Africa At 50



In the first of a new series, Robin Denselow reports on Africa at 50, visiting countries which are celebrating their landmark anniversary this year.

What were the hopes and aspirations at the time they won their freedom from colonialism in 1960? What are today's challenges and opportunities? This week Robin visits Nigeria, formerly a British colony.

Despite vast oil wealth, the lights regularly go out, there's a heated national debate about corruption, and the country spends billions of dollars importing food when it could be growing it.

Robin meets a businessman who makes power cables, but can't get regular electricity to manufacture them, a state governor who wants to change agriculture and education, and a group of young activists vowing to change next year's presidential election.

One of the country's most powerful politicians acknowledges the problems.

But despite the challenges- Nollywood, the home grown film industry is thriving, and the legacy of the nation's favourite rebel musician Fela Kuti lives on at the New Shrine in Lagos.

Celebrated novelist Chinua Achebe recalls independence in 1960 and warns Nigerians are wasting their talents and resources.

Producer: Liz Carney

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Robin Denselow reports from Nigeria 50 years after the country gained its independence.


At dusk in Bamako, the capital of Mali, a bugler plays and the traffic stops as soldiers lower the Malian national flag.

On the monument, banners proclaim Mali's independence from France, fifty years on.

But, as Robin Denselow reports, this is a bittersweet anniversary.

Mali is a vast landlocked country on the southern borders of the Sahara and is one of the tenth poorest countries in the world.

It has survived a dictatorial one party system, then corrupt army rule but today this predominantly Muslim state is praised by the west for its democracy and stability.

But Mali faces massive problems as many young and unemployed people from the country risk their lives to cross deserts and oceans, as they desperately try to leave for the west as illegal immigrants.

Robin joins world music star Rokia Traore at an outdoor concert on the banks of the River Niger, as she launches a music foundation to help young people.

He meets Malians deported home from overseas, and visits a migration centre, which has been criticized as an outpost of fortress Europe.

And he discovers why farmers who've grown Mali's main cash crop, cotton, are struggling to return a profit.

Producer Liz Carney

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Robin Denselow examines a bittersweet history and talks to Malian musician Rokia Traore.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo has been independent for 50 years, and endured the most painful, brutal history of any African state.

It has survived dictatorship, political assassination and still on-going conflicts.

But there are dramatic changes, as the Chinese move in with a controversial barter deal to build roads, hospitals and universities, in exchange for a cut of the country's vast mineral wealth.

It is 'win win' according to the Congolese Government and the Chinese Ambassador.

But critics say the DRC is getting a raw deal.

Robin Denselow reports from the capital, Kinshasa, where the locals say: 'The only rule is there are no rules'.

Millions of people struggle to find money for education and health care, and poverty forces 14,000 children to live on the streets.

Some are cast out from their families as witches, street girls face the dangers of sexual violence and Robin meets rapper, Djack, who sings against the brutalisation of women.

He records his songs, with street children, and with the poorest of the poor in the desolate, and cruelly named, City of Hope.

Robin also tracks down legendary musicians and politicians who shaped DR Congo's independence in 1960 and looks at why UN peacekeepers were there then, and are still there now.

Producer: Liz Carney

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Robin Denselow reports on African countries celebrating 50 years of independence in 2010.