Friday, 25 October 2013

The inexhaustible energy of one Liberian entrepreneur

Listen to the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent as Tamasin Ford reflects on how the inexhaustible energy of Liberia's young entrepreneurs is often held back by bribery - and high electricity prices.

Even with peace, it's hard to be a Liberian entrepreneur

For years, the small West African nation of Liberia was associated with violence, child soldiers, blood diamonds, 14 years of one of the world's most brutal civil wars. Now Liberia is celebrating a full decade of peace. Tamasin Ford brings us the story of one enterprising young woman there who's learning to operate in the new Liberia.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Abidjan's hidden rainforest

Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, is known for its skyscrapers, the wide sweeping lagoon and of course for footballer, Didier Drogba. But a lesser known fact is that it’s one of the only cities in the world to still have original, virgin rainforest in the middle of the city. Banco forest is a protected national park sandwiched between busy highways – packed with unique plant species, tropical birds and endangered monkeys. It’s also home of one of the oldest forestry schools in Africa. Two years after the conflict in Ivory Coast, the BBC’s Tamasin Ford went to find out what they’re doing to bring the tourists back.

Are tourists ready to come back to Ivory Coast?

It has been a year since Grand Bassam, the first capital of Ivory Coast, was made into a UNESCO World Heritage site. Full of old, French, colonial architecture, tree-lined avenues and artisanal markets - it's cited as one of the country's main tourist attractions. But are tourists ready to come back to post-conflict Ivory Coast? Two years ago post-election violence rocked the country, claiming more than 3000 lives. The BBC’s Tamasin Ford went along to find out.

Ambitious plans for Abidjan zoo

Abidjan Zoo, home to some of the most endangered species on the planet, is embarking on an ambitious project to become a centre of conservation excellence in West Africa.  

The zoo, in the heart of Ivory Coast’s economic capital, almost collapsed during the country’s recent civil conflict.  More than a quarter of the animals died of starvation. 

And many of those who survived were left severely malnourished.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports.

Friday, 13 September 2013

'Telenovelas' dominate the screens in Abidjan

They have passion, mystery, betrayal - and always some strange twist at the end.  We're talking about telenovelas; one of Latin America’s most popular exports.  In August the Spanish language network, Telemundo, launched a 24 hour telenovela channel in Africa, where the suspense-fuelled dramas are a massive hit.

In Ivory Coast, rumour has it some mosques have, in the past, changed the time of the Call to Prayer so it doesn't clash with them. But what is so intoxicating about the dramas?

The BBC’s Tamasin Ford spent an evening in Abidjan watching the country’s most popular one – ‘Sacrifice de femme’.  To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Laurent Gbagbo's son calls for peace

The son of Ivory Coast's ex-President Laurent Gbagbo has told the BBC he wants peace and reconciliation. 

Michel Gbagbo, a university lecturer, was arrested along with his father in April 2011 after disputed presidential elections sparked months of violence. 

Laurent Gbagbo is currently in The Hague facing charges of crimes against humanity. His 43-year-old son, who was freed on bail on 5th August 2013, told the BBC's Tamasin Ford the charges against his family were politically motivated.  

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The villain of Abidjan

A new villain has emerged in Ivory Coast - Delestron, a machete wielding Schwarzenegger lookalike with tiny leather pants.

Named after delestage, the French word for blackout, the cartoon
character roams social media sites
(Image courtesy of Delestron
telling people about the power cuts he's causing across Abidjan, a city that until recently rarely witnessed blackouts. The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast.

To listen to this report please click on this link.

Cervical cancer - the silent killer

More than three quarters of all cervical cancer deaths occur in the developing world – largely because of the lack of screening programmes.  But another little known fact is that HIV positive women are between four and five times more likely to get cervical cancer.  

The BBC’s Tamasin Ford went to visit a clinic for HIV+ women in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast.  

Monday, 15 July 2013

Corruption - is it ever acceptable?

The government of Ivory Coast has launched a hard-hitting campaign to crack down on corruption.  It involves billboards with the words, 'It took away my wife' and 'It killed my son' as well as dramatic adverts on state radio and TV.  They’re high quality, shot in black and white, and involve a lot of men crying…pretty emotional stuff.  But what do the public think of them?

The BBC’s Tamasin Ford spoke to a group of students in Abidjan to find out.  To listen to this report, please click on this link

Monday, 8 July 2013

Pokou Princesse Ashanti - Ivory Coast's first 3D animated film

She’s sassy, courageous and she stands up to the ‘baddies’ who rule the kingdom. Princess Pokou of Ashanti was the young princess destined to rule the Ashanti kingdom of West Africa in the 18th century. Afrikatoon, a production company in Ivory Coast, has turned the story into a 3D animation - joining the small, but growing, number of African countries to produce 3D animated films. The BBC’s Tamasin Ford went along to the film première in Abidjan, the commercial capital.
(To listen to this report please click on this link)

(Image courtesy of Afrikatoon production company)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Women speak out against female genital mutilation

Women in the north of Ivory Coast, who have spent decades illegally circumcising women, are speaking out against the practice for the first time. 

Female circumcision, often known as genital mutilation or FGM, was outlawed in Ivory Coast in 1988 but the practice is still widespread. It can lead to infertility, problems during child-birth and even death. 

Latest figures show more than a third of Ivorian women have undergone FGM. Tamasin Ford reports from Seguela in the north of Ivory Coast.  (To listen to this report, please click on this link)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

What is middle class in Ivory Coast?

Two Ivorians, considered to be middle class by the African Development Bank, tell the BBC's Tamasin Ford how they survive on between $2 (£1.30) and $20 a day.

Konan Kouassi Vercruysses, 26, runs a phone booth with his cousin. He works five-hour shifts, six days a week and attends university.
Kouadio Koffi, 29, is a security guard who shares a one-room house with his cousin. He works 12-hour night shifts, six days a week.
Click on this link to read their stories.

A woman's battle to get her land back - radio version

Women produce nearly half of the world’s food but in some countries they own as little as two per cent of the land – according to figures from the UN.  As world leaders meet in Belfast for the G8 summit, issues around land ownership are expected to be high on the agenda.  It’s thought if more women are given land and property rights, more food will be produced reducing the burden of the world’s food security.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford follows one woman’s fight to get her land back in Guinkin, in Western Ivory Coast.

To listen to this report, please click on this link.

A woman’s battle to inherit land in Ivory Coast

A woman in rural Ivory Coast has been called to a meeting under the shaded veranda of the local chief's house to defend her right to inherit her husband's property.

Barely in her forties, she sits quietly with her head down; the town chief in the small village of Guinkin, close to the Liberian border, is doing much of the talking.

Occasionally she speaks up to give her side of the story: "My name is Helene Tiro.  I lost my husband two years ago and I don't know where to go with my children," she explains, beginning to look desperate.

"My husband's brothers have sold all the farmland. I even don't know where to find food for my children."

Everyone looks at Mrs Tiro, somewhat stunned - not at what she is saying but the fact she is saying anything at all. It is unusual for a woman in these remote rural areas to have such confidence to speak out against her own family.

"Today I am looking for a way to take back my land and feed my children," Mrs Tiro finally says defiantly.

She adds that she has seven children and no access to the land she has farmed on every day since she got married more than 20 years ago.

Her husband was among the more than 3,000 people who died during the six months of violence that erupted after the 2010 presidential elections when incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down.  Mrs Tiro not only lost her husband, but her means of earning her living too

To read the rest of this story please click on this link to BBC's website.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Ivory Coast finding reconstruction easier than reconciliation

At first glance, Ivory Coast has come a long way since 2010's post-election violence. But is the progress merely an illusion?

Construction sites loom at every twist and turn of the super six-lane highways that weave around the Ébrié lagoon in the heart of Abidjan. Roads are being widened. New apartment blocks and shopping malls are joining 1970s skyscrapers on the skyline. And the final touches on a shiny new high-rise tower signal the African Development Bank's return after more than a decade.

Two years after the post-election conflict, when more than 3,000 people were killed, Ivory Coast's economy is bouncing back. With the country relieved of nearly $8bn (£5bn) in debt after reaching
(The inside of a cocoa pod.  Ivory Coast is the world's biggest exporter)

completion point of the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, investors are returning and GDP climbed to 9.8% last year.

"The recovery has been very impressive," said Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank's head of economic policy and poverty reduction in Africa, on a recent visit. "Not just economically speaking, but institutionally."

But amid the praise of the government's economic success under President Alassane Ouattara, the former deputy head of the International Monetary Fund, there are accusations of "victor's justice!, continued human rights violations and revenge attacks.

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Mobile phone data redraws bus routes in Abidjan

Could records of our mobile phone calls provide a solution to transport gridlock around the world?  Researchers at IBM have used mobile phone data to redraw the bus routes of Ivory Coast's largest city, Abidjan, in an effort to help make people's journey's easier.  But just how bad is the traffic in Abidjan?  The BBC's Tamasin Ford sent this report while sheltering from a very heavy downpour.

To listen to this report along an interview with IBM by the BBC's World Business Report, please click on this link.

Ivory Coast's economy bounces back

Two years after the end of the conflict in Ivory Coast which left more than three thousand dead, the economy is bouncing back.  Months of violence erupted when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down in the 2010 elections – but investors are now beginning to return and Ivory Coast’s economy is seeing a revival.  GDP grew by 9.8% last year.  

The BBC’s Tamasin Ford joins us live from Abidjan, the commercial capital.  To listen to this report, please click on this link (8 minutes 30 seconds in)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Ivory Coast strengthens ties with Lebanon

Ivory Coast has the biggest Lebanese community in Africa – contributing to more than 30% of its economy.  Since arriving almost a century ago, they have built up businesses in nearly every sector of the market.  The small shops, selling food and groceries that opened in the 1920s, have grown into the biggest supermarkets and malls in the country.  They own the majority of the fish and timber import and export trade…as well as much of the wholesale and distribution industry.   But with the historic visit of the Lebanese President, the economic ties between Lebanon and Ivory Coast are set to expand.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from the commercial capital, Abidjan.  To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Ivory Coast at the centre of pioneering science

Pioneering primate research, discoveries in zoonotic diseases and findings published in journals throughout the world – Ivory Coast is leading the way in science in West Africa.  It’s the home of the biggest scientific research centre in the region – the Swiss Centre for Scientific Research, CSRS.  

It began in 1951 focusing on zoology and botany…and more than 60 years later, its focus has expanded to include food security, nutrition, disease control, the environment and health.  But one thing above all, it prides itself on having African scientists at the helm of everything.

The BBC's Tamasin Ford reports from the centre on the outskirts of Abidjan in Ivory Coast. To listen to this report, please click on this link.

An African Pope?

The world’s cardinals will be gathering in the Vatican this morning to begin the process of electing a new leader of the Catholic church.   Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world last month when he voluntarily handed in his resignation – the first Pope ever to do so. The entire election process, known as a conclave, is shrouded in secrecy.  There has been much discussion on how the new Pope is going to reach the growing Catholic community in the developing world; in particular Africa…and whether an African catholic could in fact be chosen as the new leader.
The BBC's Tamasin Ford reports from Abidjan, Ivory Coast.  To listen to this report, please click on this link.

International women's day: a voice from Seguela, Ivory Coast

I am happy to be a woman. The woman can do what the man does. For example, if it happens that the man cannot pay the rent, I can do that for him because I am doing a small job. But women and men are not always treated the same way in Cote d'Ivoire. The difference is because we are not the same. Women have more sentiments than men and women suffer more than men. We women are born to suffer, so we accept the situation like that. This is the way it is in Africa.

There is violence against women because when they don't behave well, the husband can beat her. If the woman does not behave well and she is conscious that what she does is wrong, she has to apologise. Otherwise the man is right if he beats her. Yes, the man sometime talks to the woman but she may not understand. So he is sometimes obliged to beat her. To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

'Victor's justice' in Ivory Coast

A cycle of widespread human rights violations is threatening peace and reconciliation in Ivory Coast – according to the human rights organisation, Amnesty International.  Over the last six months it has documented reports of torture, executions and arbitrary arrests carried out by President Allassane Ouattara’s national army along with armed militias.  

At least 3000 people were killed in the 2010/2011 post-election violence in which former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.  Since then, Amnesty International claims President Ouattara has installed a one-sided justice system where only pro-Gbagbo supporters are being held to account - despite reports from the United Nations and other international organisations that people from BOTH sides committed atrocities. The BBC's Tamasin Ford reports from Abidjan.  To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Laurent Gbagbo faces the ICC in the Hague

Ivory Coast’s former President is at the International Criminal Court in the Hague this lunchtime for a pre-trial hearing to decide whether there is enough evidence to charge him with war crimes.  Laurent Gbagbo, the first head of state to be in ICC custody, faces four counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the 2010-2011 post-election violence.  More than 3000 people were killed during 5 months of some of the worst fighting the West African nation has ever seen.  The hearing is expected to take at least 3 days.  The BBC's Tamasin Ford reports from Duekoue in the west of Ivory Coast – a town that saw much of the violence. To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Burkina Faso reach the Africa Cup of Nations Final

The weekend began with street parties and a sheer sense of absolute optimism. Trucks and cars adorned with the Burkina Faso flag, which has quadrupled in price in the last week, trawled the streets blasting anthems praising 'Les Etallons' [The Stallions].

"I've never seen an eagle take a stallion so my Nigerian fellows better be careful," said 24-year-old Solomon Porgo as he stood among the thousands of fans clustered around one of the huge outdoor screens set up all over the capital.  To read the rest of this report, please click on this link to the BBC website.  Or if you want to listen to the report on the BBC, please click on this link.

David Cameron in Liberia

David Cameron joins President Sirleaf in Liberia on the final leg of his Africa trip.  He’s already visited Algeria and Libya where he’s been discussing counter terrorism issues.  He's here to discuss with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  what to do after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015 – the world targets set by the UN aimed at reducing poverty.  The event in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, marks one of the biggest the small West African nation has ever hosted.  
To listen to this report, please click on this link

Friday, 18 January 2013

Musicians in Mali take a stand against terror and violence

Al-Qaeda linked militants enforcing strict forms of Sharia law, now occupy the entire north of Mali around Timbuktu. The militants have destroyed historic buildings and banned all music– except the Koranic verse. Many musicians have had to flee their homes. But the artists are fighting back in their own way as Tamasin Ford reports.

To listen to this report, please click on this link to DW's website.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Solar-powered lamp-post provides ray of light for Mali

Momodou Keita, town chief of Sanogola, a small village 300km north of Bamako, Mali's capital, stands proudly beside the community's solar-powered lamp-post – a shiny, blue, enamel-coated construction of welded bicycle parts and water pipes. "Ten villages now want these lamps," he announces with pride from inside his traditional Malian mud-walled compound. "Now we have electricity and it helps us so much," he says.

Solar technology is spreading throughout countries across Africa and it is getting cheaper and more efficient. The searing rays of sunlight coupled with the lack of electricity grids on the continent make this renewable form of energy a no-brainer. But what makes Foroba Yelen, or Collective Light – the name given to the lamp-posts by the women of the area – so different is that it was designed specifically for the Malian communities who would end up using it, earning funding from the University of Barcelona for winning a special mention in the City to City Barcelona FAD (El Foment de les Arts i el Disseny/Support for Art and Design) award, a competition recognising initiatives that transform communities across the world.

Italian architect Matteo Ferroni spent three years studying villages in rural Mali, where close to 90% of the population have no access to electricity. He wanted to design a light that villagers could manufacture for themselves, so went on to study how welders in nearby Cinzana built donkey carts, the traditional mode of transport that is still widely used today. He used their expertise, along with parts that could be found in any small village in the country, and came up with a design that would "work for the people, not the manufacturers"

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

Mali tourism suffers after string of kidnappings - video

Boat tour guides, restaurant owners and traditional artisans are all suffering as Mali's tourism trade collapses. The decline began with the first wave of kidnappings a few years ago, and now foreign embassies consider the entire northern half of the country a no-go zone. Tourism was Mali's third biggest revenue generator, but now many Malians are unable to earn a living from it.

To watch this video, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

Despite censorship, Mali's musicians play on

Artists in Mali, a country torn apart by al-Qaeda linked militants accused of rape, murder and enforcing strict forms of Sharia law, say their music and culture can never be silenced.  In the historic region of Timbuctu, all music except the Koranic verse has been banned.  It means the famous ‘Festival in the desert’ which has been running for more than 10 years attracting top names like Bono and Robert Plant, can no longer take place there.

(courtesy of the artist)

But as Tamasin Ford reports from Bamako, artists are fighting back.  To listen to this report, please click on this link to the NPR's website.

Tourism in Mali fades away as instability leads to hardship

Lounging on the soft, weather-beaten cushions inside a pinasse, one of the wooden handbuilt boats with a wicker canopy that sail along the Niger river, the tourist guide Gorel Sidibe looks out at the city of Ségou. "You see this area? It's empty everywhere."

Ségou, capital of the ancient Bambara kingdom, used to be the start of the tourism trail to northern Mali. From here, tourists would sail along the wide river through the arid lands and dunes to Mopti, Gao and the historical region of Timbuktu where Sidibe would take visitors camel trekking in the desert.

Since the coup last March that split the country in two and left the north occupied by al-Qaida-linked rebels, and the kidnapping of a French citizen in November, France has enlarged the "red zone", a no-go area for its citizens that now stretches from Mali's northern borders with Mauritania and Algeria to the north shore of the Niger river in Ségou – almost three-quarters of the country.

Other foreign embassies followed suit and warn against all travel to Mali, leaving the tourism sector – Mali's third biggest revenue generator – "almost dead", according to Ousmane Ag Rhissa, the tourism minister.

In 2011 almost 200,000 tourists visited the country, each spending at least $100 (£62) a day; barely 10,000 visited last year.

"The impact is pretty severe," Rhissa said. "Since there are no more tourists coming, there is no income generation."

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.