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  • Ethiopian bamboo: The new green gold of Africa?

    Money really could grow on trees for a new industry in Ethiopia.

    Two-thirds of the bamboo in Africa is situated in the upwardly-mobile state, and it is hoped that "green gold" can power growth.

    "The farmer who has bamboo is rich, but he doesn't know it," says Adane Berhe, CEO Adal Industrial PLC, which is helping to build the new industry.

    Berhe has travelled to China, the global hub of the bamboo trade, to acquire modern manufacturing equipment. This has allowed his business to scale up from producing toothpicks to flooring and curtains.

    China is also beginning to invest in Ethiopia. The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) has now established an office in Addis-Ababa.

    "China has the technology, the capital, and the international market," says Fu Jinhe, East Africa Regional Coordinator for INBAR. "Ethiopia has the resource. If they are working together, it's perfect, and you can produce high quality products for international and domestic markets."


    INBAR estimates that the global market for bamboo is worth $60 billion and rising, a lucrative prospect for Ethiopian businesses, and potentially a major boost for the wider economy.

    The bamboo trade will also benefit from its greater sustainability than rival materials such as timber. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world, capable of growing almost one metera day, so that stocks can be rapidly regenerated.

    The plant is also extremely versatile. It can be used for everything from furniture to paper.

    Companies such as Adal could be the early adopters of a major new industry.

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  • Bonga: Brewing up in Ethiopia's epicenter of coffee

    CNN - Bonga is a name rarely encountered when visiting Ethiopia, if at all. 

    But it deserves to be better known: it's said to be the very birthplace of Arabica coffee.
    Despite its caffeinated claim, the multi-billion dollar global industry that has grown up around coffee has passed Bonga by.
    Today, this little town hidden away deep in southwestern Ethiopia sits quietly in unspoiled subtropical cloud forests brimming with coffee trees, wild honey, natural wonders and wildlife.
    The term coffee is said to derive from Kaffa, the ancient name for the part of the present-day Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' State region in which Bonga lies.
    The story goes that sometime around the sixth century in forests near Bonga, a goatherd named Kaldi spotted his animals getting frisky after eating red berries from a shrub he'd never seen before.
    So Kaldi gave the berries a try himself and the coffee bean was discovered.
    Early morning starts, dull office meetings and weak excuses for prolonging hot dates would never be the same again.
    An early morning in Bonga finds the town's slopes enveloped in low-lying clouds caused by the air's characteristically high moisture content.
    The effect is impressively cinematic as households come to life, their chimneys releasing narrow columns of cooking smoke that rise into the surrounding mist.
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  • Panama Papers: 18 Africans named - BBC

    At least 18 high-profile Africans have been named in a massive data leak exposing the financial activities of some of the world's rich and famous and their use of tax havens.

    More than 11 million documents, known as the Panama Papers, were leaked by an unknown source at one world's most secretive companies, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

    They were passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

    The documents reveal that Mossack Fonseca assisted companies and individuals to utilise tax havens in numerous ways. 

    For some - such as Sudan's former President Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani, Kenya's Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal or ex-UN chief Kofi Annan's son Kojo Annan - offshore companies were used to buy and sell expensive real estate in London.

    Mounir Majidi, the king of Morocco's personal secretary, used an offshore company to buy a luxury yacht in 2006 - a transaction that Mr Majidi's lawyers maintain is above board.

    Other revelations are more murky. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma's nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, is named as a representative of two offshore companies that acquired oil fields in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010. 

    Mossack Fonseca later opted to end its relationship with Mr Zuma's companies after questions were raised about the transaction. 

    Khulubuse Zuma's spokesman said that he has never held an offshore bank account, but declined to comment on his role in offshore companies.

    Some of those named have previously been found guilty of money laundering activities and are serving time. 

    Former governor of Nigeria's Delta State, James Ibori, was convicted of such activities in 2012. Four offshore companies connected to Ibori are named in the Panama Papers - one of which was used to buy a $20m (£14m) private jet.

    Source: BBC Focus on Africa radio

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