Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Building Blocks for a Nation

In 2010, the country of Angola imported more than 14 million tonnes of goods, of which 19% or 2 million long tonnes were of cement (2 billion kgs or 2.2 short tons).   Given that Angola is involved in a massive nation-wide infrastructure rebuilding project after almost 30 years of civil war, this importation and consumption of cement places the country with the 10 top global countries of cement consumption.  The predominant share of these cement imports arrive from neighboring Namibia and from China which is involved in many of the largest infrastructure rebuilding projects.

Angola has its own burgeoning cement production industry which is rebuilding and ramping up production with the aid of over $500 million in foreign direct investment.  An Angolan Government plan has been initiated to construct six new Angolan cement plants in the next three year to build up the national industry, reduce imports and to capitalize on the country's large natural deposits of limestone, sandstone and clay; all key ingredients for the production of cement. (compiled from Angop)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Searching for a Good Drink of Water

(VOA) A recent study from the Catholic University of Angola shows that well over 50% Angola's population lacks access to safe water and sanitation. The study was carried out by experts from the Center for Studies and Scientific Research in Angola in partnership with the Open Society Foundation. Professor Nelson Pestana Bonavena states that the study reveals that some 38-42 % of the population has an ‘access to water’ while 25-40% have access to appropriate sanitation.   These figures are supported by the Angolan government’s own figures from the 2010 IBEP Population and Well-Being Survey.

The lack of clean water for those living in the country’s poorest neighborhoods, coupled with the still-common practice of open-air defecation, means there is a high risk of diseases like cholera and typhoid, especially during the rainy season.   Experts say that Angola’s lack of clean water and poor sanitation is the main reason it is among the highest under-five mortality rate in the world and is a major driver for the recent resurgence of polio that is now spreading northward into the neighboring country of Congo.

With 1 600km of Atlantic coastline and its interior criss-crossed by the Zambezi, Congo and Okavango rivers, Angola is one of Africa's most water-endowed countries. It enjoys the most rainfall in Southern Africa and has twice as much available water per capita as Zambia or Mozambique and an estimated 10 times more than South Africa, according to the United Nations.  

Yet because of the pace of development of the potable water resources, many Angolans still lack access to ‘local and safe’ drinking water infrastructures.  When local water sources malfunction and the nearest river is too far, the only alternative for city dwellers is to buy water from private trucks which fill up at rivers and charge rather exorbitant fees. 

With global media exposure to these water access and sanitation problems, many private corporations are supplying funds to alleviate the problem.  Diageo, a global beverage company, has struck a three-year accord with WaterAid, an international charity organization, to fund a project that will provide water and sanitation to over 38,000 people in Angola. 

With new boreholes being drilled, new taps installed or existing ones repaired, and localized water treatment facilities being set up in rural areas next to rivers, a development plan is moving ahead.   Programs relying on extensive social mobilization about the importance of hand washing and water treatment are being initiated to decrease the number of cholera cases.  With these programs being initiated, the Angolan government confirms it will meet the 2015 United Nations millennium development goal for environmental sustainability and halve the number of people who don’t currently have sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. (VOA, Business Day, ReliefWeb)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lubango's 'Feast on the Hill'

Each August 15, the people of the city of Lubango stage the annual Festival Nossa Senhora do Monte (translated "Lady of the Hill").  Tied historically to Catholic religious rituals, the highlight of this annual festival is a procession where up to 10,000 pilgrims share a Catholic mass at the symbolic church of the Nossa Senhora do Monte.

The festival and church building has deep historic roots connected to the Funcal region of the island of Madeira in Portugal.  History states that in 1470 a small chapel was build on a ridge in the mountainside rising behind Funcal.  Initially called the Chapel of Our Lady of the Incarnation, it was reassigned as Our Lady of the Mount some 90 years later.

Legend states that the later name of the chapel was adopted after a great spiritual experience.  Apparently, the daughter of a local shepherd had gone to drink from a spring that emerged from the hillside near the chapel and while there an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared on the rock face. When a new church in Funchal was restored in the early 1800's after a tragic earthquake, the church was officially proclaimed the church of Nossa Senhora do Monte, the Patron Saint of Madeira.

Because of testimonies of answered prayers from the Madeira parishioners, Nossa Senhora Do Monte was and is looked up to even today with the most affectionate veneration by all Roman Catholic mariners and farmers.  She is considered a protectress in all cases of peril and many miraculous interpositions of hers, under circumstances of appalling danger are recounted seriously and devoutly believed.

It was upon these beliefs in 1901 that a group of settlers from Madeira Portugal sought the sponsorship of the erection of Our Lady of Mount west of the village of Sa da Bandeira, named Lubango today.  Having the church situated on a hillside overlooking Lubango, the settlers wanted to perfectly imitate the traditions of their homeland, being able to look up to the church from their homes and fields and contemplate their crops to bless.

While the catholic parishioners faithfully have continued the traditional mass annually on August 15 to this day, several local, Ovimbundu cultural practices were syncretized into the festival.  In earlier times, the festival included bonfires and drumming ceremonies marking the ritual of 'Ekwenje' when boys were circumcised and 'Efiko', the ritual of puberty when girls get ready for marriage.   As these local, cultural celebrations naturally faded away, the festival's celebrations have become modernized to include beauty pageants and car races.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Clearing the Land of Landmines

(ANGOP) A total of 99,980 kilometres of road have been cleared of landmines around Angola from 1996 to Q1 of 2011 as confirmed by Angola Social Welfare minister, João Baptista Kussumua. The minister was chairing the opening of the 3rd National Meeting on Demining, in representation of the Angolan head of State, José Eduardo dos Santos. 

Millions of landmines were laid in Angola during the 27 years of bitter conflict that followed independence from Portugal in 1975.  Government and Cuban forces laid extensive minefields around their bases in and around towns as well as around infrastructure such as airports, water supply stations, electrical pylons and bridges.
 Both the Government and opposing UNITA forces laid a significant number of anti-tank mines on primary, secondary and tertiary roads and to this day anti-tank mines on roads pose a far greater problem than in any other mine affected country.

The Minister also confirmed that another 3,200 kilometres of railway have been cleared of mines, including 6,016 kilometres of fiber-optic and 5,571 of electricity conveying line. In the reporting period, a total of 930,191,457 square metres have been cleared involving the clearing of a sum total of 428,274 anti-personnel landmines of which 23,384 were anti-tank mines and 2.3 million were unexploded ordnances.

Also cleared were 2.7 million kilograms of lethal material, plus 3.7 million kilograms of assorted materials. He said that despite the excellent results achieved in the process, the threat of landmines continues, putting flow of people and goods and certain areas of the national territory at permanent risk.

A British NGO, The Halo Trust, the world's oldest and largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization, has been instrumental in clearing a majority of these mines in Angola. Halo has conducted extensive surveys of the five provinces in which it operates in Angola and, as of June 2010, has confirmed 778 minefields that require clearance. (Angop, The Halo Trust)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Award for 'Clean-Up' Advertising

Angola recently won the Grand Award of the Sixth International Advertising Festival of Maputo in addition to eight other medals.  The event’s Grand Award was attributed to a piece developed by the Advertising Agency Executive Center, an Angolan company, to support an awareness campaign to clean up the garbage left on the streets of the Angolan capital, commissioned by the Provincial Government of Luanda.

The Festival promotes the work of international advertising agencies, producers and communications companies from the African and Indian Ocean regions whose creativity and originality particularly contribute to the development of the African advertising market.

In this integrated advertising work, the agency Executive Center draws attention to the need to combat the garbage in the streets of Luanda, with educational messages to appeal to the problem, which had great impact on the international jury of the festival, which was unanimous in handing over the award to Angola.

The Sixth International Advertising Festival of Maputo reported this year the participation of 28 agencies from several countries, including Mozambique, the host country, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mauritius, France, Portugal, Seychelles, breaking the record of presented work in this annual competition.

According to the team of judges, chaired by the Mozambican creative José Ricardo, Cabaço who works in the United States as Global Brand Director of Nike’s Worldwide Communication,“the competition was tough because the standards were high”. (TAAG Austral Magazine)