FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Monday:  October 6, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Cote D'Ivoire (2)

Tuesday
Jan182011

Social Media Boom Takes Off in Africa (Feature)

By André-Michel Essoungou

In the mid-1990s, as the use of mobile phones started its rapid spread in much of the developed world, few thought of Africa as a potential market.Increasing numbers of young people on the continent - such as these Egyptian women - are using mobile technologies to access social media tools on the Internet. CREDIT: ITU

Now, with more than 400 million subscribers, its market is larger than North America's. Africa took the lead in the global shift from fixed to mobile telephones, notes a report by the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Rarely has anyone adopted mobile phones faster and with greater innovation (see A bank in every African pocket?, Better health at the click of a button).

A similar story now seems again to be unfolding. Africans are coupling their already extensive use of cell phones with a more recent and massive interest in social media — Internet-based tools and platforms that allow people to interact with each other much more than in the past. In the process, Africans are leading what may be the next global trend: a major shift to mobile Internet use, with social media as its main drivers.

According to Mary Meeker, an influential Internet analyst, mobile Internet and social media are the fastest-growing areas of the technology industry worldwide, and she predicts that mobile Internet use will soon overtake fixed Internet use.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube in Africa

Studies suggest that when Africans go online (predominantly with their mobile phones) they spend much of their time on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on). Sending and reading e-mails, reading news and posting research queries have become less important activities for Africans.

In recent months Facebook — the major social media platform worldwide and currently the most visited website in most of Africa — has seen massive growth on the continent. The number of African Facebook users now stands at over 17 million, up from 10 million in 2009. More than 15 per cent of people online in Africa are currently using the platform, compared to 11 per cent in Asia. Two other social networking websites, Twitter and YouTube, rank among the most visited websites in most African countries.

Along with regular citizens, African stars, thinkers, political leaders and companies have rapidly joined the global conversation. The Facebook fan base of Côte d'Ivoire's football star and UN goodwill ambassador Didier Drogba is more than 1 million people. Zambian best-selling author and economist Dambisa Moyo has more than 26,000 followers on Twitter. Media organizations in South Africa and companies such as Kenya Airways are using various social media platforms to interact better with customers and readers. During recent elections in Côte d'Ivoire candidates did not only tour cities and villages; they also moved the contest online, feverishly posting campaign updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Africa's upward trend in the use of social media is even more striking given the low number of Africans connected to the Internet and the many hurdles Africans face in trying to go online.

Tremendous Room for Growth in Africa

Africa's Internet users (more than 100 million at the end of 2010) represent just a small percentage of the 2 billion people online around the world. In the US alone, more than 220 million people use the Internet. Within Africa, one person out of every 10 is estimated to be an Internet user (up from one in 5,000 back in 1998), making the continent the region in the world with the lowest penetration rate.

Even young Africans are taking to mobile phones and social media. CREDIT: ITUAmong the many reasons for this poor showing are the scarcity and prohibitive costs of broadband connections (the fastest means of accessing the Internet), and the limited number of personal computers in use.

But these challenges simultaneously contribute to Africa's impressive growth rate in the use of mobile Internet, which in recent years has been the highest in the world.

"Triple-digit growth rates are routine across the continent," notes Jon von Tetzchner, co-founder of Opera, the world's most popular Internet browser for mobile phones. "The widespread availability of mobile phones means that the mobile Web can reach tens of millions more than the wired Web." Mr. Tetzchner believes that like mobile phones, whose use has grown rapidly in Africa in recent years, the "mobile Web is beginning to reshape the economic, political and social development of the continent."

‘Seismic shift’ coming

Erik Hersman, a prominent African social media blogger and entrepreneur who helped drive development of the ground-breaking platform Ushahidi, is equally enthusiastic. In an e-mail to Africa Renewal he notes that "with mobile phone penetration already high across the continent, and as we get to critical mass with Internet usage in some of Africa's leading countries (Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt) … a seismic shift will happen with services, products and information."

The sense that the future holds more promise is inducing major companies to show special interest in Africa's expanding pool of Internet users. Facebook, after launching versions in some of the major African languages (including Swahili, Hausa and Zulu) in May, has announced it will offer free access to its platform to mobile phone users in various countries around the world, including many in Africa. In October Google started testing a new service for Swahili speakers in East and Central Africa. Tentatively called Baraza ("meeting place" in Swahili), it will allow people to interact and share knowledge by asking and answering questions, many of them of only very local or regional interest.

Africans are also getting ready to benefit from the fast-growing mobile Internet sector. In South Africa, MXit, a free instant messaging application with an estimated 7 million users, is the most popular local social networking platform. From Abidjan and Accra to Lusaka and Nairobi, African programmers are designing, testing and launching new homegrown platforms and tools to keep the African online conversation going.

- United Nations Africa Renewal

Wednesday
Dec222010

(EXCLUSIVE) (Perspective) - `Obsession with Political Power: the Case of Laurent Gbagbo’

The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire AKA Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. (CREDIT: Wikipedia--- By Adama Burkari

Did I know that Africa was just about setting in motion it’s own system of democracy where two presidents rule one nation when I authored “AFRICA’S LEADERSHIP QUAGMIRE: any way forward?” Dear reader, I had not the slightest hint that Ivory Coast was the nation to redefine democracy in the African context in such a vague and unrealistic form it has just done! Please, do me the honour by reading the full publication which featured concurrently on the Ghana’s myjoyonline.com and humnews.com.

I shudder at the reality that the once peaceful nation called Ivory Coast is almost on the verge of sinking again into the dregs of political conflict which engulfed the country some years ago. The sight of fallen victims of the conflict most of whom were women and children was such as despicable scenario that the eyes had to behold! Things had virtually fallen apart and the war resulted in the loss of innocent souls. The tears of children could not stop the blood-thirsty and power-obsessed political ‘trustees’ from firing gunshots indiscriminately!

Laurent GbagboI certainly can’t bring back the pains and undignified savagery that went on in the land of Ivory Coast and no one should try re-opening unhealed wounds! Not even the Gbagbo’s or the Ouattara’s should revisit sane minds with such a toxic pain! It surely should not happen again for Africans are neither savages nor cannibals; we are humans with a sense of dignity and pride. Sorry, reader if I sound harsh in your ears but must we not condemn the on-going political garbage in Ivory Coast in the strongest terms? It is so sad that we live on a continent that prides itself as the premier to human civilizations yet we seem far from the realities and the application of common sense in our political governance systems to the extent that political conflict has virtually become engrained in Africa’s politics. What a shame!

Until the death of its longest serving President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny who ruled the country right from her time of independence, Ivory Coast lacked any real experience in democratic governance. This is because under his dictatorial claws, Felix Houphouet-Boigny held onto power for over 3 decades baring any democratic political activities in the country. It was after his death that multi-party politics started to unfold and then the thorny issues such as who qualified to vote in Ivory Coast became contentious. As if these issues were light-weighted, they became so thorny that conflict finally reared its ugly head and split the nation apart.

Felix Houphouet-BoignyIn my article “AFRICA’s Leadership Quagmire; any way forward?”, I talked about political dynasty in Africa and cited Togo and Gabon as two among the several African countries that have experienced the unfortunate scenario where political leaders simply pass on the reigns of governments to their kinsmen and one wonders if the late Houphouet-Boigny would have ever ceded power to anybody apart from his kinsmen. Because of his long stay in power, the political aspiration of the people was curtailed. Even though under his reigns, the country was not only politically stable but also economically viable, it must be emphasized that his long stay in power was by itself a breach of trust and a denial for a fair and democratic political activities in Ivory Coast. Certainly, that was a trait of dynastic rule and the rippling effect is vivid for all to see.

The Ivory Coast’s civil war was prompted by the new law ushered in through a referendum that required a presidential candidate to have both parents born in Cote D’Ivoire. Obviously, this bared the main opposition leader Alassane Ouattarra from contesting in the country’s election. With his huge support base in the country especially the north and the obvious game of political gymnastics Gbagbo sought to pursue against Ouattara, it was not surprising that civil war finally broke out in the country.

Events leading up to the peace process had been difficult but the Marcoussis Accord of January 2003, supposedly the most comprehensive peace pact, was expected to end the crisis. Importantly, the main characters of the conflict signed this agreement which among other things dealt with the issues of nationality, eligibility for citizenship and land ownership. With these thorny issues having been resolved under mutual consent and satisfaction, it was expected that Ivory Coast was on the road to national cohesion. Unfortunately, elections after the Marcoussis Accord had been delayed for six consecutive times.Alassane Ouattarra

In the events leading up to the October 31st, 2010 elections, there were concerns over possible vote rigging and as a result ballot papers had to be printed in Europe and a new Independent Electoral Commission comprising representatives of all the political parties was put in place. In the face of all these, it was the expectation that peace would be restored after the October 2010 elections. For now, one can say no to this expectation and unless a fast and decisive approach is adopted, Ivory Coast would sink again into political chaos!

In my view, the single person who should rationalize his position and make way for peace is Laurent Gbagbo. As a history professor and a critic of the Felix Houphouet-Boigny regime, and having suffered political imprisonment from 1971 to 1973 he should be the last person to provoke war in his cherished home country. Becoming president in October 26, 2000 after Robert Guei had fled the country, Laurent Gbagbo has perhaps become so obsessed with power that is why he could defy the will of the people and over-turn their verdict. I daresay that he is trying to entrench himself on the seat of the presidency and I am not surprised at all. In my recent publication of November 24, 2010, I did indicate that “having the entire state apparatus under their control for a few years nurtures an unbridled desire to remain in control even after the expiration of their mandatory regime”. This is Gbagbo’s ailment.

Indeed, it is shocking that the two personalities under the Ivory Coast saga are high-profiled public figures. As an economist, Alassane Ouattara has had extensive working relationship with international organizations. He served as the Deputy Managing Director for the International Monetary Fund, in Washington DC. As mentioned earlier, Laurent Gbagbo is a history professor. Both personalities have what it takes to be statesmen if only they will exercise restraint and allow due process to take its course. My worry is; if elite personalities will engage in such political sycophancy, then where are we heading towards?

It is important to state that regional and international bodies must remain resolute in their decision not to recognize the government of Laurent Gbagbo. The AU must bite now or remain mute forever! I am however excited at the stance of ECOWAS. At its extraordinary meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria on Tuesday December 7, 2010, the West African regional body unequivocally called on Gbagbo to step down and hand over power to Ouattara. That is indeed a refreshing call coming from ECOWAS.

It is expected that the African Union and other regional bodies would continue to exert pressure to stop the power-obsessed Gbagbo from holding on to political power. Africans are tired of backslapping behaviours of leaders who are expected to blaze the trail of democratic governance. Surely, the world is watching to see how at the continental level, African leaders can stop this show of tyranny coming from Gbagbo. His conduct smacks of hypocrisy at the highest level and an indictment to his academic laurels. Quoting from my earlier publication, I wish to ask Gbagbo, “Why must people think that they and their lineage are the only one who must rule?” How I wish to hear the history professor whose academic records are undoubtedly akin to a genius respond to this question. How does he expect the people of Ivory Coast and the world not to wonder if his desire to stay in power is not a way of covering up any excesses under his regime?

Peace is the foundation to progress and we must not allow one man to deny the good people of Ivory Coast from leaving in peace and tranquility. The era of fear and political intimidation in Africa cannot be revisited. The success story of Ghana’s journey to democratic governance must remind the likes of Gbagbo that times have changed and bully tactics would not be countenanced in Africa. Let the world tell him to deal with his own obsession privately. Eyes are watching! Long live Ivory Coast; Long Live Africa!

The writer, Adama Bukari, is a full-time author/publisher and the C.E.O of Exceed Media Ltd, a company that delivers superior services in publishing, media consultancy, business communications and advertising. He is also a motivational speaker and the editor-in-chief of JUVINILE INSPIRER; a youth magazine which seeks to deal with youthful inertias. Currently, he is studying Master of Philosophy in Global Leadership at the Institute of Professional Studies, Legon, Ghana. He was a finalist in the JoyFM’s MY BUSINESS 2010 Entrepreneurial Mentorship Programme.

Email: adamab2@yahoo.com