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Friday, 22 January 2010

Africa Cup of Nations: The story so far

When writing my last blog I was anticipating the start of the Cup. Sadly the terrorist attack on the Togo team bus has overshadowed the competition; my thoughts go out to the family and friends of those who were attacked. Whilst I do not want to get too political in this blog I feel the need to question the negative comments towards Africa, especially comments from certain football managers that suggested that FIFA should reconsider holding the World Cup in South Africa later in the year. We must remember that Africa is a large continent, why should problems that occur in one country affect those in other countries hundreds of miles away?

There was talk of cancelling the Cup of Nations before a ball was kicked. As a comparison in the UK, Euro ’96 continued despite the Manchester city centre bombing. The day after the bombing over 50,000 were present at Old Trafford in Manchester to watch Germany play Russia. In 2005 the Ashes cricket series continued after the suicide bombings on the London underground, and this was despite another failed attack the day it was due to start and terrorist plans to attack the crowd at Lords. Of course, these examples are different to what has happened in Angola as the attacks in the UK were not directly on a team, but to cancel the competition would have let the terrorists win. Angola has a history of trouble, but to get to where it is today and to be hosting the Cup of Nations is remarkable. Just like the West, Africa must be given the chance to learn from hosting these competitions. Let us remember the lost Togolese, but not use this as an opportunity to knock Africa.

Going back to the Cup there have been a few surprises with Côte d’Ivore being held to a 0 – 0 draw by fellow West Africans Burkina Faso, and Cameroon losing 1 – 0 to Gabon. Nigeria did not fare any better losing 3 – 1 to current holders Egypt. The match I had been looking forward to was Côte d’Ivore v Ghana. This proved to be a lively encounter with my team tipped for the Cup, Côte d’Ivore, winning 3 – 1. Despite Eboue being sent off in the 55th minute, goals from Gervinho, Tiene and Drogba sealed an emphatic win for the Elephants. Ghana could only pull one back with Gyan scoring a penalty in extra time. Since this match last Friday the ‘top’ teams have established dominance with wins for Nigeria (beating Benin 3 – 0), Cameroon (beating Zambia 3 – 2), and Ghana (beating Burkina Faso 1 – 0). Ghana scraped through the group stages but lost Michael Essien - one of their best players - on the way with a torn ligament that will keep him out of action for a month.

From the West African teams that started the competition we have now lost Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo (who withdrew from the competition due to the tragic attack on their team bus). This now leaves the top dogs of West African football in the cup; Cameroon, Côte d’Ivore, Ghana and Nigeria. The quarter finals will take place over Sunday and Monday:

Angola v Ghana 24/01/2010 16:00 (GMT) Luanda

Côte d'Ivoire v Algeria 24/01/2010 19:30 (GMT) Cabinda

Egypt v Cameroon 25/01/2010 16:00 (GMT) Benguela

Zambia v Nigeria 25/01/2010 19:30 (GMT) Lubango

With less than 10 days of the Cup left I’m looking forward to seeing if my predictions come true for once and Côte d’Ivoire can go all the way. If they overcome Algeria in the quarters then they will face either Egypt or Cameroon, both excellent teams. Whatever happens, it is sure to be interesting!

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Contact me at harry@westafricadiscovery.co.uk

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Sierra Leone: a country with huge tourism potential

Situated in West Africa, with its pristine beaches, transparent seas, tropical forests, unique wildlife, historical heritage sites and most importantly friendly people, Sierra Leone (or Salone, as it is known to the locals), with Royal Air Maroc flights from £500, has great potential to become the next destination for those looking for new experiences and a friendly, relaxing atmosphere.

Once you have decided that Sierra Leone is your next travel spot, the next step is to decide on what to do on your stay in this fascinating country. The list of things to do is endless with so many attractions to pick from. This list below highlights a few of the possible options.

Sierra Leone is deemed the fishing ground of West Africa. For the fishing enthusiast this is the place to be. The markets in Freetown (the Capital) are vibrant and bustling as every trader looks to sell their produce.

Nature and Wildlife
Turtle Island is a conservation society surrounded by a fishing community. Besides the fishing there are excellent opportunities for bird watching, with breeding colonies in the Western Peninsula Forest Reserve not far from Freetown.

Also found on the south-western coast of Sierra Leone is the Yawri bay located about 60km southeast of Freetown. Yawri Bay is home to tens of thousands of birds for a quarter period of the year. It also supports a major local fishing industry.

National Parks / Reserves
National Parks are many in Sierra Leone, and shelter an abundance of Flora and Fauna species. They are Kuru Hills, Lake Mape/Mabesi, Lake Sonfon, Loma Mountains, Outamba-Kilimi, Western Area. The Outamba Kilimi National Park has an interesting array of animals from the Chimpanzee to Savanna Buffalo to Leopards. It is also an excellent spot for bird watching.

There are also a few wildlife Sanctuaries, which aim to protect endangered species of wildlife and plants. These include Bo Plains, Tiwai Island, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and nature reserves such as Bagru-Moteva Creeks, Bumpe Mangrove Swamp, Kagboro Creek (Yawri Bay), Kpaka-Pujehun, Sewa-Waanje are also a must-see.

Some nature reserves in Sierra Leone are strictly non hunting nature reserves and forest reserves. These are: The Kambui Hills Forest Reserve is situated about 300 km south-east of Freetown with the second highest peak in Sierra Leone, the Sankan Birriwa. The scenic nature would be very appealing to visitors and scientists with over 200 separate species of birds.

Tingi Hills Forest Reserve also a non-hunting reserve is located close to Sierra Leone’s eastern border with the Republic of Guinea. The Tingi Hills is the easternmost mountain range in Sierra Leone. The forest reserve includes two peaks separated by a narrow gorge. Both peaks stand over 1800m, but the northernmost which is 1850m high, is the second highest in Sierra Leone.

Beaches and Islands
The Banana Islands are the location for interesting historical facts like the firing point and four guns near the old wharf at Dublin and the two old Tombstones in the cemetery also at Dublin. You can also enjoy lobster, fish or chicken for lunch before heading back to Freetown.

The west of Freetown is mainly residential and further west (South-West) you will find some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. Like the Freetown Peninsula which is bestowed with breath-taking beauty.

As tourism is still developing in Sierra Leone these beaches remain in pristine condition. Other beaches include Lungi Beaches, Shenge, Sulima, Sherbro Peninsular, and Turner’s Peninsular.

Historical and Heritage Sites
Sierra Leone also offers attractions that cater for those who are interested by historical facts. Remnants from the early colonial eras are still present in the country.

The Sierra Leone national Museum is the home of the ‘Ruiter stone’, the main attraction of the museum. The replica of a 1664 rock graffito, scratched by bored Dutch sea captains during a lull in a military expedition against the English, was discovered in the course of drainage work on the waterfront in 1923. It stands as the oldest archaeological evidence of a European presence in the strip of land.

Old Fourah Bay College located in Freetown stands as the oldest university in West Africa having the likes of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, as the college’s first student and the first African Anglican Bishop from Nigeria.

The St John's Maroon Church was erected by the Maroons in 1822, who arrived in the colony in 1800 as those returning from Jamaica. It is among the oldest churches in Sierra Leone. It stands between current day Liverpool Street and Percival Street.

The Gateway to the Old King's Yard: When Sierra Leone became a British Colony and the abolition Act had come into effect, the Navy were deployed in trying to stop the still on-going Slave Traffic. The rescued slaves where landed at King Jimmy Wharf and taken to a compound constructed for them. This site was referred to as the King’s Yard. Popular figures to have passed through ‘The Asylum’ include Samuel Ajayi Crowther and John Ezzidio.

Bunce Island was the largest British slave castle lying on the Sierra Leone River of West Africa. Founded around 1670, it exported tens of thousands of African captives to North America and the West Indies until it was closed it down in 1808.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the appeal that Sierra Leone has, and the potential it shows as a popular destination for those seeking new experiences and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. For more information on the things to do, visit and see in Sierra Leone, visit the Sierra Leone National Tourism Board website.

West Africa Discovery is currently in talks with ground tour operators and other tourism suppliers in Sierra Leone in order to be able to compile a database of tours, accommodation and voluntourism projects which have implemented or are in the process of implementing policies which reflect the Cape Town, Kerala and the recent Belize declarations on Responsible Tourism in destinations, and subsequently list them under their Responsible Tourism ‘Holidays’ pages.

Article written by Iyaniwura Adewunmi.

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Contact me at thomas@westafricadiscovery.co.uk

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Africa Cup of Nations: Kicking off a great year for African football

Happy New Year and welcome to the first WAD blog of 2010! As Tom mentioned last week the last year has been a busy one, and there is going to be plenty of exciting stuff coming up too. As I’ve talked about in a previous blog there is going to be a massive focus on the African continent this summer with the World Cup Finals hosted in South Africa. For the sport hungry people amongst you there is a nice warm-up to the World Cup with the Africa Cup of Nations starting in Angola within the next few days.

The Africa Cup of Nations is the main football competition for African countries held every two years. This historic year of African football kicks off the continent's football extravaganza this Sunday when Angola hosts the 27th Cup of Nations. The competition started in 1957, three years before Europe staged a similar tournament. Since then the Cup of Nations has evolved from a small event to become one of the most eagerly awaited tournaments in the world, featuring some of the finest talent from Europe's biggest clubs.

This event has been highly anticipated by Angolans who, using funds from the IMF and China, have constructed four new football stadiums. It was only seven years ago that the 27 year long civil war came to an end, a war which took a million lives and displaced four million others. The fact that Angola has been chosen to host the 2010 cup is a sign of confidence in the stability of the region and shows that this once deeply troubled country is on the rise. It is an oil rich country, and despite the controversies around African oil mining, this is surely what the government are relying on to help build up the infrastructure and bring the country out of poverty. Oil provides 95% of Angola’s export wealth, mostly from exporting to China. China’s role in Africa gets a bad rap in the Western media at the moment; this article gives an interesting counter viewpoint (but that’s a whole debate for another day).

By hosting the Africa Cup of Nations over this month, Angola also hopes that it can kick start its tourism industry. Angola has a lot to offer with its pristine beaches, warm climate, and distinct colonial Portuguese architecture. However Angola is not a destination for your regular English speaking tourist, seeking creature comforts. English is not widely spoken (80% speak Portuguese) and means of transport such as taxis were only introduced a month before the cup. But this is where local operators on the ground can help and give tourists a unique and inspiring experience.

Unfortunately, flights to Angola from Europe are expensive and tend to be booked up by oil and construction companies in advance, with flights starting at 1,000 dollars. Travelling to Angola to watch their team this month will be way too expensive for most African football fans. A standard hotel room in the capital of Luanda cost more than 400 dollars per night, and restaurants charge the same if not more than what you would expect to pay in London. As Angola continues to grow a better tourism infrastructure can be implemented, with the money created going back into local communities.

Egypt may be the competition’s current champions, but once again the West African region has shown its dominance of African football, claiming four of the five spots for the World Cup in South Africa. Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria have booked their places in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. For the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, fifteen teams join host country Angola. They are Cameroon, Gabon, Togo, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mozambique, Ghana, Benin, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Malawi; eight of which are West African countries!

The bookmakers’ favourites for the competition are Côte d'Ivoire with a team filled with players from the top levels of European football clubs. They qualified comfortably and have a number of talented players in their side including Didier Drogba, brothers Kolo & Yaya Toure, Didier Zokora, Emmanuel Eboue, and Salomon Kalou, also making them one of the outside chances for the World Cup. Two years ago Cote d’Ivore arrived at the Cup of Nations in Ghana as favourites only to be overrun 4-1 by Egypt in the semi-final. This time around they will be keen to dispel accusations of complacency and showcase their talent in what is set to be a great year for African football.

The groups have been drawn as follows:

Group A: Algeria, Angola, Malawi, Mali

Group B: Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo

Group C: Benin, Egypt, Mozambique, Nigeria

Group D: Cameroon, Gabon, Tunisia, Zambia

The first match is on Sunday with Angola Vs Mali. A full schedule can be found on the Confederation of African Football website. Stay tuned to West Africa Discovery for updates on the West African teams’ progress in the Cup. Until Sunday check out this video made by Puma showcasing the new African team kits.

Visit www.westafricadiscovery.com

Contact me at harry@westafricadiscovery.co.uk