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Blogging Africa

Inventiveness in the streets of Nairobi

Dibussi Tande

2009-11-26, Issue 459

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In this week's blogging roundup by Dibussi Tande, Nairobi's power outages call for innovative local solutions, Adidas launches a new Kente-theme line of footwear, but gets the history wrong, and the recent stoning of a young Somali woman calls into question the justness of Sharia law and its application.

Afrigadget writes about a Kenyan street vendor who has come up with an ingenious solution to Nairobi’s frequent blackouts:
“It’s no secret that Kenya’s rivers are running dry as a result of forest destruction and environmental degradation which has led to a season of blackouts in the capital city Nairobi.
Typical of the ingenious people of Nairobi, one street vendor has cashed in on the crisis with this wonderful gadget which he markets as ‘Perfect for Nairobi black out’.
As you can see I could actually read by the light of this lamp which is made from a used tin can, some pieces of wire to make the connections. And the battery compartment is ingeniously crafted from a circle cut from a retired flip flop.
I love my juakali lamp and everyone that I know in Nairobi needs one of these lamps. Everything about it is so true to the juakali spirit – hand crafted using colourful recycled tins, and designed for a real purpose with a handle so you can move it around from room to room or hang it up. The vendor tried to sell it to me for Ksh 350 but we settled on Ksh 200 (about $2.50) though I’m sure he would have gone cheaper but the traffic was moving and I had to go.
If you want one, visit the Nyayo stadium roundabout. They stand out amongst the Chinese junk that vendors are selling...”

Ghana Hype is disappointed with the way in which Adidas handled the launching of its Nizza 2 Hi sneakers which features a Kente theme:
“As an African Designer I was also extremely excited by the release of Jeremy Scott’s Africa Themed apparel. I was excited when I saw the African Inspired Nizza 2 Hi sneakers, however, I was saddened by the wrong description of the material used. The Adidas description stated that it was a unique 'Kenta' cloth. Unfortunately Adidas has got it all wrong; the cloth used on the shoe in question is actually the 'kente' cloth and not the 'kenta' cloth as has been published in all materials pertaining to the shoes.
This lack of respect for the name and history of Ghana's national cloth shows how little research and consideration was taken in fashioning or mimicking this shoe as an authentic African product.
Kente is the trendiest and most renowned cloth in Ghana and possibly in all of Africa. The strip-woven cloth made by the Akan people of Ghana and the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo, is the best known of all African textiles. Its fame has spread globally where it is now one of the most admired of all fabrics in many parts of the world…
If conglomerates like Adidas wish to take inspiration from African art and textiles for their products the least they could do was provide an accurate historical description of the 'borrowed' design.”
In a follow-up posting, Ghana Hype publishes a letter from Adidas apologizing for its error:
“Dear Mr. Kwabena,
Thank you for contacting Adidas regarding the Jeremy Scott, Originals by Originals shoe Nizza 2 Hi; and for correcting us on the incorrectly referenced Kente cloth. We regrettably made an error in the copywriting process when describing this shoe. I can assure you that this was not meant to be disrespectful in any way, but a simple human error when creating copy which would be used to describe the shoe…”

Holli’s Ramblings uses the case of Teodoro Obiang, son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, to make the case that America’s Africa policy is characterized by a double standard:
“His country is the third richest in oil in Africa, just below Angola and Nigeria. There is a tiny population of half a million people. In 2007, the government sold USD$4.3 Billion in oil. Yet 90% of the 500,000 inhabitants live on less than a dollar a day.
… Mr. Obiang travels freely between his little country and the USA, to his Malibu Mansion, commonly carrying millions in cash each time he enters the states (normally punishable by a 5-year prison term), despite supposed laws in the states that deny entry to corrupt foreign officials. He keeps quite a few millions in bank accounts in America as well.
These laws are enforced, when it comes to guys like Mugabe – Zimbabwe’s tyrannical despot.
Why the double standard then?
Oil. And America’s interest in it.”

Akin comments on the case of the Somali woman recently stoned to death for committing adultery:
“This aspect of Islam is one I find so unfamiliar and devoid of any iota humanity, it loses the real function of religion and lets a kind of evil barbarity lose on a hapless people.
A 20-year old “adulteress” was stoned in Somalia whilst her boyfriend was given 100 lashes of the blessed rod for his sins.
Sometimes I wonder who gives the judges the domineering influence over people to the extent that they can take life without mercy on the premise of the adherence to a religion or creed…
Does Sharia law know mercy?
This was a 20-year old girl who really could have been mercifully forgiven, put under the care of a matriarch who could help her mend her “immoral” ways and make her a better citizen in the society in which she lives…
What I even find most primitive as to label it Neanderthal is that they can find people who would willingly pick up stones and stone a half-buried woman to death with all the blood, screaming and goriness of it all – is our humanity really that inured to any feeling that people cannot for once constrain themselves and jointly appeal for some sympathy?”

27 Months profiles and interviews Djorwe Temoa, one of the rare software developers in Northern Cameroon:
“The Extreme North of Cameroon is aptly named for a variety of reasons, apart from being the remote northern terminus of the country. It is, in many respects, a land of extremes with a vastly different character from the Grand South. Situated at the edge of Sahelian Africa, the climate is typically hot and arid with dry season temperatures reaching highs of 118°F (48°C). During this period, the rain ceases to fall in any appreciable amount for months on end, replaced by Harmattan dust whipped up from the depths of the Sahara Desert. When the rains return, bone dry mayos (rivers) and plains are subject to flash floods that may displace entire villages. Lacking any viable roads linking it to the south, travel to the region is achieved only by booking a flight on a small plane (fast and expensive) or an overnight train from Yaoundé followed by an 8 hour bus trip (slow and affordable).
With all its challenges—the climate, geographic isolation, poverty, poor infrastructure—it’s about as unlikely a place as any to find a nascent mobile software scene…
Until Djorwe Temoa arrived, that is…
Just when I think I have the software landscape in Cameroon pretty well figured out, a guy like Djorwe comes along to turn all my assumptions upside-down. If iPhone development can be done in Cameroon’s Extreme North—about as harsh a computing environment as one is likely to find anywhere—it opens up a vast range of potential footholds for software engineering elsewhere on the continent.”

* Dibussi Tande, a writer and activist from Cameroon, produces the blog Scribbles from the Den.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

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