At present, Nigeria is not self-sufficient in food production. Click here for an interesting interview with the Waziri to the Emir of Katsina on solving the problem. Thanks Hasan ibn Muhammed al-Wazzan al-Fasi for the link.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
Brilliant example of online infographics at their best (explaining why the bail-outs won't work), here.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
This article is 12 years old but still relevant and worth a read. The Kano video film market is more strongly influenced by Bollywood in terms of themes and formats than its southern equivalent, so its interesting to ask the question why Northern video films were more influenced. There is also the question of in what way the current Censorship crisis in Kano might in part be a consequence of developments within Bollywood - away from more conservative storylines to more Westernised themes and influences - and how this Westernisation has led to a parallel Westernisation of Hausa videos.
Jan 31st at Jazzhole, Ikoyi (gate fee N2.5k)
Feb 5th at Salamander Cafe, Abuja (gate fee N5k).
Faaji master Rolling Dollar will be accompanied by Sina Ayinde Bakare (guitar virtuoso) - playing songs from their new album out on the Jazzhole label.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Pieter Hugo (the photographer who took the Hyena-and-man series around Abuja a couple of years ago) has an exhibition exploring the symbolic imaginary of Nollywood, showing at the Michael Stevenson gallery in Cape Town until Feb 21.
Click here for more details.
Thanks Sean for the link.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Event: Poetry Potter 3rd year anniversary - 31st January 2008.
Venue: Rotunda Hall, National Library, Alagomeji, Yaba.
Time: 2.30pm till 7pm.
Warning: you are likely to seriously enjoy listening to Toni reading his stories..
Call this number for more details: 0708 428 7828
Ok so I seek the wisdom of the crowd. I get the sense there is universal aversion to the new look.
Can someone recommend a blogger template? I don't like any of 'em...
Bear with me while I faff...
The signs are all around us, if only we have eyes to see it.
As the planet starts to boil (we, the unnoticing lobsters) and the money runs out, what can we do but go veg? Here.
Just heard from my mole in the Telecoms industry that NITEL is on strike (again) and SAT3 has been shut down by the Union. That will knock-out internet bandwidth for many businesses in Nigeria for the duration. Affordable broadband, something which is increasingly available elsewhere on the continent, from Senegal to Tanzania, from Morocco to South Africa, remains a distant mirage across the Sahelian sand....
There is light at the tunnel however - here is an update on the submarine cable projects with a Nigeria dimension from Balancing Act. The gist of it is that we are still waiting for Mr Adenuga to put us out of our bandwidth-starved misery:
West Africa: New international fibre entrants playing a dangerous game of poker
One’s a monopoly, two’s competition, three’s intense competition and four or five is suicide. This should be the mantra that the new international cable entrants repeat to themselves as they enter what will become one of the most difficult poker games over the next three years. Russell Southwood assesses how the new entrants are likely to fare as the continent enters more uncertain economic times.
When I spoke in the middle of last year to the country CTO of one of the continent’s largest mobile operators about an independent fibre operator asking him to invest in a project, he said that the company was fed up with being asked to put up all the money for new projects (through promising its traffic) and preferred the idea of building and controlling these all important fibre routes.
This was before the full extent of the credit crunch had become visible and so any discussion in this context of availability of capital and opportunity cost seemed to be largely irrelevant. Of course, things do not look quite the same now…
West Africa has only really got three international bandwidth markets of any size: Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal. Whoever wins significant share in at least two of these markets has perhaps the making of a business plan. With the arrival of Expresso in Senegal then perhaps Sonatel will lose 10-30% of its share. All the other West African country markets are relatively small and getting traffic from them is intricately entwined with attitudes to competition and geographic position.
In order of their likelihood and operational start date, the following players are in the game of poker:
1. Globacom: Nigeria’s SNO Globacom has a cable that it promises will land in Lagos this year and in Accra at a slightly later date. If it misses these dates, its credibility will sink even lower for the existence of the cable was part of its advertising campaign in 2008 and it just did not arrive. It appears that Globacom decided to hold off on the building of the cable (which got as far as Dakar) and lost its place in the queue with its contractor. Work has now resumed on the Dakar-Lagos stretch.
Globacom has captive traffic for its cable from its own operations in Nigeria, Benin and Ghana and has announced its intention to create more mobile operations along the route of the cable. But this traffic by itself will not justify building the cable so it has to persuade others to become its customers. Unfortunately its existing national fibre backbone in Nigeria is both expensive and not always of great quality so it has a second credibility hurdle to jump (See:
2. Mainstreet Technologies: The second contender is the independently financed Nigerian project Mainstreet Technologies which has publicly announced that it will land in Accra and Lagos and would like to land in a number of other destinations including South Africa. Its planned completion date is May 2010 and it has gone from being a rank outsider to a more likely player. It has already signed a contract with its contractor Tyco and has publicly promised an E1 for US$4000 to large volume buyers. Will others be able to match that kind of lower end price?
But it somehow has to weave its way through the obstacles posed by the increase of potential cable players from four to five and more if you count projects that have not publicly announced. As most of the international traffic comes from voice operators, it has to attract the carriers whose names are currently unattached to any of the existing projects: Etisalat and Zain are the most obvious big players absent from all of the lists so far.
3. West African Cable System: It has all of the big beasts of the telecoms sector in South Africa involved (MTN, Neotel, Telkom and Vodacom/Vodafone) and the mixed blessing of the South African Government’s backing. Seacom made a partnership with Neotel to get into the market but now all of these players have their own cable they are unlikely to partner with another entrant like Mainstreet to allow it into the market. Furthermore, they represent the majority of the bandwidth in the market.
MTN now has operations all along the West African seaboard except in Togo. MTN and Telkom are a substantial part of the traffic in Nigeria. Vodacom/Vodafone has announced that it would like to buy Nigeria’s most celebrated “car crash” of a company, Nitel. However, their cable is only planned (so far) to land in Accra and Lagos because these are the only two places on the route that are sufficiently competitive to allow a second landing station. No final timetable has been set but it looks likely to miss being available for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
4. France Telecom/ACE: At the end of November, France Telecom/Orange put out a press release that went largely unnoticed announcing that it was going to build an international cable with 14 other operators. Those publicly announced are: France Telecom itself; Vivendi-owned Maroc Telecom (with operations in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mauritania and Morocco); Benin Telecom, Togo Telecom, Gamtel and Cabo Verde Telecom. The identity of the remaining players can be deduced from looking at the list of proposed landing stations. France Telecom will only say that they include “mobile operators and new global players.”
This 12,000 km cable, called ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), will extend from Gabon to France, and from 2011 will connect Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Gambia, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Portugal and France. An extension to South Africa is also being studied.
The cable is to be run as a shareholders’ consortium with France Telecom as the managing agent, a structure that more or less mirrors that of the existing controversial SAT3/SAFE cable. France Telecom are under an NDA so are rather tight-lipped about the details. On finance, understandably they say the budget will be similar to other cables and do want to name a figure as they go into negotiations with suppliers.
On the financial side, each party will buy according to their anticipated demand and it will be this that will determine the level of each party’s investment contribution. So for example how will Gamtel that is currently almost bankrupt and has not made a great success of its link to Senegal raise this money? There are also almost certainly other companies on the list who do not look terribly “bankable”.
But whether the landing stations built in countries like Gabon (where Maroc Telecom would operate both landing stations) and Sierra Leone are monopolies will depend as much on the regulation in the country as on the shareholders’ agreement. But it will potentially make competition more difficult in those countries with only one landing station or two that are controlled by the same company.
A study authored by Balancing Act late last year also highlighted the potential market dominance of France Telecom and Vivendi in international traffic over a large part of the region. So if you count country links with a single country link counting twice (once for each country it connects), then out of the 32 existing and planned inter-country links identified, ownership is as follows: Government-owned national telcos (10); France Telecom (10); Vivendi (5); and independent “carriers’ carriers” (2). And Vivendi (through Maroc Telecom) looks set to buy Mali’s Sotelma….(see below in Telecom News)
To be fair to France Telecom, it has been a “price-progressive” on SAT3 with amongst the lowest prices on the route in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire and it has built competitive regional links to challenge Sotelma in Mali.
5. Infinity: It has to be the rank outsider in the game but is maintaining a confident stance that it will sign off on its financing before too long. However, like Mainstreet it will have to rely on attracting those not already on someone else’s team.
6. O3B: It is also in the market and concentrating heavily on international trunking. Its constellation of satellites will be launched in late 2010. It says that it has already sold 7 gbps of capacity, not large alongside the proposed capacities of the fibre operators (and likely demand at the right price) but a lot for something that won’t be available for over 18 months.
(Please do not point out that we have missed out NEPAD’s Uhurunet. It is a project without committed backers and only keeps being taken seriously because of Department of Communications backing. That may all change after the elections this year.)
But in terms of competition, things may not be so bleak because it is no longer so easy to protect less competitive markets. Nigeria’s Suburban Telecom already has a link to Benin that offers substantially cheaper and better-managed international bandwidth. It has well advanced plans to connect as far as Accra. Phase 3 also from Nigeria has plans to go from Lagos to Accra overland.
For the incumbents in Benin and Togo, the attractions of getting paid for unimagined volumes of traffic from their neighbours is too good to pass up. Regional arbitrage will ensure that prices converge downwards. But there will be countries that will still be unwilling to allow terrestrial cables of this kind to cross their borders. From a wider West African perspective, this is madness as it incentives telcos to use international cables or often satellite to transfer traffic between countries in the region. Cheaper international gateway licences for regional transit traffic would an effective incentive to get more links built.
To say that raising capital in today’s markets will not be easy as last year is an understatement. One operator who is just completing financing for an unrelated project told us that many of the more obvious funds have put a six month moratorium on investing just to get a grip on what their investment assets are worth in this strange new world. Some of these funds are the very people who might finance the more marginal operators in countries that have no landing stations.
Seacom has its cable on the east coast that will complete in Q2 this year but has made no move in terms of the west coast. If it joins the party at this late stage, it would make logical sense for it to look at Mainstreet (the only independent) or the West African Cable System which has its South African partner Neotel as an investor.
The key decision for all operators is whether it make sense to sink quite large sums of money into a capital project or should they simply buy from someone else who is prepared to invest on their behalf. There is a lurking suspicion that the operators would prefer to do the former in order to keep prices on the west coast from falling to the level promised on the east coast. However, in this particular poker game not everyone will have a winning hand.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
My eyes glaze over and my ears seal up at the words 'sustainable governance'. It takes someone special, like Paul Collier, to stay rapt. Here. Thanks Sean for the link.
Woman in uniform at scanning machine says to woman loading her shiny expensive-tacky purple bags next to me onto the conveyor belt: I like you.
Tacky purple bags woman: silence plus blank expression
Uniform woman: I said I like you.
Jeremy (stepping in to help the discussion along a bit): I think she likes you.
Uniform woman (mostly to me): I want her to say thank you.
Jeremy (feeling cheeky): So, if you like her, how do you like her? Does it make you a lesbian?
Uniform woman (frowning): How can you say that? I hate that word. I am a married woman, and I have children.
Jeremy: This may all be true madam, but one can still be married, have children and be a lesbian. No be so?
A few metres forward onto flight side, and the silent yet adored woman's bags appear. They were very purple, and quite shiny.
In Nigeria theatre is always possible, at any moment.
Time for a change and a new template for this blog. I'm still fiddling about with it so it might change a bit more. Easier to read innit?
I know what you're thinking: "what a cliched noncy mountain picture in the header. He'll be writing endless poetry next.."
That, I'll have you know, is a magnificent shot of Gashaka Gumti National Park, looking east towards Cameroun, from near the summit of Gangirwal, the Mountain of Death...
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Click here for the list. Apologies its a bit long and non-user friendly - we'll sort this out.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Asa played her first-ever concert in New York City last night. Teju Cole reports: "A sold-out crowd at Joe's Pub welcomed her enthusiastically and she did not disappoint, delivering a soulful set of songs that are, already, modern Nigerian classics."
Monday, January 19, 2009
Just when you thought that the whole world must now know about 419 (and therefore the business model would collapse), there is the sad story of Shane Symington from Portsmouth. Thanks Ellie for the link.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
A short film on the Uzoma Okeke scandal last year, produced by Ebun Olatoye and Directed by Remi Vaughan-Richards
My former blog sparring partner, Kemi Adegoke, has been selected by the Tories to run against Tessa Jowell in the Dulwich and West Norwood constituency at the next election. See here for a mini interview (taken from here).
Despite our political differences, I'm really chuffed for her. She has just the right levels of feistiness and smarts to push Jowell off her perch.
Kemi's blog is here and her facebook page is here.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
We are gradually resolving our distribution challenges. To buy your copy of NEXT on Sunday tomorrow, go to your nearest vendor (in Lagos and Abuja), or call the numbers to the left. The paper should be readily available, and yours for N200.
NEXT's daily edition (compact size) will be on sale in all good newsagents (Menzies, WH Smith etc) in London from this Monday. Call 020 7928 5443. (the London distributor company) to find out where you can pick up a copy.
Friday, January 16, 2009
The atrocities committed by the Israel in the past few weeks in Gaza will haunt the country for years to come. Just when a corner seemed to have been turned on Al-Qaeda, the most perfect terrorist recruitment campaign has just been waged. One does not have to be a Hamas apologist to utterly condemn the use of phosphor and the killing of so many non-combatants.
I used to believe that a two-state solution is the only viable option going forwards. Perhaps like others, my view is hardening against the idea. I've been flirting with the idea of Israel ceasing to exist, and a one-state Palestine taking over, under a secular constitution. Israeli Jews would be allowed to stay (although all Jewish settlements illegally constructed would be returned to their Palestinian former owners). Palestine would return to what it was pre-Zionism: a more-or-less peaceful multi-cultural society, inhabited mainly by the children of Abraham/Ibrahim. The city of Jaffa as was is the template for the country to-be.
It sounds like a dramatic thought, but what alternative is there? During the next 50 years, American influence will continue to wane. Like it or not, as soon as US support for Israel becomes economically and politically unsustainable in Washington, Israel will find it increasingly difficult to defend itself against the triumvirate of Egypt to the West, Syria to the East and Iran to the South.
At some point, something dramatic like this will have to happen. Why not start to plan for it now?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Here (Jan 19). You people are so 2006. Thanks Lanre for the headzup.
Often, when diplomats/expats of one form or another in Abuja's 2 or 3-year stint is up, they advertise on the Abuja expats list, selling the detritus they've picked up during their time. Its quite hilarious to read what they sell and how they sell it. Stuff worth 30 quid down Ikea is sold second-hand for more than it was bought for. Mobile phones, cars, sofas - all are advertised at more than their brand new value without a soupcon of irony. Its basic economics at work on one level: the unconscious exploitation of scarcity by homo rationalis. On another, its just oyinbos being stingy. I heard this evening that one expat recently sold a half-drunk bottle of whisky - for forex mind you (not naira). Haba.
In my new role as water-fetcher for the compound, I decided we really needed to load up with a good 200 litres (4 kegs worth) this eve to see us through to tomorrow midday. After the grunting, Yetunde (sis-in-law) squeezed my stomach and said, "Uncle Jeremy, you are a bloke." At which point, I become confused. Further discussion alerted me to the fact that in Nigerian English, a 'bloke' is the perfect guy - think Fola Adeola, Lanre Olushola and co. Nice to be in such suave company..
Ok this one is dedicated to all you oyinbo Nigerians scratching to come back home on account of dis your credit crunch. Be warned that shit can truly hit the fan some days:
Since returning from our blissful sojourn in Tanzania (land of blue oceans and chilled out people):
1. We discovered someone has nicked our DSTV satellite dish - they yanked it off the wall (quite high up). Our compound is supposed to guarded.
2. Our borehole has packed in. It is a 419 borehole - drilled to only 15 metres. Boreholes in Abuja need to be 35 metres deep to hit the aquifer and guarantee water all year round. As for water from the 'water board' - well, they've yet to connect the huge reservoir at Usman Dam to Abuja. Ko gadda. If you want water during the dry season, you have to drill your own borehole - cost being a minimum N600,000 not including the survey. I spend the mornings fetching water by filling up 50 litre kegs from a friend's house round the corner.
3. A car drove into us from behind in Lagos the day we arrived back. Bibi had whiplash for a few days. It was an off duty Glo pool car earning some side money. Of course they had no insurance so Sisi Oge is going to have to sort out her bumper herself.
4. Two police officers drove into me after jumping a red light today. Plenty wahala follow follow (I refused to listen to the oga-talk). Praise be to Honda Accords for being such ox-strong cars.
All in all, before you book your ticket, go turn on the taps and consider whether you could cope with nothing coming out when you turn it. Meditate on the meaning of traffic lights in your town, and reflect on what it would be like to live somewhere where their meaning is variable.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Susanne Wenger responded to the call of Olodumare a few hours ago. She was quite an amazing woman, deeply attuned to the Yoruba spirit world. My friend Alex and I interviewed her in May 07. I must edit the footage I made and put it on YouTube.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Excellent story on NEXT on the banning of tribal scarification in Osun State, here. Are you for or against?
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Thursday, January 08, 2009
There's a piece on a recent trip to the Niger Delta tonight on Newsnight. Click here for a taster. Thanks Alexis for the headzup.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Short story by Zina Saro-Wiwa, here.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Sunday, January 04, 2009
1. View from the bedroom, Oyster Bay Hotel
2. Tomb to Christianity, Zanzibar
3. Tippu Tip's house, Stone Town.
Stone Town (once the capital of Oman and known as Zanzibar, whereas the island is properly known as Unguja) houses often have a ledge around them, creating the perfect place to rest in the shade, watch life go by, or chat with a friend. Its a fascinating example of Islamic intimate space produced by a series of design measures that enhance social interaction and involvement.
Hanging by the entrance to Mbweni Ruins hotel, Zanzibar. They are like giant custard apples/guanabana.