Africa/Middle East - Issue 28 - Magazine | Monocle

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Learning curve

Seychelles [EDUCATION]

The tiny Indian Ocean Republic of Seychelles, the smallest state in Africa, has opened its first-ever university this autumn in an effort to stop the brain drain from the archipelago.

The University of Seychelles, on the main island of Mahe, is starting off by offering courses in business administration and computing and information systems for 55 students. Next there will be marine science and tourism degrees.

Until now, around 150 students have been leaving the archipelago (which has a population of only 85,000) every year to get a higher education in countries such as the US, the UK, Cuba and Russia. 

“We were taking the cream of the population and sending them abroad,” says Dr Rolph Payet, the University of Seychelles’ first vice-chancellor. Payet, an eminent climate change scientist, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore as a lead author of the ­influential Intergovernmental Panel on ­Climate Change report, says he hopes the new university will educate up to 1,000 people in its first five years.

Students graduating from UniSey, as it will be known, will also get a degree from the University of London, which is collaborating on the development of the courses.

Reasons to study (or not) in the Seychelles:

  1. Well run: One of the best governed countries in Africa, Seychelles is ranked second in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

  2. Multilingual: Former colonial masters, Britain and France left their languages behind. But Creole is also an official state language.

  3. History: Had close relations with Moscow during the Soviet era. Most of its trade is now with western Europe.

  4. Cash flow: Badly affected by the global financial crisis, at one stage owing $800m in foreign debt, an average of $10,000 per Seychellois.

Train times


Israel is to spend $13bn (€9bn) in the next decade to build a rail network that will run the full length of the country, from the southern coastal town of Eilat to the Sea of Galilee in the north.

“Traffic and parking problems make it almost impossible to reach Tel Aviv,” says Joseph Prashker, chief scientist for the Ministry of Transport.

This new rail network, he says, will enable people around the country to get to its financial and commercial hub, Tel Aviv, easily. There are 975km of railways in Israel (existing lines are shown in black) but usage has risen in the last decade almost six-fold and demand is still growing. — as

All dried out


The massive decline in levels of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers because of drought has added to political mismanagement and conflict that have been catastrophic for Iraq’s once thriving agriculture. Last year, the country, which was the breadbasket of the region for centuries, produced its smallest wheat crop ever and had to import more than 70 per cent of its wheat. This year, dams in Syria and Turkey have cut water flows into Iraq despite “water sharing” agreements between the three countries.

Since 2003, Iraq has had to start shopping abroad for the following for the first time:

  1. Wheat, rice, sorghum (mainly from Canada, Australia, US and Brazil).

  2. Cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, okra (mainly from Iran, Jordan, Syria and Turkey).

  3. Oranges, grapes, watermelon, melon (mainly from Iran, Jordan, Syria and Turkey).

Getting over it


Thanks to the Chinese, Angola has just opened its biggest bridge. It’s the first to cross the Cunene river in the south since the country’s bridges were blown up in the 1975-2002 civil war.

Other projects are struggling, though. Angola is due to host football’s African Nations Cup in January but the biggest new stadium in the capital, Luanda, is behind schedule.

DIY employment


Most Africans are self-employed. Unfortunately that’s not by choice. The lack of full-time jobs forces 95.2 per cent of Chadians, for example, to live on the informal market. It’s better further north – “only” 35 per cent of Tunisians are in irregular work.

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