Africa’s First Underwater Hotel

It gives the phrase ‘sleeping with the fishes’ a whole new meaning.

An unusual new room has officially opened as part of Africa’s first underwater hotel has opened for business.

The three floor little piece of luxury is situated 820ft from the little-known island of Pemba, off the mainland of Tanzania and Zanzibar and the room can only be reached by going down a step ladder.

The bedroom windows look directly into the ocean giving the sense of an underwater theatre

The bedroom windows look directly into the ocean giving the sense of an underwater theatre

Guests can have their own window on the Indian Ocean at the Manta Resort, and wave hello to divers

Located 13ft below the sea, the unique hideaway is not for the claustrophobic.

The top floor is the balcony, perfect for star gazing at night and soaking some rays during the day. The middle floor is where the dining room is, but offers guests the chance to relax and enjoy the sunset.

The newly opened ‘Manta Underwater Room’ – 13 feet (four metres) under the India Ocean – allows travellers to observe shoals of fish drifting past during the day, watch squid and octopus at night, and perhaps even spot rarer underwater creatures lurking in the coral which is developing around the base of the room and its anchoring lines.

The idyllic room costs £960 ($1,500) a night.

You may find it hard to get some shut eye, as the fabulous sea creatures might leave you amazed andintrigued

You may find it hard to get some shut eye, as the fabulous sea creatures might leave you amazed and intrigued

It’s not the world’s first underwater room, although it may be one of the most remote: The Manta Resort is situated on an idyllic island beach on the northern most point of one of East Africa’s finest island sanctuaries.

With a population of 300,000 in total, the island has a very low level of tourism despite white coral sand and clear waters.

Guests of the Manta Underwater Room sleep in a glass-walled underwater chamber surrounded only by the sea while, above sea level, two additional levels are provided for leisure and recreation.

The roof doubles as a sunbathing terrace during the day and a stargazing spot at night, and without any light pollution means would-be astronomers can enjoy exceptional night-time views.

The Underwater Manta Room can only be reached by boat and is situated 820ft from the little-known island of Pemba, off the mainland of Tanzania and Zanzibar

The Underwater Manta Room can only be reached by boat and is situated 820ft from the little-known island of Pemba, off the mainland of Tanzania and Zanzibar

The landing deck includes a lounge and bathroom, accessed by ladder.

A small group of Swedish and Tanzanian  investors made the underwater room on Pemba possible, and it is now owned by Genberg Art UW Limited.

The company says the idea of the underwater room was based on probably the first of its kind, also designed by Mikael Genberg, a Swedish artist and public speaker, which opened in 2000 in Lake Mälaren in Västerås, near Stockholm.

Called the Utter Inn, the single room of the hotel lies three metres below the surface of the lake and proved an instant hit. (Genberg is no stranger to creating unusual public spaces for people to stay, having also created the Woodpecker Hotel, where guests can look across the city of Västerås from 13 metres up an old oak tree.)

Staying at the underwater hotel would make for a somewhat interesting game of 'I spy'...

Staying at the underwater hotel would make for a somewhat interesting game of ‘I spy’…

The special underwater hotel is located off the island of Pemba, which can be reached easily by boat for further exploring

The special underwater hotel is located off the island of Pemba, which can be reached easily by boat for further exploring

Sub-aquatic tourism is of growing interest in the specialist hotel sector: The Jules Undersea Lodge off Key Largo, Florida, features three underwater rooms, while the Maldives also has a number of underwater ventures.

Last year Dubai’s space-age underwater project, the Water Discus hotel, designed by company Deep Ocean Technology was announced and there are more in the pipeline.

For now, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Genberg Underwater Hotels Company as it is planning to launch similar rooms around the world.

Watch this (underwater) space.

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Gold, cocoa and… vegetables? Surprise ingredient of Ghana’s growing economy Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT) January 30, 2015

Healthy vegetables, healthy economy 00:57

Story highlights

  • Ghana’s economy has traditionally relied on gold and cocoa
  • In 2007, major oil discoveries raised economic expectations
  • Lately, the government has been pushing for more vegetable production to help boost growth

Each week, Africa View explores the trends, figures and initiatives shaping Africa. From education and energy to technology and innovation, it showcases topics and influential sectors driving countries on the continent.

(CNN)From leading the fight against colonial rule in Africa to triumphing in major sporting events, Ghanaians have a lot to feel proud of their country. This is after all one of Africa’s major economic powerhouses and a country with a rich history that is consistently held up as a successful example of democracy in the continent.

Despite its relatively small size and population, Ghana boasts today one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, driven mainly by its substantial natural riches and strong agricultural production.

Previously known as the Gold Coast (because of the vast quantities of the precious metal found there), Ghana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1957, becoming the first sub-Saharan nation to break the chains of colonialism.

Since then, it has navigated stormy periods of army rule and political uncertainty to emerge in recent decades as a vibrant democracy that has enjoyed several peaceful transitions of power.

Over the last six years, Ghana’s economy has grown each year by an average of 6%, hitting a record-breaking 15% in 2011. Growth declined in the following years, but in 2015 economists expect the country to post strong growth of around 8%.

Unsurprisingly, the west African country has traditionally relied heavily on exporting precious metals and minerals, including aluminum, diamonds and, of course, gold — Ghana is the continent’s biggest gold producer, following South Africa.

Another economic driver and big source of income is oil. Since he the discovery of the Jubilee field off the coast of Ghana in 2007, there have been 23 new oil and gas finds. In 2012, oil earned the country $3 billion, while reserves are estimated at around 2 billion barrels.

Besides oil and gold, agriculture is a major pillar of Ghana’s economy. The sector makes up around 20% of the country’s GDP but, more importantly, provides employment for more than 60% of its total workforce.

At the heart of this is cocoa. Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer, following the Ivory Coast, with the commodity being the country’s third export product, below oil and gold.

Yet, lately the Ghanaian government has stepped up its efforts to diversify the economy, pushing for more vegetable production to help boost growth.

Last year, the country exported more than 42,000 tonnes of vegetables, up nearly four times compared to 2009.

Currently, the vegetable industry pumps almost $3 million into the country annually, but with continued investment in local farms and crops that figure is expected to jump to more than$25 million each year.


Official name: Republic of Ghana

Form of government: Unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house

Capital: Accra

Freedom House status: Free

Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index: 27

The Real Zimbabwe Clean Safe Educated but poor

The world’s least livable city on earth’, I read before coming here, ‘The worst city on earth’. There were expat surveys, surveys by The Economist, and at some point surveys that ‘leniently’ depicted Harare as the 4th worst city on earth, not the worst, in 2012.

I am used to working in war zones and in the most hopeless and dangerous slums. I am used to the cities of the sub-Continent, of DR Congo, of Haiti. I survived many Western outposts all over the world, officially glorified but collapsed urban centers like Jakarta, Nairobi, Kampala, Djibouti, Phnom Penh, and Cairo.

I was not afraid of ‘horrible’ Harare. But I was not convinced by reports coming from the West. That’s why I decided to return to Zimbabwe. Once again, I would use my own eyes and ears and my own brain, challenging the official propaganda coming from London and Washington.

* * *

Downtown Harare, worst city on earth?

Harare International Airport is simple but modern. The staff appears to be unmotivated and slow, but they are friendly and in possession of great sense of humor. There is no tension and there are no insults, no power games, as at Nairobi airport, or in Phnom Penh. No throwing passport to your face and no finger printing and photographing, as is done at all third world airports that are known for sending intelligence to the West; from Bangkok to Nairobi.

After I purchase my visa on arrival, immigration officers can’t find change. I have to wait for five minutes. While I am waiting, we chat about the Kenyan elections.

Soon after, I am driven through green and quiet streets, some carrying fairly interesting names like Benghazi and Julius Nyerere, towards Harare’s modern and elegant city center.

Right from the beginning, something just does not feel right. The worst city on earth: I search for sandbags and gunners like in New Delhi or Mumbai, for gangs roaming the streets like in Colon in Panama, for the garbage-clogged rivers and horrid pollution of Jakarta or Alexandria. I see nothing like that here; no appalling slums and no burning fires, real or metaphoric.

There are a few beggars on the sidewalks, but fewer than there are in New York or Paris. The pavement is often broken, uneven, even potholed, but it is nothing compared to Kampala.

And then, as I am slowly approaching my hotel in the center of the city, it strikes me that, at least through the window of a car, Harare could be described as a beautiful city! Of course, it is not as stunning as Cape Town, it is on a much smaller scale, but in a very modest way it is very attractive.

I pinch myself. I blink few times, quickly. I ask my driver to slap my face, but he refuses.

“Why, sir?” he appears bewildered.

“But…” I mumble. “Harare appears to be a very nice place.”

“It is”, replies driver.

“But…” I continue to wonder, “It is supposed to be the most terrible town on earth.”

“Who says?”

“The newspapers in the West… The reports, surveys…”

“Oh”, the driver smiled. “Then we should slap their faces, not yours. For lying, you know…”

* * *

Harare from the mountains

I suggest this: let’s not talk about the President and about the past and political present of the country. Let me just take you for a long walk through Harare, so you can get to know the city described by our propagandists as the worst, absolutely the worst, in the world. And let me throw a few images into the bargain.

Just stay by my side and let’s walk, for several days, searching for the truth.

But before we stroll, let’s listen to some voices from the UK and the US – those that are manufacturing public opinion all over the world.

On September 7, 2011, iAfrica reported:

A top research group on Thursday rated Zimbabwe’s capital as the worst of 140 world cities in which to live. The British-based Economist Intelligence Unit said its researchers excluded cities in Libya, Iraq and other war zones. Harare, where power and water outages occur daily, scored a 38 percent “livability rating,” the group said.

The group said the threat of civil unrest and the availability of public health care and public transport in Harare were intolerable. Energy and water supplies were undesirable, it said, calling phones and Internet services uncomfortable…

In 2009 the BBC claimed that Zimbabwe’s women had an average life expectancy of 34 years and that men on average did not live past 37. That information was duplicated by countless websites.

Other BBC reports were republished word by word by thousands of news and reference outlets, including Wikipedia:

The health system has more or less collapsed. By the end of November 2008, three of Zimbabwe’s four major hospitals had shut down, along with the Zimbabwe Medical School, and the fourth major hospital had two wards and no operating theatres working. Due to hyperinflation, those hospitals still open are not able to obtain basic drugs and medicines.

Predictably, the official propaganda news agency of the UK threw in colorful words like ‘genocide’ and ‘tragedy’, and selected quotes from several medics who blamed the situation on the Zimbabwean government.

Not one glimpse of diversity, no arguments from ‘the other side’.

Not even a word about what the majority of those in the Southern part of Africa believe, or even what some members of the Western establishment have recently confirmed.

According to African Globe [November 17, 2012]:

The United States government has, for the first time, admitted that the illegal sanctions it imposed destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy and were hurting ordinary people.

Incoming US Ambassador to Zimbabwe David Bruce Wharton made the admission yesterday at a media roundtable discussion in Harare and pledged to work with authorities in Zimbabwe and the US to normalize relations.

The admission comes after the World Diamond Council said it was also engaging the US government and the European Union to lift sanctions they imposed on Marange diamonds, despite Zimbabwe having received the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme nod to export the gems.

But I promised: no politics… Let’s just walk and see.

* * *

The ‘Trauma Centre & Hospital Harare’ is in a quiet part of the city and it could easily qualify as one of the most elegant medical facilities I have seen elsewhere in the world. It is stylish, full of artwork, and at the same time high-tech and immaculately clean.

I greet two representatives working at the reception area. One of them is Ana – a young, sophisticated lady who came to Zimbabwe from Serbia.

“I came here to see whether Harare has any operation theatres”, I mumble, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “You see, there are some reports that say that the capital shut down all of its hospitals, or at least all its operation theatres.”

‘Now it’s out’, I thought, expecting blows. Instead I receive big and welcoming smile.

“Would you like some water, of coffee? We can show you around. Before you came, there was already one film crew that was investigating the same issue.”

I am taken to a high-tech emergency room, equipped with the latest technology. Then I am asked to take off my shoes, and to change my clothes. Next thing I realize, I am wearing a white coat and being taken through a sterilization room to two operation theatres that look more like the interior of a space ship. Surgery rooms are not the places where I would normally choose to spend my evenings, but these are damn beautiful surgery rooms! And, above all, despite what they say in London, they actually do exist!

“Let me take one photo of you, standing next to the operation theatre, so they don’t say in England or the US that the images are pirated from some medical journal”, Ana says laughing.

“We have specialized Laminar flow theatres used for Key Hole surgery, and Orthopedics…” I keep taking notes. I have no clue what is she talking about, but what I see looks definitely impressive. Ana continues: “Thoracic and Vascular Surgeons are available at the Hospital. We have neurosurgeons on call…”

After the tour I am invited to drink coffee with Dr Vivek Solanki, owner of the hospital.

“I should not be speaking about the competition”, he smiles, “but in Harare we have plenty of operational hospitals, with decent to excellent operation theatres. It is all propaganda, about the medical care in this country. Of course, there was a very short and tough period around 2008, but it did not last long.”

I ask doctor Solanki whether this super modern and efficient hospital is only for the richest of the rich.

“I have introduced a new concept here”, he explains, passionately. “Of course this is a private hospital, but we are determined to serve the Zimbabwean people. So, in contrast to what happens in the US, here, when the ambulance, taxi or the relatives bring a patient to us, a patient who needs emergency treatment… no matter how complicated the case is, we treat the patient, regardless whether he or she has money or insurance. We never ask, and never check whether he or she can pay. We stabilize the patient first, and only after he or she is out of danger, the choice is given: if he or she chooses to pay, we keep the patient. If not, we transfer him or her to a state hospital, and charge nothing for saving their life. We also treat babies under 6 months, as well as elderly over 70, for free.”

“We lose money”, whispers Ana, expressing outrage, half-jokingly. “But he owns the place, and there is nothing we can do about it.”

“I became a doctor thanks to the President”, volunteers Doctor Solanki. “The education in this country is free. I am Zimbabwean, a third generation Indian. I received help when I needed it. Now I have to give back to my country. I build hospitals. I am a doctor. I know how to cure people, save lives. That’s what I have to do.”

In the car, as I am driving towards the city center, I receive a text message from Nairobi: “Life expectancy in Zimbabwe for women is 34 and for men it is 37 – incorrect. Even according to the CIA Factbook 2012, the life expectancy at birth in Zimbabwe was 51.82 est., higher than South Africa, where it stands at 49.41 est.”.

“It is all because of AIDS”, sights my driver. “That nosedived our life expectancy. But you know, things are getting much better here, lately, and everyone who is honest would tell you that, no matter what they think about the President. For instance, we get all that anti-retroviral treatment for free here. We also get free condoms, as well as plenty of information from the government.”

“They also get help from China”, I am told later, by one of the UN staffers working in Harare. “China provides doctors and free medicine. It helped this country a lot.”

Your correspondent in the ‘big operation theatre’ at Harare Trauma Centre.

Suffering from Western sanctions, the Zimbabwean economy collapsed. Since then it has been undergoing slow but steady recovery.

I am sorry, again; we said ‘no politics’. We said ‘let’s just go for a walk’. So here is my arm. Let’s resume our slowly stroll through the city.

Right next to my hotel is the entrance to a magnificent swimming complex, Les Brown Municipal Pool. I don’t know whether it is public or not, and I forgot to ask, but it appears to be. Right next to it are Harare Gardens, a beautiful English-style park with people resting on the grass, enjoying picnics, reading.

To have such public and ‘open’ areas like parks is unthinkable in Jakarta, where there is only one public green area of substantial size, MONAS. And Jakarta is a monster with 12 million inhabitants, while Harare has a population of only two million. Two million that are enjoying several magnificent parks and gardens, wide sidewalks and art exhibited in public areas, all over the city.

But let’s not forget – Harare is a ‘defiant’ nation, a country that refuses to fall on its knees and to salute its tormentors. While Jakarta and Phnom Penh are the capitals of two market fundamentalist countries. They are choking on their own fumes, they have almost nothing that could be defined as public left, but in the eyes of Western regime, they can’t be as bad as Harare, Caracas, Havana or Beijing! They are enjoying great immunity from uncomfortable questions; as well as full, hearty support from business-religion publications like The Economist.

There are also almost no public spaces in other African capitals that have been serving as Western client states for year and decades, like Kampala, Kigali, Addis Ababa and Cairo, although, in the latter, at least, people are able to gather on the city’s bridges.

But Harare, we are told, is the worst city on earth!

There seems to be no crime in the city, and there are no disagreements about this. Black Zimbabweans and White Zimbabweans, foreign experts, cops and doctors – I spoke to all those groups – they all say that Harare is one of the safest cities on African continent. In Nairobi or Tegucigalpa, in Port-au-Prince, you cannot walk down the street because of fear of violent crime. The level of danger for Indian women in New Delhi and other cities of the Sub-Continent is almost as high as it is in war zones.

But it is Harare – one of the safest cities in sub-Saharan Africa – that is depicted as the ‘least livable’ city on earth.

I look around and I notice that the people lying on the grass, or, at least, many of them, are reading newspapers and magazines. Why do they do it? First of all, because they are literate; because this is the most literate nation on the entire continent, from Suez to the Cape of Good Hope. According to All Africa from 14 July 2010:

Zimbabwe has been ranked as the country with the highest literacy rate in Africa taking over from Tunisia, the latest UNDP Statistical Digest shows. Tunisia has held pole position for years with Zimbabwe second best and number one in Sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe’s literacy level currently stands at 92 percent, up from 85 percent while Tunisia remains on 87 percent.

“It shows how literate, how educated is Zimbabwe”, I am told by a senior UN official working for the UNEP in Nairobi, who for obvious reasons does not want to be identified. “When you work with Zimbabweans, things get done. Things are working there. It is real tragedy that so many top professionals had to leave for South Africa during the crises. Zimbabwe is a victim of defamation campaign conducted by Western media outlets. The same could be said about President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.”

* * *

Harare National Library at sunset

Could it be that things are not so bad in Harare? There are several decent hospitals, preventive medical care, the highest literacy rate, some of the lowest crime rates on the continent, and public spaces all around.

Of course there are recurring electric blackouts in Harare, but not more frequent than in Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Jakarta, Dhaka, Colombo, to mention just a few places. Water supply desires to be better, but it could be hardly defined as a tragedy as it definitely is in Indonesia, Sub-Continent and most of Africa. Government is short of cash, and it has serious problems with garbage collection and recycling. But despite that, Harare still looks very clean by Africa standards and more at par with much wealthier Kuala Lumpur than with the cities like Manila or Surabaya.

Not influenced by horrible reports coming from the UK and the US, left to my own impartial judgment, I could easily believe that this is one of the most livable towns in the Southern Hemisphere.

But that’s exactly the point: I am not supposed to be left to my own judgment. I am not supposed to evaluate, objectively, what my eyes are seeing and what my ears are hearing. I am supposed to be pre-conditioned, told how to see things and even how to analyze what I see.

Mbare Township – as bad as it gets in Harare.

Mr. Hezekiel Dlamini, Advisor for Communication and Information at UNESCO Office in Harare, is originally from Swaziland, but he was based for many years in Ghana, France and Kenya, before accepting post in Zimbabwe. He blends in well with this country, which he finds ‘beautiful’ and ‘comfortable’:

“It is much quieter here than in Nairobi,” he explains. “In Harare, culture is very important and very diverse and interesting. You can get true, vibrant and traditional local culture in the center and in other parts of the city, or you can drive to Borrowdale just a few miles away, as well as to other suburbs, and there you get what is common in the South African white suburbs or in Cape Town – all those luxury malls, movie theatres showing latest releases, posh cafes.”

We are sitting in a simple but comfortable café, near the glass wall of the National Art Gallery. It is quiet, almost serene here. Several impressive art exhibitions are taking place inside the institution, while vast sculpture park is dotted with dating couples dressed in their best attire, sitting on the grass. Like in Nicaraguan parks, young people come here to hold hands and whisper intimate confessions in the shade of impressive artwork, instead of sitting in some stereotypical chain cafe in the middle of depressing and dull shopping malls, listening to banal music or loud announcements.

“You can eat local food, you can eat in several Chinese places, and there are Indian restaurants, Portuguese restaurants, even few sushi places.”

“Are whites really suffering here, as we are told by Western media?” I ask.

“Of course not!” Hezekiel is laughing. “Just drive to any of their suburbs. Go to Sam Levy’s Village or to any other big mall. You will see – things are still segregated, not because of the government, but because of the white minority. They have all they want in their suburbs; their managed to create their own universe. If I bring my daughters to a white school, they will say ‘no’. They will not tell me that it is because I am black African; they will argue that the school is full. And the government can do nothing about the situation.”

I drive to posh suburbs equipped with golf courses, sports clubs, beautiful pedestrian malls, supermarkets stuffed with the most exquisite food products imported from South Africa and Europe, with elegant cafes and designer stores selling Hermes and LV garments.

It is all here. By then, I understand nothing.

Harare has everything! How could anyone think for one second that this is a hell on earth?

I said ‘no politics’; not this time… But let me at least ask couple of rhetoric questions: is there any reason why this country is suffering from sanctions and humiliation, from vicious propaganda and demonization, other than because it has decided to re-distribute its land; or, because it made an attempt to stop Rwanda from performing yet another coup in DR Congo on behalf of Western companies and governments; or because it co-operates with China in the mining of diamonds; or because it is firmly rejecting Western imperialism?

What about misery, what about slums?” I ask my friend Hezekiel, few hours later.

“There is Mbare slum”, he explains. “But it is not as terrible as Kibera or Matare in Nairobi.”

I drive there. Mbare is not a friendly suburb, but it is small, at most one-kilometer square but probably much smaller. It looks more like South Bronx than Cité Soleil in Port-au-Prince. It has basic infrastructure, including sport facilities. While places like Kibera slum in Nairobi are housing hundreds of thousands, some say one million people, crammed in inhuman conditions; the population of Mbare must be at most ten or twenty thousand.

Historic Harare Mountain and Fort Salisbury are just five minutes drive from Mbare. There is yet another public park there and a commanding view of the historic city center and the impressive city skyline.

There is an old, British commemorative sign, which refers to settlers as ‘pioneers’.

“Pioneers!” laughs my driver, sarcastically. “Some pioneers!”

Few young men are busy doing push-ups. It is all very tranquil, and somehow comforting. I have no idea why, but it feels like being back in South America, in some part of it.

“No security issues?” I smile.

“Look”, my driver gets started. He has critical mind and wonderful sensed of humor. “In South Africa, if you pull out a 100 Rand banknote in some public place, you could get killed. There, that amount of money can fill a few shopping bags, easily. In Zimbabwe, you pull out 100 Rand note, people would laugh at you, because it is worth nothing. Things are so expensive.” Group of athletes stops their push-ups and begins to laugh.

“You are right”, one of them says. “You are so right.”

Soon, a small circle is formed and people plunge passionately into discussion about the food prices, security and upcoming elections. There is no fear like in Rwanda or Uganda, no tension like in Djibouti, Kenya or Ethiopia; all those Western client states.

Nobody calls me names, nobody points fingers at me; I am included in their conversation.

They love their country. Dollarization made prizes high, and Western embargos crippled the economy. But people are resilient and tough, and very kind at the same time.

“Why have you come?” Asks one of the athletes.

“Because they keep writing, in the West, that Harare is the worst city on earth”, I reply. “And I know it is a lie. So I came to write about it – to say that it is a lie.”

“Why? What do you care? We all know it is a lie. This is a very nice city, isn’t it? But we feel powerless. They write those slanderous things about us, and as a result, nobody comes… Tourism collapsed. Our great ancient cities, our national parks – all are empty now. Who wants to come to the country with such a horrible reputation?”

“Why did you come to dispute those lies?” Asks the second athlete.

I think for a while, I am silent. Then I tell them: “In Venezuela, far away from here, President Hugo Chavez died… Or he was murdered. We still don’t know. When it happened, I was in Nairobi, but Nairobi is the Western outpost and to be there did not feel right. I needed to fight – to fight against so many things, especially against the propaganda that comes from the West. South America is very far, and I decided to come to Zimbabwe. At least for a few days.”

There was a silence, long and deep. And then one of the athletes comes close to me, hugs me and says: “Good you are here. I understand. Thank you for coming.”

Book Cafe night club with traditional Zimbabwen dances.

At night I go to ‘Book Café’ to hear traditional Zimbabwean music. And close to Midnight I manage to get into the immense Harare International Convention Center (HICC), where more than 6.000 people are awaiting appearance of one of the greatest South African artists – Zahara – a musician, songwriter and a poet.

In this ‘most terrible city on earth’, those thousands of people are roaring and dancing to Zahara’s rhythms, whispering her lyrics; while there are no fights, no skirmishes, no littering, no rapes, no violence.

I walk back to my hotel, in the middle of the night, alone, safe, endlessly impressed, suddenly in-love with the city that has been standing tall despite embargos, intrigues, and slander coming from the old and new colonial masters of the world.

As I am strolling, briskly, through the wide and well-lit sidewalks of Zimbabwean capital city, I am thinking about the Cuban medical brigades. These people – brilliant and selfless doctors and medics – have been deployed wherever the need for internationalist help arises, be it due to a conflict or a natural disaster.

This is exactly what we – writers, filmmakers, and journalists – need to create, to encourage, to staff: International Investigative Brigades, units that could uncover the outrageous lies and propaganda and nihilism, those appalling byproducts of the regime and the Empire.

We needed to form them very soon, before it gets too late.

Meanwhile, although I was walking alone, I did not feel lonely.

In my mind, I kept repeating to some abstract reader of mine: “Thank you for joining me; for taking this long and wonderful walk. Not everything is lost, yet. Not everyone is sold. There are millions of people, many countries that are still resisting, upright, not on their knees.”

About the author: Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific — Oceania — is published by Expathos. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is calledIndonesia – The Archipelago of Fear (Pluto). After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.

Here are some more picture of Zimbabwes capital Harare

Most of the buildings in Harare were designed by Zimbabwean architect Vernon Mwamuka


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Boka tobacco floors is the largest tobacco auction house in the world it was built by the legendary Roger boka one of southern Africa’s first black millionaires (first black in southern africa to own a private jet). Roger Boka is thought to have been one of the people behind zimbabwe’s controversial land reform (he built the floors in anticipation of the land reform) at a cost of 2 billion rand in 1996 and had promised to pump 4 billion rand at the time unfortunately for him he died before his dream.

his daughter rudo boka now runs the family business

0There are now about 100 000 new tobacco farmers and (about 1 million black farmers in all farming sectors including workers). 

The new 100 000 tobbaco farmer’s earn average $US 15000 each per year they previously made less than $US 900 a year. Its still early day’s but this decision is starting to look like the biggest creation of a black middle class in southern africa. Agriculture as a whole has increased by 250% since 2008.Note most of the $us 4 billion made by the farmers is not counted as part of the gdp or purchasing parity because the govt doesn’t tax the farmers (regarded as informal sector).

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1000 of these units were built by the government for poor peopleHOUSES

Great Zimbabwe

Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup 140127173046-great-zimbabwe-stone-walls-unesco-horizontal-gallery

Victoria Falls The largest waterfalls in the world


The Need for Racial disclaimers in Media

Tom and Jerry–jerry-show/15653191




In the Words of Jessie Williams an actor of the Grey’s Anatomy says’ that “If you watch American television and you personally don’t know any Black people you are going to be a racist.”

Listen at 4:30

To correct that how would it read something like this

” This fictionalized movie or account represents a certain aspect of a Black American subculture that is not representative of the entire Black American population, do not use this an excuse for cold blooded racism, no race is perfect.”

International Black History Month brings showcase of African achievement to Hong Kong

International Black History Month is being rolled out to celebrate the contributions of the African diaspora, especially Black Americans


Raushanah Bowdre (left) and John Bowdre

Last Friday evening Rummin’ Tings, the Caribbean bar and restaurant on Hollywood Road, was close to bursting. People spilled onto the streets, while peals of laughter and shouted greetings competed with the booming music inside.

Some banners at the door announced the cause for the celebration: the launch of Hong Kong International Black History Month. Although it’s less well known internationally, Black History Month has become a vital tradition in the US. It’s a lively series of events that examine and celebrate the continuing contributions of African Americans to American and global culture.

The event started in 1926 as Negro History Week, which was planned to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and statesman Frederick Douglass in February.

The idea was to highlight African-American history – which was often neglected or obscured – mainly for the benefit of black students.

The week of activity has since grown into Black History Month, with events held throughout February. It has moved outside the US, and has been recognised in Canada since the mid-1990s. A version is observed in Britain in October.

John Bowdre, a motivational speaker and leadership and communications consultant now living in Hong Kong, had the idea to bring Black History Month to Asia. While launching a brand strategy group in Shanghai, he realised that African-Americans were under-represented in Asia.

“I’m a young African-American guy, and I’ve experienced some of the misconceptions that people have. I realised the source of these was a lack of representation,” he says. “I don’t feel that we put a great enough emphasis on sharing what we’ve done with people.

“I don’t think we’ve put enough effort into crafting a story, or promoting our place in the global community, and our contribution to it. That made me take responsibility, and say, ‘We need a black history month in Shanghai’.”

Bowdre and his wife Raushanah organised a week of events to introduce Shanghai’s black community to their adopted home. It proved to be a hit. Curious Chinese turned up and “asked questions about everything from Obama to black hair, from black athletes, to issues of education and black contributions [to the world]”, Bowdre says.

When the Bowdres moved to Hong Kong in 2012, they encountered the same issues, and decided to replicate the success they had in Shanghai.

As the black community in Hong Kong is relatively small, although very diverse, the couple decided to expand Black History Month to cover the experience of the entire African diaspora.

“Many people think of Africa as one country, but it is an extremely diverse place with many stories and contributions,” Bowdre says, noting that the black community in Hong Kong includes people from the Caribbean, Europe, South America, and the US, as well as the African continent.

Raushanah recalls an encounter in a sandwich shop, when a customer asked her if she could sing “because all of the black women on American Idolcould sing”. Although she found it amusing, Raushanah says it points to a serious lack of knowledge about the reality of the black experience.

“This is our time to properly share our culture in Hong Kong, and to help shape the narrative, because there are so few people who look like us walking around here. If people are curious, we welcome that curiosity, so come ask. We want this to be an open forum,” she says.

“When people see you, they say ‘Obama’; before that it would have been ‘Kobe Bryant’ or ‘Beyoncé’. There are figures people associate with African Americans. But with this event we can say ‘Hey, we’re actually all different.'”

In that spirit, the Bowdres hosted the opening party in a Caribbean restaurant. They went out of their way to include non-African-American voices in the music and poetry nights.

Carine Kiala, a secretary for the Angolan Consul General in Hong Kong, say the community-wide events are a welcome addition. “There’s a lot of synergy in organising together, and realising that we really all need each other.

“We’re happy to support each other. The community in Hong Kong, whether it’s African, African American, or African European, is very small and very interconnected.

“Many of us are friends, many of us collaborate, and many of us do business together. So it’s nice we’re able to have a function that doesn’t just focus on one specific nationality, but on the whole group,” Kiala says.

This is our time to share our culture in Hong Kong, because there are so few people who look like us walking around here

Eli Homawoo, a former food and beverage manager at The Peninsula hotel, says she was the only black person to work for the hotel in its 85-year history

A Togolese woman who grew up in the US, Homawoo says the events are testament to how far the black community in Hong Kong has come.

“When I arrived here six years ago, you could see me coming a mile away – the only time I could get in touch with my roots was when I went to [the night club] Makumba,” she says. “But over the past five years more and more Africans, African Americans, European Africans have been coming to Hong Kong,” Homaloo says.

She was pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the opening party: “It’s the first time since Makumba I’ve seen so many black and African people. The community is growing and the image is changing.”

This sense of community is a relief to many people who, like Keisha Siriboe, have long been the only black face in the room. An American pursuing a doctorate in English education and literature at Hong Kong University, she is the only black woman in her section.

When she received her masters from Beijing Normal University, she was the first African American in the programme.

Siriboe is “proud” that Hong Kong University has embraced her efforts to stage events on campus built around International Black History Month. “Everybody was really receptive. I’m hearing a lot of people say ‘Oh, we never did this before’, but they’re welcoming. That’s liberating.”

Among the activities is a free screening of Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China. A documentary by African-American filmmaker Paula Madison, it is the story of the director and her two siblings who trace their ancestry to a grandfather in China. Madison will present the film and host a panel discussion.

Liana Johnson, one of Madison’s classmates at Vassar College who has worked as a bank compliance officer at for the past three years, is underwriting the screening for students.

For Johnson, being involved in International Black History Month continues a tradition of activism in her family, which started when her grandmother fought to get black children educated when they were barred from attending school in the American South.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about black culture. People think that we all know each other, or that we all sing,” Johnson says. “We do other things than dance or sing.

“We’re professionals, we have families, and we have relationships,” she adds. “Because America does not display our contributions to history – the inventions, the scholars that we have – this event can share that with people outside of America.”

While most interviewees say the instances of intolerance or inappropriate behaviour they’ve experienced in Hong Kong spring from ignorance, some encounters were offensive and distressing.

Bowdre cites how some of his African-American friends, who are bankers, have been mistaken for drug dealers. He also saw a lawyer friend refused entry into a nightclub, because the bouncer assumed she was a prostitute.

“Obviously it’s embarrassing. It’s enraging,” Bowdre says. Mostly, he says, “it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough.

“Of course it’s not OK. But as a global citizen who can step out of my situation as a black person, I can say, ‘Well, look, they only see this picture of us’. I can say, ‘How can I combat that?”

Black and proud: highlights of cultural expression

Hong Kong International Black History Month kicked off with a party last week, but the events come thick and fast in February. Here are some of the highlights.

Sunday Soul Food Gospel Brunch

The African American tradition of the gospel brunch is coming to Hong Kong at the Union Church. Aside from gospel music and authentic soul food, there will also be a forum and discussion for people wanting to learn more about International Black History Month. Feb 1, 11am-noon (church service), 1pm-3pm (brunch). Union Church, 22A Kennedy Rd, Central

Exploration of Music:

The History of Hip Hop

Particpants will perform interactive skits about the multifaceted and often controversial history of hip hop. In exploring the development of regional styles, the skits highlight the origins of hip hop as a social movement focused on justice, equality and empowerment. Feb 9, 9pm, Play nightclub, On Hing Bldg, 1 On Hing Tce, Central, tel: 2525 1318

Finding Samuel Lowe Filmmaker Paula Madison presents her documentary, Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China, about herself and her siblings who trace their ancestry to an elusive Chinese grandfather, Samuel Lowe. The film follows their journey to China in search of their roots. The director will attend a post-screening discussion on issues of identity and the similarities between the Chinese and black diaspora. Feb 8, 4pm-7pm, AMC Theatre, Pacific Place, Admiralty (HK$200)

Rhythm and Poetry: A Celebration of Expression

An exploration of the roots of black literature through the tradition of spoken word. An introduction to the music, poetry and literature of the greats of African-American culture, Feb 11, 8pm, Orange Peel Music Lounge, 38-44 D’Aguilar St, Central, tel: 2812 7177

Apollo Theatre: Live Music Performance

Musicians from the city’s black community play a set of American popular music from Motown to Michael Jackson. Aside from the good tunes, the show is a chance to learn about the history of black American music and its enormous cultural influence. Feb 13, 8pm, Orange Peel Music Lounge, 38-44 D’Aguilar St, Central, tel: 2812 7177 (early-bird tickets HK$200, includes one drink)


Love Your Body: Fitness and Family Walk

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a morning walk on The Peak, along with mini fitness seminars and advice from professional trainers and health experts. The walk is open to singles and families and is a great opportunity to meet people and lay the groundwork for those New Year resolutions. Feb 14, 10am The Peak Circle Walk, The Peak. For details, go to

Black American Inventions

Open Heart Surgery, Blood transfusion,which was most important medical advance that saved soldiers’ lives during WWII , refrigerator cooling system,the stop light, Gas mask, the plan for Washington, D.C, Chicago,  folding chair Carbon,

Filament for light bulbs,

Lewis Latimer (1848 – 1928)


What He Invented: The Carbon Filament For The Light Bulb.

Why It’s Important: Latimer is one of the greatest inventors of all time. Thomas Edison may have invented the electric lightbulb, but Latimer helped make it a common feature in American households. In 1881 he received a patent for inventing a method of producing carbon filaments, which made the bulbs longer-lasting, more efficient and cheaper.

In 1876, he worked with Alexander Graham Bell to draft the drawings required for the patent of Bell’s telephone.



Otis Boykin (1920 -1982)

What He Invented: The Artificial Heart Pacemaker Control Unit.

Why It’s Important: Although there were variations to the pacemaker before Boykin’s invention, the modern-day pacemaker would not exist without his work.


Henry Brown

What He Invented: The Modern-Day Fireproof Safe

Why It Is Important: When Henry Brown patented a “receptacle for storing and preserving papers on November 2, 1886″  This was a fire and accident safe container made of forged metal, which could be sealed with a lock and key. Anyone who has ever had important documents stored in a safe and saved in a fire can thank Brown.


Gerald A. Lawson (1940 -2011)

What He Invented: The Modern Home-Video Gaming Console.

Why It’s Important: Anyone who owns a Playstation, Wii or Xbox should know Lawson’s name. He created the first home video-game system that used interchangeable cartridges, offering gamers a chance to play a variety of games and giving video-game makers a way to earn profits by selling individual games, a business model that exists today.



Marc Hannah ( 1956-Present)

What He Invented: 3-D Graphics Technology Used in Films.

Why It’s Important: Anyone awed by the special effects in the films Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and The Abyss should thank Chicago-native Marc Hannah. The computer scientist is one of the founders, in 1982, of the software firm Silicon Graphics (now SGI), where the special-effects genius developed 3-D graphics technology that would be used in many Hollywood movies


Garrett Morgan (1877-1963)

What He Invented: The Modern-Day Gas Mask.

Why It’s Important:  In 1916, Garrett Morgan made national news by using his gas mask to rescue 32 men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie. His invention has saved the lives of many firemen, police and soldiers across the world.



Lonnie Johnson (1949-Present)

What He Invented: The Super Soaker

Why It’s Important: The Super Soaker may have been a child’s toy, but it is a great example of an invention with a multimillion-dollar impact. The Super Soaker generated $200 million in annual retail sales and  turned  Mobile, Ala., native into a millionaire. He’s now using his fortune to develop energy technology.


George E. Alcorn (1949-Present)

What He Invented: The Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer

Why It’s Important: The Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer allowed scientists to examine materials that could not be broken down into smaller parts for study, revolutionizing the way NASA was able to conduct research. As a result of the significance of this work, in 1984 he was the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Inventor of the Year. Two years later he also developed an improved method of fabrication using laser drilling.


Percy L. Julian (1899-1975)

What He Invented: The Process Of Synthesis.

Why It’s Important: Synthesis was critical to the medical industry as it allowed scientists to create chemicals that were rare in nature. The chemist’s work led to the birth control pill and improvements in the production of cortisone. In 2007 the PBS Nova series created a documentary on Julian’s life called Forgotten Genius.


Frederick M. Jones (1892-1961)

What He Invented: Mobile Refrigeration

Why It’s Important: His invention allowed the transportation of perishable foods such as produce and meats, which changed eating habits across the country. Thermo King, the company he co-founded, became a leading manufacturer of refrigerated transportation. Jones also developed an air-conditioning unit for military field hospitals and a refrigerator for military field kitchens. Jones was awarded over 60 patents during his lifetime.



George R. Carruthers (1939-Present)

What He Invented: The Ultraviolet Camera Spectrograph.

Why It’s Important: The ultraviolet camera spectrograph was a device that traveled to the moon with Apollo 16 in 1972. The camera designed by this Cincinnati-native enabled researchers to study Earth’s atmosphere, providing crucial information on how the world works.


Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950)

What He Invented: The Blood Bank.

Why It’s Important: His research in the field of blood transfusions led to the development of improved techniques for blood storage. He applied his expert knowledge to the development of  large-scale blood banks early in World War II. His invention allowed medics to save thousands of lives of the Allied forces.

He directed the blood plasma programs of the United States and Great Britain in World War II, but resigned after a ruling that the blood of African-Americans would be segregated.


Alexander Miles (1838-1918)

What He Invented: The Modern-Day Elevator Design.

Why It’s Important: Although Miles may not have invented the first elevator, his design was very important. Alexander Miles improved the method of the opening and closing of elevator doors; and he developed the closing of the elevator shaft when an elevator was not positioned at a floor. Miles created an automatic mechanism that closed access to the shaft.

His patent is still used for most elevators today because they still work under the basic principle of automated opening and closing doors. His life and his invention helped to break down racial barriers in many ways.

Shoemaking machine, Made 400 products from peanut butter, hair growing lotion, hair curler , a method of surgery that has helped many blind people see, Nerf ball, watergun, Coin Changer machine, ironing board, street sweeper, paper puncher, lawn mower, cabinet bed, hot comb, culing iron, (maybe) microphone, pancakes,


James E. West (1931-Present)

What He Invented: The Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone.

Why It’s Important: Without James West, rappers wouldn’t be able to rock the mic. West, along with Gerhard M. Sessler, helped develop the electroacoustic transducer electret microphone, for which they received a patent in 1962. Their invention was acoustically accurate, lightweight and cost effective. Ninety percent of microphones in use today — including those in telephones, tape recorders and camcorders — are based on their original concept.



Jan Matzeliger  (1852-1889)

What He Invented: A Shoe-Lasting Machine.

Why It’s Important: Marzeliger, who was from Suriname, invented a shoe-lasting machine that increased the availability of shoes and decreased the price of footwear. Matzeliger’s shoe-lasting machine increased shoe production tremendously. The result was the employment of more unskilled workers and the proliferation of low-cost, high-quality footwear for people around the world.


Elijah McCoy (1844-1929)

What He Invented: A Railroad Lubrication Machine.

Why It’s Important: McCoy, who was from Canada, invented a lubrication device to make railroad operation more efficient. After studying the inefficiencies inherent in the existing system of oiling axles, McCoy invented a lubricating cup that distributed oil evenly over the engine’s moving parts. He obtained a patent for this invention in 1872, which allowed trains to run continuously for long periods of time without pausing for maintenanc

Dr. Shirley JacksonDr. Shirley Jackson

Marie Van Brittan Brown11

Marie Van Brittan Brown received a patent in 1969, making her the first person to develop a patent for closed- circuit television security. Brown’s system was designed with four peepholes and a motorized camera that could slide up and down to look at each one. Her invention became the framework for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, crime prevention and traffic monitoring.


Dr. Patricia Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor and academic.  She received a doctorate from Howard University College of Medicine and was also the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. In 1981 she received a patent for the Laserphaco Probe, which is used to treat cataracts. Dr. Bath’s laser probe made cataract surgery faster and more accurate, and she has been credited with saving thousands of people from losing their sight.

Dr. Betty Harris

Betty Harris received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Southern University and a master’s degree in chemistry from Atlanta University and earned a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.

She worked extensively in the area of explosives and her research in this area led her to obtain a patent for her invention of a spot test for identifying explosives in a field environment. In 1999  she received the New Mexico Governor’s Trailblazer Award for her achievement.

Mary Kenner

Mildred Kenner joined her sister Mary Davidson in patenting many practical inventions. Neither of the sisters had any technical education, but that didn’t stop them from inventing the Sanitary Belt in 1956. Three years later, Kenner invented the mosture-resistant pocket for the belt. While disabled from multiple sclerosis, Kenner went on to invent The Walker and the toilet-tissue holder

Madame C J Walker

Sarah Breedlove,  known commonly as Madam C. J. Walker, was an  entrepreneur, philanthropist and the first self-made millionaire woman of any race in America. Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women under the company she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Co.

Sarah GoodeSarah Goode was an entrepreneur and inventor, who was the first African-American woman to receive a U.S. patent.  Goode invented a folding cabinet bed which provided people who lived in small spaces to utilize their space efficiently. When the bed was folded up, it looked like a desk. The desk was fully functional, with spaces for storage. She received a patent for it on July 14, 1885.Sarah Boone

Sarah Boone was an African-American inventor who on April 26, 1892, secured U.S. patent rights for her improvements to the ironing board. Boone’s upgrades to the ironing board helped to improve the quality of ironing sleeves and the bodies of women’s garments. The board was narrow, curved, and made of wood. The shape, design and structure made it easy to fit a sleeve and it was reversible, to allow for ironing both sides of the sleeve.

Ancient Egyptian Inventions

door lock and keys,

combs, scissors,


high heeled shoes,






black ink,




toothbrush and toothpaste.



sun calender,

twisted rope,

Oldest writing system,

breath mints,bowling,


first planned city,

Kahun, Amarna first city with sewage system ,

first mining system,


Longest written history.

Inspired Greeks