tropical diseases. And lastly, the country can draw strength from the Marvel comic and 2018 film ‘The Black Panther’ that inspired the ‘Dora Milaje’ female warriors in the movie. The combination of these priorities allows us to visualize how Benin could transform itself in the future. If the government can improve the business environment and increase port efficiency, there is no reason that domestic, as well as Chinese or Indian investors, would not be attracted to Benin.

SIGNING OF AGREEMENT: IFG

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT AND CEO OF INVESTMENT FUND AFRICA

The President and CEO, Mr Neil De Beer, of the Investment Fund Africa, today signed a historic agreement in an international merger of two organizations namely ACUSTER CAPITAL and IFA CAPITAL.

The Spanish based ACUSTER CAPITAL and Mauritian based IFA CAPITAL, are forming a new entity namely “IFG” or INVESTMENT FUND GLOBAL.

“ I am truly excited about this new partnership with ACUSTER and indeed to lead with its President, Mr Jaume Puig, this dynamic new team. We are creating innovative ideas on global funding, consulting services and implementation of infrastructure projects globally and no doubt will we give solutions to African and global challenges.”

-Neil De Beer, President IFA and Co-President IFG

“ We recognize that the world and business are changing and that post Covid19, we will have a need for new solutions to global questions. The world will need more infrastructure reform on all levels together with capital investments packaged in innovative solutions. I am excited about creating those solutions through our IFG group”

-Jaume Puig, President ACUSTER  and Co-President IFG

 

 

 

Togo – Time for change

Many decades ago, between the 16th and the 18th century Togo and its surrounding regions were known as “the slave coast” as Europeans would visit the region in search of slaves. Fast track through decades, Togo has been independent for about 60 years now since it gained independency on the April 27th, 1960. The Togolese Republic as it was formerly known as is a small West African country only 21,925 sq mi with an average density of 253 people per square mile. It extends south to the Bight of Benin and is bordered on the north by Burkina Faso, Benin to the east, and Ghana on the west. Contrasting the geography of the centre of the country, mostly hills, the north is mostly rolling savanna and the south is both savanna and woodland plateau. A more interesting fact is Togo is located very close to the equator and thus, experiences tropical hot and humid climate in the central regions and the south and dry, arid weather towards the north.

While many languages are spoken in Togo, mainly those of the Gbe family, French is its official language. People with indigenous beliefs make up the largest religious group, but Christians and Muslims also make up a significant minority. Greetings are elaborated in Togo with it being very important to say hello to everyone when coming and going. More so if you want to greet somebody in Togo, you should shake their hand a say a verbal “Hello” in French (Bonjour), Ewe (Woezo-lo!), Kabiye (Alafia-we) or another tribal language. When it comes to food, it is seen as rude to smell food that has been cooked for you for any reason. It is rude to ask what it is you are eating as well. Togo is much a starving country, and a meal cooked for you in the country is a big deal. So, you are to eat it without asking any questions and while you at if the meat is served, break the bones and suck the marrow. Not doing so is seen as wasteful to the Togolese. However, since independence, Togo has struggled to build a stable country and economy with the Eyadema family at the helm for decades. Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema succeeded his father, who died in 2005 after ruling the country with an iron fist for 38 years but in recent years hundreds have died that challenged his victories at the polls.

Togo’s economy is small and depends on subsistence and commercial agriculture. Phosphate mining used to be the primary industrial activity, but due to increased foreign competition, and the collapse of world phosphate prices, Togo has been relying more on the export of cement and clinker to nearby countries. Several setbacks in the early 1990’s such as strikes and political unrest hurt economic growth by shrinking the tax base and disrupting the economy to a point that education in Togo was compulsory only for six years mainly because of teacher shortages and poor infrastructure.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 1.69$ – CFA franc (R 0,50) and the price of litre petrol is 1. 25$ – CFA franc (R 0,38). The inflation rate for consumer prices in Togo moved over the past 40 years between -3.5% and 39.2%. For 2019, an inflation rate of 0.7% was calculated and was recorded at -0.40% in June of this year (2020).

Togo has received validation from the World Health Organization (WHO) for having eliminated human African trypanosomiasis or “sleeping sickness” as a public health problem, becoming the first country in Africa to reach this milestone. Togo’s achievement comes after more than two decades of sustained political commitment. The wish of the Togolese people is that the same sustained political commitment can be made to their election crisis. According to the 2019 corruption perceptions index, Togo is among the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 130 out of 180 with only North Korea’s ruling dynasty that has held executive power for longer. The overall feeling is that it is time for a change. But all the opposition parties can hope to oust this regime is a post-electoral crisis. And that, sadly, could lead to fresh bloodshed and more suffering for the Togolese people.

Liberia – The Path to Light

Liberia was perceived as an example of Africa’s ability at self-rule and self-determination and due to this known as the Black Zion. After overcoming two civil wars, the country still has an interesting historical, cultural and landmarks to flaunt. Few people knew that the country was found by freed slaves from the Americas hence the deep connections between the U.S. and Liberia. Its capital, Monrovia, is named after the fifth U.S. president, James Monroe, who served in the White House from 1817 to 1825. More interestingly the connection runs in billionaire media producer Oprah Winfrey NDA, who traced her ancestry to the Kpelle Tribe of Liberia. Speaking of female dominance, it is the only African country that had a female president in office, Lady Ellen Johnson Sirleaf known as Africa’s Iron Lady. Liberia in the current day is run by the “people’s president” George Weah, a footballing icon.

Better known as the Republic of Liberia is an African country located on the west coast of the African continent and one of the world’s oldest democracies having attained independence from the United States of America in 1847. According to the CIA World Factbook, the country has one of the youngest population with an average age of 17.9 years which can be correlated with the fact that women can get married at the age of 18, and men aged 21. Geographically Liberia is surrounded by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire on three sides, while the south coast borders the Atlantic Ocean and It serves as one of the biggest exporters of iron ore in Africa. The longest river in Liberia is named after a fish which is derived from the cavalla horse mackerel found at its mouth and the country is home to the endangered and mysterious pygmy hippopotamus. So, with these few marvels mentioned why are not many people visiting? Interestingly neither the World Bank nor the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), have figures for foreign arrivals. The country’s old infrastructure can be attributed to the civil war which lasted from 1989 to 1997 and the influence of the Cannibal Warlords. Power shortages in the country are common, facilities at tourist attractions rudimentary, the only proper hotels (in the Western sense) are clustered in Monrovia (the capital), and roads often little more than dirt tracks. Business and economy are constrained by a small domestic market, high transportation costs and poor trade links with neighbouring countries. To add to this, the country is struggling to recover fully from the effects of multiple shocks in recent years; namely, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak, the collapse of commodity prices, UNMIL withdrawal and the perception of risk associated with the political transition in January 2018.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost L$150 Liberian dollar (R 5,96) and the price of a litre petrol is L$1.12 Liberian dollar (R 0,94). Liberia’s economy is projected to contract by 1.4% in 2019, following the modest growth of 1.2% in 2018. Inflation reached 31.3% by August 2019, up from 26.1% the previous year (World Bank, 2019).

Despite all the issues covered, President Weah has made necessary efforts to diversify the economy by investing more in public infrastructure, agriculture and supporting small and micro enterprises with capital, but it will be sometime before these yield results. The government intends to build a highway along Liberia’s 350-mile coast as well as connecting roads into the interior. He also maintains popular support in the legislature. Both will be crucial as he attempts to implement reforms and pro-poor development programmes. With five years left to go, hope in the president remains high.

Sudan – Time, Hope and Patience

Sudan is a country in North-Eastern Africa which gained independence from Egypt and the UK in 1956. Previously called Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the country has a rich history and before the split with South Sudan on 9 July 2011, united Sudan was the largest country in Africa and the Arab world by area. It is considered a treasure trove for archaeologists, due to a large number of prehistoric artefacts. Sudan’s post-independence history has been tumultuous, characterised by multiple coups and economic woes. These were exacerbated by international tensions – and later sanctions – following the government’s decision to allow terrorist leader Osama bin Laden to reside in Khartoum in the 1990s.

The country with a population of close to 42 Million (World Bank 2018) is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. Khartoum is the capital and largest city of Sudan despite the most populous city being Omdurman. Islam is an integral part of Sudan’s social fabric and media landscape as well as a politically mobilizing and polarizing force. The Arab presence is estimated at 70% of the Sudanese population. By far the most popular tourist attraction in the country, the Pyramids of Meroe are one of the last remaining symbols from an ancient civilization. The best time to visit is just before sunset when the sun illuminates the structures with a golden hue. The Pyramids of Meroe were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Sudan’s economy is basically agricultural, with inadequate infrastructure and ridden by the civil wars and social and ethnic conflict. Sudan lost most of its oil reserves (over 80 percent), after the secession of South Sudan. Unlike the rest of the Arab world that is mostly barren desert, Sudan has a significant size of arable land. The country has the potential to produce most of its food needs and export some to the Arab world. Despite Sudan accounting for less than 10% of Arab land, it counts for almost half of its arable land. GDP growth was an estimated 4.1% in 2018, up slightly from 3.3% in 2017. On the supply side, mining (growth of 6.3%), agriculture (3.7%), and manufacturing (1.5%) were the main contributors to growth. GDP growth is projected to be 3.6% in 2019 and 3.8% in 2020, benefiting from a strong commitment to ongoing macroeconomic policy and structural reforms, including removing tax exemptions and the like.

On the “Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 18,58 SDG (R 6,00) and the price of litre petrol is 7,70 SDG (R 2,44). Sudan inflation rate though fluctuated substantially in recent years from 16.91% in 2016 to 63. 29% in 2019 with a projected rate of 50.43% in 2020.

Sudan faces key challenges include institutional and human capacity weaknesses, high youth unemployment, a high external debt burden, and climate change. However, there is hope with time and determination in Sudan as there are key opportunities include huge unexploited agricultural potential, an improved national policy environment, and private sector potential. Sudan also holds huge private investment opportunities in large-scale irrigated agriculture, dairy farming and animal husbandry, forest enterprises involving gum Arabic, and the leather supply chain for regional and global export, with the potential to increase national income and foreign exchange earnings by promoting exports of manufactured and semi-manufactured goods.

Senegal – Gateway to Africa

In the 16th century when the Portuguese visited the country’s coast, the fishermen said “sunu gaal”, which translates into “these are our boats”. The Portuguese, who understood nothing, simply named their land “Senegal”. Fast forward a few centuries, Nelson Mandela in his book “Long Walk to Freedom” stated that the Senegalese are handsome people and that the society showed how disparate elements– French, Islamic, and African– can mingle to create a unique and distinctive culture.” Provided this information we can see this in Senegal’s national flag which bears three colours: red, yellow and green. They are the official Pan-African colours and a star in the middle that represents universal unity.

Senegal has two prominent nicknames: the land of Teranga and the gateway to West Africa. The “Gateway to Africa” tag was earned through the presence of the Senegal River, by which the Portuguese and the French were able to make inroads to Sudan and Central Africa. The government is a multiparty democratic republic and became independent in 1960 after three centuries of French colonial rule. Dakar, the capital lies on the Cap-Vert peninsula, the most westerly point in Africa. In 1840, the French government declared Senegal a permanent French possession, abolished all forms of slavery, and granted full citizenship to those born in Senegal. More ironically Senegal’s traditional and national sport is wrestling, likely as a coincidence of wrestling France for three centuries.

Senegal has been among Africa’s most stable countries, with three major peaceful political transitions since independence. In a presidential election held on February 24, 2019, the Senegalese people voted in President Macky Sall for a second term. Predominantly rural, and with limited natural resources, the Economy of Senegal gains most of its foreign exchange from fish, phosphates, groundnuts, tourism, and services. Growth has been high, over 6% since 2014, and the forecast remains optimistic, particularly with oil and gas production expected in 2022. Growth accelerated to over 7% in 2017 and is expected to remain over 6% in 2018 and the following years. All sectors supported growth in 2018, but agriculture – due to support programs, robust external demand, and large infrastructure investments in the context of Emerging Senegal Plan implementation remain key drivers. Although the country is 93% Muslim, Senegal’s first president was Catholic (Renowned poet Léopold Sédar Senghor).

On the Neil Economic scale, a can of coke cost 431.11 CFA (R 10,59) and the price of a litre petrol is 593.50 CFA (R 18,74). The inflation rate for consumer prices in Senegal moved over the past 39 years between -4.1% and 32.3%. During the observation period from 1979 to 2018, the average inflation rate was 3.9% per year. For 2018, an inflation rate of 0.5% was calculated. Overall, the price increase was 317.72 %. An item that cost 100 Franc in 1979 was so charged 417.72 Franc at the beginning of 2019.

Despite Senegal having over 20 ethnic groups speaking more than one language, the different groups have coexisted in harmony. Senegal is the only country in West Africa that wasn’t overrun by a military coup and its democratic stability has earned it many allies in Europe and the Americas. The country truly fits the Senegalese proverb “The chameleon changes colour to match the earth, the earth doesn’t change colour to match the chameleon”. Senegal has a reputation for transparency in government operations. The level of economic corruption that has damaged the development of the economies in other African states is very low. Today Senegal has a democratic political culture, being part of one of the most successful democratic transitions in Africa.

Nigeria – The Giant of Africa

“There is no country in the world with the diversity, confidence, talent and black pride like Nigeria” stated by Kenyan author, Binyavanga Wainana for Nigeria for being a stalwart of black pride and identity. The country regarded as the “Giant of Africa” has 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory known as Abuja, features over 250 different ethnic groups with many different languages. The former British colony is Africa’s most populous country with an estimated population of 202 Million (World Bank 2019) and will double in size to 400 million people by 2050. Nigeria has a diverse geography, with climates ranging from arid to humid equatorial. More spectacular, the Niger Delta (the second-largest delta on the planet), has the highest concentration of monotypic fish families in the world and is also home to sixty percent of Nigeria’s mangrove forests. The country with a name derived from Niger river which is the largest and longest river in West Africa is home to one of the Oldest Locations of Human Existence, The Nok Civilisation (dating back to 1500BC).

It is interesting to know that Nigeria has more Muslims than Saudi Arabia and has the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa with a religion composition of 52% Islam and 47% Christianity. The country is dominated by Sunni Muslims concentrated in the North whilst the South is dominated by Christians. Religion in Nigeria has also influenced some of the customs and the way of living in most of the Muslim Families as they consider the left hand to be unclean and using it to be a sign of disrespect. Those that believe this do not eat, shake hands or receive items with their left hand. Nigeria’s economy has been driven over the years by Crude oil exports as the nation is the largest producer and exporter of Crude Oil in Africa. The country is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and is a major source of U.S. imports. The region’s biggest economy (an estimated GDP of $397 Billion in 2018) and largest consumer base is reliant on oil and gas for its revenue, the economy itself is more diversified, with manufacturing, banking and insurance, retail and agriculture all major contributors. However, each of these sectors could grow faster and create more opportunities if structural problems are overcome, among them, the country’s electricity shortage, corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 150 Naira (R 5,96) and the price of a litre petrol is 138.62 Naira (R 6,30). Though Nigeria inflation rate fluctuated substantially in recent years it tended to increase through 1999 – 2018 period ending at 12.1 % in 2018 with a 4.43% decline from 2017.

Nigeria has managed to turn the entertainment industry into a major GDP contributor by transforming showbiz from an African perspective. In 2009, UNESCO reported the Nigerian film industry – also known as “Nollywood” – had overtaken Hollywood to become the world’s second-largest film industry, behind India’s Bollywood. In the following decade, output more than doubled to 2,500 films a year – and the industry is continuing to grow, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It is estimated to employ more than 1 million people and to generate more than $7 billion for the national economy, accounting for around 1.4% of Nigeria’s gross domestic product. New cinemas are opening, and box office revenue is predicted to reach $22 million by 2021.