For Your Daily Dose of MbA

Microblog on Facebook so follow today :)


"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Friday, 25 May 2012

Joyeux Jour De L'Afrique Tout Le Monde! :)

Painting by an Evelyn Hone student hanging at the College's
Art Studio located at the Lusaka Showgrounds
Je suis desolée pour mon français mal.  I'm sure that is wrong too but at least I have tried - it's the thought that counts :). Happy Africa Day, Africa Freedom day, Feliz Dia de África and if you are in Kenya Happy Madaraka Day (celebrated in Kenya on June 1st to commemorate the day the country achieved internal-self rule during colonial times before attaining full independence on 12th Dec 1963) in advance.  In French today really does sound like a day to be up to no good by getting your freak on.  Or some precursor to Halloween...I digress as usual, I have to find a way to stop this nonsense! Today is all about positivity and celebration of our lovely continent, and to remind ourselves that we are not shackled by outside forces, we are the only ones standing in the way of unlocking our potential by either being to afraid to use it or by letting others continue to keep us down. 

First I would like to celebrate my country, Zambia.  2012 has been a great year for me so far, as it has finally given me the opportunities to justify me wanting to repatriate and make the continent my base, even though people have repeatedly tried to discourage me.  As much as I enjoy and have friends in the West, the motherland is my home and I am meant to be here contributing to its development and to changing perceptions about her for the better.  In these last five months I have met with some wonderful people through sport, media and technology.  And then of course, my love for the African continent never ceases, it only grows. This is a milestone year for me, having entered my fourth decade and I feel so young, and alive and for the first time in a long time like there is an exciting and fulfilling life ahead of me and that the African Dream is a reality and am already making headway and living it.  So I'm going to do a 3-4-10 to express being "Proudly Zambian. Positively African": the tagline for my soon to be formed TV and film production company (more to come about that soon :)). 

3 people and/ groups I'm crushing on:

1. The Chipolopolo and their AFCON win

TIA.  Copyright infringement does not apply here. Many street
vendors sell a lot of  illegal and unsanctioned Chipolopolo
merchandise.  This team"photo" can be purchased
at any traffic light.
ILELELELELELELELELELELELELE!  People believe that it was divine destiny that we were able to win the trophy after 3 finals appearances each about 2 decades apart and  that our triumph came almost 20 years after the 1993 tragedy that wiped out a generation of Chipolopolo in one fell swoop and gutted the country in such a way that we never thought we would recover.  The boys showed us that if you believe and you work hard to realise your dreams, they are very much achieveable.  It is up to you to reach out and grab your opportunities and our national team did  that by demonstrating how shoot to kill with copper bullets all the way to the final, where they slayed the mighty elephants of Cote D'Ivoire.  The country was brought together during this time in a way I have not seen since forever and it has infused a new wave of possibility and opportunity.  All I can say is come next year in South Africa "One Zambia. One Nation.",  "Nafuti, Nafuti" (Again and Again), "Donchi Kubeba!" (Don't tell) he he he he he.  Basically shoot to kill, take no prisoners, we want another bloodbath. Natowts! 

2. Leymah Gbowee

The evidence of my shameless love for my No 1 girl crush is splattered all over Facebook he he he.  From her rocking African fashion to her beautiful mind, she's just da bomb yo! Recently she posted two insightful things on her page: 

"I spoke at a function today and shared my views on development.  Expatriate-led NGOs and funders should understand that the best work being done to address African's problems isn't necessarily on the Internet, at NGO meetings in the capital or in New York.  A lot of the best work  is being done by Africans who stay in their communities, who don't have website, and keep their door open even without funding."

"The greatest threat to security in West Africa is unemployed youth."  

I think the second quote extends to many parts of the continent. There are many a disgruntled youth here in Zambia for sure, who were promised jobs and have not seen the fruits from the seeds that were supposed to have been planted to create a employment tree with many branches extending to all industries.

3. Her Excellency Joyce Banda

My love for her is also painted all over my profile.  She came to power under tragic and unfavourable circumstances but has not let this unsettle her.  She has been a Big Mama and has gotten right down to business and has taken to the role of President of Malawi with grace, strength, positive controversy and aplomb.  Her outspokeness on President Bashir being allowed to attend AU meetings, her lifting of the homosexual ban to her sacking the Police Chief all within a month of taking on the top job show that she is not afraid to weild her power on behalf of her people in order to secure peace within her country's borders, secure Aid from overseas and to respect the human rights of her citizens.  I heart :).

You can read more about my love for the Chipolopolo in this post written after the AFCON semis (was too caught up in the Final and by the time I'd calmed down I decided not to write about it as I just wanted to enjoy the win.  One day I shall do something about what that meant but you can see evidence on Facebook.)  For more on my girl crushes read these posts: Positively Woman and My Recent Bout of that Icky Nervous Condition....

4 inspirational African proverbs:

1. Love the Truth even though it harms you and hate the lies even if they serve you - Morroco

2. Where there is love there is no darkness - Burundi

3. It is better to weep with wise men than to laugh with fools - Ethiopia

4. Help me during the flood and I will help you during the drought - Tanzania

10 songs I'm feeling right now:

From Zed:

1. No explanation needed for this one methinks (sorry about the bum in your face, I have no control over that.  It will go away when you play the vid he he he)...

2. As I said when I posted this on Facebook, this is a track that provides the soundtrack to your moment outside in the garden nursing a nice South African red. If it is really hot, a Rosé is a refreshing substitute...

3. Life can get too serious and so can people with their music.  I like this track coz it's light and infuses global pop sounds with Zambian flavour.  Easy going and easy to dance to...

From the continent:

4. Though sometimes it's good for music to have a message and have meaning.  Here is a good example...

5.  The Mr. Endowed to my Mrs. had to be on the list of course because it is no secret I am twisted over this Oliver-o he he he he ;}...

6.  We love to dance in celebration and will find any excuse to do so here on the continent.  It's a good thing that we make good dance tracks to move to...

7.  Though my friends keep telling me I'm better than that, I have no qualms about being a gold-digger of the trophy wife persuasion and if P-Square don't care I'll spend their money plenty...

8. "All I know is Swagger" coz like the Channel I'm original and they tell me all the time I'm "young gifted and African" and you know what, you are too (even if you weren't born here at some point we all came from this beautiful land albeit thousands of years ago he he he he) :)

9. Just love this track...

10. Started with a positive track about Africa and we shall end with one too :).  Activate Afrika!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Mobile Tales: Part 2 - Mobile Monday Lusaka Launch

Gilbert Mwiinga, BongoHive member and App developer, unveiling his Zambian Draft 
Constitution Android App which he has since put on the Minister of Communications' 
mobile phone.  Photo by Silumesii Maboshe, Pencil Case Studios
On Monday 21st May, I attended the Launch of Mobile Monday Lusaka: MoMoLsk at TopFloor's Elunda 2, Rhodespark premises.  The building is beautiful and TopFloor's facilities are amazing! They have a first and world class set-up with great conference facilities and a generally cool, hip, modern, innovative, youthful vibe which  I'm sure helps to foster their goal to provide "business and technical Human Capital Development in Zambia."  I digress, but what is new ;}. I will continue down this road of diversion as I need to get this off my chest before I continue.  MoMoLsk sounds like a stammerer struggling to say mollusc and now all I can think of is snails while giggling to myself every time I say, write or read the acronym.  For more about my love of silly, giggle-worthy and/ or witty names, read this post about Innocent Mugabe (yes that is the name of a real person).

MobileMonday is a global organisation that seeks to provide an "open community platform of mobile industry visionaries, developers and influential individuals fostering brand neutral cooperation and cross-border P2P business opportunities through live networking events to demo products, share ideas and discuss trends from both local and global markets.  Originating in Helsinki, Finland in 2000, events are organised by some 300 dedicated volunteers from around the world and it has become an industry leading mobile platform.  Chapters have held events in over 100 cities worldwide and [continues] to launch new locations monthly." The month of May was Zambia's turn to launch MobileMonday in Lusaka.  The event was headed by Lead Organiser Gustaf Engstrand of Goe Consulting and was sponsored by BongoHive,  Airtel Zambia, and TopFloor who hosted the event.  Speakers included Airtel Zed's head honcho, former MD of Afri-Connect and one of the co-Founders of BongHive.  

First we were treated to Airtel's charismatic Fayaz King, who absolutely marvelled with his presentation about how it's all about personalisation and the mobile phone being a lifestyle device with little calling and mostly entertainment and social media driving usage.  As we move to 4G and beyond, it's all about getting a smartphone into Zambian hands that is less than $50 in order to migrate basic phone users who can't currently afford fancy communication technology. If you can read the sarcasm in my recounting, you are not imagining things.  Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation and his urging idea people and developers to come up with applications to give to Airtel and in return he would make them Appillionaires (millionaires from apps, get it, wink wink) with access to the 4 million customers in Zed and the 100+ million in Africa and the 250+ million in Africa and Asia if the App is really cool (I may have those numbers wrong, I am recounting all this from memory.)  I write with sarcasm as I am talking about AirFAIL, I mean Airtel.  

Unfortunately, because the presentations were so engaging, we weren't able to ask the panel questions as time ran out.  If I had had the opportunity I would have asked Mr. King how exactly all this would happen, especially if he expects this to occur on his network which can't even make it to 4G, it's at 3.75 which is just weird.  If I need internet access to develop my App and I use an Airtel dongle/ router that keeps cutting in and out how long will it take for me to get my work done?  And all those customers he was talking about, will they even be able to access and use the App when even internet access directly from a phone is also prone to unreliability? If they are as frustrated as me by Airtel's blatant abuse of its customers, especially in Zed because Zambians are so complacent and are fine with being shafted and getting crap customer service, then Mr. King is deluded.  So I say to Mr. King, you are a very passionate and smart man so can you please trickle some of that down to your irritatingly nonchalant people whom I've stopped talking to because they either don't answer the phone at Customer Service or say without shame or enthusiasm to make change that there is nothing they can do in-person at stores.  Thanks.  Then I will believe all you said in your presentation can happen...

The next presentation was by Mark Bennett: a hilarious and clearly ridiculously passionate and smart man who has been involved in the Zambian Telecommunications industry since 1985.  He brought Africonnect to Zambia and recently resigned as Managing Director to focus on his medical, agricultural and educational websites.  My favourite is iSchool, "a comprehensive online multi-media eLearning package designed to cover the whole of the Zambian School curriculum.  This includes both full plans for teachers and interactive learning for students.  iSchool has been built in Zambia using entirely local examples and all early grade material is available in 8 local languages as well as English.  iSchool can provide all the resources necessary to make full use of the material anywhere in Zambia, including IT equipment, internet access, teacher training, mentoring and technical support." What's not to love: teachers having easy and free access to quality resources to teach our kids better, students of all  ages being able to access material and the option to go back and catch up after years without schooling and most important, localisation of examples and voices.  Local languages means that more of the population are included in education.  Hearing a Zambian voice narrating in English is also really important as it helps to reverse the characterisation that if you have a certain accent then you are smart and if you don't you aren't.  There are many a dumb person walking around speaking in posh British accents and some of those are faking it which is even worse. It also helps to show that we can do things we think can only be done overseas.

Simunza Muyangana, who co-founded BongoHive with Lukonga Lindunda, then gave a history of how the organisation started, and how it has expanded and spawned a sister organisation, Asikana Network, which launched two weeks ago.  It is scary that in Zambia people who say they are interested in technology do not know definitions of key terms.  You want to be an App developer and you don't know what Android is?! As Simunza said, it was imperative to create a space to root out people with technological expertise to be able to pass on their knowledge and foster innovation and talent incubation for Zed to become an ICT hub.  BongoHive, Asikana and MobileMonday are all great efforts to do this.  I also liked his emphasis on Zambians finding solutions to our problems and utilising our resources.  It is clear that Africa is the place to mine for content to put on the Internet and to pursue new opportunities due to our positive economic growth despite the global financial climate and the fact that we are underserved with regards to services.  He went on to say we shouldn't complain if someone from the outside comes in and creates and exploits opportunities and consequently lament we have been robbed because we allow this to happen by not being proactive.  There is so much potential, and we live in an era were you don't need much to start-up something due to the affordances of technology and mobile in particular. This ability to create solutions through technology was best exemplified by Gilbert Mwiinga, who then demonstrated his App.  

Last week on Facebook I had posted this link about the Naija Constitution App and thought it would be great if a Zed version for the Draft Constitution was created. The Technical Committee and various other interested parties have been complaining that citizens are not engaging and it is because they either have to trudge to some office to get a hard copy or have to access a soft copy on a computer via the Internet.  Luckily we have Gilbert Mwiinga, who even though has confessed to not having read the document, (and to be honest though I have posted it on Facebook, I have only read the parts that people have highlighted in posts),  has now made the Draft Constitution easily accessible thanks to his App.  It breaks the Constitution up into lovely bite-sized chunks that you can ingest if you are only interested in particular parts or you can read the whole document at your leisure.  You can even search and it will bring up all the sections of the Constitution pertaining to your inquiry.  You can also share chunks with your friends on social media platforms, through email and good old sms.  Just brilliant!  Such stories make me optimistic about my country.  For all the people who continue to feed the problems, (such as the ones I mentioned in my mini Airtel diatribe above), there are people like Gilbert creating solutions and making things happen.

The event was the best function I have ever attended in Zambia.  I was engaged the the whole time and each speaker handled themselves with charisma and aplomb.  And the people who attended were equally engaging and I enjoyed networking afterwards, something I really do not enjoy doing.

Here are more pictures of the event taken by Silumesii and check out his website Pencil Case Studios.
You can connect with MoMoLsk (he he he he he he, I canna help myself), BongoHive, Asikana NetworkTopFloor and me, Mwana ba Afrika on Facebook.  If you haven't already read Part 1, about my BlackBerry's demise and my ludicrous attempts to use it even after it was beyond salvation, you can find it here.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mobile Tales: Part 1 - The Blues

The last time I switched on my phone hoping for
adifferent result after prayer and desperate hope
proved ultimately unsuccessful :(
It is a well documented fact that mobile phones are the number one technology in Africa right now.  We love our phones. Not only do we on the continent adore and worship them, we hang on to them to the bitter end, till they die.  Let's be honest, until they are beyond the grave really! This is because we have such faith in our phones, and we know that our love for them will resusciate them.   They are so much more than a communication device and a must-have accessory. That and phones are expensive man, we do not have developed world deals that allow you to change your smartphone like your underwear. Having said that, I do hope people out there do not change their underwear once a year like many people do their phones.  I digress...

My phone started its slow decent into unwanted obsolescence in the final quarter of last year, after its first birthday.  I remember exactly when it happened, it was during a Whatsapp conversation with C-ZED and the e stopped working.  The e would proceed to toy with me for a coupla months before finally disappearing, taking the number 2 with it (as on a BB to access the 2 when not in dial mode you have to press alt > e).  This was an easy hurdle to overcome.  I simply copied an e and adapted my thumb typing style. The QWERTY format was initially designed to ensure secretaries didn't type too fast so their bosses could change their words during a dictation session.  Unfortunately, what was not counted on, is the power of human cerebral and kinetic adaptability.  Our minds are so cool that once they learn the hodge-podge placement of our abcs, they are able to type at lightening speed with practice.  This same mental and physical agility came into play with my BlackBerry.

Repetition is such a simple concept and/ or strategy, but one of the most highly effective ways of learning and pummelling one's way to success.  After my thumbs had done the BB menu button > scroll to select paste for the e (and when needed the e would be temporarily substituted with a cut and paste 2 job) to appear on the screen, I was able to type as quickly as I had done before.  Of course, this solution did have holes in it. Most importantly, e is one of the most used vowels and letters in the frigging English language! If I had typed the precending sentence I would have had to do perform the aforementioned action 9 times (plus if I was writing a professional email I would have had to search for a capital E for English if I couldn't go round it with spell check)!  There are certain functions that do not allow this quick fix paste job.  You can dial and paste, so calling new numbers or entering in credit top-up numbers was not a problem, but when using the phone keypad selection menu when calling in customer service or using USSD services like Xapit was not possible if navigation to the correct department or service required a 2.  This was especially annoying when trying to do things with my mobile internet router and when trying to use my mobile banking account.  In desperation I would temporarily steal my younger sister's or my mother's handset but this was not always possible.
My earring wall in the US 2009-10

So I decided to go to the BlackBerry store at Manda Hill and see what could be done.   They told me that my keypad needed realignment and it would cost me K450 000 which is close to $100 or £70.  What did I think about that: HELL TO THE NO! WTF! That's a decent Nokia phone or multiple basic functionality ones that come with a really cool torch or a pretty cool Samsung man!  I might as well buy the second handset I have promised myself to reactivate my dormant simcard.  This slight inconvenience was not worth that much, come to think of it, I could buy a pair of nice shoes with that. Or 45-90 pairs of earrings from the Sunday Market (to understand my love of cheap and stylish earrings read this post)! That is fuel for a month with deliberate and careful usage!  That's three times as much as I spend on airtime and BlackBerry services per month .  Jeez!

Things could only go downhill and they did in superb fashion.  For the first four months of 2012 the trackpad would stop working and basically I would have to rub it so hard pretty much everyday, multiple times, to get it to start working again, and the same for the whole keypad. The only way I could turn off my phone was by taking the battery out as the off button retired unannounced and unsanctioned.  Sometimes I would have to give the phone a time-out and put it in a corner with its battery out for a coupla hours till it learnt that hissy fits and petulant i'm-not-gonna-work behaviour was unacceptable. Every now and again the e would become the only letter working or it would teasingly reappear for a bit before deserting me again. Or I would press a key and get multiple iterations of letter(s) I didn't even press and/ or would barely touch the keyboard and a whole load of gobbledy-gook would appear on the screen and would refuse to be deleted.  Instead more nonsense would appear. I became addicted to this vicious cycle and would be waiting with baited breath for my phone to malfunction and would get such a high from being able to fix it with my primitive ingenuity.  I should have known the end was nigh when my phone would die for a day and I would have to take out the battery and let it rest for 24 hours as the corner trick was not sufficient in restoring funcionality anymore.  

Thanks to social media documenting our lives, I can actually track the last days of my beloved phone:

3rd May: My phone has thrown one of its hissy fits so to the 5 people who have tried to call me, I cannot answer my phone and to SPORTS GUZA whom I assume is the person who whatsapped me I can't open up the app  to check your message :(. Phone has been put in the corner till it calms down and rights itself. Please comment on this update or message me if it's for my eyes only...

SPORTS GUZA: not to worry, wasn't a personal msg, but dude it's now really time to get a new phone...

MbA: are you paying for it, right now the phone works enough for me to be able to get through the week. i have things to take care of with higher priority. if all goes well, i can upgrade in coupla months, if not i'm going to have to suffer with my diva phone!

4th May: My phone has died :(. Trackpad and keyboard have refused to resusitate themselves and so I have had to get a new BlackBerry. I blame SPORTS GUZA for my phone's demise. Usually a rest would do it but it sensed someone wanted it to cease living and it just gave up...Good news is I am reachable again...

SPORTS GUZA: about time too!!!!!!

So now I have a new BlackBerry thanks to a wealthy benefactor, aka my lovely Mother who felt sorry for me and had witnessed me struggling with my phone for months.  I am however toying with getting a Android phone when things fall into place in order to take advantage of Instagram.  I am an Apple-hater so have refused to join the i-family and so far have not suffered too much.  Heard that Samsung have a coupla phones that I may like, and at the moment I'm really feeling their "Built for Africa" campaign.  Them sponsoring Chelsea and having Drogba, Essien and Mikel in their ads doesn't hurt either.  Their solar powered netbook is truly inspired!  Nokia left the door open for new suitors to court me when they failed to  upgrade with me as I moved from basic phone functionality to smartphones.  I have been cheating on them for a while but as I have learnt in life, you never forget your first love, but you don't necessarily (have to) end up with them.  

In honour of my first BlackBerry, here are links to mobile posts in 2010: TIA: This is Africa, Testy-Testy 1-2-3 ;}, and all mobile posts can be found here. You can find Part 2, about the Mobile Monday Lusaka Launch here.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

We ARE Better Than That

I will preface this post by saying that I am well aware that all Black and/or African people are not the same and this extends to all stereotyping that can happen when groups are lumped together.  The works discussed here are what they are because of the very specific circumstances the artists live in, but their message can be applied to people in similar circumstances not just because they are Black and/ or African. They can also resonate with anyone who is subjected to confinement, discouragement and/ or prejudice, especially when borne of anything fear related.

I am a fan of music with a message and have blogged about it before. Saw this music video by Slikour  and was very moved by it both visually and lyrically:

Here is him speaking about why he released the song.  Themes in Slikour's song are actually mirrored nicely in The Throne's (Jay-Z and Kanye West) Ni**as in Paris and Yasiin Bey's (formerly known as Mos Def) response Ni**as in Poorest.

Though the song is inspired by the South African Zeitgeist, it resonates with the issues relating to the Black experience around the world.  I remember having a conversation with an African American and a Caribbean about the crab syndrome, where if the militant types who believe in sticking together and standing up for the race no matter what see you are doing your thing in a way that they do not approve of as it is not in keeping with the rules of the people, they want to pull you back down to burn in the pot and suffer with them.  That, or they will not take any criticism, particularly from their own, as that is not protecting the race but considered to be selling-out or a form of self-hate.  We must not confuse constructive criticism, which is a catalyst for positive change, with the colonial, imperial, slave, prejudicial and/ or racial derogation we have suffered for centuries and are still in the process of healing from. We must also heal together, something I think that South Africa as a country makes a great effort to do and is a great example to be followed.  For every story like the one about the South African model who made a racist tweet, there are people coming together and encouraging action from all sides of the race spectrum to do things like Shout SA.  This action group get artists from all genres and backgrounds to come together to help them get the message out, and this is their latest song:

I say we need more people like Bill Cosby, who through creative means on his show was able to offer a positive image of a Black middle-class family and who was castigated by the African-American community for speaking out about the same thing Slikour raps about in his song!  Makonde Linde would say he is doing the same thing with his blackface art in Sweden,  but his recent work of art, the infamous cake, has polarised, rather than inspired people and change in my opinion...I'd rather something like Abba Makama's brilliant short film , a satirical take on Western media reporting, coupled with African dictator stereotypes, to start a conversation:

WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT! I have seen it, I believe it, I live it and I experience it everyday and I know many others who do too :). We need to tell ourselves to do better, hold ourselves accountable for our actions and strive for excellence no matter who we are, where we come from and what colour we may be.