Ghana

Ljungbyhed Airport
A few minutes ago, I uploaded the fulltext version of the master thesis report that wraps up Wille’s and my work during the last six months. Feels good to finally get to share it to you!

Access the project-webpage dareafrica.com and read our report ”Seizing the ICT Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa – Implications from Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana”. Please share the report to your network if you appreciate it, direct links are supplied for Facebook or Twitter.

Thesis report publicized!

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Landfill worker in Accra - Erik Winther 2012
I signed an agreement a few days ago, making me Scandinavia’s Volunteer Coordinator for the NGO Solid Rock Association. I have mentioned them here in the blog earlier, and the part of their social contribution that I am most happy about is the ICT education. The organization teaches Accra’s poorest children how to use a computer; which most of them have neither seen nor used before.

George Osei-Waree and Fred Abban, both successful Ghanaian entrepreneurs with careers in west, have returned to Accra and are now starting a non-profit organization that help Ghanaian ICT students becoming experts in their field.

Both organizations are in constant need of devices such as computers and mobile phones, so before you throw away your replaced equipment; contact me and I’ll do my best to get it down to people I know do a good job for Africans. Africans, such as the guy I photographed in his “home” on the landfill.

Give your old mobile and laptop to Africa

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Interest in Amsterdam - photo and retouch Erik Winther 2013
We have received lots of interest for our work from all types of actors since the academic presentation. It feels good, as we’ve been frustrated so many times – both by the many business opportunities that are just waiting for westerners, and because of the unnecessary inefficiencies in development aid. I’ll tell you about the spin-offs when we get closer to practical details.

Beside the leverage on our message, I think the best kudos came from Swedfund themselves, as they have requested us to continue on the same track on part-time as consultants. Feels like an indirect “well done”.

Interest

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Reaching for more, shot at UN memorial in Busan, South Korea - Erik Winther 2011
With the formal presentation approved, few things remain before I get my MSc-diploma. We are giving the report a final touch, and we will do the peer-review on Raoul and Fredrik’s thesis when they are ready. But far more interesting is that we get to present the project several times more, in varying forums and for several types of actors.

This completes the circle we were aiming for when the two of us stared to discuss this project two years ago; to do a fun and interesting project in Africa that would contribute and add actual insights and value to at least some part of the society. Hence, I am proud to say that we’ve got to do just that, and that our findings from the seven weeks long research trip across Sub-Saharan Africa will be spread and publicised in multiple forums.

Wrap-up

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Framläggning, photo by Anna 2013
Last Friday, the 25th of January, Wille and I presented our project and conclusions for the audience in C2 on Linköping University’s campus Valla. Our colleagues Raoul and Fredrik were back from Geneva and presented their peer-review before the open discussion started. We got many good questions and were happy to find that the audience was really interested and participated actively, thanks!

When our examiner Anna and supervisor Ya had given us their approval, and compliments I must say, we walked with friends and family to Fredagspuben for sparkling wine before we headed to Stångs Magasin for a really nice dinner. Several hours later, I rounded off the evening over some drinks with my beloved family – love you all.

Thesis defence presentation

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To all my friends out there, may you have a joyful and merry Christmas with your near and dear!

Love from a snowy Skåne, Sweden, with a warming photo from the canopy walk in Kakum National Park, Ghana.

Merry Christmas!

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What Africa wants, in short, is business and trade with foreign companies to help their economies grow and skills develop.

This is what Wille and I conclude from speaking with a range of persons all hierarchical levels in the three countries we’ve visited. They do not ask for ‘aid’ (Of course excluding emergencies and catastrophes, but that goes for any country including Sweden.); no matter how good the intentions are. Worth a thought, I think.

Real help

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Travelled distance
33 000 kilometers.

Privacy
The two of us have spent around 99,7% of the last six weeks in the same place or room as the other (excluding showers and restroom-visits).

Interview-notes
Approximately 140 typed pages of bullet point-summaries. That no one but the two of us will ever see because of secrecy.

Taxi
Roughly 200 trips, out of which we had to write our own receipts in all but three cases in Ghana; apparently nothing they are used to…

Ghanaian ice-cream
The cheapest we had cost 0,5USD, and the most expensive portion-packed (think Nogger) we found was 10USD. No, we did not buy the latter.

Our relation
Was mistaken as a gay couple roughly as often as we were thought of as twins; despite being (only) friends & colleagues.

Conflicts between us
None. Thank you Wille for an unforgettable tour! :)

The trip: Hard facts

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We used the last day to get new perspectives on the impact of ICT in Sub-Saharan Africa; a visit at the huge landfill ‘Abublushi’ next to Abose-Okai road in Accra. Nowadays the place that used to be a scenic freshwater lagoon is the end station for US and Europe’s electronic waste. Computers alone: 3 millions per year; a truly dirty business.

The water is worse polluted that anything I’ve heard of, with oils, car paint, acids, and other chemicals being poured in daily. But also the air is heavily affected: homeless gangs set fire on car tires and fridge-insulation to burn away the cable-insulation and separate copper, aluminium and lead which is sold to Tema Steelworks for 50EUR á kilo.

We went there and discussed life with those teenagers that disappear in the thick smoke (zoom in and you’ll see some of them); which made us cough by just being near it. That is the kind of thing that is truly dangerous and an ethical slap in the face, but still totally worth it. The kind of thing that makes one grow as a person, in experience and humbleness.

Last day in Africa

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Wow, how time flies! Our 48 days in Africa feels more like 4,8 or something. I will miss the bustling street life, the amazing countryside, the friendly people & all new friends, and -of course- the warm climate.

With tons of experiences and more than thirty 1-2 hour long formal interviews in the baggage are there loads of hard facts, tips & trix, dos & don’ts, and concrete business opportunities to process and explain in our upcoming report.

Apart from some samples shared here, the complete set of findings and the full-text report will be published on a separate page. The address isn’t yet decided and I am still working on the design, so it remains a secret. Until we reveal it: Happy Lucia Day and sleep well; I’m off for one last good night in the air condition’s cooling 26°C breeze. Sleep well!

Last night in Africa

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We have visited and helped out as much as possible during our visits at the Ghanaian grass-root NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) called Solid Rock Association. They are teaching slum-children how to play on and manufacture instruments, stitch/make clothes, and to become familiar with computers.

Our contributions, beside the monetary aspect, were IT-support and especially help with the structure and design of their Volunteer program. If you yourself or anyone you know might be interested: check out the site and/or drop some questions to me at erik@ewco.se, or Kofi & William at info@solidrockassoc.org.

Thanks for caring & sharing!

Volunteer at an NGO

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With only three more nights in Africa (for this time!), and a constant inflow of snowstorms to Sweden and Europe is it not possible to ignore anymore: we are facing a temperature drop of 50°C (as of last weekend).

Okay, you might not agree, but I kind of pity us a bit. Especially since I just got a cold from the air-condition despite having it set on 26 degrees, and because of our sightseeing in Amsterdam on Friday, which we are totally not dressed for.

Photo from a short and unexpected rain-cloud, shot from our hotel room with the ocean to the left.

The weather is changing

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We have our drive and source of energy sorted out, made -rather- obvious by the picture. Are you aware of your(s)?

Photo form last weekend’s visit in Krokobite. Just found out that the ‘chilly’ water held more than 28°C; I will most certainly die promptly in Sweden.

What’s your drive?

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As it turned out, I hadn’t attached any payment proof regarding the application-fee with my application. Hence, the räksmörgås is still just a sandwich. One can say it was my fault, but despite the help-buttons and their texts is the interface’s user-friendliness low. Low enough to accept my application in the validation; without both payment and proof of it.

Guess RDB has a thing or two to learn from Sweden, the country with the world’s second fastest internet, but far more user-friendly homepages that speed-winning South Korea.

Räksmörgås Trading: the verdict

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Two 4×4-cars; one illustrating monetary wealth and satisfaction, and the other representing unused labour and hunger for progress. How far will the convergence reach within our lifetimes?

To me, a great leap forward would be to find a more positivistic term than the conclusive and definitive word ‘developed’. Because mustn’t also rich countries be able to advance?

Developed & Developing

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This picture represents something positive to me.
The man is a Kenyan, living his life in conjunction with the ancient traditions of his tribe the Maasai, but he declares his great openness and willingness to learn by adding a western jacket; and the red cap shows which political party he just represented in the political meeting at which I shot the photo. A meeting that had three hundred visitors, yet took place in the bushes of Rift Valley with a hundred kilometres to the closest town.

Lovely cultural mix

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This is the Telecom House in Rwanda, situated on one of the boulevards, and within a stone’s throw from the Swedish and European Union’s embassies (same building). We held several of our interviews on the top floor balcony (right side), which is the office of the soon-officially-opened incubator kLab. In the basement is the government’s datacentre, which was partially built by a Swedish company. *Proud that they get some help from back home*

When we interviewed the founder of Rwanda’s first academic Master’s program; MSc in Information Technology, he told us that it was started, and is still running, on aid from Sweden; via SIDA. Hence, with aid and academics in place; the only things needed are ICT companies. Interested? Call Wille or me to hear about the golden opportunities.

Telecom House

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Woke up with ocean view, had Tribes’s famous ginger jam on the breakfast pancakes, sunbathed until lunch, walked within the presidential palace’s restricted area, and met up with some random -but super nice- rasta-guys in a cemetery.

Ended up in a nice discussion about the upcoming election (6 days left) with them over some beers at a sidewalk of bustling Oxford street; the place to be. Right now we’re back on a quick stop at the hotel (of course still on Oxford st.) before we head back out to the 28°C-evening air with them to Independence Square; where the party won’t stop before 2pm.

But first: shower and opening of the first slots in the chocolate-calendars I’ve brought along from Linköping :)

December 1st; 1st day off in Ghana

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At last we got to Ghana, one day after schedule. One day after that, also our luggage got here. Beside these issues, Ghana and Accra got a tough start; extremely expensive accommodation (damn you diamond, gold and oil…) and the past awesome weeks in Kenya and Rwanda. The West Coast will have to struggle to level up to the standards.

But the weather forecasts promise sunny blue skies with 30-32°C at daytime and 26-29°C at night, thus the sometimes chilly nights of Kigali are no longer an issue. In fact, Sweden is experiencing snowfall and storms these days, which helps Accra’s temperature make up for a lot of the initial complications.

Photo from the beach just outside our hotel, showing the strong (=fun) waves and a glimpse of the presidential palace.

Struggling start for Ghana

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Now, it isn’t like we have found something unknown or unexpected. But the there is a problem: most westerners do not know, which is why there is a need to shed light over the continent. Let me share a quote:

“There’s actually development here. There’s actually projects that need funding and could be really amazing if you actually take those seriously and realize that there’s actually potential here”
– Breezy V, an African rapper who recently made a song about Africans giving aid to freezing Norwegians by donating radiators.

Others’ perspective

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We see a lot of potential, and it is more than clear that today’s Africa is what China was 30 years ago: the place to be for fast economic growth and help-to-self-help. Which, in the end of the day, is what really matters – to me.

A few examples of what we have seen ourselves in Kenya:
• IBM recently opened their office in Nairobi, their first R&D department in the developing world, 9th in total
• MIT-students start their companies in Kenya’s Nairobi because of the buzzing creativity and potential on Ngong Road.
• Google’s grand office opening-party in Nairobi took place when we were there.
• We’ve met traditional Maasai men that lived far, far out in the bushes without electricity; yet greeted us “Hey, give me your mobile and I’ll send you some nice tribe-songs via Bluetooth”, and did it.

..and in Rwanda:
• Rwanda’s backbone of optical fibre for broadband is better than many others’, e.g. France’s.
• Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is just as clean as Singapore, and their roads are equal in standard.
• Carnegie Mellon University has a campus in Rwanda, their first in the developing world. “Things are too slow in US and Europe”, their director told us.

Our findings, so-far: Africa is on the move

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Beside the academic aspects, the outcome our project creates is at best a decent report with reasonable findings, which we ourselves own the immaterial rights to. So really, why is someone else paying for all expenses during our weeks in Africa?

Just as most other westerners, Swedes are -sorry to say- still considering Africa as a homogenous piece of land, from which the everyday headlines contains the words war/death/poverty/HIV/unemployment/rebels/pirates, but rarely opportunities/economic growth/skills/stability. Hence, most companies are of the same opinion.

But this is not the case. It is actually far from the truth; a result of the negative signals that meet media’s short-term incentives easiest. So the objective of our project is to get an idea of the business climate and opportunities (if any), findings that are to be shared amongst Swedes and Swedish companies in order to raise awareness. Hence, we’re hired as messengers.

Infographics by Kai Krause, which needs to be shown frequently.

Our project

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Wille, multitasking at the hotel’s restaurant after eight intense but fun and successful days in Rwanda. Having conducted twelve additional formal interviews, country number two is considered visited. Cheers!

2/3 countries: done

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Having spent almost two out of our three weeks here in Nairobi already, it is evident that time flies. The fascinating people we meet are all making me want to stay longer and get involved in all the visionary projects they run and physically implement.

I guess we will experience similarities in Kigali and Accra, but this is a place to which I probably will return. But time will tell whether that’ll be as a volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, employer or just an ordinary tourist.

Picture of two Grant’s-gazelles chasing each other on the savannah.

Time flies

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Week 41 (now)
Linköping – Thesis work, Korean evening and rehab

Week 42
Lund – Thesis work, hello to mom & dad and representation at LTH

Week 43
Stockholm – “Innovation in Action” symposium for the thesis
Linköping, thesis wrap-up, exam and removal of sutures

Week 44-46
Nairobi – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and safari

Week 47-48
Kigali – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and look-around

Week 49-50
Accra – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and water sports
Amsterdam – Hello Lisa!

Week 51
Linköping – Thesis writing

Week 52-1
Lund– Christmas
Amsterdam – New Years Eve

Exciting schedule!

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So, we localized the passports: inside Ghana’s embassy in Cph. But. They hang up on us when asked what day they are sending them back…

We are currently evaluating the best choice of Plan B, and as Wille stays over in Stockholm might four capitals in four days just be it. So while keeping it cool, am I hoping for the best; one has to have faith, no matter if one prays to God or embassies.

Photo from Chamonix, shot from Brévent, on a ski trip with 720.

Passports cont’d

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I called Ghana’s embassy in Copenhagen today, and was told that they didn’t know where our passports are.

Less than 100 hours left until departure: perhaps time to find the passports (or get new ones), get the visas and get them back to Linköping. Living on the edge.

Passports

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I didn’t know that much about Sub-Saharan Africa until I took the class ‘Development and Governance in Africa’ in Korea. Without imposing that I’ve got hold of it now, at least my awareness and interest is significantly higher.

So to give you a clue of the orientation, Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana are marked from right to left in the picture; since we will travel from east to west.

Geographical orientation

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An early question that had to be addressed was where we were going to call ‘home’ this semester. The decision wasn’t obvious, considering we have our university and supervisor in Linköping, Swedfund’s central office in Stockholm, our opponents in Geneva and most interview subjects spread out all over Africa.

The solution we chose was to stay in Linköping during the pre-study and the finalization of the report, in-between which we conduct six weeks of field studies in the three most interesting regions; Nairobi in Kenya, Kigali in Rwanda and Accra in Ghana.

The tickets just got booked, and since we are flying with KLM is the transit in Amsterdam enabling me to stop by and say hello to my good-old friend Lisa. Nice!

Picture of the volcano Sundoro-Sumbing, shot from the 9th-century monument of Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Location

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KHU main gate at full moon
So, the time has come. After waiving off all the exchange students, one at the time, am I now waiving bye to Korea myself.

This has been a truly amazing year and I am filled with gratefulness to all of you who have shared those experiences with me. The biggest and most important gift of being here is obviously the wealth of perspectives, and the friendships themselves, by spending time with amazing people from allover the world.

A deep, humble and happy thank you to my new friends from
Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ghana, Guatemala, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Sweden, Tunisia, UK, USA, Vietnam…and of course everyone from Korea.

You will always have a place in my heart.

Goodbye

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