TED Prize 2007 – Bill Clinton on Healthcare in Rwanda.

Video of Bill Clinton’s appearance at TED 2007.

When his presidential term ended, i always thought that African leaders should retain his services as a consultant and advisor. He is a very smart leader (many other qualities that if i was to list here…this whole page would be full); Simply put, he finds solutions to problems, and inspires others to do the same.
Listen to what he and his foundation were able to do in Rwanda.Notably – A healthcare model that utilizes 5% of GDP, sustainable and not dependent on foreign aid.The model is to be replicated in other countries in Africa including Kenya.
In my opinion, this is indeed quite powerful. Health care has been and continues to be a big problem in Kenya. There are many dispensaries and such around the country, but think back and remember how people suffered when the world bank did not authorize money in the form of loans or when there was a precipitous drop in foreign aid. Barely any medicines, little or no pay for the nurses and doctors…etc. The late 80′s and early 90′s were particularly bad, just as the AIDs epidemic got a stronghold over the population.

So when there is a model that can utilize a % of GDP instead of foreign aid, i cant help but herald it as a god send. It would lend some stability to the healthcare system in Kenya, whose economy has seen some resurgence since the year 2000, growing at a reported 4.3%.

I will update the post later once i find more info on this particular healthcare model.

PS: You can watch the Ted Talks videos on the site or subscribe in I-tunes. (Word of caution to architecture buffs,at the end of the other ted talks podcasts, seeing a wrecking ball smashing the bridge at falling water can be just a tad unnerving…)

Use of Solar Vs Kerosene in cameroon

This is an article from Cameroon by Sylvestre Tetchiada, reporting on solar energy use for rural electrification. Interesting stats. Not entirely clear on whether actual use of solar has ‘muscled’ out kerosene, 60% of the 17 million population still use kerosene, what percentage or what stats point to the ‘muscling’ out of kerosene by Solar any increase in the last couple of years? If so by how much? I do realize that getting specific data on stuff like this can be problematic, so please pardon my ‘reading between the lines’. It is still a very good article, it points to the benefits of solar vs kerosene use – No smoke in the eyes of teachers grading papers at night, better quality of life, and the myriad uses of solar. Good stuff. The other good thing pointed out in the piece is the transfer of knowledge from the notable Barefoot College in India. This is the classic ‘showing someone how to fish’ rather than giving someone the fish which they will eat for a day. It is also an example of good use of aid money from UNDP – the training and involvement of women in this program.

Solar power is not without its own costs. “In our country, you need on average 500 to 1,000 dollars to equip a home (with solar electricity systems), and most do not have the money,” Yves Ngouala, an economist based in Yaoundé, told IPS.

But, this hasn’t stopped the Association for the Support and Assistance of Women (Association pour l’appui et le soutien à la femme, ASAFE), an NGO based in the economic hub of Douala, from sending four women to India for six months’ training in solar power technology.

The women were briefed at the Barefoot College, an organisation founded in 1972 to equip rural people with various skills, which has branched out across India.

“The women we sent to train in the technique of solar powerâ?¦will return to electrify 100 houses each in their respective villages, where inhabitants made use of kerosene and wood for cooking and heating until now,” says ASAFE President Gisèle Ytamben.

It will be interesting to find out how the program goes. Obviously i am biased here but you know if women are involved…It will surely be something successful.

The Cameroon government has some catching up to do, by eliminating import duties on solar panels just like Kenya did June last year.
Thank you Whis for sending me the story.

Zimbabwe Suffering

Most of you in the blogosphere have heard how bad things are. If not, click here to see a video of what Mr. Mugabe’s govt is doing. Our African leaders failed to persuade Mugabe to stop the madness, meanwhile Zimbabweans continue to suffer. This picture which appeared on the mg.za photo widget caught my eye. It captures a bit of that exasperation and imminent danger to those in Zim.

‘If I die, I want people to know why’
MGZaImage
This young man joined Zimbabwe’s National Youth Service in late 2005 and has related to the M&G stomach-turning details of secret prisons and torture camps. He has now been moved to an unknown location in Europe and continues to fear for his life and for the lives of his remaining relatives in Zimbabwe.
John Grobler, M&G

Read the full story about the above picture here (Title – “I was in a Zimbabwe Death Squad”).

Please visit a fellow blogger Sokwanele for more information and info on how you can help. Thanks.

Cellphone Base stations powered by wind and solar

This post by Emeka Okafor of Timbuktu chronicles makes me just want to jump up and down with glee. “Simmer down now and write the post AFM”.O.k o.k. This is exciting!awesome!totally cool! omg! “Chill out and quit acting like a teenager seeing orlando bloom for the first time” o.k o.k! – Serious face on now…

image from TC - solar base stations
The post by TC is about cell phone base stations run by wind and solar power currently in use in Namibia. These may already be in use by Celtel, since these stations were delivered to them in 2005 (per this post, also by TC) Does anyone reading this blog know if Celtel is currently using such base stations? If you have pics, or more info, please comment. TIA. I have made some enquiries and will update you once i know for sure.

Update:Sunday March 11th: Celtel does indeed use the wind powered base stations in kenya, a company called WinAfrique provides the wind turbines.  Thanks Bankelele!
Why is this so apropos? There is now no excuse for mobile phone companies to neglect areas such as North Eastern Kenya in providing cell phone services. Places like baragoi and other remote parts of kenya can have cell phone coverage if more of these base stations are used. The initial cost of the solar panels and wind turbines will be paid off quickly and the mobile service provider will recoup their money in no time. One thing would be to find the most important outposts such as schools, boreholes, places of religious importance such as kisima – near maralal; install the base stations there.

More reading material from TC: PDF of Siemens PV systems for Telecom

AkalaNote: Barcampkenya – Nairobi is set for March 31st, please sign up here I join whiteafrican in providing drinks, since i can’t be there in person:- Incentive people!

Solar Concentrator update

I made some inquiries about the $450 solar concentrator (Sun Flower) that i blogged about last year
sunflower

I contacted Andrew Beebe of energy innovations, about their plans for making the sunflower available for purchase: It is not available for sale in international markets until 2008. According to the EI site, they are still testing and refining the Sunflower.

This is one product I am looking forward to testing it in Kenya once it becomes available, mainly because it is cost effective, and suitable for those wishing to still be tied to the electricity grid, but supplement their energy needs or even resell it to the Electric company.
AOB:

Ugo Okafor of African Architecture had blogged about a solar Chimney/Concentrated solar power plant in Sahara desert. This is a very powerful idea that apparently has a precedent. Bruno De Wachter writes on Leonardo Energy

In the current photovoltaic industry boom, another solar power technology has somehow been overshadowed: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). CSP uses mirrors to concentrate the sun rays on a pipe or vessel. These contain a gas or liquid that is heated to around 400° C and is then used to power conventional steam turbines. The technology is proven â?? a CSP plant in the California desert has been functioning very effectively for fifteen years. One major advantage of CSP is that the medium heated during the day can be stored in vessels to keep the turbines running at night.

more here and also a post on a superconducting hydrogen-electricity grid

KWFT – Loans for Solar Systems

kwft

*image from KWFT.ORG.

- Kenya Womens Finance Trust has a program for loaning qualified women in Kenya money for purchase of solar systems.

KWFT Mission is to facilitate access to sustainable financial and non-financial services to economically active women entrepreneurs.

Information gathered from brochures at their main office indicate that they have introduced new products that include solar systems for household, business premises lighting and Income generating endeavors, such as mobile phone charging stations. Listed on there are the many benefits of using solar energy systems in part: Its a one time investment, improved study time for your children, access to information through television and radio, very low maintenance costs, movable in case of migration, easy to operate, helps conserve environment (reduces use of wood).

KWFT has an extensive network of locations in kenya, with offices in all the major regions. To be a member, the application is available online or at any of the locations, it costs Ksh 200. To qualify for the loans one would need to already be a business woman, other requirements apply depending on the type of loans.

The info about the loans for solar systems has not been updated on the site, but is available at the KWFT offices.

KT Travel Tips

This is a follow up post on the one tip i posted, others in the diaspora contributed some useful tips for traveling to Kenya and Africa in general. (Thank you!) This post is to meant to highlight their contributions.
Lets start with the obvious: Make sure your passport hasn’t expired. Contact the Kenya Embassy, there are 3 locations, DC, LA and NY. A family member went to the NY office, where the staff was courteous and expedient in providing them with the travel documents they needed! This is unlike the passport blues of last year in DC. Way to go guys!

If you will be going through Britain, Magaidi has a tip for you:

…for those transiting through London, you might want to call the British Consulate, moreso for those changing Airports (eg. Flying into Heathrow and departing from Gatwick) in order to get a temporary VISA. This could save you inconveniences and delays once you get there.

MONEY

Credit cards and cash? Input on this came from several bloggers. Ssembonge said

Amex is only accepted in the US and in establishments worldwide that cater for business travelers. In the US, some places donâ??t accept Amex.
If going to Kenya carry cash, which can be easily exchanged at the numerous bureaus. You get a better deal in downtown than in tourist hotel and banks. If you have a huge amount you can negotiate the exchange rate up front if you convert it all at once. Since many establishments accept Visa/MC, I usually end up returning with my dollars.

EGM added -

The one thing about using cards is the length of time it takes to process transactions. As late as October this year I saw a payment I made at Java way back in January get posted. Most of the transactions were posted within a week of making them, but about 5 or so took almost 5 months on average to post. So this time I will try and use cash everywhere, resorting to the card only as a last option.

Kikuyu Moja representing Deutschland and ‘Old World’ KT’s chimed in regarding credit cards that have worked just fine…

…my Maestro debit card and Master Card work perfectly well with Barclays.

E-Nyce (could you kindly give me a link to your blog?) – pointed out a very handy tip that Kudrinketh shared over on Bankelele’s . The handy tip from Kudrinketh is:

For all diaspora investors who will be sending tons of money home for IPO investment,i have a money saving tip.DO NOT USE MONEYGRAM OR WESTERN UNION.

I have been preaching this for years yet people still burn money through these sharks.here’s how you send money home for free,with the best rate.Bank of America(BOA) and Barclays bank have an agreement whereby one can use either bank’s ATM for free.so what i do is open a BOA acct in U.S,send the debit card home and whenever i want to send money i simply deposit money in my BOA acct and instruct the recipient to withdraw cash from Barclays ATM.No fees,you get market exchange rates,no hassle,you can get money 24/7.I have been doing this since 1998 and i can say I’ve saved a ton of money

Another money saving tip,y’all know how most banks charge foreign transaction(2-3%) fees when you use your credit card when you travel abroad.well,Capital One credit card waives this fee so you can swipe you card anywhere in the world without extra penalty.

And from Whispering Inn:

Carry only two cards â?? one debit card for cash and one credit card for purchases. Leave all your other cards behind.

The best option, though, is to open a separate checking account with your bank, transfer a maximum of $1,500 (or however much youâ??re gonna need for the entire trip) into the account, get one of those debit cards that also function as a credit card attached to it, and carry/use ONLY that one card during your travel. Its safer and easier to keep track of your spending. Leave all your other cards behind.

Iâ??ve also found American Express TCs (Travellers Cheques) to be very convenient.

Write and keep the phone numbers of your bank, VISA/MC, and Amex in a separate pocket from your wallet â?? in case you lose your wallet.

Keep receipts of all transactions and pore over your statement when you return or online everyday if you have a secure computer. Easier to catch unauthorized transactions.

Iâ??ve found Barclays bank foreign currency counter at Queensway branch the most helpful.

He also added that if you travel to kenya more than twice a year, just keep an account there and use cash from it when there. I second his recommendation to use Barclays, the service i received was pretty good.

PHONES & ACCESORIES

From Ntwiga are two awesome tips, he has a splitter for his laptop btw, that’s another tip you can check out over at his blog.

- sign up for Skype/Vonage or some other internet service for $10-19 or so a month with a new number and forward your calls from your regular number to your new internet service number. Get a head set with a mike and you can then use any PC in Kenya to make calls to the US/rest of the world for free or stupidly low rates. I used this service to call my credit card companyâ??s 800 number for free when they decided to freeze my account.

- buy a cheap used 900Mhz GSM phone like a Nokia 6100/6610 on eBay, take it with you and use it there. Good phones are expensive in Kenya. For comparison purposes, a 6610/6100 costs maybe $40 (Kshs 3500) on ebay vs. $110 (Kshs 8500) in Kenya. A â??crackberryâ? 7100 costs $80 on eBay (Kshs 7000) vs. atleast $250 (Kshs 18000) in Kenya. You can use the phone to check email, blog or even hook up a laptop to the net via GPRS.

For how to connect to the internet using GPRS, we hop on over back to Kikuyu Moja’s post on this.

In order to use GPRS with Safaricom, all you have to do (as a prepaid customer!!!) is to send an empty short message (SMS) to 4777. Thatâ??s it!
They will then shortly afterwards send you a confirmation sms and the settings for your GPRS capable (!) phone which you will be asked to save and activate using the following PIN: â??1234â??. Simple as that.

If the settings canâ??t be received for whatever reason, but your phone is able to do GPRS, then try the following settings for Safaricom:

APN: safaricom
username: saf
password: data

Do check his site for more on GPRS in Kenya. What i can add for US KT’s – when looking for the data cable that you will need to use with your Quad band/GSM capable phone, buy it from ebay or amazon.com. Radioshack and Best buy are packaging the cable with software and inflating the price, you could have gotten it for $12 but with the software bundl its now $50.

From E-Nyce:

- do not buy power adapters (plastic thingies that allow US cords to plug into Kenyan sockets) in the US – even assuming you can easily find them, theyâ??re cheaper in Kenya! Although JKE aka kikuyumoja might have better perspective on the quality of these. They work fine for me. YMMVâ?¦

I second this, the one i took last year burnt out in no time (Jensen), found a decently priced one at walmart $20 for Travelwise international converter set. Lets see if it holds up.

MISC

E-Nyce again :)

- wanna buy inexpensive gifts for the folks in the Motherland? Go to Walmart if you have â??em, or better a 99-cents store, to stock up on plenty of low-cost goodies.

- if youâ??re taking a laptop, load up as much music as you can on it. Not only good to have some comfort-food for yourself, others will be interested in hearing different music. Believe-it-or-not, I got so many Kenyan friends hooked on Trip-Hop and Nu-Soul, sounds they had never heard before. Funny, considering that these genres are heavily influenced by African rhythms.

I think that’s all for now, for those in the US, if you have Time Warner Cable and get BET Jams, saturday nights starting at 11:00PM eastern, you can watch great African videos, from the Soweto Gospel choir, Fela Kuti, Lingala and more. The program is called Soul Of Africa – Cool stuff.

Suswa

Since Africa is the cradle of mankind, is this the belly button?

suswa

Click here for the google earth placemark

In case you missed it, there is a fun quiz on africa. Do check it out if you havent already, just ten questions. When taking it, i learned that there is a school called ‘Ramses college for girls’ in Cairo. Not entirely sure why i was laughing…hard. Yani if i get a kido and she misbehaves i can yell ‘Quit playing, i will send you to Ramses college for girls!’

*(Its probably a really good sch, i am just using the name for corny-effect)

Jonathan Castros Automatic Niche Store Generator

Via Solarbuzz.
Jonathan Castros Automatic Niche Store Generator
There are 3 interesting things in this article. It isnt just about solar panels being installed in post offices. It points out an effective system for providing financial services like Life Insurance, for rural areas. In kenya, people can access the internet at post offices, but there are still some rural areas that are not covered, as i bet they also do not have financial services in those remote areas. Another thing? There is money to be made.

The �??Postal Fin-mart�?? had been set up with the objective of addressing all the financial needs of the customers starting with postal savings to postal life insurance as well as sale of other financial instruments under one roof.
She said that power was being generated using solar panels at a post office in Maharajganj in Rae Bareli district while similar panels are being installed in Sindholi, Bikapur (Faizabad) and Gauriganj (Sultanpur) regions