Useful Links

A selection of informative, analytical and creative websites about Africa, picked by our editorial team.


Africa News – news from an Africa-wide network of reporters and citizen journalists


Voices of Africa – Comment from across the continent published by SA's Mail & Guardian

Global Voices– an all-encompassing round-up of Africa's best blogs and bloggers


Pambazuka News– an online forum and weekly newsletter on social justice in Africa


African Elections Database – a record of all past and upcoming African elections


African Union – portal for news and updates from the AU and its organs

International Crisis Group – Africa programme with weekly crisis updates

Institute of Security Studies – SA-based think-tank with briefings on politics, governance and security issues

Africa Can – Blog by World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, Shanta Devarajan


Africa Economic Outlook – economic data on 47 countries from the AfDB and OECD

The African Networka global NGO aimed at fostering technology and entrepreneurship 

African Capital Markets News - news and analysis on African stock exchanges, private equity and bond markets

Doing Business – World Bank's annual ranking of how fast things get done and where


Kwani– new writing from this Kenyan-based creative writing journal


Committee to Protect Journalists – news on journalists under pressure across Africa

Reporters Without Borders– updates on violations of African press freedom

African Scholar  – a wealth of advice for African students looking to study abroad 


New reality for the world's heavyweight financiers


The ‘philanthrocapitalism’ of rich financiers in New York and London could soon fade. Eager to put the rigours of the boardroom to work solving the world’s problems, these ‘new philanthropists’ started their own foundations and played by their own rules. Inspired by the philanthropy of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Scottish tycoon Sir Tom Hunter pledged to give £1bn to charity over his lifetime. Hedge-fund billionaire Arpad Busson founded Absolute Return for Kids to work on HIV/AIDS prevention in Southern Africa, and regularly raises upwards of £25m pounds from wealthy friends at an annual gala dinner. ?


Some just pushed their way in. One charity, started in 2002 by Irish property-developer Niall Mellon, built 11,000 homes in South African townships by flying in groups of international volunteers to do the work, but had to be told to slow down by the municipalities, which struggled to keep up building new drains and roads.?


According to a survey by the New York-based Foundation Centre, giving by 80 of the largest US foundations totalled $5.4bn in 2007, a 70% increase from 2002, with Sub-Saharan Africa receiving more than 40% of international spending. But with investments crippled, nearly half of these foundations admitted the current financial crisis would focus their minds on domestic issues. Though bruised – Busson’s investments, for example, suffered from Bernard Madoff’s ponzi-scheme fraud – the financial turmoil is unlikely to be the death-knell of the philanthrocapitalists. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation lost 20% of the value of its assets in 2008, but it still plans to increase spending from $3.3bn in 2008, to $3.8bn in 2009. 


Back to Aid in Crisis, Who is helping whom? 


Aid in Crisis: Who is helping whom?

International aid agencies are under attack – rich countries are cutting their budgets and African governments are questioning their motives 

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Finding value in land and crops


Agribiz private equityPrivate equity firms which used to stay away from anything to do with agriculture, are flocking to buy land and add value to agricultural output.


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Power: Miracle gas to generate hope


By processing methane from the ultra-deep waters of Lake Kivu, Rwanda ?may have found a revolutionary source of power for the future


In its race for economic progress, as it puts behind it the bitter memories of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda is building glitzy new offices in Kigali as international donors fund road projects across the country. But progress requires energy and energy requires a source. A novel answer to Rwanda’s energy needs has been found in the deep blue waters of Lake Kivu.


?Straddling an active volcanic fault system, Lake Kivu has a methane gas content of around 55bn cubic metres with an annual regeneration capacity of 100 MW, which is almost double Rwanda’s electrical peak load.?


Muhire Hodari, chief operating officer of the government’s Kibuye Power 1 (KP-1) pilot gas platform, is a humble young man with a big job. In a quiet voice he explains what might well be a key to his country’s development aspirations: “As a first in the world, we have now generated an initial 1.5 MW of electricity from methane gas exploitation. Our extraction technology works and we can now focus on increasing output.” The KP-1 project, managed by the infrastructure ministry, has become a showcase for the transformation of the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ and the wider region.

Hopes rise for renewed
economic integration


Shared resources could spark better
neighbourly relations. Read more. 


Rwanda’s future demand for power will grow and outstrip the current electricity peak load of 55 MW. Erik Fernstrom, energy specialist at the World Bank’s country office in Kigali, says: “There is a lot of suppressed and unserved demand. A realistic target is a peak load of at least 130 MW by 2015.”?


A new heavy-fuel-oil plant in Jabana will generate 20 MW to alleviate immediate shortages, while small hydro-electric power plants are also going up. Rukarara dam, built by Sri Lanka-based Ecopower, should start producing 9.5 MW next year, but the 27.5 MW Nyabarongo project, being built by India’s Bharat Heavy Electricals and Angelique International, will only be ready in 2012. A further planned dam at Rusumo could generate between 60-80 MW, to be split between Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.?


Fuel for the fire?


Experts see the methane as critical to serve Rwanda’s future energy needs, and the pilot project shows that Lake Kivu can both produce power and bring in the investors. Energy minister Albert Butare confirms that at least two firms have shown interest in harnessing it. ?


The Rwanda Energy Company (REC), a subsidiary of local holding company Rwanda Investment Group, is one of them. “We have set up a [separate] test plant on Lake Kivu to refine our extraction technology to not only produce electricity from the gas but to simultaneously produce fertilisers, diesel, kerosene and naphtha,” explained Ivan Twagirashema, REC’s chief operating officer.?


US-based Contour Global is also in contract negotiations with the government for the installation of four gas platforms that should eventually generate 100 MW. On the cards are a gas concession and a long-term power-purchasing agreement with Contour, whose CEO Joseph Brandt told The Africa Report of his firm’s plans to invest $75m to install capacity for 25 MW in the first two years, followed by 75 MW thereafter.?


Technical innovations?


Extracting methane from the lake poses tricky technical challenges but, with the help of Houston-based Antares, Contour has spent 18 months developing the design of the gas-gathering system. “We will have to extract the gas with sufficient pressure to separate the gas from the water,” said Brandt. “But we are both optimistic and humble… We are doing something novel.”?


Analysts say the gas reserves will do much to advance sustainable development in Rwanda and may also bring regional benefits. “The gas allows for the development of local industry, as the emergence of endeavours to bottle gas will lower the cost of fuel to the benefit of householders and small businesses,” says Estelle Levin, sustainability consultant at London-based Resource Consulting Services. ?


The government hopes the power generation will also help Rwanda to add value to primary exports. “The new energy source promises benefits to tea and coffee manufacturers and may open up major opportunities for value-addition in Rwanda’s mining sector, where the need for energy is great,” said environment and mines minister Vincent Karega. ?


The private sector is equally excited about the project. “The news that the pilot plant on Lake Kivu is successfully producing electricity is enormous,” says Bruce Stride, operations director at Kivu Resources, a company planning to build a tin smelter in Gisenyi and to use both the gas and the electricity generated from the gas to produce in excess of 2,500 tonnes per year of refined tin. Rwanda is developing its own tin mining sector, which produced 1,140 tonnes of tin ore in 2007, while tin output from neighbouring North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo has been estimated at 2,000 tonnes of ore per month. ?


A high concentration of dissolved gases in lakes constitutes a risk, as was demonstrated by the deadly carbon dioxide (CO2) outburst at Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986, which killed 1,800 people. Lake Kivu not only contains methane, but 250bn cubic metres of CO2. The KP-1 project’s Hodari says: “We have also found significant amounts of toxic hydrogen sulfide, which we currently pump back into the lake because we do not have the technology to use it for energy generation yet.” A report written for the European Community’s humanitarian office states: “Large-scale exploitation of the Lake Kivu gas, if carried out in the right way, would…by reducing the gas-saturation of the lake water…considerably enhance the safety of the region.”


Energy: The only way is up

Ghana energy
Buoyed by the promise of oil production of 120,000 barrels per day the new government has embarked on a new energy strategy

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