BBC reporters across Africa describe the stories that made them feel optimistic, depressed and laugh out loud during 2004. They also predict the biggest stories for next year.
Mohamed Allie is a BBC reporter based in Cape Town in South Africa and broadcasts extensively on sport and news.
My favourite story of the year was South Africa being awarded the right to host the 2010 World Cup. It will be the first time in history for Africa to host the world's biggest showpiece event, and it set off mammoth celebrations - the like of which I haven't seen since heady events around the elections after the end of apartheid.
What is great is that this is also being seen as Africa's bid. It will showcase Africa and bring great prestige to South Africa as well as promising economic benefits. This will also be the first time a majority black sport has organised an event of this magnitude unlike major cricket and rugby events, which remain white-dominated sports.
The failure to combat the spread of Aids in the region remains a massive problem. In countries like Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa the impact is horrendous. Apathy among people, despite information campaigns, enables the virus to spread. It is depressing that baseless rumours continue to do the rounds such as the one that having sex with a virgin will cure a person of Aids. To date no coherent policy has been formulated in South Africa, with the government remaining indecisive and an ongoing fight between health authorities and groups representing Aids sufferers.
One of the most bizarre tales this year, was in South Africa when a widow refused to bury her husband's body after a local prophet said he would come back to life. When the deadline for this passed, the prophet had another vision and gave the bereaved wife another date for her husband to return.
As the bill for the body's storage at the undertaker kept rising so the deadlines came and went, reported avidly by the South African media. The story became a source of humour for South Africans until the council stepped in and ensured the body was buried. He is now resting in peace.
Big story for 2005
General elections are being held in Zimbabwe in March which will affect the entire region. The first question is whether the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change will participate or boycott. Even if they do there will be questions about legitimacy, with campaigning and the media coverage restricted. There have been relatively successful elections in Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa in 2004 and the regional body Sadc will want to maintain that trend. But no Westerners will be allowed to monitor the vote and there is bound to be increasing pressure on South African President Thabo Mbeki to harden his "softly, softly" policy as the huge impact of refugees and general perceptions of political and economic stability in the continent as a whole affect the region.
Kwaku Sakyi-Addo is an award-winning BBC reporter and host of a TV chat show in Accra, Ghana.
Ghana's general elections, the fourth in a row since multiparty democracy in 1992, were a triumph. This is a country where since independence in 1957, there had never been two consecutive elections without the interruption of a military coup. Turnout was an incredible 83%. Voters in queues supporting opposing candidates held hands and prayed before the first ballots were cast in some constituencies. Losing candidate John Mills congratulated winner John Kufuor, despite hesitating initially. There will also be a strong enough opposition to keep the government on its toes, and prevent railroading legislation and constitutional amendments, such as a third term for President Kufuor, who cannot run again under the current constitution.
Civil strife is back on the front pages in the Ivory Coast, despite agreements signed by all sides in the presence of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a dozen African leaders to implement the Marcoussis and Accra Accords. President Laurent Gbagbo ordered air raids on rebels in the north, killing nine French peacekeepers in the process. The French responded by zapping the entire Ivorian airforce. Thousands of pro-Gbagbo supporters, urged on by hate broadcasts, attacked anything French. Thousands of French and non-Ivorian African citizens fled the Ivory Coast. The future of West Africa's second biggest economy is uncertain and this will affect us all.
Most amusing story
In November, thousands of people flocked to see Christ on a wall at Dansoman, an Accra suburb full of drinking bars and hotels with seedy corporate missions and not-so-Christian client orientation. The image of Christ was noticed by a worshipper on a stone inside the grotto of the Margaret Mary Catholic Church. Doubting Thomases said it was the work of a prankster, or just a coincidence as would be the resemblance of your wife's face in the grains of your office desk, or that of your late dog in a passing cloud. But some believers swore it was a sign that the end of the world would come before the end of the year. Very little time left then.
Big story for 2005
Two big elections are due next year in Ivory Coast and Liberia. In the Ivory Coast, it will be a big story if they're held; and with President Gbagbo's term of office ending in 2005, it will be a big story it they're not held. It's a year of decision for Ivory Coast. It'll tip over the precipice or, confronted by the abyss, it might retreat from it. Liberia gets a new elected government in October. The elections will bring an end to the peace process which began with a rebellion and the exile of Charles Taylor. Will retired footballer George Weah lead the emergence of a new political class? Or should he just settle for coaching the national side and leave the fray for the usual suspects? It seems to me that we already have more people announcing their candidacy than the 2.5 million population in Liberia.
BBC reporter Pascale Harter in based in Rabat and has been covering events in the Mahgreb countries of North Africa for 18 months.
After reporting from Sub-Saharan Africa, I was shocked at the extent of sexism in Morocco, where discrimination against women is literally written into the law. This year reforms to the family code pushed through by King Mohammed VI have started having an effect. It's now easier for a woman to choose for herself who she marries, to file for divorce, and most importantly she is no longer legally required to 'obey' her husband. Little by little the shift in power is taking root in the capital, although there is still a way to go in rural Morocco, where 80% of women are illiterate and unaware of their new rights.
A trip to the disputed territory of the Western Sahara, home of the Saharawis, showed how Muslim women could really enjoy better rights, in harmony with Islamic beliefs. In Laayoune I was invited to numerous weddings, with ululating women and growling camels. The magnitude of wedding celebrations in the Western Sahara is only matched by the parties Saharawi women are thrown by their communities when they decide to divorce. "A woman," say the Saharawis, "is the hat of a noble man and the shoes of a dog."
The worst development in the Maghreb region this year has been the international community's pitiful response to the locust plague in Mauritania. Appeals back in 2003 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation for a measly $9m to fight the beginnings of a locust invasion were ignored. While donors dithered, the locusts multiplied. Now $100m is needed to fight a full-scale plague.
The locusts have already ravaged 50% of Mauritania's staple crops, and destroyed great swathes of pastureland. They may have dealt a death blow to the nomadic way of life of many Mauritanian families. The locusts have spread up to Morocco, Algeria and across the continent to Egypt. The plague may continue for years and the locusts could threaten southern Europe.
Most amusing story
The Moroccan capital isn't known for its party atmosphere, but the sheep-slaughtering festival of Eid was a riot in Rabat. Morocco's Islamist party complained of a western-style commercialisation of the sacred festival, as billboards advertised the chance to "win a sheep" if you bought a washing machine. Selecting a sheep was an outing for the whole family and fathers staggered through the streets with the new addition to the family slung over their shoulders. For days a concert of baa-ing resounded from the balconies and bathrooms across the city. On the day of Eid though, Rabat fell silent, and the acrid smoke of sheep skulls (the best bit, so they say) shrouded the city.
The stench of the Eid festival may be hard to take, but the atmosphere of impending mass slaughter gives everyone a warm feeling inside.
Big story for 2005
I hope the big story in Morocco next year will not be terrorism. This year Islamic extremists from Morocco were arrested in connection with the bombings in the Spanish capital, and for the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh. While the Moroccan government pursues an ever more United States-friendly policy, analysts say Islamic extremist recruiters are feeding off the growing dissatisfaction among a poor, and increasingly radical underclass in Morocco.
The big story for the whole region in 2005 is likely to be illegal immigration. Flows of Sub-Saharan immigrants to Europe through North Africa are growing and have now been joined by would-be immigrants from Asia and Latin America. As southern Europe strengthens its coastal patrols, illegal immigrants are forced to take greater risks. They end up drowning in treacherous seas, or languishing in a North African limbo where they have few rights and are prey to extortion by corrupt police and people traffickers.
Gray Phombeah is the deputy editor at the BBC's East Africa Bureau in Nairobi and was formerly a reporter for the Nation newspaper.
As a sign of the new Kenyan government's desire to reform jails, some 28 inmates joined a computer class at the Naivasha maximum security prison, 80km west of the capital, Nairobi. The Kenyan government was making good its promise to review the prison system and improve the living conditions of more than 50,000 prisoners in the country.
The year was supposed to be one of such hope for Sudan, with a final peace deal due between the government and southern Sudan bringing to an end a generation of conflict and paving the way for massive regeneration. However, the conflict in western Sudanese region of Darfur has dominated with massive abuses, and the BBC has reported extensively on the misery being suffered by innocent people. Some are calling it genocide. The image still stays with me of a baby being born in a miserable camp, after her family fled attacks from the Arab Janjaweed militia. Just one dramatic personal tale among hundreds of thousands.
Most amusing story
During 2004, Maasai tribes in Kenya demanded the return of their ancestral territory, 100 years after it was leased to British colonialists. Their campaign pitted them against a handful of white farmers whose families created vast ranches on the land after the expulsion of the tribes.
Big story for 2005
There is no way to predict this will happen with any certainty, but there are serious moves to transfer the newly elected Somali government from exile in my country, Kenya, to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Many Somalis will be hoping that the era of the gun is drawing to a close and that serious moves to introduce order and calm will work. Since the fall of the last government in 1991 the country has been divided into areas controlled by warring faction leaders. The sooner the government can get its act together the better. They have a huge task ahead.