AIDS and the abstinence debate in Uganda – Video

We truly live in a small world. Its no wonder Frontline on PBS has a tag line of ‘stories from a small planet’. This short video [8:35] is one that explores how religion,
Abstinence billboard
AID, and politics interplay between Uganda and the US.
The strategy of ABC – Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condoms had been successful in reducing the AIDs infection rate, but a reversal of that strategy by President Yoweri Museveni perhaps directly or indirectly due to the strings that came with the aid money to combat aids appears to be counter productive. 1/3 of the 15 billion dollars allocated in PEPFAR – President’s [GW Bush] Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief be used to promote abstinence only programs around the world. That is 5 billion bucks.
You can join the discussion on the frontline page for the video. Particularly welcome are thoughts from the Ugandan blogosphere.

Images courtesy of Frontline World.

On July 26 there will be a video about baseball in Ghana – so do keep frontline world bookmarked.
(Thanks Charlotte for the heads up).

If you dont like the network, make your own!

Well, i am paraphrasing Jim Forster’s line which in its entirety reads, “If you don’t like the network you have, go out and make your own“. This was one of my favorite quotables at TEDGlobal in Arusha.

Jim Forster is the distinguished engineer at Cisco, the veritable maker of routers and switches that form the backbone of the internet, amongst other products and services. He is also one of the contributors to the invaluable free resource “Wireless Networking in the Developing World” – An in depth guide to planning and building low cost telecom infrastructure.

In his 3 minute presentation at TEDGlobal he talked about the current state of telecom, likening it to a railroad system where everyone is a customer but it doesn’t reach all the areas ‘last mile’ as it were. The model that we should be considering is one that is composed of many private networks, similar to the model of the internet, or a ‘network of networks’. We need to encourage our governments to support the idea of many networks that are run either privately or as businesses providing network access to others. Please click on the graphic below to download the presentation that he has made available.
Presentation at TEDglobal

There is also more information available on the site Network The World.

While on the topic of wireless networks, Riyaz of skunkworks pointed me to Meraki’s june announcement of the first solar powered outdoor wifi access kit.

Priced at just $99, Meraki Outdoor can send a signal up to 700 feet. Paired with Merakiâ??s existing indoor $49 Mini, the Meraki Outdoor repeater can power access for dozens of households sharing one high speed connection. Meraki Outdoor can be easily installed on a wall or even a pole outside the house. It marks another step forward in Merakiâ??s efforts to change the economics of Wi-Fi access, driving the cost per household of high speed connections to $1 to $2 a month.

Adding the Meraki Solar accessory kit will allow the repeater to broadcast a signal without being connected to any electrical source, making it an ideal solution for any community, even emerging markets where electricity is scant or unreliable.

The skunkworks crew and other wireless networking experts, you are very welcome to comment on whether you see any private networks being set up in Nairobi or other parts of Africa that utilize the ideas alluded to above. Meanwhile…no whining!

The Network
Image from the internet superstar – Hugh Mcleod.

**Tangential Digression – Weird Cell behavior on the border.

On crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya and vice versa, i got the following text message on my safaricom line…from Celtel. It stated “Welcome to Kenya & thank you for choosing Celtel.International access code is 000 or +.The tourist help line is +254733617499.Celtel. Making life better.”. Worrisome to say the least. Is celtel just broadcasting a signal to all and sundry? How did they get the safaricom number? What expectation of privacy should safaricom customers have? I later found out that everyone gets that sms whether they are on a celtel line or safaricom. I mentioned it to Mr. Forster and he pointed out that some networks do play nice and share infrastructure even base stations. Its quite curious…Do chime in if you’ve experienced something similar, even weirder, or if you can shed light on how and why this occurs. Does the same thing happen on crossing into Uganda?

The Nest Home Limuru – An appeal to all bloggers.

Please take a look at this baby. Her name is Lucy. The story of how she came to nest home home is one that is not easy for anyone to read, but read we must.

She was a few months old when she was raped. Defiled. Mangled.
The horror of what happened to this little baby is indescribable. I only ask that you look at this picture of her,

Baby Lucy

and think of what good we can all do to counter the evil that could befall her.

She is being cared for by the wonderful caretakers at The Nest Home in Limuru. Please keep her in your thoughts and if you have the means please donate to the Nest.

flag-kenya.jpg Bank Account in Kenya:
The Nest Home Charitable Trust
Kenya Commercial Bank-Village Market
Account No. 260760292
Swift Code : KCBLKENX 011

or by sending a check to

The Nest
P.O. Box 605 – 00621
Irene Baumgartner in Kenya – Tel: +254 (0)721-437893

Whenever you are in Kenya, please visit her and the other wonderful children at the Nest.

As she grows, may she be able to dance and sing with the other children like this.

We can counter the bad in our world, one person, one blog, one link at a time.

To see an overview of the Nest Home compound, please click here for a video taken by JKE (who told us about the nest home)

Thank you kindly, on behalf of Afrigadget authors.

Sustainable Rural Development Project, Tanzania

While at TED Global, i got a chance to speak with William Makali, the president of a company called Full Dimensions in Tanzania, and a TED fellow. His view of development is what he terms ‘The Big Idea!’.

The Big Idea is to create a Rural Development Community Role model sustainable Project. The Community members from other areas will be invited and get immersed in the community activities to learn the Power of Ideas to eradicate poverty. This will help to transfer information to other communities which will evidently result in transforming other communities.

The project is already underway in Singida region, Yullansoni Valley Tanzania, a remote rural village. Please click here for a google earth placemark of Singida. What they have been able to do so far is expand a mobile clinic that started in 1996 into a health center that caters to the community, and install a 38000 liter water tank to store rain water. The exciting thing is is what Mr. Makali is working on now. In his own words:

Installation of the Solar Power at the clinic to upgrade the medical services.

Upgrading the Clinic to become a referral Hospital in the future.

Education of the Solar Power cooking to the community to protect the environment from deforestation and erosion.

Installation of the Sunflower Oil Press industry.

Provision of modern Agricultural tools.

Initiation of Rural Microfinance Credit Bank Facility

Mobilizing the community to create communication Infrastructure.

Mobilizing the community to preserve the environment.

Introduction of Vocational Training School.

Well drillings and water harvest to introduce irrigation system.

Upgrading the Pre school to Primary school and to a secondary school level.

For more details of Mr. Makali’s inititiave in rural Tanzania, please click here for a word document. (He can be reached at wn_love [at] yahoo dot com.)
As you can tell from the list of things he is doing, these are initiatives that aim to serve and involve the community. Although it is still an early stage project, it has a bottom-up component that i particularly like. The initiatives are formulated by him a Tanzanian who is familiar with the realities and challenges of rural development, and not from without. Not only did i find what he is doing laudable, i really liked the by line on his business card. It says “Think Big, Think Smart, Think Creative, Think Positive, Work Smart, Make a difference”.

Simon Mwacharo Renewable Energy Entrepreneur – Video


Simon Mwacharo and William Kamkwamba – Renewable Energy Innovators.

Here is the video i did with Simon Mwacharo, the founder of Craftskills, a wind and solar company based in Kenya. This was recorded after his TED talk which you can find a great summary of at LHKB Ethanâ??s and my post on his talk can be found here.

**I am a total noob on this one, please pardon the frequent uh huhâ??s vigorous head nodding and leading questionsâ?¦I said it was a conversation right? Right. I promise that the next video I make will definitely be better; I am getting started on Pixel Corps to get me on the road to better digital media work.(Thanks Alex Lindsay). Ok, without further adoâ?¦

Please click here to download the video

Update1: Mr. Mwacharo commented on the post

We are situated in Kibera slums Nairobi and are looking for a chance to give Africa her pride. Funds will come in handy to place us on an industrial scenario where we can produce these turbines at a lower cost and benefit wananchi.

Check out his company here.

Meeting these two gentlemen pictured above at TED was indeed an honour. I am not the only one who was impressed…Nii Simmonds has a post on William Kamkwamba, “I see I make”.

Update 2: Via Hash, William Kamkwamba has a blog, do visit him here.

Believe, Begin Become Press conference.


Dr. Larry Brilliant Executive Director of, President of Tanzania Jakayo Kikwete and Bruce McNamer CEO of Technoserve.

June 7th 2007 launch of Believe-Begin-Become program in Tanzania.
Bloggers were invited into the press conference. Ethan Z has an excellent summary, Ndesanjo wrote about the press conference in Swahili, and I took a few photos.

The programsâ?? goal is to support the youth in entrepreneurial pursuits by providing training, networking, and mentoring through technoserve and in partnership with the government. The plans they are looking for through business plan competitions in Tanzania, ought to be fundable and workable. For more on the program please click here.For Tanzania specific information, please click here. The site includes FAQ’s, rules and more information.
President Jakaya Kikweteâ??s comments during the press conference and also during the TED global address showed that he is a leader with an open mind, engaging and committed to market liberalization. He struck me as a new breed of African leader, who engenders progressive ideals.

Update:June 9th. Link to All Africa story.

TED Global 2007 – Tales of Invention

Bola Olabisi:

Founder of GWIIN – Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network: An organization that spotlights and supports women inventors.

In 1998, Bola decided to go for a free international inventors fair since she was expecting her 4th child and was not working at the time. Where she noticed that there was diversity in terms of the attendees and people at the booths; in talking to the people there, she found that though the inventors were male, the women were either wives, sisters or partners. Seeing this chasm, she set out to find the one woman inventor. She never found one on that day in the UK. She went to the organizers and asked if they could point one out. They had never had one as part of the inventors fair and told here that if she found one, she should contact them. She then did a program on BBC, seeking out women inventors. She got an overwhelming response to her appeal.

On Africa:-She did not begin here first, she started in Asia PAC,finding, supporting and recognizing the women inventors there. For Africa she started with visiting universities. Whenever she asked, people could barely name 3 women inventors. She discovered that there was a dearth of information on African women inventors in current textbooks. The African inventors who were featured were written about by Americans. She also found that it wasn’t just African women inventors, it was about women inventors as a whole not being acknowledged.

She faced lots of naysayers, wondering if she had this right when she wanted to have a conference for women innovators. In 2005 the first Pan African conference for women innovators was held – it was clear she was on to something because every seat was taken. Her work continues since, with a centre for innovation in Africa being opened in December. She noted something that we all know in Africa, women are very active participants in the marketplace, they are traders and sellers.She also gave examples of people honored by her organization: – Simi Bola who made a new wig that had braids, it is now on sale around the world. To see more of the women honored by her org, please click here.

Hers was a very inspiring talk because she exemplifies action. She saw something that wasn’t being done and just got on with making change happen.

Next, there was an excellent 3 minute presentation by Erik Hersman of Afrigadget the slides showcased some of the stories covered by afrigadget team, demonstrating how Africans solve problems every day by making tools and using local materials. The main idea he shared is that – Ingenuity born of necessity. The quotable from him is that **Where others see trash, africa recycles** He presented a soccer ball made of twine and paper bags to Emeka Okafor one of the organizers of TED Global. A wonderful gesture, because as most people may not know, Emeka is the pre-eminent online chronicler of African innovation and business. His blog is Timbuktu Chronicles.

The Next speaker was Dr. Moses Makayoto – Chemical Engineer from Kenya: Africa has stopped talking, its now about action.
Innovations he has been working on :

Bacillus thuringiensis -filth flies control using bio pesticides made out of 100% local materials such as cowdung, molasses and other ingredients.
Artemisinin – Drug for malaria, there is a $10 million plant in Nairobi processing artemisinin. It is possible that he is referring to the plant mentioned in TED global day 1.
“sungrupot”- Nutritive immune booster (for AIDS patients) -current research is still going on though it has been patented in Kenya. He pointed out that there are other diseases such as cholera and typhoid that are still killing people and solutions to these issues are still needed.
Quotable – There isn’t the notion of African science, science is science – Look at it in the context of science being needed to solve Africa’s problems.

Challenges: Lack of prototype development, lack of intellectual property policy. There is a question of what belongs to who – some herbs are part of tribal heritage. Not much R&D is done locally. There is also a lack of marketing skills for new products. There is also a myth that innovations are too complex and thus cannot be tackled.

The choices for kenyan scientists are often to publish or perish, patent or perish , produce or perish. In the African context the last option of producing or perishing is even more pronounce because the diseases mentioned above do cost lives every day.

The way forward

  • R&D must go on but include prototype dev and reverse engineering to see if the product can be made locally.
  • Patent filing for existing science
  • Incubation systems for innovative ideas Market driven tech should be emphasized in order to realise the real market ROI that is more empowering than AID.
  • Africa must industrialize in whole not in part.

Q:Any clinical trials [for Arteminisin based drugs]?

A: Yes the work will be published soon.

Short Break: Video of making of CAN TV – Keita Moussa of Zirasun. Check out

Joe FOSS for dev of software for use in hospitals and as a mode of secure communication between patient and doctor. Dr. Seyi Olesola: Healthcare in Africa: Beyond malaria and Aids. He left from the diaspora and moved to the Nigeria to work there. For many common ailments like trauma, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, people go to hospitals or dispensaries that are are ill equipped. A simple thing like an x ray can be a challenge. He showed pictures of an earthen floor and old equipment like a very old anesthisiology machine. It really does look like a relic.Dr. Oyesola pointed out that the machines are still in use currently. Its a real challenge to do open heart surgery in Nigeria. From the pics, it doesnt seem like this is possible at all because of old equipment. He showed slides of an open heart surgery where they had to ship in everything, and he had to be inventive to prop up a patient by sliding a plastic chair under the matress, buttressing the top part of the mattress to create a makeshift reclined hospital bed. The invention: Hospital in a box. Its is a wheeled piece of equipment that looks like a steel cupboard with sliding cabinets. It has a defibrillator a light and can be charged using a truck battery or a solar panel. He didnt spend too much time on the invention itself, but pointed out that there is more to be done in Healthcare in Africa.

William Kamkwamba, previously featured on afrigadget – Home made wind mill. Download his powerpoint presentation here.
Mohammed Bah Abba – Sahel region south of sahara: Preserving fruit using evaporation of water from sand that creates a cooling effect.

Wind and Solar energy System Hybrid – Simon Mwacharo

Solar is the future of Africa: Simon Mwacharo gave a wonderful talk today at TED. His company is Craftskills.

He pointed out the challenges of getting power to rural areas, these being

  • Cost of transmission
  • Virtually no government acknowledgment and participation in encouraging renewable energy in the last few years.
  • Previous erroneous pairing of low rpm batteries with solar panels that resulted in a failed system. This made people skeptical of wind and solar systems for awhile.

For example, it takes about Ksh 100 for a rural person to go to a place that has power in order to charge their cellphone. This need not be the case at all, because battery charging stations can be set up in close proximity to most people in rural areas. His company has set up systems in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Cameroon and in the near future ivory coast. (White African asked the question about which countries his companies have been working in).

He had a powerful graph showing how 85% of Kenya (africa?) is not connected to the grid. The striking thing about Mr. Mwacharo’s company is the use of locally available materials and labor to create the systems. The inverters are made at a local university, the wiring and set up of the systems is done in his backyard. The fiberglass is locally cast though he imports the solar panels and magnets from China. His is a company that completely localizes renewable energy to provide power in a simple yet elegant way. Use of wind, complemented by solar and higher efficiency LED lights make this a very nimble system for off grid power provision.

During the q and a session, A gentleman asked a question whether netmetering is possible such that a hygrid (Grid tied solar sys) is possible, where excess energy generate by the homes can be sold back to the power company. Mwacharo answered by pointing out that the systems his company has deployed so far are not necessarily grid tied at this time, they are still off grid and not integrated.

I think that Mr. Mwacharo’s talk is very important for Africa, because it exemplifies that solutions to the ‘dark continent’ lie in the backyard of Africa’s homes and the universities in Africa. Bridging the ‘lighting gap’ is possible without continuing reliance on fossil fuels but with african ingenuity such as what he has shown us today.

Note that Yidris Mohammed has pointed out the the next big opportunity in Africa is the generation of power. Can we as Africans be so bold as to aspire for a grid tied system that can light up our continent in a clean, efficient and economically enhancing way? I firmly and resolutely believe so. It makes sense, and yes, Africa deserves to be brilliant. Not just light, but brilliant.
Thank you Mr. Mwacharo! For writing the first chapter in the energy transformation of Africa.

Artemisia, China and EA

Early monday morning I was among a group of TEDsters for the DATA morning field trip before the conference. DATA is the organization founded by Bono of U2 to raise awareness about the issues facing Africa, namely Debt, Aids, Trade and Africa. DATA is mostly associated with the lobbying for debt forgiveness for the developing countries such as Tanzania. It was an incredible day, started out at the Artemisia farm of Mr. and Mrs Loshie of Sambasha in Arumeru district.

Artemisia is a plant with a sweet smell that provides raw material for malaria treatment drugs like cotexcin (also marketed in french countries as cotexa). It is a plant that is indigenous to china but grows very well in East Africa. I had not heard of Artemisia before but had seen the cotexin drugs at the pharmacies in kenya. The tour was very informative and eye opening. We began with visiting the nursery which was in the valley. It had rich dark loam soil that is perfect for Artemisia growth The small plant pictured here is an artemisia seedling, the leaves look like those of carrots or cilantro.


Mr and Mrs Loshie told us about how they irrigate the seed beds and ensure that the seedlings get enough water by having pipes utilize gravity to get the water close to the seedbeds. Mr. Loshie pointed out that he had to hire some manual labour to do the work as he and his wife cannot do it all themselves. In April they had about 400,000 seedlings. They supply the seedlings to other farmers in the area who pay after selling their leaves. As you can already tell, cultivation of this crop generates employment in the community and other farmers also intercrop it into their fields (planting artemisia between other plants like bananas and coffee)

Mr Loshie was asked about the benefit of planting Artemisia vs Maize, he said that he makes 4X more by planting artemisia, and can earn Tsh 15000 from 5 bags. It does take alot of manual labor to harvest, dry and bag the leaves. Once the leaves are bagged and ready, they are bought at he price of 750 Tsh per kilo and transported to Athi River processing plant in Kenya where the ingredient arteminisin is extracted into a crystal form.It takes 1 tonne of artemisia leaves to extract 10kg of crystals. This goes to Novartis in Switzerland where the final product of Cotexcin tabs are made. The TZ country director Tom Lennox explained that the arteminisin content of leaves from EA is very high, and EA can compete with China and Vietnam which have approx 70% of market share processing artemisia. The EA region currently commands 20% of that market. I asked Bruce McNamer the CEO of Technoserve (The company that set up this business in East Africa) if there are any plans to have the tablets made in Kenya or TZ instead of switzerland, especially since the tabs are used in Africa for malaria treatment. He said that the process for certification from the WHO in order to make this a reality is a stumbling block to making this happen. It takes a really long time to get the certification for drug processing.

Artemisia cultivation is a real market opportunity with room for growth and better yet, a platform for EA to compete with China on a cash crop.

More Pics posted here…[Bono was there. He is a sweetheart, a rock star one at that]

I am sitting next to Jen Brea, she blogs about China’s involvement in Africa.

Ndesanjo is liveblogging TED in swahili here.