Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Our leaders are obsessed with begging westerners for money and abdicatingresponsibility for their lack of vision and active undermining of thevery institutions that would underpin the kind of society that wouldallow for the average African to achieve for themselves their individual"Millennium Development Goals".
We have to determine what we are doing wrong and make it right so thatnot only will Foreigners VOLUNTARILY invest in our economies in allsectors (as they are doing in India, China, Taiwan, Singapore etc,) but most importantly that we will have more African enterprises growing into Multinational companies... we need more millionares on that continent of 800 million... millionares are not created through AID, they are created through individual initiative, supported by stable, predictable laws,functioning courts to enforce contracts, a stable none inflationary monetary policy - only possible through independent Central banks,clearly defined, defeasible and divestible property rights and lowbarriers of entry into formal business (rather than prohibitiverequirements that relegate poor people to the informal sector where itis difficult to get protection by the law, get access to banking services, limit liability, spread risk by selling shares etc..)
We have to get serious with ourselves and stop embarrassing ourselves bygetting more comfortable with our position at the bottom of the pile...I hang my head in shame when we have become so bold as to DEMAND thatforeign governments should force their citizens to send us money (AID istax money, taxes are not optional) for which they receive no benefit and for which we have not yet accounted for from past giving.
I have even seen African ministers demand for free contraception from foreign governments... and I wonder to myself... since when does a man have sexual relations with his wife and then demand that the neighbour must ensure she does not get pregnant???
All this is getting absurd and Ithink many people around the globe are beginning to wonder if we are fitto govern ourselves... It is time we responded by taking charge of our destiny, or gave ourselves up for recolonisation... because we can't have our cake and eat it... claim to be independent yet want other people's tax money to play games with and squander.
Right from our homes... we need to begin respecting each others human rights... think of how people treat their house servants, and poorer relatives who live with them in Africa and you will see how deep ourproblem is... we have a long journey ahead and I don't know if any of us sees the promised land clearly enough to articulate it and inspire the rest.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Every week, in one newspaper or the other, I read of a conference to decry the migration of Africans to the West as the latest neo-imperial plot to bring down long-suffering Africa. When they are not after your gold or oil, they are after your mind, goes the wail of the unreasoning do-gooders who are now gathered at the donor-founded Biannual Research Workshop in Nairobi. It should be called the Biannual Begging Workshop for the Undignified.
I wish they would just shut up, start a business or get some real work done that increases Kenya’s wealth and security. Instead, they prefer to play the old ‘White Guilt’ game of joining with the West’s liberals – who make up the bulk of the aid industry – to call for regulations to stop the flow of hopeful people who are trying to do right by their families and themselves. The argument goes something like this: African professionals have been costly to train and are now moving abroad to pursue their professions thus benefiting the West, rather than their home countries which are now suffering the consequences of this migration. What nonsense.
In 2004, Kenyans abroad conservatively remitted at least $600 million(Sh45 billion) to their relatives through official channels such as Western Union. This is only a tip of the iceberg as a lot more dollars are sent home through informal channels. In 2003, the World Bank estimates that remittances by migrants to their (overwhelmingly poorer) countries exceeded $93 billion, twice the level of worldwide official development assistance. There are other estimates trying to account for informal remittance networks that put the figure at $120-$180 billion a year.
Unlike development assistance transfers — which mostly pay for luxurious NGO lifestyles and line corrupt politicians’ pockets — migrant remittances go directly to family members. They are available to the recipients to use according to their priorities and are used to finance basic consumption, education, health, purchasing or building homes, starting businesses and funding retirement.
My mother was a nurse in the United Kingdom nine years before she returned to Kenya last year. She had initially trained as a nurse in the early 1970s, worked at a succession of government hospitals — paradoxically managing to get poorer with every year as the cost of living got more expensive and her professional opportunities shrunk. After a decade of this grind, she went into business and eventually ended up competing for small government tenders. Every procedure was fraught with either red tape or dishonesty, and with her capital constantly tied up in an insanely convoluted government procurement system, she decided to pursue a different course.
The decision to migrate to the UK was a difficult one: She was not cash-rich and had two children, not to mention members of her extended family, who depended on her. Nevertheless, in her mid 40s she went to Kent in the UK, with kids in tow and started at the very bottom of the rung.
She was forced to work 80-hour weeks for lowly wages, while worrying about Britain’s youth culture destroying her children. Few were the moments that were not stressful.
Opening the mail was a nightmarish affair; A receipt demanding more money and too rarely a cheque in her name. But through these travails, she scrimped and saved, and took advanced nursing courses to qualify for better paying work. Eventually, having been offered a part-time postgraduate place at one of the better universities, she was finally able to stand on her two feet.
The hours remained long but in the final four years before she happily returned to Kenya, they had become more lucrative.
She was now earning £20-30 an hour working for nursing agencies. This enabled her to buy a London property to rent, paid her mortgage in Kenya and put my brother and sister through university.
The former studying astrophysics with a dare-you-doubt-me intention of being the first Kenyan to go to space, while the latter reads international relations with giddy plans to change our country’s political landscape.
But my mother’s heroic achievements were not limited to Britain’s shores. She invested her money in Kenya by buying land, supported her mother and brother and provided financial assistance to many friends and relatives during her nine years away. This, we are supposed to believe, represents a brain drain and a sort of imperialist plot. If it does, then I am all for brains drain with all speed and would love to hug imperialism.
The alternative discussed in the myriad conferences bemoaning the brain drain is that my mother should have remained in Kenya, get poorer, perhaps as one of those trades-people that the government treats like criminals when it is not taxing them punitively. The idle types in the all-knowing aid industry would have the government that made my mother’s hopes untenable in Kenya and forced her to seek greener pastures abroad to be responsible for ‘encouraging’ less braindrain. Every such pronouncement draws a bitter laugh from me.
They make the case not because they believe it, but because they are paid to. A friend of mine recently pointed to the arrogance of the idea. Its proponents’ assertion that those who have left are Kenya’s best made her wonder what it means about the 30 million left behind; Are they the ‘dregs", the unchosen, the leavings, not good enough?’ she asked. Yet every day Kenyans are reaching for the sky only to be brought low by a government that never saw a small trader it did not want to hit with a rungu. The Kenyan state has routinely devalued and destroyed the aspirations of its citizens.
It is akin to the colonial State that we supposedly got rid of 41 years ago but remains, now staffed with black faces whose mouths spout hypocritical nationalism that enriches them at the expense of those like my mother.
That is why they are willing to face the humiliation of the visa process, the cold winters, the racism and years of loneliness in countries where they are not welcome. The obvious response to the sentiments
I have expressed is that African governments paid for the training of professionals so people such as my mother owed the system something.
This argument ignores the fact that most professionals who leave do so after years of trying to work at home. And finally, shocking news to the brain-drained developmentalists: You have failed.
Four decades of your beggary, paternalism and poverty of ideas have only built on equally vacuous colonial legacies and reduced many people in Kenya to a brutish existence that does not reflect their effort, flexibility and hope. Stop bemoaning the brain drain and start thinking of how to use your brain better.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
This is my response to BATA shoe Company's Cowardice potrayed in the article below
I was born in 1981 in Nakuru and even with my short life span have vivid memories of the days when Bata used to be the only shoe shop in my town. I also remember vividly that only 10 years ago, almost everyone I knew had a pair of 'Akalas' - made from recycled tires, because this was all they could afford for daily wear, and even those who could afford BATA shoes, only used them for work (If they had an office/ white collar job), or as "Sunday Best".
I remember that most of us played bare foot, because our BATA shoes were only for school, and even in the middle class, many parents could not afford to buy a new shoe every year, so I wore shoes till they began to squeeze my feet, or "have a fish mouth" as in a gaping tear in the front for my parents to be convinced that I really needed a new shoe, because they could not afford BATA prices.
I remember vividly the days when the cobbler was your most visited business premises after the "kiosk", as people would have one pair of shoe for such a long time that they had to have it repaired over and over again. Have a new sole put in, have stitches from time to time, have the sole glued, have new laces every year, have new dye, have new buckles... all sorts of things!
I also remember (All this before the advent of Mitumba on a large scale), that most people working in the council market, car garages, teachers, house helps, doctors, nurses, civil servants, cobblers, touts, almost everyone I can think of from the huge collage of people from my childhood, all had some clothes with patches on the, and some even just walked around with tears that had not been mended.
I remember the days when people could tell at a glance the other person's level of income and "status " from a distance, because the rich "Who in Kenya have tended to be, not those who invent, create or innovate, but those with access to the public coffers, public tenders, the right parents... etc", these rich could afford to go abroad for shopping, or afford to buy imported clothes (Which they still do and will not stop whether or not Mitumba are banned), but the rest of us had to do with the one pair of BATA if you could afford it, or if not, your cobbler might make you a shoe, and you would pay in installments, or there was always Akala.
I remember days when a young (Or even an old Kenyan) would struggle to borrow a suit for a wedding, job interview, or funeral, form the one lucky friend they have in their circles who had a suit. This suit was most likely terrible quality, shinny, and mended several times, but several people had to share it, because having one could determine what kind of first impression you make at that Job interview where you next meal, you children's and siblings' school fees, rent, and medical expenses were at stake.
I know that the managing director of BATA (who has a foreign sounding name), I don't know where she is from, but if she is the MD she probably has no idea what it feels like to have lived in that era, and then awake to the era where for the same amount of expenditure (factor in inflation), a poor Kenyan can wear the best quality clothes from around the globe (Just like an MD and politician would have access to), a street family can wear original designer labels (just like the MD and Politicians can), the 'mama mboga' can wear fancy shoes in whatever color she desires, without clashing, because she can have as many shoes as she has dress colors in her wardrobe (just like the MD and the Politician have), and that Kids no longer have to have "laughing shoes" at school, kids no longer have to run bare foot for P.E, Kids no longer have to have only one Sunday best, one school uniform, and one "playing outfit" to be worn everyday when they come from school () and so are as comfortable as the MD's Kids and the Politician's Kids are.
It would be very unfair for the MD of BATA, whose salary is likely to increase if BATA profit margins increase to request the government to take away all this from Millions of Kenyans by the stroke of a pen. We know that he will still be able to buy imported clothes, and shoes, (I doubt he wears BATA), and will still be able to go shopping abroad (Unlike any of the other Kenyans he want to be forced by the law to only wear BATA). If MY Garcia wants our money, then he has to offer a superior product at the kind of prices Kenyans can afford. He has to seduce Kenyans to his product. It is cowardly and immoral to try and convince the powers that can, to sacrifice our right to buy things created by any other human being we please, just because he can. Being a business located in Kenya is no excuse to being mediocre. If Kenyan runners can be the best in the world (and as you can see BATA does not appreciate excellence because NIKE is already using the Kenyan runners to advertise their brand globally, while BATA has never thought of doing this, because they actually don't think anything good can come out of Kenya - including their shoes, that is why they are asking the government to force people to buy their shoes, as no one is buying them)
I think that BATA would do themselves and Kenya a big favor if they started realizing their potential. If they realized that the world is open for them to conquer, if they realized that there are so many talented shoe cobblers in Kenya and many more to be discovered, that they have the whole globe as a potential market, that they have Kenyan runners as potential endorsement, that they have lots of capital at their disposal from so many sources globally, that they can acquire skills, ideas and technology by thinking big, and attracting investors to facilitate the influx of these into their business, and that they could be as good as NIKE or anybody else, not by forcing poor Kenyans to buy their shoes, but b increasing their efficiency so their prices can come down, by targeting a wider market of people who can actually afford to buy new shoes across the globe, by trying to curve a niche for themselves in the global shoe industry and by adopting the mentality of making an honest living instead of trying to rob Kenyans of their hard earned money by force!
Please Bata for your sake and ours, stop thinking of Kenya as the only market you can manufacture for.
I would like to urge the government to think like wise about the textile industry, the sugar industry, and all other industries. You don't have to squeeze Kenyans with taxes, and rob them of the dignity of choice, and the exposure to diverse products (Which carry in them information on design and quality standards).
Kenya Telecom did not improve by keeping out cell phones, actually it is after they faced competition that they discovered that Kenyans were only putting up with them because they had to by law.
Let us look and learn from Asia. It is by increasing the quality, quantity of what we produce and effectively marketing it to the whole world that we will build out industries. This requires better technology, true competition to squeeze out laziness and bad ideas, and lots of seduction. Seducing the Capital into our country, seducing local capital (Kenyans can only invest in industry, if they are can get all their basic needs as cheaply as possible- including shoes and clothes).
We need to learn the mentality of seducing rather than force, in all spheres of out Kenyan life.
As for our journalists, please don’t just report things, with out analyzing them. You do great analysis when one of you is assaulted, but when the rest of us are under assault you just report on it like you are not going to be affected by these things. Please wake UP!!!
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
The about-to-be-transferred World Bank Director, Makhtar Diop, has been the tenant of the First Family. The latest events in Kenyan cuckoo land were set in motion when Lucy turned up at his house, wearing her pyjamas, to complain about his noisy going away party. Reports of the incident later revealed that one of the ambassadors who has been taking the government to task for corruption is also a tenant of the Kibakis. And that the party, hosted by the jazz-loving Diop, was attended by the Kibaki kids and a host of NGO and diplomatic high-flyers. Kenya’s great and good, who with every passing day reveal themselves to be the soul of a cosy, incestuous vulture class.
On the Friday night in question, Lucy was indignant that the party animals should think that they could behave as if they were in the slums of Korogocho and forget that they were in posh Muthaiga. What delicious irony! The party was filled with people who manage to attend such affairs and live in Muthaiga precisely because of the poor people in Korogocho. In joyful attendance was the guitar-strumming Diop, in town to ‘eradicate poverty’; the diplomats who are our ‘development partners’; and the NGO ‘watchdogs’ who act in "the public interest". All with their fangs sunk deep in Korogocho.
During working hours, they may maintain separate offices, different functions and sometimes even assume the pose of rivalry. But, like the Billy Ocean song went, “the freaks (really do) come out at night”. When the cocktail hour is at hand, the truth of Kenya and its crème de la crème is on full display. They sip their whiskeys together, live in the same neighbourhoods and drive their kids to the same schools, in the same gasoline guzzling cars.
Even as Lucy storms into police stations and newspapers, alternating between hysterical laughter and slapping reporters, MPs are busy feathering their own nests. Despite the KShs 6 million they earn per year for rarely attending parliamentary sessions, they have decided that their two spouses and eight dependants should be able to visit any hospital on the planet at taxpayer expense. Wambui Kibaki if she was ever worried about her health should take heart in knowing that she is now in good hands. But she is probably too busy campaigning for her marriage in Othaya where she turned up last week to make a development contribution to a local hospital. After songs from the usual gaggle of praise singers, always kept on hand should the goody distributing class pass by, she should have had the courtesy to publicly reveal that her ‘contribution’ had been made by a Dutch NGO.
Then here comes the minister responsible for internal security, John Michuki, calling for the reinstitution of the Chief’s Act which was repealed in 1997. It is familiar territory for him: as Koigi Wamwere has been reminding us daily, Michuki was a colonial 'homungati' now turned government strong man.
The Chief's Act: a colonial relic used to great effect by the Moi dictatorship is to be brought back since the natives are definitely restless. What a country! On the one hand applauding the recent publication of books revealing the brutality Kenyans suffered during the Emergency and with the other considering the use of the laws used to impose that suffering.
Keeping up the litany of absurdity that is our lot, the British Council recently hosted a discussion of David Anderson's book which uncovers the colonial government's inhuman conduct during the Emergency. The event was well attended by "radical" Kenyans who commenced a spirited discussion on British colonialism in a British government office!
A few days later, the women’s rights lobby celebrated a castration law for rapists reasoning that prosecutions should be pursued with more vigour. No one cared that the same prosecutors, the police and judges keep no records of the trials, rarely follow correct procedure and never hesitate to trample on the rights of anyone accused of a crime or victimised by it. Because the abiding interest in our naked Kenya is to always keep an eye out for donors, locate the next 'funding stream' (anybody out there for 'judicial reform'?)
It goes on. Headline grabbing statements instructing us on how many wives the president has are officially issued by State House. Biwott, the Total Man of Totally Unproductive Politics, is said to be on the way back to government despite the allegations of political assassination that continue to dog him. Anti-corruption officials have had to flee for their lives. Mitumba taxes have been raised by 200%, perhaps as insurance against the Korogocho poor affording the same pair of pyjamas Lucy wears to break-up her tenants' parties. Then, unable to deliver on the half a million new jobs a year it promised, the government mimics colonial policy and chases hawkers out of Nairobi’s central business district.
© Martin Kimani
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
When you have been threatened with extinction you don't have the luxury to bury your head in the sand, to avoid the hard questions, to ignore your history, to drift forward without defining your destination, and to sit and wait for other people to "bring you peace, to eradicate your poverty, to set 'development' goals for you."
Rwanda was really a hard place for me to understand. It was difficult before I went there, because it was really hard to imagine what kind of atmosphere the place would have after one group of people tried to annihilate another.
I wondered how they relate to each other if at all. If I would be able to tell who Tutsi were and who the Hutu were. I wondered whether everyone had seen the killing, or survived attacks, or hidden during the attacks, or lost a loved one in the period.
Where there people who were not affected directly, or was every individual traumatized. I had never really had a chance to talk to a Rwandese person and ask them any questions. I was more than curious. I wanted to empathize, but I could not get my small heart or head around the sheer gravity and magnitude of what I was dealing with, and so I wondered more... how are they surviving?When I arrived there with the BBC crew that I was making a documentary with, I immediately (subconsciously) began to look at people's features so I could place them in context, so my body language would adjust appropriately, so my voice would adjust to empathize or be passive depending on who I was talking to.
I could not control any of these thought processes going on in my mind, and it was especially very confusing when I met people who were Tutsi in the presence of a Hutu person, then I really did not know what to do. In the recesses of my mind, something said the one tried to kill the other, and so even though I did not even know their names, my subconscious felt it was an "injustice" to mentally treat them the same way, and my body language and tone of voice followed the dictates of my mind.You have heard the statistics. 800,000 or more Tutsis and moderate Hutu's were killed by the Hutus... that statistic played over and over in my head... and I wondered what I would do if I was president of Rwanda after the Genocide, and on top of that, if I was from the victim tribe in the genocide. How would I possibly keep a clear head, heart, and purpose so as to be seen to run the country justly?
This is the context in which I met President Paul Kagame. I had read about him and had been visiting different parts of Rwanda for about 4 days. I had visited a genocide memorial located at a technical training institute, where may people were killed and buried in mass graves. Hundreds of bodies had been exhumed and preserved in lime, and were now on display on wooden racks in many classrooms that had been intended to be used for teaching before the genocide.
I had visited the prisons and met the genocidaires. You don’t know what to expect and you are not disappointed, since they just look like normal men. They are curious though because they don’t look angry, frustrated, red-eyed, murderous or deranged. They are just men in pink shirts and pink shorts, doing their chores like institutionalized people would, at a boarding school or even at a training camp of some sort.
I visited what they call demobilization camps, where young Hutu men who had fled to the Congo after the genocide, are taken in by the government. It is also like a camp but with no uniforms and it has not determined whether these are genocidaires or innocent people. They are counseled for months in order to prepare them for reintegration into the society.
I had my hair braided by a Congolese woman who was in Rwanda as a refugee from her own country. She says Rwanda is the safest place in the world, that you can walk in the middle of the night alone and no one would lay a finger on you. So she sought refuge and security in Rwanda. I bombarded her with questions about what underlies the peace, calm and security. What do Rwandese people talk about? Do they talk about the genocide? In what kind of tone do they talk about it? How do Tutsis talk about it, and how do Hutus talk about it. Are the Tutsi angry? Do they Cry? Do they console each other? What kinds of bonds have been formed from that common experience? What kind of strategies do they have to protect themselves in future? Do they wholly rely on government to provide that protection? Do the Hutu fear retaliation? What does either tribe tell their children about the genocide? What do they say about missing relatives who are either in Jail or in who died in the Genocide? Do they feel like the children who witnessed the genocide lost their innocence? Do they willingly tell the ones born after the genocide about it, and does this take away the children’s “innocence”?
I had been shown around by 2 Tutsi men who both fought with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) when they took over the country and stopped the genocide. Both had lost parents and siblings at the hand of childhood friends who were neighbors. One of them told me the guy who had killed his father used to go for sleep-overs at his house when they were younger. They had always lived next door to each other and that he still lives next door to their family. I asked him how he deals with this. He said many people have to deal with it, and that there was nothing he could do about it. When I asked him if he ever sees this guy, he said he did. I asked if he has ever talked to him, he said he says hello to him every morning!
I was shocked and asked him why he would do such a thing. He said that he did not want to be suspect if anything happened to the man and explained that in a bid to discourage counter-genocide, the government had taken a firm stance against anyone who retaliates for the killing of their family members. To set an example, the government had 2 Tutsi people executed. They had gone home and found their families dead after the genocide. Their neighbours were safe and sound. After being told that the neighbours were the murderers, they killed the neighbours. In order to send a clear message that this kind of killing will not be condoned, the government made it clear that people will effectively be prosecuted. That is why this guy says hello in public to the guy who killed his Dad.
I had also visited a Tea Factory in a predominantly Hutu District, where we were interviewing farmers about the effects of the recent privatization of the Tea factory to their business (That is a story on it's own).As we crisscrossed the country making this film, we often saw prisoners in their pink uniforms working on the side of the road, digging trenches, and doing other road work. I was told they were all genocidaires... and again, I could not get my head around the scene... they were mostly unguarded, sometimes stading around chatting and laughing. In my mind I kept on seeing the dead bodies I saw on television while in Kenya (I was only 13 then) and our local news was showing how thousands bodies were coming down a river all the way from Rwanda into Kenya, to drain into lake Victoria where the bodies were floating and being eaten by the fish., which people boycotted for a while. And now seeing these guys here at the side of roads everywhere in the country where they did this, the most difficult part was that their survivors and relatives of their victims were using these roads (most Rwandans don’t have cars and walk very long distances along the highways) and there seemed to be no chaos about to erupt... It did not make sense at all...
I would hesitate to ask the people who I thought were Hutu any questions to do with the genocide, as it was the first time in my life when I was consciously meeting anyone who had killed... and the problem was I did not know if they had. My mind was doing this blanket presumption of innocence on all "Tutsi looking" people and a presumption of guilt on "Hutu looking" people.This was the same with asking about what tribe someone was. I don't know why I felt the urge to know who everyone was, which "side of the line" they fell on... but I could only gather courage to ask the "Tutsi looking " people their tribe, and then follow later with "Where were you during the genocide?"… I could not help it.
Any way on the last day of our visit, we meet the president and the first question he asked me was "How do you find Rwanda?"... I said it all in a couple of sentences... "It is very alien, full of questions, full of mystery, it is hard for me to relate Mr. President, and that is why I wonder what it is like to be in your shoes..." We had an hour long discussion about many things, though my questions had to be succinct as I was trying to get in as much as possible not only for the film, but also for my own understanding.One of the answers, that Mr. Kagame gave that I will never forget, was "No One Owes Us Anything!" This was after I asked him "What did Rwandese people learn from the Genocide?" he gave this answer very quickly and then continued to elaborate that if you make a habit of ignoring your problem, choosing not to understand it and then effectively deal with it, then the ultimate result is what happened in Rwanda.
I pondered over that remark, and thought about a few of the policies that we had had time to talk about and the ideas behind them. The sale of loss making state enterprises, the reform of land tenure, the lowering of import and export tarrifs, dependency on Aid, encouraging more trade between African counties and making it easier for people to move with their goods across borders... (To be highlighted in another post).
My short visit with Mr. Kagame, exposed me to a man with such a Sharp sense of purpose, like is VERY rare in the few African Leaders I have met, actually it is singularity of vision that I have only seen in very successful businessmen, whose enterprise has targets, competitors, and a winning strategy and like you find only in someone who understands deeply where his people have been, where they are, and where they have to go. It was evident in the things he said, the way he said them and the people he had surrounding him.
That is the mental space that I perceived the president of Rwanda to be in. The edge where purpose dictates his steps. Rwanda is going places.
Chris Lingle Visits Che's Legacy...
Yesterday, I returned from spending a long weekend in Havana…this was a place I had always wanted to see…the interest was sparked by the fact that in my youth in the 1950s, before the revolution, many of my friends and their families told tales of visits to this magic city….
It is a pity that it has been made so hard for Americans to visit there and that our foreign policy keeps us from being able to engage our neighbors just a few miles south of Miami….
One big surprise was the mild weather …I had expected it to be heavy and hot but it was quite comfortable, both day and night….
And what a beautiful city Havana must have been in its heyday…!
But what a tragedy that it has been allowed to fall so far…I cannot imagine another city with so much interesting architecture in this hemisphere…now so much of it has been ruined from neglect and abuse over the past 45 years….
One of the best things was the music…at a recital in a colonial-era church, four lovely female students began with Bach and a few other classical pieces before turning their oboe, bassoon, flute and clarinet to some clever arrangements of modern music that ended with Mambo #5…! And jazz was being played even more ubiquitously than in New Orleans with many cafés and restaurants offering live entertainment….
One thing that struck me were the idols and images of Che Guevara that were everywhere…indeed, many tourists were sporting expensive t-shirts they bought at the Museum of the Cuban Revolution along with postcards that carried the visages of other brave heroes of the proletariat….
And so I thought I might share some insights from article I read recently that compared Che Guevara with General Augusto Pinochet, former dictator of Chile….
While my generation remembers romanticized posters of a bearded Che in a rakish beret, younger people probably only know Che from the recent film, Motorcycle Diaries…therein, he is depicted as a handsome dreamer with his own sense of social justice…it is not evident in that flick that it morphed into a deadly dedication to the use of violence….
After his forays in Guatemala and with the funds funneled in by the Soviets, a civil war raged here for nearly 30 years…many of my colleagues at the university had family members that were kidnapped and ransomed off by the guerillas…but some of them were also tortured and killed by them….
And so it is that Che, no less than Pinochet, was a murderer and supported a dictatorship…idolatry has swamped any introspection into Che’s executions of counter-revolutionaries or his other murderous activities….
Meanwhile, Pinochet is openly (and rightly) reviled for his misdeeds. But this breathtaking sense of double standards remains one of the great lies and gross injustices of Latin America’s recent history…if one should be condemned, the other deserves equal treatment…but this is not new with much more scorn being heaped onto Hitler than onto Stalin or Mao, even though the latter two oversaw many more deaths with their ill-fated policies…while in Rosario, Argentina I saw that Che’s birthplace is being preserved…it is unimaginable that a similar shrine would be raised to Hitler or Pinochet….
In my humble view, all despots should be condemned regardless of their political hue…but one considers the outcome of the despotism, it is chimerical that Pinochet comes off much less the villain…?
For his part, Che helped install a dictatorship that done little to mitigate mass poverty or oppression as evidenced by the recent arrest of a band of outspoken journalists….oh, and when Che’s buddy Fidel took over the reins of power, Cuba’s per capita income being about the same as Italy’s…!
For his part, Pinochet ran a dictatorship that brought wealth and stability to Chile. Chile’s GDP per capita rose from a bit over $1,300 in 1975 to just over $10,200 in 2003 so that the average income of Chileans rose by a multiple of eight in 28 years. Chile has a stable democratic system (with a socialist president) and is the most prosperous country in South America. By the way, Chile's economic growth has put it well beyond Cuba’s ranking the UNDP Human Development Index….
Following Che’s connivance with empowering El Jefe, Castro has overseen a massive destruction of physical wealth (as seen in the deterioration of the once-splendid architectural gems of Havana)….
Despite his much-acclaimed improvement in health and education for the masses, most of this progress has been squandered…although they live in the relatively prosperous capital, many people in Havana appeared not to be well fed and were foraging in the garbage of the plush hotels inhabited by rich tourists….
Since there is little economic growth, there are few jobs…a young woman offered to me as an “escort” by the eager concierge at my hotel studied to be an accountant but found no other source of income….
Indeed, there were hookers everywhere…almost every place I went, doormen were pimping and offering women…(In a tragic bit of irony and hypocrisy, a display in the Museum of the Cuban Revolution justified revolting against the old regime and tossing out the Gringo was that some women were then so poor that were driven to sell their bodies in prostitution…!!!)
I am instinctively opposed to restrictions on commerce whether as red-baiting embargos or trade union induced protectionism…but the embargo explains very little of the cause of Cuba’s suffering…even if it gives the old windbag a stick to beat the Yanqui with….
It turns out that Castro received more aid from the Soviets than the US gave to all of Western Europe under the Marshall Plan and 3 times more than we gave to all of Latin America under the Alliance for Progress…he simply squandered it all…Cubans lost considerable ground since the mid-1950s when they were enjoying a standard of living equivalent to Italians….
In all events, I oppose the embargo and think it is a stupid and counter-productive policy…indeed all our policies towards Castro have been wrong since the Kennedy years when they caved in to pressures from Mafiosi that painted Fidel as a commie for taking over their casinos….
In the end, it was a pleasant experience…I was living in much the same comfort as I do when I am anywhere else in the world…but the lively and lovely people I left behind remain impoverished under the heel of an egomaniac that has taken away more than he has given or promised…and so, the revolution has continued the bifurcation of the community into sharp contrasts of haves and have-nots….
“La plus ca change; la plus c’est meme chose…”
Dr. Christopher LINGLE
ESEADE – Universidad Francisco Marroquín
Guatemala City, GUATEMALA
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Here's Ms. Arunga's formulation:"To do what is right makes sense, to do what is wrong throws society into chaos, and the only way to end the chaos is to do what is right."
Here's how John Locke said it: "Although the State of Nature is a State of Liberty, yet it is not a State of License.... The State of Nature has a Law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one: And Reason, which is that Law, teaches all Mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal or independent, no right to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty or Possessions."
And a further clarifying statement from Roderick T. Long, "Lockean equality involves not merely equality before legislators, judges and police, but, far more crucially, equality with legislators, judges and police."
To get back to June Arunga's point, I'm especially glad that she used the word "chaos" as the consequence of doing what is wrong. Doing wrong throws your life into chaos. That is the test of whether you're following "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God." Is your lifestyle sustainable without having to engage in constantly escalating efforts to control situations and squelch others who would oppose you?
by Al http://oldwhig.blogspot.com/2004_01_01_oldwhig_archive.html
My latest experience visiting the conflict ridden South Sudan is one that taught me a lesson I am not soon to forget, and one that I had to experience personally rather than read about in order for it to be fortified in my mind. It is a lesson that I would like to share with all the young people in Africa and around the world who have also wondered like me, why Africa is incomprehensible.
The thought of a strong powerful government for a long time conjured up images of security and stability in my mind. A government that had the power to regulate everything and keep everyone in check felt like what a country needed to preserve order and thus to create an environment in which people would be able to go about their economic activities, and prosper.
I discovered that this kind of government, contrary to what I thought, can actually be the recipe for total disintegration of society, turning human beings into beasts and creating a system in which chaos reigns, literally a man-eat-man society.
I saw first hand that oppression is created by law, and it doesn't matter who is doing it, the injustice is the same and it causes the same kind of suffering to the oppressed, subjecting them to poverty, death, misery and suffering.
Our parents and teachers tell us from childhood, and these are basics, that people can live and acquire the things they want, and a desirable standard of living only by working hard, and applying their talents and brains to the resources around them. This process is the origin of property. It is the noble, decent process of earning a living, where the key word is "earn".
But it is also true that people can live and satisfy their wants by taking and consuming the fruit of other people's labor by force. This process is called robbery, and is a crime in most countries around the world. It is undesirable, unjust, unfair, and no one likes being a victim to this. People who do this should be punished in order to discourage this kind of behavior in society.
To my shock and dismay, robbery and murder are not only encouraged by law in the countries I visited, but are government policy and perpetrators are rewarded by being allowed to keep and sell what they "legally" acquire by force with out payment to the owners, since at law the owner's rights are not recognized!!!
Imagine living in a place where if someone wants your property, instead of renting or buying it, they decide it is cheaper to kill you, and then proceed to make a law that entitles them to do this unabated, and guess what, you can't turn to the government for justice because these guys are the police and the army!!! So all you can do is run for your life. With your children and family, you run.
In the Sudan, the government has a written policy to clear the land within a 50 Kilometer radius of any oil rigs of all human life. So if you happened to live on a piece of land and oil was discovered there, no one asks you how much you would be willing to take for it. No, you don't sign a lease agreement with anyone giving them permission to set up shop on your property for a certain length of time. The government militias come in tankers and bomber planes and get rid of you, so you teach your kids how to recognize the sound of a bomber from the sound of a relief food airplane, so that they run for cover when they hear the former, and run for food when they hear the latter -- either way, running for their lives.
If you fly over south Sudan, you clearly see "cleared land". I saw it. Many patches of white, that were the floors of people's huts, now burnt to the ground for miles and miles around the oil rigs. If I wondered before what incentive people had to take up arms and go to war against their government, it did not take much work to see that this was clearly one of the reasons. If I wondered before why the majority are poor, and only a small political elite is wealthy, it takes little brain work to see that one of the reasons is because they have no institutions that protect their right to their land, so that they would profit off its value, and no time and stability to set up a home, let alone a functioning economy.
So they live running for their lives, unable to make plans for tomorrow, unable to set up schools, hospitals, infrastructure, markets to exchange goods and services, and then people's first reaction is to send them food, medicine, and aid of different kinds (when it is safe).
I ache for these people. I met and made friends with some of them and discovered that young people there want the same things I do. The parents wish for the same things I hear my parents speaking of.
They want to produce things and get paid for them, they want to be able to buy things other people have produced, they would like to able to make plans for the future, to invest in a decent education, to travel, to celebrate their success and those of their children, to find better, faster and easier ways to do things, to rest, to sample different cuisines, enjoy other people's music, discuss ideas, opinions and views of the world, and even in the unstable life they have, they teach their children how to work hard, to earn a living, not how to rob others or be a beggar relying on the charity of others.
Governments can do much more than protect people from plunder and coercion. Government's power to tax can indeed be used to pay for police, courts, and military defense but the same power may be used to dispense other benefits. To someone who can influence the government, its power can be a tool for gaining access to other peoples' property. It is no more just and no less destructive than the criminal plunder of a thief. If people can compete for legal access to their neighbors' wallets and purses through the political process, it will not be long before a government designed to protect peoples' rights becomes one of the greatest threats to those rights.
Understanding the dangerous incentives inherent in concentrating power in a central government, I realize that many African countries need the devolution of power in order to give people less reason to want to fight to be in power, since if my being in power does not enable me to interfere with your life and pursuit of happiness, then it makes no difference whether I am from your tribe or not. But when the reverse is the case, then we could have the same skin color and speak the same language, but I would still feel threatened by you.
In order for people to be engage in productive activity and thus earn a living, they all need to have the freedom to do so. Robbery is robbery, whether the law says it is ok or not. Spades are spades and not big spoons. Laws are man made, and I would think they should thus serve the people they are made for rather than disenfranchise, oppress and relegate them to suffering.
To do what is right makes sense, to do what is wrong throws society into chaos, and the only way to end the chaos is to do what is right.
A legal system with no institutions to protect the property rights of individuals is a recipe for robbery, murder and poverty. I was told by people in Sudan, and it is self evident when I look around the world at the countries that clearly define and protect property rights.
NAIROBI, KENYA—The two women seated next to me in the cab claimed to be my advocates. But as we traveled toward the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Cancun, I found myself frustrated by their statements and doubtful that the policies they promoted could do anything to solve my people's poverty.
They were scholars from a Canadian university, in Cancun with a women's rights group to protest the WTO. In the past, I'd felt gratitude toward such people, who invested time, money and energy—even risking jail, by turning violent—to fight for the poor of the world, a class to which most of my family and friends belong.
The more I learned about economics and world trade, though, the less I believed these women's rhetoric. Nonetheless, I thought that the cab ride would help me understand why these educated people would so oppose free trade and the economic reforms promoted by the WTO.
I asked them why they saw free trade as a threat to the poor's chances at wealth creation. They pointed at the huge hotels of Cancun and one of them said, "Look. Look at all this. I was in Cancun in the '80s and this place was very indigenous. Now it looks just like the United States; no different. I can hardly recognize it at all! Look: there's a McDonald's, and a Burger King. Oh, my goodness, even Gucci! Cancun has disappeared under the [North American] Free Trade Agreement that they signed with the U.S.!"
They were disgusted, but I looked around and saw only opportunity. I wished that we had such hotels in Kenya, where we have wonderful beaches and many pleasant people who would benefit enormously if the tourism industry flourished as it does in Cancun. I said, "I'm sure that the people of Cancun are happier, since they have jobs and hence money to buy food, clothing and shelter. They meet people from around the world, and can easily sell their goods and services to these visitors."
The women snapped back that Cancun workers were paid barely livable wages. Puzzled, I asked, "So you would like to visit Cancun and see more indigenous people in their indigenous clothes, living in their indigenous huts, farming in their indigenous methods, and eating only their indigenous food?"
To my horror, they said, "It would be better for the environment and for cultural diversity!"
Like many other globalization protesters I've encountered, they seemed to believe that Mexicans and other poor people don't want the same conveniences of life that they themselves enjoy: running water, permanent homes, affordable clothes and food, leisure time, cars. They preferred things to stay "exotic"—underdeveloped and poor.
The "indigenous" customs enjoyed by such tourists are not so charming when they make up one's day-to-day existence. The protesters curse the use of DDT, the only effective control of malaria, because it harms birds. But they never have to wonder if their children will survive the current malaria epidemic. They argue against the use of pesticides and pest- and drought-resistant crops, but they never have to wonder how they will survive if a pest invasion or drought destroys all their grown food.
They argue against new technologies, such as the genetic modification of crops, that might increase productivity and help us move from subsistence farming to cash crops, but they never have to worry that there might not be food on the table.
Such anti-free-traders—including world leaders who refuse to remove trade barriers and who promote environmental policies that sustain famine in poor countries—should take their children and move to these poor countries.
There, living under the laws that they advocate, they would be without credit cards or jobs, sleeping in mud huts, cooking with firewood, and inhaling indoor smoke—while dealing with corrupt dictators and excessive regulation from their own government.
Coupled with the escalating tariffs and subsidies applied by the First World, these anti-free-traders would find themselves unable to escape the poverty that we in the poor countries know only too well.
I don't wish this on my worst enemy, and I wish that our "friends" would stop imposing it on us.
Akinyi June Arunga is director of youth education at the Inter-Region Economic Network, in Kenya.
Documentaries & Arts:The Devil's Footpath
“Africa could be the best place on earth, but instead our best and brightest minds are leaving the continent in their millions.” So says June Arunga, a 22-year-old Kenyan law student who's facing the same dilemma. Should she stay or should she go?
To find an answer to that question, June embarked on a 5000-mile, six-week, soul-searching journey, travelling the length of Africa through Egypt, Sudan, Congo, Angola, Namibia and, finally, South Africa. Six conflict-riven countries that span the continent – from Cairo to Cape Town – and comprise 'The Devil’s Footpath'.Aid agencies, UN peacekeepers and even multinationals fly June into some of the continent’s bleakest war zones – meeting tribal chiefs, DJs, rappers, soldiers, miners, students, school kids and witch doctors. The journey is an emotional one, showing the very best and the very worst of Africa.After six weeks June arrives in Cape Town – angry at the continent’s leaders, proud of everyday Africans and very confused. Can Desmond Tutu, one of Africa’s most respected statesmen, help June decide whether there is a future for her in Africa?
Buy a Copy of the Devil's Footpath from www.economicthinking.org
Growing up in the Kenyan middle class, I watched as the standard of living in my household and that of my friends drastically declined in the span of 20 years even though my mother (the bread winner in the family) invested in two houses, was promoted at work and got raises in her salary.
I watched my younger siblings being moved from one school to another as their former school got too expensive, we quit eating breakfast as bread, butter and milk became too expensive and we quit doing monthly household shopping since we could not afford it anymore.
My friends and I theorized about the creation of wealth and the formula behind it… if there was any. I wondered (often aloud to my mother) if the creation of wealth was by chance, both for countries and for individuals since I also watched many of my well educated relatives move to wealthier countries to work unskilled jobs for better pay and higher standards of living.
I knew that something was wrong and wondered how I could help make it right, especially when I saw the number of people living on the streets or in the slums, even though some even have Masters Degrees from universities. What baffled me most was why the people in government made promises that did not come true.
Surely if other governments had “plans” that worked to facilitate wealth creation, our leaders needed to abandon whatever plan it was they were using and imitate the magic formula other prosperous countries were using.
I also wondered if corruption was genetic and Africans were naturally prone to more corruption. Perhaps the corruption in the halls of power was eating away at our potential to create wealth.
I wondered whether there was a fixed amount of wealth in a given territory demarcated by political boundaries, if that wealth was the raw materials that fell in the boundaries and it required careful planning to determine the most efficient way to allocate the scarce resources, so that everyone would gain.
Something else that sat heavy on my mind and even made me cry sometimes was the fear that if there was no set formula to wealth creation, poverty was our destiny and we would always be the bottom of the pile economically, forever destined to live on handouts, while plagued with other ills such as perpetual wars, fatal diseases, phenomenally corrupt governments and recurring famines. All I heard from the “grown ups” was that the government needed to step up and do something about one or another of the different social and economic ills that affected our lives. And the truth is that I really felt sorry for whoever’s task it was to plan everything for 30million people, and alleviate all these problems. I wondered if I would be able to do handle it if it were up to me.
I marveled at the wisdom of the people who had to run all the different government ministries and marketing boards, planning everything and even determining prices of goods and services for the whole economy. It always baffled me why all surplus grain had to be collected and put in the huge silos I saw growing up in the agricultural town on Nakuru.
Wouldn’t it be faster to let the farmers get the food to the market themselves? But on enquiry I was told that some people would not get the food if the government did not procure and redistribute it at affordable prices, and yet in the North of the country, there was always famine. These same questions dominate the everyday conversation of young people in Kenya today. Students in universities and high schools wonder about their destinies, since a good education does not seem to guarantee wealth with the status quo.
It is generally believed that if you don’t work hard and make it into Law, Medicine, Engineering or one of those traditional professions, then your future is uncertain, I was even sent to Medical school just to guarantee a job though I always wanted to study Law. My younger brother, Owuor Arunga, who was raised in Seattle, Washington, came across books and magazines that focuses on different approaches to social and economic problems. He subsequently attended several seminars that focused on the role freedom could play in expanding the choices and opportunities people could enjoy. He carried the “newly acquired understanding” to Kenya the next summer while on a family visit.
I listened to his ideas about how freedom worked but was very skeptical since the anti-globalization arguments had reached me first, and I was actively involved in promoting them. Although they did not make perfect sense, they offered a scapegoat for our problems, painted free markets black, and made me feel better by arguing that we were just victims of a complex system of trade where the rich were exploiting the poor.
I was introduced formally to freedom and free market by reading books on freedom. The insights it offered were crystal clear. Presenting to me questions I had never contemplated before, such as what the proper role of government is, and the idea that protection of life, liberty and property were the only functions that could be justified in the existence of governments.
I felt relieved and elated. Relieved because I expected creation of wealth to be very complex, and now I realized that in comparison to the task of central planning, deregulation and liberalization are simple.
And elated because after understanding the institutions of a free society and how they function, I knew that our African parachute had a chance to open and my country had a chance to survive. The plunge into eternal poverty could be broken and we could steer our destiny.
Hernando De Soto’s Mystery of Capital offered the final piece in the puzzle, demonstrating how vital a comprehensive property law system is to awakening dead capital. The lack of a rule of law that upholds private property and provides a framework for enterprise is the greatest challenge that we face before we can ever reap significant gains from liberalizing our economy.
It is hard to sit back passively with the knowledge that tried and proven solutions exist for the questions and fears that many of my peers still have in Kenya -- to sit back knowing that it is within each individual’s reach if only he was “deregulated”.
It is harder to watch the law break the people, demoralize and impoverish them when one clearly understands what it would take to improve their lot. It is particularly uncomfortable in a global context to see what manner of intolerance repression can breed when we witness terrorism, and by the same token what manner of wealth, health and peace free societies enjoy.
It only took my younger brother’s understanding of the role of free markets in wealth creation to induce enough curiosity in me, and set me on the journey to explore and read on my own how freedom works. Poverty is unpleasant and millions of young people like myself are seeking an escape, seeking solutions, guess who is reaching them first and harnessing their energies to rally for their cause…anti-trade, anti-capitalism and sustainable development promoting organizations.
Who is going to be the voice of freedom, which will introduce and promote and defend the role of free markets to high school and University students in Kenya? I hope to create an organization for young Kenyans that will help them understand the power that freedom has to improve opportunities for all Kenyans.
Friday, April 01, 2005
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority yesterday banned the construction and operation of homemade aircraft anywhere in the country.
The ban follows the failed attempt by a Form Three student, Harrison Etyang, to fly a makeshift aircraft in Kitale last week.
KCAA Director General Chris Kuto said in a statement the authority must first vet anyone intending to engage in such an activity.
"Any person who intends to construct and operate such aircraft is required by law to apply to KCAA before engaging in such an activity," he said.
The ban comes barely a week after Etyang attempted to fly a light aircraft, which he had built.
Etyang, a Form Three student at Manor House High School in Kitale, undertook the venture without any qualifications in aviation engineering.
About 10,000 spectators thronged a stadium in Kitale town to witness the historic take-off, which was, however, not to be.
Etyang’s aircraft did not leave the ground, causing an accident instead when the engine’s propeller snapped and flew off, injuring one of his mechanics.
Etyang was also admitted to hospital after he collapsed following his failed attempt. Doctors diagnosed him as suffering from an anxiety disorder.
A few days after the failed venture, an aviation college in Nairobi offered Etyang a scholarship to study aviation engineering provided he passed his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination.
Friday, March 25, 2005
A rapid mobile phone growth period is expected to remain the main highlight in the Kenyan mobile telecoms market this year, a senior player in the sector has predicted.
Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Mr. Michael Joseph is projecting strong growth for the local mobile telecommunication sector coupled by renewed competition amongst the two players.
And in light of increased competition, Safaricom staffers led by the Chief Human Resource officer Susan Kiama have vowed to ensure that the firm retains its market leadership position this year.
Notwithstanding growing competition from Celtel Kenya and the expected entry of a third mobile phone operator, Safaricom staff have unanimously endorsed a proposal by the firm’s CEO Mr. Michael Joseph to work towards attaining a 3.5 million subscriber base goal by March next year.
Speaking during a staff breakfast meeting to usher in Safaricom’s new financial year, Safaricom CEO Mr. Michael Joseph disclosed that the firm is now poised to offer better services following a recent network systems upgrade and expansion program.
“I am proud that you have all made a significant contribution to Safaricom’s tremendous growth. However, the onus is on us now to ensure that we don’t become complacent,” Joseph said.
The Safaricom boss disclosed that the firm had managed to successfully integrate a new Intelligent Network (IN) platform on the network as part of his strategy to ensure Safaricom’s continued growth.
The integration of the new IN platform installed by a leading Chinese network systems provider Huawei Technologies makes Safaricom the most advanced network within the region featuring 2.5G capabilities.
Such capabilities, Joseph said will afford Safaricom a unique opportunity to launch and deploy innovative custom tailored products and services for the local market. “Like never before, Safaricom subscribers will very soon start enjoying highly exclusive world class products and services that add value to their lifestyles,” Joseph pointed out.
During the breakfast meeting, Joseph further disclosed that a Kshs 14billion budget had been set aside to finance Safaricom’s capital expenditure this year.
The firm has already allocated more than Kshs 6billion drawn from the capital expenditure budget to facilitate the construction of more than 300 new base transceiver (BTS) sites as part of the firm’s network expansion project.
At a cost of Kshs 20 million per BTS, the project is expected to largely enhance the Safaricom’s rural Kenyan network coverage.
The rural Kenya expansion project comes hot on the heels of a similar urban project nearing completion at a cost of Kshs 2 billion.
Niger's capital came to a halt this week as a stay-home protest against a tax on staple goods like flour and milk closed shops and markets and kept traffic off the streets.
The protest was the second in a week called by some 30 groups gathered in a "coalition against costly living" that includes trade unions and human rights and consumer groups.
The coalition, which last week claimed to have rallied the biggest protest ever seen in Niamey, is demanding the government withdraw a law introduced in January's budget which slapped 19% Value Added Tax (VAT) on everyday items such as flour, milk and sugar, as well as on water and electricity.
Last Tuesday a crowd of up to 20,000 protesters marched through the capital city of Niamey to pressure the government to reduce the price of basic foods and goods. The change of tactics to a stay-home protest came after authorities refused to authorise a second street march.
More than 60% of the landlocked semi-desert nation's 11 million people live on less than a dollar a day. And last year's locust invasion coupled with poor rainfall has already led to worrisome food shortages.
Despite this the government is standing firm and says the hikes are needed to fill government coffers and reduce deficits.- IRIN news
"Digital is democratizing film in Africa," says Idrissa Ouedraogo, the famed Burkinabe director and backer of "Sous la Clarte de la Lune" ("Under the Moon's Light"), one of 20 feature films in competition for Fespaco's top prize. "Sous La Clarte de la Lune" is part of a wave of low-budget, critically-acclaimed African films that use digital technology. Digital cameras are cheaper and the film can be stored on computer hard drives, edited and distributed for a fraction of the costs involved with traditional 35 mm prints. Versatile digital formats have already revolutionized production. Kenya and Nigeria have developed prolific and profitable video markets of low-budget, low-quality films. And digital technology could also be an answer to distribution headaches.
African films make up just 1% of movies seen on the continent. Most cinemas from Cape Town to Nairobi to Lagos run Hollywood blockbusters, martial arts flicks or action movies. Now, African film makers working in digital have to undergo an expensive conversion to 35 mm film to screen their films. Ouedraogo's Association of African Directors and Producers aims to change that by converting cinemas in Burkina Faso to digital. Three have been done and a fourth is planned. "Digital is for tomorrow," said the director. "We have no choice if we want to see African films in the cinema." Getting the films onto screens is just part of the problem. For many Africans, a night at the movies is an impossible dream -- both because of cost and the lack of theaters. Burkina Faso, home of Fespaco, has just 55 cinemas for a population of 12 million and the latest survey from 2002 showed only 34 of those cinemas worked. "Zulu Love Letter," a South African Fespaco film about the truth and reconciliation commission, is looking for new outlets. "You've got to find new ways of getting people to see the film," said producer Bhekizizwe Peterson.
"We will show it in schools and churches on DVD. It's not only important commercially, but very enriching culturally."
One way to tackle the decline of permanent cinemas in Africa's remote rural areas is to use mobile cinemas. During Fespaco, four mobile cinemas have been used in Ouagadougou. Equipped with digital projectors, they are part of a donor-funded initiative to bring films to rural audiences. After the festival, they will go to neighbors Benin, Niger and Mali, visiting selected villages once a fortnight. Since 2001, 1.5 million West Africans have seen films this way. Fespaco's directors are also going digital for art's sake, like South Africa's Teddy Mattera, director of "Max and Mona."
"It gave Teddy a lot more freedom to experiment as a first-time feature film director," said producer Tendeka Matatu. "Digital technology frees film makers from financial constraints and allows them to perfect their craft and experiment with their creativity," he said. But for many young African film makers, digital will always be more a necessity than a choice. "I learned to work in 35mm, but it's an impossible dream today," said Ouedraogo.
"Today's digital cameras are so much cheaper that it means anyone can become a director. There will be plenty of bad films as well as good. But that's not what's important for the moment. First we need the quantity, after that, quality will come."
-Nigeria Today Online
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
I grew up thinking we were too poor to afford a telephone, then one
day "By the Stroke of a Pen" the technology, capital, and skill
necessary to make it affordable for my family was allowed to enter Kenya,
when the law was changed to end the government Monopoly in
Telecommunications.Good news for More Kenyans, and more is possible!Our Beef
producers and Fishermen now have better communication, but they
could potentially become Multinational operations if they only had Refrigeration
Facilities, if they only had Electricity, Running Water, Vehicles, Relevant
Machines... What excuse does our government have to prevent their access to the
same and keep them poor?
By Alari Alare
Mobile telephone service provider Celtel Kenya Limited has expanded its network coverage to 20 more towns across the country.
The towns are in far flung areas of Nyanza, Greater Nairobi, Rift Valley, Eastern Province and Maasai Mara. The expanded coverage follows completion of the first phase of network expansion programme by the mobile operator.
The introduction of new sites has now brought the total number of towns covered by Celtel Kenya network to 158. The network expansion covers Olkuruk in Masai Mara, Olenguruone, Maungu, Kakuma, Loitokitok and the border town of Lunga-Lunga.
The other towns are Mutomo in Kitui, Keumbu in Kisii, Sondu Miriu and Kosele. Also covered by Celtel network are Kusa, Bondo, Usenge Musoli, Ruai, Thogoto, Kinoo, Kianjogu, Wangige and Magongo in Mombasa.
Celtel Chief Executive Officer, Gerhard May, yesterday said that residents in these towns will now have an opportunity to join more than 1.3 million Celtel subscribers in the country.
"We are delighted to make mobile telephony a reality to thousands of Kenyans in these diverse areas in line with our commitment of making life better for our customers," said May.
"Our indelible footprint in Kenya not only brings with it mobile telephony, but opens a host of possibilities in terms of job creation and access to information," he said.
The company has in recent months unveiled a host of innovative products and services aimed at increasing the availability and affordability of mobile telephony to a wider cross section of Kenyans.
Our Young Gradutes Knock "The Door" for Jobs, Skills and Access to
Technology, The Reverse is true as well. "The Door" is the problem. Our governments need to pick up their pens and remove the beuracracy and laws that prevent us from taking advantage of the beneficial interaction we would be having with other Human Beings.
Ensuring Security, Granting and Protecting Individual Property Rights, Enforcing Contracts though Impartial Courts should be the priorities in our bid to give our people a chance to realize their aspirations!
Cisco Systems executives will undertake a tour of five major African countries in March to provide its African business partners and customers with information on advanced networking technologies and how the technology can be used to assist companies across the region. Under the banner of the Cisco Innovation Tour, the series of events will see Cisco executives hold seminars in Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia."These events will address a broader audience comprising both existing Cisco resellers and potential prospects. Existing and potential resellers and end-users will get an in-depth update on how advanced networking technologies work together to create solutions for our customers," says Anthony Vonsée, Cisco Systems general manager for sub-Saharan Africa.The Cisco Innovation Tour debuts in Dakar , Senegal on 14 March and then moves to Lagos, Nigeria on 16 March, Accra, Ghana on 18 March, Lusaka , Zambia on 21 March, and finally Nairobi, Kenya on 23 March.Each of these events will feature a full day seminar, covering topics ranging from Intelligent Information Network (IIN), broadband (metro, optical and storage), Integrated Services Routers (ISR), security, IP communications, and promotions and certifications within the channel.Vonsée says he is particularly upbeat about the opportunities for Cisco partners in Africa today because of the increasingly positive political and economic climates across the region. "The opportunity to upgrade current infrastructures to next generation networks (NGN) and the fact that our channel partners have the right solutions to do this, puts them in a strong position. As more and more businesses and governments alike begin to recognise the immense benefits in deploying cutting-edge networking solutions, we expect our channel to realise the enormous business potential.""The key to success though resides with proper training and familiarity with the latest networking technologies - be it the convergence of voice, video and data, IP communications including IP telephony or any of the other solutions which are available to the channel today," says Vonsée.There are also huge opportunities for Cisco partners as a result of looming deregulation of telecommunications markets across Africa, the forthcoming consolidation in financial services markets, the advent of telemedicine, distance learning and IP satellite technologies. All of these new dynamics will present untapped opportunities for Cisco partners at all stages of the channel."Our partners understand the dynamics and the unique characteristics of their respective local markets. They are also the point at which Cisco and its customers meet. So it is incumbent on both of us that we maintain an environment in which customers can continue to benefit from the latest technologies through the best training, advice, delivery and implementation of solutions that will help them gain business advantages," says Vonsée.
Monday, March 21, 2005
By Leonard Read
I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write. Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that's all I do. You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery — more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, `"We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders." I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me — no, that's too much to ask of anyone — if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because — well, because I am seemingly so simple. Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year. Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye — there's some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser. Innumerable Antecedents Just as you cannot trace your family tree back very far, so is it impossible for me to name and explain all my antecedents. But I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and complexity of my background. My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink! The logs are shipped to a mill in San Leandro, California. Can you imagine the individuals who make flat cars and rails and railroad engines and who construct and install the communication systems incidental thereto? These legions are among my antecedents. Consider the millwork in San Leandro. The cedar logs are cut into small, pencil- length slats less than one-fourth of an inch in thickness. These are kiln dried and then tinted for the same reason women put rouge on their faces. People prefer that I look pretty, not a pallid white. The slats are waxed and kiln dried again. How many skills went into the making of the tint and the kilns, into supplying the heat, the light and power, the belts, motors, and all the other things a mill requires? Sweepers in the mill among my ancestors? Yes, and included are the men who poured the concrete for the dam of a Pacific Gas & Electric Company hydroplant which supplies the mill's power! Don't overlook the ancestors present and distant who have a hand in transporting sixty carloads of slats across the nation. Once in the pencil factory--$4,000,000 in machinery and building, all capital accumulated by thrifty and saving parents of mine--each slat is given eight grooves by a complex machine, after which another machine lays leads in every other slat, applies glue, and places another slat atop--a lead sandwich, so to speak. Seven brothers and I are mechanically carved from this "wood- clinched'" sandwich. My "lead'" itself--it contains no lead at all--is complex. The graphite is mined in Ceylon. Consider these miners and those who make their many tools and the makers of the paper sacks in which the graphite is shipped and those who make the string that ties the sacks and those who put them aboard ships and those who make the ships. Even the lighthouse keepers along the way assisted in my birth--and the harbor pilots. The graphite is mixed with clay from Mississippi in which ammonium hydroxide is used in the refining process. Then wetting agents are added such as sulfonated tallow--animal fats chemically reacted with sulfuric acid. After passing through numerous machines, the mixture finally appears as endless extrusions--as from a sausage grinder--cut to size, dried, and baked for several hours at 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit. To increase their strength and smoothness the leads are then treated with a hot mixture which includes candelilla wax from Mexico, paraffin wax, and hydrogenated natural fats. My cedar receives six coats of lacquer. Do you know all the ingredients of lacquer? Who would think that the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil are a part of it? They are. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involves the skills of more persons than one can enumerate! Observe the labeling. That's a film formed by applying heat to carbon black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, pray, is carbon black? My bit of metal--the ferrule--is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make shiny sheet brass from these products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The complete story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain. Then there's my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to in the trade as "the plug," the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with me. An ingredient called "factice" is what does the erasing. It is a rubber-like product made by reacting rape- seed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for binding purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents. The pumice comes from Italy; and the pigment which gives "the plug" its color is cadmium sulfide. No One Knows Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me? Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far in relating the picker of a coffee berry in far off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation; that this is an extreme position. I shall stand by my claim. There isn't a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how. From the standpoint of know-how the only difference between the miner of graphite in Ceylon and the logger in Oregon is in the type of know-how. Neither the miner nor the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker in the oil field--paraffin being a by-product of petroleum. Here is an astounding fact: Neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me. Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never saw a pencil nor would they know how to use one. Their motivation is other than me. Perhaps it is something like this: Each of these millions sees that he can thus exchange his tiny know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants. I may or may not be among these items. No Master Mind There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred. It has been said that "'only God can make a tree.'" Why do we agree with this? Isn't it because we realize that we ourselves could not make one? Indeed, can we even describe a tree? We cannot, except in superficial terms. We can say, for instance, that a certain molecular configuration manifests itself as a tree. But what mind is there among men that could even record, let alone direct, the constant changes in molecules that transpire in the life span of a tree? Such a feat is utterly unthinkable! I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies--millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree. The above is what I meant when writing, "If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing." For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand--that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive master-minding — then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith. Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn't know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation's mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people — in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity — the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental "master-minding." Testimony Galore If I, Pencil, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore; it's all about us and on every hand. Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things. Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person's home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one's range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard — halfway around the world — for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street! The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Why is unemployment so high when there is so much WORK yet to be done to improve standards of living?
There is so much money, so many ideas, so much labour begging
to be given a
legal structure that is friendly, so that it can be put to use
solutions to the many challenges we face. Removing
obstacles to entry into
business, quick and cheap licencing, low taxes,
secure property rights and no
interference by government, security and
functioning courts to enforce
contracts... are afew of the things that would
encourage athe small and big
aspiring business person alike, the success of
these businesses are the jobs,
development and economic growth that so far
Botswana and South Africa have developed the strongest investment climates in Sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, but too few other African nations are following suit and most continue to rank among the world's least friendly for business, according to a new report from the World Bank Group.
Doing Business in 2005: Removing Obstacles to Growth, a report cosponsored by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank Group, finds that investment climate reforms, while often simple, can help create job opportunities for women and young people, encourage businesses to move into the formal economy, and promote growth.
Between 2003 and 2004, for example, Ethiopia witnessed a jump of 48 percent business registrations after simplifying its entry procedures.
However, the report, which benchmarks regulatory performance and reforms in 145 nations, finds that poor nations, through administrative procedures, still make it two times harder than rich nations for entrepreneurs to start, operate, or close a business, and businesses in poor nations have less than half the property rights protections available to businesses in rich countries.
African countries reformed the least of all regions over the past year and still have the most regulatory obstacles to doing business. Sixteen of the 20 countries with the most cumbersome business regulations and weakest protection of property rights are in Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Burkina Faso, and Chad rank among the bottom five. Chad, for example, still requires 19 procedures to register a new business, as compared with two procedures in a country such as Australia. In Congo, it takes 155 days to register a business. In Angola, it takes more than three years to enforce a contract.
Worldwide, rich countries undertook three times as many investment climate reforms as poor countries last year. European nations were especially active in enacting reforms. The top 10 reformers for the most recent survey year were Slovakia, Colombia, Belgium, Finland, India, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and Spain.
Other findings related to Sub-Saharan African nations:
Botswana and South Africa ranked in the top quartile of the nations surveyed, according to indicators on the ease of doing business.
However, of the 58 countries that reformed business regulation or strengthened the protection of property rights in the last year, only eight were in Africa.
Among the African nations enacting reforms, Ethiopia improved the process for starting a new business the most, by cutting the number of procedures from eight to seven, the number of days from 44 to 32, and the administrative cost of business startup by 80 percent. Still, it has the second-highest minimum capital requirement in the world, trailing only Syria.
Madagascar was the second-most effective reformer in Africa, slashing the time required to start a business by a third, to 44 days. Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, and Kenya also reformed entry regulation.
Two other reformers were Mozambique, where the public credit registry went online and strengthened the quality of data, and Namibia, which introduced more flexible work hours, making it easier for businesses to expand production.
Several countries enacted changes that worsened their investment climate. Malawi, Mauritania, and Rwanda made it more expensive to start a business. Zimbabwe hiked its capital duty from 1 percent to 20 percent and increased the license application fee fourfold."Poor countries that desperately need new enterprises and jobs risk falling even further behind rich ones who are simplifying regulation and making their investment climates more business friendly," said Michael Klein, World Bank/IFC Vice President for Private Sector Development and IFC Chief Economist.
Doing Business in 2005 updates the work of last year's report on five sets of business environment indicators: starting a business, hiring and firing workers, enforcing contracts, getting credit, and closing a business; expands the research to 145 countries, and adds two new indicators, registering property and protecting investors. "This year, Doing Business gives policymakers an even more powerful tool for measuring their regulatory performance in comparison to other countries, learning from best practices globally, and prioritizing reforms. Since last year, 13 countries, including Cape Verde, Gambia, and Mauritius, have asked to be included in the Doing Business analysis," said Simeon Djankov, an author of the report.
The main research findings of Doing Business in 2005:
Businesses in poor countries face larger regulatory burdens than those in rich countries. Poor countries impose higher costs on businesses to fire a worker, enforce contracts, or file for registration; they impose more delays in going through insolvency procedures, registering property, and starting a business; and they afford fewer protections in terms of legal rights for borrowers and lenders, contract enforcement, and disclosure requirements. In administrative costs alone, there is a threefold difference between poor and rich nations. The number of administrative procedures and the delays associated with them are twice as high in poor countries.
The payoffs from reform appear to be large. The report estimates that an improvement from the bottom to the top quartile of countries in the ease of doing business is associated with an additional 2.2 percentage points in annual economic growth. An indication of the payoff comes from Turkey and France, each of which saw new business registration increase by 18 percent after the governments reduced the time and cost of starting a business last year. Slovakia's reform of collateral regulation helped increase the flow of bank loans to the private sector by 10 percent. The payoff comes because businesses waste less time and money on unnecessary regulation and devote more resources to producing and marketing their goods and because governments spend less on ineffective regulation and more on social services.
Heavy regulation and weak property rights exclude the poor - especially women and younger people - from doing business. The report finds that weak property rights and heavy business regulation conspire to exclude the poor from joining the formal economy. "Heavy regulation not only fails to protect women, young people, and the poor - those it was intended to serve - but often harms them," said Caralee McLiesh, an author of the report. Doing Business shows that countries with simpler regulations can provide better social protections and a better economic climate for business people, investors, and the general public. The report builds on noted economist Hernando de Soto's work, showing that while it is critical to encourage registration of assets, it is as important - and harder - to stop them from slipping back into the informal sector.The top 20 economies in terms of ease of doing business are New Zealand, United States, Singapore, Hong Kong/China, Australia, Norway, United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Belgium, Lithuania, Slovakia, Botswana, and Thailand.
The Doing Business project is the product of more than 3,000 local experts - business consultants, lawyers, accountants, and government officials - and leading academics, who provide methodological support and review. The data, methodology, and names of contributors are publicly available online.
UHURU NI HAKI