Nigeria has a high fertility rate. Why are infertility clinics booming?

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IN A rough-and-ready church in Ifo, on the northern fringe of Lagos, Prophet Emmanuel Akanni and Prophetess Foluke Akanni do extraordinary things. During moments of religious ecstasy, Mr Akanni receives visions that indicate which of his congregants are struggling to conceive children. By holding a chicken’s egg over a woman’s belly, he claims to be able to spy into her womb. Then he uses herbs and prayers to effect a cure. “There is nothing God cannot do,” adds Mrs Akanni. The fertility rate in Nigeria is estimated to be 5.4, implying that the average woman can expect to have that many children during her life. Yet many Nigerians experience infertility. Chelsea Polis of the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank, and her colleagues estimate that 31% of Nigerian couples fail to conceive a c

Turkey struggles to keep the peace in Afrin

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THE scene in the centre of Afrin, a Kurdish city in north-western Syria, hardly inspires confidence in the future. A destroyed statue of a mythical Kurdish hero is a reminder of the plunder of the city after its capture earlier this year by Arab and Turkoman rebels backed by Turkish tanks, from Kurdish rebels. The teenage son of one of the Arab rebels peddles cigarettes, a rifle across his knees. Another rebel directs traffic. Turkey argues it saved Afrin from terrorists and boasts of opening schools and hospitals. Residents are not exactly brimming with gratitude. “The Turkish soldiers are behaving decently,” says a Kurdish merchant. “But the bearded ones are big trouble,” he adds, referring to Islamist militants. “They’ve stolen so much.” More than 100,000 civilians, and scores of Kur

The UAE is scrambling to control ports in Africa

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IT SEEMED an irrational decision 20 years ago. DP World is one of the world’s largest maritime firms. From a squat office overlooking Dubai’s bustling Jebel Ali port, it directs operations in 40 countries. Most are in busy shipping hubs such as London and Rotterdam. But in the 1990s it started making surprisingly big investments in the Horn of Africa. It built a large port in Djibouti, and is now working on another in Somaliland (see map). The combined GDP of the two African entities is smaller than that of Moldova. Yet the firm sees the region as a land of opportunity. So do the rulers of United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of...Powered by WPeMatico

Djibouti risks dependence on Chinese largesse

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Who is in the driver’s seat? DJIBOUTI was the last of Europe’s African colonies. France clung to this sliver of Red Sea coast until 1977; even today it occasionally resembles occupied territory. In the black lava desert stands a hilltop garrison of the Foreign Legion. French tanks trundle along the narrow road to Ethiopia. This whiff of colonialism helps explain why many Djiboutians fret about their independence. China is the country’s biggest investor. It plans to remake Djibouti as a staging post on President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative. In the past two years Beijing has lent Djibouti some $1.4bn, more than 75% of its GDP. In 2015 the country was Africa’s fifth-biggest recipient of Chinese credit, despite having barely 1m citizens, one of the continent’s smallest po

Why Morocco is cosying up to sub-Saharan Africa

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The King and Buhari KING MOHAMMED VI of Morocco has had a quiet year. The monarch, who has visited at least 14 African countries since October 2016, scaled back his travels after a heart operation in February. But he still managed to play host to Mali’s prime minister in March and visit Congo-Brazzaville in April. Last month he took the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, on a motorcade tour of the capital, Rabat, flattering him with cheering spectators. Like their king, Moroccan companies are also lavishing attention on west Africa. The African Development Bank estimates that 85% of Morocco’s outward foreign direct investment (FDI) goes to sub-Saharan Africa. Trade lags behind, but this too is growing. Exports of Moroccan goods to west Africa tripled from 2006 to 2016. The king bring

Mauritania ignores slavery, but jails those who protest against it

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Almost born a slave A FEW miles from the green grass of Mauritania’s presidential palace, in a slum where the Sahara washes into the capital, Mbarka shields her five-year-old son’s eyes from the dust. She was his age when her mother gave her away to be a slave. Mbarka’s mother was herself a freed slave. But when her former master said he needed help at home, tradition dictated that she had to give up her daughter to him. Mbarka did all the chores she could but the family still beat her. She doesn’t remember how old she was when the father and his son started to rape her, but she had her first child at 13. Mauritania, with its tiny economy and population of just 4.3m, would normally attract little attention. But its vast expanse—it is four times larger than Britain—and its position astr