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Scribes Take A Look Back At 2013
12/31/2013 3:18:34 PM

Edson Chagas, Golden Lion award winner from Angola

(GIN) Taking a breather from the coverage of wars, political shenanigans, and climate change, journalists from around the continent gave thought to some of their favorite stories of the year, some familiar to Americans, many not.

The BBC picked the story of Africa's "extraordinary success" at the Venice Biennale, also called the "Olympics of the art world".

Out of 88 contenders, Angola won the Golden Lion award for the best national participation. "This year is amazing," commented Raphael Chikukwa, curator of the Zimbabwe pavilion, "because in the last Venice Biennale we were two African countries - South Africa and Zimbabwe - and now we've been joined by Ivory Coast, Angola and Kenya. The visibility of African countries this year has increased." 

Others featured at the show this spring were J.D. 'Okhai' Ojeikere, 83, one of Africa's best known photographers. For decades he has been documenting women's hairstyles in Nigeria.

Kenya's Africa Review highlighted the new ranking of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) becoming fourth among 100 top African universities.

UDSM comes behind the University of South Africa, University of Cape Town and University of Stellenbosch, all of South Africa, according to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities.

"With the assistance of the government, we have managed to add more lecture theatres and other necessary academic requirements that have led to performance improving significantly in recent years," UDSM Vice-Chancellor Rwekaza Mukandala said. "We have raised the bar in terms of the quality of research and lecturers. This has contributed immensely to the university"s improved ranking."

Africa's new millionaires and billionaires caught the eye of much of African media. In a piece titled 'Who are Kenya's wealthiest?", the African Review cited Vimal Shah and Naushad Merali who made it to this year's Forbes list of Africa's richest. Shah, 53, the chief executive of edible oil firm Bidco Oil Refinery, along with his brother and father, were ranked 18th with a net worth of $1.6 billion.

Some of Bidco's products are popular bar soaps which are distributed in 14 countries across Africa, bringing in revenue of over $500 million, according to Forbes.

Mr Merali, 62, made his fortune of $430 million from investments in agriculture, tire manufacturing, construction and finance. He was ranked 48th this year, a drop from last year.

For the third year running, Nigeria's Aliko Dangote was named Africa's richest man with a fortune of $20.8 billion. Globally he is ranked 43rd. The youngest billionaire on this year's list, at 38, was Tanzanian Mohammed Dewji with a net worth of $500 million from real estate, diversified interests and inherited money. 

The oldest is self-made Moroccan billionaire Miloud Chaabi, 84, worth is $1.9 billion.

Two women were on this year's list - Angola's Isabel dos Santos and Nigeria's Folorunsho Alakija, 62, with assets totaling $3.5 billion and $2.5 billion respectively.

Despite becoming an important player on the international stage, Africa is still poorly understood by the rest of the world, observed columnist Lee Mwiti in Kenya's Africa Review.

"It's not all the media's fault," he notes. "Until recently there has been little data about the continent, but with the advent of the popular 'Africa Rising' narrative, there has been a scramble by everyone from multilateral lenders to eager 'Pan-Africanist' students writing up their theses to beef up available statistics.

Still, he cautions, "it should still be a while before we start hearing of the Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau and Eritrea as disparate countries, given how sexy 'Africa' and 'Swahili' sounds especially to those ubiquitous western tourists."

"But we will wait, patiently. We do have the Chinese to keep us company though."

Finally, Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey, in a year-end sum-up, posted this on Facebook:

"2014 has dawned in a mix of fireworks, natural disasters, wars and twisted politics. Will the year see us digging deeper into the holes of crises or will peoples around the world rise up and declare a collective NO to predatory politics? A collective NO to climate crimes? A collective NO to extractivist impunity over the planet and peoples?

"Whatever your answer, welcome to a fiery New Year."

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