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Africa's moment?

PARIS — If the gods aren’t entirely crazy, in 2010 — after 50 years of post-colonial woe — Africans can show us a vibrant, hopeful continent that is light as well as dark. The question is whether France, China, and the United States can stop enabling so many self-installed despots who stand in the way. First, the caveats: “Africa” below the Sahara is 48 states, some so pathetically failed that even their separate fragments defy hope. In places, psychopaths in epaulettes murder en masse.

Plenty of fishermen, not so many fish

JAMESTOWN, Ghana — The life of Ofori Muhammad, a 52-year-old fisherman in the port of Jamestown, would be idyllic if it were a bit more lucrative. At dawn, the devout Muslim lands ashore, prays, spends his mid-mornings stitching an endless latticework of nylon net, packs in a few naps, then pushes out to sea at midnight to do it again, as he has for 38 years.

The politics of Ghana's kente cloth

ACCRA, Ghana — Bill Clinton wore a kente cloth over his suit when he visited Ghana in 1998. So did his wife, Hillary. It was a good try on their part, but a kente faux pas, technically. Former Ghanaian president John Kufuor elicited gasps when he wore a suit — not a kente cloth — to Ghana’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2007. Kente cloth is a treasured textile and Ghanaians have strong opinions and advice for U.S. President Barack Obama, who likely will receive some kente when he visits Ghana in July.

China competes with US in Africa

ACCRA, Ghana — While U.S. President Barack Obama was shepherding his economic stimulus bill through Congress, Chinese President Hu Jintao was making his fourth trip to Africa. Hu has been dishing out funds on the continent for years and doesn’t need name tags to work the greeting lines in African presidential palaces — some of which were built with Chinese money.

Optimism and radios in Ghana

Ghanaians are devout optimists who are politically active and expect a lot from their government. Those are some of the conclusions to draw from recently published survey results from the Afrobarometer, a nonprofit polling project. Afrobarometer regularly conducts polls about economic, political and social issues in 20 African states. Last March, 1,200 Ghanaians were randomly selected for interviews, with a 50 percent gender quota. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent. Here are some of the results:

Nigerians fight bad reps in Ghana

ACCRA, Ghana — Nigerian street vendor Ike Egbon complains that Ghanaians often treat him as if he’s one of his country's notorious internet fraudsters. He says some Ghanaians here in their capital city refuse to sell him lunch because he doesn’t speak the local language and taxi drivers sound off when they hear his accent.

Africa banks on cell phones

ACCRA, Ghana — Most working people here do not exist, at least not in the records of any trustworthy bank: The taxi drivers stash their salaries beneath floor mats and the market women tie their earnings up in the waistlines of their wrapper-skirts. They are the “un-banked” — potential customers but for now invisible, lost among the 80 percent of Africans who do their banking in tin cans and fanny packs. They do not keep the sort of accounts one can present to a loan officer.

Will America’s first lady wow Ghana?

ACCRA, Ghana — Michelle Obama is wildly popular at home and recently charmed Europe, but it’s possible she would go unnoticed at Mabel Ofosuhene’s breakfast stand in the capital of Ghana, the West African state hosting the Obamas in July. “I don’t know anything about her,” the 26-year-old said of America’s first lady. Not everyone, it seems, has fallen under Michelle Obama’s spell.

Ghana scores with Obama visit

Ghana 1, Kenya 0. Barack Obama’s first visit as U.S. president to a sub-Saharan state will be Ghana, not Kenya, the birthplace of his late father. Like selecting Joe Biden as vice president, Ghana is the safe choice. Why not Kenya? Obama already has a recent Kenya visit under his belt, while he was a U.S. senator. He was treated as a hero, but a trip there as president might tip the nation into a frenzy, which seems too intense this early in his first term. Throw in a little post-election violence at the end of 2007, and Kenya gets bounced off the short list.

American parents look to Ghana for adoptions

Madonna isn’t the only American looking to adopt African children. Adoptions of Ghanaian children by American parents are rising — to 101 last year, ranking it 17th highest overall and fourth in Africa. Ethiopia was tops in Africa and fourth overall with 1,725 adoptions. Liberia and Nigeria are slightly higher than Ghana, according to U.S. government statistics for fiscal year 2008.
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