JEUNE AFRIQUE
Jeune Afrique is a French-language weekly news magazine. It was cofounded by Bechir Ben Yahmed and other Tunisian intellectuals in Tunis in 1960, and is now headquartered in Paris.
Society
Jane Roussel

LGBTQ+ In Morocco: A New Video Series To Open Minds

In a country where homosexuality is still penalized, the feminist LGBT+ group Nassawiyat launches a poetic and political video series to try to change conservative mindsets.

"My hair has never been like others, people have always described it as ugly, frizzy..."

So begins "Nouwara," the first episode of the web series Homouna (which means "they/them," in reference to the pronoun used to designate a person who doesn't use she or he pronouns).

It's produced by the Moroccan LGBTQ+ feminist group Nassawiyat (meaning "feminist") and financed by an undisclosed backer. Posted on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook, Homouna tells the story of a queer woman in a patriarchal society.

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Ideas
Tarik Oualalou

Facing Climate Emergency, Africa Must Reinvent Its Cities

Due to climate change and pollution, entire neighborhoods and cities on the continent are destined to vanish. A new vision of African urbanism is needed to replace the illusion of the "city without limits."

-Analysis-

Sebha is bound to disappear. The capital of Libya's hydrocarbon-rich Fezzan region has become the largest city in the Sahara. For years, it has seen the convergence of public and private capital, and a steady flow of migrants. Subjected to major demographic pressure, the city of the sands is now doomed. Sooner or later, the lack of water will empty it of its inhabitants — and return its territory to nature.

Sebha is not an isolated case. Everywhere, districts and cities face similar fates. Some because of rising water levels, others subject to rampant desertification, mega-fires or repeated cyclones. These are the devastating and unprecedented consequences of climate change, of course, that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just reminded us of.

But that's not the only cause. By participating in toxic production systems, we have degraded nature and altered climates. At the same time, since the industrial era, we have readily adhered to this crazy fantasy of the limitless city, capable of absorbing ever more inhabitants, without questioning its capacity to meet their basic needs.


​African cities like Los Angeles

Look at Los Angeles: For a long time now, California's largest metropolitan area has not had enough water resources. It gets its water from the Sierra Nevada, nearly 600 kilometers (373 miles) away. Even in one of the richest regions in the world, this infrastructure, which does not care about borders and distances, is running out of steam. Los Angeles has been suffering from water shortages for two decades, a problem out of step with its residents' standard of living.

Africa is home to 86 of the world's 100 fastest growing cities.

In rich countries, the system is breaking down more quickly than we thought. In Africa, it is an absolute emergency. It is the last continent to urbanize, and the one that is doing so the fastest, without a state structure capable of financing the infrastructure that this implies.

Between high birth rates and rural exodus, Africa is home to 86 of the 100 fastest growing cities in the world. At least 79 of them — including 15 capitals — are facing extreme risks due to climate change.

photo of lots of cars in Cairo

A traffic jam in Cairo

Imago/ZUMA

​Kinshasa's floods to Cairo's "urban hell"

The 13.2 million inhabitants of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are already regular victims of flooding. They will be twice as many by 2035. In Ethiopia, the number of city dwellers will increase from 24 to 74 million in the next three decades. Egypt's urban population will then reach 85 million, compared to 43 million today. It's so much growth that the authorities will have to create a new capital to relieve the urban hell of Cairo.

How to provide housing and equipment, roads and transport, drinking water and sanitation at such a sustained rate? It is impossible. Tensions over access to water, energy and telecommunications will increase as cities continue to have needs that exceed their territorial production capacity. Conflict is inevitable. We are heading for disaster.

That is unless we radically change the way we build our world. In Africa as elsewhere, this means first of all putting an end to the illusion of the city without limits. Some, like Sebha, will have to be abandoned to nature, and thousands of new ones will have to be built. But the thinking must be reversed, to find a balance between populations, resources and territories.

The new city must be appropriately sized, limited by its own resources: if a given territory can provide water and energy for 50,000 people, then the future city must not exceed that size.

Nomads not refugees

To do this, we must reconnect with the visible infrastructure of the past, which was part of the landscape, calling for collective governance. This was the case of the Roman aqueducts and also of the Agdal basins, which integrated urban agriculture, as well as the wells located in each neighborhood, as is still the case today in Venice. This is now being tried in Morocco, with the creation of the city of Mazagan, near El-Jadida, which we already know will not have more than 200,000 inhabitants.

The consequences of climate change, demographic pressure and rampant urbanization leave us no choice: Africa must be the scene of the reinvention of the city in the 21st century. And for that, it is urgent that it becomes again a laboratory of architectural and urban experimentation, with all the more legitimacy that it will no longer be, as in the past, a colonial laboratory.

We must decolonize our thinking.

On the contrary, we must tap into what Africa is capable of offering the world through modes of organization, traditional resource management and the use of materials that have fallen into oblivion. This kind of experimentation is, for example, the raison d'être of the Moroccan Pavilion at the Dubai 2020 World Expo. Made of raw earth, the building stretches 34 meters tall, an unprecedented height. More durable than concrete, raw earth, an African material par excellence, also makes it possible to do without air conditioning in one of the hottest places on earth.

If Africa continues to impose urban planning models thought up elsewhere, without a critical dimension, it will end up in chaos. Here too, we must decolonize our thinking and imagine collective organizations that will enable us to adapt to the major displacements that climate change is already imposing on us. It is in Africa that we can learn to be nomads again, so as not to become refugees.

Coronavirus
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Where Are The Doses? How U.S. And Europe Vaccine Pledges Look In Africa

Following bold promises from Western leaders to send millions of jabs to the developing world, there is still an extreme shortage in most African countries.

In recent weeks, European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden have very publicly doubled down on commitments to help vaccinate the whole world against COVID-19, donating hundreds of millions of additional doses to try to save lives in developing countries and defeat the global pandemic once and for all.

"To beat the pandemic here we need to beat it everywhere," Biden said last week announcing the U.S. was buying 500,000 more vaccine doses to share with other countries. "This is an all hands on deck crisis."

But in many places, the situation on the ground is lagging behind the public promises. In Africa, the world's least vaccinated continent, the global Covax initiative aims to raise the vaccinated rate from the current 3.6% to 40% by March 2022. But as Jeune Afrique magazine reports, obtaining the 470-million doses to make it possible will be a serious challenge.

Colonial connections 

"We complained about a lack of transparency," Aurélia Nguyen, managing director of the Covax Facility, tells Jeune Afrique. "We have the funding and the contracts to vaccinate 37% of the African population byl March, but we will need a very rapid increase in deliveries to achieve our goals."

Given its colonial connections and geographic proximity, European countries like Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal have decided to largely focus on Africa for their Covax donations.

Still, Africa has only received 167 million doses so far (67 million through Covax) and the 27 EU member countries have delivered just 60% of its promised deliveries. For its part, the United Kingdom has donated at least 35 million vaccines to Africa. Significantly, the majority of these doses are AstraZeneca, which because of issues with blood clots, often are looked at wearily by vaccine skeptics.

As long as rich countries take vaccines off the market, Africa will not meet its targets.

In terms of the cost of these donations, the EU is not significantly behind other countries, having so far spent over $2.5 billion on Covax, compared to the United States' $2.6 billion. Although, this might seem low given contributions by singular nations, for example Japan's $1 billion, accounting for 10% of global financial commitments to Covax.

A sign explains who can get a jab first during the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program at Mbagathi Hospital, in Nairobi, Kenya — Photo: Robert Bonet/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Vaccine inequity

Advocates are still demanding more from the EU: Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, a French member of the European Parliament and co-chair the Board of Covax shareholders, sent a letter to President von der Leyen earlier this month asking for an additional 4-billion-euro contribution to Covax. This would give leverage to a more ambitious objective of achieving 60% vaccination coverage in low and middle income countries by the first half of 2022. But von der Leyen didn't follow this guidance, instead promising 200 million additional Covax vaccines by mid-2022 during her September 15 State of the Union speech.

The EU has chosen a more long-term approach to aiding Africa through the pandemic, investing one billion euros to develop the technology and infrastructure to produce and distribute vaccines domestically. In July, Brussels gave the green light to support vaccine manufacturing at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal. But the question remains whether this will do enough to reduce vaccine inequality, with African vaccine coverage inching toward 20% by the end of the year.

And as Western countries around the world consider third doses to boost vaccine efficacy, first doses for poorer countries might become even more scarce. As Dr Matshidiso Moeti, regional director of the World Health Organization, tells Jeune Afrique, "As long as rich countries take vaccines off the market, Africa will not meet its targets."

Economy
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

A Birds-Eye Look At The Global Cryptocurrency Revolution

The products originally of America's tech industry, Bitcoin and other digital currencies have since been adopted around the world. Nigeria, Vietnam and the Philippines now have some of the highest rates of cryptocurrency use, and many local entrepreneurs and governments are trying to cash in by building their own domestic coins.

Not all of these attempts have been successful. But some are providing innovative solutions to adapt to specific needs and forge local competitors in the global economic marketplace. From Cambodia to El Salvador, here are five examples of where crypto could prove to be the currency of the future.

Africa

In 2018, Afro was created with the goal of becoming Africa's first cryptocurrency, with founders that include lawyers, tech experts and artists. While Afro has only signed a treaty with one African country, Côte d'Ivoire, it now boasts 10,000 transactions a year. And there are other African cryptos looking to gain ground across the continent, including NuruCoin and Akoin (yes the coin of Senegalese-American singer Akon).

  • Fondation Afro is currently in talks with central banks in countries including Benin, Burundi, Cameroon and Tanzania. The absence of clear regulations, together with fears around the instability of crypto has slowed its development. And yet, unlike in the rest of the world, small commerce, rather than financial traders, has led much of cryptocurrency's growth in Africa. As David Nataf, the co-founder of Fondation Afro, tells Jeune Afrique, "We are laying the foundations. It's a bit like when the internet started out, it's brand new."
  • Afro has set its sights on Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, where large populations might be interested in a currency that more easily facilitates remittances, an important component of many African economies. Cryptocurrencies can speed up transfers and lower transaction costs. Exchanges can be conducted with just a smartphone, which is significant given that they are the main (if not only way) many across the continent access the internet.
  • Fears of pirarcy persist — note the case of the two South African brothers who disappeared with $3.6 billion from their crypto investment platform. But technology like Afro could potentially help the 80% of Africans who don't have bank accounts "leapfrog" in terms of development by going past traditional monetary systems.

Asia

With some of the world's most advanced digital currencies, many Asian countries are looking at how technology can fortify existing currencies and payment systems. These central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) provide a more formalized (and potentially stable) way for paperless transactions, but also raise fears around government surveillance.

  • In October 2020, Cambodia launched a blockchain-based mobile payment system called Bakong, named after the Angkor Wat temple. The digital wallet facilitates payments with QR codes and even works for those without bank accounts. Serey Chea, managing director of the National Bank of Cambodia, tells Le Monde, "Our goal is for this platform to help strengthen financial inclusion and reduce social inequalities, as very few people have a bank account in the countryside [more than 75% of the population lives in rural areas]."
  • When it comes to the world's second largest economy (and the place that invented paper money), China is hoping its e-yuan can be a powerful competitor to Bitcoin. China has already cracked down on cryptocurrency mining and the e-yuan is a departure from the governmentless cryptocurrencies that aren't bound to local laws or monitoring — essentially eliminating the anonymity of crypto purchases. In October 2020, a test run of 10-million e-yuan was given to 50,000 Shenzhen residents to spend in 3,300 partner shops. Since then, 200-million e-yuan have been distributed.
  • Elsewhere, the Philippines has approved 17 cryptocurrency exchanges and, similar to many African countries, many are focusing on facilitating remittances. Satoshi Citadel Industries created its remittance unit Rebit to support the some 2.3 million Filipinos working abroad sending billions of dollars of money back home each year. Given that the Philippines and many other developing economies still have smaller demands for Bitcoin, the returns can end up being greater than the invested amounts.

Latin America

Amidst economic turmoil caused by the pandemic and widespread inflation, many Latin American countries are exploring the potential of cryptocurrencies for more durable development. Politicians from Paraguay to Mexico have even taken part in the "laser eye" meme to express their support of this technology.

  • In June 2021, El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as its legal tender. The goal is to help the struggling Central American country (which has experienced low GDP growth) through modernization and digitalization. President Nayib Bukele — the man behind the "Bitcoin law" — says he hopes El Salvador will become a hotspot for Bitcoin mining, supported by its vast geothermal resources. The government is even offering $30 in Bitcoin to any citizen who starts using its new crypto wallet, Chivo.
  • El Salvador is not alone in the craze, with many of the region's largest economies leading the charge: In Brazil, the Mercado Bitcoin exchange traded $5 billion in the first quarter of 2021, and the Bitso (Mexico) and Ripio (Argentina) exchanges are also expanding. Brazil also announced early this year that it's launching a Central Bank Digital Currency.
  • On a broader level, Latam Coin Protocol is hoping to improve the regional economic outlook with its Latam Coin. More than just a cryptocurrency, Latin Coin Protocol also includes a charity with the goal of social and productive development. Given that Latam Coin launched just this past June, it's too early to tell if it will prove to be a powerful crypto player.
Geopolitics
Claudia Lafrance and Olivier Marbot*

The Rush To Reverse Africa's Dismal Vaccination Rate

As many parts of the continent face a brutal third wave, the urgency to vaccinate is growing. But the obstacles are many, including a stubborn strain of vaccine hesitancy.

Vaccination against COVID-19 remains a challenge in Africa. The Delta variant is spreading on the continent and the third wave of the pandemic is causing fears of more sudden and concentrated arrivals of severely affected patients in hospitals. The situation is all the more worrisome given the lack of capacity to care for them. Some facilities are already saturated. The situation is particularly problematic in South Africa, where it's winter now, in North Africa (especially Tunisia), and in Uganda, so much so that the specter of an "Indian-style" scenario is increasingly being raised.

So far, just over 6 million cases and 155,000 deaths have been recorded on the continent. But these figures could be underestimated, as the data is fragmented. In all, 51 countries on the continent (including the Maghreb) have received roughly 70 million doses from various sources, and 18 million people are now protected by two jabs. That means that less than 2% of the African population has been vaccinated, numbers that are simply "unacceptable," the World Bank's director of operations, Axel van Trotsenburg, recently said.

"The Covax system was supposed to provide us with doses, but we can see that it not functioning very well," laments Dr. Moumouni Kinda, executive director of the NGO Alima, which has just launched a vaccination support and awareness campaign in six countries.

"The situation is very disparate. In some countries, there is a shortage of doses, in others people have received the first dose but are unable to get the second," he adds. "We must change our methods, otherwise the third wave that is hitting southern Africa will also arrive in West Africa and this will be a failure for everyone. We must opt for active vaccination, that is to say, we must sensitize the populations and go to them, not wait for them to come to the centers."

Complicating matters is the fact that a large part of the African population is also reluctant to be vaccinated. This mistrust is even fueled by some leaders. In addition to legitimate questions, there are prejudices and conspiracy theories about alleged attempts at poisoning or even disguised sterilization. Last December, only a quarter of respondents of a survey conducted by the African Union's Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 18 countries across the continent believed that coronavirus vaccines were safe. At the same time, 79% of respondents said they would accept an injection if it was proven safe.

We must stop thinking that in Africa, we do not vaccinate properly!

"Too much fake news is circulating, especially on social networks," says Dr. Amavi Edinam Agbenu, who works with the WHO's Africa division. "Citizens don't necessarily have all the data to analyze it and we are working to bring them information as soon as we can."

Media campaigns, creating informational videos, and support for state communication are now among the organization's priorities on the continent.

"Resistance to the vaccine has many sources: confusion in communication, lack of clear information, the reputation of AstraZeneca, which some European countries have suspended for a while," Alima's Dr. Kinda explains. "So we use community networks, people who are able to explain things to people. But we also need to be transparent about the side effects of vaccines, document them and inform seriously, to reassure people."

Complicating matters is the fact that a large part of the African population is reluctant to be vaccinated — Photo: Robert Bonet/NurPhoto/ZUMA

The NGO director also deplores what he calls "contradictory messages," explaining that some people who send doses to Africa refuse to allow nationals of our countries, even though they have been vaccinated, to enter their country. "This is very regrettable and does not reassure people," he says. "The suspicion must stop. We have a good experience with mass vaccinations. If necessary we are able to go to villages, to go door to door… We know how to do it. We must stop thinking that in Africa, we do not vaccinate properly!"

Amavi Edinam Adgbenu, a pharmacy doctor and expert in immunology, agrees. "African countries may have a limited income, but their health systems are often well trained and able to carry out large-scale vaccination campaigns," he says. "They are used to vaccinating more than 10 million people in one week against yellow fever, meningitis, or polio, for example."

In addition to the Covax package, which announced 31.5 million Pfizer doses for Africa by the end of August, the African Union has secured 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one injection. The shipments are expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2021. According to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for the continent, the number of available doses are expected to be much higher in July and August. The WHO says that 25 million will be sent from the United States in the next few weeks and another 3.5 million from Norway, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom.

The rate of the use of vaccines received varies considerably from one region to another

The World Bank and several African leaders met earlier this month to discuss the development aid expected for the next three years, especially to fight the pandemic. But NGOs are concerned that donated doses will expire too quickly for countries to have time to roll out their campaigns.

Paradoxically, despite the shortage, batches of the vaccine have recently expired in the DRC, Health Minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani announced on July 14. And this is not an isolated case. Other countries are failing to administer them in time. In May, Malawi destroyed nearly 20,000 expired doses. The DRC, South Sudan and South Africa have also sent back doses, either because they were about to expire or because they refused the AstraZeneca vaccine, which did not work against the South African variant. Cameroon, seeing the deadline for its doses approaching, stepped up its vaccination campaigns last week. In all, some 20 sub-Saharan countries are still at risk, with some doses expiring by the end of the summer.

The WHO and CDC centers in Africa have been supporting governments for months in organizing their vaccination campaigns. Regular monitoring of stocks and their expiration dates has been put in place. "In some countries, the use of certain brands of vaccine has been frozen to clear priority uses," says Edinam Agbenu. Vaccination has also been opened earlier than planned to non-priority targets.

But the rate of the use of vaccines received varies considerably from one region to another. According to the latest figures available to WHO, Morocco, Angola and Rwanda have administered all their doses, followed closely by Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Tunisia, Ghana, Uganda and South Sudan, which have exceeded 90% use. Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, and Eswatini are at around 80%

Some 30 countries have been less quick to develop their vaccine campaigns and have used between 30% and 80% of their doses, while seven others are really lagging behind. Some started their campaigns late. And it is possible that not all data has been reported.

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JEUNE AFRIQUE
Nina Kozlowski

In Morocco, A Fake Gynecologist Exposed As Online Predator

Since the beginning of the year, a fake doctor has been offering free consultations to young women on Instagram order to solicit intimate photos or incite them to commit sexual acts.

CASABLANCA — Forced outings, sextortion, revenge porn: Moroccan social networks have not been spared from this type of cybercrime. And the victims — mostly women or homosexuals — prefer to keep quiet for fear that their denunciations will turn against them. According to a report published last March by the Moroccan network Mobilising for Rights Associates (MRA), seven out of 10 victims of online violence do not report attacks "out of shame" and "fear of social rejection."

Indeed, justice is not necessarily risk-free. Recently, a Court of Appeals in the northern city of Tetouan confirmed a lower court verdict of one month in prison and a fine of 500 dirhams ($136) for Hanaa, a young mother who was the victim of "pornographic revenge" on social networks.

Hanaa will not return to prison, but the court convicted her of "public indecency" and "sexual intercourse outside marriage" under Article 490 of the Moroccan penal code. However, the judge decided to extend the international search warrant against the person who filmed the video, who lives in the Netherlands.

Victims have begun to turn to citizen movements such as Moroccan Outlaw, which campaigns for the abolition of article 490 of the penal code; Diha F'Rassek ("Mind Your Own Business'), which helps victims of revenge porn and sexual blackmail; and No hchouma, which fights for "a sexually and emotionally fulfilled Moroccan."

He identifies the young women and approaches them directly via Instagram direct messaging.

In February 2021, Mehdi, who manages the No hchouma Instagram page, stumbled upon the account of a certain Youssef Benchekroun, a sex therapist in Marrakech with 4,638 followers, mostly between ages 16 and 25.

"At the time, this therapist offered free, interesting and credible content online. He had quite progressive positions, so I decided to follow him," recalled says Mehdi. "Then he changed his profile, introduced himself as a gynecologist, renamed himself ‘Dr. Benchekroun" and started making questionable, even conservative, comments: pointing out women's clothing that he considered too short or too tight. That made me cringe."

Mehdi's intuitions proved to be right: Several people contact him to raise the alarm about this mysterious gynecologist. On Instagram, the bio of the famous "doc Benchekroun" attracts an audience of teenagers and young adults in a society where these topics are not easily addressed in public and where consultations with specialists are expensive. "Most young people are affiliated with their parents' health insurance, so it's difficult for them to go see a doctor without their parents knowing about it," says Mehdi.

Benchekroun, who describes himself as a 38-year-old married man, suggests talking about "sexuality without taboos' and offers his services in the following areas: "sexual education, couple therapy, relaxation techniques and relevant advice."

It's all online and free. The "doc" promotes himself with Instagram stories, posts and polls where he asks users about their favorite sexual positions. He then identifies the young women who have participated and approaches them directly via Instagram direct messaging. Needless to say, all these practices are strictly forbidden by the code of physicians. Except that Dr. Youssef Benchekroun does not exist: No gynecologist bears his name in Morocco.

A person walks alone on the sidewalk in Marrakech, Morocco — Unsplash User Noah Rosenfield

He contacted Chaïma* several times, asking her very intrusive questions and offering her "free consultations or operations." The young woman refused because she lives in Europe and already has a gynecologist. But there are also many young women in distress who kept talking Dr. Benchekroun.

This was the case for Rania*. At the time she contacted him, the young woman was having problems with her libido and her sexual experiences were not very fulfilling. She says she briefly explained her situation to him and he immediately suggested that she go on WhatsApp, to talk directly.

"I was very hesitant but he reassured me that he was a father and that he had a practice in Marrakech," she says. "We called each other and he quickly started asking me awkward and intrusive questions, eventually asking me to masturbate live on the phone. I refused, politely. He told me that if I didn't do what he asked he would never be able to help me and that I was a stuck-up person. I eventually hung up, though I sent him a message apologizing. Finally I blocked him and I understood that it was not normal."

The problem is that none of the victims dare to talk to their parents or file a complaint

Another young girl fell into the trap and sent intimate photos, before revolting against the dubious practices of this fake doctor, who did not hesitate to threaten to share her photos and sexual experiences in public.

These are just some of testimonies directly collected by Jeune Afrique. The problem is that none of the victims dare to talk to their parents or file a complaint, especially since the famous Youssef Benchekroun is not identifiable. "Several victims still have his phone number, and there is surely an IP address behind his account, but to identify him, there must be a complaint and the police must open an investigation," says Mehdi. "The problem with this impostor is that he also knows how to go under the radar. For a few days he suspended his account because No hchouma denounced his practices, but like any good predator, I'm sure he will return."

The victims hope above all that this story will encourage the public prosecutor's office in Marrakech to take up the case and open an investigation. There is no shortage of evidence to convict the fake doctor, including screenshots where it is clear that this man is committing identity theft and illegally promoting his activities, a form of extortion on young women, sometimes minors. The hope is that it would be exactly like what happened in the Hanaa case in Tetouan, says Mehdi, "except that this time we would like it to be done in favor of the victims and not the other way around."

*Names have been changed to protect the women's identities

food / travel
Eva Sauphie

The Ital Diet, A Rastafarian Recipe For Eating Right

For a combination of spiritual and political reasons, Rastas developed a diet based on healthy, local ingredients that was a precursor, it turns out, to some current food trends.

Bob Marley used to drink a strange beverage every morning made of a reddish colored seaweed known as Irish moss, so named because it's thought to have been introduced in Jamaica in the 17th century by Irish immigrant workers. The algae has been growing on the coast ever since.

The drink derived from it, known for its high content of vitamins, iron and calcium, is now marketed in a ready-to-consume version. It has little to do with the brew that was so dear to the king of reggae. Either way, the Irish moss beverage is part of what's known as the "ital diet," which was born with the Rastafari movement in the 1930s.

The word "ital" is a contraction of "vital" and "I" (the unifying English pronoun "I" favored by Rastafaris), and the diet that goes with it consists mainly of vegetables and unprocessed products. Homemade is the key word for ital followers.

Jamaican chef Rasta Mokko, one of the leading exponents of ital or vegan cuisine, takes the time to simmer his Rastafarian nectar over a low flame in his garden, commenting on the benefits of the fruits and plants that grow on his land.

"I add lime, milk and it makes Supligen," he jokes in a video posted on his successful Ras Kitchen YouTube channel. "With that, no more prostate cancer."

In a sad irony, Bob Marley died of melanoma skin cancer at the age of 37, despite drinking his homemade, iodized concoction daily.

For Rastas, preparing their own food means rejecting consumerist society.

"For Rastas, preparing their own food means rejecting consumerist society," says Alexandre Grondeau, founder of reggae.fr, one of the first French media outlets dedicated to the genre and its culture. "We can see a political interpretation, because to consume what we produce is to be anti-Babylon, anti-colonial."

Vegan chef Delroy Brown agrees. Brown runs Gee Wiz, an ital restaurant in Treasure Beach, in southwest Jamaica.

"The goal of this diet is to ban all food that was imported by the colonists," says the 66-year-old, who also works as a caterer for Jammin Voyages, an agency specializing in customized trips to Jamaica. "The ital diet encourages us to eat what grows naturally on our land."

This fervent defender of Pan-Africanist movement says the idea is also "to get closer to our slave ancestors who grew their own food during the colonial era." Thus, items on the menu in his colorful canteen include vegetable-based stews and soups that also, in some cases, contain fish — "to support local fishing," he says.

Vegetarian or vegan, the ital diet has several variations. Bob Marley himself allowed some fish on his plate, but never went on tour without his chef.

"Marley did not go to restaurants," says Alexandre Grondeau, author of Bob Marley: A Universal Hero. Grondeau recalls that during his first tour with the Wailers in England, in the early 1970s, Marley had to find something to cook ital. "But it was winter. There were no vegetables and everything was expensive at the time," the author explains.

Cooking at home, cultivating and eating locally: a triptych that is reminiscent of the consumption patterns encouraged by environmental protection activists in the context of the current ecological crisis. Like vegans, followers of ital cuisine do not eat meat or animal products such as milk and eggs. Environmentally-friendly before its time, their approach is less political and social than spiritual.

Rastas want to free themselves from Christianity and yet their eating habits are drawn from the Bible.

Rastas want to free themselves from Christianity, a religion imported by European settlers. And yet, their eating habits are drawn from the Bible: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." (Genesis, 1:29).

This pattern of consumption is also influenced by passages from Leviticus, and embraces what's known as the livity movement, a contraction of "live" and Leviticus.

"We can also see an animist approach inherited from African spiritualties," says Coralie Jouhier, co-founder of the ital and Afro-vegan restaurant Jah Jah le Tricycle in Paris. "Some pioneers of the Rasta movement like Leonard Howell, apostle of the return to Africa, encouraged being aware of what we eat, to be close to nature, to respect the cycle of life, his body and his spirit," Jouhier adds.

Legumes (lentils, beans), alkaline foods (spinach, broccoli), sources of protein from oilseeds (almonds, peanuts) and more recently "raw food" (salads, carrots and beets) are the basis of the ital detox.

"One day I was in the studio in Jamaica with the reggae star Anthony B, and we wanted to have food delivered," says Alexandre Grondeau. "He was amazed and said: "You see, I eat what I am, that's why I'm healthy. We've never seen a carrot go crazy like your cows do!""

Ital vegan bowl — Photo: JAH JAH via Instagram

At a time when being a city dweller in Western capitals is synonymous with chia seeds and yoga, the ital diet is slowly beginning to be accepted in practice. But for a long time it was an oddity, something associated with out-there 1970s eating habits.

"Today, concert organizers no longer receive Jamaican artists the way they used to, by laughing at them and serving them platters of cold cuts," says Alexandre Grondeau. "Society has changed its view and has understood that Rastas were avant-garde in their way of eating."

The movement has spread beyond Jamaica's borders to U.S. and British artists such as Jah Sun and his song No Bones No Blood. There's also Macka B and his ital anthem What We Eat. Both continue to advocate this culinary philosophy in music.

In the meantime, there's still the question of certification. A label is being structured in the United States for an official recognition of this almost century-old diet. "It's only a matter of time," says Coralie Jouhier. "I'm convinced that ital products will soon be available in organic stores."

BBC
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Redefining Our Work-Life Balance

Telework, telework, telework … The concept may seem like old hat at this point. And yet, there are also new elements to the phenomenon that keep cropping up — new words, shifting workplace relationships, evolving office spaces — as society continues to morph around this shifting reality.

Fascinating innovations around our new work-life balance are still blossoming, in other words — and negative repercussions are still taking us by surprise. This edition of Work → In Progress stays ahead of the game, pinpointing the problems and solutions that will be on our minds even in a fully-vaccinated future.

LET'S GET PHYGITAL The hybrid system of working from both home and the office is now so common that France has come up with a new word to describe it: "phygital." A combination of the words physique (physical) and digital, the concept is so ingrained into modern work life that jobs ads for "chief phygital officer" are starting to pop up, and the French daily Le Figaro reports that many of the country's largest corporations are gearing up for a post-pandemic phygital workplace.

WORK FROM WHERE? While some may be moving their home office to a new room, one Scottish call-center consultant suspended his new workspace from a cliff in Wales. Armed with nothing but his laptop, a mobile internet connection and a hanging tent, Jason Griffin spent a day juggling client calls while dangling above the sea. He's already planning his next home office adventure on the western coast of Scotland. Perhaps his stunts will inspire an x-treme teleworking trend.

THE NEW ABNORMAL Workplace abuse is back on the rise in Brazil. According to the financial paper Valor Econômico, social distancing and the shift to remote work in the early months of the pandemic caused reports of harassment, sexual and otherwise, during working hours to fall by as much 22.7%, leading to a wave of optimism. But the change was short-lived: According to a new survey by Valor, these old problems have found new ways to sneak back into the country's companies, regaining pre-pandemic levels and then rising by an additional 6.2%. For example, sexual harassment now takes place through webcams, where "the internet gives people a sense of impunity." It seems that perpetrators, too, have adapted to the so-called new normal.

THE ODD JOB

BUTT OUT, BOSS Hiding a screaming child from a company Zoom meeting is no easy feat. As offices and schools shut down around the UK at the beginning of the pandemic, employees found themselves explaining their difficult situations to their superiors in an attempt to adapt their new work-life balance as best they could. But the Forward Institute, a non-profit that analyses leadership within companies, found a "fundamental shift in what employers know, and need to know, about their employees' personal circumstances." While some fear this new information sharing may lead to discrimination, the director of PurpleSpace, a company that provides support for disabled employees, told the BBC that company leaders are becoming "more human."

SWAPPING SPACES As Laura, a young Parisian professional explained in recent interview with France Bleu, work used to end as soon as she got onto the metro heading home. But since the lockdown periods began, she now finds herself answering e-mails well into the evening. And that's only one of her gripes with remote working. The other big problem is the lack of home-office space, which is why Laura and her boyfriend are part of a growing number of professionals leaving cities not for sanitary or social reasons — or even to be closer to nature — but to gain a bit more elbow room, so to speak. Adequate work space at home has become so important that, as the Wall Street Journal reports, landlords are now looking to rent out rooms and retail spaces in suburban areas, blurring "the distinction between residential and commercial neighborhoods."

STAT DU JOUR

TECH GLITCH When it comes to the future of the African market, organizations like the World Bank, the IMF, the African Union and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development have been clear about one thing: The digital revolution will electrify the continent's economy. And yet, as the pan-African news website Jeune Afrique reports, some economists feel the tech boom will do nothing to solve the massive unemployment plaguing the Sub-Saharan region. One argument purports that in the manufacturing sector, African companies can either create jobs or become more competitive, but the machine-driven nature of our world today does not allow for both. Much of African job creation currently takes place within the agricultural industry and much of the work is informal. Perhaps actors looking to boost employment in Africa should put the same emphasis on farming as they do on tech.

JEUNE AFRIQUE
*Frida Dahmani

Femicide In Tunisia: Why A New Law Couldn't Crack The Patriarchy

A recent spousal killing in El Kef demonstrates how vulnerable Tunisian women remain despite the introduction, four years ago, of a law specifically designed to protect them.

-Analysis-

TUNIS — Her name was Refka Cherni. She was 26 years old and had a whole life ahead of her when, on May 9, in the city of El Kef in northwest Tunisia, five shots fired by her husband snuffed out all her hopes and dreams.

Before falling victim to her husband — a national guard officer who used his service weapon to end a marital quarrel — this mother of three children was first a victim of those who refused to hear her.

Cherni had suffered from domestic violence for some time, just like an estimated one-third of Tunisian women. She even tried, finally, to put herself under legal protection by filing a formal complaint. That was three days before she was shot at close range.

"Although she presented a medical certificate and the attacker was an agent of the security forces, the deputy prosecutor on duty had not seen fit to arrest him," says Karima Brini, president of the Association Women and Citizenship of El Kef.

Since its implementation in 2017, Law 58/17 has aimed to eliminate violence against women and provide a protection tool available to all, one that police and legal stakeholders can't ignore. Better still, a specialized brigade including female agents is dedicated, in each delegation, to following up on cases.

Nevertheless, Cherni did not benefit from this system, and that's because all the laws in the world will not change the archaic and conservative mentalities that magistrates often display. The law banning violence against women has disturbed their established order: that of a patriarchal and macho world where the family unit must not be touched, even if it means that the woman will keep silent about abuse.

It's as if the wife, the mother or the sister has to sacrifice herself and be an accomplice of the silence that accompanies the domestic violence to which she herself is a victim.

It's an unmentionable disease enshrined in the texts of law.

The first to pave the way for these unspeakable acts are the women themselves. With incredible confidence, some women on social media advocate obedience to their husbands and castigate those who do not understand that the man is king and that the aggression of a husband is an act of love, even a benevolent one.

"He who loves well, punishes well" still has meaning for those who also have a role in influencing the younger generations.

It is on this foundation that values are biased, that society loses its compass in wanting to judge good and evil. But this is not what is asked of it. Some people get panicky and are embarrassed at the idea of condemning a practice that seems to them to be an ancestral custom, legitimized by time.

Social media tribute post to Refka Cherni — Source: Association Femme et Citoyenneté via Facebook

The magistrates, the investigating judges, the police and more generally all the representatives of the law are children of this society that uses and abuses denial so as, above all, not to recognize that it is sick and that its pathology is transmissible and potentially fatal.

It's an unmentionable disease masked by the emancipation of the woman which is, in fact, enshrined in the texts of law. The most devious will object that Tunisian women are lucky to be protected by the Personal Status Code (PSC). But after 65 years of existence, it needs a facelift in terms of equality and rights.

Refka Cherni is a victim of this ambivalence that is no longer hidden by common sense, as it has long been in Tunisia. Indeed, all Tunisian women are victims in this sense, albeit some more than others.

At fault is a conservatism fed with religious preconceptions by pseudo exegesis who in the media dispense clichés and calls to violence without being contradicted. Their words are even used in popular Ramadan soap operas, whose heroines justify the rape and aggression suffered by women.

This state of affairs is part of everyday life and does not bother anyone. On the contrary, some people consider it to be freedom of expression, an encouraging aspect of a democracy that is taking hold. No one denounces these increasingly widespread reflections, no one points out the absurdity, no one protests against an erroneous approach to religion and even less against the fact that crimes are absolved in this way.

What are they afraid of by simply enforcing the law?

Sooner or later, these issues related to Islam and society, which directly concern Tunisian women, or some 50% of the population, must be addressed. Is it because of these retrograde references that, too often, judges do not take into account the complaints of women who have suffered violence? In any case, they seem to confuse violence, which sometimes leads to death, with domestic accidents.

The main thing is to keep quiet, to diminish the importance of the facts, to reduce them to a simple incident. What are they afraid of by simply enforcing the law? These are questions that none of them answer, as they are so unseemly.

Refka Cherni"s blood has not yet dried and they already argue that she had reconciled with her husband and that only the peace of the household counts. None of them has the decency to keep quiet, especially since her murderer is a member of the National Guard who used his service weapon. To the preconceived ideas is added the corporatism which makes the representatives of the judicial apparatus of El Kef accomplices of a murder.

In fact, in the absence of an authority and a political will, small arrangements between friends are the order of the day, especially since they have a free hand; the system tolerates abuses and ensures impunity for abusers. And after all, why be indignant? When a woman is beaten or shot, no man is killed.

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THE GUARDIAN
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Telework Is Changing How We See The Office

The enduring pandemic has forced the world to develop new ways of working. What once were casual chats at water coolers are now endless WhatsApp group message chains, while cubicles and corner offices have been replaced by everyone's home kitchen table... not to mention your children doing (or not doing!) their schoolwork beside you. The good news is that the health crisis should begin to ease in the coming months, and most of us will be able to return to the office. Still, nothing will ever be the same after the taste we've had of — and the innovation sparked by — our remote reality.

This edition of Work → In Progress explores how the new work environment is bound to be an ever and always evolving process:

ARTIFICIAL ATTENDANCE Zoom filters, avatars at online conferences … Microsoft is taking virtual meetings to the next level with its development of holograms. Its newest platform, Mesh, aims to facilitate "mixed reality," allowing employees from all over the world to meet via "holoportation." In a post-pandemic world where offices reopen, Mesh could change the need for workers to be based in a specific city, as these holograms mean rays of light simulate their body in real-time and allow them to interact with objects and people in a physical space far away from their headsets.

HOME OFFICE BURNOUT In the past 12 months, the pandemic has turned our homes upside down. Usually a safe haven free of work-related stress, we have turned our spare rooms, kitchen tables and (no point hiding it) couches into workstations. Our work life has invaded family and free time, sometimes physically occupying its spaces. No wonder that home office burnout is on the rise, especially in developing countries where a pandemic-free life still isn't on the horizon, like Brazil. According to Estadão, an increasing number of Brazilians report chronic stress, rising anxiety, and lack of joy in their homes, and burnout diagnoses are on the rise, particularly among young women. And what's worse, "The pandemic has created a tunnel where there are no alternatives and the light is still very far away," the paper said.

THE ODD JOB

TRICKY BIOMETRICS Using biometrics — the biological data unique to each of us — in the workplace has been on the rise for some time, as employees identify themselves with everything from fingerprints to voice recognition to access company networks, data, applications and devices. Since the pandemic and contact tracing, this trend has been on the rise as a recent study shows the majority of Americans are in favor of company wearables that could benefit their health, security and safety. However, a recent article in Raconteur points out that people with disabilities such as hand or voice tremors or stutters need to be factored in right away to avoid excluding them from our future biometric world.

WATCH THIS WORD "Workspitality": a post-pandemic trend where hospitality merges with work and hotels use their spaces as co-working stations and rentable offices. The basic premise asks why would you work from home when you can work from a hotel. This took off in India first, with the lifting of travel restrictions creating a new trend of taking work-from-hotel vacations (nicknamed "workations'). Next stop "workspitality". Apparently, nothing is safe from work these days, even your holidays.

NAME AND SHAME "Foosball tables are cool but worker's rights are even better" announces the bio of the Instagram account @Balancetastartup ("Rat out your start-up"). Created in December 2020, it already has amassed more than 183,000 followers and has been the talk of the French entrepreneurial world as it openly shares stories of workplace harassment and mistreatment at trendy young companies. As start ups proliferate, so does the problem of companies too small to have a proper HR department. These kinds of social media accounts are one way to keep these companies in check. And, according to French daily Les Echos, this one is planning to eventually offer consulting on worker's rights.

STAT DU JOUR

VIRTUAL INSANITY Being left out of team WhatsApp chats, not being included in a Microsoft Teams session, being dropped from the weekly Zoom apero ... From French media Welcome to the Jungle to The New York Times, there are more and more reports of increased paranoia among remote workers. When a suggestion on Slack is left unanswered, it is possible to read a lot between the lines and imagine all kinds of slights. Small moments are becoming amplified when all the communication is virtual. Maybe you need to change your virtual background!

THE GIG IS UP Uber recently made global headlines by announcing its decision to implement a minimum hourly wage, pensions and vacation time to 70,000 UK drivers. The decision, however, comes from a recent court ruling imposing these new policies on the US-based giant and according to The Guardian, drivers are skeptical. One driver told the British daily, "The court ruling said one thing, Uber said another thing," as the company immediately told drivers that the new wage would only begin from the time they accept their first trip to and end when the last passenger is dropped off despite the ruling's specification that waiting time should be taken into account. "It should be from the time you log on," said the interviewed driver. "It's like any other job: you're paid for the time you're behind your desk, whether or not there's work you can do there."

RETURNING HOME A recent study from Moroccan research institut Intelcia found that 62% of the African diaspora's university graduates and professionals want to be entrepreneurs back in Africa, and around 40% would move back immediately if given the chance. One Senegalese entrepreneur told Francophone African news website Jeune Afrique, "I returned to Dakar because I was frustrated with the lack of opportunities in France. And I wanted to contribute to the development of my country." With lots of niches that have yet to be filled in many markets around the continent, many feel it's the perfect opportunity to become industry leaders in their home country.

Geopolitics
Nina Kozlowski

In Morocco, A New Movement To Legalize Sex Outside Marriage

In the kingdom, a 'revenge porn' case revived the debate on article 490, which criminalizes sexual relations outside marriage. Activists say it's time to modernize the country on the issue of sexual freedom

RABAT — What if individual liberties could be placed at the center of the upcoming legislative elections in Morocco? This is the goal of the social movement "Moroccan Outlaws", led by author Leila Slimani and director Sonia Terrab. On Feb. 22, the "Outlaws' launched a direct appeal to political parties to finally take a stand either for or against the repeal of article 490 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual relations outside marriage.

Since Oct. 2019, the Moroccan Outlaws have been campaigning for the repeal of this article. This fight emerged during the case of Hajar Raïssouni, a journalist sentenced to prison for having an "illegal abortion" and "sexual relations outside marriage," before being pardoned by King Mohammed VI. In that year, according to figures from the General Prosecutor's Office, 15,192 persons were prosecuted under this article. On Feb. 3 2021, a distressing new case prompted the Outlaws to take action again. A single mother from Tetouan was sentenced to one month in prison after an intimate video of her was posted on the internet without her knowledge. The perpetrator, who lives in the Netherlands, was never arrested.

Against this backdrop, Moroccan Outlaws launched a digital campaign called "Stop 490" and sent a letter to each political party. It contains two questions that at first glance are very simple: "Is your party for or against the repeal of article 490 of the Penal Code" and "If you answered ‘for" to the previous question, do you plan to include this point in your electoral platform?" The answers, or the lack of answers, will be published on the movement's social networks in a month's time. Terrab says that she has already "received some off-the-record reactions."

This seemingly straightforward question about repealing article 490 is in fact a formidable headache. It is all summed up in the words of an unnamed parliamentarian: "It is difficult to answer this question with a yes or no, because on one side there is religion and on the other side there are individual freedoms." Such a law does not exist in many countries with a Muslim majority, including Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan. But, in Morocco, the question of its repeal creates the potential of a real rift, to the point of leading to interminable fights on social networks.

What are the consequences? In recent days, few politicians have dared to come out of the woodwork. The most daring are in the ranks of parliamentarians. Abdelmajid Fassi-Fihri, deputy in the Istiqlal (Independence) Party, is one of the few to have responded favorably to a repeal of article 490. But Fassi-Fihri says it is "a personal opinion." Istiqlal is known for its conservative positions, and "the current environment has made the party more concerned about the pandemic and its negative effects on society," he says.

On one side there is religion and on the other side there are individual freedoms.

Ibtissame Azzaoui of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) says that "the laws that regulate society must not be out of step with the values of society." However, society is changing and people often refuse at first to accept change before asking "the political parties to open the debate on the current values of Moroccan society." So far, no one has spoken out categorically against the repeal of article 490, but many of the specific conditions involved in its repeal are opposed by politicians while others are drowned out by the noise.

In 48 hours, the Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS) sent three different messages: On Feb. 23, Nouzha Skalli, former Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, known for her progressive positions, spoke in favor of the repeal on Site.Info.

At the same time, deputy Fatima-Zahra Barassat explained to another media outlet that work needed to be done on the notion of private life and public space, stating that "The state should not have the right to regulate intimate relations in the private sphere, but can punish what represents a public affront, as already stipulated in article 483." This is a position shared by Abdelmajid Fassi-Fihri.

On Feb. 24, Nabil Benabdellah, secretary general of the PPS, stated on the radio that his party is in favor of decriminalizing sexual relations outside of marriage, while announcing that this is not part of the PPS program, "because you don't base a campaign on the repeal of an article." Nice dodge.

Society is changing — Photo: Moroccan Outlaws 490

Remaining in the extended family of the left, the USFP (Socialist Union of Popular Forces) parliamentarians also pronounced themselves in favor of the decriminalization of extramarital relations. But they also called for a global reform of the Penal Code, since article 490 was not the only one in question in terms of protecting individual liberties and the victims of sexual violence.

The same goes for the PSU/FGP (United Socialist Party and Federation of the Democratic Left), which denounced in particular "an unjust article against the most disadvantaged classes of Moroccan society," and wondered why everyone was so interested in becoming a morality police officer.

Hamza Elmeray, a member of the PSU National Council and a member of the FGP goes further: "Where are we with the reform of the Penal Code initiated in 2015?"

Elmeray continues, "The government and its majority refuses to talk about any changes to be made to this reform by political calculation. The next elections will push many parties not to position themselves, to make sure that they do not lose their base. The repeal of the articles that destroy liberty, or their amendment, is not defended by the working classes."

Some young people, at any rate, are very interested in individual freedoms. Moroccan Outlaws, followed by more than 46,000 accounts on Instagram and 41,000 on Facebook, has decided to challenge the political parties. "It is an opportunity to get young people engaged and renew their interest in politics. And it's a way for the parties to communicate with a fringe of society from which they have completely cut themselves off," says Terrab.

The Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the National Rally of Independents (RNI) are considered favorites in the upcoming elections, but for the moment they seem to be silent about this matter of repeal. PJD is led by Saâdeddine El Othmani, the current head of government, and RNI is led by Aziz Akhannouch, a businessman and Minister of Agriculture. On the side of the "Islamists," only one deputy, Amina Maelainine, called on her political party to "review its legal arsenal" concerning individual liberties, at the time of the Hajar Raïssouni affair.

Maelainine was herself a victim of public vindictiveness. This rising party figure, who once embodied the hard wing of the PJD, had private photos leaked revealing her in front of the Moulin Rouge in Paris in Jan. 2019. Since then, Maelainine called for the opening of a "public debate on several provisions of the Moroccan Penal Code, which may serve to infringe on privacy and reduce the space for freedom," all in the name of "dignity and democracy." Contacted by Jeune Afrique, the deputy has now gone silent, like her colleagues at RNI.

BBC
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: The Freelancing Changes Afoot

Vaccines are slowly arriving, but many of the shifts COVID has created will be lasting. These reverberations are much deeper than just working from home or increased digitization — society's priorities have evolved. Thanks to the pandemic, people all over the world are completely rewiring their lives. They're leaving once-vibrant cultural metropolises for serene greenery and fresh air, turning away from foreign exports to support their local communities and embracing vacation time as an important tool for productivity.

This edition of Work → In Progress explores how these changes in ethos are manifesting in business and labor. In a world rethinking everything from agricultural models to freelance contracts, here are some of the latest trends in the workplace:


ENTREPRECARIOUS From Italy to South Korea, we've seen how the pandemic has fueled a freelance boom. But people may also be turning into entrepreneurs against their will. Silvio Lorusso, author of the book Entreprecariat, noted in an interview with French media Welcome To The Jungle that in Europe, many employees have been pushed to continue working as freelancers so companies can cut costs. He wonders if the post-COVID self-employment boom is really entrepreneurship, or just more "uberisation" of the workplace. He also warns that the "roll up your sleeves' attitude towards the crisis propagated by governments and companies is implicitly asking workers to do more labor for less pay, as their suggestions for adapting to the "new normal" have included mastering new digital tools, organizing their home office, coordinating modified hours with coworkers ... all activities that are seldom recognized as work.

AFRICA RISING If African nations were poised to become an investing hotspot before, the past year has only accelerated their potential. For starters, the pandemic seems to have had much less of an impact there than on other regions of the world, due to factors like a younger population and high public support for safety measures. An even more important factor, however, is the innovation currently taking place. According to the professional services network Ernst & Young, "A surplus of workers, more stability and technology are transforming Africa's economies, making it less dependent on extractive industries." Examples of African entrepreneurship include developing facial recognition technology for African populations, harboring the largest African genome bank in the world and, since COVID, a boost in locally-made pharmaceutics, the pan-African francophone media Jeune Afrique reports.

THE ODD JOB

AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION Agriculture in India, which accounts for about 58% of the population's livelihood, is in distress. Farmers in the subcontinent have one of the highest suicide rates in the world, a symptom of conditions of extreme poverty. An op-ed in the Delhi-based news outlet The Wire argues that in order to improve the agricultural sector, governmental policies should "have a clear vision of what our future villages should be" and plan accordingly to ensure the stability of local populations. It's an idea that could ensure employment for farmers around the world, as many Europeans have been calling for the EU's Common Agricultural Policy to align with their Green Deal's Farm To Fork strategy, which aims to put small farmers at the heart of the food distribution system.

FROM STATIC TO AGILE In times of uncertainty and unpredictability, companies will accelerate the transition from static vertical structures to agile, self-managed teams. According to America Economia, the pandemic and the rise in remote work made companies realize the drawbacks of the traditional style of leadership, which sometimes verged on micromanagement. Throughout 2021, companies will seek to put in place new processes and structures, giving teams more independence and clearer fields of action. Leaders will be expected to create a safe space within a team, setting clear goals, roles and responsibilities and then limiting themselves to motivating and empowering autonomous workers, leaving them free to do the rest.

REMOTE VS. 5-DAY WORKWEEK Old habits die hard, and that includes the five-day work week and daily 9-to-5 grind. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, Fast Company argues, it's that standard practice isn't necessarily the best practice. For one thing, worker engagement and performance tends to start strong on Mondays but gradually drop during the week. Also, remote work and digital technologies mean we hardly stop checking our screens at 5 p.m. — and people relinquish hours of unaccounted work in the hope of some downtime in the weekend. What if companies instead allowed employees to get the work done "whenever they can," logging their hours when they'd like — including early mornings, late, nights, weekends? If done right, that would allow workers to live their lives not only a couple of days a week but every day.

A NEAT TWEET

URBAN ARRIVEDERCI An increasing number of young Italians are leaving cities and offices to rediscover a love for the countryside. The biggest farmer's association in Italy reports a 14% rise in the number of young farmers over the last five year. The group said the rise was partly propelled by the coronavirus crisis. Many of these young farmers came from different professional backgrounds, allegedly looking to reconnect with nature and a more genuine lifestyle.

PRODUCTION VALUE The way we think about productivity is changing, with more managers, workers and employers considering meditation, family time and vacation elements that boost productivity rather than a waste of time. While our society's decades-old obsession with productivity has seemingly worsened during the pandemic and remote working, the Brazilian weekly Epoca Negocios reports that it also taught some people about the importance of a more holistic approach to getting things done — boosting professionals' well-being and time spent off work, emails, and screens.