Saturday, November 29, 2008

Of Presidencial places and meetings

I have been moving round places that I can call 'presidential' for the past few days. Enormous hotels with gold trimmings on wood. Deep red carpets that very soft to the foot... and lots of security.

The security is one thing... Oh My God! You need to show a photo ID before you can go and have your picture taken so that you can get a badge which will allow you access to the main hall where you can now apply for a pass! And all the 'Security' men who are so keen on executing orders that they forget to think.. capable of asking you to 'go over there and they will attend to you' even if the original question was 'What time is it?' or 'What is your name?' Impressive!

When you are done with security, you get into the opulence.. and you just wonder why so much money is being spent on 'things' instead of 'people'. Not necessarily that I am against a country showing off its 'grandeur' in its monumental places, and keeping up a great image to keep up its national pride, but I just wonder... how come so much is being spent on 'monuments' when human beings, makers of history, are languishing in many places.

Tell you what, in such places, they talk Africa. Oh, We need to help Africa. Oh, Africa needs aid. Certainly we need to increase support to bla bla bla. And mobilize funds for X, Y, Z so that Africans will be able to access 1, 2, 3. The amount spent on the talk, and the circumstances of the talk, will certainly outweigh, in many cases, the actual aid... And like someone rightly said, the amount of aid going to Africa cannot compare to the amount of illicit funds that are moved out of Africa. Making me think that if you are claiming to be poor, you might as well work to get yourself out of the situation.. the more you sit and wait for someone to 'take care of you', the more opportunities you gave to him/her to 'take care of himself using your circumstances'.

Ah, you know what, in these meetings, African delegations are the heaviest. The delegations from 'Developed' countries are at most 10. But tell you what, the Africa presidents are here, with a delegation of well over 20! The difference is so CLEAR, I could cry! With their own protocol officers, security officers, press, advisors, secretaries, cabinet chiefs, ministers.. who would like to come along with spouses..

On the contrary, the simplicity of folks who have been there, done that, seen that. Who know that most of it is talk and that the things that matter are the ones that are done behind the press, with little or no attention. Like the Ivorian President once said 'l'argent n'aime pas le bruit'. Literally translating into 'Cash hates noise'. No big economic decision are made in 'presidencial' places.

These meetings serve as announcement platforms for work that has already been done and needs to be publicly made known, or for quieter networking opportunities. They are difficult places for power show... why? Because when you have 50 heads of states meeting, you find out all of a sudden that they are just like you and me. When you have 10 up front, 8 by your right, 7 behind, 10 by the left and a dozen of them coming and going.. it hits you clean and clear... these guys are just participants..

Particpants and nothing else. All the security, all the gold, the protocol, the press, the talk.. all of that.. does not make any president more human than any other human being..

So Mister President, when you are tempted to behave as if the whole world of 'the country' is under your control, that you can give and take lives, that your word will never be argued or debated... that your wishes are national agenda... never are a participant.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Innovation Week in Africa – Young business innovators are making money with Open Source.

All through last week, I spent my time in Ghana at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Center for Excellence in ICT ( AITI-KACE ) in Accra. It has been an incredibly refreshing experience for me, personally, and for the hundreds of students, developers, businesses, bankers and educators that are participating in the forum.

The I-Week has drawn participants from all parts of Africa and Europe. The program is specifically designed to cater to the needs of government, businesses, academia, developers and even venture capitalists. I am attending on behalf of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa - FOSSFA. Coming from a FOSS advocacy foundation, I am pleasantly surprised by the level of networking among participants. This proves us right... Open Source in Africa has come of age.

The Ghanaian Minister of State, Finance and Economic Planning stressed that "whereas some believe that we should continue to develop our agricultural base since it is the area with the highest resources and probably easier to accomplish, others strongly believe that a complete shift in paradigm to embark on service delivery to other markets will be a gold mine for our nations prosperity. The way forward, I believe, is to embrace both approaches by redeveloping our agro-industries using technology base to provide value-added service on the same."

On Open Source and ICTs, he says that "by empowering our entire society in the appropriate use of technology, we will be able to maintain social and economic lifestyle of all our communities, both urban and rural and improve the conditions of living of the same. ... they have proven to be right instruments needed to propel this growth by enabling us convert data into information, which is needed for appropriate decisions, industrial development, value-added production"

The Ghanaian Minister also informed the audience of the Presidential Special Initiative on Distance Learning, the Ghana Investment Fund for Telecommunication (GIFTEL), the e-Ghana and several other important ICT projects. It was refreshing to listen to Sam Somuah of the Ghana Information and Communication Technology Directorate (GICTeD) lay out the country's e-GIF electronic government platform based in open standards.

The folks at Ghana's Rancard made waves. Their startup has made leaps in a very short time and their FOSS business plan for mobile solutions did win admiration from participants. Impressive also was Linux Solutions of Uganda, Future Software Resourcesof Nigeria and ASSIST of the Ivory Coast. I am encouraged by the efforts of Nkem Uwaje, James Lunghabo Wire, Christian Roland and these other young Africans who are building not just businesses but values for the generation next.

The Director General of the AITI-KACE, Ms Dorothy Gordon, has pulled off a great challenge. How do I know? Here is how. Generally, there is a big crowd on the opening ceremony of events, generally because the Minister is speaking and the TV will be there. Then after Day 1, the crowd fizzles. But no, this has not been the case here.. the crowd did come to stay and increased..

The I-Week is running its third edition this year. It is being recorded and will be webcast. Next year promises to be hotter, bigger, better and richer!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The 'Golden Olden Days' of outdoor games!

I took time off to energize my brain on the sight here. Can you figure out the game being played by these kids? If yes, did you play it? If no, did you live in any rural African place?

Lemme give you briefer. The game is simple. There are those big beetles or bugs with hard covers and wings... generally black huge things that I have always thought are too fat and lazy...

What happens is that kids catch them and tie a string on their leg or any other part of the body that will not hurt but that will ensure that the beetle is firmly secured and will not fly away from the thread either. Then the insect is given some 2 or 3 meters space.... to fly around.

You guessed right! Since they are tied and held by a child, the best they can do is to fly in circles...

That is when you realise at what speeds those bugs can fly... you hear them like airplanes around your face... and it is an exciting experience.. The adults used to use them to scare the smaller ones... I figure kids still react the same way I used to when I was kid - first you run, then you pick up courage and determine to see the bug at a closer range... Then you come right back and try and hold your grounds..; but then the flying things whizzes past and you have to duck ..

So it is a kind of duck and come again game. Risk and curiosity mingling with running and screaming and coming back again and again and again... until the insect gets tired and will be let go.

This is a game kids play in rural Africa... healthy, laughter-filled, community life games. Everyone is happy and refreshed after it.

So why is this blog talking about 'Golden Olden Days'? Well because healthy, laughter-filled and community open air games for kids are dying out. They are now being overtaken by digital, violent and personalised games. Games that kids play shut in, sitting, moving only the hands. Games that are bent more on conquering, dominating and winning.

These computer, cell phone and other electronic games are robbing our kids of fresh air, of healthy exercise, of a sense of community, of sharing and playing just for the sake of the game!

Worse, they are modeling our kids to be the youth of tomorrow.. to become the Africans of tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

China is having its Olympics

I am happy for the Chinese people. Honestly.

There is a kind of happiness that comes when you know you have been through hell to get to where you are. That is what the Chinese people and their leaders are basking in. For the past 7 days! The Beijing Olympics has kicked off and nobody will wipe it away from World history that the 2008 edition of the global sports event took place in China.

The time difference between Beijing and GMT is 8. This means I have to sit up until the wee hours of the morning to watch games. I am happy to do just that. Even if it is support of the people.

There is a kind of feeling that comes to individuals when they are charactarised by the attitude of their leaders. So the whole world has come to think that Chinese people are the same as the Chinese government. No. People are the same everywhere... even if the governments are different. National pride, the type that makes you go out and yell in streets when your national team wins, that makes you spend just to show off that you are happy that 'it is happening in my country', that pride resides in every human heart.

I do not have all the elements to judge the 'democracity' of the Chinese government, but one thing I know, I was happy to watch the opening ceremony. I was happy they chose a theme that break with the image of the China that the global media has been showing us. ONE WORLD ONE DREAM

People have dreams and everyone has the right to work to accomplish his or her dream, despite their geographic or political location. As I watched the nations parade at the Bird's Nest stadium, I could feel my heart beat. It went wild when countries to which I have an attachment showed up. I was particularly impressed by the big tall Yao Ming and the little boy who survived the earthquake in Sichuan. One African country actually showed up with one athlete! But he had the right to fly his national flag alright! And that is what makes a dream come true!

The Olympics, I have come to believe, is not just about winning medals. It is actually beyond sports. I am convinced that it is a meeting of minds, of people, of dreams and of common ideals. Being there is as important as winning there. Island country citizens have something to write home about. Some of these athletes from the islands, on entering the stadium on the opening ceremony day, were hit by the fact that the number of individuals present at the stadium (91 000) was more than the entire population of their countries.

And the Presidents that came, loads of them... there is something about crowds that politicians cant resist. Hey! Even if they are Presidents or State Officials, who does not want to support his or her national team, who does not love the cheer, the beauty, the wonder and the joy! Presidents or politicians... they too are people!

The Olympics will offer thousands of people the opportunity to go and have a taste of China for themselves. The parallel events are there, the whole country is theirs to visit.. eat, drink, sleep and breathe China. Then judge for yourself! Like they say, experience is the best teacher..

I am pretty sure that after this, people will view China and the Chinese in a different way... They will understand that there are people living there.. One billion three hundred million of them. That is a quarter of the World population. And maybe they will come off with a better respect for the people, and eventually for their leaders..

I also have hopes for the World Cup coming in South Africa. It will be the first in the continent. Already the criticisms are flowing. A million reasons why South Africa cannot, should not not, may not and possibly will not... The very same things we heard for China.. I am convinced that the joy of South Africans will be akin, if not greater, than that of the Chinese. It will not be only Proudly South Africa, it will be Proudly African! It needs to hold. So thousands will have the opportunity to come, drink, eat, sleep and breathe Africa... and eventually judge for themselves..

I hope, I believe, I trust and I will do my little part to make it come true..

One Africa, One World, One Dream. Congratulations China..

Monday, August 4, 2008

Barack Obama is 47

There will not be any photo attached to this blog posting. Because if you are reading this blog, you certainly know Barack Obama. Today, he turns 47. Yes, 47. Just 47, not 57, neither 67. Can you imagine? This man was born on August 4, 1961.

This piece comes to pay homage to an individual who has succeeded in a million places where millions have failed. Someone who has proved that 'impossible' can be crushed, that one single individual can be first in many things.

He had made news already by his arrival at the US Senate, but as a United States Presidential hopeful... that was way out of what millions, sorry, billions thought could happen.

Obama had all the elements that many of us use today as excuses for failure; Africa, black, single parenthood, hard life, etc. But the man rose beyond all of that. If he could, so CAN you.

You too, you can beat the tribal/race game, you can get an education (even a Harvard Law Degree), you can marry the person of your dreams (oh yes YOU can) and you can excel in your ambitions.

You can be the person you want to be, despite what the whole world thinks. You can make the best of your situation, regardless of what the statistics say. You can rise above the image and even put the media at your feet.

Trust in God, believe in yourself and strive to be the best of yourself. I think that is what the Illinois Senator has done. Courage to you.

Happy Birthday Barack, long life, prosperity and many happy returns!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

OSCON Lessons for Africa

The Open Source Convention of 2008 has closed its doors. It might not have been right to count our gains and losses during the conference, but it is time and timely, to do so.

The first of all lessons was the increasing number of attendance from Africa. The word increasing may look absurd, because it does not mean from 20 to 50 or even from 10 to 25, but at least it means from 3 to 8.

The second was the quality of participation. Mark Shuttleworth gave a key note and was in two other panels. Derek Keat, though hitting his first OSCON runs, was instrumental in the education panel. He also made the great leap in actually showcasing AVOIR - an initiative from Africa. Nnenna Nwakanma stepped in for Africa during the all-important Open Source/Open World Panel organized by the Open Source Initiative. At the Expo Center, Chisimba was available for the hundreds of OSCONers to get a first hand experience of innovation made-in-Africa.

The third was the overwhelming percentage of the Republic of South Africa in Africa's participation. Yes, ceci explique cela. The analysis of the why's and wherefores may be a good thing for you to blog about.

There are other other lessons. Let us not crowd it.

One thing, though, comes out clear, hearing FOSS African voices at international levels CANNOT be the sole duty of the Republic of South Africa. We all need to move beyond this.

The second is that the OSI - Open Source Initiative was the contributor to the entire participation of the one female person from Africa. Partly because the OSI believe in this global engagement of all open source actors, actresses (please forgive me) and advocates in the global OS discourse, and partly because of her own personal engagement and proven leadership in the FOSS arena.

On the African continent, the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa - FOSSFA, has this mandate too. To make African FOSS voices, actions and initiatives to be seen, heard, known, used and promoted.

Open Source not-for-profit organisations like OSI and FOSSFA will be healthier if enough support is given them to continue their engagement at all levels. This is critical to the success of Open Source itself, as a movement of global community engagement.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Web Foundation

David Recordon, Open Platforms Technical Lead at the Six Apart
has announced the launch of the Open Web Foundation during this Open Source Convention.
So here is to an Open Invitation to look at the fundamental building blocks of the Open Web Foundation and contribute to its construction.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

African Open Education Experts bring issues to fore at OSCON

Some 2000 education experts are participating at the Educational Panel here at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention.

African Free Software gurus, Mark Shuttleworth and Prof Derek Keats have called attention to the key position of Open Education Resources, Open Content and Open Hardware in the global search for a changing face of education at all levels.

The other major outcome of this session is also the overwhelming endorsement of world experts of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration

Please sign this and support the cause of a global education based on Openness

180 seconds to change minds 180 degrees in favor Open Source Communities

The 10th edition of the Open Source Convention is happening here at the Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. A key session will be Danese Cooper's Art of Community Lightning Talks. Danese has invited awesome girls to talk about OS community. Big names like -
Dawn Foster, Erinn Clarke, Allison Randall, Leah Culver, Stormy Peters, Silona Bonewald, Nnnena Nwakanma, Sulamita Garcia and Audrey Eschright.

3 minutes to say everything? Girl oh Girl!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Public Transport in Abidjan goes on foot

Folks here will loose some fat over this week. The red taxis (taxis compteurs), the shared taxis (woro woro) and the mini buses (Gbaka) are on strike. The strike hit the streets on Monday morning. On the eve, the messages were mixed - we are striking, no, we are not. Then in the morning, the streets went empty. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday .... it is Friday today.

Late Thursday night, the government spokesperson announced a series of 'consultations'. The first one will be with transport associations. The second will be with drivers. These two will be followed by a ministerial meeting, which will be followed by a cabinet meeting.

And all of that will be ended by an official announcement. The government spokesperson said the government will announce to the nation and to the 'international community'.

That will be Monday... but between then and now... ???


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Eli-Samuel Roland

Bonjour mon petit.

Moi, c'est Tantie Nnenna. Je viens d'apprendre que tu es arrivé à Abidjan ce matin. Et ton voyage? J'espère qu'il se bien passé. Dieu soit loué.

On t'a beaucoup attendu ici. Moi je prie le Seigneur pour qu'Il t'accorde une vie heureuse.
En tout cas, ici à Abidjan, on dit de ces genres de ton cas que c'est une affaire... à suivre.

Abidjan is missing Aubrey Hooks

A number of months have gone by since the last US Ambassador to the Ivory Coast left Abidjan. On the occasion of this year's Fathers' Day, we all remembered him. Last year, he was on TV doing something. Something which may be considered the very opposite of an Ambassador's job. Aubrey Hooks was cooking! A dish he learned from his grandmother!

Many Ambassadors have come and gone in the US Embassy in Abidjan, and in many other embassies as well in the country. But none has come close to the heart of the population as Aubrey Hooks. Aubrey Hooks toured more Ivorian towns than some natives. He proved that His Excellency can also be a man of the people.

He went down to places that many of the country's top shots would prefer to send their representatives. He associated with all levels of the population. We saw him at official dinners, at negotiation tables, and with the President. But we also saw him among townsfolk, refugees, young people and even school kids.

I remember him in cultural functions.. comedy, music, beauty pageants... all dressed up like the people and enjoying himself. I used to watch his body language... to decipher is he were doing social image-making for his country. Maybe he was, but he certainly had a personal interest in the things he did. You could see he had a love for culture, for the society, for humanity.

We are not in a position to evaluate his diplomatic results. In truth, we really do not want to. But one thing is sure. He did transcend that role. He had a face that has been lacking in many development issues – that of individuals who are not just doing their jobs and representing their countries, but of persons who are genuinely concerned about the population. Officials who really want to see the lives of the population improve, who want to see them happy.

Abidjan is missing you, Aubrey Hooks. Wherever you are... just note it. Like it is said here, you left a big hole in our hearts.

Maybe it is not really you, the individual that, we are missing, but what you represented – a partner who has respect for counterparts, who appreciates what is good about them and participates in their efforts to face their challenges.

We do hope to get more Aubreys... not just in Ivory Coast, but in Africa.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fuel Wahala in Abidjan

Finally, them don announce am. Fuel increase for Abidjan. Na nwii we don already begin hear so. Even before gorment talk im own, drivers don already print new prices. Them been dey kampe dey wait official announcement. Nobody wan know how much the increase self be. The only thing wey driver know, na him own price. Gorment increase na 17%, driver increase na 40%

Person no dey look person face. You dey go abi you ney do go? If you wan enter, make you enter, if you no hold the money, comot for road. Na politician dey do négociation. Like Naija dey talk say, money for hand, back for ground, na so Abidjan drivers don become oo. If you no get the money, no near my car. I no dey for nonsense talk.

Yarko! Na so them dey talk am. Kpêle, ndo.

Poverty no go kill us.

Friday, July 4, 2008

La liberté d'Ingrid Betancourt ou la raison d'Alvaro Uribe

Alvaro Uribe a eu raison. Il l'a dit et il l'a maintenu. Ce n'est pas la peine d'engager des négociations avec la FARC. Elles n'amèneront nulle part. Nous nous félicitions de sa victoire. La victoire de la raison mûrie d'expérience, de connaissance de la terre, cette connaissance qui est synonyme de sagesse.

Lui, il est en Colombie, il vie avec les membres de FARC, il les connaît. Il sait de quel bois ils se chauffent, de quoi ils sont capable. Alvaro Uribe connaît tout cela.

Mais seulement voila, il se trouve que ce Monsieur n'est pas le Président dans un pays dit "développé" La Colombie n'est pas une puissance militaire, ni membre de l'Union européenne.
La Colombie est en Amérique du sud, parmi d'autres pays classé comme pauvres, dont je ne sais combien de pourcentage vie avec moins d'un Dollar par jour...

Alvaro Uribe démontre ici qu'être riche ne donne toujours pas raison et être pauvre ne pas synonyme de la perte de raison non plus. Les pauvres peuvent avoir raison. Même au sein des Nations.

Négocier avec une rébellion, c'est lui donner raison. La réconforter dans sa position et lui donner les moyens pour durcir sa position afin de pousser encore loin. C'est un cercle vicieux, une fois entré, on s'en sort très rarement.

Négocier avec une rébellion, c'est aussi faire le marketing des ses fournisseurs. Ceux qui lui vendent les armes. Plus la négociation dure, plus les deux parties doivent s'armer, plus le fournisseur se frottent les mains.

Ses fournisseurs d'armes "développé". Là où naissent beaucoup des ces mouvements. Ces pays qui offrent gîte et couvert aux chefs de rébellions, qui abritent leur Quartiers Généraux, qui leur offrent de l'asile politique...

Non, Alvaro Uribe a choisit la non-négociation. Il a choisit une option militaire qui n'arrange pas les affaires des maîtres trafiquants, et il a eu raison.

Dans ce monde sans équilibre économique, social, militaire ni politique, il est encore possible d'écouter la sagesse de ceux qui connaissent le terrain. Comme le disait une publicité bien conne, sans la maîtrisé, le pouvoir n'est rien. Que ceux qui détiennent le pouvoir prennent un temps pour considérer les options de ceux qui ont la maîtrise.

Ingrid Betancourt a eu la liberté, Alvaro Uribe a eu raison. Les Puissants ont eu tort.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Journey to Kiremba (Kissing the clouds)

Burundi is one of the war-thorn countries in Africa. I bet the only images you have seen from there are those of thin war-weary soldiers carrying guns that are about the same height with them. Or maybe the ones of women and children with clothloads of property running away from villages to seek refuge from... the soldiers...

As the plane was descending to Bujumbura... I "saw" why the region was called the great lakes region. There were waters, lakes, rivers, mingling with green rolling hills... So before touchdown, my mind made itself up to enjoy the place.

I had come to do the Monitoring and Evaluation of projects run by the Digital Solidarity Fund

The Airport in Bujumbura had a country architecture - in the form of hills and valleys.. Once you hit the main road to town, there is this big billboard with BB and BB. Brussels and Bujumbura, Belgium and Burundi... inciting you to fly Brussels Airlines... Yup!

I enjoyed the fresh fruits for the days I spent in Bujumbura city. The fishes that you eat in the restaurants are from the nearest lakes... they have a kind of freshness that is akin to milk... aie aie aie!

Okay, so we are on our way to Kiremba. The journey will take 4 hours up and down the hills. Ah! So Rwanda is not the only country that has a 1000 hills? No. Burundi also does.. So over there, you dont travel from place to place or town to town.... you travel from hill to hill. And every hill has its name..

Boy, those guys can build winding roads. Up, up, up, up, and up. Then down, down, down and down. Green, greener, green and greener! Beautiful!

Then my ears start... the feeling you get in the plane... due to the altitude... And when I look down, its tea farms to the left, banana farms to my right. Green and beautiful!

All this time inching up, up, into the clouds... literally... until we went right into them.

I begged them to let me out. Those things were clouds, real ones, all around... I let them caress my hands. I just stood in the middle of it all. Breathings huge lung-fulls of the pure goodness.

Trust me, I stuck out my tongue... and tasted the freshness... It tasted like...forget it... the only word is heaven!

Lost in the mountains, Kiremba welcomes us. Bernabé, who was leading us was a 60-year old guys. He kept talking about his parents - both of them. We go round the projects talk with people who are accessing the Internet on connections brought in with a satellite .... shared their joys, the challenges and their hopes.

Then we went off to see the school, the church, the hospital and the Orphanage
Bernabé's father shows up, he has walked down from his hill to the orphanage. He was going to lead us round to the farms that help supply food and milk to the more than 100 children in the orphanage. We were going downhill. The man looked good for his age, healthy and smiling. But since it was a bit slippery going down, I offered my hand and he took it.

Then we come to this place where you need to take a wide step. I felt it was better to hold his back and let him step over before I do. Then I noticed his hand was on my back...

Hang on! Who is assisting who here? The old man says he was holding me to make sure I did not fall! Oh my! So it was the 90-year old man that was leading me.. I asked why, because I felt he was the one needing assistance...

No, he said. I was born and bred in Kiremba. These hill paths know my footsteps. And I know every winding path around here.

After the visit, he takes us to his own hill to see his wife. I look at this couple who have been lovers for over 70 years. They live on their own, no heart issues, no eye glasses, no major health issues...

And I tell me.... these guys are still around for many more years to come...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thinking thoughts


So I have finally given in to blogging. After everyone has reasoned, pleaded, threatened, and pushed me! Like I owe it to you to blog, like if I dont, you will...


Que sera, sera