Before the internet comes the mobile phone / Photo: Esthr, flickr
They are among the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Only a minority of their people has access to electricity. Clean drinking water remains a distant dream. Many of their children continue to die of diseases that have long become extinct here in the West or are easily preventable.
But in one area, developing countries are clearly ahead of the industrialized world: the use of mobile phone applications.
Three-quarters of the world’s mobile phones are believed to be owned by people in developing countries.
In Africa, more people own mobile phones (37 percent) than have access to electricity (25 percent). (Note: Phones are often charged using rather ingenious methods, such as old car batteries). According to one estimate, about a billion people, most of them in the developing world, don’t have a bank account but – guess what? – own a cell phone.
A serene sunset in a war-ravaged Niger Delta / Photo: Sigma Delta, flickr
To say the new Nigerian guns-for-amnesty plan faces “difficulties” is, well, understated at best. Some observers see it as a full-on theater of the absurd.
The ill-conceived peace plan was designed to bring militants out of the Niger Delta swamps to hand over their weapons in exchange for a daily stipend lasting a couple months. Unfortunately, harsh reality is already steering far from lofty conception: Not only are the anti-government militias not lining-up to make peace, but some experts say that common criminals are actually expected to capitalize on the deal.
“The money realized will be used to rearm,” Anyakwee Nsirimovu, chairman of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition told the NY Times. “Criminals who claim to be militants will come forward and take the amnesty, and that will be delaying doomsday […].”
It’s not just that $13 a day for 60 days doesn’t sound like much of a deal to the battle weary militants; it’s that they’re fighting for something more fundamental. For years, these guerrilla warriors have battled injustice, squalor and poverty for their share of the Niger Delta’s vast oil wealth. Experts agree that without a real redress of the local population’s grievances, fighting will continue.
“As long as the equity situation is not solved, you will continue to have people who will blow up pipelines,” Nsirimovu concluded.
Cover of Courrier International No 970
Now, that’s a change. Europe has been Africa’s Eldorado for years, but it looks as if the reverse is now true, too.
Among the countless ‘boat people’ and ‘fortress Europe’ headlines, two articles caught my eye. In the same issue, Courrier International reports about Portuguese immigrants in Angola (pay site) and it reproduces a Wall Street Journal piece on French people with North African roots emigrating to Morocco.
The paper says that about 100,000 Portuguese live in Angola at the moment. They get better career opportunities there than back home, especially with the oil economy booming. That figure is pretty impressive when you think that the Angolan civil war only just ended in 2002.
At the same time, something similar is happening between France and Morocco. Many young educated French-born people with Moroccan roots decide to migrate to the country of their parents or grandparents. They have access to better jobs and social recognition in Morocco. Life is still pretty difficult for people with an Arab name in France. » More