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)


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


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


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 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:



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
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:


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


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. 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:

Sunset over Lake Malawi. Image copyright: Wisdoc

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

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!


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)


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 which is redirected to my gmail address
  • You are given a "permanent URL" within the domain space, with the format: Mine is 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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