Africa in the news: Djibouti nationalizes port, world’s oldest drawing found in South Africa, and new EU-Africa programs

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson passes near the Port of Djibouti in his motorcade as he departs following meetings at the Presidential Palace in Djibouti, March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1FCA3EAF60

Djibouti nationalizes majority shares in Red Sea port

On Monday, the government of Djibouti nationalized a company—Port de Djibouti SA—that owns the majority shares (66.66 percent stake) in the Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT), citing an order from the president “to protect the fundamental interests of the nation and the legitimate interests of its partners.” The DCT’s strategic location near the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden enables it to serve as a busy maritime shipping lane for ships from Asia, as well as oil tankers heading to Europe from the Arab Gulf region.

This latest move from the Djiboutian government follows months of rising tensions with the port’s operator, a Dubai-based firm called DP World. In February, Djibouti terminated its contract with DP World after refusing to renegotiate the terms of its 2006 concession and then seized control of the container terminal facility. The Wall Street Journal reported that in July Port de Djibouti SA terminated its shareholder agreement with DP World. Following this latest announcement, the government of Djibouti is claiming sole ownership over the DCT since it controls the public firm now running the container terminal. DP World has stated it will sue the government of Djibouti over its claim to the shipping terminal.

Archeologists find oldest drawing in history in South Africa

This week, a Nature piece highlighted recent findings that provide some previously unknown information about the origins of symbols and the foundation for language, mathematics, and civilization. Archeologists have discovered a stone flake in a South African cave that may contain the earliest drawing made by Homo sapiens. The stone, extracted at the Blombos cave, 200 miles east of Cape Town, also had remains that date from 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. The stone had inscriptions, which the archeologist deemed deliberate, made in an ochre crayon. Professor Christopher Henshilwood, who led the study, states that the finding demonstrates that “early Homo sapiens in the southern Cape used different techniques to produce similar signs on different media.” This draws the conclusion that the signs were symbolic in nature and provided some key insight into the behavioral realm of African Homo sapiens and their possession of modern cognitive behavior.

The discovery predates an artifact previously hailed as having the oldest modern drawing by nearly 30,000 years. Previously, archeologist believed that humans’ ability to produce symbols did not emerge until Homo sapiens colonized Europe 40,000 years ago.

European Commission President Juncker proposes new EU-Africa programs

On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed several new initiatives to bolster EU-Africa ties during a keynote address at the European Union. The centerpiece of the new commitments is investment that will help create up to 10 million jobs in the next five years. The program could lead to $51 billion in public and private investments. As a longer-term goal, Juncker also proposed the creation of a “continent-to-continent free trade agreement” that would combine the various current European agreements with African countries and replace it with an EU-Africa trade pact. Along with new investments, Juncker proposed supporting 70,000 African students and researchers between 2020 and 2027 to study at European universities. Lastly, addressing migration from Africa and elsewhere, the European Commission is looking to deploy an additional 10,000 border guards by 2020.