BBC BLOGS - Andrew Harding on Africa
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Andrew Harding | 15:44 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

"Do you have kidnap insurance?" was the earnest inquiry of an English friend of mine on hearing that I was moving, with my wife and three children, to live in Johannesburg. From the outside, South Africa can seem a little daunting - and yes, it does take a while to get used to the security alarms, the armed guards, panic buttons and so on. But spend a little time here and you'll realise why so many foreigners fall under the spell of this country - and this continent.

Cape Town stadiumYou'll also see why - we think, hope and pray - the World Cup is going to be an inspirational, triumphant, and yes, probably chaotic experience.

I used to live in Kenya and felt that South Africa was a land apart - sophisticated, developed, self-obsessed and not the "real" Africa. Now I find that many South Africans seem to feel the same way, and hold the rest of the continent at arm's length. Friends here - black and white - talk about going "to Africa" on holiday - meaning a trip to somewhere like Mozambique or Tanzania.

The introspection you find here is understandable. A generation after apartheid, this country is still going through the most tumultuous, absorbing, high-stakes transformation. Will South Africa muddle through, or triumph, or follow Zimbabwe's grim example?

Sudan electionIn this blog, I'll try to give you my sense of that transformation, and an on-the-streets perspective of Africa's first World Cup. I'll also be reporting from around the continent, from places like Sudan, which could well split in two next year and Somalia, which is still fighting to put itself back together.

There is, of course, plenty going right in Africa at the moment. This blog is my chance not just to reflect on what's happening - good and bad - but also to hear your views, complaints, and recommendations. Please let me know your thoughts.


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