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Africa's big issues for 2010

World Cup, Sudan, piracy and food will make headlines

South Africa playing host to the World Cup will dominate news in June 2010. In this photo, South African President Jacob Zuma laughs with opposition Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille during a visit to the Green Point stadium, which is under construction in Cape Town, June 11, 2009. The stadium's dramatic site perched at the tip of Africa will capture the world's attention. (Mark Wessels/Reuters)

TYAZO, Rwanda — Africa tends to burst into international news whenever a new conflict starts or an old one resurges. Africans across the continent lament this crisis coverage, complaining that the positive trends and stories in Africa go unnoticed.

However in June 2010, the soccer World Cup will descend on South Africa and televisions around the globe will broadcast a country eager to present itself as a success. Many Africans hope this footage will boost the world's image of the entire continent.

Looking ahead, there are still plenty of African hot spots, however, including Sudan’s elections, piracy in Nigeria and Islamic militancy in Somalia that are sure to capture the headlines.

South Africa: In June 2010, South Africa will host the soccer World Cup and face the scrutiny of the world. After much concern over whether South Africa could pull off the necessary stadium construction to host the huge sports tournament in style, speculation now surrounds whether the event will persuade people to think about the African continent in a more positive light.

South Africa is far from representative of the continent as a whole, but it’s likely that media coverage will look at the country as such, for better or worse. Though South Africa's economy is one of the most diversified on the continent, inequality in the country is extremely high, as is unemployment. President Jacob Zuma’s political honeymoon is over, and the World Cup will not distract South Africans from demanding economic growth and job creation. Violent crime remains a serious problem and a flare up could tarnish the World Cup's glow.

Sudan: In April 2010, Sudan will hold its first elections since the end of the civil war between north and south Sudan. A lot is riding on these elections; theoretically, they should allow individuals from Darfur as well as south Sudan elect people that will represent their interests in the national government.

Sudan's reality looks much bleaker. The census to determine how many parliamentary seats each region receives was suspect; the elections have already been postponed multiple times; and Sudanese opposition parties are repressed by the ruling National Congress Party. That the elections will be far from democratic is a foregone conclusion. What remains to be seen is how detrimental they will be to overall political stability and how they will affect the 2011 referendum in which south Sudan will vote on its independence. Africa analysts have been watching Sudan with growing concern in the past two years — if it slips into crisis, it could have a detrimental effect on the rest of the region.