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Discover luxury in Madagascar with Africa’s first caviar

The owners of this venture believe that luxury foods can play a part in improving Madagascar’s economy.

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Discover luxury in Madagascar with Africa's first caviar
A worker from the company Rova Caviar Madagascar shows a box packaging for caviar at the Acipenser factory, on June 4, 2019 in Mantasoa, Madagascar. - Renowned for its unique wildlife and vanilla production, Madagascar has a new claim to fame -- the island nation is Africa's first and only source of caviar. The business is an unlikely project in a country beset by grinding poverty, but its owners are determined that luxury foods can play a part in improving Madagascar's economy. (Photo by MAMYRAEL / AFP)

Madagascar, renowned for its unique wildlife and vanilla production, has a new claim to fame – the island nation is Africa’s first and only source of caviar.

The owners of this venture believe that luxury foods can play a part in improving Madagascar’s economy.

“A lot of people laughed at us,” says Delphyne Dabezies, the head of Rova Caviar, admitting that the enterprise was a big gamble.

“But we took the time to prove that this is serious. Madagascar caviar is now the only caviar produced in Africa and the Indian Ocean.”

Discover luxury in Madagascar with Africa's first caviar
A worker of the Rova Caviar Madagascar company holds a sturgeon after pulling it from the net, at the Acipenser factory, on June 4, 2019 in Mantasoa, Madagascar, in order to extract caviar from it. (Photo by MAMYRAEL / AFP)

The island off the coast of Mozambique is still only a minor player in terms of global production, which is dominated by China, Italy and France — though producers in the Caspian Sea still boast the most prized caviar, from Beluga sturgeon.

Last year Mozambique produced a tonne of caviar in a world market of about 340 tonnes a year.

But its ambitious promoters hope to soon increase production to five tonnes.

The unusual plan is the brainchild of Dabezies, her husband Christophe and their partner Alexandre Guerrier – all entrepreneurs based in Madagascar.

Learning skills

Discover luxury in Madagascar with Africa's first caviar
Workers from the company Rova Caviar Madagascar grade and analyse the caviar extracted from a sturgeon, at the Acipenser factory, on June 4, 2019 in Mantasoa, Madagascar. – (Photo by MAMYRAEL / AFP)

“At the time, our business in luxury ready-to-wear clothes had become sustainable, and we were seeking to diversify our activities,” Dabezies said.

“We are all gourmands, so this idea served our purposes.

“Madagascar has an exceptional environment that produces rare crops such as cocoa, vanilla, organic shrimp and lychees – we thought we could add caviar.”

The sturgeon that produce unfertilised caviar roe are kept in Lake Mantasoa, perched at an altitude of 1,400 metres east of the capital Antananarivo.

Training the staff has been a major part of the project.

“Caviar professionals have come from abroad,” said Ianja Rajaobelina, now assistant director of the production plant, which employs 300 people.

“I had to learn everything on the job.”

Discover luxury in Madagascar with Africa's first caviar
Sahena Say, hatchery manager of the Rova Caviar Madagascar feeds small fish, at the Acipenser factory, on June 4, 2019 in Mantasoa, Madagascar. (Photo by MAMYRAEL / AFP)

Staff member Say Sahemsa, wearing white boots, tells AFP: “You have to take care of the spawn and avoid giving them too much or not enough food, to have the lowest possible mortality rate.”

Sturgeon are imported from Russia in the form of fertilised eggs, which hatch in a special nursery facility in Mantasoa.

When they reach seven grams (a quarter of an ounce), they are moved to freshwater ponds, and then into large cages in the lake when they weigh 500 grams (around a pound).

At 1.5 kilogrammes, the males are killed and only the females are kept on until their eggs are ready.

Colour, taste and smell

Discover luxury in Madagascar with Africa's first caviar
A worker from the company Rova Caviar Madagascar packs in a metal box the caviar extracted from a sturgeon, at the Acipenser factory, on June 4, 2019 in Mantasoa, Madagascar. (Photo by MAMYRAEL / AFP)

The process demands patience and skill.

The first imported eggs arrived in Mantasoa in 2013, and the first grams of caviar did not go on sale until June 26, 2017, Madagascar’s independence day.

The quality of the harvest depends on the dexterity of one man, 23-year-old Gaston Soavan’i Thomas.

Knife in hand, Thomas has no margin for error as he extracts eggs from the entrails of each sturgeon.

“At first, I was afraid to destroy or contaminate the eggs, but now everything comes automatically,” he said.

The eggs are kept in a refrigerated room at 0 degrees Celsius.

Expert taster Georges Heriniaina Andrianjatovo taps each box with a small hammer to detect any air bubbles, which are removed as soon as possible. Colour, taste and smell are all important.

“A good caviar rolls in the mouth and exudes an odour of fresh butter,” he says.

From a lake high in Madagascar, Africa’s own caviar . Watch and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing stories about Africa.

Once it is judged up to standard, the precious output is sold to high-end shops and restaurants on the island and to its neighbours of Mauritius, Seychelles and Reunion.

Its price is a relative bargain – $144 per 100 grams – far cheaper than in Europe.

According to Guinness World Records, a kilogramme of the costliest caviar from albino sturgeon off the coast of Iran regularly fetches over $25,000.

Last year Rova Caviar’s stock sold out in just a few weeks.

Among those impressed is prominent Madagascan chef Lalaina Ravelomanana.

“I prefer to serve it in its natural state, with salmon or oysters on ice,” he says.

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Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners

Teni emerged the biggest winner with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively

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Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners | News Central

The 2019 Headies award, one of Nigeria’s biggest music award shows, kicked off with a red carpet at about 7 pm W.A.T with the main event starting at exactly 9 pm W.A.T at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, Nigeria on Saturday, October 19, 2019.

The event featured exhilarating musical performances from some of Nigeria’s older and new age musicians who kept the audience up on their feet almost throughout the show.

Nigerian actress and TV host, Nancy Isime and rap star, Reminisce hosted the award show where over 20 awards were won by individuals that excelled in their respective categories in the year under review.

Pop sensation, Teni emerged the biggest winner at the event with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively.

Here are the winners of the 13th edition of the Headies.

1.  BEST RECORDING OF THE YEAR (Non-voting category)

  • Adekunle Gold – Ire
  • Patoranking – Heal D World
  • Brymo – Olanrewaju
  • Teni – Uyo Meyo (Winner)
  • Burna Boy – Ye

2.      BEST POP SINGLE

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni (Winner)
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy

3.      PRODUCER OF THE YEAR

  • Phantom – ‘Ye’ b Burna Boy
  • Ozedikus – ‘Dumebi’ by Rema
  • Spellz – ‘Askamaya’ by Teni
  • Killertunes – ‘Fake Love’ by Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty and Wizkid ( Winner)
  • Kel-P Vibes – ‘Killing Dem’ by Burna Boy featuring Zlatan

4.      BEST RAP ALBUM (Non-voting)

  • ‘Moral Instruction’ – Falz (Winner)
  • ‘Crown’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon
  • ‘A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl’ – M.I Abaga
  • ‘Clone Wars, Vol. IV (These Buhari Times)’ – Show Dem Camp

5.      BEST R&B/ POP ALBUM

  • Rare – Odunsi (The Engine)
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel
  • Mayor of Lagos – Mayorkun (Winner)
  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold

6.      BEST MUSIC VIDEO

  • ‘Dangote’ (Burna Boy) – Clarence Peters(Winner)
  • ‘Available’ (Patoranking) – Clarence Peters
  • ‘Ire’ (Adekunle Gold) – Aje Films
  • ‘Talk’ (Falz) – Prodigeezy
  • ‘Jaiye’ (Ladipoe) – 88 Factor

7.      BEST R&B SINGLE

  • ‘Tipsy’ – Odunsi ft. RAYE
  • ‘Serenade’ – Funbi
  • ‘Uyo Meyo’ – Teni
  •  ‘Wishes and Butterflies’ – Wurld
  • ‘Gimme Love’ – Seyi Shay featuring Runtown (Winner)

8.      BEST COLLABO

  • ‘Like’ – Reekado Banks featuring Tiwa Savage, Fiokee
  • ‘One Ticket’ – Kiss Daniel featuring Davido
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Killin’ Dem’ – Burna Boy featuring Zlatan (Winner)
  • ‘Amaka’ – 2baba featuring Peruzzi

9.      BEST RAP SINGLE

  • ‘Talk’ – Falz ( Winner)
  • ‘We Don’t Do That Over Here’ – Hotyce
  • ‘40ft Container’ – Ill Bliss featuring Olamide
  • ‘Sacrifice’ – Payper Corleone featuring Alpha Ojini
  •  ‘Gang Gang’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon

10.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE(MALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Tay Iwar – ‘Utero’
  • Johnny Drille – ‘Finding Efe’
  • Nonso Bassey – ‘411’
  • Funbi – ‘Serenade’
  • Wurld – ‘Wishes & Butterfly’ ( Winner)

11.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE (FEMALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Good Girl LA – ‘Bless me’
  • Waje – ‘Udue’
  • Teni – ‘Uyo Meyo’ (Winner)
  • Tems – ‘Mr Rebel’
  • Falana – ‘Repeat’

12.  NEXT RATED

This category is a voting category and the award is given to the most performing and promising act in the year under review.

  • Rema (Winner)
  • Joeboy
  • Fireboy DML
  • Victor AD
  • Lyta
  • Zlatan

13.  HIP HOP WORLD REVELATION

  • Odunsi
  • Mayorkun (Winner)
  • Wurld
  • Humblesmith

15.  BEST STREET-HOP ARTISTE

  • Erigga – ‘Motivation’ 
  • Chinko Ekun – ‘Able God’ (Winner)
  • Zlatan – ‘Leg Work’
  • Barry Jhay – ‘Aiye’
  • Lyta – ‘Time’

16.  BEST ‘ALTERNATIVE’ SONG

  • ‘Cash’ – Lady Donli
  • ‘Mr Rebel’ – Tems
  • ‘Finding Efe’ – Johnny Drille ( Winner)
  • ‘Heya’ – Brymo
  • ‘Ire’ – Adekunle Gold

17.  ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • Moral Instruction – Falz (Winner)
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel

18.  ARTISTE OF THE YEAR

  • Burna Boy (Winner)
  • Wizkid
  • Davido
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Falz

19.  SONG OF THE YEAR

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy (Winner)
  • ‘Dumebi’ – Rema
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni
  • ‘Leg work’ – Zlatan
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML

20.  HEADIES’ VIEWER’S CHOICE

  • Mr Eazi
  • Burna Boy
  • Teni (Winner)
  • Fireboy DML
  • Rema
  • Joe Boy
  • Wizkid
  • Davido

21.  BEST PERFORMER (Non-voting category)

  • Falz
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Brymo
  • Yemi Alade (Winner)
  • Adekunle Gold

22.  ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  • Crayon
  • Buju
  • Barry Jhay ( Winner)
  • Oxlade

23. SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD

Paul Okoye

23.  AFRICAN ARTISTE RECOGNITION

  • Master KG – Skeleton Moves (SOUTH AFRICA)
  • Afro B – Drogba (Joanna) (IVORY COAST)
  • Sauti Sol – Melanin (KENYA)
  • King Promise – CCTV (GHANA) (WINNER)
  • DJ Maphoriza – iWalk Ye Phara (SOUTH AFRICA)

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Egypt unveils 30 ancient wooden coffins in Valley of the Kings in Luxor

The 30 ornately decorated coffins of men, women and children were found only a metre (three feet) underground, stacked in two rows

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Egypt revealed Saturday a rare trove of 30 ancient wooden coffins that have been well-preserved over millennia in the archaeologically rich Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

The antiquities ministry officially unveiled the discovery made at Asasif, a necropolis on the west bank of the Nile River, at a press conference against the backdrop of the Hatshepsut Temple. 

“This is the first discovery in Asasif by dedicated Egyptian hands, comprised of archaeologists, conservationists and workers,” the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa al-Waziri, told reporters. 

The 30 ornately decorated coffins of men, women and children were found only a metre (three feet) underground, stacked in two rows. They are believed to belong to family members of high priests.

Waziri explained that excavations of the site in the 19th century had revealed royal tombs, but this latest discovery had yielded a collection of priests’ burials.

The sarcophagi dates back to the 22nd Dynasty, founded around 3,000 years ago in the 10th century BC. 

Despite their age, black, green, red and yellow paintings of snakes, birds, lotus flowers and hieroglyphics that cover the coffins are still clearly visible.

A sealed coffin belonging to a young ancient Egyptian child was incomplete and unpainted.

“We only did remedial first-aid on these well-preserved coffins. They are considered to be in great condition because there were hardly any settlements” around the site, local antiquities ministry restorer Saleh Abdel-Gelil told AFP.

Tombs and tourism

Discoveries of ancient Egyptian relics had slowed after the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country in political turmoil, according to Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany.

Several high-level officials, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have in recent weeks affirmed Egypt’s stability following rare, small-scale protests in September that drew a heavy-handed response from security forces.

“Now in Egypt we have more security so we have more foreign nationals. We have more than 250 (archaeological) missions. More work equals more discoveries”, he told AFP on the sidelines of the press conference.

At Marsam, a boutique hotel in Luxor, the flurry of archaeological discoveries in recent years has translated into good business and foot traffic.

“You can say two years ago we noticed a difference. There was less than half the people that we have today,” said Birte Fuchs, a German who manages the Marsam with her husband and local partners. “Tourism is coming back”.

This year, over 11 million visitors travelled to Egypt, following a sharp dip in numbers after the revolution. 

Egypt has sought to promote its archaeological heritage and finds in a bid to revive its vital tourism sector, which has suffered due to political insecurity and terror attacks.

However, critics point to archaeological sites and museums suffering from negligence and poor management.

But Enany, the minister, remains upbeat.

“Some people, we don’t have to mention names, don’t want us to have these discoveries… that impress the world,” said Enany before throngs of tourists, referring to detractors.

“These discoveries are priceless for Egypt’s reputation,” he added.

Sporting his trademark cowboy hat, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who has consistently promoted his discoveries to a global audience, was also at Saturday’s unveiling.

He took selfies with tourists who flocked to the coffins.

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Nigerian town celebrates self-proclaimed title of ‘twins capital of the world’

The town boasts of having the highest concentration of multiple births of any place on the globe.

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The sign greeting visitors at the entrance of Igbo-Ora in southwest Nigeria welcomes people to “TWINS CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”.

The town boasts of having the highest concentration of multiple births of any place on the globe. 

To celebrate its self-proclaimed title the town hosts an annual festival, now in its second year, that draws hundreds of sets of twins from around the country.

Donning different traditional clothes and costumes, the twins – male and female, old, young and even newborns – sang and danced at the latest edition this weekend to the appreciation of an admiring audience.

“We feel elated that we are being honoured today,” Kehinde Durowoju, a 40-year-old twin, told AFP as he hugged his identical brother Taiwo. 

“With this event, the whole world will better appreciate the importance of Ibeji (twins) as special children and gifts from God.”

Around them, twins moved in procession to show off their colourful outfits as magic displays and masquerades also entertained the crowds.

‘Twins tourism’

Population experts say the Yoruba-speaking southwest has one of the highest twinning rates in Nigeria.

Statistics are difficult to come by, but a study by British gynaecologist Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982, recorded an average of 45 to 50 sets of twins per 1,000 live births in the region.

That compares to a twin birth rate of 33 per every 1,000 births in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Igbo-Ora is the epicentre of the phenomenon in the country. 

Residents in the town say that almost every family has some twins.  

Traditional leader Jimoh Olajide Titiloye knows all about this special quirk. 

“I am a twin, my wife is a twin and I have twins as children,” he told AFP. 

“There is hardly any household in this town which does not have at least a set of twins.”

He said the festival on Saturday was aimed at promoting Igbo-Ora as “the foremost twins’ tourism destination in the world” and that efforts were underway to get the town listed in the Guinness Book of Records. 

Royal father and King of Oyo kingdom Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, lll, looks on during the parade of twin mothers at the Igbo-Ora World Twins festival, designed to celebrate the uniqueness in multiple births at Igbo-Ora Town in Oyo State, Nigeria, on October 12, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Prominent Yoruba ruler, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, said the festival “is a celebration of culture and recognition of Ibeji as special children in Yorubaland”.  

He said the birth of twins usually “heralds peace, progress, prosperity and good luck to their parents,” adding that parents should always take good care of them.

But while twins are seen as a blessing by many today, that has not always the case in parts of southern Nigeria. 

In pre-colonial times twins were often regarded as evil and were either banished to the “evil forest” or killed.

Scottish missionary Mary Slessor is widely credited with helping to curb the practice in the late 19th century.

Food or genes?

Scientists have not said definitively why Igbo-Ora has such a high number of twins. 

Local residents have a theory that it is down to the diet of women in the town. 

“Our people eat okra leaf or Ilasa soup with yam and amala.” community leader Samuel Adewuyi Adeleye told AFP.

Yams are believed to contain gonadotropins, a chemical substance that helps women to produce multiple eggs.

“The water we drink also contributes to the phenomenon,” Adeleye added.

Fertility experts are sceptical – and point to another explanation. 

They say there is no proven link between diet and the high birth rate, with the same food being consumed across the region. 

“It’s a genetic thing,” said Emmanuel Akinyemi, the medical director of Lagos-based Estate Clinic. 

“I think the gene for multiple births is in the region and this has been passed on from generation to generation.” 

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