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los angeles vavtion roomsYes, I am back with my ‘That type of hotel’ series and this time, I share my experience with budget hotels in almighty USA. Having a place to lay your head is an important part of travelling, something I make sure I take care of when I go on a trip that is not sponsored. When I go on such unsponsored trips, I book an affordable hotel in a location that would allow me to experience the most out of the city. The hotel must be close to the places I want to visit, and yes it must not be worth more than $200 a night, depending on how long I am staying! When I went to the USA in June for the BET Awards, my first stop was Los Angeles so as usual, I went online to look for an affordable accommodation for the 5-day period I was going to be in L.A. Since most of my activities were around the BET Awards, I used the ‘Staples Centre’ as the location for finding my hotel. Using Expedia, the results I got for hotels near the Staples Centre and within my budget included ‘Los Angeles Vacation Rooms’. A funny name I know, but couldn’t resist that fact that it carried the name of the city I was visiting. I scanned through the offerings of the hotel and quickly booked it. Usually when I book on Expedia, I only look at the vital information listed above and do not go through the fine details. This time, more than ever, I would pay dearly for it. One such mistake I did was not to look at the time for check-in (I always don’t), however after my booking was confirmed, I got an email with all the details. Check in was from 4PM and I was arriving in L.A around 12noon. When I arrived at the airport, I got into a taxi and headed towards the hotel. It was a bit of a long drive but the driver, who had visited Ghana on two occasions, shared his experience with Ghana and other parts of Africa with me, making it a smooth ride. But when we finally arrived, I found out the Los Angeles Vacation Rooms was not anything like I imagined it to be. It was not a hotel, although listed as such on Expedia. It was more of an apartment. There was no front desk, nobody to speak to, and no means of getting inside the apartments. Fortunately I had bought myself a SIM card with call time and data when I arrived at the airport. So I called the hotel number listed on my bookings, with hopes of explaining that I had arrived early and would like an early check-in. After a few attempts I finally got hold of a rep but sadly there was nothing to be done about my situation. He said check in could only be at 4pm, and that by 3.30pm, I would receive an email or text message with the password to the main door, as well as my room. So if I had not gotten myself a SIM card there was no way I could check my mail for these passwords, this is surely not a place for anyone travelling from far away to stay. Just after getting off the phone, I saw a woman open the door and come out; she was busily taking out trash. I tried to find out if I could bring in my bags at least while I waited for check in, but she could speak very little English, and she gave the impression that she was too busy cleaning up ahead of the checking in time. The driver offered to continue staying with me till it was time for checking in. I stayed in the car with him, listened to some music and had more conversations about his love for Africa. At around 3.30pm I checked my mail to see if I had been sent my password details. Yes, it was in and so all I had to do now was wait till it was 4pm so I could key in the password. When it was time, I paid the driver with some extra tip for keeping me company, and then headed inside. I made my way to my room and the surprises continued. When my booking said “Room type: Double Room, Shared Bathroom”, I thought I had a space that came with two rooms and one bathroom… laugh out loud!!! Well instead, I had a small room with a double bed. The bathroom was outside of my room, which I had to share with every other guest on my floor. As I stayed in my room taking in all the disappointments, I had a knock on my door. When I opened up, it was ‘the manager’ of the apartment who had come to tell me not to smoke marijuana in my room. He said, “ If you wanna smoke weed, do it outside because some of the other guests complain. Personally I love it too but if you have to smoke, do it outside.” At this point,  I knew I was at the wrong place. However, I soon found out marijuana was legal in Los Angeles, and that the manager’s caution was nothing untoward.LA rooms Soon I had shower, my first after many hours of travelling from Accra to Amsterdam to Los Angeles. Since the cleaner had just cleaned up, I was of the impression that sharing a bathroom with everyone else wasn’t that bad after all. That opinion however changed when at night I was going to take a leak only to find out someone had vomited into the sink. I turned on the tap to wash most of it away but woke up in the morning to find more mess when I went to brush my teeth. After day one, I knew I didn’t want to stay at the ‘hotel’ anymore. So after two days, my friend who was coming to Los Angeles to attend the BET Experience Concert asked that I check out so we could get a better hotel. It was a good idea, just what I needed. But since I had been billed already for 5 days, now I had to find a way to get some of my money back before leaving. I contacted Expedia to tell them I was moving out earlier than planned and so they should assist me to get some refund although the hotel’s policy stated that my money was not refundable after booking.reply 2 In the afternoon of the next day, I moved out of the apartment not knowing whether my request for a refund had been accepted, as Expedia explained that attempts to call the facility had not been successful. I later got an email to explain that my request wasn’t approved. If I knew that would be the response, I would have given out my room to some of the students who were sharing a room on my floor for free, instead of throwing the money away to the stupid hotel, who probably checked in new people after I left.cancel Anyway I moved to the Crown Plaza hotel close to the airport, which became my home until the BET Award Weekend was over and I had to leave for New York. On Sunday, the day of the BET Awards I went again on Expedia around 10.30pm (GMT) to book a hotel since I would leave for New York very early in the morning. Again, I wanted to stay in a place in New York where I could see most of the city and its iconic landmarks. Since I like citizenM hotels, I searched for the New York hotel but sadly they were fully booked. However, Expedia recommended The Howard Johnson North Bergen as a similar hotel to consider, based my search for citizenM. I checked out the offerings and the map to see if it wasn’t far from the places I wanted to visit. It was not too far and the price was within my budget so I went ahead to book.howard johnson When I got an email that my booking had been confirmed, I then realized that the hotel was in New Jersey and not New York, although these states are a bit close together. So I immediately went on the website to cancel the reservation because I wanted to be in New York and not New Jersey. When I clicked the cancel option, I got the messages saying “The Howard Johnson North Bergen cancellation fee is: $102.52”. Not sure what that meant, I immediately replied Expedia’s email to draw their attention to it. And to request for cancellation (I have done something similar in the past where they were quick to respond and take action.)email email 2 email 3 I couldn’t wait for Expedia’s response, since I had to rush to the BET Awards moments after sending the email. So when I got back I checked my mail to see if there was any update but there was nothing. So I went back to the Expedia website to cancel the reservation, but now there was no such option showing up. I immediately called Expedia on phone and after going through annoying automatic responses, for well over a minute, I was connected to an agent. I explained the situation to him and asked him to cancel my reservation. After letting me hold for a bit, he came back to say that hotel policy was that if I make cancellation after 12 or 24 hours, then I would have to pay for the first night. I explained that even minutes after reservation, I wanted to cancel it but I was told that I would have to pay $102.32. To cut it short I just asked him to go ahead and cancel the reservation, so I pay for just the first night. I then went ahead to book a new hotel, Holiday Inn Express in Brooklyn, New York, before I went to bed. In the morning, I woke up tired and went straight to the airport. When I arrived in New York I got into an Uber and went straight to my hotel. Although I had erroneously booked a two-bed room, everything else was cool with the hotel. Well apart from always spending too much time waiting for lift to arrive. When check-in time was due for The Howard Johnson North Bergen hotel, I got an email from Expedia to ask ‘How was your check-in’. This got me so angry, and I replied them to show my dissatisfaction. Yes, they had not cancelled my booking as I requested on phone the previous. I then went on Twitter to blast them and soon they took the conversation into my DM, giving me assurance that they would rectify they issue.15 3 4 Well, at the end of it all, I paid $205 for a hotel I never stayed in. I felt and I still feel that Expedia should be responsible for the cost of the second night, since it was due to their ineptitude that I had to pay for two nights. At least I could have used $100 to buy a gift for family. Anyway, my experiences with hotels in the US were not all bad. In Virginia, I stayed in an Aloft Hotel and I loved it. (Yes that too was booked via Expedia, as well as the last hotel in New Jersey, Hilton Newark, before coming back home to Ghana). The Aloft Hotels remind me of citizenM hotels, they have a similar concept. You can read why I love it here. So there you have it, another experience with ‘that type of hotel’…where will the adventure take me next?                      ]]>

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No show from Sista Afia and more catfights, as cast of ‘GH Queens’ gather for ‘Reunion show’

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Just as it was reported during the premiere event for ‘GH Queens’ sometime in April, some stars from the pseudo-reality TV show were again missing from the Reunion show, which started airing on Friday. Yes, the fiesty Sista Afia and Fantana will not be making an appearance on the three-part special reunion show on Akwaaba Magic (DStv channel 150). (more…)

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Ameyaw Says

Coachella through the eyes of an African

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Ameyaw Debrah at Coachella 2022

My second showing at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival confirmed to me the sheer diversity of talent and music that gets showcased each year. But Coachella is more than music and arts, it is a celebration of cultures, the spirit of people, fashion, and more. If you’re a conservative African,  then expect some cultural shocks as the festival doesn’t hold back in celebrating life and accepting it in all of its forms.

The festival embraces queer and intersecting groups, so seeing raunchy and over-the-top costumes from festival-goers is to be expected. Some of the washrooms on the festival grounds are even gender-neutral, so expect to see both women and men queuing up to use the same washroom.  Marijuana has been legal in California for many years, so you should also expect people to smoke at free range; without much care for those who don’t.  If you’re able to look beyond all these as “an African”, then you too can have a swell time at Coachella!

 

After seeing Burna Boy and Mr Eazi perform in 2019, when I had my first experience of Coachella,  I felt proud as an African.  I also noticed how the African festival-goers (from mainly across the United States and the United Kingdom) watched with some pride the performances from Mr Eazi and Burna Boy on the Coachella stage. So when the lineup was announced for 2000 to include Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and Aya Nakamura, I was happy that Africans were becoming a regular on the festival’s lineup.  Sadly, Covid-19 didn’t let that happen in 2020 and 2021. In fact, I almost entered a $2,000 bet with my colleague blogger, David Mawuli that when the festival returned, there would be a Ghanaian artist on the lineup. Thank goodness I rather spent that money on a bonus hunt online casino. Well, at least I won $120 back!

 

When the lineup was announced for 2022, the only African on the main stages was Black Coffee, while fellow South Africans,  Major League DJZ scheduled for The DoLab tent. So when I attended weekend two of the festival, I made sure to watch Black Coffee’s set. He played on Day 1. Unlike the Burna Boy and Mr Eazi sets, that I witnessed in 2019, the audience at Black Coffee’s set was not predominantly Africans. It was a global audience. The crowd was as thick as it was energetic.  It was also exciting to hear the 2022 Grammy Award Best Dance/ Electronic Album-winner, incorporate remixes of some authentic African rhythms in his set.

 

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Arooj Aftab Coachella 2022 Friday 04 22 Gobi Performances Weekend 2

Arooj Aftab, Coachella 2022, Friday 04-22, Gobi, Performances, Weekend 2 Credit/Provider
Beth Saravo

On Day 1, I also showed some interest in Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab, who won the Grammy this year for Best Global Performance.  A lot of Africans had tipped ‘Essence’ by Wizkid and Tems for that award. So, I had to find out for myself what makes Arooj Aftab tick.

 

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With these two performances of interest out of the way, I stuck to my plan of focusing on big acts that I haven’t seen performing before because, with the grand nature of the festival and the sheer size of the venue, it is simply impossible to experience everything!

 

The Empire Polo Club is a 78-acre polo club, which leases out its polo grounds for the festival. The venue is so huge that festivalgoers walk for several miles before getting into the main entrance to the festival grounds. When accounting for land used for parking and camping, the event covers a footprint of over 600 acres!

 

Across the grounds, several stages continuously host live music. The main stages are the Coachella Stage, Outdoor Theatre, Gobi Tent, Mojave Tent, and Sahara Tent; in addition to the smaller Yuma stage and Sonora stage. Each stage was unique in appearance and suited for the lineup of artists on it. The big stages had elaborate settings to create various visual aesthetic attributes needed to project the individuality of the artists and make festival-goers enjoy their performances even better.

Ari Lennox Coachella 2022 Coachella Stage Friday 04 22 Performances Weekend 2

Ari Lennox, Coachella 2022, Coachella Stage, Friday 04-22, Performances, Weekend 2

 

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I missed Ari Lenox’s performance at Afrochella in Ghana this past December so, I had to experience her set especially after all the buzz she generated on social media with her visit to Ghana.  The sultry singer hit the stage, giving fans a look and performance to remember. The D.C. native hit the stage in a jaw-dropping gold ensemble to perform several ‘woke female’  themed songs for her fans.

Anitta proved why she is a sensation in the Latin world and beyond, with her high octane performances. The Brazilian singer changed into three different sexy outfits that accentuated her figure as she rocked them in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

 

Baby Keem, who recently won a Grammy for best rap performance, was one of the up-and-coming hip-hop performers at the festival. One of the highlights from his set was bringing on label boss, Kendrick Lamar, a little over 30 minutes into his set. The rappers, both in all-black ensembles, performed together for the final two songs including “family ties.”

 

I ended Day 1 with Harry Styles who literally brought disco to the desert! One of the biggest highlights from the set of the “As It Was” singer, was bringing Lizzo on stage to perform a song from the One Direction archives.  It was fun to see him perform with so much energy, and he was very interactive with the crowd too.

 

Day 2

Giveon Performances Saturday 04 23 Weekend 2

Giveon, Performances, Saturday 04-23, Weekend 2

 

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On Day 2 I kicked things off with a performance from R&B singer, Giveon. I was late in getting to the venue but was happy to at least see him perform his hit song ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’ before he left the stage. I then visited The Do Lab stage for some electrifying DJ mixes and performances.

 

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Grammy-winning rapper, Megan Thee Stallion showed all the hot girls and boys of Coachella how a superstar commands a stage during her hour-long set. She opened her show with “Megan’s Piano” wearing a black and silver spacey one-piece with futuristic glasses on. She and her backup dancers shook everything they had, and the crowd went wild as expected.

 

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Rapper, Isaiah Rashad opened his set with a powerful pre-recorded film acknowledging recent speculation about his sexuality. In a collage of media footage and audio, commentators react to a video of Rashad leaked this year,  showing the rapper being intimate with two men.  He gave fans back-to-back performances of his hit songs amidst cheers and a lot of support.

Billie Eilish Coachella Stage Saturday

Billie Eilish, Coachella Stage, Saturday

When I saw Billie Eelish on the Coachella lineup in 2019 I didn’t know her back then, so I didn’t attend her set, but days after I found out she was the new it-girl and she later went on to sweep the Grammy Awards the following year. So, this time I simply had to experience her, and I did! Her 90-minute set featured songs like “NDA,” “Therefore I Am,” “idontwannabeyouanymore” and “You Should See Me In A Crown.” She had a small accident when she fell onstage while singing “Getting Older.” Later on during her set, Eilish brought along her brother Finneas O’Connell for an acoustic cover of her single “Your Power.”

21 Savage Coachella 2022 Performances Sahara Saturday 04 23

21 Savage, Coachella 2022, Performances, Sahara, Saturday 04-23

I closed the night with a little bit of 21 Savage!

 

Day 3

 

On Day 3 I was physically worn out from all the standing and walking, so I didn’t want to do too much. I circled my day around a few acts.  I kicked off with Brixton rapper Dave, whose set was attended by a huge UK crowd that cheered him along throughout his performance!

 

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He recreated his “Alex From Glasto” viral moment from 2019 by picking a fan from the crowd to join him on stage to rap a verse from ‘Thiago Silva,’ his 2016 hit with AJ Tracey.  He also performed his hit song ‘Location’ which features Burna Boy. Dave’s set was one of my favorites!

 

Since I had seen Doja Cat recently at Day N Vegas, I only saw the tail end of her set, as I wanted to go to the Coachella Stage on time to get closer to the headliners Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd. I wasn’t so sure when they were announced as the replacement of Kanye West but seeing them back-to-back made so much sense, and the energy was just what was needed to bring Coachella to an end!

 

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Swedish House Mafia started things off, dropping hit electronic dance music tracks back-to-back, punctuated by fireworks and pyrotechnics.  Their set lasted about 55 minutes. When they played their most popular song, “Don’t You Worry Child,” they dropped the music entirely at the key moment to allow the crowd to sing the chorus in unison.

Swedish House Mafia x The Weeknd Coachella Stage Performances Sunday 04 24

Swedish House Mafia x The Weeknd, Coachella Stage, Performances, Sunday 04-24
Credit: Jacob Mulka

The Weeknd then rolled through with a crowd-pleasing list of hits, including “The Hills,” “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming.” He was amazing on the night although his set lacked a lot of the theatrics and stagecraft and special guests.  He closed his set with a slowed-down version of his mega-hit “Save Your Tears.” Then Swedish House Mafia rejoined him and they closed the set, and the 2022 Coachella experience, together with the song “Moth to a Flame.”

 

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Ameyaw Debrah wants to sue Kanye West for pulling out of Coachella, after he spent over $3000 planning his trip

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Ghanaian blogger, Ameyaw Debrah is looking to sue someone over Monday’s news that rapper, Kanye West had pulled out of the upcoming Coachella Music and Arts festival…and Kanye for now is the obvious choice!

According to the blogger, he has spent almost $4,000 in booking flights and a hotel for the two-weekend festival in Indio, California, which runs April 15-17 and April 22-24.  He pointed out the unusually high prices of accommodation in the area due to the festival.

In a video posted on Ameyaw TV, Debrah cited possible mental stress from spending so much money, and not getting what he paid for in the end.  He however hopes the Kanye’s replacement can make up for his troubles.

According to reports from Variety, reps for West and the festival did not immediately respond to requests for comment as to why the rapper pulled out of the festival.

The reason for his cancelation was not immediately clear, although a source tells Variety that he had not rehearsed or prepared for the appearance. While West played a full set, accompanied by Drake, at the Los Angeles Coliseum in December, Coachella is North America’s largest music festival and by necessity runs a very tight operation. West also pulled out of a planned headlining appearance at the 2020 festival — which ultimately was postponed until this year due to the pandemic — mere days before it was announced, sources confirmed to Variety at the time.

Yet there are many other reasons why news does not come as a shock, as West’s unpredictable and combative behavior in recent months put a question mark over his appearance even as it was announced in January; he had been barred from a planned appearance at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards due to what was described as his “concerning online behavior.” West canceled the closing dates of his 2016 “Saint Pablo” tour and was hospitalized for mental-health reasons shortly afterward, following incidents that were similar in ways to his behavior in recent months. West has said many times that he suffers from bipolar disorder.

Coachella’s first two nights will be headlined by Harry Styles and Billie Eilish. The festival essentially hedged its bets on West by billing EDM titans Swedish House Mafia in an unspecified spot on the lineup, listed at the bottom of the official announcement poster, leaving open the option of the group replacing him as Sunday’s headliner in the event he pulled out. With the festival just 11 days away, that seems a likely scenario.

Rumors had been circulating that Travis Scott would be joining West for the performance, but TMZ says that he will not be appearing either. Scott has been keeping a low profile since 10 people died in a rush toward the stage during his headlining performance at his Astroworld festival in Houston in October.

Such an appearance would be on-message for West, who in recent months has been publicly embracing such ostracized celebrities as Marilyn Manson, who is accused of sexual assault, and DaBaby, who has made unapologetically homophobic comments in recent months.

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‘I hail you’- Kelvynboy reacts as Sarkodie requests for his “Down flat” song to be played in a club in London

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Ghanaian rapper, Sarkodie is all about helping bring the young ones in the music industry up. (more…)

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People & Lifestyle

Africans don’t trust each other – my experience with an Ethiopian taxi driver in Las Vegas

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Ameyaw Debrah at palazzo gondola

My recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada came with many experiences, as I put myself out there to explore the city a lot more than I did in my previous two visits. My first time in Vegas was for one night only, to attend the Miss Universe finale in 2017.  My second time was for the Day N Vegas festival in 2019, which also brought me back for a third time this year.

On day-two of Day N Vegas, I had an experience that corroborated the belief of many Africans, that we do not trust one another.  Due to Day N Vegas, most of the area around the Las Vegas Festival Grounds was closed to taxis and rideshare apps such as Uber and Lift, which made it very stressful to get a car whenever I closed from the festival and headed to my hotel room. It meant that after walking and standing at the grounds for hours, we had to walk quite a distance to look for cars.

My experience was even made worse when the data on my AT&T phone number kept failing, meaning that after all the stress covering the concerts, I couldn’t use Uber to request for a ride.  On the night of day 2, I discovered that there was a pick-up point for taxis within the Circus Circus Hotel, Casino & Theme Park. Sadly the taxis were not coming in as rapidly as I would have wished for. I was the third in line, but it took over one hour of standing in the queue till I finally got a taxi.

When the taxi came, I got in but when the driver asked for the address I was going to, I couldn’t remember the location of my hotel. I mentioned the name of the hotel, but the driver wasn’t familiar with it and insisted that he couldn’t take me if I didn’t get the address for him. I wasn’t willing to waste the hours of standing and waiting to be turned down by any driver. My internet wasn’t working, and I tried to ask him to use his internet Ito locate the hotel, but he was indifferent. I told him “lets go to downtown and I will know where my hotel is,  because it’s not far from the Fremont Street”.

Finally, he agreed and moved on. Then he started a conversation with me, once he suspected I was from Africa. I told him I was from Ghana when he told me he was Ethiopian. He asked about my visit and thought I was a ‘new rich African’ when I told him I was in town for Day N Vegas.

When, I finally arrived at my hotel I tried to pay with a card. Since it was a metered cab, I could see my fare right in front of me, with a POS device for payment. But I noted it was slightly expensive paying with  a card compared to paying cash, so I told the driver that I would rather pay with cash, after all I am African!

Then surprisingly he asked me how much I would pay him, the meter said $18 so I said I will give him $20 but he screamed “no $25!” I then gave him a $100 note to which he retorted, “are you sure it’s not fake?”.  I said no, laughed it off and collected my change.

Watch my vlog on the experience below:

Interestingly, the following night, I had internet, so I ordered for an Uber ride after the Day N Vegas finale, and again the driver was Ethiopian. This time it was a younger driver and we had an interesting conversation about Africa and the civil war in Ethiopia.

I had noticed that there were a lot of Ethiopians in Vegas. Most of the African restaurants listed on Uber Eats are Ethiopian and most of the drivers were too. When I pointed it out in our conversation, he told me that Vegas has the next biggest concentration of Ethiopians in the USA after the DMV tristate.  I also found out that affluent Ethiopians like to buy Mississauga Real Estate styled homes in the USA.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 68,001 people reported Ethiopian ancestry in 2000. Between 2007 and 2011, there were approximately 151,515 Ethiopia-born residents in the United States. According to Aaron Matteo Terrazas, “if the descendants of Ethiopian-born migrants (the second generation and up) are included, the estimates range upwards of 460,000 in the United States.

Some Ethiopians living in the US enjoy using exquisitely designed Ten Point Crossbow in archery games. Football is the most popular sport in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian national football team called the “Walyia Antelopes” won the 1962 African Cup of nations and in 2013 Ethiopia qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 31 years.

Other sports played include basketball, volleyball, and tennis. Ethiopia has a tradition of medal-winning runners: Abebe Bikila, Belayneh Dinsamo, and Derartu Tulu. Haile Gebreselassie has set several world records.

Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in education, with primary school net enrolment tripling between 2000 and 2016 to the current 100 per cent.  Although most children enroll in school, many do not complete their education: 85 per cent make it past Grade 5 and 54 per cent past Grade 8. Progress has been enabled through a sustained government-led effort to reduce poverty and expand the public education system equitably. This has been backed by substantial increases in national education expenditure and aid to the sector, as well as improved planning and implementation capacity at all levels. According to Boardingschools.ca, there is a good number of Ethiopians having higher education in Canada.

Ethiopian national identity is grounded in the long history of Christianity and Islam in the region, and independence from foreign rule since antiquity.

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How to make money online as a blogger or content creator

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With over 15 years of covering entertainment in Ghana and beyond under my belt, I still cannot get over comments on social media that suggest that many Ghanaians don’t understand the concept of blogging. (more…)

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