Afro chic footwear

The unwavering trend in fashion is still the African wax print. Previously reserved for traditional African societies the Ankara print is now the most remarkable way to make a fashion forward statement. Mystique clothing has honed into this growing trend and introduced an Africa inspired twist on footwear.

Based in Ghana, Mystiqe clothing is owned by Kwabena D. Boateng, a trained physician who is ironically one of the most prominent shoe designers to hit the scene. Kwabena designs shoes with a definitive Afro flair. His rendition of Birkenstocks has been a runaway hit because it is the perfect fusion of Afro chic and comfortable footwear. In an interview with the designer, he explained that his work is inspired by his love for Africa.

“At Mystique, we incorporate wax prints and tie & dye cloth to create a range of products which include Afro Birks, Loafers, and flats. We keep our products vibrant and chic and still remain committed to a high standard of quality. Eventhough I am a doctor, I have been motivated by the uniqueness of our Ankara prints to create a business venture that shows the beauty of Africa. In my native Ghana, we have a wide array of designs so the avenue for being creative is limitless. I am always motivated to create something that is comfortable, affordable and aesthetically pleasing.”

Visit to place an order


Invest in South Sudan

Africa’s newest country, South Sudan is now open for business but one of the greatest challenges it is facing is developing its infrastructure especially in the hospitality industry. Savvy businessman like Mahari Michael are building hotels in Juba to take advantage of this lucrative investment opportunity. AmmazingSeries visited his hotel Juba Continental to find out why he decided to invest in South Sudan.

Santa in Africa

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper just wrapped up a visit to two African countries at polar ends of the development spectrum.

On October 9th, he arrived in Senegal like Santa Claus bearing $20 million worth of gifts to assist in food distribution in areas hit by famine. This is in addition to the $57 million the government has directed towards humanitarian relief for drought victims. The sacks of cash ‘Santa Claus’ is giving to Senegal is a signal of Santa’s approval of the country’s progress.

Since Independence in 1960, this West African country which used to be a major depot for transatlantic slavery, has enjoyed bonafide political stability which has made it a popular holiday destination for tourists around the world. Although Senegal is a predominantly Islamic country, women have made significant strides in becoming decision makers in politics and the economy. The Senegalese are politically savvy and are known for delivering shocking political upsets to governments that they deem irresponsive to their needs. President Abdoulaye Wade got a taste of this trait when he altered the constitution to run for a third term in office. In March, Senegal raced to the polls in record numbers and delivered a resounding defeat to Wade by electing opposition leader Macky Sall as the new President of Senegal. The power of democracy prevails in Senegal.

As Santa Stephen Harper toured the capital, Darkar, he continued to shower the country with presents; $5 million to support youth development, $7 million to improve map technology and $70 million from CIDA. Though there are still gaps in literacy, access to health care and corruption, Senegal is a model country in Africa and the message from Santa was clear: Rewards are reserved for they that have been ‘nice’.

The next stop for Santa was the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that has been rocked with instability since 1965 when Mobutu Sese Sekoe overthrew anti-colonial freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba from power. After 32 years in office, Mobutu was driven into exile and the Democratic Republic of Congo spiralled into a bloody civil war. An uneasy peace agreement was signed in 2003 and last year, Joseph Kabila was sworn in as President amidst accusations of a rigged election.

Santa Stephen Harper arrived in Kinshasa on October 11th to attend the Francophone summit. His visit was condemned by Canadians like Romeo Dallaire who criticized the Premier for visiting a country that has a notorious record for human rights abuses. But still playing the role of father Christmas, Harper offered a $20 million investment in programs that support responsible and transparent mining of natural resources.

Ironically 2 years ago, when the DRC badly needed international assistance, President Harper refused to increase Canada’s support for a UN mission in Congo. Canada, thus lost an opportunity to curb flagrant human rights abuses and unprecedented level of sexual violence against women. But the country is on the mend, albeit slowly. Addressing a news conference, Mr. Harper made it a point to express his disapproval with the DRC and urged the next summit to be held in a democratic country.

The situation in Senegal and the DRC is a snapshot of Africa. On one hand, you have countries that are building on economic and political stability and then you have others that are trying to find their footing after decades of civil war. Judging by the size of the gift bags, the message from Santa was clear. Reprimand is reserved for the naughty ones.

Banking on Women

One of the women leading change in Ethiopia is Meaza Ashenafi. She is a devoted women’s rights advocate and a promoter of social change. In the past decade, she has galvanized support for laws which have criminalized female genital mutilation and early childhood marriages. Her new venture, ENAT bank, is geared towards making women financially independent.

Don’t mess with this woman

The newly appointed President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, is raising eyebrows for the drastic changes she is implementing in the southern African country. As the marginalized Vice President of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, Banda was sworn into office in April 2012 following the unexpected death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

A month after being sworn in, she announced that she was selling the president’s private jet and downsizing the fleet of limousines that made up the presidential motorcade. When she took office, Malawi was a poor country with millionaire government officials. She cleaned house by ridding the government of loyalists of the late Mutharika who indulged in opulence at the expense of the poor majority. Just last week, this no-nonsense President announced that she would cut her pay by 30% to show Malawians that she is willing to make personal sacrifices inorder to build the nation.

Mrs. Banda has downsized cabinet and security services and promised to lift the country’s ban on homosexuality. She has demonstrated her commitment to economic reform by endorsing the IMF’s advice to devalue  Malawi’s currency, the Kwacha. That notwithstanding, there are genuine concerns that adhering to the IMF’s plans could hamper growth and make Malawi aid dependent. Nonetheless, the steps that Joyce Banda has taken in these short months has earned international approval.

So who exactly is this woman who has been described as a fresh of breath air in African politics? She is a 62 year old mother of five who is a long time activist of women’s rights. A certified business woman who has run successful enterprises, Joyce Banda is a staunch advocate that women should be financially independent. As president, she has opened free press and brought Malawi from the brink of an economic crisis.

In a mark of fearlessness, when the African Union (AU) scheduled a conference in Malawi this past July, Banda threatened to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes if he enters her country. Recognizing that Banda is not a woman of empty words, the AU moved the meeting to Ethiopia. Do not mess with Joyce Banda!

Under her steady stewardship, predictions of a crisis after the death of the president Mutharika have not materialized. Banda has taken swift action to entrench power whilst simultaneously demonstrating to Malawians that hers is a government they can truly believe in.

Progress in Somalia

In a boost to Somalia’s rocky path towards peace, over 200 agents of the militant islamist group al -shabaab have surrendered to the African Union peace keeping mission to Somalia (AMISOM).

For the last two decades, the absence of a central government in Somalia, has galvanized al-shabaab’s control of the southern and central parts of the country . They  implemented a radical form of Sharia law in the region and vigilantly recruited Somalis from North America and around the world to terrorize people that they deemed to be enemies of islam. For five years al-shabaab held Mogadishu at hostage, pirating the high seas and extorting money from locals farmers to fund their guerilla war tactics. However since 2010, al-Shabaab’s strength has been weakened by the growing presence of  AMISOM which has intensified measures to bring stability to the country.

AMISOM’s efforts have been rewarded with significant successes; by 2011, al-Shabaab had been driven out of Mogadishu. In June 2012, Somalia held it first elections in two decades and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was sworn in as president. Al-Shabaab has retaliated with several suicide attacks including a brazen assasination of a local MP early in September. Nonetheless, there are growing signs that the morale of this extremist group has been weakened. On September 24th, over 200 al-shabaab militants surrendered to the  AMISOM. Stephen Mugerwa, the commander of AMISOM has urged other militants to lay down their weapons. Heeding this call, the Ahmad Ali Militant militant group also surrendered to the AU (African Union) and Somali government troops. In yet another setback to al-shahaab, on Tuesday morning, Kenya military working with the AU bombed Kisamoya airport destroying al-shabaab’s cache of ammunition.

Undoubtedly, the newly formed Somali government is determined to cap the power of militant groups who want to destabilize the nation. With the assistance of the armed troops from the AU, calm is being restored to Somalia. Although this period of uneasy peace is viewed skeptically by the world, it has has led to a steady influx of Somalis who are returning to Mogadishu to rebuild their country. Liban Egal used to live in Maryland, he returned to Somalia in 2011 and opened the first commercial bank in Mogadishu. Ilwad Elman has also returned to Somalia. She runs a centre which rehabilitates child soldiers and equips them with skills to help them reintegerate into society. Ilwad and Liban represent the greater majority of Somalis who want militants like al-shabaab erased so Somalia can be healed and rebuilt.


Success in Africa


Bethlehem Alemu owns soleRebels, the fastest growing brand in Africa!  In 2004 fueled by a strong desire to create employment opportunities in her community, Alemu decided to put a refined twist on traditional Selate and Barabasso Ethiopian shoes which are made out of recycled car tires.

She assembled a group of skilled artisans in the underserved neighbourhood  and motivated them to craft stylish, eco-sensible shoes out of tires and indigenous materials. The result is soleRebels, a multimillion dollar shoe company which is projected to hit $15 million dollars in revenue by 2015.

During a recent visit to Addis Ababa, I met Bethlehem at the flagship shop of soleRebels, to discuss the challenges and rewards of being a successful business woman in Africa. In a neatly decorated room surrounded by  loafers, sneakers and multi-coloured flip-flops, Bethlehem talked about her vision for her company and how she juggles her family life with the demands of her career. Few entrepreneurs have inspired and motivated me like she did. Inspite of her enormous success, she remains grounded and gracious.  She demonstrates her committment to her brand by being present at the shop to serve her customers and receive direct feedback about her collection. As we concluded the interview, a couple from Belgium walked into the store. Bethlehem rose enthusiastically and greeted them by name. “My wife is obsessed with soleRebels,” the bespectacled man explained to me,  ”she is here to stock up before we return to Brussels.” This couple like many others in Ethiopia and around the world are drawn to the quality and comfort that soleRebels produces.

To meet the growing demand for her high quality shoes, Bethlehem has expanded her operations to employ 200 local artisans to export Ethiopia’s eco-sensible shoes to Europe and North America and Asia. With a simple dream to improve the conditions in her community, Bethlehem Alemu has created a respected brand which has garnered accolades at home and abroad.

Catherine Hamlin

Generous, hardworking and unstoppable, 88 year old gynecologist Dr. Catherine Hamlin is the co-founder of Hamlin Fistula Hospital. Located in Ethiopia, this medical centre provides free health care to women who suffer from debilitating child birth complications called obstetric fistula. Dr. Hamlin arrived in Ethiopia in 1959 with her husband Reginald Hamlin to train midwives in Addis Ababa. But even after their contract was over she and her husband stayed in Ethiopia to provide life saving surgery to women from every part of Ethiopia. In a remarkable demonstration of character, Dr. Catherine Hamlin continued to live and give to Ethiopia even after her husband died in 1993. She works tirelessly to raise funds so women can receive free medical treatment in her hospitals. In a June 2012 visit to Ethiopia I visited a rehab centre in Desta Menda which was established by Dr. Hamlin to treat more severe cases of fistula. Beyond medical treatment, the women who are admitted to Desta Menda are also taught various skills like poultry farming so when they are discharged they can become self sufficient members of their community.

Dr. Hamlin’s selfless commitment to the welfare of women makes her an angel on earth.