Software testing services in Malawi

Monday, December 22, 2008

Are you an individual or an organization in Malawi?

Has someone developed a software system for your organization or business?

If the answer is YES! Then we have very good news for you. We are pleased to inform you that we can professionally test your software system to check if it conforms to software engineering standards. In particular, we will test if the software meets your business requirements. And of course, we will also test its usability, its reliability and other software engineering parameters...

Be it database systems, web-based applications, accounting information systems, health information systems, statistical software systems, e-learning systems, etc.......

We are based right in the heart of Blantyre in southern Malawi. Call us on 04188893 or drop us an email at bfkankuzi (at) gmail.com

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Different page formats in Microsoft Word 2007

Friday, December 19, 2008

I normally use LaTex in preparation of my documents. I don't use Microsoft Word because it is very "crude" in many simple features for document preparation like bibliography generation, page renumbering etc.

This other time a colleague wanted me to help with the problem of numbering a Word 2007 document with different page formats. It took us a lot of hours of googling to find the solution. In our googling, we noted there are also a lot of people out there who spent their time to accomplish such a trivial task and we could not find a clear answer to the problem. However, we managed to come up with a solution after several trial and error attempts. Hence we hereby share the solution for this trivial but time wasting task.


  1. Place cursor at a point in your document that would separate two sections of your document.
  2. Go to Page Layout menu then click on breaks
  3. Then choose section break (not page breaks). You will then have your document separated into two sections at the point you put your cursor.
  4. You can now apply appropriate page numbering formats for each of the sections. You can modify the page number formats through the footer or header.

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A decade of the Internet in Malawi

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

As Malawi joins the rest of Africa in commemorating the 2008 ICT week, this should also be time for reflection on the state of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the country. This article attempts to chronicle the history of the Internet in Malawi as well as current challenges to Internet accessibility in Malawi.



The early 1990’s saw the birth of email services in Malawi. This was in the Physics Department of Chancellor College of the University of Malawi through the UNIMA E-Net project under the leadership of Dr Paulos Nyirenda. The UNIMA E-Net project was providing email services using FidoNet technology because that time around the Internet was not yet introduced in Malawi.

FidoNet is an electronic mail network with over 15,000 mail nodes world wide. FidoNet is independent of currently the most popular global network of computers known as the Internet. Over FidoNet, users can send private email messages to each other as well as share files. Although FidoNet computers can also get connected to the Internet, the popularity of the Internet has greatly diminished worldwide usage of other public computer networks like FidoNet. Malawi indeed also joined the bandwagon in adopting the Internet in 1997.

The UNIMA E-Net project provided email and internet services not only to the Chancellor College campus but also to surrounding areas in Zomba. Services within Chancellor College campus were mainly provided through a Local Area Network (LAN). Surrounding areas accessed UNIMA E-Net services through dial-ups over phone lines. Having worked at the UNIMA E-Net project in the later years of its inception, I can still remember how it was becoming difficult to satisfy demand for Internet services at Chancellor College and indeed to other surrounding areas of Zomba.

The first private Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country, Malawi Net, was formed in 1997. In 1999, Malawi SDNP, a semi-government owned and UNDP funded ISP, was formed. However, the new millennium saw the formation of new private ISPs in Malawi like Africa-Online and later on Globe Internet Company. The fixed phone provider, Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL), has also recently joined the bandwagon of Internet Service Providers in the country.



Malawi SDNP has played a significant role in the development and accessibility of the Internet in Malawi. For example, internet access in University of Malawi colleges was introduced through the Malawi SDNP. Malawi SDNP was responsible for providing Internet services to the Malawi Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing, Bunda College of Agriculture and also Mzuzu University. This is addition to providing internet services to private organizations and individuals in the country.

Other private ISPs have also contributed greatly to Internet accessibility in the country by providing services like wireless Internet. A proliferation of wi-fi hotspots in urban areas of the country bears testimony to this development. It is also now possible to access wireless broadband Internet in some residential areas in some urban areas of the country. In addition, it is also now possible to access Internet services through mobile phones.



Despite the gains that have been made in the provision of Internet services in Malawi by different stakeholders in the last decade, there are many challenges that need to be addressed. One of the major challenges is the prohibitive cost for one to access internet services in Malawi. However, it is important to note that high costs to Internet access in Malawi are just symptomatic of the many challenges Internet Service Providers in the country face.

One of the major challenges facing internet service providers in Malawi is the lack of a local Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in our country. An IXP is physical infrastructure that allows different Internet Service Providers to exchange Internet traffic between their autonomous systems by means of mutual peering agreements. IXPs are typically used by ISPs to reduce dependency on their respective upstream providers hence improving cost savings, data transfer efficiency and fault-tolerance. For example, here in Malawi, an email message sent from a Malawi Net address to a Malawi SDNP address can not be sent directly to Malawi SDNP yet both of these ISPs are right here in Malawi. Instead the email message will have to go to an upstream service provider for Malawi Net and then the message has to be routed to the upstream service provider for Malawi SDNP which will in turn route the message to Malawi SDNP servers in Blantyre. It is important to note that both of these upstream service providers are usually outside Africa. This means that data which was supposed to be exchanged locally within Malawi in Africa has to pass through Europe or North America where these Internet upstream providers are based. This is unnecessary wastage of upstream bandwidth since our ISPs in Malawi may unnecessarily use upstream bandwidth for traffic which can typically be routed directly amongst them.

Another challenge in accessing Internet services in the country is the high cost of using the .mw domain. Currently Malawi SDNP administers the .mw domain on behalf of the Malawi government. For any patriotic Malawian, it is very necessary to have our own email addresses and websites to be using the .mw domain. However, this is not the case. We normally see .com and .net domains being in use by many Malawian companies and individuals. This is because these foreign domain names are cheaper to acquire than our own .mw domain. As an example, a good number of Malawians now have blogs on the world-wide web (WWW) but very few are using the .mw domain on their blog addresses. In addition to this, how many Malawians can afford to have .mw email addresses? Because it is expensive to have our email addresses with our own .mw domain, we now see that many Malawians use yahoo.com, gmail.com and other foreign email addresses. This has a financial implication in that accessing mail using these email addresses will lead one to use upstream bandwidth since email servers for these email addresses are outside Africa. This scenario is not only specific to Malawi but to many African countries because of lack of internet infrastructure.


Another major challenge is to bring ICT services, the Internet in particular, to rural areas of Malawi. Currently ICT services in the country are concentrated in urban areas. For example, it is easy to find Internet cafes in most urban areas. This is not the case in most rural areas. Obviously lack of necessary infrastructure like electricity and telephony services are contributing to this state of affairs. However, the Minister of Information, Mrs Patricia Kaliati, deserves special mention for her vigorous advocacy in encouraging ICT service providers to take their services to rural areas. Since 80% of Malawians live in rural areas, it is very necessary that this population also benefit from ICTs for their socio-economic development.

Finally, the development of an optic fiber network in the country will obviously lead to improved telecommunication services in the country. With the development of the submarine optic fiber Internet backbone along the eastern African coast of the Indian Ocean, many African countries stand to benefit from this NEPAD initiative. I look forward to the day when our optic fiber network in Malawi will get connected to this submarine Internet backbone because it is only when this happens that we will say bye to expensive VSAT links.

*** The author, Bennett Kankuzi, is a computer scientist/software engineer based in Blantyre, Malawi ****

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Access to telecommunication services in Malawi

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reliable telecommunication networks are one of the key components of building an information-driven society. Other key components include robust computer hardware and software platforms. Robust systems will be resilient such that they perform satisfactorily as long as the system load is within the limits of the systems’ operating capacity. However, it is important to note that no matter how robust a system can be, its load has to be within its operating capacity. Exceeding the capacity of a system will obviously lead to persistent system failures hence seriously affecting the reliability of a system. Should we then say that mobile phone networks in the country are exhibiting symptoms of system overload?


An MTL billboard advertising LibertyNet wireless fixed phones


It is a fact that making calls on mobile phones in our country is characterized by dropped calls, unexplained network unavailability, undelivered text messages, truncated text messages among other problems. We know that we are always told that the systems are undergoing upgrades. But as esteemed subscribers, we have a right to know when are the so called system upgrades going to end. It is clear that mobile phone networks in our country can not scale up with the number of subscribers. Introduction of more mobile phone service operators in our country will definitely help to absorb the ‘heat’ which has proven too much to be withstood by Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) and Zain Malawi.

In addition to this, it is my opinion that the cost of calling using mobile phones is unjustifiably expensive in our country. Moreover, mobile phone call charges in this country are not transparent. It is a fact that mobile phone service operators in our country do not publicly announce their call charges. It is only the fixed phone service provider, Malawi Telecommunication Limited (MTL), which publishes in the media their call charges. Should we then speculate on why our mobile phone service operators seem to be ‘hiding’ their call charges? Should we speculate that they want to maximize profits for their shareholders at the expense of poor Malawians? As subscribers, we need not to be blinded by cosmetic charity works and product promotions conducted by these companies because they just benefit a few people. Obviously, what we need most are affordable call rates that would benefit all.



The introduction of wireless fixed phones by MTL was welcomed by many as a positive step in providing affordable fixed phone access to many. However, it is very difficult to find these phones in MTL shops. This is despite the fact that we constantly see billboards advertising these ‘Liberty’ and ‘CM121L’ phones. One then wonders what kind of advertising strategy this is? A company advertising a product it does not have in stock? Clearly, MTL is missing a golden opportunity to broaden its revenue base by failing to meet the demand for these wireless fixed phones. Instead of focusing on ‘offloading’ some of its workers, MTL has all the chances to expand in a country with one of the lowest fixed phone line penetrations in Africa.




Indeed it is high time that telecommunication service providers in our country start expanding to meet the demands of a growing information-driven society. However, as consumers, we also expect reasonable service charges from these service providers so that telecommunication services in the country are accessible to many Malawians!

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My tribute to Thabo Mbeki

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa offered to step down as the President of South Africa on 21/09/2008. The events surrounding his resignation are not the purpose of this post. Rather, I would like to pay tribute to President Mbeki for his outstanding performance as a true African statesman, visionary and an intellectual.

To me, President Mbeki shall remain a true African statesman who not just wanted to please the West in his foreign policy but instead spearheaded “African solutions to African problems”. The formation of a unity government in Zimbabwe by Comrade Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai bears testimony to the resilience and patience of President Mbeki. When some were proposing that sanctions and diplomatic isolation were a ‘solution’ to the problems of Zimbabwe, Mr Mbeki and other African patriots saw the need for continued diplomacy which eventually paid dividends. In addition to this, to show his true statesmanship, President Thabo Mbeki has ‘without any qualms’ offered to step down when others would have not done so.

I also salute Mr Mbeki for his vision of an African Renaissance. Through this vision, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) was formed. Moreover, Mr Mbeki has also persistently advocated for the transformation of Africa. He has always advocated for Africans to be proud of who we are as a people. His poems such as "I am an African" are testimony to this. I for one am a proud Malawian who is also very proud to be African. Mr Mbeki’s writings always give me inspiration.

We love you, Thabo Mbeki. You are a true African statesman and you are my hero! Do not worry, Mr Mbeki, for we surely know that those that have plotted your 'fall' shall surely fall by the same sword they have used.

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Yes, Nyamilandu is right! English Premier League fans in Malawi are hypocrites

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The President of the Football Associaton of Malawi, Walter Nyamilandu, was quoted in the press (Daily Times, 25/08/2008) as describing English Premier League fans in Malawi as hypocrites for not patronizing local football matches. Instead they zealously get glued to their TVs to watch English premiership matches.

On the other hand, local TNM Super League matches are played on almost empty stadiums. These empty stadiums mean that local teams are not generating enough revenue to sustain themselves. Should we then wonder about dwindling standards of football among local teams in Malawi? Surprisingly, it is these very same English Premiership zealots that always complain about the sub-standard performance among local teams. Yes, as Nyamilandu put it, this is a clear case of pharisaic hypocrisy.


A view of the Chichiri stadium at a distance.
Note the construction works of the Chipembere
Highway in the background.
Photo credit: Bennett Kankuzi (28/08/2008)

Our obsession with “things foreign” in Malawi is well documented. Zambian music is now being played on almost all radio stations while some of our best local talent is rarely heard on our own radio stations. Going to football, there is even a radio station that has gone to the extent of making live radio commentaries as English Premiership matches are played. Yes, Star FM does this! My foot!

What about sports news on radio stations? This is dominated by “Man U this” and “Chelsea that”… Even other sporting disciplines like netball, basketball, etc rarely get any coverage. So, some radio stations are also greatly contributing to this unpatriotic attitude towards local football in Malawi. However, there are some radio stations which have to be commended for promoting local football in their sports coverage: MBC Radio 1, Zodiak Broadcasting Station and to some extent MIJ FM. On these radio stations, you are assured of knowing about local match fixtures and results. Its soothing to hear of fixtures like Makande Estate vs Liwonde Medicals, etc

Lets come to conversations about football among the “affluent”. Its all about English Premiership teams and players. There are those guys that will tell you the nitty-gritties of English Premiership football but will openly tell you that they have nothing to do with local football. Some would even go to the extent that they do not have any team they support in the local TNM Super League. Yet they vehemently support Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and others. And sometimes discussing local football among these guys risks one to be labeled as primitive or “wachimidzi”. You have to talk about these “foreign teams” to be classified as affluent.

To me this is not very surprising. This is because our education systems across Africa indirectly teach us to “worship things foreign”. Mental colonialism manifests itself even among the so called educated people when they constantly try to detach themselves from local things. As Bob Marley said; we need to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery. Africa in general shall develop to her full potential only when her people are emancipated mentally.

Coming back to football. The question then remains: how can local football develop when we perpetually shun to support it. Definitely the FAM President is very right in calling a spade a spade. Others may not swallow the bitter pill easily. Malawians, lets learn to be patriotic. Malawi will be developed by Malawians and no-one else. Of course do not remind me of what Catherine Chikwakwa wanted to do by trying to ply her trade for another country!

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Is mobile phone airtime too expensive in Malawi?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The government of Malawi has introduced a 10 percent surtax on mobile phone airtime starting from 1 July 2008. At the same time it scrapped off import tax on cell phones being sold by mobile phone operators TNM and Zain Malawi (formerly Celtel Malawi). Hence TNM is selling its NOKIA 1200 phones at MK3800 while Zain Malawi is selling its ZTE phones which have been dubbed “Mose wa lero” phones at MK2800 (USD20). The ZTE have been dubbed "Mose wa lero" because they say this is an initiative of the government of President Bingu "mose walero" Mutharika.

Clearly these cheap phones are a success story in Malawi! Almost every Jim and Jack is now owning a mobile phone. Farmers, students,..., can now own a phone. However, the 10 percent surtax on mobile phone airtime has made airtime to be very expensive. As a result, many people will agree with me that most of the times their mobile phones do not have enough credit to call out. They only have credits for "flashing" which is sad because a mobile phone is supposed to be for calling out as well as receiving calls…not just receiving calls.

Nevertheless, despite the introduced 10 percent surtax on air time, in my opinion I have always felt that mobile phone air time in Malawi is just too expensive. In addition to this, the charges are not transparent. A mobile phone user does not clearly know how much they are charged per minute/second etc at a particular time. As mobile phone users we clearly need to have this information. I hope the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) will take up this issue.

I am glad that soon we shall have two more mobile phone operators. I think it was recently announced that licenses have already been granted. Yes, these operators need to roll out their networks quickly so that they increase competition among the mobile phone operators. Otherwise we are tired of the unjustified exorbitant airtime charges by TNM and Zain Malawi ( formerly Celtel). Capitalism at work?

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Am selling off a Mitsubishi RVR Sports Gear

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If you are in Malawi, you might be interested in this:

Am selling off a a Mitsubishi RVR Sports Gear, green in colour, manual transmission and low mileage, price MK850,000 negotiable. Interested? Phone me: 04188893 The vehicle can be viewed by arrangement in Zomba. Snapshots of the vehicle are below.


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A chilly August in Blantyre

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Its rather strange to have chilly weather in August in Malawi. Normally we are supposed to have hot and windy weather. Just yesterday, we had rain drizzles in Limbe. Surprisingly, Blantyre Central Business District was very cold but not wet.

I stay in Chigumula in Limbe and am enduring the chilly weather of Thyolo. Nights are very cold and we have rain drizzles now and then. A very strange August indeed! I guess we are now facing the effects of global warming. Common sense tells us that global warming is not a myth. It reminds me of what Lisa said in the Simpsons "The Movie".

On another note, with the reconstruction of the Chipembere highway, driving through this road is 'hell on earth'. One has to be extremely cautious. It seems the the contractor, Shimz, is serious with the construction work. Obviously, the road will transform Blantyre. This is what we need and not petty politicking in our Parliament. A Bingu woyee!!!

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My favourite quotes from Plato (427 BC - 347 BC)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Never discourage anyone.....who continually makes progress, no matter how slow - Plato

The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men - Plato

Ignorance, the root and stem of every evil - Plato

Apply yourself both now and in the next life. Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, You cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation - Plato

The most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery rise out of the most extreme liberty - Plato

I shall assume that your silence gives consent. - Plato

If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life - Plato

Nothing can be more absurd than the practice that prevails in a country of men and women not following the same pursuits with all their strengths and with one mind, for thus,the state instead of being whole is reduced to half - Plato

People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die - Plato

The curse of me and my nation is that we always think things can be bettered by immediate action of some sort, any sort rather than no sort. - Plato

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Academic Life

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Peer-reviewed Research Publications

  1. Bennett Kankuzi and Jorma Sajaniemi, A mental model perspective for tool development and paradigm shift in spreadsheets, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Available online 9 November 2015, ISSN 1071-5819, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2015.10.005.
  2. Bennett Kankuzi and Jorma Sajaniemi. Visualizing the problem domain for spreadsheet users: A mental model perspective. Presented at the IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, Melbourne, Australia. August 2014
  3. Bennett Kankuzi and Jorma Sajaniemi. An Empirical Study of Spreadsheet Authors’ Mental Models in Explaining and Debugging Tasks. Presented at the IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, San Jose, CA, USA. September 2013
  4.  Bennett Kankuzi and Yirsaw Ayalew. Spreadsheet Visualization using the MCL Algorithm in Handbook on Computer Engineering and Innovations in Education for Virtual Learning Environments, Intelligent Systems and Communicability: Multimedia Mobile Technologies, Experiences in Research and Quality Educational Trends. Blue Herons Editions. December 2012
  5.  Bennett Kankuzi and Yirsaw Ayalew. An MCL algorithm based technique for comprehending spreadsheets. In Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of the Psychology of Programming. Leicester, UK. 2008
  6. Bennett Kankuzi and Yirsaw Ayalew. An End-User Oriented Graph-Based Visualization for Spreadsheets. In Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on End-User Software Engineering (WEUSE '08), pages 86-90, Leipzig, Germany, May 2008. Publisher: ACM Press, ISBN: 978-1-60558-034-0, URL: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1370847.1370866
  7. Bennett Kankuzi and Yirsaw Ayalew. A Dynamic Graph-Based Visualization for Spreadsheets. In Proceedings of the 3rd IASTED Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, pages 198–203, Innsbruck, Austria, March 2008. Publisher: ACTA Press, ISBN: 978-0-88986-725-3, URL: http://www.actapress.com/Abstract.aspx?paperId=32925
JAN, 2010 – AUG, 2015 UNIVERSITY OF EASTERN FINLAND, JOENSUU, FINLAND

Ph.D. (Computer Science)

  • Area of Specialization - Human Centred Software Engineering
  • Thesis Title - Deficiencies in Spreadsheets: A Mental Model Perspective
  • Thesis overview – tackled the problem of errors in spreadsheets from a perspective of how spreadsheet authors think when they are carrying out various spreadsheet activities and consequently developed spreadsheet tools that enhance the current spreadsheet interface and also provided a case for a new spreadsheet paradigm.
  • Thesis published in print and electronically - http://epublications.uef.fi/pub/urn_isbn_978-952-61-1828-4/index_en.html 
  • Course Work: Empirical Studies of Programming, Requirements Engineering, Mental Representations in IT Education, Software Process Management, Usability Engineering, Philosophy of Computer Science, ICT for Development


AUG, 2006 – JUL, 2008 UNIVERSITY OF BOTSWANA, GABORONE, BOTSWANA

M.Sc. (Computer Science)

  • Thesis Topic: A Dynamic Graph-based Visualization for Spreadsheets
  • Advisor: Yirsaw Ayalew, Ph.D.
  • Course Work: Software Engineering, Database Systems Engineering, Object Oriented Systems, Web Engineering, Distributed Computing Systems, Computer Networking and Communications, Decision Support Information Systems, Computing Research Methods


JUL, 1998 – JUL, 2002 UNIVERSITY OF MALAWI (CHANCELLOR COLLEGE), ZOMBA, MALAWI

B.Sc. (Computer Science (major) and Mathematics (minor))

  • Graduated with Distinction.
  • Course Work: Algorithms & Data Structures, Programming Languages, Operating Systems, Computer Networks, Systems Analysis and Design, Modeling and Simulation, File Structure and Design, Database Systems, Software Engineering, Information Systems Project, Artificial Intelligence, Abstract Algebra, Real Analysis, Linear Algebra, An Introduction to Differential Equations, Advanced Calculus, Numerical Analysis



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Why African countries need to embrace science vigorously

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lets start with a few facts: First, all developed countries are advanced in technology. Second, science and mathematics are cornerstones of modern technology.
Third, there can not be industrialization without advancing in technology.

Africa, is the 'poorest' continent in the world. This is despite the fact that the continent is rich in natural resources like minerals, cultivable land, massive fresh water bodies, a mostly tropic climate etc. What lacks is the means to transform these resources into products that can be used by her people. According to the International Technology Education Association, technology is defined as "how people modify the natural world to suit their own purposes". Based on this definition, we can see that technology enables human beings to transform natural resources into products that can enhance their lives. Imagine a car, a ubiquitous example of products of technology. A car is mostly made from metal. And we know that metals are extracted from minerals which are natural resources. But what do we see? Each continent except Africa has produced its own car models but Africa as a continent is yet to produce its own car model. America has Ford, Jeep etc. Europe has Mercedes Benz, Land Rover, Fiat etc. Asia has Tata (from the Indians), Hyundai (Koreans), GWM (from the Chinese), Toyota and Mitsubishi (from the Japanese). Just to mention a few! Is something wrong with us in the African continent?

Let us take the example of the Japanese. In 1910, Japan was a very poor country. After their defeat in World War II, the Japanese concentrated on nation reconstruction through a process of industrialization. With few natural natural resources at their disposal, the Japanese borrowed technology from the industrialized Western countries and indeed later own developed their own technolgies to become one of the most industrialized countries by 1970. The Japanese have remained prosperous ever since. They are no longer scorned as the "little Japs". What do we also see from the new economic giant China? By importing natural resources from resource rich areas like African countries, China is becoming one of the leading countries in terms of economic growth through a process of rapid industrialization.

Is it a coincidence that the Japanese (and indeed all developed countries) are also advanced in science and mathematics? I do not think so. It is a fact that one cannot develop any modern technologies without any deeper scientific understanding. Science can be practical or theoretical. All are very necessary for development of modern technology. For example, the Internet which has revolutionized modern communication has its origins from the scientific community. It is therefore my opinion, that the youth in all African countries should at all cost be encouraged to pursue subjects in Science and Mathematics. I hope I am not being misunderstood as condemning or looking down on other disciplines.


Can solar technologies help in generating
electricity in most African countries?

Yes, Africa at large has a very sad history of exploitation in form of slavery and colonialism. But we need to challenge our status quo and look up to the future with hope so that one day we shall graduate from the state of being a continent with a begging bowl. We need not to dwell in the past but rather look ahead.

To finish this post, I will give an example of Malawi. In the past year or so, vast deposits of uranium and other minerals have been discovered in Malawi and are in the process of being exploited. But what do we see? The uranium mined will be exported to developed countries for nuclear power generation. Yet, Malawi currently struggles to meet its energy demands. Its hydro-electric power stations (Nkula, Kapichira and Wovwe) can not produce enough electricity. With the energy demand in the whole of Southern Africa, Malawi could have also found potential to export energy generated from nuclear power to neighbouring countries. But, clearly Malawi does not have the technological know-how of nuclear power generation, nor does she have the financial capital to build a nuclear power station.

Sidenote:
This post was inspired by my readings of the book entitled "The Struggle for Economic Development: Readings in Problems and Policies", edited by Michael P. Todaro and published by Longman.

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Empowering the world's poorest

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Often times, the gap between the rich and the poor in this world haunts my thoughts. A mere thought that someone is going on an empty stomach while others are throwing away food, leaves me with more questions than answers. The need for social justice for the world's poorest people sometimes overwhelms me. With the current global food crisis, it is the poorest of this world that are the most vulnerable.

In my free time, I normally like reading books from other fields other than science. Of late, I have been reading a book entitled "When Aid is No Help: How Projects Fail, and How They Could Succeed" by John Madeley and others, published by Intermediate Technology Publications in 1991. Although the book was published in 1991, it seems to be very applicable even now in 2008.

Basically, the book is about how aid from developed countries to developing countries often does not reach the intended poorest people in target countries. Often times, it is the poor who are better off that benefit leaving out the poorest. I hope you get this "paradox". I believe that most aid programmes are intended to lift the poorest of this world so that at least they should be uplifted from abject poverty. Normally, aid programmes are executed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as the governments in those target countries. In Malawi, my home country, there are many NGOs that are doing a commendable job in complementing government efforts in trying to alleviate poverty. The current government of Malawi under President Dr Bingu wa Mutharika and his visionary team in the likes of Dr Goodall Gondwe (the Finance Minister) and others, have managed to reach the poorest through a successful fertilizer subsidy program, that has seen Malawi registering surplus harvests since 2006. The goodness is that it is the peasant farmers themselves that are producing the food for their households instead of receiving food aid.

In the book I am reading, the authors list some guidelines which aid projects targeting the poor should follow in order not to miss out the poorest. The following guidelines caught my attention:


  1. Many projects do not reach the poorest because of failure to investigate and understand how they live their lives. Projects must genuinely correspond to local realities. In other words, consult with the people on what they want rather than imposing on them what you think they want. For example, it would not be right to force people into fish farming yet what they may need is bee-keeping, etc.
  2. Because the poorest are often unschooled and illiterate, this does not mean that they are unintelligent. Projects must trust the people. If the projects can also incorporate literacy in their work, the better. This is because literacy would help the poorest realize their potential.
  3. The poorest cannot afford complex and expensive technologies. And they are often not interested in nor bothered with grandiose technologies that seem irrelevant to their experiences. A case in point would be forcing computer technologies on them yet what they may need first are basic necessities of life like food and shelter!

Indeed, empowering the poorest is "about helping them empower themselves, discover or perhaps rediscover their power and giving them a glimpse of hope that they can also have improved lives". Moreover, the "worlds poorest are not an isolated and unreachable underclass" although the "task of reaching them is difficult yet it is not impossible".

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Malawi and a Green Revolution in Africa?

Here are some of the articles that I have been collecting on Malawi and the debatable topic of a possible green revolution in Africa. With rising global food prices, food production is becoming a very big global issue as the world tries to find a solution to this crisis.


  1. How the rich world can help Africa help itself (Financial Times)
  2. Africa green revolution possible - Prof. Jeffrey Sachs (PSD Blog - World Bank group)
  3. Lessons from Malawi Food Policy (Cambridge Forecast Group blog)
  4. Dealing with Global Food Prices (International Herald Tribune)
  5. Malawi's farming revolution sets the pace in Africa (The Independent - UK)
  6. Sachs to EU: Food Aid Won't Solve Crisis (BusinessWeek)
  7. A Green Revolution for Africa by Kofi Annan (New Scientist - 07 May 2008)
  8. Small can be Beautiful (Inter Press Service - 07 May 2008)
  9. Overlooked in the global food crisis: A problem with dirt (Associated Press - 08 May 2008)

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Introducing my other new blog !!!

Monday, April 28, 2008

I have been blogging for more than two years now. With time, my focus has shifted from a tech-oriented blog to a blog that features posts that show my thoughts on various issues that seem to matter most in my life. I remember my first post was on 10th February, 2006 with a simple title "Ubuntu Breezy Badger Cds". Oh, how time flies! Its more than two years since that post.

Blogging has brought me joys more than sorrows! It has enriched my intellectual thought and has provided a platform for me to express my thoughts to the world. I am also strengthened by the fact that visitors to my blog have been steadily increasing.Though blogging requires originality and hard work, it has provided a way in which individuals can express their 'little thoughts' to this big world.

Anyway, I would also like to introduce my other brand-new blog. It is entitled "I Love Malawi". Its web address is http://ilovemalawi.blogspot.com/. The blog showcases photos from Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa. The photos are collected as I surf through the web. Very soon, I am planning to register private domain names for these two blogs.

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Radio stations in Malawi


  • Zodiak Broadcasting Station, the number 1 private radio station in Malawi (provides 24-hour live internet streaming)
  • MBC Radio 1 (state broadcaster)
  • MBC Radio 2 FM (state broadscaster)
  • Capital FM
  • Power 101 FM (Provides live internet streaming)
  • Radio Maria Malawi (Provides 24 hr live internet streaming from Malawi. Currently my fave, because it brings me closer home when I am outside Malawi.)
  • Star FM
  • Zodiak Radio Station
  • Trans-World Radio Malawi
  • CFC Radio (Blantyre only)
  • African Bible College (ABC) Radio (Lilongwe)
  • Joy FM
  • Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) FM
  • Plus many other community radio stations
Sidenote: There is currently, one TV station in Malawi, Television Malawi. If you are in Southern Africa you may catch Television Malawi via satellite through most Free to Air satellite receivers like Philibao. Through Multichoice Malawi and GTV, one may also subscribe at a fee to catch all major international TV channels via satellite.

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Section 83 (3) of the Constitution of Malawi

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Section 83(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi reads:

The President, the First Vice-President and the Second Vice-President may serve in their respective capacities a maximum of two consecutive terms, but when a person is elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of President or Vice-President, the period between that election or appointment and the next election of a President shall not be regarded as a term.

While scouring through the web, I found this very interesting document regarding this part of the constitution of the Republic of Malawi. You may download it here: http://www.lawcom.mw/docs/pressrelease.pdf
It was released on 23rd day of April, 2007.

The online version of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi can be found at
http://www.sdnp.org.mw/constitut/dtlindx.html

And I also found this quote:

"In my own view, the spirit intended by the constitution was that a president can serve no more than two terms of office but it is a highly contested issue," constitutional expert Edge Kanyongolo told the BBC's Network Africa programme. (from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7364469.stm)

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Of Madonna and her intended adoption of a Malawian child

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hey! It seems I am getting hooked to spiked. These guys are putting up views which might not go down well with the faint-hearted. But they say the truth pains and unfortunately its only the truth that shall set us free. This time Nathalie Rothschild of spiked presents an alternative view on 'celebrities' adopting children from poor countries. In her analysis, she also cross-examines the adoption attempts by Madonna of that cute Malawian boy, David Banda.

Let me not waste your time. Read the article at spiked-online.com

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Reflections on the Zimbabwe issue

Brendan O’Neill, a renowned liberal British journalist, in an article on spiked presents a thought provoking and balanced view on the current contentious issue of Zimbabwe.

You may check the article at spiked-online.com

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Developing 2D Graphics Applications in Java made easy!

Building 2D graphics applications using the traditional Java 2D library can be cumbersome and tedious. For me, it was recently that I stumbled on GeoSoft's 2D Graphics Library and Rendering Engine for Java which indeed simplifies the way one can build 2D graphics applications in Java, my current favourite programming language. GeoSoft's 2D library is built on top of Java 2D to allow the development of 2D graphics applications in a high level, easy to use way.

For example, one can create a GWindow as top level graphics node and link it to a Swing panel. After that one can add a GScene which defines viewport and world extents. Thereafter, one can build the graphics hierarchy by GObjects and add it to the scene. GObjects consists of GSegments (polylines ) and other GObjects. One can add style such as colours to objects through the GStyle objects added to any level of the graphics.

You may find a well-written tutorial and documentation on GeoSoft's website.

Cheers!

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The Kitchen Girl III

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In almost every household of middle-income and upper-income families in Africa (and I suppose even in other parts of the world), they usually employ a houseworker. My opinion is that usually these workers are not treated fairly by their employers. The Kitchen Girl III is a reflective poem, by renowned Namibian poet Kavevangua Kahengua, who tries to portray the thoughts of a houseworker and in this particular case a "Kitchen Girl". It remains one of my favourite poems since I am a person who advocates for social-justice for the down-trodden. The poem goes on as follows:

The Kitchen Girl III

I am the kitchen girl
Like a cock
I am the first one to get up
At twilight I dare walk the path
That leads me to my masters' house
The aroma of the breakfast I prepare
Wakes up my masters from comfort
Here I toil till dusk
From Sunday to Monday
They say God hears prayers
Even from the kitchen

I am the kitchen girl
When my masters sit around
The table to enjoy the fruit
Of my sweet sweat
I am on my feet in the kitchen
Clattering of plates and spoons
Unending

I am the kitchen girl
The bank lady
Has just snatched my boyfriend
"How dare you touch my man?"
Twisting her red painted lips
She spat in my face

I am the kitchen girl
The Revised Labour Law III
Has omitted my occupation
They say the ommission is minor
After all, I was told
Minimum wages rule doesn't
Apply to kitchen chores
I am the kitchen girl

Copyright notice: Used with permission from the author. All rights reserved to the author, Kavevangua Kahengua. This poem appears in a book by the author entitled "Dreams" which is published by Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers Ltd, Windhoek, Namibia. ISBN: 99916-0-389-1

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My first research publication!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Getting a research publication brings joy especially if you are in the scientific academic community. But, getting a FIRST research publication in your academic career marks a transition to being an 'initiated' scientific researcher! I can't contain my joy to have a first publication which is entitled "A Dynamic Graph-based Visualization for Spreadsheets" and it has been published here:

http://www.actapress.com/Abstract.aspx?paperId=32925

http://www.actapress.com/Content_of_Proceeding.aspx?proceedingID=475

I am also getting another publication by May 2008. So, at least two research publications out of the MSc research work.

Cheers!

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An alternative view of Malawi (part II)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Some of the people of Malawi ...


A kid in Zomba, Malawi.
Photo copyrighted to Owavutse.



Kids in Zomba Primary school in Malawi.
(It reminds me of the days I was in primary school)




Some young men in Blantyre, Malawi.
Photo copyrighted to KwachaFm.com



Women in rural Malawi.
Photo copyrighted to ROCKFACE


Some young men in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Photo copyrighted to KwachaFm.com



Our future Malawi national football team?
(Kids in Majete, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi)
Photo copyrighted to Morilla



Photo copyrighted to ROCKFACE

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A review of Malawian music on the Voice of America (VoA)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Matthew LaVoie of the Voice of America blogs about the journey of Malawi music from the 1960's to present. He starts his post by writing:

Nestled between Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique; Malawi has earned its name as the 'warm heart of Africa'. And 'warm' is precisely the adjective I would use to describe Malawian music. There is sunny optimism in much of the Malawian music I've heard and after a grim weekend of cold, rain and snow here in Washington D.C., I figured I'd warm myself with a few Malawian recordings from our collection...


Read the whole review at http://www.voanews.com/ and be sure to dance to some of the tracks posted there. I am using Mozilla Firefox and am able to play the music there. My favourite song is 'Patricia' by Robert Fumulani and Likhubula River Dance Band. The song reminds me of my childhood days in the 1980s and of course the song is very nice. The lead guitar in the song is so distinctive and is blending very well with the bass etc. Guess what? Am literally jiving right now (celebrating our African heritage!)...Hahaha! Mixing business with pleasure. Malawi moto...!!!

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An alternative view of Malawi (part I)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


This is the undulating Nyika National Park in Northern Malawi...



Summer animal watching in Nyika National Park in northern Malawi



Watching elephants in Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve in northern Malawi



On Zomba Plateau in southern Malawi...



Ku Chawe Inn on Zomba Plateau in southern Malawi


ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF WWW.MALAWI-TRAVEL.COM

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The challenges of doing academic research in Africa

Monday, February 11, 2008

Update to this post (25/09/2015)
====

My PhD thesis defence was held on 28th August 2015 at 12 noon at the University of Eastern Finland School of Computing in the Louhela Auditorium, Joensuu Science Park in Joensuu, Finland. A summary of my PhD thesis is at http://bkankuzi.blogspot.com/2015/09/a-summary-of-my-phd-thesis-in-not-so.html

====
Working as an academic in a university in Africa can be a challenging task. It really requires a spirit of service to a nation, otherwise one easily gets frustrated by the impediments that he faces as he/she tries to discharge his daily duties.

One of the duties of an academic is to conduct research in their area of interest and specialization. Well, finding equipment for doing research is in itself a big huddle in most African universities. Apart from this, there is the daunting task of trying to disseminate your research findings in international conferences.

By this I mean, getting your research paper accepted for some international conference may bring joy to the researcher. BUT, wait a minute, the researcher would have to fund from his own pocket for expenses like conference registration fees, transport, accommodation and other associated costs.

This in itself is a stab in the back of an African researcher, because normally host institutions do not have funds for these expenses. This is because most universities in Africa are funded by their governments and definitely the funding is never enough. Of course its understandable since the governments have "priorities within priorities" in their national budgets. The governments have to fight for national food security, clean water, infrastructure development etc for the masses and funding academic research would never make it into the priority list.

However, this situation might lead others to conclude that there is no academic research being done in Africa which is not necessarily true. Unfortunately, world university rankings take research publications into account. So you better not be surprised to see many African universities not faring well in the rankings!

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On the re-introduction of quota-based selection in universities in Malawi

Saturday, February 09, 2008

News is making rounds about proposals to re-introduce the previously abandoned quota-based selection in universities in Malawi. I receive this news with disappointment! The basis of my disappointment is the fact that I believe that entry into universities in Malawi should be on merit as is currently the case. Currently students sit for an entrance exam which tests their language, mathematical as well as general reasoning skills. I think this filtration mechanism is meritocratic.

I support my position with part 1 of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which clearly states that:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

In case you missed it, the article clearly states that "higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit". Then why should we start violating this fundamental human right? I, as an individual, would like to be judged by the content of my character not based on my skin colour, ethnic group, region, gender and other discriminatory devices. As Martin Luther King Jnr said in his famous "I have a Dream" speech delivered on 28 August 1963:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I think it is not fallacious here to equate content of character to merit. Simply put, I should be judged on merit!

Yes, some are complaining that there are some regions which are being favoured with the current university selection setup. To them I would need to ask them a few questions. What makes the other regions favoured? Is it that there are better schools in the so-called favoured regions? What makes others not do well in the university entrance exams? Is it because of the region, district or tribe where they come from? Should performers be rewarded with discrimination? Can we instill hard work like this in our youths?

In my opinion, I feel that a better solution would be to increase the intake capacities of each of the universities in Malawi so that at the end of the day every student who QUALIFIES should be able to get a place in the universities. Entrance exams to the universities should also be well coordinated among the universities so that we do not have students hopping from one university to the other.

Otherwise, we do not want our beautiful and peaceful Malawi to be plunged into a path that fuels regionalism and tribalism. I think the Kenyan example serves as a warning example.

I need to be judged as a Malawian not based on my district of origin, language, ethnic group etc. I end with a quote from Confucious:

In teaching there should be no distinction of classes

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A first-hand witness on stereotypes about Africa

Friday, February 08, 2008

I stumbled on this blog post by Ryan Price, a missionary in Malawi, who writes honestly about stereotypes some people have about the continent of Africa. This being one of the themes of my blog, I decided to feature it for you esteemed blog readers. Ryan opens his blog post by writing:

It seems like more than any other place on earth, Africa has more mystery, depth and stereotypes.

The more and more I talk to people about my experiences in Malawi, I frequently hear something like... "Wait... but I always thought..."



Please read on this eye-opening post at his blog: Hope from Malawi

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Protect your laptop from thieves with a Power-On Password!

Thursday, January 31, 2008


I have so many friends and other people I know who have at one point or the other complained that their laptop computers have been stolen by some very cruel homo sapiens!

But I think there is one way which many laptop owners fail to use so that thieves can not have easy meat over their laptops. This is by simply setting up a power-on or boot-up password on their laptops. With a power-on password set, the user is prompted for a password every time the laptop is switched on. As far as I know, it is very difficult to crack this password and it can only be reset by the laptop's manufacturer. This means that once the thief gets hold of your laptop they will not be able to use it and therefore it will be useless. With this in mind it might be easy to recover the laptop especially if you report the theft to police. Definitely, if all laptops had their power-on password set, that would greatly discourage the common PETTY theft of laptop computers. I think PETTY theft of laptops and mobile phones is a global phenomenon. Is this true in your country? In my home country, Malawi, laptops and mobile phones are a big target for these shameless thieves.

The power-on password is set using the computer's BIOS setup utility. If you don't know this and you want to set up one, then ask any person who is much knowledgeable in computers to do it for you. But remember not to forget the password as you might lead yourself into a self-lockout. Also remember not to choose an easy-to-guess password. It is always good and advisable not to use personal information for passwords. Lastly, but not least, keep the password secret to yourself!

Cheers!

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In support of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Many people have had their views on the One Laptop Per Child initiative by Dr Negroponte. I wish to have my take on this.

Firstly, let me say that I am an African and a Malawian in particular. And Malawi is one of the countries in the so-called developing world. I would not say that Malawi is a Third World country because I have problems with the classification of countries as First world etc. I think it is not the intention of this post to air out my reservations on this demeaning classification.

In my opinion, I find no problems in the promotion of the one laptop per child project in developing countries. I know some people object to this initiative because they feel that it is a wrong priority for developing countries. However, I feel that this kind of thinking stems from the fact there is usually a misguided stereotypical blanket classification that all people in developing countries are very poor. I think these opponents forget that there are social classes like high-income, middle-income as well as poor people in developing countries as it is the case with developed countries. However, we cannot deny the fact that a LARGE number of people in developing countries struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis and there is need for social and economic justice to uplift them from abject poverty.

In my opinion, I feel that once a person overlooks the fact that there are also social classes in developing countries, it is very easy to conclude that a laptop per child is not necessary in that case. It is easy to falsely conclude that every child in the developing world is malnourished etc and therefore needs food, clean water, clothing etc. What we forget is that there are some kids (not necessarily from rich families) who definitely deserve immediate access to technological advances like a laptop computer. I for one did all my primary school, secondary school as well as undergraduate degree training in public schools in Malawi and I could have wished that I could have been exposed to technology like computers at a much earlier age. Therefore, we have to realize that denying these deserving kids a chance is perpetuating the already existing digital divide with their counterparts in the West and the rest of the developed world.

So, lets give the deserving kids the laptops and for those who are very underpriviledged, lets give them what they need most ie food, shelter, clothing and most importantly education which I believe is a key to human development. To this end, I therefore strongly support Dr Negroponte's vision.

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The energy demand in Southern Africa

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I have been here for a year and half now. But yesterday was a different day. We had a substantial power cut from 1.00 pm to 5.00pm. Something which has never happened before (at least for the period I have been in Gaborone). I understand that South Africa's ESKOM is load-shedding its electricity distribution within South Africa and indeed to its neighbouring countries which import their electricity from them.

Apparently, the electricity demand in South Africa and indeed in its neighbouring countries like Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho is also growing. This means that supply is being surpassed by demand. And South Africa would like to take care of her needs first.

Yesterday's power cut reminded me of the various load-shedding programs we sometimes endure back in my beloved home country, Malawi. The load-shedding programmes are normally due to the high demand for electricity for domestic as well as industrial use. I strongly believe that this is an indication that the economy is growing. More people are connected to the power grid, more factories need more power, etc...

The electricity capacity being generated at the Nkula Falls power plant on the Shire River and the Wovwe River power plant in Northern Malawi seems not to suffice. At least we have some good news that we shall soon have an electricity interconnection from the Cahora Bassa power plant in Mozambique to supplement our generating capacity. In short, I can say that we shall be importing electricity from Mozambique.

In the short term, this might help. But I feel that we should also keep on exploring on more other power sources within Malawi. What about building more hydropower stations on our many perennial rivers? What about intensifying the use of solar electricity in many areas including rural areas? What about generating electricity using windmills? I am not an economist but I believe that self-sufficiency is one of the keys to sustainable economic development.

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Qatari firm to build fuel storage facility and pipelines in Malawi

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I think this is another must-share article with esteemed blog readers:

Article source: The Peninsula (Qatari English daily)
Date: 22nd January, 2008

A Qatari firm will be building a fuel storage facility and setting up pipelines in the landlocked African nation of Malawi, which borders Mozambique, [Tanzania] and Zambia.

To cement the deal with Venessia Petroleum, three ministers from the African country are here to chalk out the details of the project which is valued at $140m to $150m and will take 36 months to complete, according to S Gauhar Ali Zaidi, the company's general manager.

The ministers, who arrived yesterday, are Mohammed Sidik Mia, Minister of Irrigation and Water Development; H F Chimuntha Banda, Minister of Energy and Mines and Goodall E Gondwe, Minister of Finance.

Banda told The Peninsula: "Our major oil supplier is BP South Africa, which gets most of their stock from the Middle East. Our requirements are one to two million litres of petrol per day."

According to Gondwe, the fuel storage facility, which will have a 90-day stockpiling capacity, may also be opened up to neighbouring countries. Speaking on the country's economy, he said: "Tobacco is our major export as also tea, sugar and coffee. In no time at all, we will be exporting uranium."

Malawi's GDP stood at slightly above $8bn in 2006. The country has a per capita income of $230, a figure which, Gondwe said, is slowly rising. "Our GDP is growing at the rate of around 7.5 percent a year," he said.

The country is hoping to build up its tourism sector with the prospect of a five-star hotel being set up in the capital, Lilongwe. Gondwe said his country hopes to extend flights to Qatar by the national carrier, Air Malawi. "Our airline flies to Dubai and we hope that we can carry the flight onward to Doha," he said.

Speaking on the HIV/AIDS problem that plagues African countries, Gondwe said: "We are the only country where the ratio of people affected has decreased. A lot is being done in terms of awareness and teaching people how to behave," he said.

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When what you watch on TV matters!

Monday, January 21, 2008

I like this clip!

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Mistaking Africa (Part II)

I am reading a book entitled Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind by Curtis Keim and in this post I will be noting more quotes from the book that I think I will have to share with you esteemed blog readers:

1. [page 162]

Africa is so vulnerable to stereotypical interpretations. [Unfortunately] it has no powerful group of advocates to challenge our myths. Moreover, events in Africa lend themselves to stereotypical interpretations, and of all the continents, sub-Saharan Africa seems the most culturally distant from us. This is true for both its rural and urban populations. Africa's diseases, famines, [floods?], poverty, wars, corruption, weak governments and other problems can be easily mistaken as indications of African backwardness rather than as evidence of the continent's complex history, in which WE OURSELVES participated...

2. [page 164]

Dialogue can help us avoid two significant dangers: universalism and isolationism. Universalism claims that we know the truth and that all true and good people should live according to that truth. Universalism leads to a hierarchical construction of the world and promotes control over others. Evolutionism is one form of universalism. At the other end of the spectrum, isolationism claims that everyone should be able to live however they choose, which is an impossibility on our shrinking planet and will lead to wars over cultural differences and dwindling resources. Dialogue, however, promotes transversality, the recognition that truth, so far as it exists for humans, lies somewhere between absolutism and relativism. Transversality affirms that we share the same time and place, that we are equal and different and that our individual and collective well-being are interdependent.

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Mistaking Africa

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I am reading a book entitled Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind by Curtis Keim and in this post I will be posting some quotes from the book that I think I will have to share with you esteemed blog readers:

1. [Page 5]

A recent survey (1999) by a major American museum on popular perceptions of Africa found out many misconceptions such as the following: Africa is just one large country; Africa is all jungle; Africans share a single culture, language and religion; Africans live in "grass huts"; Africans mainly hunt animals for their subsistence; and Africa has no significant history.


2. [Page 7]

During much of [our] history, racism and exploitation of Africa have been considered acceptable to a large majority of [our population]. Although we never ruled colonies in Africa, [we] did enslave Africans and maintain both a slavery system and segregation. Moreover, we profited from our businesses in Africa, sent missionaries to change African culture and did not protest the colonization undertaken by Europeans. This exploitation of Africa, whether direct or indirect, required thinking about Africans as inferiors...The legacy is obvious in the words and ideas that we call to mind when we hear the word Africa...

3. [page 8]

We also perpetuate negative myths about Africa because they help us maintain dominance over Africans...Whereas in the past, the myth of the racial inferiority of Africans was the major justification for [our] control of Africans, now cultural inferiority is a more likely reason. Our news media are more likely to inform us about African failures than African successes. And the successes we do hear about tend to demonstrate that our own perspectives on reality are correct. [Some]... describe Africa in ways that justify the importance of their own work [in Africa].

4. Page 15

What is still lacking, however is a serious understanding of how people live currently in Africa. Today, 30 to 40 percent of Africans live in cities and most rural Africans are deeply connected to cities in one way or the other. Why then do the shows we see on television rarely ever show a city scene, a paved road, a farmer producing a crop that will be sold in a town or eventually reach us?...

5. On brain drain in Africa [page 77 - 78]

... Frequently those who gain special, modern skills dissociate themselves from their villages and countries. The "brain drain" of African professionals who emigrate to Europe and America is legendary. Less noticed, but equally significant is the drain of talent from African villages to towns and cities. Even more important in terms of damage done, are those who become westernized and then use their knowledge to exploit ordinary Africans...[the elite?]


I will be adding more quotes as I continue reading the book. I hope they are also providing a moment of reflection in your mind...

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Uranium mining to boost Malawi exports by 25 percent

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I am compelled to share the following article with you, esteemed readers of this blog, as a follow-up to one of my previous blog posts on Uranium Mining in Malawi

Source: Mail & Guardian Online - Johannesburg, South Africa (11th January, 2008)

A uranium mining project by an Australian firm due to begin in northern Malawi next year will boost the country's exports by 25%, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a new country report released this week, the IMF said the $185-million project by mining firm Paladin could add up to 10% of the Southern African country's overall GDP and 25% to exports.

However, the report said the impact in export earnings was likely to peak after an four-year surge before production slowly tailed off.

"The mine will add overall economic growth during the first four years but will then detract from overall growth as production is expected to wind down at the end of the mine's life" in 2020, the IMF said.

Paladin Africa, which last year received a licence to mine uranium at Kayelekera, 40km west of Karonga town, says the mine will earn Malawi $200-million in export income per annum.

The mining project, hailed as Malawi's biggest investment ever, had been due to begin later this year but the timetable has slipped amid challenges by environmental groups over its impact.
-- Sapa-AFP

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Malawi in Top 53 travel destinations for 2008

I thought I should share this information with you esteemed blog readers:

Malawi has been rated as one of the Top 53 travel destinations for the year 2008. According to the International Herald Tribune, Malawi has been pegged at position 29. This is how Malawi has been heralded:

Blame Madonna. Safarigoers tended to overlook Malawi, but that has changed since she began her effort to adopt a 1-year-old boy from this small African country that lies within the Great Rift Valley. Next July, the luxury lodge Pumulani (www.pumulani.com) is set to open 10 villas on spectacular Lake Malawi, home to rare cichlids and pied kingfishers.

Read more on the rankings in the International Herald Tribune newspaper.

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Imagine an Africa...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Imagine an Africa
Where her people stop looking down upon themselves
Where her people drop their inferiority complex
Where her people stop looking at the other folks as their saviours
Where her people start looking at the other folks as equals and partners
Where her people realize that their skin colour does not make them different and inferior

Imagine an Africa
As a continent which is not looked down upon as a continent in despair and desperation
As a continent whose vast natural and man-made resources are used to develop her people
As a continent that has not been let down by the trinity of slavery, christianity and colonization
As a continent which is not judged by stereotypic images that pass through a biased media setup

Imagine an Africa
Whose youth realize that risking their lives trying to illegally cross dangerous seas for a better life in Europe is not a solution to their problems
Whose youth realize that its not where you are that makes a difference but rather what you can do with your brain and the available resources
Whose youth realize that the continent cannot be developed by other folks other than ourselves
Whose youth realize that the definition of modernity does not necessarily mean an abandonment of one's cultural heritage

Imagine an Africa
Whose people realize that they are one regardless of their tribal or ethnic nomenclature
Whose people realize that the political boundaries we now have were demarcated by the greedy colonialists
Whose people realize that with a little sacrifice together we can change the destiny of Mama Africa
Whose doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers and other professionals have returned from the so called diaspora to help develop Mama Africa

Am I dreaming of an Utopian Africa?
No! With hard work, determination and sacrifice we can do it!
Africans, lets wake up from the slumber

Copyrighted to Bennett Kankuzi (5th January, 2008)

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Any lessons Malawi can learn from the Kenyan conundrum?

Friday, January 04, 2008

I am no political analyst but I always follow world politics with keen interest because I am in one way or the other whether directly or indirectly affected by political events (local or international).

With Malawi preparing for her 4th multi-party General Elections (Presidential and Parliamentary) which are due in about 17 months, I feel as Malawians we need to learn one or two lessons from the upheaval that is happening in Kenya.

I am no Kibaki nor Odinga's sympathiser (I feel that should be left to the Kenyans themselves) but I feel that in any democratic setup, the election process has to be clearly transparent. Of course, as Africans we are just in a process of embracing Western style of democracy and in this 'learning' process we are bound to face hiccups, but the basic need for transparency in an electoral process cannot be ruled out in this learning process. And one way to achieve a transparent electoral process is through having an election administering body that is clearly independent of any influence of any contesting political parties. Commissioners to this very important organization should be men and women of high integrity and patriotic enough that they have the country at heart especially the poor who are usually the victims of any mis-administration of a democratic electoral process. Imagine the burning and killings happening in the Kibera slum of Nairobi!

One other thing we can learn is that as Africans in general, we have embraced democracy as a way of choosing our leadership. Gone are the days when some people would become leaders just because they were born in the so-called 'royal' families (Am talking of chiefs here). Gone are the days when election results were manipulated and voters would just 'shut-up'. With the numbers of literate Africans increasing by the day, leaders are expected to fulfill their election promises or they would face the boot.

It seems Africa is going through a period which I would call a period of Africa's Enlightenment in which Pan-Africanism within the context of democracy is growing. As Africans we are realising that skin color does not make us different from other folks. We are a people which are proud of our own identity and we also highly value democracy and progress. We have realised that self-defeatism (inferior complexity) and having a sense of hopelessness and dependency will not help us. And the only way we can achieve this is through a transparent democratic process in which we can choose visionary leaders who can help us as Africans regain our dignity through a process of economic transformation and good governance. We need leaders which are not just good at rhetoric but rather who can deliver! I therefore feel that we should not be tempted to reduce Kenya's current political problems to tribalism. I feel that there is more to it than just looking at the tip of a colossal iceberg.

Of course to ask from us a replica of America's democracy would be to ask too much. America's democracy is about 200 years old (remember 1776) while many African democracies are very very young (10 years or so). And I think we need to adapt rather than adopt Western-style of democracy since our cultural and historical background are different from the West. That aside, I am very optimistic that Africa's democracy is in the right direction. I would ask pessimists and prophets of doom to give us more time!

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