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High-tech tools versus basic needs

High-tech tools versus basic needs

Education in developing countries is often a subject of controversy. But it can also be an example of absurdity.

Let’s take the example of technological development in Namibia.

Namibia, with 2 million inhabitants and a $5,000 a year per capita GDP, is one of the richest countries in Africa. It has also been politically stable since it gained independence from South Africa in the 1990s. Natural resources, uranium and diamonds among them, as well as tourism guarantee the country a comfortable income.

But the country is also benefiting from international aid.

The Polytechnic of Namibia, the leading technical university of the country, benefits from aid it gains from international foundations. Recently they received 30 spectrophotometers, for example. This tool is used to study the electromagnetic spectra of an object. A foundation answered to a request by the Polytechnic that wanted these tools to compete technologically with the best universities in the world. With one spectrophotometer costing approximately $5,000,  the donation amounted to $150,000.

This is a lot for a university where some professors don’t earn as much as one spectrophotometer costs during one year. And the ‘funny’ part of the story is that these tools are not used more than a few times a year.

While every chemistry students of the Polytechnic now has his or her own spectrometer, the university still lacks some basic supplies. It doesn’t have soap, for example, which is crucial when analyzing bacteria or working with chemistry products. It should be used daily in a laboratory. Last month, one international professor that was working there, had to ask the kitchen if she could borrow the soap to show the students how to clean their hands before analyzing bacteria with a microscope.

But what does this example tell us? » More

The World Cup: Hoping for the Best

World cup of hope? Courtesy of mikkelz/flickr

If you think that HIV/AIDS is Africa’s most serious problem, think again.

Malaria is the biggest known killer on the continent. Malaria is an infectious disease produced by a nucleus holding cell called Plasmodium. There are many variations of the disease but only one is fatal to humans, the Plasmodium Falciparum. In Africa the disease causes $12 billion worth of economic losses every year and worldwide it kills more than any other communicable disease except tuberculosis.

The ongoing FIFA World Cup in South Africa will help stimulate the strained economies on the continent and will allow states to sustain the costs of the infectious disease, thus helping people get access to the aid and treatments they need. The event has opened up 650,000 jobs to South Africans and the expected income for the whole event is around $7 billion (approximately R55 billion.)

After the World Cup is finished some 144,000 jobs will remain, allowing people that may have been out of work to continue to profit. Hopefully the income generated over this month, as well as months and years to come will make for better treatments for malaria and other infectious diseases ravaging the continent. An unfortunate factor is that malaria usually hits the poor population particularly hard and often prevents them from even accessing aid. There is hope that this event will help reverse this trend.

With the permanent jobs created by the event and with more money flowing to development and health projects, the strains on the poorest may be alleviated and access to treatment may be boosted.

For the sake of the African people, I hope it works.

Make sure to check out our recent Special Report on the World Cup and its impact beyond the football pitch.

Sam is our youngest ISN intern yet and attends the George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia. His interest include world history, sports and biology.

Françafrique: The Ties That Bind

France maintains close links with its former African colonies, photo: Dezz/flickr

France maintains close links with its former African colonies, photo: Dezz/flickr

The Franco-African relationship is alive – but is it well? This week the ISN takes a closer look at France’s postcolonial ties with its former African colonies 50 years after independence.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Jennifer Brea about the unique colonial and postcolonial history between France and its former African colonies that shapes relations to this day.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Elisio Macamo examines what he perceives as a French withdrawal from francafrique.
  • Security Watch articles about the burgeoning drug trade in West Africa and the threat that corruption and graft hold over many francophone African countries.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including US Congressional Research Reports on the influence of the ICC in the former French colonies and Guinea’s new transitional government.
  • Primary Resources, like French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s infamous 2007 address at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as FRANCE 24’s look at each of the 17 sub-Saharan African nations that gained independence in 1960.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the locally based International Relations Institute of Cameroon.

The ISN Quiz: Nigeria Navigates Turbulent Times

What do you know about the eighth most populous country in the world? Take this week’s ISN Quiz to test your knowledge of Nigeria, our theme for this week.


Quiet Corruption: Not Just an African Problem

Corruption, quiet and invisible / Photo: xiaming, flickr

The World Bank is pouring old wine into new bottles in a publication on corruption in Africa. The insight that everyday corruption is detrimental to Africa’s development is old wine. The new bottle is “quiet corruption,” a term created “to indicate various types of malpractice of frontline providers (teachers, doctors, inspectors and other government representatives) that do not involve monetary exchange.”

To be fair, the World Bank’s communication strategy is to redirect the media focus from high-profile corruption involving politicians and business leaders to small corruption by civil servants. Such ‘quiet’ forms of corruption includes “absenteeism,” “lower level of effort than expected or the deliberate bending of rules.” However, the claim that “one of the main reasons Africa is lagging behind is the poor service delivery that is a consequence of quiet corruption” is hardly surprising.

Power and Moral Hypocrisy

When it comes to corruption, I find more insightful a recent research article entitled “Power Increases Hypocrisy.” Joris Lammers and Diedrik A Stapel (Tilburg University) along with Adam D Galinsky (Northwestern University) conducted a series of experiments in political psychology. They found that powerful people impose strict moral standards on others but practice less strict moral behavior themselves – a phenomena they call moral hypocrisy (note that the experiments were not conducted in Africa, but with students at a Dutch university). » More

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