Friday, 11 December 2009

Racing With Africa's Cheetahs at BarCampGhana 2009


I've been following events organised around the BarCamp concept since participating in Ghana's first BarCamp held at AITI-KACE last year. I shared my thoughts on the event here. This year, BarCampGhana is coming up on 21st December. Below is a press release from the organisers.

On December 22, 2008, over a hundred young Ghanaians met in Accra for BarCamp Ghana '08 to exchange ideas on entrepreneurship, innovation and development for a rising Ghana. This summer, the conversations moved to Washington, DC on July 25, 2009 where BarCamp Diaspora '09 brought together the African Diaspora to exchange ideas on doing business in Africa.

This December 21st in Accra, the BarCamp Ghana team, made up of passionate young Ghanaians, presents BarCamp Ghana '09, under the theme "Leadership for our times - cultivating change makers". The event will take place on December 21, 2009 from 8am - 6pm at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) campus at 20 Aluguntuguntu Street in East Legon, Accra.

A BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering where attendees meet for discussions, demos and networking. Unlike a typical conference, at a BarCamp everyone is both a speaker and a participant. The content is provided by all attendees based on their interests, unified under the theme. This year, the focus is youth in leadership and how the youth can create and make change in various ways in various disciplines for the betterment of Ghana. The event would highlight different success stories involving change-making youth. Change makers and youth leaders are strongly encouraged to attend.

BarCamp Ghana ’09 is a FREE event for anyone who is interested in using their skills, talent, and resources to benefit Africa. BarCamp Diaspora gave birth to a Ghana-focused healthcare NGO,REACH-Ghana, which will be presenting its story since its inception in July. BarCamps all over the world have brought together individuals and organizations to collaborate on various projects and businesses.

Panelists and speakers will include Patrick Awuah of Ashesi University, Estelle Sowah of Google Ghana, George Minta of Empretec, Hajo Bilthemer of Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), amongst others. There will be sessions organized by Google representatives and as well as other breakout sessions on various topics and interests as put forth by the attendees. If you are creating or making change in your own small way in your community, consider sending the team a note about your project or business to info at barcampghana dot org. Some of these stories will be mentioned at the BarCamp and all the information will be on the BarCamp Ghana website.

Register/RSVP today at the BarCamp Ghana website. Help spread the word about BarCamp Ghana '09 by grabbing badges and support by donating to help cover costs. You may also contact the BarCamp Ghana team through its website for sponsorship opportunities. If you are interested in organizing a breakout session, let us know, especially if you have special needs.

BarCamp Ghana 2009 is sponsored by the GhanaThink Foundation, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, amongst others.

See you there!


PS: I will be at BarCampGhana on the 21st, so give me a shout out when you see me there. :).
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Ghana's Facebook Picture


Facebook use has caught on in Ghana over the past two years just as it has caught on in other parts of the world. There are many stories concerning how this social networking utility is used. CNN has this interesting piece about the different types of people you're likely to run in on Facebook. Some Ghanaian bloggers have also taken a shot at the subject but Esi Cleland's hilarious piece on Ghanaian Facebook status updates is one of the best that i've encountered to date.

Startup Africa last April wrote a piece on African Facebook demographics based on data gleaned from Nick Gonzalez's checkfacebook application. From Startup Africa's analysis, Ghana ranks as Africa's 7th Facebook user country with just over 100,900 users. My last check shows this figure has risen to 277,600, i.e. within a space of 7 months, Facebook has grown at a percentage of over 175% in Ghana. Startup Africa also computed Ghana's Facebook penetration, the percentage of the country's online population using the social network, and arrived at 11.47% (my own calculations pegs the figure at 27.84%). This places Ghana third in Africa ahead of the likes of Nigeria, Kenya and Morrocco. The ranking is interesting against the backdrop that the aforementioned countries have higher Internet penetration than Ghana.

The demographic details of Ghana's Facebook population is expected but surprising with regards to the huge gap in Facebook usage between the genders. A whopping 68.7% of Ghana-based facebookers are male. The 18-34 age range dominates the Ghanaian Facebook landscape, commanding 82%. The other significant Facebook usage age groups are 14-17 (7.5%) and 35-44 (6.3%).

A few conclusions could be drawn from the above data. Firstly, Ghana's relatively high Facebook penetration shows how much Ghanaians want to keep up with conversations and information. This is buttressed by the country's mobile penetration of almost 50%. Someone will say we are a country of talkatives and these stats point to that. Secondly, the information also shows the demography that should be targeted by businesses who want to employ the social media as an advertising tool. I will place my bet on males in the 18-34 age range for now.

What do you make of these stats? Do they tell you something? What has been your experience with Facebook usage? Is there a way that we can employ this social networking utility to more effective use? The ball is in your court!

An excited group at last year's Facebook Ghana developer garage


Monday, 26 October 2009

My11: The New Twist to Fantasy Football League

Theydon International Limited recently released a new fantasy football league game called My11. According to their website, "My11.com is an exciting online fantasy football games community. We aim to enhance the way football is enjoyed by offering an extensive range of online fantasy football games; live football news and results; and a thrilling live football challenge."

They have this exciting video campaign, also reported by the Keta Sandlanders FC blog, going on:




The My11 package features three free games: My African 11, My Premier 11 and My Champions 11. The unique thing about these manager-based games is their focus on African players based in Europe. The company also has My11 Football Challenge in the pipeline.

This is quite interesting considering the recent release of iWarrior, Africa's first iPhone game. There's also a facebook application called My Ghanaian name. In general, it looks like the number of software applications made by Africans or targeted at Africans is increasing. The continent is becoming more and more tech savvy. I'd give this game a try, I hope you do too. Choose your 11 and lets get down to action!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

5 Voices on Climate Change


Today is blog action day, a day on which bloggers from all over the world discuss a key issue of global concern on their blogs. This year's topic is climate change. Wikipedia defines climate change as "a change in the statistical distribution of weather over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years."

Controversial Science
The phenomenon of climate has engaged the world's attention over the past decade, provoking debates in science, politics, business and technology. Within the scientific community, there is no consensus on the extent of man's involvement in causing climate change, and its overall effect on the sustainability of our planet earth. It is gratifying that many concerned global citizens are taking steps to counter the possible ravaging effects that climate change could have on the world's future. Below is a summary of views on climate change from five global leaders.

Former US Vice-President Al Gore

"Two thousand scientists, in a hundred countries, engaged in the most elaborate, well organized scientific collaboration in the history of humankind, have produced long-since a consensus that we will face a string of terrible catastrophes unless we act to prepare ourselves and deal with the underlying causes of global warming."


Noble Laureate Wangari Maathai
"The world's remaining tropical forests must be protected, because without them not only will the global climate not be stabilized, but the entire world will suffer." "This is particularly true for many in the global south, where protecting forests is not only about conservation but also about economic development. Forests are the source of livelihoods, water and energy, and in most places they host abundant biodiversity that attracts tourism income. Destruction of forests in many places has jeopardized key economic sectors."

US President Barrack Obama
"The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much we're contributing to the warming of the earth's atmosphere and how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe."

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
"Climate change is the greatest humanitarian challenge facing mankind today. And it is a challenge that has a grave injustice at its heart. It is the major developed economies of the world which contribute the overwhelming majority of global greenhouse emissions. But it is the poorer and least developed nations that are hit hardest by its impact."

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro
"Consumer societies and the squandering of material resources are likewise incompatible with ideas of economic growth and a clean planet. The unlimited waste of non-renewable natural resources, particularly oil and gas, accumulated over hundreds of millions of years and which will be exhausted within barely two centuries at the current rate of consumption, have been the fundamental causes of climate change. Even if contaminating gases are reduced in the industrialized countries, which would be praiseworthy, it is no less certain that 5.200 billion inhabitants of the planet Earth are living in countries still to be developed to a greater or lesser degree, which are going to be demanding a huge consumption of coal, oil, natural gas and other non-renewable resources which, in line with consumer patterns created by the capitalist economy, are incompatible with the objective of saving the human species."

The Debate Continues
What are your views on climate change? Is it for real? Is it a myth? In what ways do you think that the world can use its resources more sustainably? Can developing countries contribute to reversing climate change?

Picture credit: http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/archives/2008/Jan/

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Leti Games Leads Africa into Global Games Market With iWarrior


iWarrior, probably the first iPhone game coming out of Africa, made its grand entry into Apple's App Store yesterday, signifying the potential of African gamers to make their mark on the international stage. The game was created by Leti Games, a team of ambitious, talented and motivated young Africans who are determined to make great games for gamers worldwide to enjoy. Leti first came into the limelight when they released a video for bugzvilla, their demo game, on YouTube.

The Game
iWarrior is unique in many ways. The game simulates the challenges of life in an African safari setting. The goal of the player is to protect his village and farm from destruction against various wild animals. I've had a go at it and was impressed by its simplicity and intuitive game play. The game's sounds are great and a lot of effort has been put into making it as realistic as possible. White African and AppShopper have more extensive reviews.

You can download the game from itunes here and try it for yourself.

Team
The brains behind Leti Games are Eyram Tawia of Ghana and Wesley Kirinya of Kenya. Both Eyram and Wesley have experience in making computer games.

They first worked together building a game for the CAN 2008 football tournament. Eyram and his pal Francis Dittoh, used their undergraduate final project, The Sword of Sygos, to win Ghana Think Foundation's invitational programming contest in 2006. Wesley, on the other hand, was hailed in 2007 when he came out with The Adventures of Nyangi. The two trailblazers probably got the idea to start a game company in 2008 when Wesley moved to Ghana to work for the biometric company, Genkey Africa Corp, while Eyram served as a teaching fellow at MEST, a fully funded hands-on training programme for young Ghanaian software entrepreneurs. What's striking about these two fellows is their unrelenting passion for technology and their quest to put Africa on the global gaming map. They are an inspiration for the numerous aspiring game makers and software entrepreneurs living in major cities across sub-Saharan Africa.

The way forward
The folks at Leti Games are optimistic about the success of their foray into Apple's App Store and are mindful of what this means for other African iPhone developers. They've also just finished with a J2ME version of iWarrior for Java-enabled phones called Kijiji. Leti is exploring the possibility of reaching a deal with a phone manufacturer to get Kijiji out there. "There are more great games in the pipeline", Eyram tells me with a smile.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

World Wide Web Inventor Interacts With Ghana's Internet Community

British Computer scientist, professor and inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee last Monday, 21st September, met and interacted with members of Ghana's Internet community at AITI-KACE, as part of his short visit to the country. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is famously credited for the invention of the World Wide World (WWW) during his research at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

Below, I share some insights I gathered from Sir Tim's short speech. This is particularly important as the Internet has reached it's 40th milestone and the world wide web is approaching its 20th year.

The need for a multi-disciplinary study of the web
The evolution of the web over the years has resulted in a very complex system that is an interesting subject for academic study. Closely related to this are developments towards the realisation of a “semantic web.” In Sir Tim's view, a collaborative and multi-disciplinary web science, will enhance the full understanding of the technologies driving the web as well as how people use it. The point is that if whole fields are dedicated to studying systems such as the brain, why not do the same for the web?

The barriers must be brought down
The web, by its very nature, has the capacity to make information freely accessible to everyone. Sadly, only about 20-25% of the word's population can be said to be on-line. The key challenge facing everyone is to get Internet connectivity to the doorsteps of the remaining 75-80% of the global population. Considering the enormous benefits that access to information through the web offers every sector of the economy, it is worthwhile to take bold steps to bridge the digital divide.

Why the web was made free
The web was made free to ensure that there is only one dominant platform through which information is exchanged. Sir Tim envisaged the implication of commercialising the world wide web, that is other networks would have been invented, and this may affect the free-flow of information. So, imagine, if the WWW was commercialised, we may have other networks such as MMM (multi-media mash), QQQ and HHH.

The web is a two-edged sword
Like any device, technology or piece of knowledge placed into the hands of man, the web has the potential to be used for good or for bad. And although, overwhelmingly, the WWW has served as a tool for technological, social, political and economic improvement, it has also been employed as a tool for criminal activities. The sad cases of cybercrime or “sakawa” and terrorism are but few examples of how the WWW has been misused.

At the gathering were various stakeholders in the Ghanaian technological sector including scientists, academics, business people, politicians and students. Some of the notable faces at the event were Ms. Dorothy Gordon, Director of AITI-KACE, Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor, the man credited for “bringing” the Internet to Ghana, Prof. Marian Ewurama Addy, Vice-Chancellor of Anglican University of Technology and Ghana's deputy minister of communication, Mr Gideon Quarcoo. There were also representatives of various groups such as ISOG, ghNOG, ghNIC, GISPA and GHARNET.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Dr. Nii Narku-Quaynor interacting with young enthusiastic Ghanaian technologists after the programme.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

What Would Have Been Nkrumah's Aspiration for Ghana and Africa Today?

Last Monday saw Ghana and some other parts of Africa celebrate Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's centenary. As expected, there were lots of discussions and debates surrounding the personality of Kwame Nkrumah and the contribution he has made to Ghana's progress and development. Mighty African made a round up of blog posts that discussed this all-important occasion last week. My approach to remembering Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is to attempt to answer the question: “if Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was alive today, what would have been his aspiration for Ghana and Africa?” Please share what you think he would do?

Internet connection all over Ghana
The Internet has boosted productivity in health, education, business, agriculture and almost all aspects of human endeavour. In addition, it has spawned a whole industry from which many people earn their livelihood. Kwame Nkrumah, identifying this great opportunity, would advocate for the Internet to be available in every Ghanaian, home, work place and school. After ensuring this he would then make a statement like: “Ghana's connectivity to the Internet would be meaningless unless it is linked up to the wiring up of the whole African continent.”

Cheap and affordable energy
Nkrumah's vision to develop a vibrant energy sector to power Ghana's industries was truly significant. The fact that he constructed Ghana's sole hydroelectric power plant and proposed the one that is currently under construction is prove of the above claim. Nkrumah today would be a voice for the development of nuclear energy to satisfy the electricity needs of Ghana and her neighbouring countries. In the wake of the recent oil discovery in Ghana, our first president would ensure that there is more Ghanaian involvement in the actual drilling and refinement of the oil. He would lead the effort to build more oil refineries to process the crude oil locally, so as to increase the value of the oil exports.

Permanent African seat on UN security council
On the political front, Kwame Nkrumah, being a veritable voice for more African influence on the global stage, would definitely be one of the backbones for the current call for Africa to have a permanent seat on the UN security council. This is even more important in the face of the increasing complexity of the global political sphere as well as Africa's gradual emergence as a strategic piece in the global jigsaw.

Greater access to tertiary education
Nkrumah's efforts in the past ensured that many Ghanaians had access to at least secondary education. The dynamic nature of today's global economy calls for not only a skilled workforce, but a very creative workforce. In this regard Kwame Nkrumah would take steps to ensure that the doors of higher education be opened to every Ghanaian citizen.

African space exploration centre
Space science and technology will play a crucial role in the development of our planet in the future. We're all witnesses to the important role that satellite technology, for example, has played in revolutionising communication. If Kwame Nkrumah was alive, I believe he would advocate for the setting up of a space exploration centre, at least at the continental level, in order to ensure that Africa benefits fully from the advantages therein.


PS: Kwame Nkrumah is the common theme of the GhanaBlogging group for the month of September.

Friday, 18 September 2009

We're a Year Old, Hurray!


It's been one year since I wrote my first post on this blog. It's amazing how quickly time flies. The adventure has been exciting so far and I want to take this opportunity to say "thank you, medasi, merci, gracias and akpe" for coming this way and being part of my world. Here's a short review of what's gone on over the past year.

State of the blog
Today's post is the 21st on this blog. The Gamelian World curently has 16 followers and has had more than a thousand visits. At the last check, this blog was ranked by afrigator as 17th in Ghana and 938th in Africa. The best rank I've seen on Afrigator is 14th. The blog has featured one guest blogger.

The good side of things
Blogging has contributed positively to my life in a few ways. The quality of my writing has improved over the past year. Since the blog is open to the global audience, it's been crucial to keep the highest standards possible. Another great benefit I have derived from blogging is to be part of the online conversation that is going on, not only in Ghana, but in Africa and the world. The process of getting people to talk about important and not so important things have been very rewarding for me. A third, and probably the greatest, success has been the good fortune of meeting great people on the blogosphere as well as in real life. The exceptionally wonderful people of the Ghanablogging group immediately come to mind.

The blog has also enjoyed a few mentions on other websites and blogs. My post on barcampghana'08 was cited here while that of US president Obama's visit to Ghana, was also cited here and here. Although this cannot be claimed as a complete validation of the blog's quality, it's an indication that eyeballs are indeed watching what's going on in this space.

The not so good side of things and ways to improve
There have been fewer posts on the blog than expected. To address this, I am coming out with a strategy that would help me post content more regularly. Also, commenting has been on the low side. Moving forward, my aspiration is to make posts concise and engaging, so as to ignite debates around the subject matter. Hopefully, that would get you to comment more here. Finally, membership of our community is still small. If you have not joined yet, why don't you join now by clicking here, and invite others to do the same?

The way forward
The key thing that I've been thinking about is defining the postion of the blog. This has been a difficult exercise because this blog has always been more about the writing and perspectives than about core areas. As of now, I am proposing a three prong approach: technology, development and lifestyle. And this is naturally in an African context.

Your critical feedback please!
This blog would be nothing without you-it's readers. Please feel free to let me know what you think about what we've been trying to do over the past year. What is being done right? What can be improved upon? What focus do you think best fits this blog? Over to you!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

What the heck are you saying?

My love for words and expression is the main driver for my interest in writing and by extension blogging. The written word has the power to convey one's thoughts in a clear, crisp and concise way, one that, I dare say, is much more effective than even the spoken word. After all, when you're reading a text and you come across a "big word", you can quickly make reference to a resource and get along with your task. However, you cannot stop someone in the middle of a sentence to "break down" his/her vocabulary before proceeding with the conversation.

Some time last week, I was laughing with a couple of friends over how some people complicate their conversations by using difficult words, or "vocabs" in Ghanaian secondary school parlance, when simpler words could do the trick. This led me to reminisce the days when I, completely enthralled by a writer's choice of words, would memorise whole sentences in the hope of using them when the occasion presents itself. Many of us, who watched the ultra-hilarious Pattington Papa Nii Papafio in the TV serial Taxi Driver, would easily recall moments of extreme excitement and fun that the profligate use of big words ignited among Ghanaian television viewers.


I recall with just a little trace of accuracy a tale my English teacher told our class in JSS 1, so i present it in an assorted cocktail with similar tales that i have picked up over the years. It was about a learned man whose obsession with big words was so great that he used them in everyday conversations. Instead of simply asking the small boy next door, "what's your name?", he would blurt out "what is the alphabetical construction of your human dignity?" or "what characterises your nomenclature?" If he wants to say "come quickly," he would opt for "proceed in my direction with alacrity." His equivalent of "i'm going to urinate" is "i'm proceeeding to evacuate my internal hydrosity", whatever that means.
More likely than ever, in philosophical situations, our gentleman does not spare his listeners the ordeal of deciphering, with difficulty, the meaning of every sentence of his. He would always prefer "super abundance of any performance is detrimental to the performer" to "too much of a thing is bad", and "A slight inclination of the cranium is as adequate as the spasmodic movement of one of the occular organs, to an equine quadruped devoid of its visionary capacity" to "a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse!" Soon his neighbours and aquaintances got fed up with his linguistic ways and avoided his company as much as possible.


One day he returned home only to find his beautiful home under fire. In complete hysteria, he began to shout his neighbours for help. Guess what he said? "Multitude!, multitude!, a great conflagration is consuming my magnificent domicile!" "The beautiful edifice that I erected is being razed to the ground by a ravaging inferno!" Passers by, who either did not understand a word of what he was saying or chose to ignore his verbose pleas left him to suffer his misfortune alone. In the end, he lost his home, which was an entire lifetime investment.

This story, i guess, is completely fictional. However, we all stand to pick a major lesson from it-to ensure that every time we speak, our choice of words fit the context. We should not get our listeners to the point of "what the heck is he saying?" After all, there is a bit of our friend in every one of us.

Friday, 4 September 2009

My Maker Faire Story: Pictures of Exhibitions and People

Last time, I wrote about the first Maker Faire Africa event that took place at AITI-KACE. Today, I present photographs of some great people and exhibitions from the programme.



The stand of Liberian "analogue blogger" Alfred Sirleaf announces the programme line-up for the last day, Sunday 14th August. Mr. Sirleaf has received rave reviews from prestigious media organisations, such as the BBC, for the able manner in which he displays crucial information for poor and illiterate everyday folks in Monrovia, Liberia.

Former Ghanaian finance minister, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, sandwiched by Francis Ayombil and yours truly. It was great meeting and interacting with him at the exhibition. It's heartwarming that some of the continent's thought leaders recognise technology as an important tool for its socio-economic transformation.


The Mozilla team, led by Benjamin Ephson Jnr., busy at their work station. There is an upsurge in the use of open source technologies on the African continent. MFA was an opportune moment for this crew to present the merits of the Mozilla browser to as many people as possible.

Madam Cora Taylor, "Miss Coco", smiles in this pose with her lovely, well-dressed and famous "African ladies". Miss Coco would not have her dolls called "African barbies". She is just one example of the positive things going on in her home country of Liberia right now.

Mr. Tei Huagie, a tailor, artist and sculptor, based in Accra, Ghana has fashioned out an innovative approach to solving Ghana's waste problems. Behind him are vests, shorts and caps made with ice cream sachets. Would you try one of these on?

The fight against plastic waste continues. Here, my friend, Francis, relaxes comfortably in an armchair, whose framework is essentially made up of used plastic water bottles. This masterpiece is the handiwork of Johannes Thomas Arthur.

Asiwome of Kasahorow enthusiatically explains the organisation's on-line African language initiatives to these interested attendees.

Mr. Paul Kakari offers a solution to the electricity shortage problem through his "electric cream". He mixes two different powders, some aluminium chippings and water to generate heat, through an exothermic reaction. This has many applications like heating water for tea, cooking meals and ironing clothes.

The prodigious William Kakwamba offers to provide energy to different parts of Africa by founding an energy company after his education. He's already started by building a windmill from scrap materials to generate electricity in his home in Malawi. William is a student of African Leadership Academy (ALA) and co-author of the book, "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind". It was really inspiring to meet young Africans who are actually doing things to make a difference on the continent.

This team from Accra Polytechnic completely fabricated all the parts used to make their radio station. Their solution is low cost and has potential to make information more widely available in poorer communities.

Simple implements to make the work of farmers in third world countries easier and more productive.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Innovation Galore at Maker Faire Africa(MFA)











It is undisputed that technology forms the bedrock of socio-economic development in any society. This is so because technology provides the means through which raw natural resources are transformed into objects of value that provide monetary benefits to the innovator. Increased economic gains, which are likely consequences of technological breakthroughs, directly promote investment in agriculture, education and health: key sectors of social progress in today's world. This is the reason why technology holds a special place in my heart and is a recurring theme for this blog.

In earlier blog posts, I wrote about open source in Africa, African software entrepreneurs, Barcamp Ghana, PathGhana website and My Ghanaian Name facebook application. Today's post summarises my observations on the first Maker Faire Africa(MFA), dubbed "a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention." The event was hosted by AITI-KACE, which is fast becoming the venue of choice for technology conferences here in Accra, Ghana. Watching the exhibitions sent a few thoughts through my mind that I would like to share with you.

There is Ingenuity in Africa


The numerous exhibitions at the fair portrayed the diversity of innovation that is going on the African continent. The solutions offered by the innovators also varied in complexity: from a simple analogue blogging solution, through a windmill and a metal fabrication device to complicated robotic devices. The list is endless. What is really significant about all these displays is the relevance of the various inventions to various African communities. William Kamkwamba's windmill, made from scrap materials, for example, is solving a real need, in this case, lack of electricity in his home village in rural Malawi.

Initiative Makes a Difference

There is no gainsaying that Africa's future socio-economic decelopment lies in the hands of the people of the continent themselves. Worldwide, countries that have scaled the developmental hurdle are those whose leaders and citizens "took the bull by the horns" and implemented systematic reforms to steer their national progress in the right direction. Immediate post-independence gains chalked by countries like Ghana were spearheaded by leaders who were ready to make a difference. This same make point was reitirated at the Maker Faire as the organisers are Africans (and people with strong African ties) who are determined to see a maker mentality take root on the African continent. Kudos to the organising team (made up of Emeka Okafor, Erik Hersman, Lars Hasselblad Torres, Mark Grimes, Nii Simmonds, Emer Beamer and Henry Barnor), sponsors and all volunteers of the event. Their efforts are very important because Maker Faire has been a practical demonstration of technological accomplishments possible on the continent, though on a small scale.

The Future Lies With The Young



This point has been made time and again. It really hit home again because there were quite a number of exhibitions from young people, brimming with excitement and energy. Also, most of the people I met at the fair were young people who are excited about technology and willing to pick up the necessary skills so as to ultimately bring about positive change to their African communities. The likes of William Kamkwamba (inventor of the electricity-generating windmill), Johannes Thomas Arthur (producer of furniture using plasitic water bottles) and the Accra Polytechnic Fm team are worthy role models for African youth to emulate. Their creative minds give hope to a continent often tagged as dark and backward. This resonates US president Barack Obama's message to African youth when he visited the continent.

Overall, it was interesting watching the Maker Faire exhibitions and speaking with great people like Dr. Kwesi Botchwey (yes, the former finance minister), Erik Hersman (White African and Afrigadget), Oluniyi David Ajao (Web4Africa), Miquel Hudin (Maneno), Wayan Vota(Inveneo), Louisa (Butterfly works) and all the awesome exhibitors. My only regret though is that i couldn't participate in the workshops because of my packed weekend. I have taken many pictures of the exhibitions and people I met there and would be posting them in the days to come.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

My Ghanaian name is Kwaku, what is yours?

Last Friday, 24th July, guest blogger Edward Amartey-Tagoe made a post on PathGhana's new initiative, PathGhana Friday, which is aimed at promoting tourism in Ghana to higher heights. This development has been further boosted by the release of a facebook application by the PathGhana team. This facebook application, called "My Ghanaian Name", helps users to know their Ghanaian names based on the week day on which they've been born.

The application is the brain child of PathGhana lead developer Christian Kojo Tamakloe. Christian studied facebook's popularity and infered that developing such an application on the facebook platform would attract many users and thus promote Ghanaian tourism.

Ghana's unique naming system is widely used among the country's diverse ethnic groups. This special naming system gives special names to people based on the specific day of the week on which they are born and their gender. For example, I am a Wednesday born so the various variations of my name are Kwaku, Kweku and Korku. These names also have certain specific connotations. According to the application, "Wednesday borns are mischievous, vicarious, vigilant and daring. They are usually fully in control of every situation, do not want to be told what to do (some what know-it-alls), spontaneous, vibrant and cordial. Be sure not to cross their paths though". Visitors to Ghana are usually intrigued by these names and therefore adopt them for themselves. My Ghanablogging colleague, Kajsa has one such name. Foreigners, who do not know their week days would find this application very useful.

So, go ahead click here, give it a try and forward your feedback to the PathGhana team at admin@pathghana.com. Be sure to let all your folks know about this cool new app!

Picture: Yours truly with Christian Tamakloe

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Ghana’s Former President Joins World Food Programme to Knock out Global Hunger

Picture credit: WFP & Alessandro Recalcati

What does a former Ghanaian president have in common with a world class footballer, an elite long distance athlete, a famous actress or a former US senator?

The answer to this question was unveiled to me when I received an email from the Online Marketing Coordinator of World Food Programme (WFP), Abby Ravera, requesting me to inform my readership about the contribution of Ghana's immediate past President, Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor, to the global fight against hunger. Mr. Kufuor joins forces with Ricardo Kaka (former FIFA footballer of the year), Paul Tergat (Marathon champion), George McGovern (former US Senator) and Drew Barrymore (actress) to ask world leaders and other stakeholders to fill the "red cup" and put to rest the scourge of hunger among large swathes of the world's population.

At the induction ceremony in London, the former president indicated his desire of eradicating hunger among school children. He said that "ensuring that every child has proper nutrition has to be the goal of every world leader; I hope to inspire them all to strive for this goal." This welcome development comes as no surprise to many since the former president was in Rome, Italy in 2008 when the WFP launched its "fill the cup campaign" to provide school meals for hungry school children. Back home, his administration rolled out the school feeding programme to provide free meals for pupils in deprived areas of Ghana.

Mr. J.A. Kufuor and some Ghanaian school kids at the launch of WFP's "fill the up" campaign in Rome Italy. Picure taken from the WFP website

Mr. Kufuor received a lot of praise for his involvement. WFP Executive Director, Rosette Sheeran said that "John Kufuor not only talks the talk, but walks the walk; Ghana is a leader in nourishing its children and Ambassador Kufuor can be a leader in getting others to follow his good work."

Former President Kufuor and WFP's fight against global hunger is justified by the knowledge that over 1 billion people are either suffering from harsh, raw hunger or malnutrition of some sort. Key facts about the WFP school feeding programme that I found here suggest that the WFP is only able to feed about one-third of the 66 million hungry school children worldwide. This situation really requires urgent action.

Governments of affected countries should take the initiative of rolling out or strengthening national programmes to complement the efforts of the WFP and alleviate the plight of their people. More lasting solutions to the hunger problem must be explored, like technological innovations that would allow farmers to grow crops during drought, or assistance to beneficiaries in the form of skill acquisition, rather than always giving out fish. What is the WFP doing about this? Individuals can also help by contributing to the WFP, volunteering on WFP programmes or spreading the word like I'm doing. J. Another cool way that I found to be helpful is to simply play this game. Imagine having fun, learning and doing charity work at the same time! That feels good, doesn't it?

Ayeeko to the Gentle Giant and the WFP!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Jubilee 106.9 Fm: Deploying Information as a Transformational Tool

Jubilee radio came into emergence in the Keta district of the Volta region five years ago and has since not looked back on its mantra of "information for transformation." Jubilee radio is the brainchild of Pastor Joseph Adika, a citizen of the area, who in 2004 acted on God's vision to engender rapid socio-economic and spiritual transformation in Keta and its environs. Pastor Adika identified dissemination of information to be key in this transformational process, hence the setting up of the station.

The station, amid pomp and pageantry, stretching from June to July, marked their fifth anniversary under the appropriate theme: "the media as a tool for rapid socio-economic and spiritual transformation." Characteristic of such anniversary celebrations, the programme line-up included clean-up, blood donation and tree planting exercises, a musical concert and a gospel rock show. The anniversary was rounded up by a grand durbar held on 18th July 2009 and a football match between workers of the station and colleague journalists from the republic of Togo. In the football match, the lads of Jubilee, in typical Ghanaian fashion, drilled five goals into the Togolese net without any response. Jubilee Sports host Dzidodo Adzaho (The Big Aarony), who is my brother, told me he scored a 35-yard screamer as the opening goal! The grand durbar was graced by dignitaries such as the Keta Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Mr. Sylvester Tornyeva, Volta Regional NADMO boss, Mr. Ametefee, the deputy Volta Regional minister, Col. (rtd) Cyril Neku and the deputy minister of information, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa. The anniversary celebration of Jubilee has presented the opportunity to explore the role that this station has played so far in the Keta community and its environs.

To begin with, the station, as the first and only radio station in Keta district, has been a veritable vehicle for economic, social and religious transformation. Since the station came into being, it has provided employment opportunities for both seasoned journalists and aspiring presenters. The real transformation has been seen in the lives of the younger members of staff, some of whom have been assisted to go through training programmes in broadcast journalism, seminars and workshops organised by institutions such as Radio and Broadcast Development Foundation (RABODEF), the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Again, Jubilee radio has been an ardent supporter of social initiatives such as HIV/AIDS-awareness programmes. The station was one of the participants in Radio France International's (RFI) "kicking HIV out of the West African corridor" initiative. It has also been a strong voice in national political and governance matters. Finally, Jubilee has been instrumental in the organisation of prayer sessions in support of noble initiatives such as peace in Anloland, peaceful free and fair elections in Ghana and the call for spiritual renewal in the southern parts of the Volta Region.

Jubilee has also enriched the lives of its target audience through its menu of educational, informational and entertaining programmes. The morning show hosted by Kodzotse Zoranu (Papa radiotor), Israel Abotsivia (Areeba) and Silas Aidam serves listeners with a digest of the latest happenings on the local, national and international scenes. The news is not only presented as is, but is analysed comprehensively so as to help listeners track the repercussions of events as they unfold. The educational side of things is complemented by talk shows on diverse topics ranging from current affairs, through sports, to culture. Agbotadua Kumassah's cultural talk show for example re-orients Anlo youth with elements of their culture in the face of the current wave of extreme westernisation. The dishes that Jubilee serves on its entertainment menu are equally palatable. Programmes such as Jubilee drive (hosted by Edem Nyasorgbor a.k.a DJ Ras Muta), Music stream (hosted by Dzidodo Adzaho), Mid-day breeze and Reggae Myelities readily come to mind. There are a host of others. Similarly, the station has organised numerous musical concerts to entertain the buzzing youth of the Keta area and to promote the work of various musicians across multiple musical genres. Artists who have participated in some of these concerts are Ayigbe Edem, 4x4, Praye, Woezepe from Togo, Agbeko and countless local musical hopefuls. It is quite clear that the station has been influential in almost all spheres of the lives of the people of Keta district.

However, Jubilee radio has had its fair share of challenges in its short history. In the early years of its formation, the station was temporarily shut down by the National Communication Authority (NCA) for using the frequency previously allocated to Obonu Fm in the Greater Accra region. This turned out to be due to a mix up. Secondly, the station is often caught in the middle of conflict and competitive situations such as the Anlo chieftaincy dispute, the 2004 general elections and the 2008 general elections. Again, there seems to be a constant exodus of some of the station's best talents, disrupting some of the gains chalked over the years, and thus preventing the station from building on its great success. Finally, lack of funds has often derailed the station's ambition of acquiring the latest state of the art infrastructure that would enable it to broadcast its programmes seamlessly to its target audience. There have been times when the Jubilee radio could not broadcast during lights off (blackouts) either due to a malfunctioning electricity generation set or escalating fuel costs. This calls from massive financial and logistic support from all stakeholders.

On the whole, in the face of these challenges, the achievements of Jubilee radio, over the course of the years, are quite remarkable. The station has been a good nurturing ground for many broadcast journalists who are now handling bigger responsibilities in various media organisations. Mention can be made of Agbeko Ben Cofie (ABC) of Joy Fm, Mary Ayim of Metro TV and Frank Foli (DJ Fresh) of Lorlornyo Fm in Hohoe. They have also recently launched a web-interface from which listeners from all over the world can follow their programmes live. From my observation, the critical success factors of the station during this journey are spotting and nurturing young talents, close collaboration and engagement with the local community, strategic alliances with media heavyweights such as Joy Fm and BBC and reliance on God for direction in its dealings. Big ups to all members of Team Jubilee especially Pastor Adika and Mr. Emmanuel Evortepe (Keta man)!


Friday, 24 July 2009

PathGhana: Promoting Ghanaian Tourism Through Web 2.0

By Edward-Amartey Tagoe

Ghana recently launched a special campaign dubbed the Tourism Marketing Campaign to help take Ghana Tourism to the next pedestal. Over 300,000 jobs have already been created by the Tourism Industry and more are expected to benefit from this boon come next few months. The Ghanaian youth have been advised to take advantage of the prospects in the tourism industry.

A team of software developers from the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) took it upon themselves to jump on the tourism bandwagon and contribute their quota to the Tourism campaign. They therefore built a very interactive website www.pathghana.com, on Ghanaian tourism to showcase the treasures that Ghana has within.

PathGhana.com, since its launch in June, has attracted lots of interest from tourism enthusiasts from all over the world. It seeks to be the number one web portal, providing comprehensive information about Ghana and the people therein. PathGhana.com delves into the history of Ghana, facts and figures and other important information and details that all lovers of Ghanaian tourism need. Taking full advantage of advancements in web 2.0 and developments on the social media landscape, the pathghana.com team has developed a community around the site to encourage blogging for free.

In line with the Ministry of Tourism's awareness creation campaign, the PathGhana team will commence a very exciting monthly campaign called PathGhana Friday. The campaign encourages all young Ghanaians, and other nationals who love Ghanaian tourism, to display links to a tourism webpage on any social network that one belongs to. These social networks include, Facebook, Twitter, Hi5, MySpace, etc. They are also encouraged to display the banner of the website that started it all; PathGhana.com. PathGhana Friday is expected to be observed on the last Friday of every month starting from Friday July 31st this year. Many individuals are enthused by PathGhana and are bracing themselves for the commencement of PathGhana Friday. Already, the site has been tagged among the 100 most popular sites in Ghana by Alexa.

The Tourism Industry in Ghana is expected to see a major boost despite the global economic recession. President Obama's first visit to the sub-Saharan country of Ghana is also seen to be a major factor that will push tourism further. This year Ghana will celebrate Emancipation day, Panafest and the World Tourism Day. All these festivities are expected to draw in more traffic than ever before. Why don't you join the PathGhana community?

Gameli's notes: Edward Tagoe is the founder of Path Ghana and blogs regularly at Tagoe blogger and moonlight expressions.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

OBAMA in Ghana: Retracing the steps of history





A large crowd gathers at Accra’s international airport in anticipation of the expected visitors. Music, fanfare and excitement fill the air. Among the expectant crowd are dignitaries from all walks of life, the top echelon of society. The president, his vice, their wives, ministers of state, members of parliament, members of the diplomatic corps and the media all wait in anticipation of what promises to be a turning point in the history of Ghana and Africa. Then, sometime after 21:00 hrs GMT, US airforce 1 touches down on the tarmac, takes a short stride on the runway and makes a graceful stop. Emerging a few minutes later is the man that the whole Africa and the world had been waiting for. He emerges from the aircraft, holding in hand a young girl of about 11, flashing his trademark style. Immediately on his heels, emerges a woman, taller than the man before her, who holds to another girl of about 8 years. They all walk down the flight of stairs to where the dignitaries await them. They exchange pleasantries amidst great fanfare, as if they were friends long lost. Next, the man walks over to a group of drummers and dancers, who are fuelling the evening’s excitement with intricate dancing steps and movements to rhythmic, melodious drum beats. Many watch amused as the man begins to gesticulate as if he was doing their dance himself. That man is Barack Hussein Obama, the first black president of the United States of America.

I’ve already done a blog post about Obama’s emergence as a global icon, but the Ghana blogging group, influenced by his visit to the country, decided to make Obama our common topic for July. Since Obama’s inauguration, all will agree with me that Obama has discharged himself excellently as the president of arguably the most powerful nation on the planet. Today’s blog post centres on the significance of Obama’s visit to Ghana and the new direction of US-African relations.

President Obama’s itinerary in Ghana includes a breakfast meeting with the president and senior statesmen, an address to parliament and a short visit to one of Ghana’s relics of slave trade and colonialism, the Cape Coast castle. According to most commentators, Obama’s visit was to highlight the growing importance of Ghana as a centre of democracy, good governance and rule of law, emphasizing its role as the beacon of hope and “shining star” of Africa. Some cynics tag the visit as a reward for Ghana being a “good boy” and an ardent follower the democratic creed as per America.

Whatever Obama’s visit means for you, the occasion gave him the opportunity to spell out America’s new policy direction for the African continent. It is heartwarming to note that America now identifies Africa as a strategic partner in global affairs, rather than the continent being on the fringes of world history and constantly receiving foreign aid and handouts. In his usual engaging, smooth and charismatic style, Obama proposes a four-prong approach of tackling the development needs of deserving African countries: democracy, creation of opportunity, health and conflict resolution. What Africa needs to take from Obama’s speech is his admonition that African development lies in the hands of Africans and not any other group of people, and certainly not the United States of America. We are again reminded that corruption, tribalism, religious intolerance and tyranny have no place in progressive 21st century societies.

Also, the Obama family’s visit to Ghana and the Cape Coast castle in particular provided moments of reflection on racial interactions through the course of history. The fact that Obama’s father, a respected elder in his tribal community was just a houseboy in a British colonial officer’s house; the fact that the ancestors of Michelle Obama were slaves on America’s farms; the fact that a church was right on top of the male dungeon in the Cape Coast castle; and the fact that the African continent had been the playground post-world war II cold war powers; highlights the indignity that Africans and black people had suffered in the hands of history. When all those sad events are contrasted with the glory that has been achieved by man since then: Kwame Nkrumah’s successful independence struggle, Nelson Mandela’s demolition of apartheid, Kofi Anan’s leadership of the UN and a black family in the white house, one can’t help but be grateful for the fulfillment of the messianic visions of black leaders like Marcus Garvey, M.L. King and Kwame Nkrumah.

From all indications, the relationship between Africa and the United States would further be strengthened in years to come. What the continent’s leaders need to do is to strategically churn out homegrown solutions to the continents problems and take full advantage of programs put forth by the Obama leadership. Young people in Africa need to continually believe in the emergence of the African renaissance, and make patriotism, hard work, vision and imagination their watch words. Even Obama is watching what we are doing in Africa. Did you catch him mention Anas Aremeyaw Anas, that daring investigative journalist in his speech? YES WE CAN! Please don’t forget to keep your comments on Obama’s visit coming.


I hear there are Obama parties going on in Accra, Cape Coast and cities all over Ghana, and the official song is sure to be this cracker from Blakk Rasta: