How do you see life, do you see the sports in overcoming problems? Do you enjoy the athletics of jumping over hurdles? Would you not really get bored reading a book where it is all smiles from the first page to last page? Yeah…sometimes a story is more exciting when it begins with a teardrop or two and ends up in the widest ear-to-ear smiles. Tales of dogged defiance, baking a sumptuous loaf of success from the tiny crumbs of opportunities fate presented.
Such is the story of two Chibok girls, Debbie and Grace, who rode past the horrors of terrorism to become the first of the Chibok girls to get their high school diploma. Debbie graduated finishing her junior year (11th grade) and Grace completed her senior year (12th grade).
Debbie and Grace were two of the 57 girls who escaped from Boko Haram terrorists after the mass abduction of almost 275 schoolgirls in April 2014. They refused to be held back by the harrowing experience with their captors, showing an outstanding ambition to step out of their gloomy past into a bright future illuminated with education.
The Njangi: An African Financial Support System
In tough financial times when banks are failing and the systems we trusted before are no longer reliable; in times when money is scarce and financial responsibility enormous, I reflect on an age-old African system of money management that is used to this day. A community-based system that has supported families through tough times, stretched meager incomes allowing parents to educate their children; giving others great opportunities to develop their lives without the total dependence on any banks or major regulatory system.
The Malians, Algerians, Moroccans and several other French-speaking African countries call it “pari”. Liberians and Ghanaians call it “sousou”. In Nigeria it is known by many names but “ajoh” and “family lottery” seem to be widely used. In Cameroon “tontine” and “njangi” carry the same meaning.
The variety of names conveys the diversity of the beautiful African continent, however, the underlying principles that have been handed down many generations to guide this process are not new.
How it works
In Cameroon as in other parts of Africa, the Njangi helps individuals save money. When done as a group it gives access to large amounts of cash loans with little or no hassle. With major institutions having stringent guidelines for borrowers, especially those who may have recently migrated into the United States, njangi, sousou, pari and tontine have stepped in to provide some much-needed financial relief.
Whether it is a group of friends, an alumni association or just a handful of family members, some Africans have historically pooled their resources together to help each other achieve financial dreams. The detailed requirements may differ across countries, ethnic or cultural groups but overall, the process is built on a high level of trust. Njangis also provide an avenue to meet friends or family members, socially.
Take the example of a group of 10 friends who have formed a social group and njangi with a monthly meeting. Every month they each decide to bring in $500. Members could increase their stakes. Two members decide to bring in $1000 each instead of $500. That means there are 12 ‘hands’ of $500 each. The group, therefore, has $6000 at each sitting. In some groups, members may cast ballots to decide the order in which they take home the funds.
In other cultures, the hosting member takes home the funds and hosting rotates to a different member’s home each month. On the day of the meeting, everyone brings in their contributions and the first member takes home a cash packet of $6000. This process will rotate each month for a year to consume the 12 ‘hands’ of the Njangi. Each time a member takes home money, the member is said to have ‘chopped the njangi’. The two members whose contributions are doubled will have two opportunities to take home money. They could negotiate with other members on the collection times. In some larger groups members “chop” or borrow funds on a bi-weekly or even a weekly basis. The Njangi term is consummated when all hands have been chopped and the group can start over.
How it is used
Some groups use Njangis as a support system or investment club. They require members to leave behind a token whenever they collect funds. For instance, instead of taking home $6000 as in our example, each member leaves behind $50 which will be saved in a group account and could be used to invest in a mutual fund, visit a sick or bereaved member or some other purpose.
In some variations of this process, all funds pooled together can be borrowed. Some situations warrant the borrower to present some form of collateral such as a car or a house especially when the stakes are higher. In other cases, one or two members will have to surety a potential borrower. Trust is the dominant factor in groups practicing the Njangi.
Njangi funds have helped Africans achieve the dream of owning a home. They have also been used to pay tuition bills, buy a car or relief an immediate financial crisis. It has helped many Africans save as it creates a level of discipline since the funds are actually a loan and must be repaid.
Some Njangi groups are actually set up for investment purposes. Every time the group meets, they put money down and when a project comes up, they all go into the project as a group. Njangis have helped some African Entrepreneurs thrive and has been the stepping stone to low or no interest borrowing that has propelled many African businessmen and women into much higher gains.
Njangis could be compared to a secure line of credit. It could also be likened to an investment club. There are many Africans in the Diaspora who will laud this process for their financial success today. Njangis have the added benefit of developing deep and lasting relationships while achieving financial growth and independence.
10 Must See Historic Sites In Ghana
Historic sites in Ghana are an important feature that tourist should not miss. Majority of them tell stories of oppression, survival, and ingenuity. Ghana is one of the most progressive countries in West Africa. Located along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea, Ghana is recognized globally for its unique cultures, particularly the Kente. Ghana also played a major role during the trans-Atlantic slave trade era. The Ghanaian government has done a good in preserving some of these historic monuments and relics. From monuments that are now part of UNESCO World Heritage sites to ancient tribes, Ghana has a lot of historic sites that bring up some strong emotions. If you love antiquities, plan to visit the following historic sites when you visit Ghana.
#1 – The Traditional Buildings of The Asante Kingdom
The Ashanti Kingdom was a great force to reckon with in the 18th century and still remain influential to this day in Ghana. Their militaristic nature allowed them to control large areas with significant gold deposits. They ruled a vast area of present-day Ghana before the arrival of the Europeans in 1806. This historic site contains thirteen houses built by the Asante Kingdom. During the European reign, a significant number of the Asante buildings were destroyed. However, the surviving buildings are now cultural emblems. In 1980, they were recognized as one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ghana. These buildings consist of clay or mud walls and roofs made from woven palm branches. They have a geometrical design embellished with stylized animal emblems.
#2 – Jamestown Lighthouse
This historic town, Jamestown, is one of the two oldest districts in Accra. The second is Usshertown. As early as the 17th century, Jamestown already had communities. By the end of the 19th century, it already had heavy development. Jamestown remains useful today as a great fishing harbor. The area has witnessed a tremendous population growth over time. The most prominent structure of Jamestown is the lighthouse. The original structure is the handiwork of the British as early as 1871. However, the present structure came to be in the 1930s. The Jamestown lighthouse has an imposing height of 28 meters. From the summit, you will get a bird’s eye view of the Ussher Fort, the Bukom district, and the James Fort. Jamestown is today a popular tourist destination and one of the important historic sites in Ghana.
#3 – Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Region
This is the second UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ghana. These fortified trading posts were built between the 15th and 18th century. These magnificent buildings span about 500 km, sandwiched between the coast of Beyin in the west and Keta in the east. Over the century, the fort witnessed a succession of occupants including traders from Denmark, Britain, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. Consequently, they played an important role in gold and slave trade. The Ghanaian forts are better preserved than other forts in the neighboring countries. In 1979, UNESCO recognized this monument as a World Heritage Site.
#4 – Kakum National Park
This national park dates back to 1931 but it was not until 1992 that it became a national park. The park covers an area of 357 km sq. The major attraction of this park is the canopy walkway. This is the first of its kind in Africa. It is also one of the only three locations in the continent with a similar walkway of length up to 350 meters. The walkway links six gigantic trees and reaches a height of forty meters above the floor of the forest. Other features of the park include hardwood trees of heights up to 65m, medical plants, and the Sun Bird Trail. Majority of tourists want to have a feel of the walkway. Therefore, if you are planning to visit this park, arrive on time.
#5 – Paga Nania
This is one of the historic sites in Ghana that attracts lots of visitors. The Ghana Tourist Board in 2008 announced it earned about $500 million from tourists visiting this area. The origin of this slave camp dates back to 1704. Slave raiders came to Paga and the surrounding communities and held people as slaves. This unchecked activity led to the establishment of slave camps in the area. Located in Upper East Region, Paga Nania looks desolate. What remains are water troughs in the rock, observation posts, and grinding stones. The management is asking the government to renovate the camps to make it attractive again.
#6 – Lake Bosomtwe
This lake is sacred according to the Ashanti people. The people believe the souls of the dead converge here to bid their farewell to the goddess Asase Ya. This lake is over 1.07 million years old. Firstly, Lake Bosomtwe is till date the only natural lake in Ghana. Several studies suggest the crater on which the lake sits must have been from the impact of asteroids. Chromis bosomanus is a species of fish predominant in this area. However, this lake faces the risk of drying up. There is an ongoing debate for this historic site to be part of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Consequently, it will help to preserve this sacred water.
#7 – Holy Trinity Cathedral
The funding for this cathedral came from the British government. The Holy Trinity Cathedral is part of the Anglican Diocese of Accra. This ancient building was completed in 1894 but was made a cathedral in 1909. The most remarkable feature of this fortress-like structure is the rectangular bell tower. The church is not only a place of worship but also one of the historic sites in Ghana that tourists want to visit. The resident tranquility within the walls is a respite from the bustling city noise.
#8 – Salaga Slave Market
The name Salaga is a derivation from “Salgi”, a Dagomba word meaning “To get used to a place”. The Salaga market was an important trading route linking the northern and southern Sahel. Its location in East Gonja district is strategic making it an important trading route for agricultural products. However, in the trans-Atlantic slave trade era, it also served as a route for moving slaves to the coast for onward exportation. Series of events led to civil war in 1892. Consequently, this led to the decimation of the population of this area. To reach the Salaga slave market, you will need a ferry through Yeji if coming from Kumasi. This difficult terrain is the reason why the Salaga slave market is one of the historic sites in Ghana with the least visitors.
#9 – Gwollu Slave Defense Wall
Human beings have a natural survival instinct. The Gwollu slave defense wall is one of the historic sites in Ghana that highlight how far humans can desperately fight for survival. Gwollu is a small town in Sissala West district in Upper West Region. The Gwollu wall dates back to the 19th century. It was built by Gwollu Koro Limann and its main purpose was to defend the people against slave raiders. Most of these walls have been lost to environmental factors. However, the surviving wall is at the border town of Gwollu. Gwollu also holds other important tourist attractions like traditional bone-setting clinic and crocodile pond. The tomb of the former president, Hilla Limann (1979-1981) is also here.
#10 – Cape Coast Castle
This facility is a 15th-century building by the Swedes to facilitate gold and timber trade. However, it was later used as a holding facility for slaves before they were shipped to America. The British Public Works Department began restoration work of the castle in the 1920s. After Ghana’s independence in 1957, the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board took over the care of the building. The building now serves as a museum and house slave-related artifacts and documents. The rusting canons on the walls paint a vivid picture of the fortification of the facility.
16 Beautiful Cities to Visit In Africa
Africa is often portrayed as poor and underdeveloped but that is not the entire story. Characterized by fascinating natural and manmade landscape and architecture, Africa is undoubtedly a great destination for tourists. From safari to experiencing culinary diversity, there are millions of things to do in Africa. There are thousands of cities to visit in Africa. However, these fifteen cities in the second largest continent are selected based on cleanliness, beauty, security, and things to do. Each of these cities is unique and can hardly be pinned to one experience. Having a hard time deciding which cities to visit in Africa? This list will give you a head start.
#1 – Mahé (Seychelles)
Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles archipelago. It hosts some of the most breathtaking beaches. It is home to the international airport, cruise ship ports, and the must-see Morne Seychellois National Park. It boasts beautiful hiking trails among other tourist attractions in its capital city Victoria.
#2 – Johannesburg (South Africa)
The beauty of Johannesburg is more than just the presence of breathtaking edifices like the 15 Alice Lane Towers. It cut across cultural and ethnic diversity. Johannesburg is the largest city and the economic hub of South Africa. About ten percent of the GDP of the nation come from here. The largest dry port in the world, the City Deep, is found here. You also get a chance to visit the Apartheid Museum. Other places you can visit in Jo’Burg as it is fondly called are Lion Park, Mandela Square, and Gold Reef City. Skirmishes do arise from the uneven distribution of wealth but generally, Johannesburg is safe.
#3 – Port Louis (Mauritius)
Numerous qualities make Port Louis one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Africa. However, cleanliness, beauty, and security stand out. The presence of port facilities, manufacturing industries, and tourism sites makes Port Louis Mauritius’ financial hub. Blue Penny Museum is the place to discover the rich Mauritian culture. Pay attention as you explore the Central Market and walk away with a cool souvenir. Your visit will not be complete without the taste of the local cuisine at Yuzu.
#4 – Cairo (Egypt)
Northern African countries have notoriety for beautiful cities and Cairo is one of them. With breathtaking infrastructures and a moderate crime level according to the U.S. Government, Cairo is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Africa. Cairo is one of the oldest cities in Africa and some of the ancient buildings still stand tall. The Citadel, for example, was built in the 12th century but still has the glamour of ancient lavishness. You can take a break from busy traffics and population in places like Al-Azhar Park. Don’t forget to take Egyptian antiques with you when it’s time to leave.
#5 – Gaborone (Botswana)
It is often considered the best beginning spot for those who want to explore Africa for the first time. Gaborone may not be as popular as Johannesburg but in terms of security, it is safer. Gaborone will introduce you to epic wildlife, traditional handicrafts, and mouthwatering southern African dishes. The Gaborone Game Reserve is a must visit. You will come down with chills as you stare into the eyes of gemsboks and warthogs.
#6 – Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
The city is brimming with activities for tourists. Dar es Salaam sits along the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is Tanzania’s largest city. Like Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam boasts of a diverse culture of people and magnificent buildings. Dar es Salaam is popular for music, seafood, islands, and beaches. If you need time off the bustling city noise, visit Mbudya Island. In this captivating scenery, you can also enjoy short boat rides. Coco Beach is where you will find the majority of tourists.
#7 – Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
Often called the capital of Africa, Addis Ababa radiates youthful beauty and serenity. Addis Ababa in the Amharic language means ‘New Flower’. Consequently, if you adore flowers, you will have many reasons to love Addis Ababa too. Addis Ababa is the tenth on the list of beautiful cities to visit in Africa. One quality it shares with all the aforementioned cities is a low-security risk. Spice up your stay with a visit to Makush Art Gallery. Make plans to visit the National Museum of Ethiopia. If you come across dancers, join in because Ethiopians love it.
#8 – Alexandria (Egypt)
Many Egyptian cities will definitely appear on an expanded list of most beautiful cities to visit in Africa. However, Alexandria is definitely the second best in terms of beauty and security. Like Cairo, the crimes here are mostly opportunistic like pickpockets. Alexandria is a major economic center boasting of large seaports. If you have a few days to spend here, visit Bibliotheca Alexandrina a 2002 building in memorial of the Royal Library of Alexandria. Other important places to explore are Corniche and Alexandria National Museum.
#9 – Nairobi (Kenya)
If you call Nairobi Africa’s culture capital you won’t be wrong. Recent attacks by rebels have cast doubt on the security of the city. However, the beauty of the city remains untainted. If you are enthusiastic about witnessing the unbridled wildlife, Nairobi remains one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Africa. At David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust you can adopt an elephant and follow their growth. A large diversity of wildlife awaits you at the Nairobi National Park.
#10 – Agadir (Morocco)
The beauty of Agadir rests on the blending of history and modernity. Agadir is considered a safe haven for tourists. The level of crime in the city is very low and it is unlikely that you will meet any harm. Agadir sits on the country’s southern coast by the Atlantic Ocean. You can take a hike to the Kasbah, a 16th-century building unhurt by the 1960 earthquake. The earthquake also marked a new beginning for the city. There are lots of restaurants like Les Blancs serving vegetarian and Spanish-inspired dishes. You can learn more about the city’s history through the newspaper clippings and photos that cover the wall of Memoire d’Agadir, a small historical museum.
#11 – Abuja (Nigeria)
The capital of Nigeria, Abuja has the sights and sounds befitting of any national capital. From the impressive skyline to the highly-branching road network, Abuja is definitely one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Africa. Located in the heart of the country, Abuja is the most secure location you can be in Nigeria. Abuja is filled with adventures. A boat ride is one of the characteristics of Jabi Lake Park. It is also a great place to relax and experience nature. Your trip will not be complete without a visit to Aso Rock. The city boast of many five-star hotels and a robust nightlife.
#12 – Luanda (Angola)
This beautiful city rests on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Luanda is split into two parts namely Cidade Alta and Baixa de Luanda. Luanda moved up on the list of most beautiful cities to visit in African owing to recent reconstructions in different parts of the city. Saint Michael Fortress, a 16th-century Portuguese fortress is a place you will love to visit. You can also learn about the city’s contribution to slavery at the National Museum of Slavery (Museu Nacional de Escravatura). Luanda is generally safe and a great place to spend a family vacation.
#13 – Tunis (Tunisia)
The city has a mixture of stunning old and new architectures with an exotic appeal. Tunis is another North African country that has an imposing beauty. These features make it a great destination for all kinds of travelers. The Tunis Medina Festival lights up the city with music and films every evening during the period of Ramadan. Other places you should not fail to visit are the Bardo Museum and La Goulette. The latter is also a respite when you need quiet time.
#14 – Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
In terms of beauty, Abidjan was one of the cities that was revered in West Africa until wars ripped it apart. Now with improved security, tourists can explore the lengths and breadths of the city. Bushman Café is a great place to start your culinary adventure as you enjoy local dishes. Galerie Cécile Fakhoury is one of the places that should be in your Itinerary. The beautiful skyline of Abidjan defies it’s gory past and will leave you in awe. The springing technology-inspired infrastructures has made Abidjan one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Africa.
#15 – Tripoli (Libya)
It lies on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tripoli has a historical relevance as a trading city. The city bears the scars of wars and security is also an issue. However, its historical relevance and old-world beauty remain preserved. You will be thrilled by the view of the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, one of Lebanon’s biggest fortresses. Majority of the 20th century cosmopolitan activities happened in Tal. Notwithstanding, it is still open for you to explore. Don’t forget to have a taste of the local foods.
#16 – Algiers (Algeria)
Completing the list of most beautiful cities to visit in Africa is another Northern city, Algiers. Algiers sits along the Mediterranean coastline. The reformed part of the city is along the coast. Many refer to Algiers as the city of rare beauty. Visitors talk about the city’s hospitality. However, security is a burning question that needs to be put right. The 17th century Casbah is the part of the city you need to be if antiquity excites you.
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