Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

Peace is within reach. We just haven't conceptualized it, methinks. Carpe diem, and see you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms

Much work remains to be done if we are going to critically assess the state of education today. This was also cross-posted on Vijana FM.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pictorial know-how

I was archiving some photos I had picked up around the Internet over the years, and began wondering - why was it that I wasn't saving the source of the images?

Then I thought about texts, and how many pieces of text we come across everyday, and how many of these pieces we actually care to activity seek for its author and not the words on the page. Perhaps reading does give off vibes in ways we don't recognize.

Then I came back to the images and realized that if there lies a story in the picture, that story creates a certain intangible vibe that may not have anything to do with who or what created/captured it, or why.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do we recognize truth?

"Show a man too many camel's bones, or show them to him too often, and he will not be able to recognise a camel when he comes across a real one." - Idries Shah

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Big Picture

(Courtesy A man dressed as Santa Claus holds a flare as he wakeboards on a small lake in Hamburg, Germany on December 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Christian Charisius)

I've known about the "Big Picture" section for a while, but I thought this image was a nice juxtaposition of celebration, nature, and light all at the same time. Hannukah matata ;)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bothersome questions

Why don't we see good news in the headlines anymore? Is photojournalism dying? Why is there a problem of transparency with the biggest of the big governments in the world today? Who ever decided to settle in the global north way back when? Why do we learn if we don't foresee an implementation of learned material? Who judges crimes made in the middle of the ocean, and can they really project their power further than their territory?

There will be more as this year comes to a close...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Sorry, due to weather conditions..."

"... we are experiencing delays. Thank you for your consideration".

I have heard this automated message across at least 3 businesses based in London when trying to contact them by phone.

Does this mean that the weather is making us inefficient? If yes, at what point between perfect efficiency and perfect inefficiency do we decide that perhaps humans can (are supposed to?) live elsewhere?

Carpe diem,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thoughts on WikiLeaks

Recent WikiLeaks reports containing American diplomatic cable messages have added to the continuing discourse of transparency in global governance.

WikiLeaks is branded as a not-for-profit media organization that disseminates information to the public from a host of anonymous sources. It was originally founded in December 2006 by ambiguous "dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa". Since then, WikiLeaks has released a series of critical reports containing evidence and claiming to provide the real diplomatic picture of the world. Recent releases concern corruption of former Kenyan leaders, toxic dumping in Africa, an Afghan war diary, Iraq war logs, and more recently, cables of American government officials primarily on the Middle East.

Consequently, WikiLeaks has met with a fury of political pressure, especially from the Obama administration. Recent threats to WikiLeaks include their websites being consistently shut down, losing their donation service from PayPal, and the issuance of arrest warrants for founders of the organization. The man said to be at the center of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has also discussed how he does not feel welcome in his native Australia.

From my perspective, it looks like we're taxing the wrong business. WikiLeaks has proved itself to be a facilitating organization in the process of making information available to public. This is its function, which is no different from the function of other media-syndication platforms, be it Radio for Peace-Building Africa, or Al-Jazeera.

The root of the problem seems to be not with WikiLeaks, but WikiLeaks sources. When information is leaked, it probably means that the "truth" has value. So who submits information to the organization? More importantly, why is sensitive information being leaked? A recent BBC report mentioned that "most of the diplomatic messages released by Wikileaks have been traced to a US defence department network, known as Siprnet, used for the exchange of classified information".

One scenario I have imagined is that those who submit sensitive informaiton to WikiLeaks may not be able to access the "legal" channels in their own spaces to make this information public. And so they resort to anonymous channels catered by organizations like WikiLeaks. If this is the case in reality, then it seems there is a problem with how transparent governments truly are towards their constituents.

The other scenario I am seeing developing through recent news is that the WikiLeaks' sources are direct sources that have been hacked into by WikiLeaks. This concerns the data protection of intellectual property, and is subject to the law in respective territories. This scenario is exemplified through recent efforts of international leaders to frame WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization.

Whatever truth lies in the WikiLeaks releases, we know for sure there are those who support it being public, and there are those who strictly do not. The discourse between all positions between this opposition stands to provide important lessons in the "good governance" conversation.

Do all processes within governments need to be transparent? If they do, why are they not already transparent? If they do not need to be transparent, how will we define the role of media organizations, which seek to do exactly this: Increase transparency?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The State of African Cities 2010, by UN-HABITAT

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) recently published a report titled The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequality and Urban Land Markets.

The report breaks down the following for each African region (Northern, Western, Eastern, Central, and Southern):
  • Social geography of urbanization;
  • Economic geography of cities;
  • Geography of urban markets;
  • Geography of climate change; and
  • Emerging issues.
A report such as this one can be used as a reference tool for the creation of socially-conscious business. As major African cities like Lagos, Cairo, and Kinshasa experience acute growth in urban population, how will essential services like shelter, food, education and health be delivered efficiently?

Download the PDF (right-click to save as):Related links:Posted on Vijana FM on November 24, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kikwete re-elected

DAR ES SALAAM — Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete was re-elected with 61 percent of the vote, electoral officials said Friday, in a poll marked by low turnout and opposition charges of fraud.

The 60-year-old incumbent's closest rival, Wilbrod Slaa, was credited with 26 percent of the vote but snubbed the much-delayed announcement of the results after alleging the ballot was rigged.

Read more from the source (AFP).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010


Let the record show that today I accidently knocked over and spilt four drinks:
  1. A cup of tea (onto myself and the couch I was sitting on);
  2. A container of milk (onto the kitchen floor);
  3. A can of Pepsi after lunch (onto the street); and
  4. A can of Coke (onto my bedroom carpet).
Yes, I feel shameful. But considering that they all fell the same way, I am tempted to feel that something else is going on.

*UPDATE about 2 hours later*

5. A mug of tea (all over my desk, class readings, and receipts of recent purchases).

This can't be serious.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Youth votes could swing Tanzanian election

(Reuters) Tanzania’s presidential candidates made a last-ditch push for votes on Friday before an election on Sunday that is expected to attract record numbers of young voters in east Africa’s second largest economy.

By Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM | Fri Oct 29, 2010

More than two-thirds of Tanzania’s population of 40.7 million are aged between 10 and 35 years, according to government estimates, and analysts say a high turnout by young voters could help the main opposition candidate.

“More than ever before, youths are motivated to vote,” said Dar es Salaam-based rights activist Ananilea Nkya. “They want to see changes in the way their country is being run.”

With nearly 20 million people eligible to vote, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and the main opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) have shifted their focus to first-time voters and the tech-savvy middle class.

Political parties and supporters are using text messages, video clips on YouTube, updates on Facebook and blogs to woo young first-time voters in a country that suffers from corruption, poverty and poor infrastructure.

Like other African countries with limited bandwidth, Internet connectivity is relatively low in Tanzania, but the country has more than 17 million mobile phone users.

Many young Tanzanians use mobile phones to connect to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.


According to the latest opinion polls, Willibrod Slaa of the opposition Chadema party has chipped away at incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete’s once double-digit lead.

The 62-year-old Slaa has been campaigning on a platform of change, with promises to end corruption and review mining contracts in Africa’s third largest gold producer.

In April, a poll by Redet, a political research arm of the University of Dar es Salaam, gave Kikwete 77.2 percent. In October, another poll by researchers at the university gave the 60-year-old president just 38 percent.

Political commentators said young voters, a demographic known for low turnout vote in previous elections, could swing the election.

“Victory for Dr Slaa depends on high voters turnout … a high turnout will bring more independent voters compared to a lower turnout. If the turnout is around or less than 60 percent, that will favour CCM,” said political analyst M.M. Mwanakijiji in a post on the popular online discussion portal JamiiForums.

An ongoing online opinion poll by Tanzania’s leading Swahili newspaper, Mwananchi, gave Slaa 77.1 percent against Kikwete’s 17.3 percent of the vote on Friday. A similar poll on JamiiForums gave Slaa 68.88 percent and Kikwete 22.06 percent.

Ibrahim Lipumba of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) trails a distant third in all opinion polls.

“There is a battle for the cyberspace in the election campaigns and Chadema is winning this battle hands down because of its huge youth support,” political analyst Moses Kulaba said.


Cecy Semtawa, a 22-year-old first-time voter said she would vote for Slaa because of his pledge to provide free education, healthcare and affordable housing.

“Slaa has promised to cut taxes on cement and other building materials so that we can all build decent houses. He seems to be very sincere and is determined to fight corruption. I will vote for that,” she said.

However, Kikwete, who is seeking a second and final term in office after a campaign dominated by promises to fight corruption and poverty, is still the analysts’ favourite to win.

Tanzania has enjoyed relative stability in an often unsettled region and has managed to hold three successive multi-party presidential elections since 1995, after more than three decades of one-party rule.

“Tanzania is in safe hands under CCM’s leadership. We are the only party that can maintain peace and stability,” Kikwete told a popular youth radio station on Friday ahead of a planned nationwide television interview later in the day.

Analysts said Slaa still faces a challenge of transforming the optimism shown at his well-attended campaign rallies across Tanzania into actual votes.

“There are attempts by agents of corruption to influence the outcome of the general election. If we have a free and fair vote, we might see major leadership changes after the polls as a result of the youth vote,” activist Nkya said.

Source: Reuters

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sync libraries and transport for London students

I was at the SOAS library today and I had to wait quite a long time to ask a question about renewing my library card. While I was waiting, I thought a bit about how many cards we as students have to carry in London, and how this load could be eased.

To begin with, you have an ID card issued by your academic institution. Some institutions sync their library records with this ID card, while others do not. Mine does not. So I have a student ID card and a library borrower card from my institution.

We also apply for discounts on transport through the Student Oyster Card. That gets us to use the buses and trains at cheaper monthly rates than retail price.

And then there's the thousands of discount and loyalty cards that make London a little cheaper to eat, shop, and communicate in. So there's cards for that. For example, everytime I want something at Sainsubury, I need to think about carrying my Nectar card.

So here's a logically simple but perhaps logistically not-so-simple step: Issue one card for students that gets them everything; into their schools, into their libraries, onto the bus or the tube, and into shops. One card man, it will save the government money on printing and cross-business transactions, it will reduce stress amongst students, and best of all, it gets everybody talking to eachother.

Easier said than done, you think? Well, it's just a matter of finding the tech guys for universities and the tube, and ask them to sync up their databases, and lo and behold they might find that most of the records exist on both systems.

Maybe I just don't like waiting, but I think this is a pretty solid idea to try out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Statistics on Internet usage in Africa

Posted at Vijana FM on October 26, 2010

In the last two years, there has been a lot of talk about the SEACOM project, which links the coasts of East and South Africa. The project involved the immersion of undersea fibre optic cables that increase speeds and decrease costs for Internet Service Providers and users. We have discussed the SEACOM project on two occasions; when we mentioned the Nation Media Group's golden jubilee, and when we asked Mbwana Alliy five questions.

There has therefore been a lot of excitement about the prospect of starting new goods and services based on the Internet that are especially for certain markets in Africa. Due the growth in the use of mobile phones, this excitement is further channeled into how mobile applications can be built, used, and developed over the Internet.

Courtesy of Deutsche Welle

If you are getting ideas about how to run a product or service on the Internet in Africa, it is probably wise to check out Internet World Stats (IWS).

The IWS website provides comprehensive and up-to-date information about the penetration and use of the Internet across the African continent. It also provides country-specific data on the growth of Internet use relative to population growth.

For example, did you know that Tanzania has 520,000 Internet users as of June, 2009 (1.3% of the population), whereas her neighbor Kenya has 3,359,600 Internet users as of June/2009 (8.6% of the population)?

With a resource like this, your due diligence is made easy. That is, you don't have to spend so much time contacting so and so bureau for information before you start an Internet-based project. IWS can be used as a quick reference to make find markets, make projections, and assess progress relative to a given country or Africa's internet penetration and growth.

With increasing numbers of Internet Service Providers and bandwidth, the focus seems to be shifting not on access, but on how those who currently have access can innovate for their population.

Related Links:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Redemption in rejection

I just realized today that trying to start a new way of thinking in our world inherently assumes that the world is a collaborative place to work.

Why would someone want to introduce a new way of thinking, either through an invention, theory, or service? Probably because they don't find the resources to solve a problem when it happens and where it happens. But also because they assume that there will be a need for their invention, theory, or service to interact with other existing ideas.

So starting something new and not collaborating seems more difficult than getting in with strong working relations with others in the field. Collaboration is therefore not only recommended for sustainable development, but necessary.

There is value in being rejected by the world, then. Because you learn what existing collaborations do not take into consideration. Yes, this does involve copious amounts of tweaking to someone else's preferences, but it yields something in the end that is of value not only to you, but to those you are building it for and with.

(Picture taken while leaving Cairo, Egypt in August 2010)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordle 2

Tried the same thing as my last post, just a different day (today).

In case you're wondering what my source for the words is, it is this RSS project that I've just shelved for about a year now. At the moment it is quite simple a self-refreshing page displaying 8 feeds. What would be nice is if a new wordle could be generated on the same page for everytime the feeds were refreshed (every 5 minutes).

Hebu tujaribu.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wordle for today

I've put that ol' RSS project in a filing dustpile for a while now, but I'm just dusting it off now. Here's today's wordle... I would like to figure out how to do this real-time, so that we can have a look at trends in words as they are uttered (on the news).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tanzania is not Tasmania

Dear friends: Please let's stop refering to Tanzania as Tasmania. Here is why.

Tanzania is located on the coast of East Africa, below Kenya. It is not origin of the the cartoon character from your childhood.

Tasmania is an island which is part of Australia.

The animal known to exist only on Tasmania is the Tasmanian Devil. Once again, you will see this is not the cartoon character you remember from your childhood.

Let's summarize: Tanzania is not Tasmania.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Burning questions

What makes one human act for another? What makes them think they can do it for a long period of time? More importantly, where do those values go as time passes; are they cultured and developed into ways of being, or are they ignored for other values?

From the works of Jabir

The impediments incident to this work, are generally two, viz. natural impotency and defect of necessary expence, or occupations and labours. Yet we say, natural impotency is manifold; viz. partly from the organs of the artist, and partly from his soul.

From the organ of the artificer, it is also manifold; for either the organ is weak, or wholly corrupted. And it is manifold from the impotencies of the soul; either because the soul is perverted in the organ (having nothing of rectitude, or reason in it self) as the soul of the mad infatuate man; or because it is fantastical, unduly suseptive of the contrary of forms, and suddenly extensive from the one thing knowable, to is opposit, and from one will to its opposit likewise.

I interpret the above extract from the works of Jabir, the eighth century Muslim Alchemist, to mean that spiritual pursuits require mental and physical commitment. What I am confused about however is whether or not mental and physical commitments are indefinately broken without spiritual direction.

Carpe diem,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Boring websites

Why is it that we have so many websites today that are about making easy money online (which always comes down to maintaining a blog to get as many clicks on website ads as possible)?

What happened to actually sweating for some cash?

From Mauritius to Somalia

I was recently reading on Financial Times and BBC that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has been studying governance in Africa for a few years now. The studies aim to give a prize in governance every year to those African countries making remarkable progress towards stable democracies, though for the past two years the Foundation has not found any country in Africa to qualify.

Current rankings from the Foundation put Mauritius, the Seychelles and Botswana in the top ten, and Somalia, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the bottom ten.

I'm just thinking aloud: Why haven't we as Africans developed scales of improvement that are relative to our peoples' cultures, resources, and ambitions?

Though moves to incessantly grade each other - from our schooling days, to the work place, to retirement pensions - are meant to philosophically help us improve eachother, I feel that we are getting carried away with assessing eachother.

I fear that when it comes down to governance in Africa specifically, we are comparing African systems to Western systems. We do not consider Africa as the largest continent on Earth, and possibly where human life first originated. We do not consider that ancient, indigenous systems of governance somehow prospered and allowed people to live right through into colonialism and out of colonialism.

Most of all, we don't consider that peoples are different. And while we all share some basic things as humans, we have different histories and essentially different values. If our values are different, we need different ways to measure these values. But since we seem to be moving into consistent ways to measure values across peoples and cultures, it seems we're locking ourselves out of the diversity of possibilities.

Like I said, I'm just thinking aloud. Don't mind me.

Monday, October 4, 2010


A distinguished scholar and thinker in Islamic Studies, Dr. Mohammed Arkoun, passed away recently, on September 14, 2010. He was 82 years old.

Professor Arkoun was, amongst a large list of job descriptions, a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies. I happen to be in the first class at the IIS graduate program that will not have a class with Professor Arkoun.

I never had the chance to meet this man. But this man, I came to find, had an astonishingly huge impact on his students, colleagues, and fellow thinkers. At today's memorial service at the IIS, as I heard various faculty members and former students paint a picture of his life, I was humbled at their praise for the unquestionable spirit of Professor Arkoun's exploration of Islam.

He seems to have been a man that wanted to explore thought, the ways of thinking, and the ways of advancing thought in Islam. He also seems to have been a man who enjoyed theories, and pushing the boundaries of contemporary theories, especially within the context of Islamic Studies.

Professor Arkoun, posthumously, taught me that we live in a world where things have become constant, static, and perhaps even redundant. Behind every activity is a process, behind every process a reason, behind every reason a theory. But rarely do we question why we automatically - nay, mechanically - submit to such theories.

I quote one of his lectures at Gifford titled, The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought 2001:
As soon as we decide to put in historical and philosophical perspective any key problems of Islamic thought, we are confronted with all the difficulties inherent in the historical gap that separates the Islamic from the European frames of thought. These two adjectives, ‘Islamic’ and ‘European’ already contain a gap that is not only temporal but, more substantially, notional and cognitive. On the one hand, any cognitive statement must create for itself a place in a connotative and conceptual network strongly marked by the categorizations and the semantic structure of the religious discourse. On the other hand, we are sent back to a trajectory and procedures of thought enriched uninterruptedly from classical Greece and Rome legacy down to the present day by an intense educative dialectic between what I would call the rights of critical, independent reason which claims intellectual responsibility and those of religious reason, commanded by dogmatic postulates, principles and foundations.
I am likely to encounter Professor Arkoun's work, and the implications of his work, in my future classes. Moreso, I am likely to encounter him in the ways that I learn to learn.

May God rest Mohammed Arkoun's soul in eternal peace. Amen.

Carpe diem,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My feelings for you

I love it when an old-school track gets remixed (into house). Here's Avicii & Sebastien Drums with My Feelings For You.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The process of revamp

I'm playing with the new blogger layouts, which are slowly convincing me that I need to update my personal web presence across the shack. Sorry for disturbing the peace.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Time to leave Dar (again)

It's funny how many times over the last 6 years I have had to feel like this. Once again I will be leaving Dar early tomorrow morning before the sun is up. As always, I have a sense of nervous delight at the opportunity that exists to work on sustainable and socially beneficial enterprise here; nervous because I hate to leave it, and delight because I have a renewed sense of direction.

A lot of work to be done in coming months. After meeting the likes of Sarah Markes of DarSketches, Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza, Joe Rugaramabu of TBC and Altaaf Hasham of AKF, it's difficult to stand by and watch everything exciting happen in Dar without getting involved. I've also been able to touch base with organizations like Zanzibits, Ushahidi and TanSAO, and I'm thrilled at the prospects of future collaborative work between all of them.

I'm looking forward to London and to the rest of my grad program, as I am to finding ways to fuse it with Tanzanian development.

I'm going to miss this place, but I shall be back insha'allah.

Carpe diem,
mink (a teaser of updates to my website coming in t-minus 30 some days)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tony Blair on American Leadership

Time had an essay from Tony Blair on Clinton, Bush, and the American Character. It is a condensed adaptation of his recently published book, A Journey: My Political Life.

One paragraph on values stood out for me:

"That nobility isn't about being nicer, better or more successful than anyone else. It is a feeling about the country. It is a devotion to the American ideal that at a certain point transcends class, race, religion or upbringing. That ideal is about values: freedom, the rule of law, democracy. It is also about the way you achieve: on merit, by your own efforts and hard work. But it is most of all that in striving for and protecting that ideal, you as an individual take second place to the interests of the nation as a whole. It is what makes the country determined to overcome its challenges. It is what makes its soldiers give their lives in sacrifice. It is what brings every variety of American, from the lowest to the highest, to their feet when "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played. Of course the ideal is not always met — that is obvious. But it is always striven for."

Monday, August 30, 2010

True law

"The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other."
- Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, by Richard Bach

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brewing up two potential storms

So I've been thinking of some ideas that could become spin-offs from Vijana FM. Two such ideas that have consistently been on my mind:

1. A database for unpublished academic working papers, similar to JSTOR, but free to use and contribute to, and targetted towards East African scholars.

2. An open-source curriculum for entrepreneurship education, customized for primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and further developed by respective interest groups.

Just had to throw that out there. Still contemplating, but getting the feeling I'm running out of time. Drop me a line if you're willing to help [once again, his pleas on his blog echo against the depths of virtual alleyways created over 4 somewhat quiet years]; I might be doing work on this very very soon.

Carpe diem,

PS: Wallpaper above from Wallpaper Stock.

The beginning of pushing to start the ignition

This has probably been true for about 40 years now, but there is a lot going on in Tanzania, both in the public policy realm and in the private markets.

For at least the last 4 years I have been poising myself to return and start something new, something fresh, that I could someday call a project of my own. But it seems every time I am "about" to begin something, it requires a process that leads up to another kind of beginning. It feels like I'm on a football pitch, and no matter how fast I run towards the opposing team's goal, it seems to get further.

Perhaps the journey isn't about a start and a finish. I need to learn to appreciate that the process is a start and a finish, an ignition and the flame, a push and a pull in and of itself. It is all one, and we are right in the thick of it. So what better time than now, right?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunset on the Nile

The sun is hidden sometimes, yet it enlightens the world. Even when it is in full view, it is so bright that it's blinding.

Sound like knowledge?

PS: This was a blissful evening in Cairo just over 2 weeks ago.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Perfection is Being

“You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”

(Image from 3.dp, quote from Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Getting off the bench

We like blowing whistles and pointing fingers in Tanzania, especially at the government. Even here on Vijana FM, we have had heated discussions about who is to blame for what.

We have also discussed the importance, however, of getting off the bench and into the thick of things, so that at the very least, we can feel what it is we complain about.

One way in which we as young citizens can get off the bench and onto the playing field is by thinking of Public-Private Partnerships.

What are Public-Private Partnerships?
A Public-Private Partnership, also known as PPP or P3 or P3, is a contract between a government and a private-sector entity or group of entities to deliver a good or service through a long-term project.

The collaboration between the public and private sectors may result in three possible scenarios:
  1. The government may make the initial capital investment to get the project, good, or service started, while the cost of running the project, good, or service is bared by the partnering business and end-consumer;
  2. The private-sector entity makes the initial capital investment, while the government agrees to maintain running costs; or
  3. A combination of the first two scenarios, where both the public and private sectors invest in capital accumulation, and in the maintenance of the project, good, or service.
Why are PPPs important to the EAC?
Considering that the government and its public sector are one half of a Public-Private Partnership, easing restriction on the creation and movement of private-sector businesses within the East African region are a sign that the EAC wants to entertain PPP initiatives.

Who are the likely constituents going to be?
The actors who are stand to benefit from PPPs in the East African region:
  • The people, ie: consumers, from value-added goods and services;
  • Businesses, from a bigger market and subsidies from the government; and
  • The five countries’ governments, from increased on-the-ground cooperation.
How can the youth participate?
First and foremost, through ideas. The youth have the capacity to think outside the box, or at least a little further away from the box, compared to their governing institutions. The youth need to suggest to their governments and to local businesses ways in which they can formulate PPPs to change their communities for the better.

Second, the youth can form their own businesses, based on PPP agreements with their local constituent governing bodies. This would be most fitting in communities where there is a need for something, and the youth can mobilize to service this need in a sustainable way, but need government subsidies to get started. This would require the application to a government tender from a privately-mobilized initiative, which would not have to formally be called a business in and of itself, but could be connected to other local businesses (a friend’s shop, parents’ farm, etc.). The resulting tender service would act as a semi-autonomous business.

I wanted to blog about this today because I felt that the last few discussions have been leading us down a path that makes us foreign to our governments, and makes our governments foreign to us. The first step to getting involved in a system of change would be to see ourselves as the change, not seeing the change as a self-autonomous process. We are the government, and the government is us. The second step, then, is to ask the questions we have been asking, but in a way that directly implicates us, not to ask the questions like someone else is at fault. Otherwise, we can continue to blame, ask questions, and wait, and we will find ourselves waiting forever.

Public-Private Partnerships are one way in which we can work with the government without actually being government representatives. For many of us it’s a daunting journey to become a public servant, while for others it is a logical next step. In either case, PPPs are platforms that we can all participate in.

Here’s an idea for a PPP: Creating a system of national public transportation. Investing in the mobility of people is directly related to the government’s and businesses’ productivity. This system of public transportation could initially be hedged by the government (through the provision of buses), maintained by a group of private businesses (who would be charged with employing staff and keeping the buses themselves and their routes in shape), and divided in responsibility across the country by constituent government officials and businesses. Sounds very simple, but creating contracts across all the businesses would be a cumbersome, but beneficial task.

I discussed this idea in its initial stages as an airport shuttle system previously on Vijana FM. The government’s incentive would lie, quite simply, in spending its Ministry of Transportation’s budget on the mobilization of people and not necessary trade goods alone; in turn, the maintaining business interests would find incentive in the potential revenue opportunities of advertising on the buses. I also see that the EAC has plans to create PPPs in the railway industry. There are further plans to introduce PPPs to make create a trade policy forum that would ensure fair, efficient, and productive trading policy; this would have trickle-down effects on the national transportation grid. So perhaps the national public transportation idea isn’t new after all, but is taking a lot of work.

So what’s your PPP idea?

(Posted on Vijana FM on Tuesday August 10, 2010)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

The East African Community Common Market

Is forging a common economic platform encouraging productivity at the cost of employability?

The five East African Community (EAC) countries - Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania – ushered in a common market as of July 1st, 2010, a project that has been expanded from the existing customs union.

A common market is built in hopes of creating free movement of goods, services, capital, and people within the constituent states as one region. As seen with other economic integrations such as the European Union, a common market is the precursor to a common currency, which in turn is a significant prerequisite to a common political platform.

The good news is that the EAC stands to become more competitive on the international stage. Its combined Gross Domestic Product is about $75 billion, which is just under a quarter of South Africa’s GDP, and trade with neighbors like Sudan, Congo, and Ethiopia will be easier with a consolidated market. While local businesses have already had an advantage with the internal customs union, multinationals will pounce on the opportunity to sell to a now 120-million strong market.

The bad news is that each of the EAC countries will find the need to be more competitive on an individual basis too. Kenya, with a better-skilled and –educated workforce, stands to benefit most, while neighboring Tanzania fears that many of its people will be unemployed soon.

What does all this mean for us young folks? It could mean that in the short term, many youth who are working may lose their jobs. But it could also mean that they find opportunities elsewhere in the EAC to diversify and expand their experience, either with school, or work. The situation is no different for young entrepreneurs; while the scope of their market has just broadened, providing them with the opportunity to make more money, the scope of their competition has also grown.

How can sustainable partnerships be created in the EAC common market such that governments and businesses improve on peoples’ livelihoods? Further, how can these partnerships ensure stability when the time comes for a monetary union… and then a political union?

Related links:
(Posted on Vijana FM on Thursday August 5, 2010)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More memories of Msyaf, Syria

Citadel @ Msyaf

Sunset over Salamiyeh

View from the Citadel @ Msyaf

Evening @ Tartous

Flagpole in the Citadel @ Msyaf

A pine tree in Damascus

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Where are we going?

I wake up late a lot of mornings,
And those mornings are intense.
I have to shower like the water is fire,
And brush like the toothpaste is poison,
I have to eat like I’m eating rat heads,
And I burn my tongue drinking tea (that is lacking sugar).
I have to go to work with a half-done shirt,
My zipper is still open, and my socks don’t match,
I go to work contemplating last night’s events,
And talk to my colleagues mechanically.
I have to report some findings that I somehow did,
Efficiently too so I actually get paid,
I head back home and promise tomorrow will be different,
And yet, the next day starts late.
We wake up to life late some lifetimes,
And those lifetimes are intense.
We receive knowledge like its flame that will burn out,
And we prepare words like we’re about to attack,
We consume knowledge for material needs,
And get burned when it is used against us.
We leave our personal lives undone,
In pursuit of seemingly bigger, seemingly more important benefits,
We make important everyone but ourselves,
And talk to the person within mechanically.
We sometimes report to life and tell it we did things,
And we try to do it in a materially efficient way,
But when we retire at night and think about the world tomorrow,
Do we see if we have grown?
We’ve built governments, economies, and social benefits,
We’ve built what we love calling a modern society,
Yet in all the rush for expertise and qualifications,
Do we know where we are going?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

This is Damascus

And this is where I'm at :) More pictures coming soon Insha'Allah.

Historical brother

You’ve lost me, dear brother,
You’ve lost what I stood and lived for,
The glory of our protection,
The green of our grass and plants,
The grace of our canals,
The giving nature of our people.

I can’t blame you, but you are lost,
Without reason or history,
You were born out of a needy greed,
A thirst for power that my people perhaps fuelled,
You’re lost in a world of commerce and mistrust,
In a world of this nuclear greatness.

What can I say except remember,
Remember me and my people, remember us,
Remember you.

Remember where power comes from,
And for what reasons,
Remember those around you and where they came from,
Remember the seeds that grew,
Into plants, grass, animals, and birds,
Remember our skies are still your skies,
Our mosque’s souls are your mosque’s souls,
Remember why you breathe,
Remember your history and yes,
Remember your future.

Will you really call me your historical brother,
When I am right here inside you,
Remembering and talking to you?


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meeting spaces, clashism, and Trafalgar Square

Now here's a public meeting space that could be conducive to raising trust?


We go about our ways,
And we clash.
And when we clash,
We make an impression,
An impression becomes expectation,
An expectation,
An allegory.

We continue to go about our ways,
Safe, satisfied with the status quo.
And when we are satisfied,
We follow in the same direction.
We like unchanging paths,
Lukewarm and timid winds.

But winds change,
And so do paths.
And when our paths change,
We contemplate and forget.
We need to remember.
Happiness sometimes lies in struggle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meeting spaces matter

I've been thinking a little bit about trust, and now I contemplate interaction.

In my opinion, it takes many interactions to build trust. How do we quantify trust? Is it based on the exchange of physical things, such as contributing time and resources in exchange for money? Or is it based on the exchange of non-physical things, such as the regularity of saying hello to the same person on the same side of the street every morning? I feel that it is a combination of things.

I believe that trust is based on the consistency of interaction with society, whether by one individual or those they represent. I also believe that there is a correlation between how regular these interactions are and the depth of what is being entrusted. In other words, if that which is being entrusted between two parties is great, the interactions will be of proportional consistency.

For example, in terms of a physical exchange: If I am an employed research assistant handling highly sensitive data belonging to the state, the trust between my employers (the government) and I will be contractually bound by a document stating that I will need to show up about 40 hours a week and work on stuff. Here, the depth of what is being entrusted to me (sensitive documents) is enforced through consistent interactions (me coming to work at 9am every weekday).

Another example, in terms of a non-physical exchange: If I say hello to the same store keeper every morning on my way to work, the trust between us is based on eye contact in the same position, and the benefit is a greeting from another human being. Here, the depth of what is at risk (the morning greeting) does not require an enforcement of interactions as in the first example.

Yet, I feel that in the second instance, my interaction with the storekeeper everyday is of similar value compared to my working for the state.

Now, considering that we need to make room for healthy interactions in society, so that we have a better chance of trusting each other more and thereby being more productive, I think we need to work on meeting spaces.

The reason I have attached an image of a woodshop is basically because I think we need a similar set up for social interactions. We need a garage or workshop of sorts in which all the tools are free for anyone to use. The emphasis should be on the provision of such spaces and tools.

A park is a perfect example. It's a spot where people casually spend their time with their friends, family or even alone. But it is also a place that is conducive to people accidentally bumping into each other and starting up conversations.

Now think of the tea shops and Internet cafes in almost every city. Imagine if there was an open warehouse full of office space and desks and computers, amongst other resources for entrepreneurs. This could be a hub for interactions, as long as it provided a structured work environment, and was able to cater to a wide audience.

Anyhow, I've been contemplating meeting spaces and how interactions held build trust for a while now. One of the things I hope to do in Dar someday is to start an open office/meeting space by day and a restaurant/cafe by night.

Drop me a line if you want to look into that with me. Carpe diem for now.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Finally, some blissful sunshine

The view from my room - yes, we use that football pitch, and I just came back from a morning round of ball.

Below are views from our flat's living/dining room and kitchen.

What a fantastic day in London! I never thought we would get a clear, warm day of sun, sun and more sun.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thoughts on intangible wealth

Last night, amongst many things, my friend Inayat and I discussed trust. It made me think of an article I read in 2007 about the world's intangible wealth.

Trust - definition aside - seems to be an important indicator of intangible wealth, value that is not accounted for in our conventional methods of economic transactions and accounting.

Trust within both the public and the private sectors, across any hierarchy in any form of institution.

Essentially, if there is lack of trust within the hierarchies, civil society suffers as a whole. If there is a solid level of trust, civil society gains.

Now, some organizations, indeed nation states, may find ways of enforcing trust, for example, through market-based contracts with liability clauses, or through the arm of the law.

Other organizations, such as in those developing countries that experience severe corruption, would need to rely on a high levels of unaccounted-for trust to get work done.

Of course, organizational behaviour is also dependent on space and time, so things could be different when taking a closer look. But in general, trust is integral to civil society. It is the lifeblood of the relations we have with each other. No lifeblood, no relations, no peace.

Global Post article about young Africans in the West

Just found out from a few friends that an interview me and Mumo had with James Walsh in New York last year was published in an article on this page at the GlobalPost.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reflections on the World Economic Forum for Africa (via Vijana FM)

"We produce what we don’t consume and we consume what we don’t produce."

The World Economic Forum for Africa concluded on Friday May 7 in Dar-es-Salaam. We put up a post about the beginning of the forum, but this post is to draw some conclusions and invite opinions as to the direction of Africa's economy as a whole.

The title of this post is a line from Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete's speech, which was extracted from his quote on this press release. It describes the disproportionate ways in which African economies are integrated into the world financial markets. That is, the trend has so far been for African countries to produce and export goods and services while return are of lesser value. President Kikwete emphasized that it is time to "move Africa from the periphery to the centre of the global economy."

South African President Jacob Zuma also seemed optimistic that Africa is going to experience positive economic change, especially due to this summer's FIFA World Cup. According to Zuma, “in a short period of time, Africa is going to be the place for doing business globally. Foreign Direct Investment will come on its own.”

Others, including Pat Davies who co-chaired the meeting as Chief Executive of Sasol South Africa, felt that time is being wasted, and that the focus needs to be on giving "business reasonable certainty and predictability and we can [create] partnerships". That is, yes we can talk about laws and regulations, but let's get moving.

As for youth - who are 60% of what we call "Africa" - not much was said. Ajai Chowdhry, CEO of HCL Infosystems mentioned "make your human capital capable, and entrepreneurship will happen." Of course, the Young Global Leaders Summit was held in conjunction with this conference, which may have delved into the potential of youth more than the World Economic Forum for Africa.

More comments from the Forum from various individuals can be found on the press release.

That being said, it is difficult to decipher anything concrete coming out of this conference. I just checked the World Economic Forum website and it's filled with headlines about the EU bailout package for Greece. So I would like to pose a few questions in an effort to gauge what we should really be focusing on as youth who see ourselves as stakeholders in our countries' development.

Therefore, I would be keen to discuss the following:

1. Considering that the World Economic Forum has a mandate, and that this mandate is known to member countries, and further that each member country outlines its goals and responsibilities before joining such bodies, what has this latest conference changed since the last conference?

2. Considering that the role of youth is somewhat encompassed separately under the branch of the Young Global Leaders Summit, and considering that the Young Global Leaders Summit does not seem to be run by anyone under 25, where can the youth themselves go to express their ideas for sustainable change?

3. If a forum is defined as a commonplace for open discussion, do forums necessarily have a "start" and an "end"? That is, is the purpose of the World Economic Forum for Africa to meet once in a while to check up on things, or is it rather a constant engagement with the means to satisfy objectives set at each conference?

4. Considering the response to number 3 above, is there formal protocol to host a constant engagement with the political, economic, and social roles of youth Africa?

5. About that graphic above, which I picked up from the press release "illustrations" page, why are we talking about designing and organization still? Most of (political) colonialism was done about 40 years ago, folks. Where are we in our own "design process"?

For further reading:
World Economic Forum for Africa updates
WEF reflections press release
Photo gallery
Image (above) in PDF link

This post is cross-listed at Vijana FM.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Comments from the unknown

This has been happening for a while now, but I seem to be getting comments in Chinese more than in languages I understand.

Update, 3 hours later: They must be spambots.

Friday, April 30, 2010

TED conference in Dar

Posted via Vijana FM on April 30, 2010

TED is coming to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania this May 22nd, 2010.

Please information below quoted from the TEDxDar website:

About the TEDxDar Concept
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

Our event is called TEDx Dar "Pamoja Tunaweza!", where x=independently organized TED event. At our TEDxDar event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

TEDxDar's Mission:

The TEDx Conference is intended to begin a process of public engagement and exchange of ideas in relation to innovation, society, culture, arts- a wide range of interdisciplinary issues that pertain to Tanzania at a local and global level. The forum is based on the belief in active discourse and public engagement in reaction to institutional constraints on creative development. The aim is to gather a wider array of individuals with various perspectives and specializations to hold TED-like 20 minute talks that will form the basis of a larger conversation.

Conference Themes (click on each to view description):

Event Details:

Title: Pamjoa Tunaweza!

Date: Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Time: 8.30am - 9.00pm

Location: Dar-es-Salaam International Academy (DIA)

More Information:

- For participants

- For speakers

- For sponsors