The best of the M&G’s Africa coverage in 2019



The Mail & Guardian prides itself on in-depth, first-hand reporting on and from the African continent. This is a selection of the best stories published in the newspaper’s Africa section this year, in no particular order

Ghana Must Go: The ugly history of Africa’s most famous bag

In 1983, Nigeria expelled two million undocumented West African migrants, half of whom were from Ghana. The sturdy, chequered bags into which they packed their belongings have become a symbol of exclusion and intolerance. Nearly four decades later, the region is yet to confront its emotional baggage.

Dancing to the beat of the 419: How internet scams are funding Nigeria’s pop scene

Would-be Afrobeats stars need cash to make it in Nigeria’s music industry — and cybercriminals have plenty to burn. The partnership has generated some of the country’s biggest hits, and put famous names behind bars.

He was hijacked by pirates — and then mistaken for one

The Gulf of Guinea, off the West African coastline, is probably the world’s most dangerous sea route. No one knows this better than second officer Boris Oyebanji who, over the course of two weeks, was hijacked and kidnapped by pirates — and then accused of being a pirate himself. This is his story.

Somalia’s enduring love affair with Bollywood

Amitabh Bachchan probably doesn’t know it, but he is big in Somalia. So big that he even has his own Somali nickname. The M&G reports from Mogadishu on how Bollywood became an integral part of Somali culture — and how, over the decades, and everything Somalia has been through, it has remained so.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 1924-2019: A tragedy in three acts

Mugabe was, from the very beginning, an enigma: a jumble of contradictions that somehow fuelled rather than felled him. He was the Anglophile who hated Britain; the freedom fighter who denied basic rights to his people; the pan-African visionary turned archetypal African dictator; the teacher who refused to learn from his mistakes. He was charming, and he was cruel. He was loved, and then he was hated.

Despatch from Beira: ‘I have to choose between starvation or dying of disease’

Ten days after Cyclone Idai struck the coast of central Mozambique, plates of prawns were selling in Beira’s top restaurant for nearly $100. Outside the restaurant, men and women whose lives have been devastated by the natural disaster are desperately fishing individual grains of rice from the flood waters.

The villages in Malawi that prepared for the floods — and survived

In the heavy rains that preceded Cyclone Idai, a broad swathe of southern Malawi was submerged by flood waters. At least 60 people have died, and tens of thousands were made homeless. But things could have been much, much worse. Understanding how affected communities took steps to protect themselves, sometimes long before the waters rose, is key to understanding how to mitigate the effects of extreme weather events in the future.

How Big Data — and lessons from Obama — swung Senegal’s presidential election

Oumar Ba, a Senegalese data scientist, worked on both of Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaigns. Then he took what he had learned back home, painstakingly creating a top-secret data collection and analysis unit that formed the backbone of President Macky Sall’s re-election bid.

Living in the midst of revolution: A homage to Khartoum

In 2019, the residents of Sudan’s capital witnessed a revolution, a counter-revolution, joyous celebrations, brutal massacres and the fall of a dictator. This is what it feels like to live through the most turbulent year in Sudan’s recent history.

The Nigerian king who cursed the sex traffickers

Edo State is Nigeria’s capital of human trafficking, and local authorities are seemingly powerless to protect vulnerable women and girls. Enter His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II, the ruler of the ancient Kingdom of Benin, who — like the traffickers — plays by a different set of rules.

Central African Republic: The parable of the 11 stolen motorcycles

Before the end of this story, 11 motorcycles will have been stolen — but justice, of a sort, will somehow prevail, thanks to the stubbornness of one man who refuses to lower his standards, even as the world around him crumbles.

LISTEN: Bobi Wine, live in concert

This is the concert that Yoweri Museveni does not want Ugandans to hear. Recorded live at the Johannesburg City Hall, this podcast explores what the president is so scared of. This is a teaser episode for Continental Drift, a new podcast series that will be released by the M&G in 2020.

This is a teaser episode for Continental Drift: The African Politics Podcast, which will be released by the M&G next year.

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