Which way for Malawi ? Taiwan or China?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Recent news reports that Malawi wants to ditch an old friend, Taiwan for an upcoming superpower China has left me with more questions than answers.

Malawi has had diplomatic relations with the Taiwan since 1966. For being one of the few countries that have been recognizing the existence of Taiwan as a separate government from mainland China, Malawi has been a recipient of aid from Taiwan in various avenues such as agriculture, health, information technology, education scholarships, transportation etc However, the catch is now on the carrot that China is dangling to Malawi in exchange for a diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China. Media reports have it that China is offering an irresistible 5 billion US Dollar aid package for this switch.

Malawi has to choose between China and Taiwan since she cannot recognize both Taiwan and China at the same time as China's diplomatic policy does not condone a dual-recognition policy. If a country has diplomatic relations with China then that country is not supposed to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan since China regards Taiwan as its renegade province.

Taiwan is a democratic country which being a friend of Malawi for a long time deserves not to be ditched anyhow. This is in the spirit of Umunthu. By the way, Umunthu is a concept that describes traditional African morality which mainly concerns human welfare and it may also mean humanness. From an Umunthu point of view, one can not just ditch a long time good friend because a third party is offering some amount of money to terminate your friendship.

On the other hand, Malawi needs the money. The President of Malawi, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, has an ambitious and well-meaning vision to establish the Shire-Zambezi Waterway which shall lead to the construction of an inland water port that shall unleash Malawi from its disadvantaged position of being a landlocked country. And definitely this shall turn around the economy of Malawi. And just imagine, communist China is offering to finance this much needed project! In addition to this, Malawi will be selling its main forex earner, tobacco and sugar to China. With the anti-smoking lobby in the West, China will definitely be an alternative lucrative market for Malawi's tobacco. And lets not forget that China is emerging as the biggest trading partner with Africa and Malawi would not want to be left out. Of course, others have described China recent relations with Africa as neo-colonialism but after being given several raw-deals from the West, it seems Africa wants to try the East!

So the question is: Which way for Malawi? Taiwan or China? Am very expectant to see how this drama unfolds...

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Emancipation of an African Mind?

Here is a collection of some reflections which I found on the Web on this mind-boggling topic. And I thought I should share with you, my blog readers.

From: Decolonizing the African Mind: Further Analysis and Strategy

The central objective in decolonising the African mind is to overthrow the authority which alien traditions exercise over the African. This demands the dismantling of [foreign]... supremacist beliefs, and the structures which uphold them, in every area of African life. It must be stressed, however, that decolonisation does not mean ignorance of foreign traditions; it simply means denial of their authority and withdrawal of allegiance from them. Read more ...




From: The African Renaissance and the Challenge of Globalization (2001)

Foreign aid has done more to keep Africa down, and to disempower her peoples. It has altered the African psyche severely, with greater impact than a century of missionary education—a testament perhaps to the power of money and technology. The beggar mentality of the elites, the almost holy-worship and adulation of Europeans, no matter what rank and level of education, the elite's rejection of anything African—from locally produced consumer products to doctors and African professors—are all testimonies of how deeply ingrained the 'dependency' mentality is. Reversing this colonial mental trap is the first and most important step towards the full emancipation of the continent. To deny the possibility of 'self-transformation' is to give credence to the widely held racist western view that Africans are an inferior race with very little appreciation of the values of democracy and progress.

...

The African continent, of course, is no stranger to globalization and its deleterious effects. More than any region in the world, Africa has paid a high price for the globalizing policies of rival capitalist powers as they strived to expand the geographic bounds of capital. Starting with the slave trade in 1650 and continuing under colonial rule after the Berlin Conference of 1884, the continent had been heavily drawn into the centers of capitalist accumulation, but always as a subordinate partner whose primary role was to contribute to the development of the metropolitan powers. The present globalization, much like the 19th century globalization under colonialism, could again leave the continent permanently scared unless African leaders and their people are mobilized to manage it successfully to their own advantage. For Africa, this is an absolute necessity if the continent seeks to avoid a repeat of the economic, social, political and psychological traumas of the 19th century globalization. Globalization of the 20th century should not be allowed to leave behind the same terrible legacies.

...

Africa's marginal position in the new global hierarchy, therefore, provides us with a compelling occasion to reorganize our political systems and economies, to strengthen the continent's capacity to become more assertive in international affairs, and to defend Africa's sovereignty. To bemoan and complain about the negative effects of global forces without taking the necessary counter measures at national and regional levels will do little to ease the pain of marginalization. As the esteemed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire succinctly put it, "the oppressors will never make change; the oppressed themselves must bring the change they desire". Read more ...




From: Ghanaian Mentality: Why are we the way we are?

I believe that the European trinity of slavery, colonisation and Christianity proved to be a powerful tool in shaping the way we thought and still think today. Essentially, the European adventure in these three areas stripped the African of his belief systems and his identity. He was taught that his way of life- his religion, his culture, his language, his skin colour, his very essence- was wrong and inferior to the European model. The Europeans knew that the most effective way of controlling a person was to control his mind. No wonder Bob Marley enjoins us, in ‘Redemption Song’ to emancipate ourselves from ‘mental slavery’-it is the worst kind. Read more ...

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Nickel mining in Malawi?

Friday, December 14, 2007

For a long time, as Malawians, we were made to believe that our country does not have any mineral resources. This was particularly true during the 30 year one-party rule of the first President of Malawi, the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. As for me, and I also hope with many others, we just kept wondering that our neighbours Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique all had and still have very active mining industries yet we did not have any except coal mining at Mchenga (Livingstonia Escarpments) mines. Many were puzzled that how could be the case since Malawi also lies in an area with a similar geological makeup as these neighbouring countries.

But since the year 2000 we have been hearing of successful prospecting of minerals such as uranium. And now we are hearing of Nickel. This is good news as mining will help broaden the base of our agriculture-dominated economy. By the way, among other things, nickel is used to form very important alloys such as stainless steel.

Here is an excerpt of an article about nickel mining in Malawi:

Exploration undertaken by UK-listed company Lisungwe plc in southern Malawi has established the existence of large nickel deposits at Chimimbe and Chimwadzulu.

Chairperson John Watkins says that the exploration work undertaken by the company, which includes a pitting programme, has confirmed that the two deposits contain several million tons of nickel ore – grading at better than 0,5% nickel – which is amenable to sulphuric acid leach extraction for the production of a nickel hydroxide product.


Read more of this article at miningweekly.co.za

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Independence Without Food Is Meaningless

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Article Author: Gospel Mwalwanda in Lisbon, Portugal (Malawi News Agency - 10th December 2007)
Article Source: The Malawi Nation Newspaper

President Bingu wa Mutharika [of Malawi] on Saturday reiterated that it does not make any sense for a country to be independent and yet goes on begging for food.

Mutharika was speaking at a special side event organised by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan´s Alliance for a Green Revolution (Agra) at the European Union-Africa summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

The event, called Partnerships for a Green Revolution in Africa, was organized to discuss Africa’s agriculture and Agra’s work.

Also present were Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore, Annan, and a top official from the African Development Bank.

Mutharika said food has been vital for mankind from biblical times. He recalled people of those days were able to perform their everyday activities because they were food secure.

He said even when the international community imposed sanctions on the then white-ruled Southern Rhodesia after it unilaterally declared itself independent, the sanctions did not work because the country had food.

Mutharika said Africa needs a revolution to transform the agriculture sector, adding he is already doing it here at home through the fertiliser subsidy programme and other agricultural strategies.

The President said at first when he introduced the programme, it was " a big battle because subsidies are taboo in international circles." However, he went ahead and gave vulnerable farmers seed and fertiliser at reduced prices.

He said the programme is bearing fruits because for the second year running, the country has registered surpluses. He said his government has also created an internal market infrastructure for distribution and buying crops. Irrigation has also been intensified because the country’s rainfall pattern is unpredictable, he added.

"Malawi is not poor. We are poor by choice. We could get out of it," he emphasised.

Annan said agriculture is the mainstay of most African economies, pointing out that 70 per cent of the continent’s employment is on the farms.

The former UN chief asked African governments to put in place right policies that would benefit their people. —Malawi News Agency

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My Favourite Video for December 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

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Today, 6th December, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

These are pictures of me, today, inside the "matrix"...







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Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Article Source: The New York Times 2nd December, 2007
Article Author: Celia W. Dugger

Malawi hovered for years at the brink of famine. After a disastrous corn harvest in 2005, almost five million of its 13 million people needed emergency food aid.

But this year, a nation that has perennially extended a begging bowl to the world is instead feeding its hungry neighbors. It is selling more corn to the World Food Program of the United Nations than any other country in southern Africa and is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of corn to Zimbabwe.

In Malawi itself, the prevalence of acute child hunger has fallen sharply. In October, the United Nations Children’s Fund sent three tons of powdered milk, stockpiled here to treat severely malnourished children, to Uganda instead. “We will not be able to use it!” Juan Ortiz-Iruri, Unicef’s deputy representative in Malawi, said jubilantly.

Farmers explain Malawi’s extraordinary turnaround — one with broad implications for hunger-fighting methods across Africa — with one word: fertilizer.

Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached.

Read more at The New York Times ...

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Myths and realities about Africa

Friday, November 30, 2007


  1. Myth: Africa is just one huge desert or rain-forest country
    Reality: Africa is a huge and diverse continent with 53 different countries. Africa is divided into several regions which are marked by striking climate variations. The continent features highlands on both the East and West coasts and plains in the middle. Africa has two deserts — the Sahara in the north and the Kalahari in the south-western region of the continent. Otherwise in most sub-saharan countries the vegetation is tropical savanna which is characterized by grasslands with drought-resistant trees. For whatever reason, some people would like treat Africa as one single country!


  2. Myth: Africa is a continent ridden with war
    Reality: Africa consists of 53 countries. Of these, there is war (as of today 30th November, 2007), in countries such as some regions of Sudan, part of Chad, Somalia, part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, part of Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Uganda. Therefore to make a blanket statement that all of Africa is at war is very fallacious since there are so many other very peaceful countries in Africa

  3. Myth: Africa is a continent ridden with disease
    Reality: There might be diseases like Malaria, HIV/AIDS etc but believe you me Africa is not just about disease. Come to Africa, you will find very healthy people as well as sickly people. However, the main challenge is for African governments to give equitable access to health facilities to all their citizens: the poor and the rich, the literate and the illiterate, the rural and urban dwellers, etc And of course, Africa faces the major challenge of HIV/AIDS which apparently is not only hitting Africa hard but indeed the rest of the world.

  4. Myth: Africa is a continent ridden with poverty
    Reality: As in other continents, there are people of different incomes or should I say social classes. On one end there is a group of people who are "stinking" rich while on the other extreme end are very poor people which unfortunately constitute a significant proportion of the African population. It is therefore a challenge to African governments to close this big gap through improved infrastructure, job creation, food security mechanisms, improved education systems, good governance etc

  5. Myth: Africans are happy to be recipients of food aid, monetary aid etc from other continents
    Reality: Africans are never happy to be in this state. In fact we would desire to stand on our own as a proud people with direct control of our own future and destiny. But look at our sad history of slavery, colonization and partitioning of Africa, being forced to participate in WWI and WWII, being one of the battlefields in the Cold War, victims of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPS) etc. Surely without these sad events, we could have not been in the state we are in. But we would rather not dwell in the past instead we would like to live for the future. That is why there is a renaissance now in Africa and we have realized the importance of African solutions to African problems. Many African countries have embraced democracy, people can vote, many people are getting educated, more infrastructure is built, etc. Surely the future of Africa is bright! With just a little bit of hard work and dedication, we will definitely do it.

  6. Myth: Africa is a continent ridden with hunger
    Reality: Come to Africa and be assured that you will not starve to death. Much as there are some areas in Africa that are constantly hit by drought it is illogical to say that in the whole of Africa people are starving. A major challenge is to provide food to vulnerable groups such as war refugees, HIV/AIDS orphans, people living in drought prone areas, introducing water harvesting schemes, improving access to farm inputs etc

  7. Myth: Africa does not have a rich cultural history
    Reality: Africa boasts of different tribes with different languages and very diverse cultures and traditions. Despite this diversity Africans know that they are one people through the 'African Spirit'. And let us not forget a historical fact that humankind originated from Africa.

  8. Myth: Africans live in huts
    Reality: Come to Africa and see Africans live in modern houses although others still live in traditional houses (not necessarily huts). Imagine I am writing this post from my place (with electricity, piped water, internet access, etc)

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Are you travelling to Africa?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Are you considering going for a great tourist trip in Africa? If so, then try to include Malawi in your travel plans. Here are some of the great reasons for doing so:


  • Malawians are a very friendly people. You will easily fit into their community as a person, rather than simply viewed as another tourist with money.
  • Malawi is a very peaceful country that has never seen any war since gaining independence from Britain in 1964
  • Malawi's scenery is gorgeous and varied with green mountains, perennial rivers, undulating valleys, savanna woodlands, etc
    Chintheche - Lake Malawi
  • Malawi has got the third largest fresh water lake in Africa, Lake Malawi, which stretches 568 kilometers long and 16 kilometers wide, accounting for 20 percent of Malawi's total surface area. The lake is also famous for its diverse cichlid species as well as sandy beaches.
  • Malawi is endowed with game reserves and national parks where you may see great wonderful animals in their natural habitat like elephants, lions, hippos, zebras, the list is endless
  • Malawi has a rich and diverse cultural heritage with more than 20 different tribes (languages) living in harmony
  • By visiting Malawi you will play a part in boosting its economy while yourself as an individual you will surely gain by enjoying a memorable tourism adventure.
  • Many tourists do not know about this unspoiled and amazing tourism destination but those who have been to Malawi will always give testimony of their great adventures in this amazing and friendly southern African nation! Ask Madonna, yes, I mean the pop diva, she will bear testimony on the wonderful people of Malawi.




Some Malawian kids dancing during a wedding ceremony



Its dancing time for these two Malawian ladies!



One of the spectacular views of Mulanje mountain


Need I say more? For more information check out the following useful links about Malawi

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Is Computer Science Dying?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Article Source: ACM TechNews; Monday, November 19, 2007
Article Author: David Chisnall in InformIT (November 9, 2007)

A gradual fall-off in the number of people applying to earn degrees in Computer Science since the implosion of the first dot-com bubble has fostered a perception that the field is expiring, but David Chisnall questions this assertion.

The idea that Computer Science is dying is muddled by the fact that few people know what truly constitutes computer science, with most people viewing it as a vocational course that focuses on programming. "A computer scientist may not fabricate her own ICs, and may not write her own compiler and operating system ... But the computer scientist definitely will understand what's happening in the compiler, operating system, and CPU when a program is compiled and run," Chisnall writes.

From his perspective, Computer Science lies at the convergence of Mathematics, Engineering, and Psychology, and the third discipline is critical to the instruction of computers by humans. Psychology plays a part not only in human/computer interaction, but also in the development and assessment of computer intelligence, according to Chisnall. He maintains that a lot of unhappiness with Computer Science stems from the mistaken assumption that Computer Science graduates will also be expert programmers, and notes that a lot of people appear to confuse Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Chisnall points out that "Computer Science is first and foremost a branch of Applied Mathematics, so a computer scientist should be expected to understand the principles of mathematical reasoning" However, he notes that Computer Science has the added distinction of its concentration on efficiency and concurrent thinking at different levels of abstraction.

Read the full article of David Chisnall's thoughts at http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1083188

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An Easy Way to Make Presentation Slides in LaTex

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I was looking for a quick and easy way to create slides for a presentation in LaTex. Microsoft PowerPoint was not an option to me since I am documenting my research work in LaTex. I then stumbled upon Beamer, a LaTex class for creating presentations. This LaTex class is wonderful for the following reasons:


  • Its very easy to install. Just download it, unzip it, then drop the folder in your latex packages directory and lastly update the latex file name database. Then you are ready...
  • Its syntax is very easy... A "frame" for a slide, etc.
  • You can get very neat PDF presentation on the fly!
  • I love the hyperlink feature when you have the presentation in PDF
  • You have a choice of themes for your slides. Currently, my best theme is BerkeleyUS

Interested? Then just head to http://latex-beamer.sourceforge.net/. Am currently using Beamer with MikTex and of course with that great Tex\Latex IDE called TexNicCenter. TeXnicCenter is a great open source Latex IDE. You may also give it a try. A comprehensive user guide for the LaTex Beamer class can be found here: http://www.ctan.org/


Cheers!

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Globalization and the rise in Xenophobia

Saturday, November 17, 2007

With the world increasingly becoming a global village due to technological advances, people from different cultures, religions, countries etc have come to socially interact in one way or the other. It is common to find one being found in a foreign country either for business, school, jobs etc. However, living in a foreign country sometimes has its own problems. In some countries or societies, a foreigner might not be completely welcome. Whether he/she is a labour migrant, investor, asylum seeker, student etc, the penalty one gets for leaving his/her own country is at least an exposure to elements of xenophobia. But, what is xenophobia?

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, xenophobia is defined as "fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign". The word has Greek roots: xenos - foreign , phobia - irrational hate. But why is it that some people are xenophobic? As I was googling for this topic, I found out some very amazing facts for this tendency. Some of the reasons why some people tend to be xenophobic include:


  • Some people feel the presence of foreigners would lead them to losing their identity (Foreigners taking over a country?)
  • Some people feel foreigners would take their jobs and businesses and therefore this would lead to a rise in unemployment of the locals. Is it a coincidence that some that countries with high levels of unemployment exhibit a rise in xenophobia. The blame game...? This reminds me of Nazi Germany where the Jews were persecuted for not being German enough although the Jews were successful in business etc
  • Human beings naturally tend to have the unjustified fear of the unknown in this case foreigners.

Now, what are some of the symptoms of xenophobia in a society? The following are just some of them:

  • Use of ethnophaulisms. Ethnophaulisms are words or expressions meant to demean groups or use of language that contributes to stereotyping e.g. "Mzimbabwe" refering to a Zimbabwean. If you are in Southern Africa, you would probably understand the context of the word "Mzimbabwe". I feel sad on the way Zimbabweans are currently being treated in some countries.
  • Developing xenophobic humour: developing jokes that make fun of foreigners or their country of origin
  • Superior posturing: A kind of thinking that you think better than a foreigner just because you are a "native" and a foreigner can not do better than yourself
  • Stereotyping or typecasting: Associating foreigners with some stereotypes yet one does not know much about the country of origin of the foreigner. For example, labeling that all people from country X are poor yet they themselves as individuals are as poor as church mouse. Sorry, for the sarcasm!
  • Maltreatment or abuse of foreigners just because they are "foreign"
  • Rise in the "blame game". Blaming foreigners for lack of employment, rise in crime, etc

However, if xenophobia is left unchecked, it can lead to very dire consequences. Here is a quote from http://czechkid.eu/
Xenophobia gives rise to ideologies which proclaim the superiority of one group of people over another [e.g] racism, anti-Semitism, Nazism. When xenophobia wins out in a society and people who know how to use and encourage this xenophobia [o]n others attain a position of power, the result can be the systematic slaughter of entire groups of the populations, as [it] happened in Europe in the case of the Holocaust or ethnic cleansing in Serbia. And it all starts in such an inconspicuous way: “Foreigners are taking our work”, “The Jews have stolen our country”, “The gypsies are living off the tax we pay”...It is xenophobia which creates the necessary environment for hate, mass injustice and violence to flourish. For this reason a civil and democratic society should defend itself against xenophobia.

Above all, xenophobia infringes on the rights and dignity of the victims. This reminds me of Articles I and II of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article I states that:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article II states that:
... Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.


Have you been affected by xenophobia at some point in your life? Feel free to drop a comment on this post.

Some of the references used in this post include:

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Green Vehicles for Malawi?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"As crude oil prices hit a record high, the Malawi government has launched a project to ensure that all vehicles in the country switch to the cheaper and greener alternative fuel - ethanol - in a few years..."

Read on the full news article at AllAfrica.com

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Where do I come from? Malawi!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I have so many friends (some we just met online) who always ask me of my home country. So I decided to come up with this post.

I come from Malawi, a relatively small country in Southern Africa. Lonelyplanet.com describes Malawi in the following way:

"Tourist brochures bill Malawi as 'the warm heart of Africa', and for once the hype is true. Malawi's scenery is gorgeous and varied and Malawians tend to be extremely friendly toward travellers. Nature lovers will adore the national parks and game reserves, mountain hiking and plateau trekking."

There are also other websites which talk more about Malawi. Here is just a sample of them:

Here are a few photos from Malawi:

flickr_image
Sunset over Lake Malawi. Image copyright: Wisdoc


mount_mulanje
Tea plantations on the foot of Mount Mulanje in Malawi. Image Copyright: Bennett Kankuzi


salima_balaka_road
Lakeshore road connecting Salima and Balaka in Malawi. Image Copyright: Bennett Kankuzi


Malawian women carrying baskets on their heads (the balancing act??). Image copyright: Wisdoc


Part of the city centre in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Image copyright: Victor Kaonga


An aerial view of part of the northern city of Mzuzu in Malawi. Image copyright: Khumbo Kalua


A farmer and his wife in a maize garden in Malawi. Image copyright: khym45


Lilongwe International Airport, Malawi. Image copyright: khyme45


Despite the fact that Malawi is endowed with a lot of natural resources such as fresh water bodies, land suitable for farming, minerals, great tourist attractions and many others, Malawi is still in the class of "least developed countries". It pains me a lot that while I live a descent life (at least I can afford daily basic necessities), a lot of Malawians languish in poverty.

The blame partly goes on our political leaders who are usually just interested in enriching themselves at the expense of the poor masses. An example would be the economic "misgovernance" of Malawi that occurred from 1994 to 2004. Luckily, the new government of the new president, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, which was ushered in 2004 seems to want to turn the situation around. Mind you, am not saying that Bingu wa Mutharika's government is perfect. No? But it has managed to make a remarkable turnaround to the poor economy. Time and space does not allow me to list its achievements...

By the way, it seems that Africa needs to have educated presidents who can be able to express themselves in international fora as well as have a sense of direction so that they do not just blindly follow misguided economic policies.

Check out an online article by Dr Bingu wa Mutharika on poverty in Africa in Business Daily Africa (a Kenyan paper).

God bless Malawi! God bless Africa!

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Uranium mining in Malawi?

Am very excited today with the news that in my home country, Malawi, some civil society groups have withdrawn legal proceedings against an Australian uranium mining company, Paladin, and the Government of Malawi. The civil society groups were protesting on the way the mining concession was awarded to Paladin. They were alleging, among other issues, that there were no proper consultations regarding environment risks associated with uranium mining.

I was not very surprised to learn that the civil society groups had dragged the government of Malawi and Paladin to court. This is because it seems that it has become a tradition that some civil society groups would like to make "noise" on anything just to show the public that they are "functional" and "working" so that they continue getting donor funds. Hahaha...

Again, it is not a surprise that they have withdrawn their legal challenge. After all, they did not have any justifiable basis for their action. I strongly believe that Paladin has vast experience in uranium mining and as such they already have precautionary safety measures in place for their mining operations. After all, they are also mining uranium in other African countries like Namibia.

With developed countries (including Iran?) looking to alternative sources of energy, uranium is proving to be a big "hit". Malawi therefore stands to boost its GDP through this mining alternative. Malawi has the natural resources and these God given resources need to be exploited for the benefit of Malawians. Much as we appreciate that we have an agricultural-based economy, we need to pursue other viable alternatives so that maybe we may graduate from the class of "least developed countries" on planet Earth. Why should we be poor when God has given us the resources?

By the way, it has also been reported in the papers recently that they have also discovered uranium deposits in Kasungu District and gold deposits in Ntcheu District in Malawi.

Mulungu dalitsani Malawi! (God bless Malawi)

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Are you a student member of the ACM?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

As a research student in Computer Science, I often need access to authoritative online journals in Computer Science. With this in mind, I decided to subscribe to the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as a student member. ACM is to computing professionals as the IEEE is to engineers. One advantage of subscribing to the ACM is full access to all articles ever published by the ACM. These articles are in the ACM Digital Library. The Digital Library has Journals, Magazines, Transactions, Proceedings, Special Interest Groups (SIGs) reports, etc

Other benefits of subscribing to the ACM include:


  • You are given a personalized Web Account
  • You have access to the facility of email forwarding. For example, I have an ACM email account: kankuzib at acm.org which is redirected to my gmail address
  • You are given a "permanent URL" within the acm.org domain space, with the format: http://member.acm.org/~you. Mine is http://member.acm.org/~kankuzib which I have configured to be redirecting to this blog
  • You also receive some ACM newletters straight in your email inbox at your specified email address

For me, the most important benefit is access to the Digital Library. With this, I have all the required information for my research work at my fingertips.

I had my first subscription to the ACM in February 2007 at the subsidized fee of only USD18.00 since I come from a developing country. By the way, I come from Malawi and I am proudly Malawian since I love my country so much. Hahaha...

Yesterday, I renewed online my subscription at the cost of USD33.00 since I felt that with the benefits am getting I have to voluntarily contribute something to the ACM Development Fund in addition to the usual subscription fee of USD18.00. I am an ACM student member no. 4803712

So, if you are a research student in Computer Science or Information and Communication Technology then subscribing to ACM will be very beneficial. I have benefitted a lot in my research work and I hope you can also do the same.

They say that "its good to share good things". So, I thought this was worth sharing.

Good luck!

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Is compulsory HIV testing a solution to the HIV/AIDS crisis?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It is not a secret that sub-Saharan Africa is the epicentre of poverty in the world. In fact the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently voiced concerns that the region might not even be able to attain any of the poverty busting goals as articulated in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) document.

One of the major causes of this state of affairs is the HIV/AIDS pandemic which is causing havoc by crippling the productive workforce (“bread winners”) leaving behind a multitude of helpless and hopeless orphans and thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa seems to lead in the spread of this deadly virus. This means that unless the problem of HIV/AIDS is adequately addressed, our generation and indeed even generations to come, shall continue to be stuck in the quagmire of poverty.

And we all know that poverty is not something to be proud of. Poverty reduces human dignity and no human being was destined to be in a state of poverty, let alone for the rest of their lives.

Now, what can we do to combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa? I think we have heard about programmes promoting the ABC approach to combat the spread of the virus. Lets remind each other; the acronym ABC stands for Abstain, Be faithful or Condomise. Some people have added M to the acronym to come up with the ABCM approach. I hope you guess what the M stands for… Then there are programmes promoting Voluntary HIV Testing, not forgetting the free distribution of Anti-RetroViral (ARV) drugs to those living with HIV/AIDS.

However, all these initiatives have not slowed down the spread of the pandemic. Does this mean that these solutions are not counteracting the spread of HIV/AIDS? Or maybe we are merely treating symptoms of a bigger problem?

The answers belong to the reader but in my opinion, it seems they are not working. I think its time we start using “radical” approaches otherwise our generation is doomed to extinction.

Can compulsory HIV testing therefore be a lasting solution to this problem? I recently read in the papers about some Namibian official advocating for compulsory HIV testing at a recent HIV/AIDS workshop in Windhoek. Personally, I totally agree with him that there should be legislation in each country that should make it mandatory for every citizen to be tested of the virus. I support him for the following reasons:


  • If every citizen is tested, governments will have “real” statistics on the number of people infected and thus plan properly on how they could be put on life prolonging anti-retroviral treatment.
  • Each citizen will know their status and therefore plan their individual lives properly. This will help individuals not to live in an “ostrich” state by pretending that they do not have the virus yet they don’t exactly know their sero-status.
  • Voluntary testing has failed to entice many people to go for the test. Just ask yourself on the number of people who have gone for HIV testing voluntarily. Personally, have you already done so?
  • There is potential that those who know that they are positive and they deliberately infect others, may be brought for prosecution. Do you support this?

Opponents to compulsory HIV testing may state that this is tantamount to violation of the right to privacy. But what about the right to life? HIV/AIDS infection is a threat to life and therefore all measures have to be taken to make sure that life is protected and preserved. I feel the right to life is above the right to privacy.

What do you think? Feel free to comment and lets remember that together we can combat this scourge and possibly later have an HIV-free generation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Adios!

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Do you trust the software you have on your computer?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nowadays, many people download and install different software from the Web onto their computers. For example, one might download media players, anti-virus software, photo-editing software,..., the list is endless.

However, the question might be: How much trust do you have on the software you install on your computer? To understand the importance of this question, we might need a definition of the word "trust". According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, trust is defined as "assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something". The Free Dictionary defines trust as "firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing".

Consider a case where you download and install a media player on your computer and every time you open it, it collects your private information such as your credit card information and even your passwords and it sends them over to the person who created the software? Is this what the software was supposed to do. I do no think so. You had the trust that the media player was supposed to be used to play media files and not to be collecting your private information without your knowledge. Isn't it? I hope we now see how trust is a fundamental issue in software.

When we install particular software do we ask ourselves questions on the integrity or reliability of the software? Or we just blindly trust that the software is supposed to do what the software developers tell us of their software. I think as software users we need to be more careful.

I for one only have trust in software whose source code is "open". By the way source code are human readable and understandable instructions which are later converted to a form which a computer can execute i.e. binary code. A computer can only execute instructions in binary code. So if the source code is "open", I can inspect the code of the software and see by myself whether the software really does what its developers claim it does. On the other hand, if the software is distributed only in binary code and its source code is hidden from the public then it becomes a problem to trust that piece of software.

Fortunately, there are loads of software out there which have open source code. One great open source software is the robust Web browser, Mozilla Firefox. I just love it so much after being tired of ... Whether you are using Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, you may download Firefox from http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/.

Are you interested in learning more about open source software, then its time to make that move by logging on to this website: http://makethemove.net/foss.php and possibly now start to trust the software you install on your computer.

Good luck!

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Of James Watson's Racist Remarks and His Suspension

Friday, October 19, 2007

A news item on BBC News website entitled "Lab suspends DNA pioneer Watson" caught my attention. Reading through the article left me shocked as I learnt that the DNA scientist, James Watson, was quoted as saying that "Blacks were less intelligent than Whites".

I first knew about Dr James Watson in my Genetics class of my undergraduate work. We learnt how he co-pioneered in DNA research. I did not like the Genetics class because personally I believe in Intelligent Design rather than in the Theory of Evolution.

I am not surprised to hear these statements from an evolutionist because this is the view that has always been promoted by the theory of evolution. I am sad to say that it was because of these race "superiority" and "inferiority" views that led one Hitler of Nazi Germany to commit one of the greatest human tragedies, the Jewish Holocaust. We should also not forget that some used the theory of evolution to justify another human tragedy, slave trade in Africa.

Personally, I believe that skin colour does not determine one's intelligence. This is because there are some black people who are more intelligent than some white people much as there are some white people who are more intelligent than some black people. I think overgeneralization and stereotyping has no place in the modern world and it is very unfortunate that such a "learned" scientist could allow his personal prejudices influence him to make such unscientific statements.

It is of great relief to learn that his sentiments have been widely condemned and he has been suspended from his research institution. In addition, his public talks in Europe have been cancelled. I understand he has issued an "unreserved" apology for this mishap but I find that this apology is not welcome. At least for me!

Check more on this debate on these websites:
http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/10/is-james-watson.html
http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2007/10/dna-scientist-w.html

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Why I "love" and "hate" programming

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I wrote my first computer program in 1999 when I was doing my undergraduate work at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. If you are a programmer, you should know what that program is. Did you say "Hello World"? If yes, give yourself a pat at the back. That is exactly the first program I wrote in dear PASCAL. I still remember vividly how I was unable to distinguish the "semantics" and "syntax" of a computer program but still more, I had the joy of seeing my first program run.

Little did I know that I would take programming as part of my life and career. Six or so years have passed since I wrote my first program and I am glad to say that I have now programmed in almost all "respectable" programming languages (No offence intended). You know good programming languages like ...

I enjoy programming a lot because one can abstractly command a machine to do some task and it does that within a few seconds (Of course if you have a reasonable time complexity for your program). It seems I like working in the abstract rather in the concrete. I suppose that is why I also naturally love Mathematics especially the beautiful topic of Abstract Algebra.

However, the joys of programming come at a cost. If you have done some serious programming, you should know the daunting task of program debugging. I hope you know cases where a misplaced or forgotten semicolon in program code could give a headache! What about cases where a running program is producing incorrect output? Hahaha... a semantically incorrect program? I know many programmers do not take program testing seriously but this is an equally daunting step in programming especially for non-trivial programs.

When a program is misbehaving (either by not running or not running correctly), a programmer will try to find ways to correct the situation. For very difficult programs, I try to take a walk just to refresh my brain while brainstorming on a possible solution. I think that when a program is not running correctly, it is not good to spend the whole night in front of the computer trying to run it. Most importantly, it is better to understand the problem first before trying to do some coding.

Have I said why I "hate" programming? It seems no. Programming is addictive just as surfing the Web, at least for me. And it seems I am addicted to both. I do not imagine life without the Web. Any help for these addictions?

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Andrea Bocelli: Another World Class Talent

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good music crosses cultural boundaries. This is quite evident in the great music of one Andrea Bocelli, an operatic Italian tenor. Am talking of one the songs he co-sang with the great Sarah Brightman. Hey! Am talking of the masterpiece "Time to Say Goodbye" (Con Te PartirĂ²).

One can hardly believe that Andrea Bocelli is blind. According to Wikipedia, he got blind at the age of 12. However, this blindness has not deterred him from expressing his amazing God given talent. I can say that he stands shoulder to shoulder with the great Italian tenor, the late Luciano Pavarotti.

When I listen to songs by Bocelli, I usually find myself drifting in memories. I am always reminded of the good time I had among Italians when I visited the Italian cities of Venice(Venizia) and Trieste in 2004. The people were wonderful. I could not understand Italian but most of them were very willing to give directions if asked. You know what I mean if you have been to a foreign country. I also have memories of one of our instructors at the institution which was hosting us. We were being hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (http://www.ictp.it). The instructor was just a very friendly guy and we felt very welcome and relaxed in a matter of just a few days. I still remember his name as Marco Zennaro. You see, kindness is golden.

Check out a duet of Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli doing "Time to Say Goodbye" in this YouTube video.



If you like fast music, then watch a DJ remix of the same song by one DJ Cleo of South Africa in the following video:



The talent of Andrea Bocelli always reminds me that "Physical disability is not inability".

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Some "crazy" things we search on the Web

Friday, October 12, 2007

Search engines have completely transformed the way we find information on the web. With powerful search engines such as Google and Yahoo, a simple query on the search engine web interface, sometimes leads to a large number of web links which may contain the desired information. Normally, I usually get the information I am looking for, from the first set of query results displayed.

My searches range from stuff like "MCL clustering algorithms" to crazy stuff like song lyrics. These varying searches have sometimes led me to find funny and educating websites like http://www.howtogetridofstuff.com/.

But this other day, I mean today, I found myself searching for "how to tie a necktie". I must confess that all along I didn't know how to tie a necktie. I am usually a semi-formal person and I usually like putting on my traditional Malawian wear. After all, I am a scientist. Are scientists supposed to dress in a formal manner or casual manner? I hope this is debatable. However, check out some pictures of traditional Malawian wear on http://www.flickr.com/photos/bfkankuzi/page2/.

There are times that no matter what, you have to put on a necktie. I hope you remember your first job interview if you have already had one and you are a man. I guess, women do not put on neckties. So, being "cornered", I had to go to a shop to buy a necktie. I bought one and now the question was how to tie the necktie. A quick search on Google led me to the website http://www.necktieaficionado.com/How-To-Tie-A-Tie.html. The steps are easy to follow and wow I had a wonderful necktie on my neck!!!

Some of the "crazy" things we search on the web. Hmmmm!!!

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Of Hotel Rwanda and the Darfur Crisis

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I am not a movie fan because of ... However, I managed to watch the movie Hotel Rwanda yesterday which was released in 2004. Although some question the heroism of the star of the film, Paul Rusesabagina, I personally salute the man for the great, heroic act.

I was personally moved by the movie because it reminded me of a Rwandese friend I met in my home country, Malawi. I remember how he narrated how his mother (a Tutsi) escaped the massacre by hiding in the ceiling of their house.

I also salute the then rebels, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), for what they did in rescuing the situation. No wonder, we have a road in my home country that is named after the RPF leader, Paul Kagame. But get me right, I am not saying that the RPF were 'saints'...

I am also glad that some perpetrators of this cruelty have been brought to book. For example, General Bizimungu who was nabbed in Angola in 2002 and is now under the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. For more information about the status of the Rwandan genocide architects, just log on to the ICTR website on http://69.94.11.53/

Now turning to the Darfur Crisis, is the world just watching the genocide happening in Darfur as it watched the Rwandan genocide happening in 1994. Whatever the powers that might be, PLEASE SAVE INNOCENT DARFURIS!

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Another cold day...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Its another cold day in Gaborone. The weather is too chilly outside. Its so cloudy and cold. I don't have any option but to stay indoors. I like warm to hot weather and I feel very bored.

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Rains in Gaborone, Botswana

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It has finally rained in Gaborone today on 27th September, 2007 after a long spell. It was extremely hot during the past two weeks and the dam that supplies water to Gaborone was reaching critical low-water levels.

The weather is very cool outside. However, I have decided to stay indoors since I am just recovering from a hard-hitting flu. So what next? Web surfing... Hahaha!!!

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Gliffy: a great online diagram editor

I wanted to quickly create some neat diagrams for my work but I had not installed any diagram editor on my computer. So, I googled for "online diagram editor" and one of the results pointed to http://www.gliffy.com. A quick registration at the Gliffy.com home page led me to the user interface of this web application.

I was absolutely amazed with the intuitive user interface it provides. It is like a diagram editing application which is installed on your computer's hard disk like the famous Visio. But nope! Gliffy is an online application which one can use right within their web browser - for me, I hope you guess it, I use Mozilla Firefox!

In Gliffy, one can create flowcharts, network diagrams, UML diagrams etc. One other great thing with Gliffy is that you save your diagrams online (hence accessible anywhere) and you may save the diagrams to your hard disk by exporting them into various formats such as SVG, JPEG and PNG. I like PNG.

Let me not also forget to say that one can share and publish their diagrams on the Web right from Gliffy.

I do not think I can manage to explain all the features of this great web App. Just try it for yourself at http://www.gliffy.com

I greatly recommend it for a person who does not have a diagram editor but would like to create a neat diagram on the fly!

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Reducing Computer Stress

Thursday, September 20, 2007

As an academic in Computer Science, I find that I spend most of my time doing my work on a computer. This can be very stressing and exhausting. Here are some tips I use to try to avoid this stress:

  1. Make sure that the room you are working in, is well ventilated. Open the windows wide open so that fresh air circulates in the room
  2. Make sure that your room is well-lit so that eyes are not strained due to poor lighting
  3. Drink lots of water so that your body is kept well hydrated. Doing something on a computer like programming is a highly demanding cognitive task, therefore the brain cells need to have proper blood circulation and we can't have proper blood circulation in a dehydrated body
  4. Make sure that you eat enough food before sitting on a computer. We are not talking about sports drinks here but rather food rich in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats etc . Hey! Am talking of a balanced diet.
  5. Remember to do some physical exercises such as hand grip exercises, chest pull exercises, running etc at some point during the day
  6. Avoid staring on the screen for a long time. To do this you could be looking outside your window every five minutes or so, so that your eyes get relaxed.
  7. Take some time off that computer screen. It helps a lot.
I use these tips myself and they seem to work. I suggest you try them.

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Microsoft loses landmark appeal

Monday, September 17, 2007

The software giant, Microsoft, has lost a landmark appeal in a case where the Redmond company was challenging a fine the European Union imposed on it in a fair-competition dispute. What will this ruling have on the rest of the computing world? I don't know. Check out a BBC News article on this at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6998272.stm

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My laptop screen gets damaged

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A friend gave me some screen cleaning fluid. Yesterday, I tried to clean my laptop screen with it. Actually this was the second time using the fluid. Unfortunately, the screen got damaged. I went to an HP dealer where they have ordered a replacement of the HP500 laptop screen.

I wish I did not use the fluid. Anyway, crying over spilt milk does not help. Let me just wait for the screen replacement. Am told it should arrive in two weeks time. Looking forward to the day the spare part arrives.

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Vote for Wambali Mkandawire on MOBO MUSIC AWARDS

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A fellow Malawian, Wambali Mkandawire, has been nominated for the Music Of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards (BEST AFRICAN ACT category).

To vote for him, simply go to http://www.mobo.com/?page=016 and scroll down the web page where you may vote for nominees in this category.

Lets support this son of Malawi.

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Edmond Kachale, an upcoming Malawian Inventor

click on the scanned image to read the contents of the news item.

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Lyrics for "Every Time I Close My Eyes" by Babyface

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hey! one of my favourite songs!!!

Written by Babyface (1997)
Performed by Babyface Featuring Kenny G
Also performed by Kenny G Featuring Babyface

Lyrics source: http://www.lyrics007.com/

Girl, it's been a long, long time comin'
But I, I know that it's been worth the wait
It feels like springtime in winter
It feels like Christmas in June
It feels like heaven has opened up it's gates for me and you

And every time I close my eyes
I thank the lord that I've got you
And you've got me too
And every time I think of it
I pinch myself 'cause
I don't believe it's true
That someone like you
Loves me too

Girl, I think that you're truly somethin'
And you're, you're every bit of a dream come true
With you baby, it never rains and it's no wonder
The sun always shines when I'm near you
It's just a blessing that I have found somebody like you

HOOK

To think of all the nights
I've cried myself to sleep
You really oughtta know
How much you mean to me
It's only right that you be in my life right here with me
Oh baby, baby

HOOK

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Installing Windows XP on a Pre-installed Windows Vista Computer

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A friend approached me with an HP 530 laptop which had Windows Vista pre-installed on it. Because currently there are so many softwares out there that are not compatible with Vista, he wanted to switch to Windows XP. Unfortunately, the Windows XP setup could not see the hard disk. This was the error that was cropping up: "No Disks found on the computer..."

This friend told me that he had to tried to get through the problem for over a week and it was giving him sleepless nights. We tried to google together and the very first result page returned, had the solution! The solution was simple: Simply turning off support for SATA drives in the BIOS settings played the trick.

Our reference page was:
http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/install-windows-xp-on-your-pre-installed-windows-vista-computer/

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Back to blogging

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hey! Am back to blogging after a break for a year! It's great.

Want to look at some of my photo collection? Check out

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bfkankuzi/

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