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African artists cashing in on the boom in European popularity

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The wildfire popularity of streaming platforms has hoisted Nigerian and other artists from English-speaking Africa to unprecedented popularity around the world.

Musicians from the continent’s francophone countries are now looking to cash in on the boom. Africa’s streaming leader is Boomplay, whose library of 80 million tracks is almost in the same ballpark as those of Deezer and Spotify.  

But Boomplay’s big difference with the global giants is a catalogue that focuses intensively on African music rather than a broader range of genres.

The app was created in Nigeria in 2015 and is now present in six African countries, said Paola Audrey, manager of Boomplay’s Ivory Coast branch.” We offer a very large library which helps you to discover many local artists,” she said.

Funded by advertising and free for the user, Boomplay has blazed a trail internationally for Nigerian Afro-pop and now hopes to do the same for francophone African stars.”

“At the moment it’s much easier to highlight Nigerian artists in the French-speaking world, but we’re doing some experiments in the reverse direction, such as the Ivorian rapper Didi B,” said Audrey.”There are small niche markets, and our role is to promote artists so that they can find an audience on a bigger scale.” 

For industry experts who met last week in Abidjan at the African Music Industry Fair, the digital revolution promises glittering opportunities for West African artists.  Revenue from African music streaming is expected to more than triple in five years, from $92.9 million in 2021 to $314.6 million in 2026, according to research firm Dataxis.

Digital dawn

“Everything began with digital platforms,” said Akotchaye Okio, in charge of international development for Africa at Sacem, a rights group representing artists.” Look at the success of the South African song ‘Jerusalema’ or ‘Calm Down’ by Rema,” a Nigerian singer whose hit has notched up 50 million streams in France alone, he said.

Magali Palmira Wora, a francophone Africa specialist at US distributor The Orchard, pointed however to a learning curve.”Artists in French-speaking Africa have to learn to put themselves forward on platforms,” she said.

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“Spotify for example has got an Afro-pop playlist — you have to explain to artists why it’s important to be on it.”

Good exposure on the platforms smashes down the barriers to bigger markets and opens the way to a career that is far more international than would have been previously possible.  “Wherever you are, you can listen to my songs in one click. With digital technology, access to information is much more extensive. It allows local music industries to develop and as an artist, it gives us exposure,” said Ivorian rapper Suspect 95.  

“We no longer need to go through networks which made it hard to get my CD to this or that country.”  – Copyright issue -Five countries — South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Morocco — account for 86 per cent of African streaming revenues today, according to Dataxis. 

But the 400 million potential listeners in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of whom are under the age of 25, are a promising untapped market. Ensuring that up-and-coming independent artists can make money from the dominant platforms will be a key challenge.  

“Obviously, if you’re signed up with a major (music company), it’s easier — you are using an established network” for getting copyright payments, said Suspect 95, who is signed to Universal.”For independent artists, it’s harder, for now.”

“The big platforms which use massively use our songs aren’t yet paying the rights they should in Ivory Coast,” said Karim Ouattara, director general of the Ivorian Copyright Office.”But we are in negotiations and should see progress by the end of the year.” 

Circumventing China’s firewall, and using AI to invent new drugs

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As protests against rigid covid control measures in China engulfed social media in the past week, one Twitter account has emerged as the central source of information: @李老师不是你老师 (“Teacher Li Is Not Your Teacher”). 

People everywhere in China have sent protest footage and real-time updates to the account through private messages, and it has posted them, with the sender’s identity hidden, on their behalf.

The man behind the account, Li, is a Chinese painter based in Italy, who requested to be identified only by his last name in light of the security risks. He’s been tirelessly posting footage around the clock to help people within China get information, and also to inform the wider world.

The work has been taking its toll—he’s received death threats, and police have visited his family back in China. But it also comes with a sense of liberation, Li told Zeyi Yang, our China reporter. Read the full story.

Biotech labs are using AI inspired by DALL-E to invent new drugs

The news: Text-to-image AI models like OpenAI’s DALL-E 2—programs trained to generate pictures of almost anything you ask for—have sent ripples through the creative industries. Now, two biotech labs are using this type of generative AI, known as a diffusion model, to conjure up designs for new types of protein never seen in nature.

Why it matters: Proteins are the fundamental building blocks of living systems. These protein generators can be directed to produce designs for proteins with specific properties, such as shape or size or function. In effect, this makes it possible to come up with new proteins to do particular jobs on demand. Researchers hope that this will eventually lead to the development of new and more effective drugs. Read the full story.

Negotiators take first steps toward plastic pollution treaty

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More than 2,000 experts wrapped up a week of negotiations on plastic pollution Friday, at one of the largest global gatherings ever to address what even industry leaders in plastics say is a crisis.

It was the first meeting of a United Nations committee set up to draft what is intended to be a landmark treaty to bring an end to plastic pollution globally.

“The world needs this treaty because we are producing plastics by the billions,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for plastics in an interview with The Associated Press. “Billions of tons of plastics are being produced every year and there is absolutely no way to ensure that this plastic doesn’t end up in the environment.”

Entire beaches on what used to be pristine islands are now mounded with trash. Examination of a random handful of sand in many places reveals pieces of plastic.

The United Nations Environment Programme held the meeting in a city known for its beaches, Punta del Este, Uruguay, from Monday through Friday.

Delegates from more than 150 countries, plastic industry representatives, environmentalists, scientists, waste pickers, tribal leaders and others affected by the pollution attended in person or virtually. Waste pickers are seeking recognition of their work and a just transition to fairly remunerated, healthy and sustainable jobs.

Even in this first meeting of five planned over the next two years, factions came into focus. Some countries pressed for top-down global mandates, some for national solutions and others for both. If an agreement is eventually adopted, it would be the first legally-binding global treaty to combat plastic pollution.

Leading the industry point of view was the American Chemistry Council, a trade association for chemical companies. Joshua Baca, vice president of the plastics division, said companies want to work with governments on the issue because they also are frustrated by the problem. But he said they won’t support production restrictions, as some countries want.

“The challenge is very simple. It is working to ensure that used plastics never enter the environment,” Baca said. “A top-down approach that puts a cap or a ban on production does nothing to address the challenges that we face from a waste management perspective.”

The United States, a top plastic-producing country, agrees national plans allow governments to prioritize the most important sources and types of plastic pollution.

Most plastic is made from fossil fuels. Other plastic-producing and oil and gas countries also called for putting the responsibility on individual nations. China’s delegate said it would be hard to effectively control global plastic pollution with one or even several universal approaches.

Saudi Arabia’s delegate also said each country should determine its own action plan, with no standardization or harmonization among them. Plastic plays a vital role in sustainable development, the delegate said, so the treaty should recognize the importance of continuing plastic production while tackling the root cause of the pollution, which he identified as poor waste management.

Some referred to these countries as the “low ambition” group. Andrés Del Castillo, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, said that while national plans are important, they should not be the treaty’s backbone because that’s the system — or lack of one — that the world already has.

“We don’t see a point of meeting five times with experts all around the world to discuss voluntary actions, when there are specific control measures that are needed that can aim to reduce, then eliminate plastic pollution in the world,” he said after participating in the discussions Thursday. “It’s a transboundary problem.”

The secretary general of the United Nations Antonio Guterres chimed in with a tweet: “Plastics are fossil fuels in another form & pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate & biodiversity,” it read.

The self-named “high ambition coalition” of countries want an end to plastic pollution by 2040, using an ambitious, effective international legally-binding instrument. They’re led by Norway and Rwanda.

Norway’s delegate to the meeting said plastic production and use must be curbed, and the first priority should be to identify which plastic products, polymers and chemical additives would bring the fastest benefit if phased out.

African nations, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru and others called for a global approach too, arguing that voluntary and fragmented national plans won’t address the magnitude of plastic pollution. Small island countries that rely on the ocean for food and livelihoods spoke of being overwhelmed by plastic waste washing up on their shores. Developing countries said they need financial support to combat plastic pollution.

Australia, the United Kingdom and Brazil said international obligations should complement national action.

Tadesse Amera, an environmental scientist, said the treaty should address not only waste but the environmental health issues posed by chemicals in plastics as the products are used, recycled, discarded or burned as waste. Amera is the director of Pesticide Action Nexus Association Ethiopia and co-chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network.

“It’s not a waste management issue,” he said. “It’s a chemical issue and a health issue, human health and also biodiversity.”

People from communities affected by the industry went to the meeting to ensure their voices are heard throughout the treaty talks. That included Frankie Orona, executive director of the Society of Native Nations in Texas.

“There’s a lack of inclusion from those that are directly negatively impacted by this industry. And they need to be at the table,” he said. “A lot of times they have solutions.”

Orona said the talks seem focused, so far, on reducing plastic, when governments should aim higher.

“We need to completely break free from plastics,” he said.

Mathur-Filipp said that for the next meeting, she will write a draft of what a legally-binding agreement would look like. Organizers don’t want this to take a decade, she said. The next meeting is planned for the spring in France.

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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Fascinating African flavour at Qatar 2022 – New Telegraph

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During a major competition like the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, getting a different topic outside of the fiesta is a big task. That the Super Eagles are not part of the ongoing Mundial in Qatar is no news but the tournament has not lost its spark, rather, it has been a very fascinating and intriguing event which has recorded a number of amazing upsets. England, Brazil, France, Argentina, Holland, Portugal and Spain are waxing stronger with fans across the world having huge expectations that they could get better as the competition progresses in Qatar.

Who will ever expect Belgium, number 2 in FIFA world rankings, to crash in the first round of the World Cup with their golden generation of superstars? In the crunch match against Croatia in the last round of matches for the first round, the Belgians were ordinary and failed to show desire and hunger to proceed. Iran beating Wales 2-0 in the second round of matches in Group B was a shock just as Japan, after beating Germany 2-1 in the first match, dominated possession but conceded defeat to Costa Rica 1-0 courtesy of a single shot on target. The Japanese however came back stronger in the last group match by beating Spain 2-1 to top the group and the result sent Germany out despite the 4-2 win over Costa Rica.

The African teams did not start too well but they have exploded at the ongoing World Cup in Qatar. Every football loving person on the continent should be proud of Morocco after emerging tops in Group F with seven points ahead of 2018 runners-up, Croatia. Morocco did not lose any match and the only goal conceded in the first round was an own goal against Canada in a match they won 2-1 on December 1st. Before then, Morocco held Croatia to a goalless draw in the first match and also defeated highly-rated Belgium 2-0 in the second. No doubt, the magnificent FIFA training centre of the Moroccans is fast yielding dividends.

Football in the North African country is exploding. Age-grade team, female teams and also the senior national team are doing great. Overall, African teams have been fantastic at the ongoing World Cup. Cameroon recorded an entertaining 3-3 draw against Serbia in a match they could have easily won if there was no problem in their camp. Ghana also produced an electrifying encounter in the match they lost 3-2 to Portugal and went ahead to pip South Korea 3-2 in another energy sapping encounter. Senegal had a good opening game against Holland but conceded two late goals to lose 2-0.

The Teranga Lions went ahead to beat Qatar 3-1 and Ecuador 2-1 to earn a last 16 berth in the global football showpiece. Tunisia bowed out at the mundial on a high by recording four points in three games with a massive win over World Cup champions, France. The world will always remember that an African country defeated the world champions. There are salient issues to be evaluated in the ongoing Mundial. The fighting spirit of these African representatives are very encouraging. Such is not the case with the Super Eagles. The current Eagles stars are lackadaisical in the national team but always hot at their respective clubs.

The fighting spirit is not there as expected while the technical depth of the current coach Jose Peseiro is in doubt especially over the understanding of the Eagles stars. The influx of Nigerian players born abroad in the senior national team is also a big deal just as the team battles with leadership problem. Emmanuel Dennis who is yet to earn 10 caps with the team stubbornly decided to take a penalty which was eventually lost against Portugal in a friendly. It speaks volumes about the team with no leader or direction.

It is also important to note that all the African countries in Qatar are with indigenous coaches and these coaches gave a good account of themselves. Nigeria has coaches good enough to handle the Eagles but the federation believes only a foreigner can do the job. The new President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ibrahim Gusau, must act fast on the issue of coaching. The five African representatives at the Mundial are with enough experiences to do well at the next AFCON next year in Cameroon. The NFF should fortify the Eagles and provide a direction in the technical arm of the team such that the Eagles will fly again not only on the continent but on the global stage.

 

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Democrats Demand Documents In Suspected Pardon Bribery Scam Linked To Trump PAC

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Two Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee are seeking all documents connected to a suspected bribery pardon scheme allegedly involving a Donald Trump-aligned super PAC and the freeing of arsonist ranchers connected to a renegade group that occupied federal lands.

The circumstances “raise significant concerns” about a “potential case of bribery under the Trump administration,” Natural Resources chair Raúl Grijalva and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) said in a letter Friday to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

They’re seeking all documents related to the pardons of father-and-son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.

The Hammonds were convicted in 2012 of setting fires on public lands they had leased after illegally killing deer on the land. Their five-year sentence for arson in 2015 triggered right-wing protests, including a 40-day armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon led by militant rancher brothers Ryan and Ammon Bundy.

Grijalva and Porter believe the men were pardoned because real estate developer Mike Ingram gave $10,000 to Trump’s super PAC America First Action Inc., which backed Trump’s failed reelection campaign.

A Republican lawmaker reportedly told Ingram that Trump was “seriously considering” the developer’s request to the Interior Department in 2018 that the men be pardoned. The following day, Ingram made the $10,000 donation to the PAC, and Trump pardoned the men eight days later, the lawmakers noted in their letter Friday.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, denounced the pardon at the time and said Trump had “once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans.”

Despite the Hammonds’ record of violence, David Bernhardt, an interior secretary in the Trump administration, granted them a new grazing permit on Trump’s last day in office. The permit would have allowed the ranchers to use public land for their livestock for 10 years. But the decision was rescinded by the Biden administration.

Ingram and other individuals linked to the developer also donated nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the Trump Victory Fund and the Republican National Committee in 2017 shortly before a clean water permit was approved for an Ingram development in Arizona by Bernhardt.

In that case, the House Natural Resources Committee alleged the payments were in exchange for the permit, and it referred the matter in May to the Justice Department for investigation.

“The parallels between the [Arizona development case] and the Hammonds’ pardons raise significant concerns about another potential case of bribery under the Trump administration and warrant further investigation,” Grijalva and Porter noted in their letter.

An attorney for Ingram denied any wrongdoing by his client.

The activist proud of her African roots who found herself at the centre of a royal race storm

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On the other, tearing through social media and encapsulated by Nigel Farage’s GB News invective accusing her of being “an anti-Royal, anti-British Marxist”, those who see a conflict between honouring her heritage but declining to volunteer it during palace small talk.

“How is it a racist outrage to ask someone in African dress where they are from?” Farage said.

Others have republished tweets in which Ms Fulani’s Sistah Space shows support for the Duchess of Sussex, declaring in March 2021 that “according to clear definition, it seems Meghan is a survivor of DV [domestic violence] from her in-laws”.

There are inevitable – and unsubstantiated – mutterings from Lady Hussey’s supporters that the conversation was a “set up”, designed to bring the topic of institutional racism to the heart of the palace.

The palace now awaits Ms Fulani’s verdict on whether she will come in to discuss what happened; on whether she will accept Lady Hussey’s apology; and even if she feels able to put her charity’s work training people in “cultural competency” into action within its walls.

Aides on Friday refused to disclose any details of their conversations so far, confirming only that they had finally made personal contact with Ms Fulani and hoped to hear more in the future.

Those who support her will point out that she should not have to be the one to do the educating.

‘Instead of stepping down, Hussey should be encouraged to step up’

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party who was part of the conversation and confirmed she “witnessed racist remarks from a member of the royal household”, has said: “The funny thing is, neither Ngozi nor I wanted Hussey to receive the grand order of the boot.”

Writing in the Guardian, she noted: “Instead of stepping down, Hussey should be encouraged to step up, along with senior members of the Royal household.

“This is much bigger than one individual: blaming Hussey risks minimising and distracting from the depth and breadth of racism that is enshrined in an institution that carries the heritage of empire, slavery and inequality (we are their subjects, after all).”

The media team at Ms Fulani’s charity Sistah Space did not return requests for comment on Friday.

A royal source, confirming Lady Hussey would like to apologise in person, has said only that “we hope we can orchestrate a situation where everyone gets around a table and has open dialogue and that lessons are learned in a spirit of co-operation”.

Sistah Space itself runs training for institutions about “cultural competency and best practice”.

As Mandu Reid puts it: “Wouldn’t it be something if Buckingham Palace asked for their help?”

Paul Robeson Theatre’s thoughtful ‘Cadillac Crew’ is a highway through racism, sexism and erasure

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The audience at the Paul Robeson Theatre cheered the opening night performance of playwright Tori Sampson’s “Cadillac Crew” with joyful abandon. With a potent variation on the “Black Lives Matter” theme, this play argues that visibility and recognition also matter. This is a life-affirming story about historical erasure and an effort to reclaim the important role of women in the civil rights movement.

Here we meet four women: Rachel, Abby, Dee and Sarah, who work in the Virginia Office for Civil Rights in 1963.

Work in the office is arduous as the women are underpaid and subject to constant threats and harassment. As the play begins, there is excitement in the air, because Rachel, the leader of the group, has arranged for Rosa Parks to deliver the keynote address at a local civil rights event. The great lady is arriving today, but best of all, her topic is not just equality but her anti-rape activism and the importance of feminist issues as civil rights issues.

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This day will not go smoothly.

The women soon discover that the male leaders of the local movement have decided to cancel Parks’ speech, feeling that her feminist message will distract from their own civil rights goals.

Worse news is to come. The group learns that four women, two black and two white, a civil rights “Cadillac Crew,” have been shot to death and incinerated in their car while on a civil rights trip to Florida.

“Cadillac Crew” by Tori Sampson, which opens Dec. 1, kicks off the season with a story set during the peak of the civil rights movement.

Frustrated at being ignored by the male civil rights leadership and by the inevitability that the four women in Florida will be forgotten, Rachel has an inspiration. Determined to make history, she decides that she and her colleagues should form their own Cadillac Crew, and publicize their trip far and wide.

Little was documented about the Cadillac Crews of the civil rights era. Its heroes are largely forgotten. This play sets about to celebrate their contribution and to explore their historical erasure.

Francesca D’Auria plays Rachel, a serious-minded young woman and leader of the group, who is eloquent with language and dedicated to her ideals. D’Auria has a natural flair for the dramatic and gives a confidently dynamic performance.

Aqueira Oshun plays Abby, a vane and seemingly superficial woman, quick with the tart retort and dedicated to her career advancement. Oshun nails the humor with admirable precision and also meets her character’s more contemplative moments with impressive power.

Janate Solar Ingram plays Dee, the mother of a 12-year-old girl, whose perceptions of the movement are distinctly old school – at least at first. She gives an animated and highly entertaining performance of a women with deep complexity.

Nikol Stellabuto plays Sarah, giving an appealingly understated performance as a white woman from a privileged background whose grandmother made major contributions to women’s suffrage.

All four characters harbor secrets that will be revealed.

Act 1 is written in traditional climactic structure, giving ample exposition, and introducing complications that drive the plot. Once we hit the highway, however, the scenes become quick and episodic, including pantomimed action. In the final scene, which propels us forward more than 50 years into the “Black Lives Matter” era, Rachel, Abby, Dee and Sarah are abandoned entirely. Indeed, they have disappeared into historical oblivion.

Suddenly we are present at the recording of a podcast called, “Uncovering American Herstory.” Now, Stellabuto is playing the podcast host and D’Auria, Oshun and Ingram have become the real-life women who founded the “Black Lives Matter” movement. They talk about how they reclaimed their role in founding the famed hashtag, and about how the lives of women and queer people are routinely erased.

The production, sensitively directed by Linda Barr, was a bit rough on opening night. There was a distinctly annoying electronic pop that preceded and followed every sound cue, and some tentativeness in words and staging, causing the evening to run rather long. None of this diminished from the thrilling sweep of the play or the power of its timely message. This is a thoughtful and compelling play, performed by a Cadillac crew of appealing and dedicated actors.

Presented by Paul Robeson Theatre

What: The story of four women civil rights activists in 1963.

Where: African American Cultural Center, 350 Masten Ave.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 18.

Summary: Inspired by the exclusion of women from leadership in the civil rights movement, four Virginia women form a “Cadillac Crew” taking a dangerous ride into the South to teach about integration in this life-affirming play that has relevance to today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Tickets: $40 (paulrobesontheatre.org, 716-884-2013).

Corruption: Africans Are Accomplices In Africa’s Misfortune

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Renowned African speaker, Professor Patrick Lo Lumumba, has said Africans are accomplices in the misfortune facing the continent in its development strides.

Speaking as a guest lecturer on a topic, ‘Conspiracy Theory and The Future of Democracy and Development in Africa’ at the graduation ceremony of Executive Intelligence Management Course (EIMC 15) at the National Institute For Security Studies in Abuja on Thursday, Professor Lumumba stated that it was only when Africa begins to think of development within the continent and not depending on foreign things, there will be no meaningful development.

The Pan-African activist argued that there may be conspiracy by the West to keep Africa continually dependant, but Africans and their leaders have not done enough to liberate themselves and have also contributed to the underdevelopment of the continent.

He further stated that, “it is a shame that after Africa countries gathered in Abuja and agreed to implement 15 per cent of their yearly budget in Health, none of the countries on the continent has implemented this agreement.

“Please, permit me to speak freely, how do you blame international conspiracy for our misfortune when Nigeria, which is the 5th largest oil producing country in the world, has fuel queues in its capital city, Abuja?

“While countries like Qatar, which is smaller than Bauchi has built fantastic stadiums for the World in eight years from a single natural resources, while Nigeria is flaring its gas and wasting the resources. It is a shame and not worthy of a great nation like Nigeria with some many potentials.”

As a way forward, Professor Lumumba said Africa must begin to look towards the energy and ensure that it harness and develop the energy sector as no country can have meaningful development and industries without adequate energy.

Speaking earlier, the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), in who’s honour a book titled, ‘Manning Nigeria’s Gate’ was launched at the event, said the EMIC 15 participants have been trained on how to mitigate climate change crisis.

Also speaking, the Commandant of the Institute, Alhaji Ayodele Adeleke, tasked the 78 graduands from Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Rwanda and Tanzania to ensure that they are good ambassadors of the Institute.

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