Why write about Africa? There are many reasons why people choose to blog about Africa, but few have ever been challenged to share their reasons. Interestingly enough, African bloggers have been responding to a wonderful post by Théophile Kouamouo, a blogger based in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), who started a meme asking why you blog about Africa:
Why do you blog about Africa? Do we blog for the diaspora and for the world at large, cut off from our contemporary on the continent? Is blogging about Africa done in the same way as blogging about Europe or Asia? Does the African-oriented blogosphere have something specific to offer to the world version 2.0?
To understand why I write about Africa, there are a few things you must know about me:
- I am a third generation Kenyan.
- Like many in his time, my father’s grandfather came to Africa as a laborer for the great East African Railway from India. The journey was hard, their future was uncertain but he was determined to find his destiny in a land that his forefathers would have known little about.
- I am also an Indian.
- My mother comes from a state where the seeds of peaceful revolution were planted by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, later known as the Mahatma – this state, Gujarat has been the powerhouse of Indian Industry ever since.
- Lastly, I’m American educated. I believe strongly in mankind’s responsibility to protect some basic inalienable rights for every human being as outlined in the American Declaration of Independence , “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “.
I write about Africa because I believe in Africa; I believe in the dream of a self reliant and prosperous Africa; I believe in the unwavering strength of its people, and the richness of its cultural history. My Africa is undergoing a revolution – a silent revolution, a peaceful revolution, an information revolution. The youth are vocal and demanding a better future. Rather than look at the west for answers, it is engaging the west to define it’s own future. Lastly, I write about Africa because its my home – and this is why I write about Africa.
Why do you blog about Africa? I’d love to hear from you …
How do you provide a city like Mumbai and its 22 million residents an efficient Ambulance service? The Acumen Fund’s Sasha Dicheter, talks about their latest investment, “Dial 1298” service with its 51 ambulances, each fitted with intensive care service combining world-class operational skills with a social mission.
Patients who want to go to a private hospital in a full-service ambulance – staffed with a doctor – pay 1,500 rupees (about US$35). Those who go to public hospitals pay either half price or nothing. 1298’s leadership is committed to having 15-20% of the company’s calls be serviced free or at reduced cost. This simple logic takes away the cumbersome process of identifying who can afford to pay and who cannot.
As such, anyone in Mumbai who needs ambulance service can dial 1298 and, thanks to the magic of GPS and Google Maps, one of 51 world-class ambulances arrives in about 15 minutes to provide care and transport. The service is world-class, modeled on London Ambulance Service
The British Medical Journal estimates that for every 5 minutes saved in ambulance response time, the survival rate doubles for cardiac arrests. Consider that before 1298, Mumbai had just 12 ambulances – with 9 out of 10 trips made to transport the dead.
Currently the model is being replicated in 2 other Indian cities – It’s time someone took the initiative and replicated the model in Lagos, Accra or Capetown that have a huge population density and a mix of private and public health care.
Update: The Acumen fund did a wonderful follow up story on Meridain Medical. Nairobi-based Meridian Medical Centre has been profitably operating three outpatient clinics with one-third of its clients earning only $4 a day. They will open 5 more clinics over the next 3 years in higher density, lower income areas. Meridian is part of a larger trend of companies recognizing the market potential of the BoP.
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.
According to Om Malik and the WSJ:
Google is teaming up with Space Data Corp., a company that sends balloons carrying small (micro) base stations about 20 miles up in the air for providing connectivity to truckers and oil companies. The electronic payload is retrieved by farmers after it drifts back using a small parachute. The farmers do it because they get $100 per payload retrieved, WSJ says.Google believes balloons like these could radically change the economics of offering cellphone and Internet services in out-of-the-way areas, according to people familiar with its thinking.
If this is true, perhaps a similar low cost solution would do wonders to connect rural communities in the developing world. There is definitely a business case to bring down the cost of communication in Africa from fishermen in Tanzania to Farmers in India, to tele-medicine to education. Projects such as the much touted Africa ONE, aimed at connecting 32 countries, face too much bureaucracy to ever take off the ground and its time to rethink our approach.
Mobile communication is on the rise in much of Africa and South and Central Asia, but is generally restricted to the main grid and is prohibitively expensive. Investments by companies like Google and Space Data in localized communication technology, would greatly accelerate the integration of these communities to the Telecom grid.
As good friend worded it in a rare epiphany, “The last mile in telecommunications is just as important as the first”. Perhaps there are some solutions that already exist. Any ideas, people?
Interesting Fact: Africa is world’s fastest-growing cell phone market. From 1999 through 2004, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent. By the end of the decade, that’s expected to double.