Connecting Africa — from Rwanda

From the Connect Africa summit in Kigali

The much-talked-about Connect Africa summit (see The Economist, BBC and The Times) has started in Kigali, Rwanda and the two-day event has the opportunity of bringing to the fore, the need for urgent action in meeting Africa’s connectivity needs. The present story is clearly sad — less thank 4% of Africans currently use the internet, and broadband penetration is below 1%! — but with some political will from the governments, innovative business models from the private sector, sustainable and bottom-up action from the civil society, targeted and collaborative research by the academia, news emphasis on the urgency of the task by the media and cooperation (the sincere form, not the usual pity party) from the international community, Africa will be well on its way out of this embarrassing situation.

With quite a number of Heads of Governments (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Djibouti, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal) and other high profile business, government and civil society leaders in attendance, the summit is co-hosted by the International Telecommunications Union and the Government of Rwanda. As I write, the president of Senegal is making one of those speeches that I honestly hope the political leaders (including himself) are listening to — and not just waiting in line to give their own speech. He spoken clearly about the need to stop holding summits after summits, considering the huge cost involved and the positive use such can be put to. He asked questions about the many promises made by international institutions in the past, and the usual answer was, “nothing has been done.” He joked that, “… the AU secretariat in Addis Ababa should compile a list of summits that have been held, and when next someone suggest another one, we’ll look at the list and say, ‘that has been done, move on’…”

I have been discussing this same worry with friends, and I should know. As someone who spends quite some time in many of these policy events, I am concerned about the risk of waiting for the next meeting without any considerable action. The stance of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria to take action and show what can be done is not unconnected to this secret (yet open) fear of mine. I spent much of these travel hours between 2001 and February 2007 listening to the same presentations (well, some only need to change the date, title and venue) and decided I was tired of the vicious circle. My February 13 2007 resignation and decision to dedicate time to PIN’s projects (including the much-talked-about came off this thought process.

Back to the summit… it ends tomorrow and there are reports that about $3 billion has already been pledged towards connecting Africa. Speakers will vary in length and intensity of speech, political leaders will boast about what they will do, business leaders will keep their eyes open for emerging markets, delegates will enjoy the ambience of Serena hotel… but what will come out of this process? I am optimistic that the sessions that have held before the main summit, the innocent discussions at coffee break, and the obvious business opportunity — that the challenge of connecting Africa brings with it — will weave a win-win situation that will see Africa making progress. Will the ITU be able to ensure that this forms a major bus stop in Africa’s connectivity quest? Will each of us (with varying degree of influence) be able to drive change from our individual cockpits — and also ensure the coming together of all these to create sustainable change?

NB: The summit is now over, and you can read the final summary report here.

Come to the SEA! The Business Side of Public Speaking…

Come to the SEA!

I’ve had a number of people writing to ask questions about Public Speaking over the last few months and I’m glad to let you know that the Alliance of Change Empowerment Speakers (ACES) has concluded plans to host the first of its Speakers’ Empowerment Academy (SEA) on the 3rd of November, 2007. Featuring high profile speakers with experience in key areas of the sector, the day-long workshop — holding in a relaxed environment — promises to shed light on topics such as Building a System, Building a Brand, Marketing Yourself, Negotiating a Deal, Making Money from Pro Bono and Speaking for a Change. I will be speaking on Speaking for a Change and hope you’ll be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

This academy, aptly tagged The Business Side of Public Speaking will be useful for entrepreneurs, professionals, HR executives, business owners, management executives, public speakers and aspiring public speakers because they all need to convey various messages to their respective audiences. To register, please note the following:
Speakers: Niyi Adesanya, ‘Gbenga Sesan, Emma Utomi…
Date: Saturday, November 3, 2007
Time: 9am – 5pm
Venue: Lagos Travel Inn, Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos
Cost: =N= 4,000 (ACES Members); =N= 10,000 (Others)
RSVP: 0802 717 15 60, 0802 719 75 47, 0803 590 01 75

See you at the Lagos Travel Inn… come to the SEA!

Let Us Support The Anti-Corruption War

This article appeared in the New York Tribune last week. The author is a friend, and I believe he raised some key issues that we need to consider. Enjoy,

by Oziametu Taiwo Akerele


As a Nigerian, I am very worried with the dimension the war on corruption has taken, it is fast becoming a fashion for ex-Governors to get injunction from Nigerian courts restraining the EFCC from arresting and or detaining them for corruption. At the last count, about four Governors have gotten injunction restraining the EFCC. This is very dangerous and should be stopped forthwith by the top echelon of the Judiciary in Nigeria.

The reason is that, Nigeria is heading towards total collapse if we don’t support the fight against corrupt practices. For the past three months my group POLICYHOUSE has been engaged in a research work with the theme, “The Political economy of Corruption; Perspectives from Nigeria. We have it on record that corruption as an industry in Nigeria is now 142% of Nigeria’s GDP. Nigeria’s GDP today stands at about US$116bn according to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), it is much higher if we use the Central Bank of Nigeria figures. This means that corruption is thriving more than what the Oil, manufacturing, mining and agriculture sectors combined can boast of in a whole fiscal year.

The evil thing about corruption is that it retards the efforts or contributions of all other sectors combined, be it mining, Oil and gas, education, manufacturing or power and energy. Last month, the crown court sitting in London lifted the temporary seizure of Ibori’s assets in the United Kingdom alone said to be worth BP₤35mn (about N9bn) ( Now, if we look at the IMF projections on what Nigeria needs per annum to bridge the Infrastructure finance deficit, just about 50% of the Ex-Governors alleged loot is nearly enough to bridge this gap if this fund is consistently expended in these areas without stop. When we talk of Infrastructure, we mean roads, water pipes, dams, power and energy, electricity, Telephone system (land lines), educational equipments or learning tools etc.

The EFCC has not come out to declare the total amount that has been looted by former Governor Igbinedion and Victor Odili, I am very convinced that the total sum may not be far from the region of Ibori’s N9bn in the UK alone. This comes to about N27bn minus the other 32 other Governors whose loots are yet to be covered. However, if we do a blind calculation to the effect that each of the indicted 33 Governors stole N5bn (some may have stolen less, while some looted almost 500% more), we are looking at about N165bn. This is about 142% of Nigeria’s total GDP figure for 2006. What this means is that Corruption is negating whatever economic progress Nigeria tries to make on an annual basis by over 142%!!!

This is the reason, on a daily basis in Nigeria, people especially children still die of common ailments such as Malaria and measles due to lack of drugs in our hospitals. More Nigerian youths are out of jobs because industries are not working due to lack of power and energy, Over 90% of Nigerians roads are not motorable because the monies for construction have been diverted abroad, more and more people are homeless because, the budget for housing were diverted to private estates development by so-called leaders in the U.S, UK, Lekki, and South Africa respectively.

One is particularly irked with the continued cases of corruption in Nigeria; this is against the backdrop of the justification for the astronomical increases in the salaries of Political office holders across board. a councilor in Nigeria today’s earns nothing less than 200,000 per month for doing nothing, aside other allowances, A state house of Assembly member earns about 800,000 per month aside constituency allowance etc. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) have consistently justified this jumbo pay on the need to discourage corruption in Nigeria. So we are at a loss as to why political office holders are so thievery in nature.

It is important for Nigerians to appreciate these figures, In September, Goldman Sachs, predicted that Nigeria can only make the list of developed countries in the world by 2020 on the condition that we grow our economy by at least 10-13% per annum, the president agreed with them, but with a proviso that corruption must be stopped or reduced to the minimum level, secondly that our Infrastructures must be strong to support the level of FDI inflows expected in the industrial sector. Corruption cannot be stopped if we destroy the EFCC or ICPC through campaigns of Calumny, incessant court injunctions or in fighting between the Attorney General and the EFCC over superiority claim. The moment we disallow the EFCC from prosecuting ex-Governors, Nigeria as it were will be worse in Five years time, this is because, while the economy may be growing by 10-13% per annum (which is not possible), Corruption will increase astronomically by 50%, effectively eroding by 37-40% whatever gains we may have recorded in the economic front. This must stop.

The reason why corruption will be on the rise by 50% per annum is because as a result of the successes recorded by the ex-Governors in the EFCC cases, the incumbent politicians will outdo their predecessors in office.

For the sake of our tomorrow, for the sake of generations yet un-born, for our own sake, let us allow the EFCC/ICPC to work. Let the Attorney General give peace a chance, the truth of the matter is that if he has interest in defending any of the ex-Governors, he should resign and take over their case as personal lawyers as it were rather than obstructing justice using state powers.

The World is watching… let us stop making mockery of ourselves in the comity of nations. Kudos to EFCC.

Thank you.

Taiwo Akerele
Center for Values in Leadership,
Victoria Island, Lagos.

Calabar, I Will Be Back!

Watch that cloud...

I had read so much about the city before my first visit, which was to attend to one of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s projects in the Niger Delta, CLCWA. (Creating Local Connections –CLC — is a TakingITGlobal project and it is supported in West Africa by the Open Society Initiative for Western Africa).

I arrived Calabar a day before the event was billed to start and have no regrets that I did. The pictures below speak for themselves, and I now understand why everyone who visits the city is warned about the thought of taking permanent residence there. I may not do that, but … hmm, Calabar… I will be back — and soon. I’ve seen Tinapa, the helmet-wearing bike riders, that huge flag pole, the giants (lanterns, Hand of God, anchor, etc) and more but I’ll have to see the popular Obudu Cattle Ranch and more of Calabar!

Lagos okada, see ya Calabar mates!
Lagos okada , see ya Calabar mates!

Duke's huge flag...
Duke’s huge flag…

More than life size...
More than life size…

The CLCWA Calabar 2007 crew
The CLCWA Calabar 2007 crew

A view from the Marine Hotel
A view from the Marine Hotel

Whose anchor?
Whose anchor?


Sunset from the marina...
Sunset from the marina…

The popular Nollywood Studio at Tinapa
The popular Nollywood Studio at Tinapa

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FEASIBILITY STUDY: ICT Capacity Building for Non Profits in Nigeria

I am presently completing a study on the subject above, following discussions with a leading IT institute in Nigeria — towards developing a professional course in the use of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), aimed at building the capacity of non-profits in Nigeria towards the application of ICTs in their respective areas of involvement. Please spread the word and ask non-profits to complete the questionnaire below — copy, paste, complete and send back to gbenga.sesan[at] at your earliest convenience, but before October 30, 2007.

Thank you.


GSM Number:

Email address:*



Position in Organization:

Organization’s Address:*

Organization’s Website Address:

Organization’s Operational Coverage:

Years of Operation:

Number of full-time staff:

Organization’s Training Budget:

Percentage of training budget dedicated to ICT capacity building:

Does your organization require ICT training?

Is your organization interested in using ICTs for Development?

Are you willing to pay for ICT4D training?

How many staff members will you wish to train in ICT4D?:

Additional comments:


ICT Capacity Building for Non Profits in Nigeria

The inability of developing nations to benefit maximally from the popular opportunities that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) provide – in promoting economic transformation and reducing poverty – is of great concern. A recent report states that, “Twenty years ago, 75% of the world’s telephones were found in just nine countries, and there were more phones in Tokyo than the whole of Africa. Today, Africa has almost twice as many phones as Tokyo ”, but it will be impossible to say the same in terms of economic development. For example, the number of telephone lines in Nigeria increased from about 500,000 to almost 40 million between 1999 and 2007 , but its economy has not enjoyed a similar astronomic growth. With Tokyo’s GDP (IMF 2006) put at $4.367 trillion, and – for the same period and source – that of Nigeria, $115.4 billion; South Africa, $255.2 billion; Uganda, $9.44 billion; Cameroun, $18.37 billion; and Tunisia, $30.6 billion; economic indices have spoken for themselves.

Recent studies and reports have rightly placed emphasis on the need for developing countries to use ICTs for development, such as the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report which stated that, “… information and communications technology (ICT) can also make an important development impact, because it can overcome barriers of social, economic and geographical isolation, increase access to information and education, and enable poor people to participate in more of the decisions that affect their lives.” Non-profit organizations are critical in this scenario because they often work at community levels to address socio-economic needs. If these organizations are able to use ICTs in the delivery of their work, the chances of improved livelihoods may be considerably higher.

The proposed course (in the use of ICTs for Development – ICT4D), which will be developed and delivered by professionals, will combine practical applications, case studies and classroom discussions aimed at helping each non-profit to appreciate, understand and apply ICTs in the effective delivery of their work which seeks to address socio-economic growth with diverse underserved people-groups.