Friday, July 30, 2010

The Importance of Play Dolls in Angola

In my previous years of living in Angola in the 90's, I came across many young Angolan children who carried around and took care of dolls very much in the same manner as children in western cultures.  It was evident that most all of the dolls that I spotted were originally sourced from North America.

In Western culture the current definition of a doll is quite narrow, a plaything for a child. Generally, most dolls in Angola, as in most all of Africa, are used by children, primarily girls, to help them envisage their future roles as adult women, mothers and the primary caregivers in their communities. Though used in play, the forms of many dolls encode important social and aesthetic concepts about appropriate demeanor and the links between physical and moral beauty. Not surprisingly, dolls in different African societies emphasize in both form and decoration, aspects of ideal feminine beauty. They include elaborate coiffures, body ornamentation and physical features that underscore the importance of fertility.

Until a few years ago, little contact had been made with the Ndimba people, who are relatives of the Mwila clans of Southern Angola. This doll was handed down to the vendor by her mother. The centre or core of Ndimba dolls is made from a solid piece of carved wood. Fabric is obtained from the doll makers actual clothing. Plastic, wire and grass fibre rings are as those worn by the owner as bangles. Beads decorate the hairdo,
which are meant to replicate the owners coiffure. The name given to the doll will become the name of the owners first born child. At the left, a young Ndimba girl holds a similar doll.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Angola Stock Market to Open in 2011

The government of Angola has announced its plans to fast-track the planned opening of its Stock Exchange. The Angolan Stock Market and Bolsa de Valores e Derivativos de Angola (BVDA) will open in 2011, the Finance minister, Carlos Alberto Lopes, announced on July 28 in Luanda.

Angola is one of the few countries in the Southern African region that still does not have its own stock market, despite the fact that the country is turning into one of the main economies of the region. The bourse is expected to boost investments in the country.

Financial analysts predict that the Angolan exchange has the potential to become the third largest in sub-Saharan Africa after the South African and Nigerian stock exchanges. Efforts to obtain a sovereign credit rating in order to access international debt markets are well under way, and should reinforce long-term stability and result in a deepening of the market.

The broad view considers Angola's estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of US84.9 billion and the capitalisation of African stock exchanges relative to GDP (an average of 42 percent). This calculation suggestes that the BVDA could have a market capitalisation of US36 billion, nearly three times the size of Kenya's well-established stock market.

A US36 billion Angolan stock market would still be dwarfed by South Africa's JSE, with its 331 listing companies and total market cap of US801 billion.  But it would not be too far behind the Nigerian market, with 195 listings and a capitalisation of US39.67 billion, as predicted by the Angolan Exchange Chief Executive Lopes Pinto.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Biting Back Against Malaria

In my December 27, 2009 blog post, I outlined the efforts made in combating malaria in Angola, the country's main medical killer; the principal cause of morbidity and mortality in the country especially among children under 5 years of age and pregnant women. Yet despite its shocking prevalence, there is a simple and effective way to begin to control the disease from spreading:  sleep under a mosquito net.

In the last decade, a massive drive has been underway throughout the whole African continent to distribute millions of free nets.  In 2005, the USA set up the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), run by USAID and Angola was selected as one of the first countries to be targeted.  Since then, the PMI has spent more than $63 million on fighting malaria in Angola, including the distribution of three million nets.

The results so far have been positive. A 2006 survey showed that usage of insecticide-treated nets in Angola increased from less than 2% in 2001 to over 18% in 2006. 

As the number of nets distributed goes up, so the number of cases malaria and deaths related to the disease is going down.  According to Filomeno Fortes, the national coordinator for the Angolan government's anti-malaria campaign, there were 3.1 million cases of malaria in the country in 2009, down from more than 3.4 million in 2008. Deaths are also down from 25,000 in 2003 to just over 7,000 in the last 12 months.

Dr. Koenraad Vanormelingen, Unicef representative in Angola, says that mosquito nets not only protect those sleeping under them, but also help reduce the number of moquitoes in the region.  "Communities with large-scale coverage of insecticide treated nets have 50% less malaria, but also 80% fewer malarial mosquitos.  So if you sleep under a net, you are actually helping to reduce the number of mosquitos in the environment." (excerpted from Sonangol Universo Magazine, June 2010 edition, Nina Hobson)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How Drinking Milk in Canada helps Angolans! Huh?!?

How a little bag can make a big difference!  A short time ago, I was introduced to an enterprising group of ladies from my hometown region in Ontario, Canada who had a desire to help Angolans and our work with CEML in Angola. This assistance is through their project to provide handmade sleepingmats made by these ladies from discarded milk bags, a prevalent waste product in the country of Canada.

This is truly an inspirational story how these ladies, school children, and others involved in the project are to be connected with Angolans in a very unique way; to provide a handmade sleepingmat to Angolans that do not have a bed or any other mat to sleep on.

Let me explain the process of this mat project.  In Canada, the dairies package milk in small one quart plastic bags, with three of these smaller quart plastic bags then contained in a thicker outer plastic bag as shown here on the left.  Where available in each Canadian region, these outer bags can be returned for collection in recycling programs, but outside of this option, it seems that most of these outer bags eventually end up in landfills.  This is definitely a 'green' project!

Through a process of word of mouth and promotion, a developed consortium of over 15 public schools, public libraries, churches in the area are encouraged to save their milk bags as a corporate project and then bring them to collection points.  It has been exciting to explain to each of these groups how they are a taking part in the project and being connected to supply a real need for Angolans.

The collected milk bags are then cut into strips, tied together and then

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Luanda: Most Expensive City

Angola's capital Luanda, topped this year's Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey as the world's most expensive city for expatriates, with Tokyo in second spot and Ndjamena, Chad, in third.

According to the report, which compare cost living in 370 cities around the world, the presence of many African cities in top spots was due to the fact that many expatriates purchase imported products at high prices, thus inflating cost of living.  Additionally, the tide of petrodollars surging into the city has created a massive property boom which has spilled over into the general economy.

"The fact that Luanda lead the top of the list may surprise some," said Lee Quane, ECA International, adding that this is because "the study includes goods and services typically purchased by expatriates, which can be very expensive in places like this, but not exceeding the local market."

Please click here to read the whole report.