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.

Mobile app helps Ghana farmers


By Paul Ndiho
A mobile phone app is helping Ghanaian farmers increase crop yields and connect with industry players through a seamless communications medium that is easily accessible and cost-effective.
Farmers in northwestern Ghana are cultivating their crops in a more cost-effective way, thanks to a new mobile app called mfarms. Farmers use the internet-based platform to access a wide range of information which connects them with a network of potential buyers and sellers.
Bawa Yamusah grows vegetables and grains on his own small holding. He says m-Farms has helped him increase his family’s income.Ghana Farmers App
“it’s has improved the yields and alternatively our income level has risen and we get a lot of food for our homes and the family then we get extra income from what we are going to dispose off selling of food surplus so we used that disposable foods to pay our children’s school fees and take care of medical and needs of the families.”
m-Farms was introduced to Ghana by image-ad, a local software development organization supported by the alliance for a green revolution in Africa.
“Now they are able to better plan and better know what they need and the cost involved, and also because we’re connected with other stakeholders we are able to give them best technology in terms of seeds, fertilizer and this really helps them to be able to cultivate within the small area and get better yield. And their production systems also change because we have been able to provide them new production systems through the information we get from m-Farms.”
Farmers using m-Farms the app receive information about good agricultural practices and they can view maps showing the location of warehouses in the area that have space available for storing crops ready for market.
“We are looking forward to a day where we will not even have extension officers going to the field to take data. Rather farmers themselves will be sending us those data that is where we’re looking at. Because if the farmers are equipped to be able to send this data themselves i think it will be even more valid than what our officers (extension officers) are doing because they know the timing of all this activities. So i can say that m-Farms is going to play a major role in our operations.”
M-Farms bring farmers and buyers together, specifically those interested in purchasing their maize, sorghum, cassava and other produce.
Created by the Rockefeller foundation and the bill and Melinda Gates foundation in 2006, AGRA helps farmers to acquire better quality seeds, which boosts their access to markets and finance, as well as lobby for policy change.
“What AGRA is doing is to enable them through our farmer-based organization support center for Africa to put farmers together through farmer organizations and support them, give them the power to negotiate for credit to buy their inputs, and give them the power to negotiate for the sale of their produce.”
The m-Farms platform is active in 17 African countries including: Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda and now Ghana.

2014 U.S – AFRICA LEADERS SUMMIT IN WASHINGTON DC


By Paul Ndiho,

President Barack Obama announced that the United States and partners will commit nearly $33 billion dollars in new financing to promote U.S. investment in Africa. The money will be spent to develop clean energy, improve infrastructure and help financial institutions and other sectors. Power Africa PKG
Observers wonder whether this event may be the beginning of a new narrative, changing perceptions in U.S African relations.


Seeking to strengthen America’s financial foothold in Africa, U.S President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in commitments this week aimed at shifting U.S. ties with Africa beyond humanitarian aid and more toward equal economic partnerships.
More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity and more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lack access to power. The power Africa initiative is expected to build on Africa’s enormous power potential, including new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas. Africa also has the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy. Andrew Herscowitz, the U.S. coordinator for power Africa, says that life is extremely difficult without power.


“Power is essential for any society – Africa, United States, anywhere, we take it for granted but if you don’t have power children can’t study at night, health clinics can’t provide essential services, life-saving equipment can’t operate, companies can’t compete when they have to run on expensive diesel generators so we look at all the constraints to growth in Africa and the developing world and it must always come back to power. “
President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative is aiming to add 30,000 megawatts of additional capacity and expand electricity access to at least 60 million households and businesses. Tom Coogan, regional program director for African Development Foundation says that his organization is partnering with general electric and USAID in six African countries.
“We’re funding off grid energy projects that are funding both business related projects but also schools and other facilities, so it could be solar, it could be wind- powered, it could be micro hydro, it could be bio gas to so people can have access to electricity when they’re not connected to the grid.”
The world bank forecasts Africa’s economic growth will accelerate to more than 5 percent in 2015 and 2016, but estimates that one in three Africans, or 600 million people, need electricity. Speaking to African and business leaders at the U.S-Africa business forum, President Obama said he wants to capitalize on new opportunities on the continent.
Internationally known Hip-Hop and R&B artist “Akon” is also doing his part to power Africa. His initiative “Akon Lighting Africa Project” is striving to bring electricity to more than one million households in Africa by the end of this year.
“Our vision is to actually power Africa, the conversation has been happening for the last 5, 10 years. And it’s just not happening fast enough so we wanted to be able to put ourselves in position to get to the people. Because ultimately the people of Africa have to do it, and me being African I’m part of the people so i wanted to be in a position where i create an initiative to where no matter where and how or what you may be able to be facing there is a way to make it work.”
The U.S. is hardly alone in visualizing Africa’s economic potential. China, India and Europe are moving aggressively to tap into the continent’s growing markets. China, in particular, is hungry for oil, coal and other resources. The Asian nation is eager to develop the roads, bridges and ports needed to build up Africa’s infrastructure.