Friday, October 30, 2009

Tim Berners-Lee in Ghana

BBC Film Crew in Ghana, guest post by James Gibbs

At about mid-day on the 20th September, I was walking along the main street of Abiriw, in the Eastern Region of Ghana when I saw a film-crew at work in the Communications Centre on the other side to the road.

On enquiry, I was told that a BBC team was filming for a series entitled ‘Digital Revolution’ (working title) that will be shown in the UK next year.

It will examine the spread and the use of the Internet in Africa and will be partly built around Tim Berners Lee, a k a, it seems, as ‘Timble’. Timble, who is rightly held in very high esteem for his work on the web, was inside the Communications Centre in Abiriw on the 20th September. He was talking to local users who were shown how to edit the Wikipedia entry for their town and how to set up blogs.

After leaving Abiriw, the crew went down to Adowoso to film a farmer who talked about how he used the web to find out about new agricultural methods – notably drip irrigation schemes. (Of course, that information will only be useful if he has access to capital.) I imagine that the series will raise questions about how new technology can help such farmers.

Mobile phones have certainly made an impact in rural Ghana, but the Internet is currently of limited value. The connection at the Abiriw Centre, to stick with that example, is always slow and sometimes ‘down’ altogether. Luckily, it was working quite well on the 20th.

It will be interesting to see how the Abiriw sequence comes across – if it survives the cutting room. The film crew seemed to be magnets for misinformation, and slow to work out the setting and the set up.

The ‘fixer’ who had brought them to Abiriw said: ‘They almost didn’t come because they were told Abiriw was 4 hours from Accra.’ (It is about an hour from the ‘Adenta Barrier’.)

Even after they had been to the place the team didn’t have much sense of where they had been or how long it had taken them. One wrote of ‘the town of Akropong/ Abiriw’ (sorry, that’s two towns!) being ‘three hours from Accra’. (Traffic in Accra is often very bad so times are helpfully given from the edge of the built up area.)

Another error that crept into postings by the production team was that internet access at the Communications Centre was free. It is not, though it is lower than the local commercial rate. It is also slower and more unreliable than the competition: Opre Ventures on the Akropong By-pass.

The internet link at Abiriw depends on the signal from the Apirede Resource Centre and that is lost if the equipment on the top of the tower of Calvary Presbyterian Church is out of position.

When it shifts then the chap in charge of the Abiriw Centre has to climb to the top of the tower to adjust it. This is a scary climb as the staircase has no banisters. I wonder if Berners Lee - or any member of the team made the ascent? I suspect not: Timble’s time was short.

Video clip of Berners-Lee in Ghana here.


Petition on behalf of Dr Darsi Ferrer, Afro-Cuban activist..



Dear brothers and sisters: 

Many of you may never have heard of the Civil Rights Afro-Cuban activist, Dr. Darsi Ferrer. Yet, he is one of the most important Civil Rights leaders in Cuba today, and a tireless, courageous fighter against social exclusion. Dr. Ferrer was arrested more than three months ago, and jailed on absurd, untrue charges of having "stolen materials" from the state. 

What did he do? 

Dr. Ferrer runs a number of independent programs designed to help impoverished, marginalized and discriminated communities in Cuba (who are overwhelmingly of African descent). But because the government claims that there are no such things as poverty, racism or marginalized communities in Cuba, Dr. Ferrer is regarded as a highly subversive person by the authorities. 

Herein, you may see for yourselves a documentary produced by Dr. Ferrer, showing the condition of these communities (residents of what are called “tenements”). These are the people that Dr. Ferrer has been assisting for many years. Clicking the link you will see the type of work Dr. Ferrer has tirelessly been engaged.

I want to make clear, that this is the first time in my life, as an anti-racist activist myself, that I publicly raise a voice in support of any Cuban dissident. If I have done so, it is only because the Cuban government has, once again, crossed another threshold in the sort of oppression that it customarily dishes out to its citizenry. We have come to the point where to remain silent before such injustice and oppression, is tantamount to be complicit with it. That is why I raise my voice on behalf of those who have no voice inside of Cuba. 

I appeal to your own sense of justice, asking you to help me mobilize world opinion around this case where an honorable, brave, black Cuban citizen, has suffered detention because he dared place himself at the service of the humblest of communities in Cuba. 

I am asking for your help to free the black political leader, Dr. Darsi Ferrer. 

I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and beg you to sign this online petition.

Please help us free this brave Black intellectual

whose only crime is to have stood up

and protested against the racism

and discrimination that Blacks

confront in Cuba

(every signature makes a difference)

Carlos Moore


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fela Kuti in Brazil

Fela is far more celebrated in public culture in Brasil than he is in Nigeria, as these publicity images for various events around the country celebrating Fela this month show (only the Kuti family celebrated the anniversary of his death this month via the Felabration at the Shrine).

While Fela is widely celebrated amongst the poor (at least in the South-West), the middle-classes/elite are often conflicted. On the one hand, there is a sense that Fela was a man of immense courage in search of the truth, railing against the political greed of his day. On the other hand, the image of a man in his underpants with a huge spliff in his mouth and 27 face-painted wives doesn't cohere that easily with being a member of RCCG or a God-fearing stance in a similar hallowed chamber (or cattle shed). Brasil: Nigeria without the religious hypocrisy?


Fela Kuti Day Brasilia


Fela Kuti Day Recife


Fela Kuti Day


The Kalakuta sisters


Fela Day in Bahia


The Admiral and I..

I had the opportunity to meet the new President of PMAN (the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria) yesterday in Lagos - Admiral Dele Abiodun. It was a bit of a thrill.

We have an album of his - Admiral Dele Abiodun and His Top Hitters Band - Adawa Super 5. It was released in 1976 on Olumo Records. The cover has the young Admiral with an afro in front of a modern office block. He looks relaxed, dressed in a funky bell-bottomed lace outfit. Yesterday, he was very warm and friendly. You can see it in the way he holds me. Long live the Admiral!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bode George 419

These people are hot off the blocks. Bode George has only just slipped into his Kirikiri uniform:

Good Day Sir,
I am Mrs.Folake Bode George.Following the sentenced of my husband Chief Bode George the former Chairman Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)to jailed-28-years.I have been thrown into a state of utter confusion, frustration and hopelessness by the present civilian administration, I have been subjected to physical and psychological torture by the security agents in the country.As his wife that is so traumatized,I have lost confidence with anybody within the country.

You must have heard over the media reports and the internet on the recovery of various huge sums of money deposited by my husband in different security firms abroad, some companies willingly give up their secrets and disclosed our money confidently lodged there or many out right blackmail.In fact the total sum discovered by the Government so far is in the tune of $900.Million dollars.And they are not relenting to make me poor for life.

I got your contacts through my personal research,and out of desperation decided to reach you.I will give you more information as to this regard as soon as you reply. I repose great confidence in you hence my approach to you due to security network placed on my day affairs I cannot afford to visit the embassy so that is why I decided to contact you and I hope you will not betray my confidence in you.My husband have deposited the sum of 32.5 million dollars with a security firm abroad whose name is with held for now until we open communication.

I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your account for safe keeping.This arrangement is known to you and my Lawyer Micheal Robert alone, so my Lawyer will deal directly with you as security is up my whole being.I am seriously considering to settle down abroad in a friendly atmosphere like yours as soon as this fund get into your account i want you to know this fund will accrue you 30% of this total fund.

Please honesty is the watch word in this transaction.I will require your telephone and fax numbers so that we can commence communication immediately and I will give you a more detailed picture of things.In case you dont accept please do not let me out to the security as I am giving you this information in total trust and confidence I will greatly appreciate if you accept my proposal in good faith.Please expedite action.

Visit this website below: You will see what I am talking about.

Sincerely yours
Mrs.Folake Olabode George


Ken Saro Wiwa Memorial Dinner coming up in SA



10 November 2009


Written by Michael Wentworth

Directed by Michael Wentworth and Tauriq Jenkins

Performed by the Independent Theatre Movement of South Africa

Dear Comrade

In commemoration of the 14th Anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa, the Ogoni Solidarity Forum is proud to invite you to a Ken Saro Wiwa Memorial Dinner that will feature a performance by the Independent Theatre Movement of South Africa of the play ‘Progres’, a commissioned work that is inspired by the literary writings and life story of this revered activist and martyr for the Ogoni cause.

On the November 10th 1995, the Nigerian government under the leadership of military dictator General Sani Abacha, in collusion with Shell Petroleum Development Company and their international business allies murdered nine leaders of the Ogoni ethnic nationality. Ken Saro Wiwa and the eight others were brutally killed for fighting against the unfettered exploration of oil by Shell and other oil multinationals in the Niger Delta. Their activities raised world-wide awareness of the devastating consequences that oil exploration has had on the indigenous peoples and their environment.

Since 1995, the Ogonis at home, those in exile, environmental rights crusaders, human and ethnic rights organizations, international and civil groups always mark the murder of Saro Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni heroes.

With this annual event also goes the acknowledgement that the Ogoni cause is still vital and that the struggles of the people of the Niger Delta are still far from resolved. The Ogoni Solidarity Forum would like you to join us in honouring these heroes and giving voice to the continuing struggles in the Niger Delta.

But most importantly, this is also an occasion for us to thank you for your support and to express our appreciation of the remarkable solidarity demonstrated by numerous civic groups and individuals towards the inception of the OSF in South Africa.

Maximum of 3 persons per organization. Please RSVP by no later than 2 November 2009 to:

Bruce: [email protected] or 084 464 0139

Barry: [email protected] or (021) 4480637 or 076 288 8708

Please see below for venue and programme details.

Yours in the struggle

Barry Wugale

Venue: Ashley Kriel Hall, Community House,

Salt River Road, Salt River


5pm Arrival and Registration

Light snacks and drinks

5.30pm Opening and Welcome

5.45pm Music by Amanda Lois Stone

6.15pm Keynote Address

6.45pm Poem by James Matthews PROGRES

7.45pm Dinner and Presentation of Gifts


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rubens, in his element..

Rubens, in his element.., originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

This afternoon, we went to visit Rubens, a man who has planted thousands of trees around Africa. He currently lives in a small paradise close to Abuja, where he teaches the locals to plant trees and love and respect the environment. The fireflies came out after dusk. We talked on as they danced around us..


Kudos to the Don't Panic Crew

As soon as the BNP's constitutional change is completed and they accept non-white members, the obvious strategy is for as many non-whites to join and attend their meetings, vote etc. This would help to force them out of mainstream British politics..


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nick Griffin, hobgoblin of no substance..

The BBC spends bucket loads of money on digital services each year and yet access to its online content via I-Player is ridiculously restricted to the UK. Anyone overseas interested in anything shown recently on one of the BBC's channels has to hope that what you are looking for has been posted on YouTube, where it will always be broken up into 10 minute chunks. Its a big shame because Auntie could in fact take a bold step away from charging tax-payers in the UK the licence fee and make way more money from opening up its archives to corporations, institutions and individuals around the world. The planetary market place is several billion strong, with hundreds of millions of people willing to pay for content. Most people who are avid consumers of online news have already asked themselves the question, "what would I pay for online?" and many would include BBC content in their answer.

Rant over. I guess they (the overpaid grande fromages) will get it at some point..

Here is last week's episode of Question Time (the origin of the rant), featuring Nick the-cunt Griffin, leader of the BNP - the British fascist party who are gaining popularity among disenfranchised white working class voters in the post-industrial cities:


Friday, October 23, 2009

Menstruation and school attendance in Uganda..

I wonder if the same findings would apply in Nigeria:

More than half of Ugandan girls who enrol in grade one drop out before sitting for their primary school-leaving examinations. The fact that girls are dropping out between age 11 and 13 is being linked to the beginning of the menstruation cycle and its associated challenges.

Research conducted by a non-government organisation, the Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE), reveals that the lack of sanitary pads, coupled with other factors like the absence of water or separate toilet facilities for girls in many schools, is responsible for the drop-out rate.

Despite tax waivers introduced to reduce the cost of sanitary pads, finding money to buy them each month is a challenge for many grown women, never mind pre-teen girls.

A packet of sanitary pads costs the equivalent of $1.50 in Uganda - for the same amount you could get a kilo of sugar for the whole household. Girls whose parents can't afford to give them the money improvise with strips of toilet paper or old cloth. "Sometimes you buy two packets depending on the flow," says Florence Kanyike, national coordinator of FAWE in Uganda. "For some girls the flow is heavy and they will need to change pad in the course of the day."

In their study of challenges to girl child education, FAWE researchers found that taboos and silence associated with menstruation in many communities mean some girls are in any case unable to ask their parents for money to buy pads, and forced to find ways of getting money on their own.

Raising the subject can put unwanted pressures on a young girl. Kanyike says that for some parents, when a girl starts menstruating, it's a sign that she is mature enough for marriage. This is the age at which many girls in rural areas are sent into forced marriages.

Maimuna Kagoya has just started secondary school. She's fortunate that her aunt, Aisha, buys pads for her. In her Muslim family, Maimuna will be assumed to be ripe for marriage once she's known to be menstruating.

Speaking to IPS in the presence of her aunt, Maimuna says many of her friends dropped out of school although she is not sure if it was related to menstruation.

One risky means girls less fortunate than Maimuna turn to to raise the money on their own is through sexual relationships with much older men who can provide the cash; one consequence of this is a large number of unwanted pregnancies, which then force girls to drop out of school.

Dropping out of school affects girls in the long-term by limiting their future earning potential.

FAWE has launched a campaign to de-stigmatise menstruation through "girl education movement" clubs in schools, where girls are taught to treat their periods as a normal occurrence not to be scared of.

The campaign to dispel silence around menstruation and advocate for affordable sanitary pads to be made available in local markets across the country piloted in five districts earlier this year.

The project is dealing with twelve primary schools in each district, conducting workshops with pupils to open up dialogue on the topic of menstruation. The pupils discuss anything from lack of sanitary pads, poor facilities for menstruation at school and in the community, as well as try

to find solutions.

Fatuma Wamala, programme officer at FAWE, says through the workshops they found that poor menstrual hygiene on the part of adolescent girls stem from beliefs, myths and attitudes within the community coupled with poverty.

"Many parents do not allocate any budget to sanitary materials for the girls especially in day schools," says Wamala.

She says FAWE'S advocacy has led to lower prices for sanitary towels on the open market and increased demand for sanitary towels in rural areas, where local shops are beginning to stock them.

It was FAWE's workshops with members of parliament and government officials which led to tax waivers on sanitary pads being announced by the finance minister in the 2006 national budget.

Now the lawmakers want government to go further and buy sanitary pads for female pupils in primary schools. Nabilah Sempala, a woman member of parliament for Kampala Central constituency, says government should include the cost of sanitary pads in the budget of the universal primary education.


The Abuja Food Festival - Saturday 31st Oct at Tender Vine Park

The first Abuja Food Festival is set to take Abuja by storm on Saturday 31 October 2009 at the Tender Vine Park in Wuse II. Doors open at 11 am and the fun will continue all day until 7 pm. The Abuja Food Festival will bring together the city’s finest restaurants and eateries to offer Abuja residents and visitors a taste of the wonderful things our city has to offer. Those who attend the festival will get to sample signature dishes from both a local and global menu.

The festival will be a day of food, fun and family. It is not only a wonderful family entertainment option, it is also a great way for our local businesses to promote themselves. The Abuja Food Festival is a unique opportunity for them to create or deepen their relationship with our city and its residents and visitors.

Some of the participating restaurants are: JB’s Grill, La Luna, Salamander Café, SuhJuiced, Vanilla, Drumstix, Chez Victor.

Parents will have the option of letting their children (Halloween costumes encouraged) enjoy the fun and safe Halloween KidZone brought to us by Maitama Amusement Park.

The festival is offering advance tickets on sale at Drumstix in Wuse II, Salamander Café and SuhJuiced at Ceddi Plaza. The ticket costs N500 and will allow the visitors to taste small bits of food for free and purchase more food if they so choose.

The festival could not be what it is without the generous support of our sponsors: eMotion Advertising, Maitama Amusement Park, Abuja Top 25,,, and Whitney’s Party.

Media Contact:

Rama Shagaya

+234 807 494 8472 or +234 806 533 4045

[email protected]


Thursday, October 22, 2009


According to bods in the know, malarone is by far the best treatment for malaria (thanks to its combination of atovaquone and proguanil), better even than artemesinin combination therapy (coartem, artequin etc.) So how come malarone is not widely known and not for sale in Nigeria?


Where have all the Nigerian doctors gone?

This seminar will answer the question:

Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies
Programme in African Studies
Fall 2009 Indaba
“The Globalization of Healthcare Professionals: Migration from Nigeria to the U.S.
Anita Obodo

October 28, 2009
216 Aaron Burr Hall

A light breakfast will be served


The e-commerce revolution in Nigeria...

As with the trends from before and elsewhere, the e-commerce revolution in Nigeria started with the travel sector (Aero Contractors leading the way), was quickly joined by the pleasure/sex industry and is now maturing into broader retail offerings.

Laurens Online is an excellent example of the latter, offering a range of consumer goods (focusing on shoes and bags). The company works very hard to ensure that orders are quickly fulfilled with free delivery and a cash on delivery option. Why not give it a try?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This photo (courtesy of Kayode Ogundamisi) shows a 419-er holding on to what looks like a ram's horn, to spiritually strengthen his message to the oyinbo on the other end of the line.

Of course, the photo could be fake. But even if it were concocted, apparently yahoo boys do resort to the power of fetishism, especially in Benin, with tortoises being brought into cybercafes etc.

Times are probably increasingly difficult for your average 419er, given that even mentally challenged muzungus know whats going on when Maryam Abacha writes to them...


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Market forces - a response

I received an excellent response to my Saturday post via email from Fatai Thomas. I am pasting it in full. I'm sure you'll find it as helpful as I did:

"From an economic perspective, subsidies are generally a bad thing as they create market anomalies. This is a fact globally i.e. once you subsidise something (or do the opposite, slap a windfall tax on it) it encourages people to arbitrage. However, as a policy tool, they are the most potent for encouraging behavior.

In Nigeria, the pump price is fixed by the Government at NGN 65 per litre – 26p a litre. As a benchmark, in the UK the pump price is about 100p per litre. However this price includes about 50p of fuel tax so the “real” pump price is 50p. In other words, at NGN 123 per litre, a UK based fuel retailer can pay for transport, staff, raw material (refined product) and still make a profit.

Today, the Nigerian market is dominated by the major oil marketers. Together they have about 64% of the market. They buy product for NNPC on the world market, transport it to Nigeria and sell it. To fulfill its policy aims, the Government pays them the difference between where they buy and where they are told to sell it.

There are four problems with this in the long-term:
a) The Government is not an efficient and fair organization creating a lot of room for leakage
b) The increase in oil price and population (i.e. consumption) means at some point the subsidy will become unaffordable. I don’t have the statistics to hand but I am sure you can correlate development and fuel consumption (especially in a hot country)
c) The subsidy, although it is very effective as it reaches so many, is flawed because by having a fixed price, the Government has no way of controlling demand i.e. a fixed price means you never reduce your demand handing a windfall profit to the oil marketers (this is why so many people have gone into that business – printing money would be harder!)
d) Finally, anyone who considers building a refinery would not be happy selling into a price controlled market – yes you get a subsidy but it means you don’t enjoy the benefits of the cycle in the good times

So to answer your questions:

Q1 - “how much will the price go up” – I would expect it should not exceed NGN 125 a litre

Q2 - “given the fact that it is much more profitable to sell high quality 'sweet' (low sulphur) Nigerian crude on the international market than locally in Nigeria, how would the government ensure that local crude is made available to the refineries?” – if the local price is the same as the world markets (deregulated), then there is no arbitrage i.e. as a rational seller, I have no incentive to sell abroad or in Nigeria. In actual fact, given that transportation costs would be lower for a Nigerian refined product, the local refinery can afford to pay more than an international refinery. If I am an international refiner, I would be very concerned about Nigeria building its refinery capacity

Q3 – “How can anyone ensure the refineries ramp up their capacity, given that they have never been able to do this previously?” – if it is privately owned and you offer direct incentives i.e. impose a tariff on imported refined products, refineries will get built. After all, this was what happened to allow Dangote to build a sugar plant

Q4 – “The refinery question is surely key to the fuel price eventually dropping - if refineries still do not produce close to national daily need, importing petrol will keep the price of fuel high indefinitely” – I think people should realize that it is a lie that the price will eventually drop. Why would it? Why would I sell a product to a Nigerian at a lower price than a foreigner would pay? Actually the benefit is not really about making the fuel price lower – it’s about creating jobs and energy security as well as using the subsidy money (probably the largest Government expense) to spend on better things. In Europe today, it is the other way round – Governments TAX fuel consumption rather than subsidise! Think how much money Nigeria is losing.

Q5 – “In terms of a political economy context, for how long could high prices (some suggest fuel prices will have to double) be maintained, without widespread protest and industrial action?” – Although a valid question, it is ultimately irrelevant. Nigeria needs widespread protest and industrial action! Ultimately, If you create jobs, people will cope. Trickle down economics

Q6 – Grid power point – a stable refinery market will mean grid power is more of a reality. Again, prices won’t necessarily come down but the Government can at least channel that money into investing in the infrastructure. Also your point about private sector generation is spot-on. In a free market, there is more likely to be competition

As a final point, I think deregulation in all its forms is what Nigeria needs. I doubt there would have been a viable mobile market if it had been left to NITEL. Similarly, we can’t allow large, poorly run and difficult to change state institutions to drive our economic future."


Monday, October 19, 2009

Making a pot..

At Bwarri Pottery from Jeremy Weate on Vimeo.

Photos by Luca Crudelli


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Market forces..

Economics is most definitely not my area of strength. I'd therefore like some help from the much better economics minds out there on thinking through the downstream de-regulation process. With the proposed (but so far deferred) removal of the subsidy the Federal Government pays to downstream marketing companies, those companies will have to jack up the price to cover the costs of importing petrol - in a time of close to zero credit financing and a banking sector that needs to be brought back to life.

First question: by how much approximately would the marketers raise the price and on what basis? Could this not be calculated simply by working out the naira cost of the current subsidy per litre and tacking it onto the current price?

Given the fact that it is much more profitable to sell high quality 'sweet' (low sulphur) Nigerian crude on the international market than locally in Nigeria, how would the government ensure that local crude is made available to the refineries? How can anyone ensure the refineries ramp up their capacity, given that they have never been able to do this previously? The refinery question is surely key to the fuel price eventually dropping - if refineries still do not produce close to national daily need, importing petrol will keep the price of fuel high indefinitely. In terms of a political economy context, for how long could high prices (some suggest fuel prices will have to double) be maintained, without widespread protest and industrial action?

The same issue applies to power, where the current subsidised cost of PHCN electricity is around N7 per kilowatt. Meanwhile, the cost for back-up power (which is produced and consumed in multiples of grid-electricity) is obviously conditioned by the combined factors of the cost of diesel, the generating set and maintenance. Lets say then that the cost of back-up power is around N50 per kilowatt. The reality is that the market forces determined price point for electricity may be some way between N7 and N50 - at random lets say N30 per kilowatt.

This represents the amount consumers are willing to pay (they are willing to pay much more for back-up power) balanced against the cost of production plus operating margin. This would mean that those who cannot afford to run a generator may not now be able to even afford what little grid-based power they get. However, it would have the huge advantage of creating a viable business model for private sector power generation that generates and distributes power to a far greater percentage of the populace in time.

The conundrum for policy makers is that the move towards a market forces arrangement for both the oil sector and for power is essential and close to unavoidable in terms of long-term government financial management. However, both moves are fraught with risks and requires careful modelling and scenario planning. They both involve a spike in prices for a yet-to-be estimated (as far as I know) amount of time. I have yet to read of much better-informed big picture thinking on either topic, although I'm sure Pat Utomi, Bode Agusto and others have tackled it. Can anyone provide links or more/better thoughts on all the above?


Bandwidth prices

Good article on bandwidth pricing in Africa by Russell Southwood of Balancing Act. For those of who thought that the arrival of MainOne was the promised land, it doesn't look good at all:

Dropping the ties that bind – how Africa can help itself to get lower bandwidth prices

In Kenya two international cables – Seacom and TEAMS – have arrived but a fierce row has broken out over pricing. On the Government-backed TEAMS cable, Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo has said loudly and publicly that rates should come down to nearer US$200 per mbps. The cable’s owners say they have to recoup their money and that there will plenty of time later for prices to come down. Russell Southwood looks at some of the blockages to the benefits the international cables might bring and how they might be overcome.

By 2011, Africa will have eight international fibre cables connecting it to the rest of the world. New infrastructure is already delivering an eight to ten fold reduction in the prices formerly charged by the satellite companies. But the old African mindset of “selling shortage at the highest price” is not changing quickly enough to keep up with the new future of plentiful bandwidth. A number of blockages are emerging that need to be overcome if Africa is to take full advantage of its new fibre assets:

Holding bandwidth prices up

We have sat in rooms with bandwidth providers in at least two countries where they have argued that the new international fibre will not make that much difference to the prices charged to their customers. Indeed, the first move of many of the providers was to simply increase (rather modestly) the bandwidth their customers were receiving, whilst keeping the price the same.

So the new cable owners find themselves arguing what might be called the “SAT position”. When the cable is being built, all the rhetoric is about lowering prices but the moment the cable is implemented, it suddenly becomes about getting back the money as quickly as possible for their investment, despite the long-term nature of cable investment.

Telkom SA claimed to have recouped its investment on SAT3 in eighteen months but it is unlikely with the new lower rates that cable investors will see a full return for a much longer period. Apparently CCK is so cross with this switchover from promising lowered bandwidth costs to trying to keep the price high that it will be investigating price levels on the TEAMS cable.

However, all this price-hiking is short-term as with the arrival of EASSy and its WIOCC consortium, prices will fall sharply again. If that has not occurred WIOCC has a price-fall mechanism that will see bandwidth in the market fall to US$100 per mbps. In East Africa, there has been a lively debate over pricing but expect the same price-hiking tactics in West Africa where media coverage may not be as intense.

Not granting international landing station licences

One of the major issues in West Africa has been the granting, or perhaps we should say the failure, to grant international landing station rights to those building the new international fibre cables. How can this be occurring when everyone at every level has been arguing for cheaper bandwidth? Well, it’s the old self-interests being more powerful than the forces for change and everyone behaving according to the old model of behaviour and protecting the incumbent.

The most extreme example is Senegal where the regulator has delayed granting landing stations to the cables most likely to be first in the race to complete: Glo One and Main One. In more competitive East Africa, the independently-owned Seacom cable was able to either partner with another independent (KDN) or land using a licence in its own name in Tanzania.

But life has not been made that easy in Senegal where Main One is seeking to partner with the only possible alternative to France Telecom-owned Sonatel, Expresso. There is no opportunity to have an independent licence because this might make it too easy to compete with the de-facto monopoly of Sonatel, which is involved in the France Telecom cable initiative ACE. But why blame the regulator when the real delay is coming from Government that takes all the decisions?

The cynic might conclude that these delays will help Sonatel get ACE in place and keep out other cables for as long as possible. Of course, the speedy licensing of Glo One and Main One would prove the cynics wrong but don’t hold your breath.

Rates between landlocked countries

Once the new cheap bandwidth is at the landing stations, the trouble really begins. Operators do much “teeth-sucking” and say “of course, you know that’s not the real price. We have to charge for transit.”

In countries without a landing station, this leaves them in the hands of those accustomed to the old way of doing things. When incumbents dealt only with incumbents for cross-border transit, they both had an informal agreement that they would charge the same high price for each end of the transit. The net result is that prices for cross-border transit remain high. One country we visited recently, it was paying more for the transit to the landing station in a neighbouring country than it was for the onward transmission to Europe.

In East Africa, this is less of a problem as some thought was devoted to the issue and solutions are on the table. With World Bank prompting, the EASSy partners came up with the East African Backbone System that delivers inland bandwidth at more or less the same priceas at the landing station. Seacom has also delivered on its promise of the same price inland as at the landing station for those countries where it has inland partner (Rwanda and Uganda).

But the problem will be much harder to solve in West Africa as the main independent cable Main One has taken the view that its capacity will be delivered by the operators themselves, who will doubtless turn every trick in the book to ensure that prices remain high for the transit portion.

What regulators should be encouraging is regional carriers’ carriers who can compete with the existing telcos who might seek to keep prices high. The West African and Southern African Power Pools have ample fibre capacity to make a reality of this ambition working with independent partners.

The high cost of national transit to reach the POP or the landing station

If cross-border transit rates are a form of highway robbery, then national transit rates show many of the same symptoms. It is cheaper to go from Lagos to Sessimbra in Portugal than it is to go from Lagos to Abuja. If rates are based on distance, then the new international fibre cables have exposed the high rates charged for national backbone delivery.

Not surprisingly, these national transit rates remain high where there are legal or de-facto monopolies. Without competition, it is hardly surprising that the old pattern of charging what you can get away with is maintained. But you cannot have competition at the international level, without it having knock-on consequences at the national level.

National backbone operators will need to improve their efficiency levels or risk others building out their own backbones (where this is allowed). All operators know that in this circumstance they can cut between a third to a half off of the current rates being charged. The choice is a stark one: either you have a price-controlled monopoly with lower prices or you allow operators to compete and get lower prices.

The sceptics will say “But who wants all this new bandwidth? There aren’t the customers. (appropriate shrug of shoulders) This is Africa.” The alternative to this old way of thinking is to have a “low price, high volume” strategy that is about creating volume markets at yes, you guessed it, commodity prices. Then you sell the new customers services and applications on top. In the mobile field, MPesa is the best example of how an Africa-targeted service can take off.

It’s not about relying on the “same old, same old corporates” but about addressing the residential middle classes with Internet in places like Nigeria and Kenya who will provide the “critical mass” for reaching out more widely. It’s about bringing the small-scale companies and NGOs to the party and persuading them of the virtues of using the Internet to get things done more quickly. In short, it needs a strong dose of corporate vision rather than seeing the future through the rear-view mirror of history.


Friday, October 16, 2009

The Jarawa

Jarawa musicians/dancers, originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

The Middle-Belt is a patchwork of ethnic groups, cultures and languages, many of which are not known outside the area to other Nigerians. One such group are the Jarawa. I had the privilege to see some Jarawa guys perform some songs and dances while in Jos. The way they circled and twirled round each other reminded me of English country dancing. The music was a hypnotic mix of bass drum, talking drum and high pitched flutes. It was compelling to watch..


Aesop Falls, Plateau State

Aesop Falls, Plateau State, originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

Just before the final ascent onto the high plateau on the road to Jos you come to the village of Aesop. The waterfalls are two minutes walk from the roadside. The water gushes down, shocked at the discovery of gravity..


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Scene near Jos

Scene near Jos, originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

The road to Jos from Abuja is extraordinarily beautiful...


Africa Matters - upcoming one day conference in Coventry


Ford Foundation job offer..

Program Officer
Financial Assets – Expanding Livelihood Opportunities for Poor Households
West Africa

SUMMARY DESCRIPTION: The Program Officer will be responsible for developing, monitoring, and coordinating grant making activities to improve the livelihoods of poor rural and urban households. The goal of the livelihoods work is to reduce poverty in rural and urban areas by improving access to financial, business development, and organizational development services that promote the establishment and growth of micro and small enterprises, increase their productivity, and connect producers to markets for their goods and services.

Under the supervision of the Foundation’s Representative in West Africa based in Lagos, Nigeria and the Director of Financial Assets in New York, the new Program Officer will develop grant making and related activities to implement four strategies to achieve the goals of this work: research and development to enable the scaling of successful business development programs, improve business practices, and promote access to markets and financial services and products; building and strengthening livelihood support organizations; where appropriate, supporting public policy analysis and advocacy to improve the enabling environment for urban and rural economies; and building the capacity of networks that link this work globally. The new Program Officer will give particular attention to micro and small enterprise development, including community based enterprises, and strategies to link entrepreneurs to broader markets and value chains. She/he will be expected to keep abreast of the issues, institutions, and key individuals concerned with these issues, provide intellectual leadership in the field, and work closely with other Program Officers throughout the Foundation whose work relates to the central mission of the portfolio. In addition, the Program Officer is expected to contribute to the attainment of the office's Field Office Program Strategy which includes work on governance and sexuality and reproductive health and rights.

Specifically, the Program Officer will review the current status of the field and the status of the grants in the Foundation’s existing portfolio; formulate plans to implement grant making in the new program strategies; solicit, review, and respond to grant proposals; prepare recommendations for foundation funding. S/he also is expected to collaborate broadly with scholars, practitioners, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other donors.

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS: Significant professional experience working in the business and enterprise development field and a sound understanding of the impact of public and private sector policies on rural and urban markets, enterprise development and livelihoods. Demonstrated use of financial, business development, and organizational development services to improve rural and urban livelihoods. Understanding of program development and demonstrated ability to conceptualize programmatic ideas and strategies, carry out policy analysis and develop working relations with key stakeholders. Demonstrated capacity to interpret institutional, social and economic dynamics in the Nigerian and West African contexts. Excellent analytical, organizational, and facilitation skills, as well as strong oral and written communication skills in English and French. Demonstrated commitment to collaboration, evidence of effective accomplishment as part of a team and a graduate degree in a related field are required. Experience in West Africa is also desirable.

Location: Lagos, Nigeria

Salary is based on experience and on the Foundation’s commitment to internal equity. A generous benefits package is provided.

To apply for the position visit

The application deadline is November 6, 2009.

Equal employment opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at The Ford Foundation, where employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/affectional preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status or any other protected characteristic as established under law


Nigeria 1974

I have a collection of scans of the Daily Times from the 1960s and 1970s. They really should be online for everyone to see as they give a wonderful glimpse into Nigeria back in the day. Click the image above and enjoy some history brought to life. If time travel were possible, paying good money to have ones atoms transported and reassembled to the Shrine in the 1970s would be worth every kobo..


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bikers on the Benue..

Looks like they had fun


Felabration at the Knitting Factory tomorrow in NYC

FELABRATION takes its audience through an interactive journey of the life of Africa's most prolific musical pioneer with a documentary, Music is the Weapon, live drummers, special performance by dance virtuosos Afro Mosaic Soul and leading the evening's tribute are DJ Rich Medina, the global ambassador of Jump N Funk and DJ Ian Friday, minister of sound for Libation , ground zero for the Soul Revolution.

Doors: 7:30pm

Screening: 8pm

Party: 9pm

$12 in advance/$15 at the door


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tings dey happen o!

I take my metaphorical abeti aja off to Dan Hoyle. His solo performance tonight was off the hook brilliant.

He captured the noise, fury and passions of the people of the Niger Delta.

How he managed to turn on his heels and switch in an instant from potakot ashewo to creek sniper to Community Relations Officer to pissed up Scottish oilie was a thing of wonder.

And his malaria dream conversation between Graham Greene and Richard Prior was just as Guinness would have it- Pure Genius...


Dan Hoyle tonight in the Booj

Dan Hoyle will be performing his one-man theatrical take (in pidgin) on life in the Delta this evening in Abuja.

The show starts at 7pm at the Cyprian Ekwensi Centre near Ship House in Garki. I wonder if he has woven in an amnesty scene..


Pasted onto a generator in Asokoro

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN


Monday, October 12, 2009

The NLNG literature prize fiasco

Only in Nigeria would a literature prize take place and the judges decide to award the prize money to themselves on the basis that none of the shortlisted writers entries were good enough.

(I am blogging from my mobile so cannot create a link over a word).

Someone should let the judges know that the whole point of drawing up a shortlist is to select a winning candidate on the night. Questions should also be asked about the ethics of judges awarding themselves prize money.

The NLNG literature prize has lost all credibility and become a twisted joke. It does nothing to support the worthy cause of encouraging young writers in Nigeria. The only way forward is for writers to boycott the award until the sponsors get their act together, if that is at all possible..


Africans and the spirit of discovery..

Its early October again and it is Intellectual olympics time , where the Nobel prizes, the highest distinction in recognition of the "Makers of Civilization" are announced.It is a time of mixed feelings for me as an African and Nigerian scholar. First, i rejoice in the human creativity and ingenuity that the Nobel  laureates have wrought, and which have brought forth greater understanding of nature, and or impacted positively the lives of human beings. I also celebrate lesser achievements that are not Nobel class or recognized, but which have also brought advances in the pursuit of VERITAS, and similarly improved the human condition.      The winners of the Nobel have been predictable in the hard sciences of Physiology/Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry. These are where the power of science and technology derive their fountain. The winners are without exception Europeans or Asians. No African or black person has ever made contributions in these defining fields to attract Nobel recognition. We do better in the humanities.   Yet, i am convinced on the basis both of personal knowledge, and the experience of others that Africans are not incapable of making contributions to humanity at these levels, but we simply have not. The question arises as to why not. It definitely NOT a deficit of analytical intellectual faculty. Although some (such as Prof Shockley or "Lucky Jim" Watson ) have equated the ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE ( PRODUCING NOBEL CLASS WORK BY BLACKS IN SCIENCE) AS EVIDENCE AGAINST THE ABILITY OF BLACKS TO DO SO. That argument is clearly a basic flaw, both of logic and scientific canons. Our day is coming, but we have to accelerate its arrival. Africans in America are making their contribution to science, but it is still miniscule, because of the lack of opportunity owing to bias  based on the non-performance of our home countries, and our excessive preference for 'creature comfort", rather than living laborious days !   The problem as i see it is that Blacks being only about 50% of the populations of Europoids or  Asians, still have NOT put the correct emphasis on the permanent pursuit of discovery for its own sake !   The secrets of nature reveal themselves both to geniuses and the consistent plodder. There is precious little moral or financial  backing ( societal or governmental) for indigenous research that may or will have global implications. Nigeria despises academics and researchers, and occassionally rewards TRULY MERITORIOUS work ( They reward their group of friends in networks). Nigerians from Nigeria  last published any paper in the foremost journal  Nature in 1970 ! and this speaks volumes of the decline in our indigenous   scientific research ability.    Our academics  pursue sequestrated administrative offices with the delusion that that is the epitome of scholastic excellence !!!.  These must change. Nigeria must become a scientific and knowledge driven society.  Individuals and the corporate world must support indigenous research productivity by siting research institutions within universities that well funded, run by meritorious scientists and totally accountable. Our universities should only reward academics who have made indelible and lasting contribution to their field, the title of 'professors". Our society must be taught from childhood education to become or appreciate the generators of ideas and THE MAKERS OF THINGS and NOT with the mere ability to possess what others have made. Philosophers, creative artists and scientist should become the role model for Nigerian youth, and not thieving politicians. Politicians who promote science and technology should be applauded and apotheosized.   Finally, we must see and articulate the LINK BETWEEN  ECONOMIC POVERTY AND OUR LACK OF PRESENCE IN THE SCIENTIFIC WORLD, AND RACISM.  Just as no one respects a profligate or parasitic relation, no  one is inclined to respect a people or country, who are permenant dependents, sluggards (despite resources), who ask no questions and get no answers to problems confronting humanity as a whole.   Adesuyi Ajayi


Friday, October 09, 2009

“Out of Africa” – The Independent Film Festival and Art Exhibition

WLFF is holding ‘Out of Africa – Independent Film Festival & Art Exhibition’ on the 17th of October 2009.

The event has been organised solely to raise funds for a poor school in the Bariga area of Lagos, Nigeria as part of a project we call the ‘Mobile School Initiative 2009’.

With Love From Friends (WLFF), is a UK based non-profit organization which impacts positive change in Africa, through education. In 2008 we raised £6,000 for the Iwaya book fund project and detailed the implementation experience on our website at

This year, WLFF will be working with a Charity in Nigeria - Bethesda Child Support Agency (BCSA), as part of efforts to provide quality education to a community in urgent need in Bariga.

WLFF will equip two free mobile schools with key learning tools including books, white boards & other educational material. Once the school’s permanent building (currently in construction) is complete, the mobile school will be used as an arts and crafts center or in aid of another community.

D: Saturday, October 17th 2009

T: 6pm - 2am

V: The October Gallery Holborn, London. (Wrap party at Brown Sugar bar)

P: £25 (purchase by 10th October 2009)

• A selection of African short films • Awe inspiring African themed Art on display • African themed Canapés • Drinks Reception • Delightful African music by greats including Fela, Youssour N’dour • Exciting Raffle prizes • A variety of other African themed offerings • At the exclusive October Gallery, Holborn, London • Free entry to Wrap party at nearby Brown Sugar Bar, featuring - chart topping tracks spun by our DJ & other exciting WLFF treats.


Lemi exhibition in London coming up..

Ghariokwu Lemi kindly requests the pleasure of your company for the private viewing of his new works "Afro-Pop Art:Politics, Life and Lyrics"

Thursday 15 October 2009
6.00 pm to 9.00 pm

arc Gallery
11 Hale Wharf
Ferry Lane
London N17 9NF

T:+44(0)20 888 7741


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