Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama disowns Okereke-Onyiuke, others

The campaign organisation of the Democratic Party‘s candidate for the November 2008 United States presidential election, Senator Barack Obama, has dissociated itself from the activities of a Nigeria-based group, Africa for Obama.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Obama Raises Over $51 Million in July

I want Prof Onyiuke and her Obama for Africa team to see this. The guy is busy doing his thing. We should learn from him and do our own thing. He doesn't need contributions from Nigeria to win the elections.

Obama Raises Over $51 Million in July
The Obama campaign said on Saturday that it received more than $51 million in July — including contributions from 65,000 new donors — slightly less than the previous month.
The report on donations to Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, followed by one day figures made public by the campaign of Senator John McCain, which took in a more modest $27 million last month.
Still, July was the best fund-raising month ever for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, and the fifth month in a row that donations to his campaign exceeded those of the previous month.
The Obama campaign said it had $65.8 million on hand, compared with Mr. McCain’s $21.4 million at the end of July.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Obama, Onyiuke, and leadership in Africa

There seems to be a fundamental problem of confusion in the leadership strata in Nigeria; confusion that permeates and percolates sectors – business and politics alike. One area that vividly reflects the confusion is the power sector. The problem with epileptic power supply in Nigeria is obviously not one of resources to put the situation right. Suffice it to say the leadership is confused about how to tackle it.
Nigeria boasts of a rich pool of some of the best brains the world has to offer. This rich pool of human resources can be found at home and abroad. As far as financial resources are concerned, there is no gainsaying the fact that the money is there. The present soaring price of petroleum is putting in the coffers of the present government more than twice what it budgeted as anticipated revenue from the black gold. Ironically, the more the country earn from oil, the more the market for generating sets booms as darkness thickens across the country. Nigeria remains the world's largest market for generators. The pollution caused by these generators is simply unspeakable. Nigeria's electricity supply problems result from poor governance and not lack of capital.
While the nation still laments the discovery that the last administration spent $10 billion on power without adding one megawatt of electricity to national output, I fear that this administration with the way it is going might not perform any better. No matter the criticism against former President Olusegun Obasanjo, one thing we can’t deny is that he had a team. He had a team of technocrats determined to make a change. A good number of them executed their assignments meticulously without fear or favour. Today, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili and some others have assumed bigger roles in service to humanity, an ample testimony to the fact that they served well. But what do we see in the team of the present administration – an attorney general who by his actions makes you doubt the credibility of his law degree. Most painful is the removal and demotion of the anti-corruption icon, Nuhu Ribadu, for reasons nobody has sufficiently explained.
But those are really not what irk me this time. My worry for now is the recent activities of a woman leader I hold huge regard for – the boss of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Prof. Ndy Okereke-Onyiuke. As a capital market correspondent/analyst, I covered the Exchange for some years. I can tell the amiable prof. is a manager of men and resources, but her recent activity in the Africa for Obama Campaign has left me wondering whether she has reached her wits end. I find myself thinking the prof. will be better off now being reassigned to a classroom where she would have the opportunity to charge and recharge before she suffers the fate that befell Mr. Festus Odimegwu, the former boss of Nigeria Breweries.
Make no mistake about it; I love the change that Barack Obama represents. He epitomizes leadership and the new world that we long to see. He is brilliant and significantly reasserts what Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said decades back that “the black man is capable of ruling”. Besides, the historical significance of his emergence as a presidential nominee is inspiring. America has never seen anything like the Barack Obama phenomenon. Mr. Obama’s message of hope, healing and change, discounted as fanciful and naïve by skeptics, draws adherents all around the world. The 47-year old black American has by his phenomenal rise introduced a new type of political movement.
But do all of these justify Prof. Onyiuke’s recent N100 million fund raiser for Obama? I don’t think so. Firstly, it sparks racism, a cankerworm that Obama himself is fighting to end. (Ethnicity as opposed to meritocracy has always been the bane of Africa’s underdevelopment.) Obama’s rise has not been on the platform of being black, but because he’s selling a solution that many in America, blacks and whites alike, subscribe to. In a way, his rise suggests that ‘he looks like me’ or ‘he speaks my language’ politics is no longer fashionable.
Secondly, I don’t think the laws of the United States welcome fundraising by a Nigerian group for the purpose by mobilizing votes for Obama. Rather than mobilizing funds for Obama, who as a matter of fact, has not complained of cash shortage, Madam Onyiuke and Africa for Obama campaign, should dedicate their efforts and resources towards ensuring that the change that Obama represents, becomes a reality in Nigeria and Africa; that tribal politics is expunged from the political sphere in Africa. Isn’t it ironical that while America was busy celebrating the abilities in Obama, Kenya, the land of his father, was up in flames because of ethnic politics.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Goodbye, Passwords. You Aren’t a Good Defense

THE best password is a long, nonsensical string of letters and numbers and punctuation marks, a combination never put together before. Some admirable people actually do memorize random strings of characters for their passwords — and replace them with other random strings every couple of months.
Then there’s the rest of us, selecting the short, the familiar and the easiest to remember. And holding onto it forever.
I once felt ashamed about failing to follow best practices for password selection — but no more. Computer security experts say that choosing hard-to-guess passwords ultimately brings little security protection. Passwords won’t keep us safe from identity theft, no matter how clever we are in choosing them.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Technology's Power to Narrow Our View

Samantha Power, an award-winning journalist and professor, recently wrote this piece in Times magazine. It makes quite an interesting reading. It cautions on issues very crucial as our younger generation becomes more tech-savvy.

Let me start by confessing that I am a thirtysomething anachronism. I still read the hard copies of the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and I refuse to consider changing my habits. My students marvel at me the way I once marveled at my mother for being slow to get an e-mail account.

Much ado about Ghana Telecom sale

I like Ghana when it comes to nationalism. I am yet to see any other African as patriotic as the Ghanaian. He loves his country and is passionate about it. You only need to take a casual drive across Accra to find this out. The Ghanaian flag is a treasure that the average citizen doesn't joke with. He hangs it on his car. Makes clothes, and all kinds of wears with it and is always proud to defend it anywhere, anytime.
Most other Africans who visit Ghana attest to the people's love for their country and by extension Africa in addition to their unique sense of hospitality. I am told that this spirit draws from the days of the freedom struggle. Dr Kwame Nkrumah is one of a foremost pan-Africanist and he wasn't apologetic about it. He sounded it a couple of times in his speeches that 'the African is capable of governing himself'. He believed in Africa and made the average Ghanaian to think likewise.
The continent might not have joined the league of developed nations, but it's surely on its way. Ghana is a typical example of an African country on the path to greatness. Significant progress has been made in the last decade at consolidating democracy, political stability and economic progress. I am one of those who believe that come December 2008, Ghana will score yet another point on its success journey - a peaceful presidential election and smooth transition to another democratically elected president.
All said, I am however put off by the opposition that has greeted the sale of Ghana Telecom.
Government ownership of commercial enterprises all over the world is increasingly becoming old-fashioned. What is the use keeping in the hand of government an enterprise that only incures debts. Given the competitive telecom market it operates, I think the decision to sale GT makes sense. The real issue should be transparency in the deal. With a debt of over $400 million, it is obvious GT is not healthy.
I believe what is best for it now is to have it taken over by a competent private operator who will bring in the needed technology and expertise to turn things around. Vodafone's $900 million might not be a fair deal for some, but to continue 'business as usual' is certainly not a wise choice. As parliament considers the issue next week, I sincerely hope that reasonableness will prevail and not politics and undue sentiments. GT certainly needs an overhaul and privatisation is one way to facilitate that overhaul.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The future of tech in just one word: plastics

In the 2002 movie “Minority Report,” director Steven Spielberg painted the future as a place where no surface was still. Newspapers updated in readers’ hands and advertisements talked to passersby. Even cereal boxes were animated.
Now, these technologies are finally arriving, albeit in a piecemeal fashion. One of the driving forces: breakthroughs in plastics-based electronics.

Report: China is world’s leading renewable-energy producer

A report from the Climate Group found that China leads the world in installed renewable energy and is overtaking more developed countries in developing sustainable technologies.
The Climate Group, a nonprofit group backed by a several large corporations and regional and local governments around the world, found that China has reached 152 gigawatts of up-and-running renewable energy capacity, thanks to the world’s largest hydroelectric capacity and the fifth-largest wind-power capacity. The country plans to double its renewable energy output to 15 per cent by 2020.

Non-food biofuel and the future of alternative energy in West Africa

The UN Environment Programme recently advised African countries to follow the examples of Brazil and Germany to plan an energy future around alternative sources. GODWIN NNANNA in Accra examines the relevance of such options against the backdrop of rising oil prices.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Bawku violence in northern Ghana

The Bawku community in Ghana represents many things not usually associated with the West African country. In the last four years, hundreds of people, young and old, have been killed due to ethnic and political differences. Yet the crisis is not abating.
The conflict in Bawku tends to recur every election year and this year is no exemption. 127 houses and stores were either completely or partially burnt, while five cars were set ablaze in a major clash on January 1. Local media reports put the death toll at between 16 and 20 people while about 25 others sustained varying degrees of injuries.
During the presidential elections in 2000, more than a hundred people were killed there in a matter of days. With less than six months to this year’s presidential elections, tensions are already mounting. But the crisis in Bawku isn’t so much about who becomes Ghana’s president. The dispute plays out in various forms ranging from tussle over chieftaincies to party politics, fight over land, markets and names of places.
Commenting on the January clash, Mahama Ayariga, Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, noted that unlike the past when the conflicts in the area lasted for just one day, that one developed into a situation where people could not cross into ‘enemy territories’.
Since the beginning of the year, violent clashes have occured every month. In March, not less than 10 more houses were burnt down in renewed clashes.
After the latest clash in May which was the most violent since January, the government imposed a 22-hour curfew in the community. It was later relaxed to 12 hours when situations subsided.
So far, President John Kufuor’s attempt to reconcile the Kusasis and Mamprusis, the two ethnic groups at the centre of the crisis, has yielded little result, as killings continue to take place sporadically. About 101 Mamprusis fled the area last month to Goulougonsi in neighbouring Togo following renewed conflict in the community. They were allegedly chased out by some Kusasis youth.
Bawku, a predominantly Muslim community in northeastern Ghana, has an estimated population of 206,000 most of whom are either from the Kusasi or Manprusi ethnic groups. Confrontation between the two groups has been there for over 50 years, but the dimension it has assumed the last decade has become alarming. Over the years, the antagonisms have been crystallised and a pattern entrenching conflict between the two groups has been perpetuated.
Abdulai Faruk, a teacher and stationery dealer, told officials of the Bawku Municipal Assembly during a visit to Goulougonsi that his store containing goods worth over GHc1,500 ($1,500) was completely burnt down in the wake of the May upheaval. The Assembly officials had gone to assess the conditions under which the Mamprusi refugees were living.
John Agobre, Member of the Assembly in a press conference in Tamale, the commercial hub of northern Ghana, sent what he termed a ‘save our soul’ call to well-meaning Ghanaians and the international community. “The Bawku conflict has shamed, defamed and disgraced all of us,” he said.
“Our municipality has become notorious for persistent ethnic conflicts. You know only too well that it is a shame and disgrace for one to identify him or herself as coming from Bawku,” the municipal officer lamented.
“We can barely execute development projects now. Our resources are depleted for peace keeping operations, yet the crisis remains.” Agobre said the situation is critical for the Assembly as its treasury is now ‘empty and dried up’. The Assembly has been feeding the security agencies and providing other essential services for them since their deployment.
While many commentators say the conflict in the community is largely political, George Abugri, columnist with Daily Graphic, the state-owned daily, points to poverty and climate change as the major cause. “Bawku has gallantly absorbed the environmentally devastating impact of the advancing Sahel. Now the ecology can barely support agricultural production. Smuggling, an alternative illegitimate commercial activity which made some locals rich, is no longer lucrative,” he writes.
As he further notes, at the peak of its commercial boom, Bawku was one of the government’s highest sources of local council revenue. “There was a time when long caravans of push carts transported sugar cane from my village of Zawse to the Bawku market on market days. From a valley at the foot of the Agolle Hills at Zawse, also came cassava, sweet potatoes and fresh water crabs. That sounds like a fairy tale today, but it is true,” he states.
Abugri says the conflict continues to recur because an increasingly impoverished population and a huge army of unemployed, despondent and secretly armed youth find themselves trapped in a community with little or nothing to offer, and manipulated by politicians for their selfish interests.
Alhassan Samari, chairman of the Regional Security Council in Upper East region, told Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson, the Catholic clergy who led a delegation of the National Peace Council of Ghana to Bawku last month, that the conflict has affected everything in the municipality including its revenue.
“Bawku is Ghana’s Niger Delta. The difference between it and the Niger Delta in Nigeria is that while the latter has so much oil and so every violence in it makes international headlines, Bawku has no such mineral resources of international importance, and so most of the killings there are never reported in the international media,” a local journalist told me in Accra. The crisis, he said, has lingered because most politicians from the region have not demonstrated strong commitment to ending it.
President Kufuor considers the conflict in Bawku a national embarrassment. Some analysts say the management of the crisis was partly responsible for the sacking of Kwabena Bartels, former minister of interior and his subsequent replacement by Kwame Addo Kufuor, former minister of defence, who returns to government after a failed bid to become the presidential candidate of ruling New Patriotic Party. He is seen as a hardliner with good diplomatic skills.
Christian Lund, a researcher who has written on the Bawku crisis, says the crisis presents a double argument. According to him, while communal conflict challenge the state and expose its incapacity, the conflicts at the same time invoke a powerful idea of the state as the most significant institution to qualify claims as rights or discard them as illegitimate.
All over the community, children are looking on helplessly unsure what the conflict will bring next. Everybody you talk to speaks of frustrations and are not in the least happy about what is happening in Bawku. A few workers who have braved the storm and are still at post during this conflict times are equally worried and not sure how things will turn out.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

No future without education

I've followed the teachers strike in Nigeria with huge feeling of disappointment. Thank God it's over now. My disappointment is primarily with the misplacement of priorities that I see in government circles.
I make no hesitation in saying it - the key to lasting prosperity for Africa is investment in education, particularly science and technology education. The recent teachers strike in Nigeria which paralysed learning for 3 weeks is regretable.
It is most regretable that a country that seeks to be among the top 20 economies by 2020 should take the education of its youth for granted. I really see no reason why defence should be taking such a large chunk of our annual budget when we are not fighting war in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yes, the Niger Delta problem is there but again it has its root in neglect.
If we are really serious about joining the world's Club 20 by the year 2020, investment into the education of the manpower needed to make this happen must be massive. I see investment into education and energy as key to Nigeria's development.
The teaching profession today looks very unattractive because the teacher's take home at the end of the month doesn't really take home. As a result a number of them are leaving the shores of Nigeria to find greener pastures elsewhere. Those that stay back are not encouraged. The infrastructure at their disposal is highly deplorable. Our teachers needs to be treated as the destiny moulders that they are. We obviously can't be what we are without them. Every good professional is a product of a good teacher.
Even good soup is a product of good investment. Today it is easy to hear some of our politicians say 'those good old days' refering to the learning situation when they schooled. What made those days good was because even though the country didn't earn as much as it earns now from commodities sale, better investment was made in education. A good number of our accomplished professionals today schooled on government scholarships. Some of them were from such poor families that they would never have attended the schools they attended if their parents were to fund it.
Investment in education may not produce immediate economic benefits, and can be difficult to justify on those grounds. In the long-term, however, it is essential if a country is to work its way out of poverty by self-sustainability.
I just hope that the recent nationwide teachers strike will be the last we'll ever experience.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In Cape Town, Africa was shy

The problem with Afro-optimism is the way its acolytes skirt around the issue. Once there are white business people in the room (and they are often more in number than the hosts, whether you are in Dubai, Rio or Nairobi) African discussants start to deny that our leaders are short sighted, are not bravely confronting the demons that keep us down and are in fact, part of the problem than the solution.

Cocaine Finds Africa

West Africa is under attack. The region has become a hub for cocaine smuggling from Latin America to Europe. States that we seldom hear about, such as Guinea-Bissau and neighboring Guinea, are at risk of being captured by drug cartels in collusion with corrupt forces in government and the military.

Every line of cocaine means a little part of Africa dies

Drug traffickers seek the path of least resistance. In Africa, they have found the weakest link. West Africa is a trafficker's paradise, partly because of its geographical position as a link between Europe and South America, partly because its national governments are unable to mount effective security exercises against the drug traders.

The right kind of foreign investors

I don't like rumours and as a journalist I believe it is necessary to substantiate issues before makng them public. But this issue about cocaine and its peddling via West Africa is becoming worrisome.
My worry is its effect on Africa's future generation who are the people employed by South African barons who have come to see the closeness of West Africa to Europe as a viable opportunity that must be explored in their quest to expand their 'business' frontiers and escape the tight searchlight that Europe and the U.S is beeming on their traditional route.
I see a couple of these guys around my area in Accra, and sometimes you just wonder what business they do. Much as Africa wants foreign investors, and my host nation - Ghana - has a culture of hospitality that is unparralleled, I think that government of Ghana and indeed other West African countries, must begin to scruitnize the foreigners in our midst.
Democracy comes with its challenges. However, the freedom it offers must not be abused or taken for granted. The easiest way to loose your freedom is to abuse it. I think the government of Ghana and indeed other African countries must begin to scruitnize more seriously the foreigners amongs us. Before the drug barons take over West Africa, we must begin a serious war against them. Local collaborators must also be fished out and be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Every West African youth recruited by these barons is a generation destroyed. The warning by the United Nations Office for Drug Control that South American barons are taking over our region must be taken seriously by all governments in ECOWAS.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Africa: A Marginalized Continent in the ‘Free and Fair World’?

The African experience in this ‘free and fair world’ has been tragic one revealing that the mythical and/or ideological imposition of neoliberal policies has marginalized a whole continent within the last three decades.

SA mulls introduction of carbon taxes, cap-and-trade mechanism

Cabinet has mandated the National Treasury to investigate the possible imposition of a tax on carbon-dioxide (C02) emissions as part of South Africa's voluntary commitment to climate-change mitigation, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Monday.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

NEPA when will it be over

I never stop to wonder what goes through the minds of Nigerian leaders when they visit other countries where public utilities work. I know that power outage is a continentwide problem in Africa, but the magnitude differs considerably.
Nigeria's is perhaps the worst. The irony is that the country has all it takes to fix the power problem. But it just keeps worsening by the day. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly spent $10 billion trying to fix the problem, but at the end of the day, the situation became worse than it was in 1999 when he took over power.
I have just visited Lagos again and I am confronted with perpetual darkness. Streets terribly dark in the night providing safe havens for criminals. President Yar'Adua, I believe that tackling the power problem is the biggest good you can do to Nigeria and Nigerians.
I've observed this past year and nothing but complains about the perceived weaknesses of your predecessor has dominated discourse at the national assembly. The legislators seem to derive great excitement in villifying Obasanjo. I think they need to get down to business. Enough of bad-mouthing of OBJ. It is time to work. Nigeria would not make significant economic progress unless the energy problem is tackled. The new government has a golden opportunity to remake Nigeria. My hope is that it is not further deformed at the end of the day. Lagos, alone needs nothing less than 8,000 megawatts. For the whole nation to be hovering around 2,000 to 2,500 megawatts, shows it is not yet ready for development. If the government is serious of making Nigeria one of the top 20 economies by 2020, it's time to walk the talk by fixing power.

Hope for Journalism in Africa

Last week I had the priviledge of taking part in some events during the finalists programme for this year's CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards. Though not one of the finalists, somebody very close to me was, and I was his guest during the programme.

It's really great to be reassured of the abundant of talents Africa has. I have always known that besides natural resources, Africa is blessed with abundant human resources. I consider focus on mineral resources as opposed to the development of human resources, one of the primary cause of Africa's underdevelopment.

To be close to some of the best that Africa has to offer in journalism for almost a week, was a very special feeling for me. The event was not just for the finalists, many editors, publishers and media owners from across the continent attended.

Among the hightlights of the programme was a workshop that examined journalists role during conflict. The recent violence in Kenya and the xenophobic attacks in South Africa were major case studies. The questions were - Do journalists incite violence? Can they predict violence? Can they prevent violence?

The panelists were mostly editors and journalism teachers from Kenya and South Africa. Their thoughts on the above questions were quite profound. So also were those of other practitioners from other parts of the continent.

At the end of the day, the majority view were that journalists could incite violence; and they can also predict it. The opinions were divided as to the extent to which they can help stop violence once it's erupted as in the case of Kenya several months ago.

The panelists, however, agreed that that despite the challenges confronting the practice in Africa, journalism has significantly advanced on the continent. But the battle for supremacy between 'envelopmental journalism' and 'developmental journalism' still looms.

However, going by the quality of the entries this year, one can say without any doubt that there is hope for journalism in Africa. I saw in most of the entries, journalism that asks the real question about the various challenges Africa faces; journalism that goes the extra mile to tell the African story.

It was indeed a great experience. I have lived in Accra for about a year now, but has never felt the city the way I did this last week. Congratulations to all the finalists. God bless Africa.

Friday, July 4, 2008

New scramble for Africa

This is a very detailed assessment of the emerging biofuel industry in Africa. We risk making the same mistakes that have compounded the poverty situation in oil producing countries like Nigeria if we don't consider the issues raised here very seriously. I believe that there is need for some measure of domestication in most of our resource-induced industries in Africa.

The new scramble for Africa
Corporations and energy-hungry countries are pouring money into Africa for agrofuel crop production, fuelling a land rush reminiscent of Europe’s initial colonial expansion. Joining the foreign invasion are Africa’s governments and business elites. Pushed to the sidelines, some groups are speaking out about the devastation all this will cause to people’s livelihoods, but it is difficult to hear them over the clatter about Africa’s great opportunity to capitalise on the world’s energy and environmental crises.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Can Greed Save Africa?

Thanks to the global commodities boom of the past few years, sub-Saharan Africa's economies, after decades of stagnation, are expanding by an average of 6% annually—twice the U.S. pace. And like bees to honey, investors are swarming into the region in search of the enormous returns that ultra-early-stage investments can bring.

Rich nations are 'betraying' Africa

I must say I've not closely followed Geldof's campaign for Africa. All the same I cherish his love for the continent and its people and his desire to see poverty reduced. As for the G8, it is difficult to prove that they really care about Africa beyond their interest in the continent's resources. The article below makes an interesting reading, nevertheless.

Rich nations are 'betraying' Africa
The world's richest nations will today be told by Gordon Brown to stop backsliding on their pledges to double aid to Africa by 2010. The Prime Minister will risk a clash with world leaders at next week's G8 summit in Japan over their failure to honour pledges to boost aid made three years ago.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ghana’s drive to become West Africa’s high-tech hub

The effective use of ICT is becoming the most critical factor for rapid economic growth and wealth creation across the world. As Godwin NNANNA in Accra writes, despite its recent oil find, Ghana sees its economic future on this trajectory

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Integrating modern technology into health care delivery in Nigeria

A stakeholders' forum recently examined how to make science and technology the central focus in Nigeria's development agenda. EVELYN TAGBO was at the forum in Ibadan and writes that investing in latest ICT solutions would help leapfrog efforts at health sector reforms in the country

Ghana's nuclear power goal and West Africa's quest for energy sufficiency

Ghana's bid to become a nuclear power by 2018 is a tall ambition. EVELYN TAGBO in Accra, writes that the development would improve the nation's energy mix which is presently dominated by insufficient hydroelectric power schemes and thermal power plants

West Africa Gas Pipeline: Promising solution to sub-regional power shortage

The West Africa Gas Pipeline is a venture capable of transforming the fortunes of the energy-starved West Africa sub-region. With the pipelines finally running, EVELYN TAGBO in Accra writes that Ghanaians are keen to see the World Bank-backed project deliver on its promise.

West Africa Power Pool as path to regional sufficiency in energy generation

As African countries continue to battle acute energy problem, experts counsel that the best solution in the long run would be for nations to cooperate on regional power solutions by building few large plants which could supply power more cheaply and efficiently than dozens of smaller ones, writes EVELYN TAGBO in Accra

Ghana Stock Exchange: An emerging regional market

I have putting out here some of my write-ups in the last couple of months. They are all published in BusinessDay Nigeria. Your comments are welcome.

The main foundation for the growth in Ghana's private sector is seen in the growing influence of its stock exchange. With a surging Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fuelled by constantly increasing foreign investment, buoyant exports and a resurgent agricultural sector, the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) in 2007 witnessed one of its biggest booms in recent times.

Technology's Two Faces: Why Africa should not lose out again

I have decided to share Philip Emeagwali's thoughts on the place of science and technology in Africa's development, because I share those beliefs. I still believe that the only way to rid Africa of poverty in the long run is to make science and technology part of our everyday life. We can do this through promotion of sciene education and through sound national policies which we must demonstrate commitment to implementing in the short, medium and long term.
Here is another article by Emeagwali that I consider worthwhile.

Technology's Two Faces: Why Africa should not lose out again
Sat, 02/02/2008 - 22:41 — Selorm Branttie
By Philip Emeagwali for AfricanLiberty.org

According to history books, gun-wielding European slave traders kidnapped one in five Africans and transported them across the oceans to the Americas. A less visible, but no means less drastic technological tool of suppression, is the compass, a device used worldwide for navigation. In the same way that Britain used its maritime knowledge and the US harnessed its intellectual capital to rule the world, the early slave traders used the simple compass to wreak havoc on civilization.
It is a sad fact that the harmless navigation tool originated during the Atlantic slave trade and was propelled by it. The technological development of the innocent compass, invented in China for religious divination 2,000 years ago, allowed Africa to be ravaged in unspeakable ways.
The compass enabled the early colonial navigators and their blood merchants to chart an accurate course from the Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, to Brazil; paving the way for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which began on August 8, 1444. This trade in human merchandise covered four continents and lasted four centuries, and serves as a shameful beacon for the depravity of human greed and conquest.
The compass became the de facto weapon of mass destruction, which led to the de-capitalization and decapitation of Africa. It created the African Diaspora with one in five people taken out of the motherland. It was the largest and most brutal displacement of human beings in human history.
Today, it is hard to imagine that such destruction and the wholesale abduction of a race could result from a tool as common as the compass. Yet, as a people who survived the slave trade, we must draw our strength from lessons learned from the past and draw our energy from the power of the future. And the power of the future lies in "controlling" technology and harnessing it for the benefit of mankind, not for his destruction.
The people of Africa must take note that the Internet is our modern-day compass, and within it resides our own clay of wisdom. As we prepare for our great journey into the cyberspace of the future, with its technological promise — its clay of wisdom — we must understand the strategic value and potential of this all-important tool. Our image of the future inspires the present and the present serves to create the future.
Africa's lack of substantial technological knowledge of the Internet and its potential may lead it to be assaulted or manipulated in unexpected ways, just as it was devastated generations ago for the lack of a simple compass. We didn't recognize the power of the compass then; the danger is that we don't recognize the power of technology today. While Africa merely contemplates the future, the West, the quickest off the mark to wield technology's weapons, actually makes the future.
This fact, and how the power of technology can be wielded against the poor, was brought home to me clearly when I received the following email recently:
"About a year ago, I hired a developer in Africa to do my job. I am paying him $12,000 a year to do my job, for which I am paid $67,000 a year," the sender wrote. "He's happy to have the work and I'm happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing."
Technology in the hands of others has been used to exploit Africa for centuries. But now it's time for Africa to grasp technology and finally embrace the modern age's clay of wisdom and advancement. Africa has the chance to show the world how technology can be used for good, not evil. And the people of Africa can use today's technology, not to mimic their own exploitation, but to right the wrongs of the past and empower themselves with the same tool that has been used to oppress them in the past. Africa can provide a shining example for the world in using technology for its own upliftment and the benefit of mankind. This time, it is our choice.

What can technology do for Africa in the new millennium?

Technology as a Tool for Integrating Africa into the 21st Century Global Economy

The following are in-depth answers to millennium-related questions e-mailed by producers at the British Broadcasting Corporation radio.

BBC Network Africa: What can technology do for Africa in the new millennium?

EMEAGWALI: A few millennia ago, Africans were the first to enter the Agricultural Age. The first to build in stones. The first to pioneer in technology.
Today, Africa is behind every continent in technology and as a result is the poorest continent. Technological knowledge can be used to create wealth and alleviate poverty in Africa.
Kwame Nkrumah also said: "Socialism without science is void." Therefore, we cannot reduce poverty in Africa without scientists and engineers.
The lack of technological knowledge is the reason for the wide disparity between the rich and the poor nations. The 500 richest people on Earth has more money than the 3 billion poorest people on Earth. Because the rich nations are getting richer much faster than the poor nations, the gap between the rich and poor will continue to widen.
This gap can be closed African nations focusing on developing an economy that is knowledge and technology based, instead of one that is based on the export of natural resources.
MEDICINE The present life expectancy in Africa is 50 years. By the end of this 21st century, medical science will make it possible for an African to live up to 150 years. Today, it is impossible for a person to live beyond the age of 125 years.
A child born today could live long enough to see the middle of the twenty-second century. In a sense, African children of today will be time travellers that will live in and connect the twentieth (20th), twenty-first (21st) and twenty-second (22nd) centuries.
Unfortunately, we will find that long life will be a mixed blessing because many Africans will be working to support their grand parents, great grand parents and great-great grand parents.
Therefore, we need to have retirement taxes and will be used to fund social security payments for the elderly. And if life expectancy increases to one hundred years, we will be forced to raise the retirement age to 90 years.
In this century, we expect to make medical discoveries that will cure AIDS and save the lives of 22 millions of Africans that are threatened by HIV/ANDS.
We expect to eradicate malaria and tuberculosis. We expect to eradicate Guinea worm by providing safe drinking water to all Africans.
POPULATION It is the technology of the 20th century that increased food production, reduced infant mortality rate and increased the population of Africa. A century ago, less than 100 million people lived in Africa. Today, 800 million people live in Africa. Africa cannot ignore to implement family planning.
In this 21st century, Nigeria could become the third most populous country in the world. Only China and India will be larger than Nigeria and the population of Nigeria will be three times larger than that of Russia.
I am the oldest of nine children. Because my parents could not afford to raise my siblings, I brought all my brothers and sisters to live in the United States. If my siblings and I were to have nine children for nine generations while non-relatives of mine have two children, the descendants of Emeagwali in America could form the third largest nation on Earth, behind only China and India.
Five hundred years ago, there were 500 million people on Earth and five million people in Nigeria. It took 10,000 generations for Nigeria's population to reach five million. Yet from my great-grand-father's generation to mine, Nigeria's population has increased from five million to 120 million.
The human species emerged 160,000 years ago. If our ancestors had an average of nine children, the Earth will be so overcrowded that they will have been no room for forests and animals to co-exist with the human race. This means that we would have run out of food a long time ago.
I believe that the main reason the quality of life has not improved in Nigeria, despite our great natural resources, is that our population is increasing faster than our natural wealth. Put differently, if we want the quality of life we see in American television, we must have fewer children than even the Americans.
On the other hand, if we insist that our wives must have six or seven children, then we should make fathers to prepay for their child's education. We should write it into our constitution that the percentage of our national budget devoted to education should be proportional to the percentage of our population that is of school age. One in two Nigerians is in school. Therefore, one in two petrodollars should be invested in education.
Having a large labor force will not be an advantage in the new global economy of the 21st century. The wealth of the future will be created largely by knowledge and technology and not by natural resources and a large population. Therefore, it does not make sense to have a large family of seven children who will grow up uneducated and unemployed.
Since the African economy does not have enough jobs, it will be difficult for the next-generation to afford education, health services, housing and food. Reducing the number of children per family is a requirement for reducing poverty in Africa.
Family planning must be part of the school curriculum in Africa. The best way to alleviate poverty is for each family to have one child and invest heavily in that child's education.
INFORMATION AGE The rich nations use knowledge and information to create wealth. Africa tries to create wealth by exporting raw materials to the more affluent nations. The lesson we learned from Nigeria is that a massive inflow of petrodollars will not bring an economic prosperity. In exchange, Nigeria spent its petrodollars on aircrafts, cars and swiss bank accounts.
What Africa needs to do is to acquire technological knowledge so that it can export technological products to Europe and the United States.
Africa should reduce its investments in agriculture and industrialization and make long-range plans to leapfrog into the Information Age in which knowledge is the most valuable commodity.
It happened in Ireland. Malaysia plans to do so. Similarly, Africa can leapfrog into the Information Age by having fewer children, investing in education and eliminating military spending.
In the Information Age, millions of good paying jobs will require computer literacy and it Africa should start preparing by focusing on education and technology.
The Internet now makes it possible for an African to be employed by an American company. Many companies will rather pay $15,000-a-year salary to an African professional than pay an American $60,000 a year.
Africa can attract these high-technology companies by investing heavily in technical education, introducing lots of computer courses and producing one million scientists and engineers a year. There are still opportunities in computer programming.
In terms of future employment, the implication of the Internet is that an African contract programmer will not need an immigration work permit to work in the United States.
BBC Network Africa
What kind of technology is appropriate for Africa's development needs?
EMEAGWALI: The kind of technology that creates the most wealth. However, I will like to caution that understanding how to use technology is more difficult and of far greater importance than acquiring. It is dangerous to acquire hunting gun technology without an understanding of the restrict hunting. In Nigeria, all the big game animals have been hunted to extinction. The Nigerian rainforest has been completely destroyed by unrestricted logging for timber. Nigeria cannot have eco-tourism in the future. The only thing left is petroleum and a few minerals. With reckless abandon, we issued unrestricted license to oil companies and "foreign investors" exploit, extract and export our natural resources so that it will be used to further develop the more developed nations. Officially, we claim that we are developing our natural resources. It is a misnomer to claim that we are developing our petroleum resources that were formed millions of years ago. An oil field becomes dry after about 20 years. We can extract and exploit our oil fields but we cannot develop it. The harvest of tomorrow is purchased with the seed corn of today. By mining and exporting our natural resources, Africa is eating the seed corn of tomorrow.
Education and understanding of how to use technology is more important than acquiring the technology itself. Medical technology will give us information about how to reduce infant mortality. But it is education that gives us the understanding that reducing infant mortality without practicing family planning will result in overpopulation and an increase in the level of poverty.
Going back to your original question: What kind of technology is appropriate for Africa's development needs? Africa has been encouraged to focus on low technologies such as the development of solar, hydro and wind energy. Solar panels and wind mills have been and will always be inefficient technology. These low technologies didn't work in the America and will not work in Africa.
As a former civil engineer, I know that hydroelectric dams and reservoirs has negative impacts on the environment and in some instances resulted in the flooding and destruction of historical relics, as in Aswan Dam in Egypt.
Also, low level agricultural technology has not contributed much to food production in Africa. We need to shift from sustainable agricultural technology into computer information age technology.
Since high technology creates more wealth than low technology, Africa should focus on high technology. Sixty percent of the wealth in the developed nations is created from technological knowledge. Since the wealth of the future will be created from technological knowledge, Africa must invest in technological development or risk being left behind.
Computing, communications, Internet are the physical infrastructure of the Information Age. If Africa fails to invest on the latest technology it will be find itself isolated from the global community.
In the global village, nations have to specialize. What we have today is a situation in which Africa provides the raw materials while Europe and America provides the technology, manufactured goods, and capital. By the end of this century, the natural resources of most African countries will be exhausted and Africa will have nothing to trade in the global economy. Africa has to plan for the rainy day when all its natural resources are gone.
Africa must leapfrog from low agricultural technology to high information age technology. Because of high birth rates, Africa has 350 million school children. Like new languages, children can understand computer language faster than their parents, it makes sense to invest in computer education.
BBC Network Africa:
One of our listeners has predicted that an African will be the first person to land on the planet Mars - do you think that might happen?
EMEAGWALI: Yes, an African can be among the first crew of astronauts to land on the planet Mars. I have applied to become an astronaut and NASA sent me a note last week, informing me that my application will be reviewed in January. Even if I don't get selected as an astronaut, I expect an African to be selected in the future and to travel to the planet Mars by the middle of the 21st century.
Space of exploration is now a co-operative project which several countries contribute money and astronauts. The international space station is jointly owned and operated by the United States, Japan, Russia and other nations.
It will cost a trillion dollars to send a person to the planet Mars and the United States cannot afford to make that voyage alone. Therefore it is conceivable that the first astronaut crew to land on the planet Mars will include an African, Asian and a female. In the 21st century, Africa could contribute money and astronauts that will travel to the planet Mars.
We don't go to a planet because we want to be the first race to get there. Americans won the lunar space race by landing the first man on the Moon. The astronauts returned with lunar rocks. When we discovered that the Moon is the most expensive and most useless piece of real estate in our solar system, we cancelled all trips to the Moon.
The exploration and development of the planet Mars is not as important as improving the quality of life on Earth. Landing on Mars is not as important as finding a cure for AIDS or saving the rain forests.
We should be looking towards the Earth in the 21st century and not towards the planets. The Earth is the best place for the human race to live in. Compared to the Moon and Mars, the Earth is a paradise.
Unfortunately, Mother Earth is ill. Her lungs, the tropical rain forests are disappearing. The African rain forest is a paradise and the birthplace of humanity
When the rain forests are gone, many species will be extinct. Since the human race is connected to other species, whatever happens to the trees and animals of the rain forests will happen to the human race. We are merely custodians of the rain forests. We did not inherit the rain forest from our ancestors. We borrowed it from our children.
BBC Radio Producer: Can you see yourself, and other Africans who've been successful overseas, returning to live in Africa in the new Millennium?
EMEAGWALI: The brain drain is a historic as well as a recent phenomenon. Over four centuries, the slave ships brought the ancestors of 200 million Africans now living in the United States, Brazil, Jamaica and in the diaspora. These 200 million diasporan Africans have the highest standard of living and possess the education and skills that can be used to develop Africa but it will be impractical for them to return to Africa.
Today, one in three African university graduate now live and work outside Africa. There are more Sierra Leonean medical doctors in the city of Chicago than in the entire nation of Sierra Leone. Africa's most important export to Europe and the United States is trained professionals, not petroleum, gold and diamond.
It seems like there are more African intellectuals living abroad than within Africa. African officials come to the United States to seek technical assistance from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Africans are the most educated ethnic group in the United States. Therefore, our leaders can seek technical assistance from Africans living in the United States. Sixty-four percent of Nigerians in this country has one or more university degrees. There are one million Africans living in the United States.
We came to America to study. We planned to return home. But things got worse at home and we decided to remain in America.
It wasn't always like this. When Nnamdi Azikiwe and Kwame Nkrumah arrived in the United States in 1920s and 30s. Back then there were about 20 sub-Saharan Africans in the entire United States. A hundred percent of those that came to the United States returned home. In fact, up till about 1980, most African students returned home.
The widely held myth is that Africa is only exporting raw materials to the west. Africa is also exporting talented human resources to Europe and America. One million Africans are working outside Africa.
At the same time, Africa spends four billion dollars a year on the salary of 100,000 foreign experts. Yet, African nations are unwilling to spend a similar amount of money to recruit one million African professionals working outside Africa.
The problem is getting worse. One in three African university graduate live and work outside Africa. In effect, we are operating one third of African universities to satisfy the manpower needs of western nations.
One third of the African education budget is a supplement to the American education budget. In effect, Africa is giving developmental assistance to the United States.
There are more Sierra Leonean medical doctors in Chicago than in Sierra Leone. At the rate medical doctors are leaving Nigeria, we could eventually have more Nigerian doctors working outside Nigeria than within it.
We also need engineers to help provide constant electricity, clean water and safe roads.
We also need scientists. We use science and technology to discover and recover petroleum. We use medical science to reduce infant mortality rate.
We world has changed a lot in the last fifty years. In today's world knowledge creates wealth. Therefore, we need people with brains, not muscles. Unfortunately, it is the best and brightest that can obtain visas to the United States. What is left behind is the weak and less imaginative. It means that Africa will be getting poorer while the United States gets more affluent.
Put simply, Africa is exporting both natural and human resources. In the end, there will be no resources left within Africa. It means a slow death for Africa.
How can we reverse brain-drain?
We build a data bank of Africans abroad. Then we offer them meaningful employment and compensation that will entice them to return home.
Medical doctors cannot live on a salary of fifty (50) dollars a month. To make ends meet, some medical doctors raise poultry or manage beer parlor.
We need to change our national priorities.
We should stop spending one million dollars a day in fighting in Sierra Leone. One million dollars is greater than the daily salary of one million school teachers. While we are keeping peace in Sierra Leone, some teachers have not been paid their salaries for six months.
We must change our priorities be reducing our defense budget and increasing our education budget.
We must increase our investment in science, technology and education.
As we approach the end of this century, it is appropriate that we reflect on our legacy for our children. In the next century, it will be technological knowledge that will create wealth. Therefore, our legacy to our children will be the investments that we made on their education.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Need for e-learning in Nigerian tertiary institutions

While e-learning in the developed countries is often seen as a nice-to-have, Onaolapo Oladipo of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University says for Nigeria, it poses the only opportunity to get connected to the information age and leapfrog human capital development.

Turning Nigeria’s brain drain to gain through diaspora e-inclusion

To think that most of the country’s intellectuals who daily jet out to Europe, America and the Middle East in search of greener pasture will return anytime soon is to leave in fools’ paradise. The reality is that the more we complain about the problem, the more it occurs.