Sarah Ladipo Manyika reads from her brilliant first novel In Dependence here at 7pm this Thursday. Get your ass down there if you live in London and get your signed copy. See you there.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Siji's latest album is available to buy online here from today. Its available at high quality 320kpbs. Its a steal at 10 bucks.
We had the good fortune to meet Siji in Brooklyn last week. He is a lovely lovely chap. The album is gorgeous. The guy is a star in the making.
Photo by Yemsky.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Please forward this announcement to potential interested and eligible applicants:
The Africa-America Institute (AAI) is pleased to announce a call for applications for the next Transformational Leadership Program (TLP) scholarship deadline. AAI has partnered with The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF) on TLP to enhance professional management skills and leadership in Africa. This multiyear program offers both non-degree professional development and business degree training programs to African managers in Africa-based NGOs working in the fields of health, education, environment and entrepreneurship.
AAI invites the managers of eligible NGOs in Africa to apply for a TLP scholarship for either:
Executive Education Short Courses at the Wharton School of Business
Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at the Goizueta Business School
Deadline: October 27, 2008
The eligibility criteria for NGO managers are:
Applicants must be current employees of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Applicants must be residents of an African country
Applicants must have significant professional work experience (i.e. 5-15 years) working in NGOs
NGOs must be doing work in the critical areas of health, education, environment or entrepreneurship in Africa
Applicants must be proficient in English
Applicants must agree to return to their countries immediately upon completion of their training program
For MBA program: TOEFL scores or IELTS scores are required for non-native English speakers
For MBA program: GMAT scores are required for degree programs
For MBA program: Undergraduate degree is required
Placement will be limited therefore we expect the application process to be competitive. Please refer to the individual sections detailing each training program and its application instructions.
Please open the following attachments for more details on TLP, the program offerings and an application form:
· TLP Program Description
· Wharton Executive Education Program Information
· Goizueta MBA Program Information
· TLP Application Packet
Gonansa N. Mugulusi
African Higher Education & Training
The Africa-America Institute
420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1706
New York, NY 10170
Phone: (212) 739-7870 Fax: (212) 682-6174
Educating People * Connecting Worlds
When you land at T5 these days as soon as you are off the plane you see GT Bank advertising, with two massive adverts for Intercontinental bank in the luggage collection hall. The Intercontinental deal cost millions of pounds (see here) and I'm sure the GTB placements were not cheap.
Apart from showing off that its possible for a Nigerian bank to have an advert in Heathrow, its hard to see the point of either bank doing this. If they are targetting Nigerian customers (apparently there is a minimum 5000 quid deposit to get a GT Bank account in the UK), there are surely much more focused ways of gaining mindshare in London - 99% of Heathrow's customers will have no idea who GT Bank and Intercontinental are, and care even less. That represents a waste of money.
The creative itself is quite lame - the GT Bank ad has the image of Big Ben (really innovative that idea guys). One comes away from seeing both adverts thinking that either they are just showing off and blowing money away, or that the media planners/buyers they have hired are just a bit thick.
Forwarded email (click to enlarge image on the left):
It is a pleasure to invite you to the private view of the first London solo exhibition of Nigerian artist Nnenna Okore: Ulukububa- Infinite Flow on Thursday 16th of October 2008, 6.00-8.30pm.
The exhibition will be opened by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, at 7.15pm.
Please find attached an invitation. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
The Jazzhole invites you to the 3rd session of our 'Faaji' series. A special night of Faaji grooves, Agidigbo blues, Palm-wine roots and Juju music with the Faaji Agba Social Club.
Old members of the J.O. Araba's Afro-Skittles Band re-unite for the first time in 40 years; Fatai Rolling Dollar and Chief Seni Tejuoso fuse their rootsy 'toy motion' rhythms with master 'owambe' guitarists', S.F Olowokere, Sina 'Ayinde' Bakare and the legendary 'afro-jazz' saxophonist, Prince Eji Oyewole and 'afro-Yoruba' pianist/composer, Durotimi Ikujenyo.
Venue: The Jazzhole 168 Awolowo Rd, Ikoyi
Date: Friday 3rd October, 2008
Time: 9p.m prompt (limited space)
Door Charge: N5,000 per guest
Tickets Available at Glendora/Jazzhole
Excellent gig coming up on Oct 18th at the Africa Shrine, as part of the Felabration events. Tony Allen, Ginger Baker, Baaba Maal and even Franz Ferdinand will be there. Here for more. A gig in London on Oct 22 follows.
Sokari Douglas Camp exhibition from 22nd September to 27th October, here.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Interesting article on the fat pay cheques on offer these days in Naija. Here.
Interesting event at the British Library 1st November at the British Library, here. The centrepiece will be a showing of Jide Olanrewaju's excellent documentary history of modern Nigerian, Naij.
Fundraising event/ball for a worthy cause on the 4th October - With Love, From Friends is a charity dedicated to provide basic infrastructure and resources in schools in Nigeria.
All the funds raised goes to the ACDI project( they are building a school for children living in the Iwaya community in lagos, so all the funds raised goes to the school).
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
By Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, on the Bowery.
Gehry's first building in New York is the IAC building looking out on the Hudson in Chelsea. The reception area is astonishing - behind the desks, the earth floats and spins on huge digital panel underneath the clouds. The planet is perhaps three metres in diameter, and appears to be a real-time representation. To the left of the spinning globe, analytics for various websites flicker away in real time, with twinkling lights on the earth corresponding to unique users. Match.com came up, with around 500 people arranging to meet for a date per second, out of 180,000 users online. One has a sense of the cosmos slowly being interwoven by digital communications, as if the internet is now part of the universe, which of course, it is.
We were led around the Metropolitan Museum today - in an hour and a half we covered perhaps 50% of the rooms. Three standouts: the Africa room - see the Igbo mask to the left, the ancient Greek pots and Cycladic marble sculptures (from 2400BC+) and the Chinese garden and adjoining study room.
The museum is incredible - cultural treasures that stretch the imagination to the limit. Every trip to New York will have to involve a day here from now on...
Monday, September 22, 2008
To the Whitney, to catch the last day of the Buckminster Fuller exhibition. The Whitney is in the hushed-wealth environs of the Upper-West side. It reminds me of the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank in London - concrete brutalist architecture. Its a better building however - more generous in its welcome. Buckminster Fuller was an extraordinary maverick figure of twentieth century America, most famous for his invention of the geodesic dome (see the image of the Montreal Biosphere designed by Buckminster Fuller) - the design principle for the Eden Project in Cornwall. He was an ecological-systems thinker decades before almost anyone else, coining the phrase 'spaceship earth' and the idea of there being a 'world game.' He designed a car in the 1930s - the Dymaxion - that looks like its 1960s futurism. Extraordinary indeed.
I'm often a little reticent when it comes to reading Seamus Heaney. His poems can be a little obtuse to the mind that desires quick results. Trout is one of the more accessible poems, and a minor joy:
Hangs, a fat gun-barrel,
deep under arched bridges
or slips like butter down
the throat of the river.
From depths smooth-skinned as plums,
his muzzle gets bull's eye;
picks off grass-seed and moths
that vanish, torpedoed.
Where water unravels
over gravel-beds he
is fired from the shallows,
white belly reporting
flat; darts like a tracer-
bullet back between stones
and is never burnt out.
A volley of cold blood
ramrodding the current.
from the collection Death of a Naturalist
Sunday, September 21, 2008
California-based Sarah Ladipo Manyika is reading from her new, brilliant historical novel In Dependence in the UK. Cassava Republic will be publishing the West Africa edition in the Spring next year.
Click here for the dates.
Here is the blurb:
In Dependence, is Sarah's first novel. The story begins in the early 1960s when Tayo Ajayi meets Vanessa Richardson, the beautiful daughter of an ex-colonial officer. Their story, which spans three continents and four turbulent decades, is that of a brave but bittersweet love affair. It is the story of individuals struggling to find their place within uncertain political times – a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal, and the universal desire to fall madly, deeply, in love.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Check out October Monocle - there's an article on Abuja from page 48-51. We played hosts to writer Steve Bloomfield and dashing photographer Frederic Courbet for a while when they were over.
A good turn out to see Zina present her fabulously uplifting film This is my Africa at Salamander. Spot the Jeremy (Zina sitting to my left).
Once she's sorted out all the rights (for the clips etc) it should be for sale. It will probably turn out to be a much bigger project, with thousands of This is my Africas emerging on the website that will soon be set up...
The film is showing again on Sunday at 6pm at our film club at Salamander.
... you end up with someone else losing their licence to business. Call it the law of unintended consequences if you will.
Someone sent a fake story out yesterday about the President planning to resign after the cabinet reshuffle, purporting to be from the News Agency of Nigeria - NAN. Channels TV duly reported the story, then had its licence withdrawn for doing so.
If only organisations public and private in Nigeria would use proprietary registered domain names, rather than fakeable gmail and yahoo addresses, these kind of misunderstandings could not occur. It looks like NAN at least has tightened up its act on this score. It should perhaps be a legal requirement in Nigeria that corporate communications must come from proprietary registered domain name email addresses.
Hopefully, Channels will be back up soon. It is pretty much the best TV news service in Nigeria at the moment. They will of course have learnt a valuable lesson about the importance of fact-checking through this storm in a teacup!
Read the story here.
Interesting book launch event at the Open Society Institute's New York office next Tues, 23rd September. Here. I'm hoping to be there.
Here is the blurb:
This month, the Revenue Watch Institute and the Open Society Institute Documentary Photography Project present a discussion of oil in the Niger Delta and the use of photography in advocating for social change. Photographer Ed Kashi and author and professor Michael Watts will also be signing copies of their new book, Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta.
Click to enlarge and read this controversial story from South Africa about the alleged skills shortage down there. The original article appeared here (subscribers only)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Should the Church of England apologise to Darwin? Click here to read more.
Meanwhile, a chemistry student proves that Hell does not exist (random email today):
The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid term. The answer by one student was so 'profound', that the professor shared it with his colleagues via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:
Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:
First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.
Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
This gives two possibilities:
1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.
So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Sandy during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct......leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Sandy kept shouting 'Oh my God.'
THIS STUDENT RECEIVED AN A+.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Nice website here. It tells you very quickly that there are 20 US troops in Nigeria, for instance.
I'm recruiting a Country Director/Chief-of-Party for what will be a fairly large-scale (about $1 million/year) HIV prevention program for men who have sex with men (MSM) in Nigeria. The position description is attached. I'm looking for someone with MSM HIV prevention knowledge/experience, someone with USAID/PEPFAR experience, and someone who is willing to live and work in Abuja. Nigeria experience would be great, but is not required.
Please forward this to anyone you know who might be qualified/interested. Interested candidates can contact me directly at email@example.com.
Coordinator, Global Equality Network
Director, Global HIV Initiatives
208 S. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Some nice moves and shapes from a Soca crew here...
Friday, September 12, 2008
An open letter to my Christian evangelical readers. My aim is not to offend or cause controversy (I have great respect for your faith ultimately - for instance, the hymns and cathedrals it offered into the world are profoundly moving expressions of the yearning of the human spirit). Its more to ask you the questions I long ago asked myself, to see what you say in response.
Which argument for the existence of god do you prefer? The cosmological, the ontological, or the argument from design (the three main forms)? None of them stand up to serious argument. I wonder if you also like to think that humans came from Adam and Eve, rather than through millions of years of evolution... The latter is pretty close to as scientific a 'truth' as you can find. Its hard to see how it could be falsified. Refusing to believe it puts you in the category of the child (on this issue), believing all kinds of stories..
The only thing left for you to do is to accept that your faith has no proof. In which case, you might as well believe that we came from creatures made of green jelly from another galaxy... there is no proof for that either. Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news.
Many people died on the cross alongside Jesus, assuming he existed (perhaps he did, perhaps he didn't. Perhaps he was very different to how we might think today). It was the way the Romans executed people they didn't like. The book you worship, the Bible, was written by men, not angels. There were big disagreements at the time (the first centuries Anno Domini) about what should go in it, and what should be left out (they ended up being the 'Apocrypha'). There have been egregious mistranslations along the way. We now know that the idea of Mary being a virgin was one such mistranslation (she was simply a young woman), as was the idea of Jesus being born in a 'stable'. Again, there are two Bethlehems in Israel - scholars disagree on which one is 'the' Bethlehem. In Jerusalem, there are competing Golgothas. Chinese whispers across the centuries, proliferating myths amongst the fragments of historical truth.
Perhaps we will get closer to an ultimate 'answer' if those clever people at Cern in Switzerland find the mysterious Higgs Boson particle in their super-collider any day soon.
Even if they do find this most evanescent of all evanescent entities, often referred to as the 'God particle', it will have no feelings for 'us'. It will simply help to unify quantum mechanics and relativity and perhaps start to explain that mysterious force, gravity. That of course, would be a magnificent achievement in itself.
The ultimate truth for we humans is existential and initially quite depressing: there is no meaning in the universe. We are probably genetically wired to believe that there is (most probably for evolutionary reasons - it helps to survive and stay healthy if you have 'faith'). We are also neurologically bound to see patterns in chaos, just like we imagine faces in the clouds..
The idea of a universe without god can be very frightening, if you stare the prospect fully in the face. We have to be brave and admit it. We are born, we die. We don't survive this process. Mankind cannot take too much reality, but its not impossible to absorb this chunk of it. It does have an incredibly positive side to it: this ultimate truth of ours. It is up to us, to create the world, to sustain it, to make it as full of love and wonder as possible. The ground of all being is emptiness. It us up to us to fill the void with all the goodness we can muster.
We therefore should not look to the concept of a 'god' to ground our ethics. Its up to us to work out what is right and what wrong. If we construct our ethical beliefs by way of faith, we end up not being able to engage with others whose contrasting ethics are derived from other faiths. There would be no way of negotiating between the two systems, and entrenched fundamentalisms are in danger of emerging.
The best achievement we've collectively come up with is the idea of human rights and democracy and associated concepts. We now have most of the basic ideas for a universalist ethics and a generic politics in this fashion. Implementing them and sustaining them has always been the problem..
The core reason faith thrives so abundantly in places like Nigeria is because its so damn hard for most people to live here: no light, no money, no voice. It was the same for much of Europe in the 19th century under the dirt and stress of industrialisation. The place was chock full of churches. If ever Nigeria became a more equitable society, a lot of this 'faith' would evaporate.
At present, many evangelical Nigerians believe in irrational things which give them hope but don't actually help them practically improve their lives. This I find rather sad. Don't you?
Yesterday I was chatting to a mate from the delta. He mentioned in passing that he didn't believe in god. I was immediately enchanted - one of the very few atheists in the country it seems, with Tai Solarin long since gone. I asked him what made him become atheist. He replied that he used to be evangelical, but then he realised that it wasn't helping him in his life. He began to see the works of science and the power of human reason as the best route to solving the problems of life. I wondered: if this chap can make the route out of the forces of unreason, how come most others fall into its snares and stay trapped staring at shadows deep within Plato's cave...
The Zimbabwean novelist and poet, Chenjerai Hove, and the Nigerian novelist, Okey Ndibe, are co-editing a volume that explores African creative writers' experience of war.
We invite writers poets, short story writers, novelists, journalists and professorss of literature to submit personal essays detailing how a war or connflict has shaped their work or changed their lives.
In addition, we will accept a few analytical essays looking at literary works (fiction, poetry, memoir) inspired by wars or other forms of violent conflicts. Since the projected book will be targeted to a general audience, we welcome essays to avoid overly technical language.
We conceive this as an accessible collection of (mostly) essays by writers reflecting on how conflicts have impinged on their professional practice and lives. We are particularly interested in submissions that dwell on such areas as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Somalia.
The submissions should not exceed 5,000 words.
The deadline is October 31, 2008. Please send manuscripts as attached word documents to Okey Ndibe at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at the same address.
Okey Ndibe English Department Trinity College 115 Vernon Street Hartford, CT 06106 .
The new Rough Guide to Nigeria is now out - part of the Rough Guide to West Africa. I wrote the Nigeria section. Its the best tourist guide to Nigeria out there - even if I do say so myself!
On UK Amazon here.
US Amazon here.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Good article on Susanne Wenger here.
I have 30 minutes of footage of an interview I did with her a year or so ago. I'll get round to editing it and sticking it on Youtube in the next month or so.
She really is a remarkable person.
Today's big news is that the President has unveiled a new government entity: the Ministry for the Niger Delta. This could potentially be excellent news for the troubled region. Lots of careful thinking and planning now needs to go into making this new Ministry meaningful, ensuring it has the right vision, people and processes to do its job. The question of what now happens to the Niger Delta Development Commission is critical: does it get dissolved, or does it now sit under the new ministry as a parastatal or even an executive agency? At first glance, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic at this point. Let's see how it plays out.
For a slightly more pessimistic take on today's announcement, see here.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We have BBC Knowledge now on the local satellite tv service DSTV. Its not half bad and may even be good. I watched a fascinating family-tree programme last night - the distinguished actor John Hurt in trace of his ancestors. Who'd have thought he was from grim Grimsby? He'd grown up with the family story that his great-grandmother was the illegitimate child of an Irish noble, the Count of Sligo. After long research up and down dale, it turned out it was not true - his great grandfather had conjured up the origin story in the nineteenth century, most probably because of his own father's shameful fall from grace working for the Customs in London. There was a poignant moment right at the end when Hurt absorbed the news that he probably didn't have Irish ancestry. He was quite profoundly upset.
With my mother's side coming from Liverpool, I too had always nurtured the idea that there must be some Irish in the family. The fantasy of having Irish origins is an easy one to decipher: it is the dream of a lyrical origin myth, attuned with a celtic elementality. At some point two hundred years ago, my ancestor may have looked out to sea on a western Kerry cliff and sang a song of lament, while her swarthy lover sailed far away. He would return after months, and there would be dancing and stories of old at the ceilidh. Even the banshees outside would halt their screeching and silently smile.
In my case, it looks like there wasn't anyone from across the Irish sea: my mother's family name, Murgatroyd, is a Yorkshire name. No oirish at all at all.
I have a friend who was convinced she was Jewish from the time I knew her in her late teens. I think it was because her grandfather had lived in the East End of London. She eventually converted and now lives in Israel..
So many dream of becoming other through fantasising their family origins in this way, and of having another story to tell about themselves. Why do we do this? Why are we not happy as we are? Perhaps it is the imagination, dreaming of other histories as forms of freedom yet to be told. Or perhaps it is just that we can find it difficult to accept all that we are, fearing that we are locked into the sameness of our same...
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
When I lived in Battersea, in the mid-90's, we used to receive the London magazine - a property glossy which had one or two featured articles as padding. Battersea was just about to become an estate agent's nocturnal emission, hence the free monthly delivery. The further towards the back of the magazine you went, the higher the prices. The last few pages went from being x million half page ads (6 bedroom houses in Mill Hill etc.) to full page, 20 bedroom stucco 'price on application' affairs set in the stockbroker belt, or on Bishops Ave up Hampstead way. I used to read the thing on the toilet, and oogle at the prices...
Well, I had an echo of that feeling just now, reading this email sent to the Abuja expats list:
3. NEWLY COMPLETED 5 BEDROOMS DETACHED HOUSE WITH GUEST HOUSE AND BQ
ON A FAIRLY LARGE COMPOUND IN MAITAMA. THE PROPERTY IS WELL FINISHED
AND IS SERVICED WITH BOREHOLE, AIR CONDITIONERS AND A GENERATOR WILL
ALSO BE PROVIDED. RENT IS 12 MILLION NAIRA PER ANNUM PAYABLE 3 YEARS
In translation, this means for 5 bedrooms in a 'fairly large' compound, you are expected to cough up one hundred and fifty thousand mamacharlies rent in advance (which was three hundred thousand Benjamins until the pound slide a couple of weeks ago). Is there a market for these things in Abuja? Who can afford this?
Out of idle curiousity, I just checked London rental prices in exclusive areas with Foxtons, a leading estate agency. For a tad over fifty thousand quid a year, you can bag yourself this. Here's some description:
"A stunning five bedroomed third floor apartment boasting an exceptionally spacious reception room with open-plan dining room and patio doors opening onto balcony; ideally located in a fantastic purpose-built block (with lift and porter) moments from Regent's Park."
Now, which would you choose if you had the moolah? Bear in mind, the Regent's Park option would involve maybe 10% of the upfront required for the Maitama pad.
Monday, September 08, 2008
President Yar'Adua reappears in Nigeria, and promptly sacks his Secretary General, Kingibe. Looks like there'll be turbulence ahead. Quite a lot is said between the lines in the linked article...
Zina Saro-Wiwa will be present to give a talk about the film and conduct a Q&A session at the following three events:
Saturday 13th September 08 2pm - CCA Lagos- 9 McEwen Street, Off Queen Street, Sabo, Opp Methodist Church, Herbert Macaulay St, Lagos.
Thursday 18th September 6.30pm - Salamander Cafe, Abuja.
Friday 19th September 2.00pm - Jos Film School, Jos.
This Is My Africa
What is Africa to you? This is a question Zina Saro-Wiwa has explored in her latest film This Is My Africa. A delightful, thought-provoking and utterly unique film This Is My Africa seeks to create an alternative image of Africa created out of the memories, tastes and opinions of 20 London-based Africans and Africaphiles. "I wanted to make a film that used private reminisces to challenge the way Africa is talked about publicly - which is often negative, reductive and wholly defined by the current affairs and NGO sector" says Zina.
A 50-minute crash course in African culture, This Is My Africa offers glimpses of African food, books, artists, music and films that have personally resonated with the interviewees who are: artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE; film-maker, John Akomfrah OBE; Channel 4 news anchor, Jon Snow; actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor; actor, Colin Firth; author, Biyi Bandele; fashion designer, Bayo Oduwole; writer, Mazzi Binaisa; DJ, Duncan Brooker; cultural historian, Nana O. Ayim; This Is My Africa comes at an important time. "Africa is still very much The Dark Continent in the eyes of the world,' says producer/director Zina Saro-Wiwa.
About the director:
The producer/director Zina Saro-Wiwa is a film-maker, writer and presenter for the BBC. She is also the founder of AfricaLab a multimedia company dedicated to changing the way the world sees Africa.
To see a CNN piece on the film, click here.
An interesting piece on the Beeb's site about the (over)-commercialisation of the Osun festival. Here.
I guess this is the fate of all such things in such times: as the Yoruba spirit-world belief system slowly withdraws in the face of the imported fanatical faiths, money fills the vacuum. Perhaps all that will remain of the Osun festival in the future are remnants of a faith that was: the rest will be Rio and dancing girls...
Sunday, September 07, 2008
You'll all come round to my way of thinking in the fullness of time...
Saturday, September 06, 2008
While many parts of the world are witnessing ever faster and cheaper internet access, the reverse seems to be happening in Nigeria. Our ISP, suburban, is getting slower and slower. The service for the past few days has been dreadful - unusably slow. For the privilege of 0.5kps and hours and hours of 0.0kps, we pay approx 45 pounds per month (85 dollars). They never call/email to explain and apologise. What they did do was send an email to all their customers yesterday explaining that they were now going to add tax to our bills. Worse, its not like you can quit and go with the competition. They are all as bad as each other, especially if you want to run a wifi network off of the access.
One day, Nigeria will have cheap broadband, in Jesus' name Alhamdulilah.
For the moment, it is like a far off mirage, in a hot dusty desert..
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
A positive-news story from Ghana in the FT today:
Root and branch approach to profit
By Matthew Green
Wellington Baiden believes he is standing on the verge of Africa's next oil boom. Only his product is not much use in cars. It works better dabbed behind the ears.
Opening the door to his workshop, the Ghanaian entrepreneur reveals his secret: a mysterious contraption of stainless steel pipes and pressure gauges used to distil essential oils - the plant extracts beloved of perfume makers.
Turning a lever, he drizzles a clear liquid into a phial - filling the shed with an almost overpowering smell. "See how concentrated it is?" he says, savouring the vanilla-like fragrance. "It's almost straight perfume." Mr Baiden has found a way to refine some of the world's purest ylang ylang, one of the strongest notes in Chanel No. 5.
Ylang ylang and other essential oils, while potentially highly lucrative, form only one branch of Portal, a forestry business that Mr Baiden sees as a model to transform the fortunes of Africa's threatened woodlands and earn rewards for far-sighted investors.
Growing timber requires decades of patience, so Mr Baiden has developed a range of schemes aimed at harnessing a cornucopia of forest products to generate income before the trunks are felled. Apart from the oils extracted from ylang ylang, black pepper, patchouli and lemongrass growing in the shade, he plans to build up eco-tourism, sell carbon credits generated as his saplings absorb greenhouse gases and offer stakes to fund managers who believe growing Asian demand will drive timber prices ever higher.
By cutting trees on a sustainable basis - giving the forest a "haircut", as Mr Baiden puts it - he can sell doors and floorboards to exploit construction growth in many west African cities.
After seven years of activity, though, Portal has yet to break even. Net profits are projected to hit $10.9m by 2017, but first Mr Baiden will have to prove he can turn his leafy assets - not least 20,000 trees - into cash.
Driving his four-by-four through the orange mud of the track leading past his workshop to his 210-acre pilot plantation, Mr Baiden says that with $10m of capital he could expand his model 100-fold. "We are proving to people that Africa is not such a basket-case," he says. "You can make a viable investment here. It doesn't have to be oil, or gold, or copper."
Such sentiments chime with the enthusiasm of a new generation of private equity investors, fund managers and investment bankers for an Africa they believe is ripe to deliver the kind of returns that have long since evaporated in more mature markets. But as Mr Baiden's travails show, building a viable business can require a great deal of sweat to secure investments, win over locals, vault trade barriers and convince sceptical financiers.
The son of a successful Ghanaian businessman, Mr Baiden, 51, studied law in the UK where he lived for 14 years before returning to Ghana with a plan to harness the canoe-carving skills of fishermen to make hulls for luxury yachts.
Demand collapsed as Britain lurched into recession in 1991, but Mr Baiden's life in wood had only just begun. Working with an American partner, William Ohrt, he started the forestry project at the village of Bedum, about 100km west of Accra, not realising quite how many headaches lay in store.
Securing land posed the first problem. Titles are often contested in Africa, but in Ghana, overlapping claims by chiefs, investors and authorities create a fiendish maze. Mr Baiden had to sift through archives dating back to the 1920s, before discovering the tract had belonged to an earlier entrepreneur: a photographer who had bought it with gold dust earned by taking portraits.
Just like mining or oil, forestry needs friendly locals to prosper - a hope that seemed to recede when Mr Baiden was kidnapped for several hours while scouting out one potential project site (see below).
Portal has since made local workers an integral part of his pilot project at Bedum, employing about 40 people to climb bamboo ladders to trim branches or help repopulate patches of indigenous afina, akasa and dahoma trees. He also provides seedlings, technical assistance and machetes to a further 60 growers who farm ylang ylang and nutmeg on their own land to sell to the company.
Plans to make the kinds of candles or soaps sold by retailers in the UK such as Body Shop could provide further jobs, but Portal still has to prove that a large-scale plantation can provide enough income to convince farmers to silence their chainsaws.
Bringing investors on side has proved almost as delicate. Databank, a bank based in Accra, helped kick-start Portal by buying a 16 per cent stake for $200,000, leaving Mr Baiden and Mr Ohrt with 42 per cent each. But wringing loans for capital equipment from risk-averse African banks has proved tough.
Mr Baiden's next big challenge is to raise the $10m he needs to develop a 20,280-acre site he has leased near the border with Ivory Coast, perhaps by bringing in private equity investors, forwardselling trees to pension funds or tapping the carbon market.
"This is the kind of product that hedge funds just love," Mr Baiden says. "It's a sure thing that the supply of timber is going down, while the demand for timber is going up."
Assuming his expansion plans are realised, Mr Baiden projects total income of $25.5m by 2017, with sawn timber and panels making up $11.1m and forestry products, including oils, bringing in $11.6m. Carbon schemes could by then earn an average $2.9m of annual income. So far, the wood products part of the business is the furthest advanced.
Producing doors and windows from mahogany and other woods at a mill in the port of Takoradi, Mr Baiden has opened premises in Accra, Dakar and Lagos. Trucking cargo across borders manned by grasping officials proved tortuous, so he air-freights doors to the booming construction scene in Lagos, where he says a recent order will finally tip Portal into profit. Helveta, a UK company that provides forestry management systems, will help Portal certify its timber to meet stringent import rules governing European Union markets.
The essential oils business also holds promise. Mr Baiden says a European marketing company has agreed to buy all the extract he can make and advance money to help expand Portal's distillery capacity. Soon he wants to broaden his range to include cardamom, jasmine and grains of paradise.
Mr Baiden says he is working with Carbon Markets, a UK-based brokerage, to find a company prepared to pay Portal for the carbon dioxide his trees remove from the atmosphere. Some experts dispute the environmental value of such schemes but Mr Baiden's hopes are high: "Even though we had to go through this without taking a salary, it's got a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."
When talk of money ceases, the sound of raindrops dripping from leaves and buzzing insects give a reminder of how majestic the forest must once have been. Starting the trek back, Mr Baiden asks: "What price can you put on nature?" His investors will be keen to know the answer.
How wary locals came to see that money can grow on trees
Wellington Baiden admits that he did not give much thought to relations with the local community when he first started his forestry business.
The question moved rapidly up his agenda when men armed with home-made guns briefly took him prisoner while he was scouting a potential site near the border with Ivory Coast, forcing him to trek 18km to safety in darkness.
The experience was both uncomfortable and invaluable, prompting him to find ways to bring as many farmers as possible into his pilot project at the village at Bedum.
Mr Baiden now employs about 40 people to tend the plantation, while another 60 work as outgrowers - cultivating ylang ylang and nutmeg on their own land which he then buys and distils into essential oils.
By situating his distillery in the village itself, Mr Baiden says locals have faith that he will honour his promises to buy their produce. Good relations with his hosts also reassures investors, who might otherwise fear for the security of trees vulnerable to fire or theft.
Nana Kweku Essoun II, the local chief, says illegal logging has fallen sharply since Mr Baiden set up his scheme. "People are planting," he says. "Everybody has realised that the future is in trees."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
.. then head down to Calabar and talk to General Overseer of Liberty Gospel Church, Helen Ukpabio.
Remember, treat PLWPWS (People living With Positive Witchcraft Status) with care and compassion..
Thanks Oluwole for sending this plaintive missive. It does raise the question: what would Nigerians have to talk about if everything worked?
September 1, 2008
The Area Manager,
COMPLAINT ABOUT YOUR SERVICES
I am writing to you with a deep sense of humility and gentleness. I consider this a great opportunity to communicate with an entity as awe-inspiring as yourself. Firstly, I bring greetings to you from residents of my area in Lagos.
As a dutiful citizen, I consider this letter as part of my civic responsibilities. Great countries comprise of citizens who are alive to their responsibilities. As a famous musician once said, “Ask not what your country can eat from you but what you can eat from your country.”
I have benefited immensely from this country; therefore I have decided to give back.
I want to bring to your notice some strange occurrences which have been happening in my area. I want to sadly inform you that in the last 2 weeks, electricity has been stable. In other words, we sleep and wake up with electricity, we go to work and come back and electricity is still running. This is a terribly new and I must add DANGEROUS development in the lives of residents of my area. This is something we are not used to. This is too much electricity for us to handle. In the first week of constant electricity, I started acting strangely. I ironed all my clothes because I didn't know when "light" will be impounded on your orders. After 2 days, the "light" was still there. Therefore, I proceeded to re-iron the ironed clothes. My fridge which had not seen "4 hours" of constant light for months suddenly started freezing. In order to enjoy the maximum effects of refridgeration, I have decided to be drinking 20 cups of cold water before I go to sleep. Once I finish a cup, I put the bottle back into the fridge. After 10 minutes, the water cools and I drink. I just don't know what to do. All the Ceiling fans in my house have been switched on alongside my AC. My deck is playing at a high level. My life is now in state of chaos because of constant "light". My TV and VCD player are complaining of high blood pressure, as they have been terribly overworked in the last few weeks. Half of my light bulbs have gone on strike to protest their resurrection from blissful death.
All the customers in the beer parlour beside my house are complaining that the beer is too cold and wants to destroy their teeth. Even the rats and cockroaches are complaining that human assailants find it easier to track and exterminate them under electric light than under candlelight.
All the witches and wizards that regularly visited me in my sleep have suddenly taken flight in the presence of “light”. Now I have to review my membership of MFM (Mountain of Fire and Miracles) since their work has been done. Can you imagine what will happen to the membership of churches if constant ‘light’ persists? No more demons meaningnNo more offerings.
With the above situation not abating, I decided to seek the reason behind this strange situation. This task was made easy for me when I realised that it was the work of saboteurs. Sabotage is the main reason for anything going wrong / right in our country. Our elections were sabotaged, our president's health is being sabotaged, Obama's chances of becoming the American President are being sabotaged by Nigerians. Therefore this constant "light" is the handiwork of saboteurs within your work system. These disgruntled individuals are enemies of progress who want you miss your set targets. These enemies want you to score very low on your KPI assessment. I realised this fact when I stumbled on a document showing your Key Performance Indicators for every month. These are:
1. Explosive growth in the amount of Candle-lit dinners and balcony-bedrooms
2. Massive boom in the sales of Candles, torchlights, generators, inverters and lanterns
3. Increased work place productivity due to Employees spending at least 16 hours at work because there is no light at home
4. Massive growth of Rock music fan clubs being aided by the endless sound of generators that are switched on overnight.
5. Volume of human blood being sucked by mosquitoes unchallenged by ceiling/standing fans
6. Incidence of heat rashes
7. Large Increase in Naming ceremonies: When people have no light at home, what else do they do with their time other than *******?
Sir, I strongly feel that the above achievements will not be possible if we keep on having "light". The saboteurs in your workplace will make you look stupid and incapable in front of your bosses. The repercussions of this charade would be unbearable. This is why I am writing to you now. As a responsible citizen, if I do not volunteer this information, I know that I will be the one to suffer. The day you realise that I have been enjoying endless light for 2 weeks, you will pay me back with 2 black months. The end will be worse than the beginning, thereof. I am at a crossroad. This is a major dilemma. Should I keep quiet? No I won't. This is because Evil triumphs when Good Men keep silent. Your incompetent staffs have left the light switch on and gone to sleep. I know you will take back all that we have stolen from you but Please remember my house in the day of recompense.
Your humble servant
By Oluwole Leigh 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
For poking around in the Niger Delta too much without authorisation. Here.