Zambia’s President Michael Sata Passes On


By Paul Ndiho, Washington D.C.
The Southern African Nation of Zambia is mourning the death of President Michael Sata, who died late Tuesday in London. Mr. Sata had been undergoing treatment in the British capital, for an undisclosed illness. He was 77. Zambian President_10478441
President Sata’s health had been a concern since June, after he traveled to Israel for medical treatment and then did not make any public appearances, for three months. Mr. Sata had led Zambia since winning an election in 2011 that ended the 20-year rule of the movement for multi-party democracy party. Sata pledged to fight corruption and help Zambia’s poor, while also working to improve working conditions at mines in Africa’s second biggest copper-producing country. Mr. Sata was known for his sharp wit and fiery speeches, which earned him the nickname “king cobra.”
Zambian vice president Guy Scott has been named the interim leader. Defense minister Edgar Lungu, said the country will hold a presidential election, to choose a permanent successor to Sata, within three months.
Earlier this month, Zambian government released its final draft constitution to the public as Zambians reflect on 50 years of freedom from colonial rule. The southern African nation has been fairly stable for most of its post-independence, with an economy recently classified by the World Bank as a lower-middle-income nation.
Zambia’s ruling party, the patriotic front, says it’s committed to giving Zambians a people-driven constitution and it remains committed to giving the Zambians a constitution that will stand the test of time.

Andrew Ntewewe, President of the Young African Leader Initiative, whose organization has been pushing for reforms, has played an important role in the draft constitution process. He says historically, any time Zambians want to come up with a constitution, it has to do with elections.
“We are not looking for a constitution simply for the 2016 elections. We believe that elections are very important because they form the bedrock of democratic governance. But elections alone are not the entire constitution. So they’re simply a component of the constitution.”
Plans to overhaul the constitution were announced shortly after Michael Sata was elected president in 2011, as part of a series of steps in his top-to-bottom review of the country’s policies. However, critics accuse the government of deliberately stalling the process in the interests of those in power. Others say the constitutional reform process has been slow to gather momentum because of a lack of consensus building from the various stakeholders.
“We can do this process without political expedience. We can do this process by seeking stakeholder involvement and consensus building. We can do this process to ensure that we can have a referendum alongside the 2016 general election.
In recent years Zambia has enjoyed political stability and has annual economic growth rates of 7 percent. The World Bank now classifies it as a lower-middle-income nation rather than low-income, meaning its gross national income per person has risen above about 1,000 U.S. dollars.
But Africa’s second-largest copper producer, home to 14.5 million people, is still struggling with poverty, and high unemployment. Zila Milupi, a social entrepreneur and co-founder of a nonprofit called “Winners Circle” says young Zambians have a role to play in solving the unemployment problem.
“I think that if young people take the bull by the horns and start to believe actually in the potential that they have, if we start to be more open-minded and if we start to foster creativity and risk taking, which I think is currently probably the biggest inhibitors of innovation technology taking off in Zambia. I think if we make deliberate efforts to do those things and to really cultivate an entrepreneurship culture, i think that there really could be a significant growth sector for Zambia.”
To get a sense of what Zambians think about their 50th independence anniversary, i spoke to a couple of residents on the streets of the capital, Lusaka.
“After our independence, we have had a lot of rural-urban migration so the towns now are full of people; unemployed and employed. The economy has changed, we have developed to a certain extent, but we have not reached where we are supposed to be in 50 years.”
“We have enjoyed peace; we have enjoyed harmony, and a lot of good things. A long time ago, people never used to travel safely. There were limitations and now we have seen to say that people have evolved.”
President Sata’s death comes at a time when the Southern African nation is celebrating 50 years of independence. Meanwhile, Zambia’s sometimes rocky relationship with china is now steadily growing. A drive through Lusaka and other cities shows a country on the move, with huge Chinese infrastructure projects spurring development.

Bongohive Zambia’s Creative Space for Innovation


By Paul Ndiho, Lusaka, Zambia
“Bongohive” is Zambia’s technology and innovation hub – a creative and innovative space that gives young developers a platform to work, incubate new ideas and learn from each other.
An innovations revolution is unfolding in Africa and this year there are many stories about young people creating new technologies and applications that are driving the continent’s growth and turning around its global image. The Lusaka-based tech hub started three years ago and it provides space where young, creative minds hone their skills. Bongohive Tech Hub Zambia
Bongohive co – founder/ executive director, Lukonga Lindunda says brilliant minds have never been in short supply in Zambia, but the channel to develop the ideas and help them grow into successful businesses has been a long time coming.
“Bongohive is a space where we allow young people to innovate; we provide them with access to the internet, to skills development, as well as an opportunity to build their ideas. They get access to mentors, funders and a network that allows them to bring their idea to life.”
Bongohive is behind the app that is generating a lot of buzz in Lusaka. The draft constitution mobile application launched recently, has been downloaded more than 6,000 times. Lindunda says that the app allows users to have a say in their first draft constitution and review.
“We are in the middle of developing a new constitution and we found it fit to be able to put the constitution on the mobile app accessible to different types of people.”
Charles Mwanza is part of a development team working on the app. He explains how it works.
“Basically the app explains what’s in the constitution and how to use the constitution. People can access this by downloading it onto the google play store and it’s available for free. Anyone can download it as long as you have an android phone.”
With a good idea, an entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in all things tech, young people from across Africa are learning that their skills are extremely valuable. Jacqueline Haankwenda is a video editor at Bongohive.
“They were training girls how to use video editing software and camera. So i came to the workshop and then later on, i got interested in furthering my skills how to produce film and edit videos.”

There are similar tech-hubs in Africa like Bongohive in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and all are trying to harness the potential the world’s fastest-growing mobile phone market. George Lupupa Mutale is in charge of outreach at Bongohive. He says their goal is to empower local communities by giving them an opportunity to tell their stories.
“I think that’s the way to go if we are going to highlight African success stories and how we want to see the continent. We have to highlight the innovation side of Africa and show the whole world that Africa is doing something right.”
Joshua Chipile is a self-taught robotics engineer.
“We go online see what projects have been done and maybe try to replicate them or we try to come up with our own ideas.
Bongohive also offers free office space to Cassandra Mtine, CEO and co-founder of Zambia’s “trending” website, shopzed.com where clients shop for groceries and other household products.
“On our site, clients can buy groceries and household goods. We deliver directly to their families or favorite charities.”
2014 has been a year brimming with insightful innovations, it will be exciting to see what Bongohive has to offer next year — and how high will Zambia’s technology revolutions eventually reach.

A SOUTH SUDANESE STUDENT MAKES A LIGHT AIRCRAFT


By Paul Ndiho

A south Sudanese student is using his passion for airplanes to design an aircraft.  He discovered his love for aeronautics when he was just a young boy.  But his dreams of becoming an aeronautics engineer are being disrupted by fighting in the country that is preventing him from furthering his education. Young Innovators of S. Sudan

Parked inside a small compound in juba, South Sudan is a small light aircraft. The plane was designed and built created by 23-year-old George John Male. George is a high school student who discovered his talent for airplanes when he was just about five-years-old.

This is his second prototype.  He built the plane using local materials such as scrap metal and discarded plastic and sacks.

“This isn’t my first work or my first event. I have done a lot since I was a kid. I have been doing some research and trying to find out how to make small air crafts and then make them. The one I made before this one was actually a UVA – unman aero vehicle.  But I didn’t have a system to control it, the wiring GPS and all this so I came with an idea for second one that could carry a weight of a person powered by a gasoline engine almost like generator but a little bit different that you can adjust the speed,”

George works at home, where he has turned his room into his workshop — which he calls “aero tech research.”

He uses his artistic, drawing and painting skills to design airplanes.  He develops his prototypes using information he finds on the internet.

George wants to study aeronautic engineering, but his dreams were interrupted by the ongoing fighting in the country – and there is no college or university here where he can study aeronautics.  But despite the challenges, he remains optimistic.

“There were some times whereby I am discouraged because when i do these things, they say that i am crazy and all this. Even some times when i bring the materials, i sneak them into the house through the fence so that they will not see, if they see it they will say that i am wasting money on crazy stuffs.”

Finding funding for his projects is difficult.  He even took his first aircraft design to the country’s air force.

“The first plan i made before this, i took it to the air force, but since then, nothing was done about it was just left and trashed by wind. Actually, they told me they will fix a program to take me for studies but since then i have been here nothing was done about it,”

Although, George’s plane isn’t quite ready for passengers yet, he believes with the right support he can become one of Africa’s greatest aerospace innovators.

Nigerian Hit TV Series “ Dawn in the Creek”


DAWN CreekBy Paul Ndiho

Renowned Nigerian director Jeta Amata, last week joined two U.S State Department officials at the agency’s headquarters in Washington for the viewing of “dawn in the creeks” a new reality TV show that focuses on the Niger delta.
Created by Nigerians for Nigerians – “Dawn in the creeks” is a new hit TV series in Nigeria showcasing stories of non-violent problem-solving and peaceful cooperation between Niger delta communities and local governments.
Nollywood filmmaker, Jeta Amata is the executive producer of the series, and he says the TV show is having a huge impact on the Niger delta residents.

“I tell you that people, who are meant to be fighting right now, or doing bunkering and things like that, are doing different things now, they are talking to their friends and they’re making films instead.”
Jeta says he embarked on a journey to find solutions that could bring peace to a region that has been the epicenter of conflict. The program addresses social, economic and political issues of young Nigerians through their own voices — by teaching them to become the next generation of filmmakers. The youth are taking advantage of this unique opportunity to sharpen their producing, writing, directing and film editing skills.
“They are telling people look we can do things differently. So that is good enough and it’s a seed planted in them. The community is begging to discuss the problems they’re going through; no one is bottling it up. No one is thinking about fighting, they’re thinking how we can solve it. This is the best thing that can happen to them.
With the support of the United States, the producers of the show visited different communities in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states to form a seven-person team of local youths with inspiring stories to tell. And that’s the basis for the reality show. Ambassador Rick Barton is the assistant secretary, bureau of conflict and stabilization operations at the U.S State Department.
“I think it’s an innovative way for the United States to practice 21st century diplomacy. It captures people’s imagination, it goes to local ownership, and it shows that Nigerians have solutions to their own problems.”
Expressing optimism about the hit show U.S Consul General, Jeffrey Hawkins, says that it goes a long way toward solving the challenges the country faces in the Niger Delta.
“Niger delta is really important, it’s where the oil is, it’s where so much of the problems have been in the past but it’s also a place where an amnesty process had sort of put a band aid on some problems and allowed some space for creative thinking about how we might change that narrative.”
Nkemakonam Linda, a Nigeria-American originally from Delta State, says that show resonates with her in so many ways.
“I have lived there, I’ve experienced these problems and I was practically shaken and I was crying because it reminded me of a few friends that I have lost because of this conflict and I’m glad someone is finally empowering the youth — to tell their stories.”
Nigeria’s movie industry has greatly evolved since the 1960’s – to become Africa’s largest film industry according to the u-n educational, scientific and cultural organization.
Despite the industry’s growth, government investment in the industry remains slow. Most films are shot on digital cameras, with tight budgets – often compromising sound and picture quality.
Nollywood films are soaring in popularity across Africa, because they often touch on issues many people can relate to.

UGANDA TO HOST AFRICA TRAVEL ASSOCIATION’S (ATA) 39TH CONGRESS IN NOVEMBER


By Paul Ndiho, Washington DC

Tourism in Africa is rising and organizations like the Africa Travel Association (ATA) are working hard to sustain this growth, by spreading the word about places to visit in Africa. More than 600 delegates from over 30 countries are expected to attend this year’s Africa Travel Association’s world congress in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.Tourism Edition

The goal is to promote tourism, share, and experience the unique attractions Uganda offers beyond gorilla tracking, which remains the backbone of the country’s tourism industry. Edward Bergman is the Africa Travel Association’s executive director.

“Uganda of course has incredible tourism potential and has amazing tourism attractions and sights. The people are warm and hospitable, it‘s a destination where there is an increasingly growing demand for tourism, and we want to help to bring increased attention to Uganda’s tourism but also it is a very important country in Africa.

Hon. Maria Mutagamba, Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has pledged her full support to the ATA and has reassured the international community that the anti-homosexuality act signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in February, was struck down by the Nation’s Constitutional Court in August and is no longer in place.

“I want to assure all the people in America and all over the world that Uganda is a democratic country. The anti-homosexuality act was a private members bill, which came to parliament and because of the excitement at the time, and our parliament passed it. Subsequently, it was signed into law by the president. But logic prevailed and when the Judiciary came in, they analyzed the grounds and it was nullified. As government we respected their decision. And so, the law is no longer in place. I want to assure everybody, to please come to Uganda. Whether you have an inclination to homosexuality or gay people or whatever or gay that is none of our business. Please come and visit our beautiful country.”

Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, the chief executive officer of Uganda Tourism Board, a government agency that is essentially charged with promoting tourism says that Uganda is gifted by nature.

“Tourism, for Uganda particularly is a very broad concept. I will begin with the most visited issue in Uganda, which is wildlife and nature. We are home to the world’s largest concentration of primates. We are looking at chimps, monkeys, baboons, apes and mountain gorillas.

Susan Muhwezi, ATA’s Uganda chapter president, says tourists should come to Uganda because of its beautiful people, its beautiful culture, the dances, the different tribes and the diversity that cannot found anywhere else.

“I am here to invite the American citizens, the tour operators, and the travelers and anyone who’s interested to realize their dream, to see the best-kept secret of Africa.”

Babra Vanhelleputte, chairperson of the Uganda Association of Tour Operators says Uganda has many unique qualities.

“We have a varied culture and very rich, we have over 56 tribes, and each one has their own dress, their own language, their own food. We have a very hospitable people, very beautiful country, all year-round summer-like conditions.”

Kelley MacTavishan, an American citizen and proprietor of Pearl of Africa Tours and travel, has lived and worked in Uganda for the last 23 years. She says that timing of this 39th congress could not have come at a better time.

“So going to Uganda with an open heart and a good mind gets you far because the people are extremely generous, very friendly, and very giving. So the weather and the people and the climate and the clothing are fabulous.”

Tourism analysts say this world class event will serve as a catalyst to promote Uganda’s investment both in international and regional tourism.

A Nigerian App helps brides to calculate their worth before they walk down the aisle


A Nigerian firm has designed a new app that enables women to calculate their value as brides by using criteria such as beauty and education. But the creators of the app, who say it is meant to be humorous, are under attack for making fun of deeply-rooted cultural practices and objectifying women.
A new computer based application is generating a buzz in Nigeria; it has generated over four million hits from 56 countries, since its launch three months ago. The app has taken the dowry cultural practice,
That has been passed down from generation-to-generation to a whole new level. The app helps brides to calculate their worth before they walk down the aisle.
Many Nigerians still follow traditional customs when it comes to big ceremonies like weddings. But in this particular case, Lora Ogunbadero, a bride-to-be, tried to use a new app that calculates your worth as a bride. But she wasn’t comfortable with the outcome.
“I tried doing it once and i felt this is not how it’s calculated. I just feel the bride app is just a game, it’s just a play thing.”
The app was created here at Anakle, a digital agency located in a Lagos suburb. Users answer a series of questions ranging from skin color, height and weight to leg shape. The app also includes other criteria such as education and country of residence. Ofure Ukpebor, lead developer at Anakle explains how the app works.
“The application enables anyone to check the bride price for their friends, their enemies or themselves and there are a lot of categories to choose from. The application decides based on physical appearance, cooking skills and educational levels, and all of those.”
The bride price app has, however, courted controversy since its inception. It has been criticized for use of racial terms such as ‘half-caste’ and for its use of racial demarcations.
Editi Effiong, Anakle’s chief operating officer, says the bride price app is merely meant to be funny and is not meant to be taken seriously.
“It’s an inside joke by Africans for Africans, right, and we … The concept of bride price is not being sold …but for someone who is not used to … Who has never paid a bride price it’s like oh my god, it’s such a barbaric culture. “
Back at Lola’s wedding, the groom and his friends are participating in another age-old tradition. They are lying prostrate before their elders in a symbolic act of humility to ask for their blessings.
Despite the controversy surrounding the bride price app, the groom believes traditions such as the payment of dowry will continue.
“like it’s tradition you know and it’s what, it’s just trying to tell the parents that actually i appreciate this, and in the Yoruba context of it; they are just trying to tell you that’s okay, my daughter i can’t just give you for free, you have to pay me something.”
Still, other critics say the bride price app and traditional practices like dowry marginalize and objectify women.
“I will advise young girls to say no, we don’t want to be sold and if they actually love each other they can arrange you know, talk to the parents and see how this whole bride price thing should work. The advice to parents is that you are not selling your child — I’ve heard some people will even ask for Rolex, car and all that.”
But for the young couple who just got married, the elders have indeed spoken. Leaving the debates behind. For now, it’s clear to them, that it’s the sentiment of togetherness and joy that their marriage symbolizes that’s important; a time when family and friends come together to sing, dance and feast.

2014 International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB) Convention


By Paul Ndiho

Banyakugezi-2

Dr. Frank Byamugisha, 2014 ICOB Convention, Washington DC

Ugandans from Southwestern Uganda under the umbrella organization “International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB) recently gathered in Washington DC for their 11th annual convention.  This year’s theme was “Innovations and entrepreneurship for youth employment in Uganda.

The organization attracts Ugandans from Southwestern Uganda based in the United States, Europe and Canada. Anne Karasanyi is one of the organizers.

“We’re focusing on youth employment because we want to focus on how we create employment for the youth, and how we can teach them to be entrepreneurs.”

The annual event is dynamic; it supports Ugandan culture, vocational, business and technical training of young Banyakigezi through the creation of institutes of excellence.
It also incubates ideas and addresses key issues concerning Kigezi region.  Dr. Denis Akankunda Bwesigye was one of the presenters and was concerned about Uganda’s rapid population growth.

“I am somebody that deeply feels for population growth rates in Uganda, I feel like the government is not doing enough to help our people to make formal choices and have families that they can educate, they can afford to treat, they can feed and can help to shape their dreams and futures.”

Other topics on the agenda included how to empower women and girls and how to create jobs for young people in Uganda. Maureen Tuhairwe, an independent investment analyst, wants to empower ordinary farmers.

“I’m interested in investing across the agriculture value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa to help with community development”

Dr. Moses Kamya, an IT specialist, based in New York said there are many ways to empower young people. One-way is to get them acclimated with IT skills.

“A lot of young people use smartphones. I can say that the smart phones are the most powerful information technology devices that exist today. Young people using this device are finding ways of applying technology in a lot of areas that actually help their lives and those of the communities in which they live.”

There were exciting displays of fashion, arts and crafts, book authors and countless other activities.

” The presentations we had at this convention were beyond my expectations. They actually blew my mind.”  Says Nick Nteireho.

Grace another fashion designer showcased her creations.

“I’m a fashion designer and entrepreneur. I’m here to showcase what I make. This kind of dress is actually made from all the materials we have. We cut pieces together and stitch the parts together to make this kind of dress.”

The convention guests capped off the day by sitting down with family and friends to enjoy a grand fundraising dinner that included cultural performances and live music.

The group also prides itself as a non-partisan group and tries as much as possible to steer clear from politics.  But some critics used this opportunity to criticize the Ugandan government.  However, government representatives countered these claims. Robert Kabushenga, CEO, Vision Group, said that Uganda was one of the safest countries in East Africa. Jim Muhwezi, another government representative and Member of Parliament from Rujumbura, Rukungiri district, Uganda, echoed the same sentiments and said that that the government was committed to taking the country to another level.

“ The government is putting most of the money in infrastructure development, in electricity, in roads, railway, and clean water.etc.

Ugandans from different parts of Kigezi region in Southwestern Uganda represented their districts at the convention as they danced the night away.