Africa’s Web Potential Requires Content

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | March 13, 2014

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), content from sub-Saharan Africa is lacking, when measured by the number of Internet servers on the continent compared to other regions. Continue reading

Africa’s Economic Resurgence Overlooks Its Own People

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | January 29, 2014

In recent years, there have been numerous reports of an African economic resurgence. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth is expected to increase to six percent in 2014, from five percent in 2013, supported by investment in infrastructure and production capacity. But with an estimated 413 million Sub-Saharan Africans living on less than $1.25 a day, grinding poverty remains a grim, daily fact.

This contradiction of economic development begs the question: Is the enthusiasm around Africa’s growing economy much ado about nothing? Continue reading

Political and Civil Liberties Plummet in Sub Saharan Africa

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | January 23, 2014

Political liberties and civil rights have fallen in sub Saharan Africa, with the largest decreases in freedoms of expression and association, according to a report issued by Freedom House. The report also notes that there has been a growth in authoritarian rule for the eighth year around the world.

“For the eight consecutive year, we have recorded declines in freedoms around the world, and in the past year’s findings we have discovered 54 countries that have registered declines compared to 40 countries that have recorded gains,” said David Kramer, Freedom House’s Executive Director. Continue reading

South Sudan Mirrors Africa’s Leadership Woes

By Masimba Biriwasha | Op-Ed | @ChiefKMasimba | January 10, 2014

The bloody mayhem in South Sudan is a specter all too familiar in Africa. The continent is home to approximately 40 per cent of armed conflicts in the world. These conflicts stand in stark contrast to the economic development which has been emerging in Africa over the past decade.

Like a recurrent disease, these conflicts have seriously undermined efforts to ensure long-term stability, prosperity, and peace. Since the end of the Cold War, over 9 million Africans have died and hundreds and thousands displaced due to conflict. Continue reading

I Am African

By Masimba Biriwasha | Op Ed | January 03, 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

I am African. And if you listen to the winds of Africa, you’ll hear them whisper my name. Not in vain. Nor sorrow. But in full, firm acknowledgement of my being. Within my bosom I carry an eternal flame and with it I blaze my path into a future untold my held high and shoulders thrown back.

I can feel the thrill of expectation hanging in the air as I navigate my way through cobwebs that have held me back in limbo for so long. My soul’s eyes are aglow: I’m now journeying into new frontier. I’ll collapse all my worlds, seek out my image and carve a new name.

I refuse to be bowed down by past and present shackles. Instead, I’ll amalgamate all those experiences to build myself anew. I am the flame-lily, born out of hard rock – my desire to rise and bloom is unstoppable. Out of the dark, bloody and soggy soils from which I am fashioned lies the seed of my rebirth.

My soul sinks deep to find that seed so that I can be one with it. I crave no sympathy. Neither do I need handouts. I am my own whole. I carry no hate nor fear. Only a passion to make a fresh cut of myself. In fact, all my failed hopes and false starts lumped together will make the operating system for the redesign of my sonic reality.

Out of my sinews, I will weave a new song. That song of many worlds traversed and journeys travelled will be the footnote to my resolve to be one with myself again. Uncluttered. Unchained. Only determined to leave footprints along a new path that will make my ancestors gape in awe.

I refuse to be hamstrung in old, worn-out legacies. I’ll stand on the pedestal of all that transpired to bring me to today and I’ll frame myself in my own terms.

I am African. And if you listen to the winds of Africa, you’ll hear them whisper my name. As I connect with my present being, I’ll release my sails toward outward bound. Gently, with grave, I’ll give voice to the cataclysm brewing within. The monkey whispers are going now. Within me are kingdoms of queens and kings reviving. Drumrolls nudging me to excavate the beauty of my soul.

I’m the African you’ve never seen before. Born of stars in the milky way. Non refurbished. True to the core and connected. With a singular aim to sing a lullaby to the seed rising within. Fashioned out of dark soils to dream and dance and be one with the moon.

I am African. I’m coming into my own now. My destiny prepared me from the beginning. I’m old and new now, yet distinct, mutating on my path to perpetuity. Writing my own future. A thousand lights of sun will guide my path.

I am African. Toying with moments of freedom in my palms. I thrums in tune to the drumbeat call of generations of soul, of pain and joy rising above the spontaneous eruption of life, uncontrollable, unbounded, free of constriction or constraint in its purest form. Beyond those hills and balanced rocks. Beyond those vineyards and gardens if you listen just a little close you’ll hear the winds of Africa whisper my name.

Why the Internet Matters

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | January 01, 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

With an estimated 2 billion people now connected to the internet, and the number growing by 200 million each, the internet is changing everything from business, politics, education, communication to how we find love and everything else in between.

By 2016, there will be 3 billion Internet users globally – almost half of the world’s population, according to Boston Consulting Group, adding that the internet economy will reach $4,2 trillion in the G20 economies.

Fully capitalizing the potential of the internet is increasingly a must for individuals and governments around the world. The good news is the internet is still evolving with prospects for greater power and reach.

In two decades, the internet has changed the way we live, the way we work, the way we socialize and meet, and the way our countries development and grow, according to McKinsey & Company, a global research firm.

The medium has opened up new and unprecedented opportunities to the world, improving the instant exchange of ideas, facilitating communication and closing the gap between inspiration and action when it comes to launching things. It is also opening up access to information in a way never seen in human history, in the process, making the world flatter.

It’s global capability to connect anyone with anything is literally and figuratively redefining modern lives and livelihoods.

It facilitates new ideas to show up that no-one would have ever thought of thereby giving birth to new products and services that have a potential to makes our lives easier and the world a better place. In a word, the internet is changing everything.

“The Internet embraces all of us: businesses, individuals, governments and entrepreneurs. The Web has made possible new models of business models and entrepreneurship but has also led to radical innovations for accessing, using, and delivering goods and services for everyone. It has transformed industries and governments through innovative approaches and changed how users engage the world,” states McKinsey and Company in a report titled, “Internet matters: The Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs and prosperity.”  

A study of 13 countries that account for 70 per cent of the global GDP revealed that the internet accounts for an average of 3.4 per cent of the GDP. In Africa alone, the upsurge in internet usage could add could add $300bn a year to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, according to McKinsey and Company.

“The leapfrogging effects of the Internet make it the most interesting development on the African continent since the wide-scale adoption of mobile phones,” says Armando Cabral, a Director at McKinsey & Company.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the internet has become an essential tool for creating an environment that nurtures the technological and service innovation, and triggering positive change in business processes as well as in society as a whole.

Smoking Clouds Africa’s Future

Warning: This Area Contains Tobacco Smoke

Warning: This Area Contains Tobacco Smoke (Photo credit: tbone_sandwich)

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | December 28, 2013

IT’S not often that you hear of smoking and its attendant health problems in Africa. After all, the continent has humongous and more immediate problems to deal with that smoking pales in significance. But the specter of public health challenges that are likely to be caused by an ever growing epidemic of smoking in Africa are worrisome to say the least. Africans can only ignore the smoking scourge at their own peril: tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.

Because there is a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health suffers, African governments may find it convenient to ignore the problem. Cash outs from tobacco companies may also prevent action but the price to be paid will be huge as more Africans take up smoking.

There are 1.1 billion smokers in the world today with that number expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2025. Tobacco use is expected to claim one billion lives this century unless serious anti-smoking efforts are made on a global level.

According to a new study by the American Cancer Society report titled, Tobacco Use in Africa: Tobacco Control Through Prevention, Africa is likely to be a future epicenter of a tobacco epidemic if current trends continue.

While many African countries have low smoking prevalence, the American Cancer Society forecasts a significant increase in the near future. According the report, the number of adult smokers in Africa is expected to balloon from 77 million to 572 million smokers by 2100 if new policies are not implemented and enforced to stem the epidemic.

As economies and populations grow, Africa will provide a lucrative market for tobacco companies, raising fears of a spike in smoking related problems. The report projects that by 2060, Africa will have the second most smokers of any region, behind Asia, with 14 per cent of the world’s smokers (from the current 6 per cent), and by 2100 Africa will be home to 21 per cent of the world’s smokers.

“Not only is significant market scope brought about by population growth and a low base of smoking prevalence, but also through the potential for increased sales to current smokers. As economies and incomes grow, and as cigarette and tobacco markets in Africa develop and mature, so will smoking intensity, thereby increasing the value of the market dramatically,” states the report, adding that without action, Africa will grow from being the fly on the wall, to the elephant in the room of tobacco health problems.

In Africa, the benefits of the prevention strategy in terms of public health seem smaller at first due to the current lower smoking prevalence, but they will skyrocket in the near future due to population growth and the projected number of smokers in the long run, states the report.

“Africa is on a trajectory of needless tobacco-related death and disease,” said John R. Seffrin, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society. “But there is a clear opportunity to curb and prevent tobacco use and save millions of lives with a combination of targeted prevention and intervention policies. With appropriate intervention, we could avert an estimated 139 million premature deaths from smoking. The charge is clear.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing nearly six million people a year. More than five million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, accounting for one in 10 adult deaths.

Africa’s Smartphone Future

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобильных телефонов (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Editor At Large | December 27, 2013

 Africa’s future as things look will undoubtedly unravel on the screens of smartphones, mobile phones built on a mobile operating system, with more advanced computing capability and connectivity.

In the not so distant future, the smartphone’s screen will play a greater role in the trajectory of the continent. Though feature phones largely dominate the market, the continent is increasingly becoming ripe for a disruption. Feature phones contain a fixed set of functions beyond voice calling and text messaging; they may offer Web browsing and e-mail, but they generally cannot download apps from an online marketplace.

Increased connectivity and a drop in the price of smartphones is making it possible to build a content ecosystem on mobile phones that has potential to radically reshape the way African do things from commerce, health, education and – even finding love. Whoever will succeed on the African market has to think of how to deliver a smart ecosystem to complement devices.

While traditional mobile phone giants – think Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry – have a grip on the market – whoever will deliver a mobile specifically designed to address Africa’s unique challenges will emerge the winner.

According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to approximately 650  million mobile phone subscribers, a number that surpasses the United States  and  European Union, and represents an explosion of new communication technologies  that are being tailored to the developing world.

Mobile phone adoption on the continent from 2000 to 2010 accelerated at an  impressive 30 per cent compound annual growth rate powered by affordable feature phones sold at mass market price points.

While just 16 percent of the continent’s one billion people are online, that  picture is changing rapidly.  According to International Data Corp (IDC), a  tech  research group, smartphones account for 18 percent of all mobile phones in Africa.

The continent’s smartphone market is expected to double in the next four years and device manufacturers who dominated the narrative over the past decade such as Nokia are making big bets on the continent’s smartphone future.

Falling wireless data prices, the extension of high-speed networks and a burgeoning middle class are driving a sharp rise in smartphone use.

According to IDC, 52 percent of all smartphones sold on the continent in the second quarter of 2013 were Samsung phones and the company  has quickly ascended in a short period of time to become Africa’s smartphone leader.

As mobile broadband infrastructure continues to develop and as the cost of  smartphones and other technologies continues to fall, new technologies will have an even  greater economic and social impact on the lives of Africans.

A key challenge will be developing applications that improve and simplify the daily lives of Africans. As smartphone penetration grows, more people will increasingly using their mobile devices to manage their lives on a daily basis – anytime, anywhere. The good news is that the marketplace is open (well, not exactly, you’d still need to have the skills and knowledge) and whoever is creative enough to satisfy needs will emerge the winner.

The mobile revolution is taking off. And a lot of work needs to be done to determine what services Africans prefer on their smartphones and that could be via an app, SMS text or mobile browser. In a word, it’s open game. But Africa’s smartphone is coming, and coming fast.

Zimbabwe’s AIDS Success Was Doubted: UNAIDS Executive Director

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | iZiviso Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, said that no-one believed that Zimbabwe could succeed in responding to the AIDS epidemic at the inaugural GlobalPOWER Africa Women Network conference held recently in Harare, Zimbabwe.  Image

According to UNAIDS, Zimbabwe has achieved one of the sharpest declines in HIV prevalence in Southern Africa, from 27% in 1997 to just over 14% in 2010. With 10 times fewer resources for AIDS per capita than other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe has expanded coverage of antiretroviral treatment among adults, from 15% in 2007 to 80% in 2010. At the end of 2011, nearly half a million people in the country were receiving lifesaving HIV treatment and care.

“No-one was beliving that Zimbabwe could be a success story with all the difficulties the country was facing but Zimbabwe managed to demonstarte that they can reduce by 52 percent the adult infection rate during the last ten years. Zimbabwe managed to increase the number of people in need of treatment by 50 percent during only the last two years which is important for us to underline,” Sidibe said

He added that Zimbabwe was also a success story because it introduced innovative ways to mobilize internal resources. Zimbabwe’s AIDS Levy, a tax on income to increase domestic resources for the national HIV programme has enabled the country to diversify its domestic funding for its AIDS response, raising an estimated US$ 26 million in 2011. This year the levy is expected to raise US$ 30 million.

However, the majority of people on antiretroviral drugs continue to be supported by the donor community: 76 percent of the 347 172 people on treatment are supported by donor funding.

“In general, any data, you put out is questioned. When we mentioned in our report for the first time that Zimbabwe was making progress, they were reducing the number of new infections and increasing the number of people on treatment, death was going down, people questioned us how that could happen. Many aspects about the country pointded otherwise,” he said.

He said that question surrounding the fact that the country was undergoing serious economic problems made people question the results.

“We asked the one of the best institutes in the world, Imperial College, to come and validate our data. They did all the epidieological analysis and caem up with the validation of the dats. Any place where HIV has success response record, its about leadership at all levels. Secondly, what happeend in Zimbabwe is change in behaviour.

He said that the AIDS levy had played a key part in the Zimbabwean AIDS response, and UNAIDS used it as best practice in raising locals resources for the AIDS response.

“Today, its only 13 percent of the formal sector paying for the levy. We could really look at the informal sector, it will even bring more resources. Zimbabwe’ efforts during the last two years to increase treatment in the past two years is one of the best practices,” he said.

“The Zimbabwe AIDS Levy is an excellent example that demonstrates to other African countries how to generate domestic resources to maintain and own their national AIDS responses. I encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to explore how this initiative could be expanded to tap into the informal sector to boost the resources of the trust fund.”

GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa Conference Opens in Harare

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwashs | iZiviso Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Women parliamentarians, leading African women entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, and development partners from Africa are meeting in Harare over the next two days for the inauguration and launch of the GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa.

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The conference, being attended by approximately 300 participants, is aimed at providing a strategic political platform to accelerate game changing approaches to HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights responses for women and girls. The idea to create an Africa-specific GlobalPOWER Women Network stemmed fom a September 2010 meeting in Washington DC that saw prominent female decision makers come together alongside their US peers to discuss how to accelerate the implementation of the UNAIDS Agenda for Women and Girls.

Participants at the conference are expected to address the key issues affecting girls and women in Africa including eliminating new HIV infections among children, keeping mothers alive and maternal and child health. The meeting will result in the “Harare Call to Action” to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality through HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights responses.

President of the GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa and Zimbabwe Deputy Prime Minister, Thokozani Khupe said that women must take an active role in ensuring their empowerment.

“To achieve the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, it is critical to recognise women and girls as key agents in making this vision a reality – society has to invest in the health of women and girls,” Khupe said.

Addressing the conference, Zimbabwe President Robert Gabrial Mugabe said the launch of the network will take the issue of women’s emancipation and empowerment a step further.

Äfter the launch, the real work will begin and call for the same passion, unity of purpose and consistency in pursuing the goals which have characterized this Women’s Network thus far. Of particular note will be the challenge of giving unstinting support to women candidates of every hue and cry; of varying professional qualifications, driven by different talents and capabilities to realise their potential in the collaborative work of Global Power Women Network, the Africa Union and UNAIDS,”said Mugabe.

In Africa, women and girls carry a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic – they constitute 59 percent of all people living with the disease. To make matters worse, gender inequality compounded by gender-based vioence, increase women and girl’s risk of HIV infection.

Ëmpowering women and girls to protect themselves against HIV infection and gender-based violence is a non-negotiable in the AIDS response,”said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe.