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Thousands rally against I. Coast president
June 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Abidjan (AFP) – Between 3,000 and 5,000 people demonstrated in Abidjan on Saturday against Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, the sole declared candidate for an October presidential vote, police and organisers said.

“Free (Laurent) Gbagbo,” chanted participants in a rally organised by the Ivorian opposition coalition, referring to the West African country’s former president.

[caption id="attachment_18795" align="alignleft" width="300"]People attend the first rally of the opposition National Coalition for Change on June 20, 2015 in the Yopougon district of Abidjan, with a sign reading "Gbagbo yesterday, today, tomorrow, for ever", refering to former president Laurent Gbagbo (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou) People attend the first rally of the opposition National Coalition for Change on June 20, 2015 in the Yopougon district of Abidjan, with a sign reading “Gbagbo yesterday, today, tomorrow, for ever”, refering to former president Laurent Gbagbo (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)[/caption]

After a period of conflict sparked by Gbagbo’s refusal to accept electoral defeat in 2010, he was arrested in April 2011 and extradited later that year to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Gbagbo faces trial before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. “This gathering is not yet enough to make Ouattara feel afraid,” said Mamadou Koulibaly, ex-president of the National Assembly under Gbagbo and founder of the National Coalition for Change (NCN).

Established on May 15, the NCN gathers some 20 Ivorian politicians including ex-prime minister Charles Konan Banny.

“We are the new Ivory Coast,” Banny said, calling on anti-Ouattara activists to “go sign up on electoral lists.”

“In five years, Alassane Ouattara has done nothing,” said the NCN’s Bertin Konan Kouadio, a member of Ivory Coast’s parliament.

While Ouattara’s economic and social policies have been lauded by the international community, he has made little progress in driving reconciliation after thousands died in the conflict.

However, experts say the fragmented NCN would have little chance of defeating Ouattara at the polls.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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JUMIA introduces the Mobile Week – The biggest mobile sale ever in Côte d’Ivoire
May 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Seven international mobile brands and the leading ecommerce platform rally to create a unique event for e-shoppers who will see mobile prices drop to 47% jumiaciIn just a few days from now, JUMIA  will rock Côte d’Ivoire with the biggest mobile phones sale ever done in the country. From June 1st to June 7th, thousands of mobile phones from seven of the most appreciated brands will be available for a grab at incredible rates on JUMIA.CI. Excitement is building up in the country ahead of the mega sale JUMIA  will hold on the first week of June. Billboards, TV and radio announcements are already creating the intrigue. For the first time in Côte d’Ivoire, 7 international mobile brands and the leading ecommerce platform rally to create a unique event for e-shoppers who will see mobile prices drop to 47%. 7 brands 7 days The Mobile Week is set to be launched simultaneously in all the countries where JUMIA operates with astounding deals on mobile phones during a whole week. The concept is rather simple: one day, one brand. So throughout seven days, shoppers will see devices of seven brands listed at “shocking” prices. The promotion will start on June 1st with the impressive Innjoo mobile phones and tablets.Then will follow Microsoft on Tuesday 2nd, Itel on Wednesday 3rd, LG on Thursday 4th, Infinix on Friday 5th, Samsung on Saturday 6th and finally, Xtigi on Sunday, June 7th. All phones come with one MTN SIM Card and a monthly data plan of 250MB; free for 3 months. A unique event Much more than the very successful “BlackFriday”and”12.12″ launched last year, the Mobile Week is a unique event because of its duration. 7 days during which shoppers can finally buy their dream phone, replace their old ones or ultimately, offer a phone to that very special someone. The mobile week: more than a commercial stunt The Mobile Week is the result of five months of negotiations launched last January by JUMIA. Much more than a massive commercial operation, the Mobile Week holds a socio-economic dimension by offering thousands of smartphones at highly affordable prices. By this action, JUMIA, MTN and the 7 partnering brands intend to support the government’s efforts to fight against high prices while promoting mobile penetration and universal access to Internet. According to the Ministry of Post and Information and Communication Technologies, the internet via smartphones is a major opportunity for bridging the digital gap and its adoption is already contributing to reduce it. In 2012, the internet penetration rate in the country was less than 1%. At the end of 2014, that rate rocketed to 20% with 97.63% of internet subscribers using mobile technology, mainly smartphones. Also, early data for 2015 indicate that the number of subscribers to a 3G mobile Internet access has jumped again to reach 7 million subscribers, thus nearly 32% of the population. This is a great tendency which can sustainably affect GDP growth as revealed by a McKinsey study stating that every 10% of broadband penetration drives GDP up by 1.1 to 1.1 points. An overview of Côte d’Ivoire’s mobile market 150529jThe mobile market in Côte d’Ivoire grew between 2012 and 2013 from 18.1 million to 19.3 million SIM cards and then reached 22.271 million in 2014, corresponding to a 6.8% growth while, mobile penetration persisted to grow to 97.5% of the population (ARTCI) . The rise is largely due to the development of multi-SIM cards, the multiplicity of offers, and the reduction of communication fares and device prices. Key facts: •          Number of network operators: 6 (5 active) •          Industry growth: + 4.5% (2013-2014) •          Number of subscribers: 22.271 million •          Number of mobile money accounts: 6.2 million •          Industry’s turnover: 993 Billion XOF in 2014 •          Direct jobs created: over 3 300 •          Indirect jobs created: 150 000 •          Investments: 119.45 billion XOF end of 2014 •          Part of the industry in GDP: over 7% *APO]]>

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Dynamic US-Africa Partnership Lauded at African Day Celebrations in Washington,DC.
May 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Rev Jackson and Ambassador Teitelbaum in a group photo with African Ambassadors in Washington,DC. Rev Jackson and Ambassador Teitelbaum in a group photo with African Ambassadors in Washington,DC.[/caption] In celebrations to mark the 2015 African Day  in Washington, DC,  dynamic ties between the USA –Africa hailed by the Ambassador of Egypt Mohamed Tawfik. Speaking as co-Chair of the celebrations organized by the African Ambassador’s group, the Egyptian Envoy cited the last US-Africa’s Leaders’ Summit and the support that Africa continues to receive from the US in multiple forms. “The celebration is about Africa’s success”, said Ambassador Tawfik as he enumerated a litany of positive developments taking place in the continent. Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world he said, with life expectancy ticking up, and more children in school than at any other time. The continent is increasingly taking charge of its own security challenges and Egypt will be hosting a historic summit soon geared towards the creation of a broader Pan African free trade zone ,said Tawfik. In addition to Women serving as Presidents, and in parliament, Tawfik also cited the example of AU Chair Dlamini Zuma to highlight the progress made by women in the continent. Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs delivered the keynote speech in which he highlighted the important role women have always played in the history of Africa. [caption id="attachment_18381" align="alignright" width="586"]Rev Jackson poses with members of the Ivorian dance troupe that animated the celebration Rev Jackson poses with members of the Ivorian dance troupe that animated the celebration[/caption] Celebrated under the theme “Women Empowerment & Development towards Achieving Africa Agenda 2063”, Ambassador Teitelbaum saluted the strides that have been made by the African Union and African countries. Africa’s biggest resource is its people Ambassador Teitelbaum and no country can get ahead if half of its population is left behind. Africa represents a growing a growing market and just this year alone, there have been some 316 million new cell phone subscribers reported ,Teitelbaum said. Programs like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, have been helpful in alleviating the health plight of women and children, said. Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana of Rwanda who heads the African Ambassadors Group in Washington, DC, also spoke on the importance of placing women at the center of development. With Maureen Umeh of Fox TV as MC, the celebration had as special Guest the Rev Jesse Jackson ,Founder and President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.  Other guests from the African American Community included Melvin Foote from the Constituency for Africa, and Denise Rolark Barnes, Publisher of the Washington Informer. Sponsored by Chevron, Coca Cola, and Exxon Mobile, guests were treated to an art exhibition and entertainment performance of folk dances from Egypt, Rwanda and Ivory Coast.      ]]>

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Ivory Coast opposition picks presidential candidate
May 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

Head of the Ivorian Popular Front opposition party Pascal Affi N'guessan delivers a speech on May 21, 2015 in Abidjan (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou) Head of the Ivorian Popular Front opposition party Pascal Affi N’guessan delivers a speech on May 21, 2015 in Abidjan (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)[/caption]

Abidjan (AFP) – Ivory Coast’s main opposition, the Ivorian Popular Front of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, on Friday chose party chief Pascal Affi N’Guessan as its candidate in presidential elections in October.

“Today, duty calls me. I can’t evade it which is why I say yes, I agree to be the candidate of the Ivorian Popular Front for the October 2015 presidential election,” N’Guessan told a congress gathering of the deeply divided party.

N’Guessan, who won a standing ovation for several minutes, will be up against President Alassane Ouattara in the vote.

“My first duty is to continue the fight for Laurent Gbagbo to find freedom” but “also to give hope to Ivory Coast,” N’Guessan said, visibly moved.

Gbagbo, Ivorian president from 2000 to 2011, is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara after elections in 2010 sparked a bloody five-month standoff in which the UN estimates about 3,000 people died.

Held in The Hague since his transfer to the ICC’s detention unit in late 2011, Gbagbo will go on trial in November for his alleged role in the violence.

The selection of N’Guessan comes amid a serious crisis in the Ivorian Popular Front that is threatening its unity.

One side backs N’Guessan as presidential candidate, but the other objects to this and wants the release of Gbagbo before agreeing to any elections.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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M.I.A. says video with Ivory Coast dancer blocked
May 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

New York (AFP) – The hip-hop star M.I.A., no stranger to controversy, says her new video featuring a dancer from the Ivory Coast has been blocked due to concerns over “cultural appropriation.”

[caption id="attachment_18286" align="alignleft" width="300"]The hip-hop star M.I.A., no stranger to controversy, says her new video featuring a dancer from the Ivory Coast has been blocked due to concerns over "cultural appropriation" (AFP Photo/Karl Walter) The hip-hop star M.I.A., no stranger to controversy, says her new video featuring a dancer from the Ivory Coast has been blocked due to concerns over “cultural appropriation” (AFP Photo/Karl Walter)[/caption]

In a series of messages on Twitter, M.I.A. said that unspecified forces had prevented her from releasing the video. Her label did not comment.

“I wanna talk about cultural appropriation! I’ve been told I can’t put out a video because it’s shot in Africa,” she tweeted Monday.

M.I.A. said that she shot the video in the Ivory Coast after spending two years to find the dancer whom she described as “the best in the wide world.”

“If the music industry allows an African artist to come through this year on (an) international level, I would gladly give him this video for free,” she continued.

The London-born daughter of a Tamil Tiger activist, M.I.A. has long been outspoken on the plight of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority among other issues.

M.I.A.’s debut album in 2005, “Arular,” won critical acclaim for bringing a punk edge, developing-world politics and reggaeton into contemporary dance music.

The video for “Sunflowers,” a song off the album which explores the use of violence, was banned on MTV.

M.I.A., who later moved to New York, in 2012 took up the cause of Saudi women fighting for the right to drive with her video for “Bad Girls,” shot in Morocco.

After a quiet 2014, M.I.A. released a song, “Can See Can Do,” in March and hinted at more music to come. It was unclear for which song her latest video was shot.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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West African leaders to discuss presidential term limits
May 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Participants attend the 44th ECOWAS Summit at Felix Houphouet Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon Participants attend the 44th ECOWAS Summit at Felix Houphouet Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon[/caption]

ACCRA (Reuters) – West African leaders are due to discuss a proposal aimed at limiting presidential mandates to two terms at a regional summit on Tuesday, officials said.

The talks by members of West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc come as several long-standing African presidents are approaching legal term limits. Attempts to change the law, or circumvent it, have sparked unrest in Burundi and Burkina Faso.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the top United Nations official in West Africa, told Reuters that countries in the region without term limits would be encouraged to introduce them.

Togo and Gambia do not have term limits.

Another official with direct knowledge of the talks said leaders would be asked to commit to protecting clauses on term limits from any broader revisions of constitutions.

ECOWAS can suspend members who do not comply with regional measures.


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Ivory Coast bans skin whitening creams
May 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Abidjan (AFP) – Ivory Coast has banned skin whitening creams, which are widely used in west Africa, because of fears they cause lasting damage to health, the health ministry said Wednesday.

“Cosmetic lightening and hygiene creams… that de-pigment the skin… are now forbidden,” the ministry said in a statement.

[caption id="attachment_17929" align="alignleft" width="300"]Two men walk under a giant advertisement for skin-lightening products in Abidjan on May 2, 2015 (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou) Two men walk under a giant advertisement for skin-lightening products in Abidjan on May 2, 2015 (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)[/caption]

The ban affects whitening creams and lotions containing mercury and its derivatives, cortisone, vitamin A or more than two percent hydroquinine, a lightening agent that is used to develop photographs.

“The number of people with side effects caused by these medicines is really high,” said Christian Doudouko, a member of Ivory Coast’s pharmaceutical authority, warning that they could cause skin cancer.

Lightening products can also lead to hypertension and diabetes, said Elidje Ekra, a dermatologist at the Treichville university hospital in Abidjan.

Whitening creams have been popular for years among young African women, who see them as a way to make themselves more attractive.

The use of the creams is believed to be even more widespread in Nigeria.

Although there are no official figures of how many women use such products across Africa, billboards advertising the potentially deadly creams can be seen in cities across the continent.

“In our cultures, some people think women with light skin are the most beautiful. This beauty standard… pushes many girls to depigment their skin,” Ekra said.

“What we see in the media is the lighter one’s skin is, the better one’s life,” he added, referring to advertisements that fill the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s biggest city, showing models with lighter-than-average skin.

While the craze is most widespread among women, some men use the creams too, Ekra said.

The creams are also extremely popular in many countries in Asia, including India, Pakistan and Japan, as well as in the Middle East.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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BRVM Investment Days: West Africa’s financial centre meets the London Stock Exchange
April 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

The regional stock exchange for the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union has chosen the London Stock Exchange as the venue for the second round of “BRVM Investment Days” brvmThe Bourse régionale des valeurs mobilières (BRVM)  is to hold a high-level meeting at the London Stock Exchange on 28 April 2015. The conference, which will be attended, amongst others, by Ms Nialé Kaba, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Economy and Finance, will provide an opportunity to present the financial centre of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) to international, and especially British, investors. The London Stock Exchange is Europe’s premier financial centre. “Following the success of the BRVM Investment Days in Paris in October 2014 , the British capital was the natural choice for the second round. The London Stock Exchange is developing cooperation with African finance and constitutes a real springboard for growth for the BRVM,” explains Gabriel Fal, Chairman of the BRVM’s Board of Directors. With market capitalisation having doubled in three years – standing at 7458 billion CFA francs (around USD 13.8 billion) on 31 December 2014 – and transaction volumes growing constantly, the BRVM is becoming a destination of choice for many international investors, eager to diversify their asset portfolio while simultaneously contributing to the development of African economies. “Along with Johannesburg, Lagos, Casablanca and Nairobi, our regional exchange embodies this new frontier of finance that offers safe investments with high returns,” says Edoh Kossi Amenounve, CEO of the BRVM. After a record 2013, which saw the BRVM 10 and BRVM Composite indices swell by 33.85% and 39.28% respectively, that growth was consolidated in 2014, as the BRVM 10 rose by 8.60% and the BRVM Composite by 11.23%. With two new entrants in recent months (Bank of Africa Senegal in December 2014 and Total Senegal in February 2015), the BRVM now has 39 listed companies. The last company to be floated on the exchange had been Bank of Africa Côte d’Ivoire back in April 2010. “If we add to that our inclusion in the S&P and MSCI international indices, we can see that the BRVM is now moving in a direction that is beneficial for everyone. The region’s companies are raising finance, while investors are increasing the value of savings in the UEMOA zone. Lastly, more and more citizens are becoming shareholders, which is the best way for our people to take ownership of our growth drivers and means of production,” says Edoh Kossi Amenounve. “To speed up this process, the BRVM has to attract international investors in search of emerging or pioneering financial centres. That is how we are going to deepen the market and increase its liquidity. To this end, the BRVM has brought itself into line with international standards: our market is monitored and regulated, and what is more, it is offering returns that you can’t find in the North at present,” explains Gabriel Fal. The role of the banking and finance sector in accelerating African growth, technological innovation and telecommunications as a driver of development, the rise of the middle class and the changing retail sector, and private and sovereign debt in the face of infrastructure financing challenges will be the main topics addressed at this second round of “BRVM Investment Days”. Top executives from several BRVM-listed companies (BMCE Bank, a shareholder in Bank of Africa, Ecobank, Orange, a shareholder in Sonatel, Total Senegal, Palmci, SAPH, and CFAO, a shareholder in CFAO Motors Côte d’Ivoire) will be taking part in this second round of “BRVM Investment Days”. Launched on 16 September 1998, the Bourse régionale des valeurs mobilières (BRVM) ( is a regional stock exchange for the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA): Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. It is headquartered in Abidjan. The BRVM comprises 39 listed companies, the three biggest stocks being Sonatel, Ecobank and Solibra. The BRVM also offers extensive bond market activity (both private and sovereign). Since 1998, more than 280 transactions have been completed, raising 3887.1 billion CFA francs (USD 7.2 billion): 644,054 billion CFA francs (USD 1.2 billion) in capital transactions and 3243.55 billion CFA francs (USD 6 billion) in bond issues *APO/BRVM]]>

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Reggae legend Blondy swaps beats for books in Ivory Coast
April 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Joris Fioriti*

Abidjan (AFP) – His voice is warm, his reading poised. Adored by reggae fans everywhere, Ivorian superstar Alpha Blondy has now become a storyteller on his own radio station.

[caption id="attachment_17491" align="alignleft" width="300"]Ivorian reggae legend, Alpha Blondy, pictured during an interview at his radio station Alpha Blondy FM, in Abidjan (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou) Ivorian reggae legend, Alpha Blondy, pictured during an interview at his radio station Alpha Blondy FM, in Abidjan (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)[/caption]

Born Seydou Kone, the 62-year-old musician and activist in March launched Radio Livre — a nightly programme whose name in French means “book radio”.

Long committed to social change, Alpha Blondy wants to inspire young people to learn to love books.

“At least those who don’t know how to read know how to listen. This is our goal: to encourage young people to read,” said Ivory Coast’s best-known musician and its former UN ambassador for peace.

“If we can kill two birds with one stone — entertain them while we educate them — then we’re doing something useful,” he added.

The radio station is located on the top floor of a small shopping arcade that Blondy himself is building near his own colourful home.

“I’ve always loved to read,” said Blondy.

He had not yet finished primary school when he read the 1933 Andre Malraux novel “Man’s Fate”, set in China and which tells a complex story of revolt, betrayal and free will.

“I didn’t understand any of it, but I liked it,” said the artist, who has sold millions of records in his more than three-decade career.

– Storytelling to taxi drivers –

Every evening, listeners tune in to hear Blondy read from “The Alchemist” by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, “Allah is Not Obliged” by fellow Ivorian Ahmadou Kourouma, or “Houseboy” by Cameroonian Ferdinand Oyono.

For upcoming programmes on Alpha Blondy FM, the singer has already pre-recorded readings of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s globally acclaimed “Things Fall Apart” and “The African Child” by Guinean Camara Laye.

Radio Livre kicks off every evening at 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) and runs for two hours. For the first hour, listeners hear reruns from the previous night; then Blondy picks up where he left off.

2b7d56b7b29763a47e82685e3d64e53443aabc0cEvery six to eight minutes, a song — often a Blondy classic — breaks up the narration.

The radio also broadcasts other shows, playing hip hop and Latin music.

Alpha Blondy FM, which is fully financed by the artist, will soon be playing a show for children.

But for now, Radio Livre is the only programme featuring Blondy himself, whose best-known songs include the call for peace “Jerusalem”, “Jah Glory” which denounces poverty, and “Apartheid is Nazism”.

Programme director Serge Allegbe is a big fan of the storytelling shows.

“They’ve made me love reading again,” said Allegbe, who spends hours editing the programmes that are often recorded in the early morning at the reggae star’s home.

“I had read ‘Allah is Not Obliged’ a long time ago. It made me remember the horrific Liberia war,” he said, adding that the storytelling programme is especially popular among taxi drivers.

In Plateau, Abidjan’s administrative and business hub, a group of drivers wait for customers at a taxi stand under the hot sun.

[caption id="attachment_17494" align="alignleft" width="300"]The Alpha Blondy FM radio station is located on the top floor of a small shopping arcade in Abidjan (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou) The Alpha Blondy FM radio station is located on the top floor of a small shopping arcade in Abidjan (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)[/caption]

“Many drivers listen to the programme,” said Souleymane Gramboute, 30, who helps manage the taxi rank.

“When the time comes, some passengers ask me to tune into Radio Livre,” smiles Sebastian Kouadio, sweating from the heat and intense humidity as he waits by his orange cab.

“I like it a lot,” he says, but then admits he doesn’t give the readings his full attention.

“When I’m at the wheel, it’s the bill that interests me.”

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Man City's Yaya Toure considering Ivory Coast retirement
March 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

_81988906_yayaivory2apManchester City’s Yaya Toure says he will decide about his international future with the Ivory Coast this week.

Toure captained his country to a first Africa Cup of Nations triumph since 1992 in Equatorial Guinea this year.

And the 31-year-old midfielder suggested he may now follow brother Kolo into international retirement .

“I think now my target is done,” Toure told BBC’s Sportsworld programme. “I want to wait a couple of days for what I will decide for my future.”

Toure was speaking in Ivory Coast’s largest port city Abidjan, where the African champions have just played two celebratory friendly matches – a 2-0 win over Uganda and a 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea.

The games were designed to honour the team’s achievement in winning the Nations Cup and also allow defender Kolo Toure and goalkeeper Boubacar Barry to say their final farewells following their retirement from internationals.

And it may be that Toure, who has just collected the Golden Lion award for Africa’s best player for the fourth year running, will be the latest to call time on his Ivory Coast career.

After making his international debut in 2004, Toure has gone on to win 95 caps for his country, scoring 19 goals. In 2014 he took over the captain’s armband when striker Didier Drogba.

He has played in six Nations Cup tournaments, suffering defeat in the final in 2006 and 2012, and appeared in three World Cups.

But after 11 years on the international scene, Toure has hinted he may step aside for the new generation.

“The time for the youngsters will come soon and we need to let them go on alone,” he said.

And with only two years left to run on his contract with his English Premier League side, Toure is understood to be weighing up whether now is the time to focus solely on his club.

*Source BBC

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Ivory Coast ruling party picks Ouattara as candidate for October poll
March 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara attends a news conference at the Elysee palace in Paris, December 4, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara attends a news conference at the Elysee palace in Paris, December 4, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer[/caption]

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s ruling party on Sunday chose incumbent president Alassane Ouattara as expected to be its candidate for this year’s presidential election.

The world’s top cocoa producer and West Africa’s economic powerhouse will go to the polls in October in an election Ouattara is tipped to win.

Some 20,000 members of the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) who packed the Treichville sports complex in downtown Abidjan were asked by the party’s interim Secretary-General to raise their hands if they agreed to give Ouattara a second mandate.

Ouattara was chosen by acclamation. “We have unanimously agreed therefore that Alassane Ouattara is our only candidate,” Amadou Soumahoro announced to the cheering crowd.

Since taking office in 2011 after a disputed 2010 vote and a brief civil war, the 73-year-old Ouattara has been credited with fostering an economic renaissance in the former French colony.

Ouattara’s main coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI) led by former president Henri Konan Bedie, last month backed his bid for a second term.

Meanwhile, the conviction of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo’s allies for their role in the violence that followed the 2010 election has deepened a rift within the opposition Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), which has still to choose its candidate for the election

*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>

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Battle of the Skies; it's dog-eat-dog out there, but some African airlines have raised their game
February 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Samantha Spooner* [caption id="attachment_16742" align="alignleft" width="300"]Ethiopian Airlines flies to the most destinations in Africa Ethiopian Airlines flies to the most destinations in Africa[/caption] TURKISH airlines has announced that as of March 3, 2015, they will start flying to Abuja, Nigeria.  With already 13 African destinations under its belt, the airline is well on its way to achieve their Africa “breakthrough” that they’ve been striving for. They aren’t the first. A huge, and rising, demand for air transport in Africa has seen international airlines flock to the continent’s airspace as between 2010-2015 passenger numbers and freight traffic grew by 45% and 80%, respectively.  In fact Africa has been the third fastest growing region in the world in terms of international traffic with an average growth rate of 6.1% compared to the global average of 5.8%. Growth which is attributed to robust economic and population growth, increasing urbanisation, and the emergence of the middle class. However, African airlines are not enjoying their share of the pie in 2014 airlines netted a profit of approximately $19.9 billion worldwide in 2014, but the share of Africa’s carriers was only about $100m. Even in terms of traffic within Africa, the small local airlines are losing out to a growing inequality in the skies where airline groups are squeezing local them into a tiny space. Only 32% of African airlines are flying to more than 10 African destinations. The Gulf players When exploring data on the top ten airline groups (by % value share) in the world, in 2011 the highest number of African destinations were targeted by the European airlines – Air France (31), Brussels Airlines (20), British Airways (15), KLM (14) and Lufthansa (12). The same airlines also targeted the most countries, most notably 27 in the case of Air France and 18 for Brussels Airlines. Today other groups, such as the Gulf carriers, are also looking to broaden their horizons and their physical base gives them a high advantage:  Within eight hours the Gulf airlines can cover most of the globe with the exception of Australia and the US, and this has seen them set their sights on Africa. Dubai-based Emirates is one of the leading airlines used to fly in and out of the continent. It currently flies to 24 destinations across Africa. Only four of Africa’s 35 airlines can claim to beat that regional reach. Qatar Airways is another Middle-Eastern airline that has a long reach with 21 destinations, and they’re not just targeting the tourism hotspots or major cities. Among Qatar airway’s destinations are Djibouti and Eritrea – the battle for African airspace is truly on. Testing times The impact on local air power is evident; with 24 African countries having carriers, it means more than half of the continent does not, and the number of people directly employed by African airlines is low, at about 90,500. This despite the fact that the aviation industry itself contributes to eight million jobs, and delivers an estimated $80.5 billion contribution to the African economy. To address the increasing hurdles, in 2013 leaders from the African airlines industry came together for a summit in Mombasa, Kenya under the theme “Challenging times – Africa’s strategic alignment”. Competition was a major theme at the summit – for example, local carriers have lost a considerable amount of talent to Middle East carriers. But the predominant issue is the high cost of operations which makes the African airlines less competitive. These high costs are driven by excessive airport taxes (taxes particularly for intra-African flights are sometimes higher than the actual fare for the flight), poor infrastructure, and jet fuel prices that are much higher than the world average. In fact, fuel costs in Africa represent about 30% of total airlines operating costs compared to 15-16% some 4 years ago. Kenya Airways tax manager Beatrice Njagi cited a 16% Value Added Tax on ticket sales and spare parts imports, as a major impediment to growth. Furthermore there is a 2.25% import declaration fee charged on jet fuel into Kenya. These additional costs are evident in the airline’s ability to compete alongside international airlines. When comparing the costs of a flight from Nairobi to London, there were 10 cheaper options than offered by Kenya Airways’s cheapest offer, even though this was in partnership with Air France and KLM. The cheapest offer by an airline, Brussels Airlines in this case, was about $350 less than the fare given by Kenya Airways. The impact of these high costs is evident. In the case of Ethiopian Airlines, which flies to 43 countries, it is the airline that lands in the most destinations in Africa and today is one of the fastest growing companies in the industry. This was bolstered with the abolishing of a stabilisation fund levy and excise tax on jet fuel which, on average, decreased the operating cost of international passenger services by about 5.5% for flights to and from Ethiopia, and brought economic benefits of about $62.5 million to air travellers.

 When blessings are a curse 
With a growing middle class and increasing inter-African business, it could be assumed that African airlines would take advantage of a demographic right on their doorstep. But for African nations in North Africa, having a client-base on your doorstep also presents a news set of issues. For example, Morocco and the EU signed an open skies agreement in late 2006, allowing market forces to determine the development of air services. This meant that Royal Air Maroc suffered tough competition from low cost carriers eager to exploit profitable routes between Western Europe and Morocco. In fact to improve their chances of development, local airlines are jumping on board the alliance bandwagon. When interviewed, Chriz Diaz, the marketing director for Kenya Airways said that “it is impossible for an airline, even a network one, to reach all destinations thus there is an advantage in merging networks through alliances. In an alliance an airline is able to offer more city-pair that would be difficult if it were alone. An example is KQ taking advantage of the SkyTeam alliance to connect passengers from Africa to North America, and vice versa where Delta and KLM can support KQ with passengers into Africa.”  This means the African airline can also benefit from expertise and a larger fleet, “Kenya Airways have invested in a new fleet and in fact have the youngest fleet in Africa connecting Africa to the world through the Sky team alliance”, said Chris. Going international Investing in a new and modern fleet that is fuel efficient, reliable and requires limited maintenance resources and time provides the African airline with great leverage. Some of these airlines are even starting to become major players in international destinations – a few even flying to more international than continental ones! For example, EgyptAir flies to 43 international destinations, South African airlines flies to 32 and Tunisia flies to 17. There is a downside though. At times a partner airline continues flying to that route independently of the alliance, adding to competition. For the major African airlines that have managed to secure these alliances, the future is more hopeful. For the others, they can survive but it largely depends on the traffic they will focus on, whether they’re looking at targeting tourists, diaspora travel or business. For now, however, plagued by a lack of capital, limited frequency and network, low application of IT, use of ageing fleet, lack of training, inadequate operating capital, lack of commercial agreements or partners and management instability, many are looking at a situation where, unable to compete in the cut-throat contest, they may eventually have to close up shop. *Source mgafrica]]>

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