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Africa News in Brief from Global Information Network
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 10:09 AM FRENCH FIRM LOSES BID TO OWN 

South African tea planters won a major victory over European and U.S. Tea dealers this week. They defeated efforts by a French firm to gain control of the name “Rooibos” - a popular tea that grows in South Africa - by trademarking it abroad. Under the agreement, Rooibos, which means ‘red bush’ in Afrikaans, will refer to tea grown in the  Cederberg mountains in the Western Cape where it’s been farmed for generations. The indigenous shrub-like plant is known for its health benefits, sweet taste and many uses. These include herbal teas, fruit juices and other foodstuffs, as well as healthy and beauty products. 

It is also known for its anti-ageing potential and proven skin protection properties. South Africa produces about 15 000 tons of rooibos a year, half of which is exported and the rest consumed locally. The fight over rooibos began in 2004 when a U.S. company registered Rooibos as a brand name. South Africa could not even export its own rooibos unless it was called ‘rooibush.’ The matter was since settled.

Then, last year, the Compagnie de Trucy of France tried to take exclusive ownership of the rooibos name. But they met stiff resistance from the South African Rooibos Council and their bid was rejected this week by the European Union’s Dept. of Trade and Industry. “It will be the rooibos tea manufacturers of South Africa who will have ownership of that particular name,” said Rob Davies, South Africa's trade and industry minister, “and that term will be applicable only to products that come from and are approved by us." Similar status is already enjoyed by the likes of champagne, Darjeeling tea and Colombian coffee.

With this decision, trademark protection will also apply to honeybush, another tea indigenous to the Cape region, and Karoo lamb, the South African Press Association reported. The same criteria could also apply to products from other countries of the Southern African region - such as Mozambican prawns, Botswana beef and Namibian oysters. 


Militants appear to be gaining the upper hand in West Africa’s spreading ethnic/religious fighting. This week, insurgents with  Nigeria’s Boko Haram launched a cross-border attack on Kolofata, a town in neighboring Cameroon, kidnapping the wife of Amadou Ali, the vice-prime minister, and killing at least three people. It was their third incursion into Cameroon just this week. A local religious leader, or lamido, named Seini Boukar Lamine, who is also the town’s mayor, was kidnapped in a separate attack on his home. 

Cameroon, Nigeria’s neighbor to the west, had until recently been a refuge from the deadly violence aimed at students, market goers, and security forces. But the spread of Boko Haram hideouts in the French-speaking country prompted Cameroon to send troops against the militants. Boko Haram has not yet revealed where the nearly 300 high school girls have been hidden since being kidnapped over a month ago. "The situation is very critical here now, and as I am talking to you the Boko Haram elements are still in Kolofata town in a clash with our soldiers," said Col. Felix Nji Formekong from the regional headquarters in Maroua. At the same time, some 22 Boko Haram militants, charged with illegal possession of firearms and plotting a regional insurrection, were sentenced in a Maroua court to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Efforts to exchange detainees for kidnap victims have met with little success. Reports of heavily-armed insurgents lead to speculation that an Algerian airline that crashed last week in Mali killing all 116 aboard was taken down by rockets, however an investigation failed to find hard evidence and bad weather is believed to be the cause. While West Africa appears to be drowning in a widening insurgent war, diplomacy was being rewarded this week in Washington with the visit of 500 exceptional young African leaders who attended a 6 week intensive leadership training in the U.S., capped by a meeting with President Barack Obama at a Young African Leaders Initiative Summit – to be renamed the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The program will double in size to 1000 participants, Obama said, starting in the summer of 2015. 

Mluh Hilda Bih of Cameroon was one of the young leaders at the summit. A journalist with eight years of experience in radio and TV, she plans to work with the disabled in workshops and seminars and continue to use mass media to effect change in Cameroon. She also mentors young girls through the ESTHER Project, an initiative she founded, by speaking at schools, churches and conferences throughout Cameroon. 

The young leaders’ Summit precedes next week's inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, the largest gathering any U.S. president has held with African heads of state and government. A full list of this year’s Fellows can be found at https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/ 


As an Ebola epidemic sweeps relentlessly across West African borders, with the death toll topping 600, some are now asking if the virus can be stopped. The Ebola outbreak started in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. It has been called the deadliest in recorded history, with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the World Health Organization declaring the situation out of control. The skyrocketing infection rate reflects an ominous reality –under-funded public health systems, too few clinics for too many people, underpaid health professionals, and citizens distrustful of the prescriptions of unfamiliar foreign health aides  Traditional healers are viewed more favorably than unfamiliar health workers in many cases. 

This week, the Red Cross working in Guinea suspended some operations in the country's southeast after staff working on Ebola received threats. "Locals wielding knives surrounded a marked Red Cross vehicle," said one Red Cross official, asking not to be named. An MSF center elsewhere in Guinea was attacked by youths saying the charity brought Ebola into their country. The current outbreak has exposed the inadequacy of the region's health care systems. In a World Bank survey, Guinea had one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds per person – with just 0.3 beds per 1,000 people. Sierra Leone, which offers free care to pregnant women, has three doctors per 100,000 people.

Liberia has only 51 doctors, according to the World Health Organization. Combined with that is a high turnover at public health units. Nurses in Sierra Leone earn roughly $1.80 a day – meaning that new, untrained staffs are commonly at the frontline of the health care system. Meanwhile, U.S. health officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tried to dismiss fears that the virus would reach American shores. "Ebola virus disease poses little risk to the U.S. general population at this time,” advised a CDC “level 2” alert, which cautions people in the affected region to avoid contact with anyone who seems infected. 

“However, U.S. healthcare workers are advised to be alert for signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease in patients who have a recent (within 21 days) travel history to countries where the outbreak is occurring," it reads. “If we ever needed a reminder that we all live in a connected world, this horrible Ebola outbreak is it,” said Stephan Monroe of CDC’s National Center for Emerging & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases That means the U.S. and other countries have a stake in investing in developing countries, whose needs may seem to be far from U.S. domestic priorities. Back in the U.S., the American wife of Patrick Sawyer, was grieving the unexpected death of her husband, a U.S. citizen of Liberian ancestry, who had been traveling to Lagos, Nigeria, from a Liberia stopover when symptoms of the disease emerged. Decontee Sawyer, of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, said her husband had planned to return next month for the birthdays of his daughters.

The grieving widow said she hoped her husband's death would be a wake-up call about the global threat of the virus. “Patrick could've easily come home with Ebola," she told Minnesota’s KSTP-TV. "It's close; it's at our front door. It knocked down my front door." w/pix of D. Sawyer Lisa Vives Managing Editor Global  Information Network220 Fifth Ave. c/o Demos 8th flNew York, NY
10001212-244-3123 GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.