interesting things to note in the new year for africa

The $100 laptop computer project was launched this year. The goal is to put computers in the hands of people in the ‘developing’ world. The inventor, Nicholas Negroponte, says, “I’m 62 years old. I’ve seen massive changes in people’s lives through technology over the years.” In the next two weeks three more African countries are expected to sign on to the plan. The laptop has built in wireless capabilities. Maybe Mr. Negroponte can partner with American Millionaire, Greg Wyler, who is working to make Africa wireless starting with Rwanda. (post) Many note, as I do as well, that when you are starving and hungry, striken by disease, and have no clean water – what good is the internet or a laptop. I am not one to say that the internet does not hold great educational possibilities, but how many people will die before even accessing the webpage on wikipedia about their own country?

Keeping a promise to Nelson Mandela, Oprah has opened her ‘Leadership’ Academy for girls in South Africa. Girls are selected based on their potential from families with a monthly income less than $700. With a huge showing from Western celebrities I wonder if this initiative will be copied. The access to education in South Africa is the best of any African country being nearly universal, why is there a need for what some call an ‘elitist’ academy that cost over $40 million to build? A very good question as still thousands of African children do not even have books, pens, paper, classrooms, teachers, healthcare or security to become educated. “We have to change the way they think,” she said. Time out – we need to change the way we think? With a beauty salon shoving American materialist values at these 152 South African girls how can she believe that their minds are the ones needing change. We may need to help their minds develop with access to good education, but we do not need to change them. Yet another example of the Western mindset. Oprah is to open a school for 1000 boys later this month. I hope Oprah will begin to focus on reaching the unreached people in her next African venture.

Effective as of the new year, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, a Ghanian native, is no longer the head man for the UN. Annan served two terms as Secretary General and many say he quietly and effectively brought Africa to the forefront. As an African he worked to raise issues in Africa without being too baised to one side (not giving too much to African leaders and not sucking up to the West). His tenure saw the creation of the Human Rights Council to take over human rights monitoring, the US’s diplomatically unilateral approach to the Iraq War, and the current test of Darfur, Sudan for the UN’s new powers to act, along with many reforms and calls for reform of the UN system. His tenure was not without scandal or missed opportunities, but I am sure no one during his term would have faced any different challenges. With Annan now gone I wonder if the UN will remain as focused on the Darfur genocide and other African and ‘developing’ world issues, such as the Millennium Development Goals. However, with hope, the new UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has set the conflict in Darfur as a priority of his term. Kofi Annan will be greatly missed, and not missed by some, but I still feel he has much greatness to offer Africa.

Lastly, Somalia – the only true failed state? (Failed states are based on Western ideas and ideals, but Somalia seems trapped in conflict) What will come of the country as US military trained Ethiopian government forces supporting the ‘Somalian Government’ take control from the Islamic leaders? How will the peace be kept and how many refugees will flood surrounding countries? How will aid agencies and the UN respond? Be sure to read your news and from multiple sources to get the full view, which sadly is not possibly unless you are actually in Somalia, but at least be knowledgable. Here is the latest BBC article.

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