Friday, September 14, 2007

Africa: New Media and Information Technology Updates from Africans for the World

I must apologize to my regular readers for not posting as frequently to Jewels in the Jungle as I would have liked over the past few months. I’ve been extremely busy with work on new business initiatives and projects for emerging markets with a special focus on key African countries open and ready for foreign investment and business development.

I’ve recently had some very interesting communications with U.S. and European technology companies about new Web 2.0 tools and SaaS offerings (Software as a Service) that are the present buzz in the IT press and media. Having followed these often confusing developments and trends in IT over the past decade it looks as if many new startups and established technology companies are finally getting their act (and apps) together for use by SME businesses, government and the public sector, and other workgroups (i.e. bloggers) worldwide. There are many interesting new tools for networked-based and web service based (online delivery) productivity, content creation and publishing, communications, and collaboration.

For more about what is going on in this hot technology space see the Office 2.0 Conference 2007 that just ended last week in San Francisco and the O’Reilly/CMP Web 2.0 Expo held earlier this year. Berlin, Germany will be hosting the European launch of the Web 2.0 Expo 2007 and Tokyo, Japan will be home to the Asia Web 2.0 Expo. Both shows are scheduled for November 2007 so stay tuned to the news about these conferences and trade shows if you cannot attend.

The tech savvy folks at South Africa’s Rhodes University New Media Lab are wrapping up the 2nd Annual Digital Citizen Indaba (DCI). This year’s conference featured several impressive presentations by leading figures in the African blogging community who spoke and wrote about the use of new media technology in Africa. Don’t miss the latest news posted to the Digital Citizen Indaba 2007 blog (sponsored and hosted by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian) and the official DCI conference wiki.

Global Voices Online’s regional editor for sub-Saharan Africa Ndesanjo Macha delivered the opening address. Melissa Gardnier of the Rhodes University New Media Lab summarized Ndesanjo’s opening address in her post “From Rock Paintings to Blogging”. Top Kenyan blogger Daudi Were of Mentalacrobatics delivered a presentation titled Fractured Identities and then followed-up with a hammer titled “Who Owns the African Blogosphere”. Daudi’s piece is a Must Read for many of us who write about Africa as he addresses the heated global debates about who is African, what is African, who is an African blogger, where is Africa, who owns Africa and other nonsense from some people with an African identity crisis. Heck, the last time I checked with the experts on human origin and migration over the past 40,000 years every human being on Earth is an African. It’s just that some people are more African than others and race and skin color and geographic location and culture are simply pieces of the great human puzzle.

Here is the introduction to Daudi’s post because he lays it out so beautifully:

“Colonialists would often turn up at an African community and ask, “Who does that land belong to?” pointing to the vast fields around the village. Many times the reply from the villagers would be, “It does not belong to anyone.” The colonialists would then promptly set about fencing and craving [sic] up the land amongst themselves, which would enrage the Africans, which, in turn, would confuse the colonialists as after all they had been told that this land did not belong to anyone.

These exchanges highlight the differences in the cultures involved and the different understandings of what initially looks like a very simple situation. When the Africans tell the colonialists that this land does not belong to anybody, the colonialists would take that to mean that the land is unoccupied. “It does not belong to anyone” is taken to mean it is ownerless. That was a misunderstanding of what they had been told. For when the African said, “This land does not belong to anyone”, what they mean is this land does not belong to any single person or family. This land is the property of the community under the stewardship of those who currently occupy it. The Elesi of Odogbolu*, a Nigerian chief, told the West African land commission in 1912, that he “conceived that land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living and countless yet unborn”. In other words, “this land does not belong to anyone” meant this land belongs to everyone. It is occupied by us, but we do not own it, we are merely the current stewards holding it for future generations…”

End excerpt: Read more from Who Owns the African Blogosphere (Sep 11th)


Author’s Notes: Damn. The same thing happened in my country of birth, the U.S.A. Our own oft times bloody history of conflicts over land was a big misunderstanding between people from different cultures. A lot of good people died over lands that in essence never belonged to anyone or better stated belonged to those who were the appointed stewards of the land. Boy that could put U.S. real estate markets and the world economy into a downward tailspin if it would hold up in a court of law!

*For detailed information about the history of property rights in 19th Century Nigeria see “The Emergance (or Not) of Property Rights in Land: Southern Nigeria, 1854 to 1914” by James Fenske. Yale University Dept. of Economics has a download of the 170 page document (PDF) at the following URL: http://www.econ.yale.edu/seminars/echist/eh05-06/fenske-061129.pdf

In my recent communications with technology professionals about the use of their new communication and collaboration software I was proud to be able to point to the excellent work by East Africa’s new media & technology pioneers at Kenya Unlimited and the KBW (Kenyan Blogs Webring). The UK newspaper The Independent published a feature article in August about the movers and shakers behind this excellent social networking community and freedom of expression experiment in Kenya. The article highlighted work by our very own GVO pioneer Ory Okolloh on the Mzalendo.com project, the Nairobi-based government watchdog project to help the citizens of Kenya take a more active role in monitoring the activities of their national and regional government. Please read:

FCAEA: Foreign Correpspondents of East Africa Association (source: The Independent)
Boom in blogs gives Africans a voice on the Web, 08/02/07

Ory Okolloh, a Harvard Law School graduate and author of the Kenyan Pundit, M of Thinkers Room, and Daudi Were of Mentalacrobatics were interviewed for the article. Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices Online and a pioneer in providing inspiration and opportunities to bloggers worldwide, was also interviewed. Ethan is everywhere in the mainstream media these days, and that is a good thing for many international blog authors and their respective communities.

Of course there are other noteworthy social networking sites and blogger communities, blog aggregators, and citizen journalist-powered news & opinion websites springing up all over the Africa sector of the Sphere that may not be so well known to international news editors and technology columnists who are supposed to be on top of New Media developments worldwide.

Key Nigerian tech professionals and bloggers have done some remarkable work in supporting their large online communities at home and abroad and there are the new pan-African sites like African Loft and African Path and African Women Reblog which attract top international writers, professional and citizen journalists, and top blog authors that have rapidly growing readership (10’s of 1000’s) that spans the globe.

The UK’s Pambazuka News, where Sokari Ekine of Black Looks serves as Online News Editor has won a number of awards for their content and their technology, including the coveted Tech Museum Award (Microsoft Education Award category). South African startup Afrigator, a new African blog aggregator, was featured in a story last month on hot new non-U.S. startups in the Web 2.0 tech arena: See “It’s a Web, Web, Web 2.0 World” by Eric Schonfeld and Yi-Wen Yen of Business 2.0 magazine (a Time/Warner publication).

That’s it for today 'cause that’s enough for now and it is the beginning of the weekend over here. I promise to get new posts up at Jewels in the Jungle over the next couple (5-7) of days. Lots of interesting news and views and stuff about Africa’s new renaissance in the 21st Century are in the pipeline. Ciao Ya’all.


Related articles and online resources

The Independent (UK newspaper online)
Boom in blogs gives Africans a voice on the Web, 08/02/07

Mzalendo.com (a Nairobi-based government watchdog project to help the citizens of Kenya take a more active role in monitoring the activities of their government)

Ethan Zuckerman (co-founder of Global Voices and Harvard Law School Berkman Center fellow) writes about Ory Okolloh and the Mzalendo.com project in Kenya. Ethan’s personal blog it titled My Heart’s in Accra.

PBS Media Shift (Mark Glaser) on Ory Okolloh and the Mzalendo project

Ory Okolloh of the Kenyan Pundit (Harvard Law School graduate, a Global Voices pioneer blogger for Africans, and co-founder of Mzalendo.com). The UK BBC radio program Outlook has just interviewed Ory re: the Mzalendo project.

Thinker’s Room (M is a leading Kenyan blog author, an IT professional, and co-founder of Mzalendo.com)


Mentalacrobatics (personal blog of Kenyan Daudi Were featured in The Independent article. Daudi is also a key figure in the new media scene and citizen journalism initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa

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7 comments:

bobby teenager said...

Bill,

im doing a research project on china/africa relations from 1980-present and i happened upon your post from 06 about the China Africa Summit in Beijing. I was wondering if you had any other suggestions for good blogs/books/articles i should look at for my research. I also was wondering if you knew how i could contact the writer of chippala blog. i tried to follow the link to the articles but then blog seems to be for invited guests only. you can send me an email at robertdmohr@gmail.com

best regards,
Bobby

Blackgirl On Mars said...

This is interesting & I will visit again and read more. Thanks for all the wonderful links and this initiative...it's inspiring to see so many people out there who are pondering and acting on real issues...Thanks for this and come by and visit my blog if ever you get a chance.
Peace,
Lesley-Ann

BRE said...

Thank you for the visit and comment Lesley-Ann. I did stop by your blog today and was very surprised and happy to see a young woman from Flatbush Avenue breaking the ice up north in Denmark. Oh the memories of visits to BK (Brooklyn) and hanging out around Flatbush with my boy KB... wonderful.

I will do my best to check in with you regularly because your writing, what I have briefly read today, is excellent.

Blackgirl On Mars said...

Thanks for visiting & posting a comment! I couldn't help but notice Bobby teenager's comment and how i recently read that the chinese had been doing trade with eastern africa for centuries before the european presence, but how the nature of that trade was much different, much equal.

BRE said...

Dear Lesley-Ann,

If you do a search about 'China in Africa' on this blog or on web search engines i.e. Google or Yahoo! or check blog search engines i.e. Google Blog Search or Technorati you can read a great deal about what I and many others have written on that subject. As I have stated and written several times before I am personally VERY SUSPICIOUS of China's true intentions on the African continent and that goes for several of the African leaders and businesspeople who lay prostrate at the feet of the Beijing government and its bankers as soon as they wave a big wad of Chinese Yuan (cash money) before their noses. It's a sucka's game if you ask me, but nobody's asking me nothing on China these days. Money, money, money!!!

The fact that you have recently read an article that claims Chinese trade with East Africa goes back for centuries and that it was "much different and equal" in comparison to (let's say) East Africa's trade with the Middle East, Europe, North America, India and other Aisan countries and kingdoms... well I'd like to see that article myself.

Many of us who write about 'China in Africa' are aware of the Great Chinese Armada of Admiral Zeng He that visited the East African coast about six centuries ago but I wouldn't exactly call that the start of a blossoming win-win trade relationship between black Africans and the Chinese. Now the Sultan of Oman Seyidd Said who in 1832 moved the capital of Oman from the Arabian Gulf to Zanzibar in order to watch over a booming business in black slaves and precious spices from Central and East Africa and the island of Madagascar, that was serious trade!

Here is a link to the July 2005 National Geographic cover story on Admiral Zeng He if you haven't read it before. Is this the article you were speaking about?

China's Great Armada
http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0507/feature2/index.html

Blackgirl On Mars said...

yo bill...damn, i can't believe the speed in which you respond...this is your passion, isn't it? my friend has the book which references this early trade with china, and yes, I am suspicious of the current trade between china and countries of africa, but i guess what i was looking for, perhaps a bit too eagerly, was evidence of trade between countries, or peoples on the continent of africa with others who were not as eager to exploit the people on this continent as i perceive europeans to be. i say this in light of the fact that in this same book, which when it is returned, i will gladly provide you with title and author, it states that europeans refused to trade with local "africans" (god i hate this term) nothing else but human cargo for guns. this was quite surprising to me, because i did not realise (assuming that this book is true) that many on the continent, (i will refer to "africa" as this for the rest of this statement)had no "choice" but to raid and capture in order to "keep up with the joneses" as far as amunition and power was concerned. oh, i don't know if you even get what i'm saying but i hope you do, cause it seems that you are even more passionate on these issues than i.

BRE said...

Passionate about the subject of Chinese investments and influence in Africa? Oh yeah, I'm passionate about that subject and a lot of other win-win strategies coming out of Beijing at the moment.

For example, I'm also passionate about the suppression of and brutality toward the people of Myanmar (Burma) under the suffocating military dictatorship of the regime there___ a regime that could not exist without the help of their powerful neighbor China.

The fact that today 100,000's of Buddhist monks and nuns and ordinary citizens have finally mustered enough courage to take to the streets to challenge these powers is both amazing and frightening.

Frightening because I feel that no country will dare come to their aid and stand up with these people in their fight for democracy and justice. None of the so-called world leaders presently in New York attending the UN General Assembly meetings will threaten to intervene on behalf of these people in order to prevent a potentially vicious retaliation from the military junta in Myanmar, the People's Republic of China least of all.

But, we are getting way off-subject from the original theme of this post. Good to know that Brooklyn has got my back though...:-)