Faith’s archivists (Long read, The Economist)

THE secret evacuations began at night. Ancient books were packed in small metal shoe-lockers and loaded three or four to a car to reduce the danger to the driver and minimise possible losses. The manuscript-traffickers passed through the checkpoints of their Islamist occupiers on the journey south across the desert from Timbuktu to Bamako. Later, when that road was blocked, they transported their cargo down the Niger river by canoe.

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In memoriam: Malick Sidibe (The Economist)

The door is open at Malick Sidibe’s studio, and all are welcome. Fine dress is required; accessories are encouraged. Mr Sidibe ran a photography studio in Bamako, Mali for 30 years before he became known internationally.

Mr Sidibe ran a photography studio in Bamako, Mali for 30 years before he became known internationally. For a few francs, he shot portraits of Malians in a country imagining itself anew. He produced thousands of images, snapping people playing, swimming and dancing, often men and women mid-swing on the dance floor. Malick Sidibe died on April 15th, aged 80.

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Counter-terrorism in Africa (The Economist)

“TRAINING for terrorism is like having car insurance, you hope you have it, but never have to use it.” So says the FBI attaché to Senegal, shortly before blowing up a car. The dusty black Suburban SUV was in good condition: one officer looked sadly at the tyres, musing that they could still be useful. But by then the Feds had already filled its boot with 15kg of American military-grade explosive and topped the tank with petrol.

Attack in Burkina Faso (The Economist)

BULLET casings should not be strewn across city blocks. Yet in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, hundreds were on Saturday morning. Small or large, thin or long, copper or silver-coloured, they covered the intersection one street away from the Splendid Hotel, which had come under attack for more than 12 hours on Friday night.

Murder in Mali (The Economist)

AFTER armed groups occupied the northern half of Mali and officers in the capital staged a coup in 2012, the country accepted generous international security assistance. A thousand French soldiers now monitor the jihadist plotters who lurk in the desert and the brush; over 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers are at bases in the capital, Bamako, or patrolling the north; and Mali’s own forces are being improved. All of these forces (plus a few American commandos) were deployed after two young gunmen burst into the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on November 20th. Their collaboration was swift and co-ordinated, which undoubtedly prevented more killing, but the death toll was over 20

Senegal Plans New City to Ease Gridlock, Woo China Investors (Bloomberg)

On a plain dotted with rotund baobab tree trunks Senegal is planning its future.

The government of the West African nation is laying the groundwork for a new city near the town of Diamniadio that’s meant to ease congestion in the seaside capital, Dakar, home to almost a quarter of the country’s 14 million people. With plans for a new airport nearby, a university, state ministries and a 50-hectare (123-acre) industrial park funded by China, it’s the most ambitious infrastructure project yet of President Macky Sall, who’s pledged to double growth by 2020.


What's in a domain name? (The Economist

MALI has long had links with the wider world. Tripoli and Gao were once connected by chariot. Trade routes shuttled scholars and goods from Timbuktu to the Mediterranean and beyond. The same routes ferry guns, drugs, people and pasta today. Now Mali’s government is finding new links on the web.

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Analysis: How Ready is Mali for Ebola? (The Economist)

When the nurse took my temperature at the border town of Kouremale – where Mali meets Guinea – the infrared gun registered 100.4 F. She was recording temperatures next to names in a book of every person crossing into Mali from Guinea. Minutes later, the Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, would pass through, and I was reading fever.

“Funteni be,” I joked in Bambara. It's hot. I looked around at the many soldiers and customs officers wearing white masks. “Yes,” the nurse said, smiling and waving me off, “it is hot.”

Mali's double whammy (The Economist)

MALI thought it had got off lightly. As the Ebola epidemic claimed thousands of lives across the border to the south in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Mali recorded just a single case of the virus. It was carried by an infected two-year-old girl, who had been brought by her grandmother from Guinea, travelling 1,200km (745 miles) by bus and taxi with the feverish child. She died in hospital in the city of Kayes on October 24th

This is what it’s like inside an Ebola testing lab in Mali (Quartz)

BAMAKO, Mali—I was talking to Yaya Sarro, a molecular biologist at the National Laboratory, when the biological samples from the newest possible Ebola case arrived for diagnosis. It was six days after Mali’s first patient, a two-year old girl who had taken a long bus ride from Guinea with her grandmother and sister, tested positive for Ebola. She died on Oct. 24, 600 km northwest of the capital in Kayes. Now Malians, hospital staff, contact tracers, the ministry of health, a few journalists and a coalition of international partners were anxiously waiting for the next case to appear. Eighty-five people were under surveillance, mostly in Kayes, but some in the capital. Families were in isolation.

Cookies, caches and cows (The Economist)

OUSMANE sweats under a tin roof as he thumbs through a Chinese smartphone that he is selling at the technology market in Bamako, Mali. Words in French, Mali’s official language, scroll down the screen. “A ka nyi?” (Is it good?) a customer asks him in Bambara, Mali’s most widely used tongue.

Mozilla, the foundation behind Firefox, an open-source web browser, wants Ousmane’s customers to have the option of a device that speaks their language. Smartphones with its operating system (OS) are already on sale in 24 countries, including Bangladesh, India and Mexico, for as little as $33. Other countries will be added as it makes more deals with handset manufacturers. And Bambara is one of dozens of languages into which volunteer “localisers” are translating the OS.

What Amazon, Uber, and iTunes might look like if they were invented in Mali (Quartz)

The road leading up to the University of Bamako is lined with little improvements. Shacks overflow with old Xerox machines on which anything can be printed, copied or laminated for a few cents. There are stalls selling vegetables and stalls for repairing electronics. Students on foot walk along an improvised and slanted set of cracked steps to the center campus.


That others may live (The Economist)

IT IS a solemn custom in science to mark the names of collaborators who pass away during the course of an article's publication with a superscript no different than that indicating their academic affiliation. Very rare indeed is the case that five names on a single report should share that mark. Such a report was published in Science this week. It demonstrates the astonishing speed at which genetic sequencing can now be carried out. At the same time, the fact that Ebola claimed five of its authors is testament to the deadliness of the paper's subject

Algeria's missing flight AH5017: Serval's final mission (The Economist)

TWO French fighter jets screamed across northern Mali on Thursday not in pursuit of terrorists, but on a far more tragic sortie. At 1.50am Air Algeria AH5017 disappeared, possibly over the country. The plane was an MD-83, carrying 116 people from Oaugadougou, Burkina Faso to Algiers. Onboard were passengers from France, Burkina Faso, Lebanon and elsewhere, and a Spanish crew. Its pilots were apparently told to alter course to avoid bad weather before contact with the flight was lost. Algeria has sent a C-130 aircraft and Mali is also looking, but the French military lead the search.

Mali's conflict: the rebels are back (The Economist)

REBEL forces in the northern Mali city of Kidal claimed on May 22nd to have defeated government forces as well as African UN and French troops. Dozens have died and other towns may have fallen to the rebels as well or are endangered. A few days earlier the government had dispatched 2,000 barely-trained soldiers 1,500 km from Bamako, the capital, to the troubled region around Kidal following an earlier armed standoff during a visit by the prime minister. They met an about equal number of ethnic Tuareg rebels, who may have been aided by jihadists.