The Ebola Crisis In West Africa And The Road To Recovery


BY PAUL NDIHO
U-S lawmakers and public health experts gathered in Washington, DC on Tuesday to discuss the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and the road to recovery. Many expressed optimism, saying that the rate of new Ebola cases in Liberia has plunged. Sierra Leone is beginning to turn the corner in dealing with the deadly virus, and health officials are now focused on Guinea.
More than 20,700 people have been infected with Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Since it began a year ago and at least 8,200 people have died, according to World Health Organization figures. The rate of transmission has slowed in Guinea and Liberia and there are signs it is starting to recede in Sierra Leone. U.S Congress member Karen Bass invited top experts to speak at a hearing on Capitol Hill. Ebola Hearing Capitol hill PKG
“What we’re doing this morning is hearing from the designated federal agencies about exactly what they’re doing to address the Ebola crisis in the 3 affected countries, but then thinking beyond the crisis. So after the crisis is over, what do we do in the United States to strengthen the health infrastructure in Africa and we have over 200 people here –many of them representing many of the affected countries.
The Ebola epidemic remains the largest in history — and the virus is still spreading. America’s top infectious diseases official, Dr. Tom Frieden was keen to stress he was optimistic, that “zero cases” of Ebola can be achieved in West Africa.
“A weak spot anywhere or a blind spot anywhere, is a risk to all of us everywhere. As we work to get to zero the next stage will be staying at zero and the next stage will be staying at zero not only in these three countries, but all over where we may face an additional or new risk such as Ebola.”
USIAD, International aid agencies and other charity organizations have played a leading role in the fight against the virus. Dr. Rabih Torbay, international medical corps said training staff and putting in a place a surveillance system is extremely important.
“We need to start rebuilding the healthcare system now; we need to revive the primary and secondary healthcare in those countries now, because people are not just dying from Ebola. People are dying from malaria, people are dying from diarrhea, and women are dying from child birth.
Since December of 2013, when the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa, NOG’s in the region have been working around the clock to educate, sensitize and help to combat the epidemic. Saran Kaba Jones, Founder and CEO of Face — Africa has seen firsthand the impact, Ebola has had on community, on lives, and on people.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of strengthening and building infrastructure-not just the health infrastructure, but also basic infrastructure like water and sanitation and that’s what we at are hoping to continue to do.”
Although many people have survived the disease, Health officials have cautioned that there is still a long way to go to eradicate the disease.

I Survived Ebola App Campaign in West Africa


By Paul Ndiho

A campaign dubbed “I Survived Ebola” is generating a lot buzz on social media. last week VOA’s on the line show, featured the creators of the campaign, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United States and others on the front lines of the fight against Ebola.Isurvived Ebola Campaign PKG
Since December of 2013, when the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa, countries affected by the deadly disease have been working around the clock to combat the epidemic. The world health organization reports more than 20,000 people have been infected with the virus and slightly more than 8,000 people have died from the disease.
A new campaign called I survived Ebola is trending on social media, where Ebola survivors in three west African countries worst hit by the epidemic can share their stories through a mobile application as part of a UNICEF-backed campaign to inform and fight stigma around the disease. Sean Southey is the CEO of PIC-media impact, the creators of the campaign.
“We are focusing on a special dimension on the fight against Ebola, helping survivors tell their stories. We think we’re having a big impact by sharing survivor stories in Sierra Leone, in guinea, in Liberia, on TV, on radio, on print media. We are allowing actual survivors to inspire people to do the right thing, and to challenge stigma.”
Although many people have survived the disease, they still face rejection from their communities due to lack of information and denial, according to the w-h-o and other health organizations. Appearing on the VOA show “on the line”, Bokari Steven, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the U.S. The said the stigmatization of Ebola has done colossal damage on the streets of the three countries.

“It’s a tremendous amount of impact apart from the stigmatization of it. The world today, we are all joined together by common commerce, transportation, and things like that. And when you have four or five transport companies, air transport companies boycotting a nation, it is almost like snuffling the life out someone. We now have only two airlines flying into Sierra Leone, and our president has appealed again today to the international community that they should not isolate Sierra Leone because that is disaster for us.”
I survived Ebola campaign is funded by the Paul g. Allen foundation. Paul Allen is a U.S philanthropist and co-founder of the tech giant, Microsoft. The foundation has committed $100 million to fight the disease. UNICEF, the U.N. Children’s agency is collaborating on the project.
Southey says that survivors in guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia will be given smartphones to document their stories and exchange tips on how to cope with the disease.

“So the app is to help the survivors themselves tell their stories and connect with each other. It’s a very simple app we gave with the help of a wonderful little NGO — global giving.org here in New York, each of the survivors a smartphone so they can talk to each other, but they can also share their stories over time.”
Two survivors who have agreed to contribute include, camera “Fanta” Fantaoulen from guinea, who lost six members of her family to Ebola, and Decontee Davis, a 23-year-old Liberian who overcame Ebola, but, sadly, she lost her fiancé. Ambassador Stevens says that his country along with Liberia and guinea has made some strides against Ebola, but the fight continues.
“We have to defeat Ebola as a tripartite way because if there is Ebola in guinea, there will be Ebola in Sierra Leone. If there is Ebola in Liberia, it will come to Sierra Leone. So we all have to coordinate our efforts and make sure that we eradicate Ebola from the basin.”
The Ebola epidemic remains the biggest story on the continent — it’s the largest epidemic in history — and the virus is still spreading.

A Malawian Student Makes His Own TV Station


By Paul Ndiho
Innovation is happening across Africa, in all different sectors, from education to energy, banking to agriculture and in television broadcasting. In Malawi, a university student has created a community TV station called “analog TV project” one that he hopes will transmit all social events taking place on campus. Malawi TV Project
Chisomo Daka is a student at the University of Malawi’s chancellor college. He is pursuing a degree in education science and he is trying to make his mark in the television broadcasting industry. By his own admission, he says that he is not an engineer by training, nor does he claim to know much about engineering. But his love and passion for tale-communications has inspired him to build from scratch a community television station. Daka says he hopes to use this TV station to broadcast social events and student projects throughout the entire campus.
“We have been able to transmit a video signal and we have been able to capture that. But by the end of the day, we would want to finalize it and make it a full working television station for the campus.”
Before his first broadcasting test signal, he was just a normal student, and few students knew about his innovation. Today, Chisomo Daka has created a name for himself as the new kid on the block. His community TV station is a hit on campus and everybody is talking about him. He says operating out of the norm is what is drove him to be innovative.
“I have had so much interest in telecommunications. Particularly, I’ve been working so much on audio transmission, and i also happen to have developed a Wireless-Mic and developed a small scale radio station. So now, i wanted to go much further than that. I thought of how I can now come up with a video and audio transmission. More like a television transmission. Much of it is out of interest because I am really interested in telecommunications.”

Daka is definitely one of the few young talented Malawians focused on changing the image of his beloved country. He argues that more and more viewers are asking for more content that reflect their realities – a quality that he says has been lacking in Malawi.
So this is what transmits whatever signal is being produced by the transmitter. And on the other hand, when the signal has been transmitted, I have a receiving antenna, which I also designed. This is called the “z” antenna that us is actually connected to the client’s television for the purposes of capturing the signal which is being transmitted. So basically, like in any other wireless system, it is a wireless video and audio communication which is just referred to as television broadcasting.
Television broadcasting is booming across the continent and young innovators are leading the way. But the industry is not without its challenges.
“We are also working on developing low-cost antennas for the clients or consumers for viewing on their televisions at home — particularly, if they have u-h-f band. We are also working on developing low-cost transmission antennas because transmission antennas are pretty expensive.”
Students at the Malawi university, chancellor college, hope that Daka’s Analog TV project will support teaching and learning by broadcasting course content for e-learning, by recording lectures, conference speakers, fine arts performances and special events on campus.

A Ugandan Startup — Twinkle Industries Is Taking on Soap and Laundry Detergent Manufacturers


By Paul Ndiho

Last summer, U.S. President Barack Obama’s initiative, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, brought five hundred of Africa’s brightest minds to America, to study, learn new skills, network and return home with new experiences. Since returning to Uganda, one of the fellows has take his start up — cleaning products manufacturing company to new heights. I met with him recently in Kampala. Uganda Soap Factory PKG-2 Uganda Soap Factory PKG-1 Uganda Soap Factory PKG

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. It’s likely that Martian Mugabi thought about that when he started his Kampala-based business, twinkle industries, a cleaning products manufacturing company.  When Mugabi found that many commercial soaps irritated his sensitive skin, he began making his own soap and laundry detergent, free from local materials and palm oil products.  His product line consists of home care products, Multi-Purpose liquid soap that can be used for general purpose cleaning at home.

“It’s a super laundry detergent that has been manufactured to save people money and time. When you use it for clothes, you don’t need bar soap like many people do here. You don’t even need powder soap. You just put the liquid formula we have developed in your water. You mix it up properly. You put your clothes in. You don’t need to soak. You wash your clothes and it comes out clean. It’s a super detergent that can be used both in machines, and it can be used at home with hands.

Regarding his own technical knowledge of the soap making process, Mugabi admits, he doesn’t have any background in organic chemistry–which making soap requires–but he certainly does now.

“This is a concentrated detergent that is anti-bacterial so it kills germs, viruses, bacteria that cause diseases to people at home. It can be used to clean your dishes at home, garments, it can clean the floors, and it can wash your car, clean windows, and general purpose cleaning in the household. If you are looking for a product that is going to give you value, and where we have put all our energy to make sure that we produce a super product that is cost effective and meets the purpose for which you buy products like these, you will find it in here.”

Twinkle Industry products can be found in shops across Kampala and its surrounding areas.  Namanya Ishmael runs one of the stores that sell Twinkle products.  He says that his customers are curious about some of the store’s merchandise.

“These products are newly introduced to the supermarket. But what I have observed is that customers are eager about it. People are asking how it works, where it is produced and who produces it.”

Although there are many body-care products on the market, Martin Mugabi maintains that his business is a small company just trying to make its mark in the marketplace.

For a rising firm like twinkle manufacturing, developing soaps and detergents can be a perfect business opportunity, if you have the right formula and equipment to manufacture the products.  Mildred Awili is the company chemist.

“There’s a range of ingredients that should be included to realize either the thickness or concentration rate. After it is ready, it is left for a period of twelve hours in order for it to mature. At the moment in its current state, it can have a negative reaction on the skin because it is either too acidic or too alkaline. But after twelve hours, you conduct a test using litmus paper. When it is at a Ph between 7-8 which is normal, we then begin packing and placing labels on the products for distribution to clients.”

The local community leaders have praised twinkle industry. Faisal kibirige is the chairman of the village.

“So for us as a community, if a youth like this gentleman starts creating jobs and other things, people who have small shops come and buy the commodity from here and take it to their shops. And it is not expensive if you compare the price to that of other commodities. So as leaders, we have been mobilizing people to start buying the commodities like soap, liquid soap and Vaseline from here.”

Jjingo Ismail, is a youth leader and head teacher at the Sauda junior academy, he says that his school uses the twinkle product for general cleaning. He also credits Martin Mugabi for bringing his services closer to the people — and for creating employment for the youth.

“As a leader, I have tried to mobilize youths to come up with certain projects so that we can help each other in the community such that they can stop being jobless.”

Martin Mugabi also has other pursuits, he is a farmer and that business provides seasonal employment to women and prisoners on work-detail in northeastern Uganda.

SALT MINING IN KATWE WESTERN UGANDA


By Paul Ndiho
For centuries people near Lake Katwe, in Western Uganda have mined salt by hand. And salt mining remains their only means of livelihood.
Salt mining is one of Uganda’s oldest industries still surviving. Mining has played a significant political and economic role in the history of the Katwe area in western, Uganda.
Today Uganda spends billions of dollars importing salt from other countries — following the collapse of the salt factory built in the late 1970’s. Critics of the government say the country needs to revive the Katwe salt factory to boost local salt production and reduce its import bill.

Katwe-1
Salt traders come from nearby markets in Uganda and from other countries. In good times, salt miners make a reasonable income, earning over 150 dollars a week, a decent wage by any Ugandan standards. But salt production has rapidly turned from boom to bust with the seasons, leaving the workers struggling to make ends meet. Joshi kimulya is a tour guide, affiliated with the Katwe tourism information center.
“We don’t manufacture salt here neither do we process it but we depend on the natural salt which naturally forms within our pans and lake.”
Extraction of the salt from Lake Katwe is done by hand, by both men and women and it involves standing in toxic, chest deep water for hours at a time. To extract salt, the miners have constructed large semi-permanent pools around the edges of the lake to intensify the evaporation. Joshi kimulya explains.
“These are the man-made features around Lake Katwe and they’re called salt-pans and within the pans that’s where salt forms naturally. And Ugandans own pans individually, you own a pan like you own land at home – it’s your property.”
The work is back-breaking, but this is the only trade in Katwe. The village is surrounded by Queen Elizabeth national park and it takes a full day to drive here from Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
Notwithstanding, salt extraction has been a source of prosperity for decades, but today’s miners work in appalling conditions.

“Only men mine rock salt from the main lake. Women are not allowed to stand in deeper brine because they can develop some problems.”
Despite the challenges, salt miners are able to make some good money and live comfortable lives outside of the salt lake. Chrispus Magonza is one of the miners and he has spent all of his life here at the lake. He says that in a good month he makes about 500 dollars and uses that money to support his family.
“We do mine salt when in the dry season and every week, we produce salt and I’m able to make enough money to feed my family.”
Birungi Powell, has been working as a professional salt loader for years, he says that on average, he loads about four trucks full of salt a day.
“I load whatever vehicle comes in – we’re a group of 100 people and licensed by the government. We load the salt from the miners. So that’s the kind of work that we do here that earns us a living.”
The salt yield from Katwe has dwindled in recent years and become more unpredictable because of Uganda’s increasingly uncertain climate. Climate scientists are predicting that weather patterns in Uganda will shift as a result of global warming – Hence resulting in too much rain and not enough evaporation to produce salt.
“We depend on high temperature. It fast forms on top of the brine and it’s called scam, then the scam has to be segmented. We segment for about three or ten days – after 10 days you remove it and wash the crystals. After washing the crystals we directly take it to the market for sale.”
Analysts say that Lake Katwe can sustain salt production for decades to come, as it has supported many generations in the past. But in its present form, it will continue to be challenging and hazardous work for the thousands of people who have no other work options, until Uganda’s government steps in with regional development employment opportunities.

TANZANIA’S FILM INDUSTRY


By Paul Ndiho
Tanzania filmmakers may only have limited production skills and equipment, but they are determined to develop the industry until it can rival Nigeria’s Nollywood.
Known as ‘ bongo movies’, the film industry in Tanzania is striving to compete with Nigeria’s Nollywood and other more established film industries in Africa. Paul Mashauri is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and actor. He’s also among a group of creative movie-makers in Tanzania’s growing film industry.Tz Movie Industry PKG-1

Tz Movie Industry PKG
“We’re getting into movies. In Tanzania, movies are becoming favorable to many people. So we are producing movies, which are transformational — movies focusing on different areas of life including entrepreneurial, career, marriage and so on and so forth.
Mr. Mashauri says the Tanzanian film industry has lots of potential, when you consider that Tanzania has a beautiful landscape for filming, plenty of creative people and good talented actors and actresses.
“The movie industry for instance now, there is a growing demand for the local content through cable network TV’s and online platforms, which means that if you can develop or produce a good movie here, and be able capture the attention of the market in east Africa which is more than 100 million people, definitely it is a very huge business.”
The Tanzanian film industry has grown significantly over the last few years, inspired by the success of Nollywood in Nigeria. While quality has been a problem in the past, it has improved dramatically with the establishment of high-quality, professional production houses and the development of filmmaking skills in the country.

However, despite these strides, the young movie industry still has a lot of challenges. For example, the overall quality of the scripts, editing and production are areas that need a lot of improvement. Mashauri also says that the issue of copyright infringement and protection is long overdue.
“The challenge which we have is piracy which I think the government should act upon.
Just a few films are released each year in Tanzania, compared to hundreds produced every week in Nigeria’s Nollywood. Government investment in Tanzania’s film is still lacking and most movies are shot on digital cameras with tight budgets.
Until Tanzanians started producing their own films, many citizens watched Nigerian movies. Local productions are popular partly because viewers can easily relate to them.

MaxMalipo Tanzania’s Electronic Payment System


By Paul Ndiho
Maxcom Africa limited, Tanzania’s electronic payment solutions provider is positioning itself as Africa’s leading information and communications technology Integration Company. It’s trying to bring various electronic payment services closer to people through a network of agents called “Maxmalipo”.
Maxcom Africa limited, based in Dar es Salaam, is aspiring to become the leading provider of payment systems, financial solutions and other services across Africa. The firm is investing millions of dollars in the development of software and hardware to bring services closer the people. Maxcom Africa is already making its mark in Tanzania. Company records indicate that more than 150 million dollars passed through its electronic payment system. The company has also expanded its business enterprise to neighboring countries in Rwanda, Burundi, and now it’s eying Uganda and Kenya. MaxMalipo
Juma Rajabu, managing director of Maxcom Africa, says they want to facilitate the transformation of Africa’s economy from cash-based to an electronic wallet economy.
“What we’re basically doing, is that through this “Maxmalipo”, we are simplifying the lives of people by bringing services closer to the community in terms of utility payment, banking services, pension funds so on and so forth. We bring services to the people and connect to the popular mobile payment systems into these services.”
Rajabu notes that his company came up with the technology to extend these services to normal retails shops closer to the people. And later integrated these services to the mobile platforms where people could easily access them.
“We started with the utility, went into now payment of tax, people can now pay tax from our platform using a corner shop or using mobile platform. And more importantly, they actually do assessment from their mobile phone.
Deogratius Lazari, head of commercial department, says electronic payment services were nonexistent at a time when they started offering services in 2009. But today Maxcom Africa has introduced a sophisticated machine that allows their agents to receive and make payments.
“Our agents in the can use to PSC terminal to offer various services, including utility services, airtime, paying for water bills and even Tanzania revenue authority bills. A normal retailer can use this machine to get just details from the customer, especially the bill number, phone number and then he pays the services.
Tech analysts say passion, and determination has helped maxmalipo transform lives not only throughout Tanzania, but outside the country as well… The service has since been expanded to encompass many types of financial transactions, including banking and various types of tax collections. Patrick Mbago provides banking services:
“We go to the banks, recruit them and do agency banking services. So that our end users can go and deposit, withdraw, do mini statements, do balance inquiries through the point of servers which we have all over the country.”
Ahmed Lussasi, chief operation officer, says that Maxcom Africa is ambitiously investing in the latest technologies.
“We have developed our own payment structure – that is our own agent network that we call “maxmalipo agents” in which customers and the public at large can visit our agents, or various agents across the country and get different services.”
He also observes that Maxcom Africa is a venture that is underlined by the presence of an effective network of agents fully focused on client service. He says it’s also a technologically strong company, but with a human touch. Especially in reducing traffic on service delivery with a result of improving the cost of living.
“There is no need to reinvent the wheel. MaxMalipo is now well established and has a proven concept in terms of how it works. So other actors or stakeholders, other business or organizations can leverage on existing infrastructure.”
Maxcom Africa employs more than 200 full time employee has positioned itself as the only electronic payment system where customers can conveniently purchase goods and services from home, while at the same time improving their lifestyles. Analysts suggest say Maxcom Africa has the potential to grow beyond East Africa, because it’s providing services that are needed continent-wide.