On Arwad Island off the coast of Syria, a group of 20 sailors-to-be are preparing for a voyage their captain believes has not been undertaken for two and a half millennia.
They plan to set off on Sunday on a journey that attempts to replicate what the Greek historian Herodotus mentions as the first circumnavigation of Africa in about 600BC.
Their vessel, the small, pine-wood Phoenicia, is modelled on the type of ship the Phoenician sailors he credited with the landmark voyage would have used.
The Phoenicians lived in areas of modern-day Lebanon, Syria and other parts of the Mediterranean from about 1200BC and are widely credited with being both strong seafarers and the first civilisation to make extensive use of an alphabet.
Celebrating Damascus as a capital of Arab Culture for the year 2008, event organisers sponsored the British-run expedition project to mark their festivities.
The year-long voyage will take the crew into some of the most dangerous waters in the world.
As well as sailing round the southern most tip of Africa, they are preparing to deal with pirates and long periods of waiting for favourable winds.
The skilful shipbuilders in Arwad are familiar with construction techniques dating back 200-300 years, but shipbuilder Orwa Bader, 28, says this is the first time they have ever tried to build in the Phoenician style.
Introducing the latest addition to Guy Kawasaki‘s news aggregation service Africa.Alltop.com . Alltop is a popular news and blog aggregator for various topics around the web.
With the addition of Africa.Alltop Guy has given African technophiles a well deserved show of support and highlighted a continent in much need of some positive PR – see Afromusings article on the Meme’s. Markets and Africa.
I have had the good fortune of working closely with a number of bloggers featured on Alltop’s Africa page and can confidently say that these men and women are positively changing the perception of Africa. They belong to an ever growing breed of confident Africans that believe strongly in the need for dialogue, self-reliance and positive change.
Thanks to Guy Kawasaki, Ellen Leanse, Erik Hersman (see Erik’s blog for the back story on Africa.Alltop) and all those people working behind the scenes to bring this vision to fruition.
Be sure to join the conversation on Africa and watch Alltop.Africa.
NYTimes: Rescuers working after the American Embassy in Kenya was bombed on Aug. 7, 1998
On this day, August 7th 1998 – hundreds of innocent lives were lost and thousands more ruined in a senseless twin attack on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Hatred had reared its ugly head in the streets of these beautiful African cities. Nairobi’s streets, once famous their beautiful carpet of purple Jacaranda flowers were now littered with glass and debris.
Its fair to say that many dreams had once gained flight outside this building, including my own. A month before the incident, I had huddled outside its doors with a dozen hopeful applicants – never would we have imagined such a fate.
On this day we remember those who were lost to this senseless tragedy; we remember those who stepped up in our time of need; those who helped rebuild shattered lives; and we recognize the need for peaceful co-existence — but most of all we recognize that the spirit of a nation may have been shaken but can never be shattered.
Peace to the world.
Sometimes the most elegant solutions are also the simplest ones. I was reading about a fantastic radio program in the Indian State of Bihar that aims to provide basic English language to primary school students in a bid to improve the literacy levels from the current 47% to the national average of nearly 65%. The program called “English is fun’ is broadcast in half-hour segments, four days a week, and reaches seven million students attending 65,000 primary schools in all the 38 districts of the state.
According to the BBC, the state government is encouraged by the positive response from the kids and teachers, and has decided to take the program a step further and set up independent community radio stations at some schools for broadcasting lessons.
What is so encouraging about the project is that it looks for the lowest common denominator to solve a large scale problem. Always, make it a point support local Public Radio. My my local station KQED.org . You can read more about National Public Radio (NPR) and its history in America here
Read more about the Bihar Education Project here
The Bihar Education Project is a collaboration with a US-based organisation, the Education Development Center, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to boost primary education in the country.
Today on June 22 from 11am – 1pm a good number of Africa minded individuals from different professional backgrounds met to offer their thoughts on technology and Africa at the beautiful Stanford Golf Course.
The event was sponsored by the SF Bay Area IPN and was titled, “Africa: The Next Asia?” It was kicked off by a panel discussion featuring Aleem Walji from Google‘s Africa Initiatives, Leila Chirayath – founder of Samasource, Arathi Ravichandran of Vipani , and Joseph Nganga, an expert in energy innovation and Board member of Carolina for Kibera . Topics explored were Africa’s steps in development; opportunities and obstacles to sustainable prosperity; to what extent should Africa mirror what we see in Asia?; and what are the challenges and/or potential benefits of following this road?
The Panel was kindly moderated by Ellen Leanse, who is a Bay Area Business Strategist, and Author. She works with early-stage and established companies to accelerate business growth through innovative business, marketing, and product strategies. Ellen also actively supports education and micro-finance organizations in East Africa, and she is currently writing a book based on recent experiences in Kenya.
Here were some excellent notes via twitter for the event from @tylerwillis captured via summize :
Realtime results for #ipn:africa
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa if 60% of your budget comes from the world, how much accountability do you reall have to voters? about 11 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa making budget allocations publicly accessible took bribery/theft cost down from 70cents/$ to less than 10c/$ about 11 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa accountability is easy, it’s dollars. If we promote sustainability we can let markets ensure accountability. about 11 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa we need a simple, scalable solution for power supply to places completely off the grid. about 12 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa energy opportunities are plentiful in africa, but attracting the amount of startup capital needed is hard. about 12 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending an event titled “Africa: The Next Development Miracle?” The lecture was hosted by the World Affairs Council Peninsula Chapter, and the speaker was Prof. Jeremy Weinstein, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University and Director of the Center for African Studies.
The primary question for the evening was whether Africa will be the next development miracle or should we be prepared for continuing instability, violence, and economic stagnation? Also, what should the United States’ policies be?
Professor Weinstein presented his list of “Policies for the Next president” which I found interesting and felt summed up his lecture well:
- Security is a prerequisite to sustained growth (based upon the Copenhagen Consensus)
- Recognizing the critical role of institutions especially domestically driven institutions
- Encouraging experimentation with different models for development
- Using aid to support reform (such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation which has been a center piece of the Bush Africa policy)
- Providing assistance to where we know it works (HIV, malaria, water, education)
- Prepare for major disasters and shocks perhaps as a consequence of climate change
- Make Globalization work (not just trade but migration, property rights and the subsidization of appropriate essential technology)
While the jury is still out on what measures are best to encourage positive growth in Africa, the need for better policy to support thriving economies in Africa cannot be disputed.
There is still an unrelenting flow of disturbing headlines, soaring food prices and shortages, continued violence in Darfur, stolen elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Nevertheless the overall picture is far more positive. Africa is observing positive economic growth; democracy is on the rise; and great progress is being made in the fight against disease, as hundreds of thousands of Africans now have access to life-saving anti-retro viral treatment.
What policies have worked for your country and what policies and/or initiatives should the next U.S President support ?
Apple announces that the iPhone 3G will be available in 70 countries by the end of 2008 including 15 African Countries. The 3G version of this innovative phone, opens up the possibilities to numerous interesting applications. The iPhone 3G has a GPS antenae allowing location based reporting, promises to be a developer platform allowing widgets for blogging, and comes preinstalled with a host of useful applications.
While many have questioned whether Africa has the network capacity to support such a phone or if such a phone is even affordable, the general response has been positive. Jan Chipchase, a prominent user-research at Nokia compares the penetration of cellphone in Africa to “just-in-time” management – a theory employed successfully by Japanese auto maker Toyota to introduce efficiencies into the system. He gives examples of how cellphones have freed up labor, made business more efficient and improved the overall quality of life in rural africa.
The iPhone is a step in a positive direction. A prominent Africa- tech blogger Eric Hersman of WhiteAfrican, forecasts on his blog that “The data networks will become stronger to support it, and local developers will start building for apps”. Although most will not be able to afford the iPhone in Africa, many will – and these early adopters will drive the demand for better phones and applications for the African market. After all it took about 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to sell worldwide, the second billion sold in four years, and the third billion sold in two.
The World Health Organization says nearly 500 million people get infected with malaria each year, and nearly three million, mostly children, die. Areas around the world facing the greatest risk, shown reddish brown, harbor some of the world’s poorest people. Map: Berkeley National Lab
One low-technology method to prevent malaria deaths is to deliver malaria nets. Grassroots campaigns like Nothing but Nets help to save lives by preventing malaria. Keep on sending nets and saving lives.
“It makes their work less tedious and increases productivity up to 50 times,” says Brandis. “One machine will work for an entire village, so when we’re talking about 100 machines, we’re not talking about 100 families — we’re talking about 100 villages.”
– Jock Brandis, Full Belly Project
Jock Brandis is the inventor of the Sustainable Peanut Sheller. Jock was on a trip to Mali to fix a small village’s water treatment system where he witnessed the women’s bleeding hands from shelling peanuts all day. He made a mental note and set out to search for a sustainable peanut sheller that would not only mechanize this process but improve the efficiency of the women. Coffee and peanuts out of the husk are 6 times more valuable than in the husk making a significant difference in the revenues the farmers can earn. Brandis’ simple machine can be build by local craftsmen for $28 of locally available material. Brandis refuses to patent the machine and calls it his gift to the world.
CNN did a great portrait on Jock and is available here @ CNN Heroes: Peanut farmers get a big hand from simple device