Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ivory Coast tackles music piracy

Ivory Coast is home to some of the most well-known musicians in the Francophone world – Magic System, Alpha Blondy and Meiway – but because of piracy, artists see a fraction of the money. It’s estimated more than 80% of it is lost to bootlegged CDs and illegal downloads. But in a unique project, the first of its kind in West Africa, the Ivorian government is clamping down on the illicit industry. The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from Abidjan.  To watch this TV report, please Ivory Coast click on this link to the BBC's website.

P-Square rock Abidjan

Nigerian twin brothers P-Square, Ivorian Zouglou band Magic System and a slightly grumpy Malian legend, Salif Keita rocked Abidjan's national stadium for the opening night of the MASA festival.  

After years of conflict, the country had become a place deemed too dangerous for top artists to perform and the historic event fizzled out after an attempt at hosting a peace festival in 2007.  

But with the arrival of peace alongside a stable government – the MASA is back – 7 days of music, stand-up comedy, dance, story-telling and theatre.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford was at the national football stadium in Abidjan for the launch.
To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Zouglou band, Magic System

Peter and Paul, from P-Square
Malian legend, Salif Keita

A feast of female singers in Abidjan

Abidjan was treated to a feast of female singers from around the continent last night – in celebration of International Women’s day today.  

With this year’s theme as ‘inspiring change’, the concert was about showcasing women artists and fostering new talent.  

It was the penultimate night of the MASA festival, a week long extravaganza of music, stand-up comedy, dance, story-telling and theatre.  It has returned to Ivory Coast after a seven year hiatus during the civil conflict.   

The BBC’s Tamasin Ford was there.  To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

'Singing what they want' - reggae in Ivory Coast

The politically charged reggae music of Ivory Coast has been exported all over the globe…producing stars like Tiken Jah Fakoly and Alpha Blondy. Abidjan, along with Kingston and London, is seen as one of the top reggae capitals of the world. 

The music played a big role during the country's decade of instability and conflict – with artists using their songs to criticise politicians and call for peace. 

Nearly three years on from the most recent civil crisis, where more than three thousand people were killed, the BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports on how the music has taken a new turn since peace arrived in the country.

Or if you want to listen to the French version, click here (from 11 minutes in)

Ivory Coast joins the African gold rush – but it's no quick fix for the economy

From the sky, Ivory Coast looks like a patchwork quilt, with fields of varying shapes and shades of green and brown woven together. In the 60s and 70s, the country's economy was built on agriculture and it became the world's biggest producer of cocoa, as well as Africa's leading exporter of rubber and cashew nuts.

When peace finally arrived in 2011, after more than a decade of conflict, President Alassane Ouattara's new government pledged to unlock the economy, not only by increasing trade with the non-francophone world, but by expanding it to sectors other than agriculture. 

"We are really open to all the world," the prime minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan, said last month at the start of the country's first investment forum since the 2009 coup that split Ivory Coast into a rebel-controlled north and a government-controlled south. "We are now normal … and we want the rest of the world here," he said.

Ivory Coast's historical reliance on agriculture has meant that it holds untapped potential for mining companies, with sources of manganese, iron ore, nickel, bauxite and, crucially, gold.

The country lies along the Brimian Greenstone Belt, a 2bn-year-old rock formation stretching from Senegal to Ghana, with some of the richest gold deposits in the world. It is thought that there is more gold under Ivorian soil than in neighbouring Ghana, currently Africa's leading producer of the precious metal after South Africa.

"There is a future for gold mining," said the newly appointed minister of industry and mines, Jean-Claude Brou, adding that the prospects looked "very, very good". Brou took up the post in November as the new ministry was formed, in a sign of the government's ambition to expand the industry.

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

In search of Madagascar's 'rosewood mafia'

My search for the famed bois de rose - something I had only ever seen in pictures - begins in a beautiful old cafe in Antananarivo - the capital.

I am waiting for a Malagasy blogger I had met on Twitter.

"We cannot sit here," he tells me when he arrives.

"This restaurant was bought in cash… with bois de rose mafia money," he says, looking behind and around him as he speaks, worried someone may overhear him. This is my first introduction to bois de rose - just mention the name and it is clear it elicits fear.

The city has changed dramatically since my last visit more than five years ago. Skips, overflowing with rank, rain-sodden waste, fester next to street lamps that rarely turn on - the uncollected muck seeping into the cavernous potholes that were a rarity before the military coup in 2009.

I take a plane to Antalaha along the coast on the north-east of the island - near the Atsinanana rainforests - a Unesco World Heritage site.  I check into a hotel and within minutes I see a hefty, dark red table with legs the size of tree trunks standing before me - incredible claret-coloured streaks run through its centre.

Is this bois de rose, I ask the hotel owner?

He looks nervous, says "Yes", but clarifies it was made before the numerous laws banning the use and exportation of the wood came into force more than 10 years ago. I look around the hotel. Everything, it seems, is made from bois de rose - the tables, chairs, wooden beams, knick-knacks on every shelf.

I pick up a bowler hat, also made from bois de rose. "That is not mine," he says. "Someone came here yesterday trying to sell it."

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the BBC's website.
If you want to listen to my BBC's From Our Own Correspondent report, please click on this link.
If you want to listen the BBC Radio 4 World Tonight report, please click on this link.

Ivory Coast hopes for a golden future

A major investment conference is under way in Ivory Coast, as the government tries to attract foreign money after years of civil war and instability.  

Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa producer, but the country is trying to diversify the economy.  

It is opening up the mining sector to extract a wealth of untapped mineral deposits beneath the soil, in particular gold.  

The BBC's Tamasin Ford reports from the Tongon gold mine in the north of the country. To watch this TV report which was broadcast on the BBC World's Africa Business Report, please click on this link to the BBC's website.