Friday, May 28, 2010

Interesting Angola Foods - Mopane Worms. Yum!

Mopane worm is the colloquial name for the caterpillar form of the mopane emperor moth. Widely distributed throughout the Cunene River region of southern Angola, the caterpillars feed on the leaves of the mopane tree and are popular with people as a food item.

Angolans living in the rural areas in the southern region like to eat these worms because they are highly nutritious and are a good source of protein. Mopane worms are often hand-picked by children and women and when it is picked, it is pinched at the tail end to rupture the inwards. The picker then squeezes it like a tube of toothpaste or lengthwise like a concertina, and whips it to expel the slimy, green contents of the gut.

The traditional method of preserving these worms is to dry them in the sun or smoke them, giving additional flavour. The industrial method is to can these caterpillars (usually in brine), and tins of mopane worms can be found in rural supermarkets and markets around southern Africa.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting Connected!

In 2001, Africa became the first continent where the number of mobile subscribers exceed fixed line users.  With almost 280 million customers, Africa is now the fastest-growing market in the world.  Analysts estimated that by 2010, a third of Africans will own a mobile phone.  This trend is definitely bearing out in Angola, where it is calculated that there are as many mobile phones in the country as adults!

In all the areas of infrastructure rebuilding, the telecommunications / mobile phone industry has been one of the success stories.  Since the licencing of mobile phone operators in 2000, the market has boomed to add some 8 million subscribers.  Mobile phone usage has experienced this amazing growth because of the real need; the ending of the three-decade war left a precarious traditional communications infrastructure with only about 200,000 working landlines. 

More than just a technical toy, mobile phones are so important in the developing world in fact, that they have been hailed as one of the best ways to improve livelihoods.  A study by the London Business School concluded that an increase in mobile phone penetration by 10% leads to an increase in GDP by 0.6%.  If this can be applied to Angola's burgeoning economy, this will be a welcome boost.

Mobile phone are now being used in Angola in very ingenious ways.  For example, in the very isolated, rural southern areas of Angola, the mobile phone is being used as an important weapon in the war against the spread of the HIV infection.  It is common for a phone's young owner in these areas to recieve a text message that reads, "Life is stronger that AIDS. Get an HIV test!" 

This campaign, initiated by the INLS (Angolan National Institute for the Fight Against Aids), realizes that text messages are great way to raise awareness, combat the stigma against the disease and provide information on the treatment since text messages are direct and personal, yet do not infringe on people's privacy.

In another unique usage of mobile phone telecommunications, last year during the general election, Angolan phone users could text their voter registration number to a central number, which would send back a text informing them of the nearest polling station.  This potentially saved many days of travel from isolated areas on many unimproved roads.  (Info Adapted from Sonangol Universo Magazine)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wings of Love over Angola

In my first ministry postings to Angola, from 1993 to 2000, I served as a pilot and manager with Mission Aviation Fellowship. Even in spite of the challenges of the war conditions, this was an exciting time to serve in Angola in a vital capacity of providing an 'air bridge' with the airplane to many isolated ministry workers. Please see a video below of my first ministry. Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

A World Class Physician Serving in Angola

The CEML Hospital Medical Director, Dr. Steve Foster, just received a distinguished award from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.  This award, given in evaluation by a consortium of honored physician-peers in Canada, exemplifies one of the highest honors of  the North American medical field.

The Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award, acknowledges and celebrates Canadian physicians who, while providing health care or emergency medical services, go beyond the accepted norms of routine practice, which may include exposure to personal risk. The recipient's actions exemplify altruism and integrity, courage and perseverance in the alleviation of human suffering.

Below is the Award biography story of Dr. Foster:

Stephen Foster, MD, FRCSC, has devoted his life to improving health care in Angola.
Even when armoured plates had to be installed under his car, the 2010 Royal College Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award winner continued providing high-quality medical treatment in a country ravaged by more than 27 years of civil war.

“Despite the apparent dangers, I’ve had more fun here than I would have had anywhere else,” Dr. Foster said. “The average general surgeon in Canada does five or six different types of operations. I do more than 100 procedures, 1,400 times in any given year.”

Dr. Foster, 60, was born in Brantford, Ont., but spent most his childhood living in Zambia, where his father, Robert Foster, MD, worked as a missionary surgeon. In 1971, the young student had just completed his second year of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., when he decided to spend the summer working at a central Angola clinic.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rebuilding Angola's Roads

All African nations, Angola included, heavily rely on road transportation to move goods and people from one location to the other. Unfortunately the roads are limited in capacity, are poorly maintained, or in Angola's case been decimated by the war.

In 1994, Angola's usable road network totalled some 75,000 km (45,000 miles), but by the end of the civil war in 2002 little of the paved network remained outside the main cities. The war meant that much freight was transported by air, as road haulage was risky and limited, isolating most settlements in the interior. Since 2002 efforts to clear an estimated 7m landmines and rebuild roads and bridges have reopened most of the main arteries.

Considering that a large percentage of Angola's population live in rural areas, the resulting impact of no road travel means that in the remote areas infrastructures of every other kind scarcely exist and those that exist barely function. Until recently due to the war, there were few accessible roads in rural Angola and these few are poor, dirt and unpaved or hampered by the insecurity of land mines.

The role played by infrastructures in the economy of a rebuilding nation like Angola cannot be overemphasized especially its effect on sustainable development, foreign direct investment flow, GDP growth, inflation reduction, job creation, trade, agriculture, delivery of goods and services, lowering cost of business, improving health and standard of living and poverty reduction. Therefore, efficient and effective provision of infrastructure in a nation underlines all attempts to reduce poverty.

In April 2007 the Angolan government announced plans to rehabilitate and expand Angola's road network with loans from China and the European financial institutions. An initial US$2bn phase of works will build 5,300 km of roads by the end of 2008, rising to 14,000 km, and with 120 new bridges, by the end of 2011.

China itself has granted Angola a US$211 million loan to finance the first stage of a project to rebuild roads destroyed in the civil war; starting with a 300km stretch between the capital Luanda and the northern agricultural and mining province of Uige. The project will be carried out by the private Chinese company Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) over the next two years. (Info adapted from Economist Intelligence Unit: Angola)

Monday, May 3, 2010

African Folklore: Why the Giraffe and the Oxpecker are Good Friends

After God created the earth, when all the animals lived together peacefully, a huge bushfire swept through the land, started by a bolt of lightning. The tinder dry grass burst into flames and the strong winds that are common before the rainy season, quickly spread a wall of flames from horizon to horizon. Unable to do anything to put it out, the animals fled in panic before the deadly flames.

A pair of oxpeckers had made their nest in a hole in a tree trunk and had just hatched out their chicks, but the tree stood in the path of the advancing flames. The oxpeckers pleaded with the passing animals to help them rescue their little chicks, but they took no notice as they ran from the deadly flames.

Just when the desperate oxpeckers were about to give up hope, the kind giraffe came along and seeing the