Thursday, March 29, 2007

BarCamp Nairobi Tech Unconference

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
IF you're an outsider visiting Africa, one thing you'll quickly realize in most countries there - with the notable exception of South Africa - is the general lack of knowledge regarding the very diverse field of Information Technology (IT). To be more specific, organizations and individuals are not "as up to date" on the latest technologies (web, programming, infrastructure, networking, systems analysis, databases, etc.) as their counterparts in North America, Europe and Asia. There's no doubt that the Internet access infrastructure has a lot to do with that. But things are quickly changing though. BarCamp to the rescue
So, what the heck is a BarCamp, you ask? Well, I'll let
Kenyan Pundit explain it for ya:

A BarCamp is “an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.” Think of it as an Open Source (un) conference. For an idea of what goes on, check out the BarCamp Cape Town site. {source}
Here's another perspective of what a BarCamp is courtesy of my good Net buddy, HASH (aka WhiteAfrican):

BarCamps are open conferences that are free to attend and that are open for anyone to talk at. I’ve been to a couple and I can tell you that they blow regular conferences out of the water in the amount of networking and ideas discussed. {source}
Unfortunately, I'm unable to attend the upcoming BarCamp Nairobi (31 March 2007), but I definitely plan to take part in this amazing movement sometime in the future. It seems like a great opportunity to rub elbows with the movers and shakers of Africa's increasingly important IT sector. It's so true: Knowledge is power.

Will you be there? Then sign up here.


Related info:

Use Google SMS to get Flight info

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
I CAN'T say enough about Google. They are waaay ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing the web (Internet) for maximum productivity. Best of all, they're always giving stuff away for FREE. What, you don't believe me? Well take a peek at this goldmine of Google freebies. Now, I used to be a Yahoo and Hotmail email whore, but then I saw the light with GMail. By the way, this weblog you're reading is provided by Blogger, which is owned by the Big G (er Google). Since they updated said blog service with a ton of new enhancements, I won't be looking at a competitor any time soon.

Any how, I urge you to check out the info below regarding their new SMS flight info service. I really don't know when they'll come out with a similar service for Africa. I'll email them to find out, so stay tuned.

Oh, Go Google go! :-)

Flying high with Google SMS
Monday, March 26, 2007 at 7:58:00 PM
Posted by Deepak Sethi, Software Engineer, Mobile Team

Ever spent 15 minutes on the phone shouting answers at the automated airline attendant while rushing to the airport? How cool would it be to get real-time flight info just by sending a quick text message? Well, now you can, using
Google SMS.Simply text your flight number to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most mobile devices), and the status information will be sent back to you. Or text a specific airline name, and Google will send back the main phone number to call.Google SMS is available for flights departing or arriving in the U.S., and all of the information is provided by And as always, it’s free. Give it a try, and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ghana takes a backwards view on hemp

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
WHEN I was in grade 11, I wrote an essay titled Were the Middle Ages a Backward Period in the Development of Western Civilization - as has Traditionally been Thought of & as the Very Name Implies? That was for my Ancient Greek & Roman History class taught by the brilliant Mr. John Patton who kind of looked like Aristotle. :-) Actually, we were given a sheet with about 20 topics or questions to choose from. In said essay, I vividly remember stating that "trade and commerce - the mark of an advanced civilization - was virtually non-existent." This was simply proof to show that the Middle Ages was a backward era. No arguments there.

Et tu Ghana?
Well, it appears that the power brokers in Ghana's government have decided to take a trip to the Twilight Zone of backwardness. Just take a peek at this folks:
For the sake of our indigenous Africans in Ghana and throughout the continent, who haven’t been exposed to countless literature and medical journals that herald the Hemp plant, I will quote a passage that clearly states the truth that your politicians and lawmakers conceal, as to the real reason why so much energy is wasted criminalizing this God-given plant.

“The reason the Weed is outlawed is only ostensibly about health. The truth is the Weed is no more addictive and no more a health risk than cigarettes or alcohol, both of which are protected by the law. Why is it then not allowed? Because if it were grown, half the cotton growers, nylon and rayon manufacturers, and timber products people in the world would go out of business. Hemp happens to be one of the most useful, strongest, toughest, longest lasting materials on the planet. You cannot produce better fiber for clothes, a stronger substance for ropes, an easier-to-grow-and-harvest source for pulp. Instead we cut down hundreds of thousands of trees per year to give ourselves Sunday papers, so that we can read about the decimation of the world’s forest. Hemp could provide us with millions of Sunday papers without cutting down one tree. Indeed, it could substitute for so many resource materials, at one-tenth the cost. And that is the catch. Somebody loses money if this miraculous
plant, which also has extraordinary medicinal properties, incidentally is allowed to be grown. That is why marijuana is illegal in your country.”
By the way, we'll have to assume Ghana's politicians have viable alternatives to creating wealth for its poor farmers that would rival hemp's unlimited possibilities. Right? I doubt it. Now why do I get this sneaking suspicion that some powerful outside institutions have the hands of this government tied behind closed doors. After all, doesn't Ghana depend on aid and favourable trade benefits from some Western governments in order to progress? Hmm...I wonder who sold out. [Read more]

South African government speech on hemp

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
GOD bless South Africa. Now there's a country with leaders who are forward-thinking when it comes to legalizing industrial hemp. It's obvious that they see billions (in dollar$) of reasons to grow said plant. I urge you to take a peek at this amazing speech. Here's a teaser to whet your appetite:
Tonight, we are here to celebrate the first retail and marketing outlet to be established by Hooked on Hemp SA, a black owned small business which acts as convenors of the Human Resource Development programme in the National Hemp Initiative. Ultimately, it is hoped to roll House of Hemp out to the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, the three provinces where hemp grows the best in South Africa.

The products you will see this evening at the House of Hemp will surprise you in their diversity, ranging as they do from men's and ladies' fashion wear through to home d飯r, stationery, building materials and beauty and health products. All manufactured from hemp, they are produced for House of Hemp by small scale entrepreneurs from previously disadvantaged communities, with the assistance and support of the CSIR.
Go South Africa go! [Read more]

Legal hemp for Malawi?

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
THIS is an old article but it's still relevant today as many African governments grapple with the issue of permitting hemp to be grown for it's many industrial uses. I think this is part of the problem:
Only S. Africa and a couple of other more independent African nations have any type of hemp production. The main reason for this is the policy of the United States
which demands, along with many other strings and conditions, a total ban on hemp
production before giving 'aid', massive bribes to officials, or millions of dollars worth of military equipment to brutally put down popular uprisings.
Quite frankly, the choice of raking in billion$ of dollar$ in legitimate foreign exchange is a no brainer to me. What about you? [Read more]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tanzania pursues aggressive tourism plans

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
ONCE you visit Tanzania, you really don't feel like leaving so soon. This country just grows on you. Why? Because there's tons of beautiful places, sites, parks and exotic beaches to visit. For example, when I was staying in Zanzibar, I had the pleasure of hanging out at Cholos (see pic below), which is a popular beach bar known by all the tourists. This place is sooo relaxing due to its beach setting and funky layout among the tall beach trees. And that's not all. I'd say TZ has got to be one of the safest countries in all of Africa. Well, that's the general word on the street from talking to other tourists, business peeps, expat hotel staff members, backpackers, etc.
Less is more
Also, you just don't see those crazy (almost shocking) front page horror stories that you read in most other newspapers or see on the idiot box (er TV) in other parts of Africa. I'm serious folks. To me, that's very refreshing. Yes, life isn't perfect here and crime does exist, but not at "those" levels, and the frequency is considerably less. Perhaps it has something to do with the laid back persona of the typical Tanzanian, which, by the way, is well known outside the country. I also noticed this in their police officers, too, which is a good thing. Any how, if TZ keeps up this track record, there's no doubt that Dar will eventually replace Nairobi as the economic hub of East Africa. Heck, have you seen all the construction going on in this city lately? Something's definitely cooking - economically. :-)

Mo' money
Most importantly, the country will be rewarded handsomely where it matters the most: At the ca$h register as tourists the world over flock here to explore its many treasures. Now, judging from this article below, the government is serious as hell about increasing earnings from tourism to the tune of US $3 billion per year starting in 3 years time. Wow, that's some serious coin. :-) As such, this makes yet another excellent Go Africa go! story because it highlights that tourism is going to be an even bigger income earner in the future, which translates into excellent business opportunities for those who cease the moment.

Article: Dar to increase tourism earnings
Source: Daily News (Tanzania), 22 Feb 2007, Home News, pg 2
By: Charles Kizigha
The government plans to carry out an aggressive tourism promotion campaign to
increase the earnings from 700m US dollars (about 900bn/-) to 3bn US dollars (about 4tr/-) accrued from the sector a year in the next three years. The campaign will involve advertising the country's tourism potentials on the America TV channels CNN and CNBC and also making sure there are direct flights to Tanzania from the US and Europe.

Minister for Natural Resources & Tourism, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, said this yesterday before flying to the US for a ten-day official visit, where he would hold talks with CNN, CNBC, and Delta Airlines top officials and eventually sign contracts. He is leading a six-man delegation. He said that the government intends to spend 500m/- in the first six months to advertise on CNN and CNBC with an intention of targeting the US and Canada markets.

Prof Maghembe said that Tanzania would display a series of brochures showing the country's tourist attractions at the New York Times exhibition and a presentation will be conducted to selected travel agents and tour operators who feature Tanzania as a tourist destination. He said that the team would hold talks with Delta Airlines officials in Dallas on operating direct flights to Tanzania from the US. The minister said that the
tourism promotion is being carried out simultaneously with hotel expansion programme in order to cope with the anticipated increase of tourists from the current 612,000 a year to one million by 2010.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bee products buzzing with potential

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
WOW, it's simply amazing the variety and diversity of business opportunities that exist right here in Tanzania; in fact, all of Africa. It truly boggles the mind. Now, according to this short newspaper clipping (see below), Tanzania's bee products possess "unique organic qualities" that rivals the best in the world. Well, I hope some visionary entrepreneurs (local or foreign) take Mr. Pamba's enthusiastic message about said opportunities, and begin to get the wheels of bee commerce in motion. Ya know, this is the kind of story that gives you a "goood buzz" without having to crank open a Kilimanjaro beer. :-)
Once again, this is excellent Go Africa go! material. If you have any such stories, please email them to me at MaxTheITpro[at] I assume you know to put an @ in place of [at]. Right? That's to prevent web spiders (robots) from collecting my email address in order to send me junk (er spam), which I don't care to entertain.

Article: Call to exploit the potential of bee products
Source: Daily News (Tanzania), 22 Feb 2007, Home News, pg 2
By: Daily News Reporter
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources & Tourism, Mr. Saleh Pamba, has challenged the country's business community to exploit the export potential of bee products available in Tanzania. Opening a meeting of honey and beeswax stakeholders in Arusha, yesterday, he said that Tanzania's bee products could be the most competitive in the world market due to its unique organic qualities.

Mr. Pamba, however, told the stakeholders that investment is required to improve production technology and marketing. At the moment the production of honey and beeswax in Tanzania is 5,600 and 600 tonnes respectively. This genearates 8.6 million and 1.6 million US dollars. It is estimated that the productive potential of bee products in Tanzania is about 138,000 tonnes of honey and 9,200 tonnes of beeswax per annum.

Mr. Pamba said that many African countries, including Tanzania, have realised that, if made a priority in terms of the allocation of human and financial resources, the beekeeping sector could contribute immensely to poverty eradication and environmental conservation. The meeting was organised under the auspices of ApiTradeAfrica, a business association that will coordinate and stimulate production and marketing of quality honey and other bee products from African countries.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Great business news from South Africa

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
WITH FIFA's World Cup competition due to arrive on South Africa's shores in 2010, there's no doubt that business is booming like never before. Optimism along with a deep rooted pride is in the air of Africa's most advanced economy. I will definitely have to take a visit down to SA some day to see what all the buzz is about.
Also, it'd be nice to chat with some of their IT professionals since those guys can hold their own against the best in the world. I'm basing this on some IT projects I've seen that originated from over there. Hmmm, I wonder if their authorities will let me into the country after I wrote this article bitching about a particular telkom company: Telkom South Africa: Can a Company be this Hated? Hey, I tell it like it is. :-)

Any how, I urge you to peek these exciting stories coming out of SA that make excellent Go Africa go! material. Go SA go! :-)

SA breeds an exploding middle class
Optimism pervades the country as millions haul themselves out of poverty. In most societies in the world, it takes four to five generations for a person to rise from poverty to affluent middle-class status. In South Africa, a raft of surveys shows this is happening within a single generation. Experts say the American dream, which has lasted for more than 100 years, is starting to wane, while the South African dream is being born. {Read more}

SA's stock exchange on a high
2006 was another record-beating year for South Africa's JSE, with foreigners buying a record net R73.7-billion worth of local shares, the All Share index rocketing 38% - in the process reaching numerous new all-time highs - and the AltX exchange for smaller companies reaching critical mass just three years after its birth. Bloomberg reported this week that overseas investment in South African stocks hit a record high for the second year running in 2006, with foreigners investing a net R73.7-billion in the JSE - up by 47% from 2005 - buying R480.8-billion of shares and selling R407.1-billion. {Read more}

SA scores for ease of business
South Africa ranks among the top 30 countries in the world in the World Bank's Doing Business 2007 report, released in Washington on Tuesday. Doing Business is an annual report that measures the ease of doing business in 175 economies around the world. This year's report measured the effect of 213 reforms that reduced the time, cost, and hassle for businesses to comply with legal and administrative requirements.
"The report is a critical tool for developing countries to determine where more reforms are needed," said World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz.
{Read more}

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The world is seeing RED

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
RED alert: Do your part to help prevent the spread of AIDS. I don't say this enough, but I looove Oprah Winfrey. She has such a big, sincere heart and she always uses her super star profile to do a lot of good in this world. Heck, I wish she'd run for president. She'd kick Hilary Clinton's ass in the polls any day of the week. In reality, she'd also get more accomplished while on the job. Clinton is a damn bureaucrat. Oh, I also have mad respect for U2's Bono. He's a class act.

What's this RED stuff all about?
I thought you'd never ask. Just take a peek at this:
(RED)™ is a revolutionary program designed to eliminate AIDS in Africa.
"Lots of people here in the United States have been trying to deal with the
problems of Africa in a very serious way," Bono says. "But not everybody has the
time to be an activist or put on their marching boots. So we said, 'How are we
going to get the shopping malls involved? How are we going to get to where
people live and shop…?'"

By buying a (RED) brand T-shirt, a pair of jeans or even a cell phone, you
can help save lives. Part of your purchase will be donated to The Global Fund to
help those who need it most. Just the T-shirts that the audience is wearing
today will provide enough medication to prevent transmission of HIV from mother
to child for over 14,000 pregnant women. {

My thoughts:
Well, if you're out at the mall and you see one of these RED products, then buy em all. Okay? Otherwise President Oprah is gonna hunt you down. :-) On a serious note, this is an excellent Go Africa go! story because it highlights that a little money at the cash register can go a long way in fighting AIDS at the prevention stage. Remember, the T-shirts Oprah's audience was wearing provided enough ca$h to purchase medication for about 14,000 pregnant women in order to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child. That's amazing!

Fresh Water from the Indian Ocean

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
THEY say "the best things in life are free." Perhaps. Now, when it comes to fresh water, that's not the case in most places around the world - especially here in Africa. In all honesty, growing up in Canada has sort of spoiled me to the point where we, as Canadians, never had to worry about water. Why? Because Mother Nature was kind enough to bless us with more fresh water than any other country on the planet. The 5 great lakes (Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Huron, Superior) along with numerous other large bodies of water (Great Bear Lake, Great Slave Lake, Georgian Bay, James Bay, Lake Athabasca, etc.) scattered throughout the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast provides us with, virtually, unlimited supplies. And with a population of only 30 million people inhabiting the 2nd largest country in the world, this means that water scarcity should never ever enter the Canadian vocabulary. :-)

Try to picture this. Lake Superior (see above) is the world's largest freshwater lake covering a staggering area of 31,720 miles (82,103 sq kilometers) with its deepest point at 1,335 feet. That's massive.

Seeing is believing
When I touched down in Africa (Nairobi) for the first time near the end of 2005, a new reality began to sink in. On numerous occasions, whenever I woke up, the watchman had to pump water so that I can proceed to take a shower. And if the electric company couldn't supply enough power on that particular day, we were in big doo doo because the pumps need electricty. This was a totally new experience for me, and I realized then and there just how lucky Canadians are -- to the point that we take a lot of
things (electricity, universal health care, free K-12 education) for granted. I don't any more.

Water scarcity everywhere
Everyday in the news, I'm always reminded of how delicate the water situation is throughout Africa. In particular, this week is Maji Week (maji = water in Swahili) in these parts, and there's just no way to escape the "down pour" of negative news regarding maji (er water). It's agonizing to think that, at any moment, bad scenarios can result from the lack of this precious resource. I read some where the other day that Dar es Salaam (Haven of Peace) is not able to supply all the water that it's citizens demand. This is so sad because I absolutely looove this city. Knowing this, I decided to cruise the Internet to see what's new in the world of high technology that could end Dar's water scarcity once and for all.

Sea of hope
Without a doubt, a city like Dar would be wise to look at the Indian Ocean for its water supply. After all, it's right there, and so convenient to access. The only problem is the damn
salt. Now what if there was a large scale method of extracting fresh water from the ocean - and cheaply? Well, I was watching the idiot box (um, TV) this morning and saw an excellent story (courtesy of SABC) about a South African company called GrahamTek that's making waves (pun intended). It appears that they've invented (or improved) a new cheap method (process?) to take the salt out of the sea water that's far more efficient and effective than desalination plants of yester year. The secret is reverse osmosis desalination and it's a technology that you'll be hearing a lot about - hopefully soon.

The salt on desalination
In a nutshell, desalination is a complex process of removing salt from sea water.
I remember reading a long time ago about how Saudi Arabia was one of the world's biggest users of desalination plants. But I also heard they were expensive (about $400 million) to build and required a lot of power to operate. Well, Saudi Arabia has cheap energy thanks to its oil jackpot, but I don't think the old desalination plants they were using would work in Dar. Too damn costly. Enter GrahamTek Systems with some fresh, innovative thinking to the entire field of desalination.

GrahamTek to the rescue
After seeing that short SABC news article about GrahamTek Systems (runs Ocean Mineral Water), I was determined to find out more information about the company.

Ocean Mineral Water is run by local group Grahamtek Systems, which has been working in the field since 1994. They believe they are years ahead of other companies elsewhere in the world. Jean Vos of Ocean Mineral Water said: "The basic point is that we can give Cape Town water and that is a fact. "The company recently erected a plant in the Maldives that produces half a million litres a day and was erected in a single day at a cost of a mere R1.5 million.

In the past the prohibitive energy costs of desalination have prevented widespread use of the technology. However, the local scientists say they have improved technology and are now able to supply desalinated water at a cost of R4,80/1 000 litres, which is substantially cheaper than the water provided by most municipalities. "Seawater is the healthiest water on the planet as it has all the minerals that you need, reverse osmosis simply removes what is bad for you and retains the good part. This is the best water for any living being to consume and even for agriculture," said Martin Lyons of Ocean Mineral Water. {source}

Wow, that is simply amazing news. In short, I think GrahamTek has no where else to go but up. Heck, where can I buy some shares? :-) But honestly, I think Dar es Salaam should seriously look into using this technology to solve its water problems. I'll write more about this later.

Related links:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The future of Job hunting in Africa?

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
THIS South African blog entry over at really impressed the heck out of me. Boy did it have some excellent info and high tech tips for those who want to revolutionize the way they job hunt. Could the hResume format be the next big thing? Only time will tell.

Any how, I urge you to take a peek. Let me know if you adopted any of the site's advise.

Give us your Feedback

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
THERE'S an old saying that still rings loud and clear today:

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

I agree 100%. Well, I also believe that a user's comment (feedback) on a web forum or a weblog like Go Africa go! is priceless. Why? It let's people like me know what matters to you. Most importantly, if you strongly feel positive or negative about a particular article, then I implore you to leave a comment by pressing the comments or post a comment link at the bottom of said article.

However, you can post general comments on this page if they don't relate to any articles.

Thank you in advance. :-)

Go Africa go!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Oil boom in East Africa

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
WITH all the craziness going on in the Middle East, the time is ripe for African oil to boil. The word on the investment street in East Africa is that there's tons of black gold (oil) waiting to be plucked out of the ground by oil exploration companies who are serious about business. All I hope is for said companies to be sincere in their business dealings with the government. Just take your share of the pie (profits), teach the locals how to fish and lets move on to bigger and better projects. Okay? Now is that so hard? :-)

The future is bright
By the way, I also read somewhere that Tanzania reduced its reliance on foreign energy to the tune of $500 million per year thanks to its impressive Songo Songo gas-to-electricity project that went online not too long ago. Wow, that's an astronomical number for an African nation. Seriously. Furthermore, it means that money is now able to be used for health, education and other development projects, which should spur more economic growth. In fact, I was so thrilled after reading that article that I'm going to post it up here tomorrow.

Go JK go!
One other thing. I have to give President Jakaya Kikwete major props for running a tight ship. It's so true. A country's conscience starts right from the top with the Big Kahuna (ie. top dog, big fish) and Kikwete is simply making all the right moves by taking Tanzania where no man (or woman) has taken her: Right to the top. Every picture I see him in, he always looks like he's The One (ie. Neo in The Matrix) for Africa, and he always has that savvy presidential look that instills confidence, thereby garnering immediate respect. Way to go Mr. President! For now, please enjoy this excellent article below, which is yet another terrific Go Africa go! story that highlights the oil & gas boom that's rocking East Africa like never before.

Article: Huge oil, gas deposits wait for investors
By: Adam Ihucha (Arusha)
Source: The Guardian (Tanzania), 8 Mar 2007, front page
President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday called on investors to make full utilization of huge but untapped oil and gas potentials in the East African region. Addressing the third East African Petroleum Conference here, President Kikwete advised them to invest in the petroleum services sector in order to seize the existing vast potentials."The East Africa region is rich in oil and gas resources," he said as he opened the meeting that deliberated on the region's petroleum potentials and investment opportunities. "I call upon investors represented here to seriously look at these potentials then establish petroleum service companies. The region is very keen to see investment in both oil exploration and exploitation," he added.

The three-day conference, dubbed EAPC' 07, Kikwete's brainchild, has been organized under the main theme: "Together Unveiling the Untapped Oil and Gas Potential."He said East Africa was not only a source of gas and oil resources, but also provided potential markets for petroleum and related products. Oil consumption in East Africa stands at over 32 million barrels per year, while demand for petroleum in the world market is above 82.5 million barrels per day, which is growing at a rate of 1.3 percent.

"Incresed demand and prices in the world market provide an opportunity for East Africa to benefit from its potentials," President Kikwete said. He appealed to investors to be innovative by charting out cost-effective strategies in the utilization of oil resources. "It is hig time that companies that have signed agreements our governments, which are licensed to explore these resources, became serious and fullfilled their committments," said Kikwete.

The president said partnership between investors and government should also benefit local communities surrounding the investments. "This is the biggest challenge...we have to ensure that exploitation of these resources benefits our people and investors, and contributes to our countries' growth," he added. For this part, EAC Secretary General Juma Mwapachu said the meeting, which attracted about 300 delegates, had been convened at a time when the energy sector globally faces unprecendented change and uncertainty.

"Increased demand for energy - especially in developing economies - the shifting of supplies of oil and natural gas to the remote and often geopolitically unstable areas and environmental impacts, are some of the factors behind the mess," Mwapachu said. "These unprecedented challenges demand complex and urgent responses cutting across strategic, organizational, operational, and technological and investment decisions", he said.The EAPC' 07 comes against a backdrop of the recent discovery of commercial oil and gas deposits in the region.

In collaboration with experts, the EA partner states - Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda - are currently drawing up policies and strategies to facilitate effective exploration of these resources. An official from the Petroleum Exploration & Production Department of Uganda's Ministry of Energy & Mineral Development, Fred Kabanda, said Uganda had licensed six companies to undertake petroleum exploration. "We are currently considering another five applications. In fact, the regionis becoming famous in terms of petroleum development sector.

More companies are coming for petroleum exploration in the Rift Valley base in Kenya, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo. There are also offshore sites in Tanzania that are being explored", he said. Reports say two companies - Hardman Resources Ltd and Tullow Oil, discovered a significant amount of oil depostis at the Waraga-1, Mputa-1 and Mputa-2 wells in the west of Uganda. Tanzania is producing natural gas from its Songo Songo field, while another field, the Mnazi Bay Gas, is being developed for a gas-to-electricity project.

In Kenya, Woodside Energy Ltd has acquired more than 11,000 line kilometres of additional 2D seismic data in offshore areas. China National Oil Company has also signed Production Sharing Contracts with the government of Kenya for six onshore blocks in the areas of Lamu, Anza and Mandera Sedimentary Basins. According to information available at the EAC secretariat, a number of oil comapnies have shown interest in both offshore and onshore blocks in Kenya.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Zantel ups the stakes with new mobile data service

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
EVERYWHERE you go in Dar, you see Zantel's snazzy new ads for its supposedly speedy mobile CDMA wireless service offering. Oh, I looove the kool green colours in their newspaper ads, too. It's got me so pumped up to get on board the Z data train, and I haven't even tried the damn service yet. :-) Now, being a nosey consumer who's always on the lookout for better (er cheaper) ISP deals in these parts, I just had to call them up to get the scoop on their Z-Connect service. See the ad below! So, what's the scoop? I thought you'd never ask.

The scoop:
Coverage? All of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar & Pemba islands right now, and the entire country by the end of 2007
Price? Just top up in TSh 5000 ($4) or TSh 10,000 ($8) increments = TSh 56 per Megabyte = KSh 3.2 per Megabyte
Modem price? CDMA USB modem is TSh 150,000 ($118)
Download capacity? 90 Megabytes worth of data for every TSh 5000
Speed? 153 Kbps to 2 Mbps depending on the device used
Technology? CDMA 1X and
EVDO, always on, high speed packet data network

Final thoughts:
By the way, I truly believe that CDMA/EVDO is vastly superior to the EDGE/GPRS service that Celtel and Safaricom (KSh 10 per Megabyte) are offering in terms of data broadcasting. All I can say is this: "Celtel, watch out for the big Z!" :-) As you can see, this is a great Go Africa go! story because the inclusion of yet another mobile wireless Internet competitor means lower prices, which translates into peeps actually getting down to some serious business. In other words, a heck of a lot more businessmen and businesswomen are going to be more efficient and effective as they go about their daily activities. The word on the street is that Zantel is well regarded as the mobile company with the lowest prices. You don't believe me? Well take a peek
here! Oh, I'm supposed to go to Zantel's office today or tomorrow to take Z-Connect for a spin. I'll highlight my thoughts here.

One other observation. Internet access rates are a heck of a lot cheaper in Tanzania than its neighbour to the North (Kenya). What the heck is up with outrageous ISP fees in Kenya? I thought they were supposed to be more advanced and waaaay ahead of everyone in these parts. But I feel that's what happens when a monopoly like Telkom Kenya gets too much protection from the government for a very long time. Now it's making Internet services too costly over there. Let's just say I know people who pay $120/month for a 128K shared wireless broadband solution from Africa Online. Holy crap! With TTCL, you could get their blazing-fast ADSL service (2 Mbps down, 512Kbps up) at home for a paltry sum of TSh 40 per Megabyte (or TSh 40,000 per Gigabyte of download). Heck, you can't even get those speeds from Telkom Kenya. In general, I hate telecom companies, but TTCL is not bad at all.

Newspaper ad:
Introducing Z-Connect; the fastest, most affordable, continuous high-speed mobile data network in Tanzania. Just install it in minutes, load prepaid airtime and start working, surfing or downloading in seconds. For instance, you'll be able to download a 3 Mega Byte music track in 20 seconds, or open the average webmail or website in 7 seconds. And it's mobile, you can do all of this anywhere, anytime. Now available in Dar es Salaam, and contrywide in late 2007.
For more information and the location of your nearest Z dealer, call 077 600 6000 or email

Monday, March 12, 2007

Free business plan toolkit for Tanzanian SMEs

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
THIS is EXCELLENT news...that a Kiswahili business planning toolkit will soon be available for prospective SME owners throughout Tanzania. However, I'm still dismayed that it's so damn hard for women entrepreneurs to get seed money before their businesses can become fully operational. I truly believe that women are BETTER managers of money than MEN simply because they have to manage household finances every day of their lives -- especially in this part of the planet. Are there no NGOs out there that cater specifically to businesswomen on the continent??

To all loans officers at lending institutions throughout Africa: "Come on, YOU can do BETTER than that! Give women the credit they deserve, for crying out loud." (pun intended). Someone should seriously start a bank that caters to women. They'd probably make a killing.
Any how, I feel that this type of news is what Go Africa go! is all about: Highlighting positive business developments on the continent that'll lead to more prosperity. And who can argue with that? Oh, don't forget to take a peek at an earlier post of mine that relates to this topic: Are Online Lending Sites a Threat to Banks?
Article: Business planning toolkit for SMEs in pipeline
By: Beatrice Philemon
Source: The Guardian (Tanzania), 12 Mar 2007, Business & Foreign section, pg ii
The World Bank is funding business plan training tool kit for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Tanzania. A manual on business plan writing skills exists in the English language and was recently used by experts from the US to train women entrepreneurs on export trade skills and procedures. Happiness Mchomvu, Project Coordinator of the Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme said last week that World Bank has agreed to support the manual's translation into Kiswahili language in order to facilitate effective communication.

One of the weaknesses that beset SMEs in Tanzania was the inability of its managers to compost bankable business plans. As a result, it becomes difficult for them to access loan from financial institutions. Business plans, she said, help one to visualize goals and introduce basic requirements for credit. It also helps an investor to consider what aspects were needed in order for SME to qualify for a loan. "Business plan shows the bank how well ones own business can survive in future", she said. A business plan begins with a vision, with goals helping an entrepreneur to achieve that vision.

Highlighting on Small Enterprises (SME's), she said SME's have traditionally had a difficult time gaining access to finance. Most small businesses will start with money borrowed or given by family members or with personal savings, and without access to further funds; many businesses are unable to take advantage of opportunities, which can make their business grow. For women entrepreneurs, the challenge is even greater, because in most countries, they are not in full control of the assets they own.

Although it is slowly changing, most women in East Africa will require the signature of their husbands in order to obtain loan, or acquire large assets. These are obstacles to business growth as most commercial banks require collateral as security back up. Furthermore in East Africa, as in other developing countries, women entrepreneurs are usually some of the smallest businesses. For a variety of reasons, only a few of them are able to make their businesses grow.

A 2003 study on women enterprises in Kenya revealed that there were 613,000 women-owned enterprises while in 1999, it was estimated at 1.3 million and in 2002, of those, only some 5 percent or some 65,000 had hired employees. While the informal sector businesses have access to group lending schemes through various NGOs and other specialized institutions, the small women-owned enterprises generally lack support services or access to finance, she noted.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Tanzania to host International Trade Expo

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
AFTER voraciously reading the articles in The Guardian newspaper that I purchased yesterday, I see an enticing advertisement that looks something like this:

East Africa Int'l. Trade Expo
2007 9-12 MARCH, 11 AM - 7 PM
Visit the multiple products trade show featuring participants from 24 countries
MED EXPO (Medical & Health)
BUILDING EXPO (Building & Interiors)
ITEL EXPO (IT, Tel & Electronics)
AUTO EXPO (Auto & Spare Parts)
INDCON (Consumer & Industrial)
FOOD EXPO (Food, Kitchen & Hotel)
Info: EXPOGROUP Tel: 0757111552 Email: Web:

Without any hesitation, I quickly called the telephone number above to find out more information. To my pleasant surprise, there were no admission fees whatsoever. This should make it a whole lot easier to convince my friends and their kids to tag along. Most importantly, I decided to attend said event and cover it as a Go Africa go! blogger since this is exactly the type of topical business material that I'm looking for. After all, there'll be excellent business opportunities on display, and I wanted to get the scoop.

Could one involve hemp? :-)

Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hemp Farming in Africa: A Billion Dollar Industry?

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
ARE you kidding me? A billion dollars? Read for yourself...courtesy of Jack Herer, hemp expert extraordinaire:

February 1938: Popular Mechanics Magazine:


February 1928: Mechanical Engineering Magazine:


Well, if you've been sleeping in a cave for a good half century, you'd probably never realize that mankind has been blessed with a plant of magnificent (almost magical) proportions. A plant that can do almost everything (food, medicine, skin care, building materials, clothing, industrial composites, natural herbicide/fertilizer, and tons more cool stuff) except fix your kitchen sink and babysit the kids.

In a sense, hemp is like the Chameleon Creature in the The Mighty Hercules cartoon series, which I used to watch religiously during breakfast time before heading off to public school in Ottawa, Canada. Oh alright, I watched it a bit in high school too. Boy, the Chameleon was an amazing foe. He could instantly change into a bird, another person, a snake, a tree, a giant blob monster - anything - in order to evade capture or to battle Hercules. I always dreamt of having such "chameleonic" powers. Oh well, dreams like that only materialize in movies on the idiot box (TV), eh?

$how me the money
So, how good is hemp as a potential income earner for farmers here in Africa? Well, take a peek on Jack's thoughts:

"As you will see in these articles, the newly mechanized cannabis hemp industry was in its infancy, but well on its way to making cannabis America's largest agricultural crop. And in light of subsequent developments (e.g. biomass energy technology, building materials, etc.), we now know that hemp is the world's most important ecological resource and therefore, potentially our planet's single largest industry.

The Popular Mechanics article was the very first time in American history that the term "billion-dollar"* was ever applied to any U.S. agricultural crop!

*Equivalent to $40-$80 billion now.

Experts today conservatively estimate that, once fully restored in America, hemp industries will generate $500 billion to a trillion dollars per year, and will save the planet and civilization from fossil fuels and their derivatives - and from deforestation!

If Harry Anslinger, DuPont, Hearst and their paid-for (know it or not, then as now) politicians had not outlawed hemp - under the pretext of marijuana (see Chapter 4, "Last Days of Legal Cannabis") - and suppressed hemp knowledge from our schools, researchers and even scientists, the glowing predictions in these articles would already have come true by now - and more benefits than anyone could then envision - as new technologies and uses continue to develop." {source}

My Thoughts
Okay, all I want to say is that I sincerely hope government leaders here in Africa are much more sensible (and less corrupt) than their counterparts in the USA who have made hemp illegal to grow for purely political reasons. Heck, they've even passed these ridiculous policies on to other naive nations trying to earn favours (usually access to US markets, or financial aid). This is in order to protect some very big and powerful corporations (Archer Daniels Midland, Dupont, the entire pharmaceutical industry, the toxic cotton industry, among others) as billions of dollars in profits and shareholder equity are at stake. You don't believe me? Well take a peek at this:

"A further crisis for Hemp arose in America during the 1930's due to propaganda created from companies with vested interest from the new petroleum based synthetic textile companies and the large and powerful newspaper / lumber barons who saw Hemp as the biggest threat to their businesses. Traditionally, Hemp was processed by hand which was very labour intensive and costly, not lending itself towards modern commercial production. In 1917 American George W. Schlichten patented a new machine for separating the fibre from the internal woody core ('Hurds') reducing labour costs by a factor of 100 and increasing fibre yield by a factor of 60. Mr Schlichten and his machines disappeared, not surprisingly!" {source}
Well, thank goodness there are countries such as Canada, France, Russia, Norway, Holland, China and many others whose governments are led by individuals with a different political agenda. If you look at that list, you'll also notice that said nations were not "suckered" into sending their troops to Iraq with all of that faulty (and expensive) so-called intelligence. So it appears that there is some sanity in this world after all. :-) But I'll leave it to Uncle Nick to show you how much insanity exists right before our very eyes. Once again, here's further proof of the hypocrisy of the US government when hemp enters the scene:

"During the Second World War the supplies of Hemp from the East were being cut off so American farmers were encouraged to grow Hemp for military use (webbing, canvas etc.) under the banner of "Hemp For Victory". After the war, licences were subsequently revoked, at a similar time to the last Hemp crops being grown in the U.K." {source}

In closing, I suggest that farmers here in Africa should seriously consider the possibility of growing hemp. Period. This would create excellent opportunities to use it domestically while also earning valuable foreign exchange since it has, literally, thousands of industrial uses. You see, the plant is like a damn chameleon. :-)

Oh, I know who hemp reminds me of: Michael Jordan. Besides, his great high-flying offensive basketball skills, MJ will probably go down as the greatest defensive player ever. He used to shut down the best players from the opposing team night in, night out. In addition, he was a great passer, shooter, ball handler and rebounder. He simply did it all - just like hemp. :-)

By the way, don't forget the numerous jobs that would be created to support the hemp industry along with the knowledge that the environment is getting a big friendly boost. One other thing. It's no secret that certain agricultural products (cotton, sugar, etc.) are not bringing in the profit margins for farmers that was guaranteed in the past.
"According to the government's Annual Vulnerability Monitoring Report 2005, cotton prices have fallen steadily over the past few years as a result of international competition and last year's price for cotton was about 33 percent lower than the previous year. A similar fate has befallen the sugar industry. The European Union plans to slash its price to suppliers in African, Caribbean and Pacific Least Developing Countries by 37 percent from the start of 2007 to bring it in line with the global price, causing the profits of Swazi producers to shrink significantly." {source}
Now, according to Lufto Dlamini (Swazi Minister for Enterprise and Employment), "in hemp we have an alternative to cotton, which has let us down badly over the last few years." {source} This is yet more food for thought, and a sign that some government leaders in Africa are starting to see hemp's true potential. Right now, this is probably one of the best win-win business opportunities on the planet and, perhaps, in the history of the world.

Go hemp go! :-)

Related links:

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Are Online Lending Sites a Threat to Banks?

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
WELL, I certainly think so. What has always annoyed me about our entrenched banking system is how most banks treat the little guy (or small business owner) who's looking for a loan to get started or expand an ongoing operation. I could never understand why banks fall heads over shoulders in order to lend money to individuals who simply don't need it, yet make it almost impossible for those who desperately require said funds - yesterday. Oh, I get it. I guess it's sort of like courtship. If you show your desperation too early on in the game, the suitor is not impressed and most likely will reject you. But if you have lots readily available options, then you stand to win yet more hearts. :-)

New loan sharks on the block
Well, it appears that things just got a little more interesting thanks to the power of the Internet and dynamic web applications which are created using popular web programming languages like PHP
. Quite frankly, I am a big proponent of web-based applications because all one needs is access to a web browser, which has become the universal user interface. Because of this, new innovative lending sites such as and are about to make loan officers throughout the banking industry play a little what if analysis themselves. In other words, "what if more people decide to borrow money from these websites thereby leaving us out in the cold?"

According to this article in the International Herald Tribune, these 2 sites are disruptive to the current status quo.
We bring together people who have never met to lend and borrow," said Chris Larsen, co-founder and chief executive of the San Francisco-based Prosper, which has had 140,000 users since it started a year ago. "Somebody who has money should be able to loan it out and somebody looking to borrow should be able to find a lender."

Banking analysts suggest that these hyper-efficient operations, with few employees and no costly real estate, could force changes to established banks.

"As a researcher, these sites make me wonder if the core business model of financial institutions is changing," said Mark Meyer, an analyst at the Filene Research Institute, a Wisconsin-based group that studies credit unions. "We are talking about a potentially disruptive innovation in financial services." {source}

I'll comment more about this later, but right now I have to jet! :-)

Monday, March 5, 2007

Tanzania Urged to Computerise

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
ONE way for a country to quickly reduce costs and improve the efficiency of government nationwide is simply to look at IT (Information Technology) as a serious tool, and then apply it with zeal where ever it makes sense. That's why the newspaper article below really got my attention - so much in fact that I retyped it below giving due credit where applicable. Well, what are you waiting for? Read away!
Article: Government Urged to Computerise all Services
Author: Felix Andrew
Source: The Guardian (Saturday, March 3, 2007; Business & Foreign, pg. 1)

The deployment of info-tech in all government departments has the potential of increasing transparency and efficiency of service dispensation, an expert has said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Techno Brain (T) Ltd., Manoj Shanker said in Dar es Salaam recently that computerization would also reduce the chances of acts of corruption being committed in public offices.

As an example, he pointed out that with widespread computerization, a person who wants to get a visa form or a passport application form would not be compelled to go physically to the concerned offices, instead, one can easily download the documents from a website. His concern centred further on the fact that although the ICT industry was growing, it was doing so at a slow pace compared to other countries.

"Tanzania is emerging market in ICT industry, so without doing heavy investments we might be left behind." Shanker was announcing the New Horizons twenty fifth anniversary. Techno Brain Ltd. is the master franchisee of New Horizons East Africa and Central Africa. In his opinion, the ICT industry was facing various challenges which need a collaborative support from both the government and private sectors. One of the major challenges is shortage of skills warranting immediate attention.

As part of a strategic approach, Shanker said the government should establish more colleges dealing with ICT and introduce it as part of curriculum in schools in order to narrow the digital divide. "Tanzanians are good in software technology but they should be provided with more exposure", he contended.

For his part, Msafiri Lissu, the company's operations manager, said the ICT awareness among Tanzanians is still low, so more efforts were needed to improve the industry.
He said although the government has reduced or totally removed some taxes on computers and software, but still the costs were high. One of the hampering access to ICT is the low income and lack of awareness.

Meanwhile, the Dar es Salaam centre of the New Horizons has won the Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Regional Small Market Centre of the year award during the year 2006. The company was awarded after meeting the criteria laid down which include quality delivery standards, increased growth and customer satisfaction. Having trained more than 50,000 students and 700 corporate customers spread across the continent, Techno Brain Limited is the largest ICT training provider in the region.
As you can see, this is excellent news for companies or individuals who are able to provide a wide range of IT services (system administration, security, networking, web/application development, database analysis & design, programming, document management, encryption, data recovery, open source solutions, CRM, HRM, accounting, ERP, etc.) to the government sector.

What troubles me at times though is that a lot of people jump into the IT field simply for the money, but they have no clue (or passion) about what the heck they're doing. In addition, most of them are unable to see the big picture nor do they really understand the problem when they first meet with the client. This is something my Computer Science professors really stressed when I was an undergrad student.

Finally, it's my sincere desire that IT professionals working on new or upcoming projects here in Africa simply do the job (or task) correctly the first time around. From my own experience - usually as an observer - planning and documenting IT requirements seems to be a big problem over here. Hopefully this will change in due time as more serious professionals enter the market.