africa Malawi-related

Malawi’s Languages

I stumbled across this very interesting post and comment on Chingoni, Chilhomwe, Chisena and many more.

africa blogger blogging flickr General Malawi-related Photos

How to Resize Photos

My family’s email account in Blantyre was blocked twice in the past week, due to well-meaning but over-sized Christmas and New Year email greetings. Attachments with over 2 MBs. The family is still on a phone line with a very slow connection rate. And downloading emails with a large attachment takes forever and a day. Luckily I can access their account via the web and move the large emails out of the way. But I thought I’d raise some awareness.

And point you to some resources describing how to resize photos.

Using MS Paint

How to resize your photograph by exact dimensions

  1. Right click on the image and select ‘Edit’. (This should bring up Windows Paint).
  2. On the menu bar at the top, select Image -> Attributes…
  3. If the image is a portrait layout, use a width of 640 and a height of 480. If it’s a landscape layout, use a width of 480 and a height of 640.
  4. Save the file. (You may want to ‘Save As’ to a different file so you don’t overwrite the original).

How to resize your photograph by percent

  1. Right click on the image and select ‘Edit’. (This should bring up Windows Paint).
  2. On the menu bar at the top, select Image -> Stretch/Skew…
  3. Change the percentages in the Stretch box for both Vertical and Horizontal. Make them both the same or else the picture will not be proportionate.
  4. Save the file (you may want to ‘Save As’ to a different file so you don’t overwrite the original).

Using Picasa

Resize by exporting

Exporting lets you resize your photos while controlling the JPEG compression (image quality) introduced by your applied photo edits. The result is newly resized copies of your photos, saved to any location on your hard drive. During the export process, you can adjust both the ‘Image Size Options’ and the ‘Image Quality’ settings in the ‘Export to Folder’ screen.

  • Under ‘Image Size Options,’ select the ‘Resize to’ option and adjust the size slider. The number of pixels you select with this slider determines the length or height of your photo (whichever is longer). The other dimension is determined automatically to maintain the aspect ratio of the photo.
  • Select the desired image quality for your photo using the ‘Image Quality’ drop-down menu:
    • Automatic: Preserves the original image quality
    • Normal: Balances quality and size
    • Maximum: Preserves fine detail for large file sizes
    • Minimum: Yields some quality loss for small file sizes
    • Custom: Enables you to select your own value

Resize by emailing

If you’re sending photos by email, you may want to resize then in order to get under the attachment size limitation. To change the size of the photos you email from Picasa, please follow these steps:

  1. Click the Tools menu.
  2. Select Options.
  3. Click the Email tab.
  4. Under ‘Output Options,’ use the slider to set your desired pixel size when emailing multiple photos. Use the radio buttons to set the desired pixel size for emailing single photos.
  5. Click OK.

Lazy workaround via Flickr

I sometimes use Flickr as a lazy workaround.

  1. Upload or email photo to the Flickr stream.
  2. Go to the photo page and select All Sizes.
  3. Select Small or Medium and click Download the Small (or Medium) Size.

File format:
Always use JPEG.

There are tonnes of other ways to resize photos with free software, such as IrfanView or The Gimp.

Within MS Word:
Don’t change the viewable size within Word (e.g. dragging the corners of the photo). Word will store the image in its original size. Resize the photo before inserting it into Word.

Adobe PDF:
Check the conversion settings.

Check the sizes of all files (Word, pdf, .jpeg) before sending them.

Be considerate and don’t send photos in their original size. Especially if you don’t know what type of connection the recipient is using.

It’s five minutes for you versus 30 minutes of expensive download time on a plain old telephone connection for them.

africa General Malawi-related tech

SMS for Rural Health Service in Malawi

Before I rush into my busy day:

CNN has published an article on Josh Nesbit’s project at St. George’s in Namitete, Malawi. I wrote about the project here and talked about it at BlogCampSwitzerland.

africa Malawi-related

BBC on Fish Farming in Zomba

Recommended reading:

BBC’s James Morgan on fish farming in rural areas of Zomba district, Malawi.

It’s a perfect circle. “Or what we call an integrated agriculture-aquaculture (IAA) system,” says Joseph Nagoli, of WorldFish. “This isn’t high input fish farming. This is simple and sustainable.”

africa blogger Malawi-related marketing tech

Appfrica Interview on MTN Uganda

Just a quick note to point to an interesting interview with an official of MTN Uganda at:

Appfrica: Interview With MTN’s Erik van Veen – Part 1

These points caught my eye:

(…) revenues per user, are very low in Africa by international standards, and require a low cost operating model if the Operator is to be profitable. If you look at East Africa, new customers joining the mobile category spend about $4 per month ”“ that is not a lot!

(…) I see Asian, especially operators from the sub-continent, playing a bigger role in Africa as they have been able to survive in cut-throat, highly competitive, low tariff environments in their home markets.

(…) And then you have to deal with the cost of doing business in Africa. Infrastructure and productivity remain major hurdles that add costs to the P&L. Our own success, relative to other companies in most African economies, has backfired on mobile operators in Africa, where governments see these as an easy source of tax income. In East Africa, excise tax (read luxury tax) has been institutionalized within the mindset of financial ministerial policy on tax. Uganda has the 2nd highest tax burden on mobile services in the world, Tanzania 3rd. Just think about it ”“ in Uganda we hand over nearly a third of the cost of every call to the government. What a shame!

It is a short sighted initiative that is impeding growth of the ICT industry.

Very interesting read!

Quick side notes:
There was a recent article that Malawi is considering to add (or has already added) a 10% tax on all airtime. I can’t find the Daily Times article online any more (note to myself: make a screenshot next time) See this Daily Times article. (Unfortunately this link is broken in the meantime.)

There’s also White African’s catch phrase to keep in mind.

africa blogger flickr Malawi-related Photos wordpress


I just surfed through lots of cool new photos in the Malawi group on Flickr.

Including these photos of Mulanje mountain by Lisa de Vreede:


Mt Mulanje

africa blogcampswitzerland blogger General Malawi-related tech

My BlogCamp Switzerland Talk

As announced on Twitter, I presented a talk on mobile technology in Malawi at today’s BlogCamp in Zurich to share what I’m learning from the African blogs and tweets that I follow on a regular basis.

I started my talk with a short intro on Chiperoni (I am a bridge blogger somewhere between Basel and Blantyre) and why I blog. How much I appreciated Alex Antener’s news stream published on a Polytechnic server during the last Malawi general election. Then pointing to White African’s blog post discussing Twitter’s decision to discontinue its SMS service to the rest of the world. I tried to point out the potential a “Twitter to SMS” service could have for Malawi, where most of the population does not have access to the internet or even a plain old fixed telephone line.

Soyapi Mumba's Blog: The Potential of Twitter in Africa

I described the current situation. And how this is changing with mobile technology. I pointed to Mike McKay’s blog post about a rural area in northern Malawi where villagers climb an ant hill to get a better signal.

In Switzerland we take a lot of things such as the excellent infrastructure we have for granted.

I shared some of my observations from my recent holiday in Blantyre, some data on the pricing models and how public wifi is being introduced in urban areas.

tnm || always with you

Zain Malawi - SMS text messages - Prices

I was a little shaky on the stats side of things, telecommunication regulations, as well as who owns the major cell phone service companies, TNM and Zain. I’ll need to do more research here. I might have got some of my facts mixed up.

I did refer to the new airtime tax that is being introduced.

Examples referred to:

This talk was inspired by White African’s and Soyapi Mumba’s tweet streams. Zikomo kwambiri. Keep on tweeting.

Flickr credits: White African, Hackerfriendly, all other photos are my own.

Big zikomo to Persillie and Mlle A. for reviewing my slides!

I enjoyed presenting very much (note to myself).

Oh and I forgot to mention my chat with a Limbe internet cafe manager during the talk…

Limbe Internet Cafe

africa Malawi-related

Mobile Communication for Rural Health Project

I stumbled across this blog by Josh Nesbit discussing the use of FrontlineSMS, a tool to set up a text-based communications network, in a rural health project in Namitete, Malawi.

Here’s a 7 minute long interview with one of the community health worker. At about 3:00 she starts discussing the advantage of having a cell phone:

And here’s an interview with Alexander Ngalande, a nurse at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Namitete, regarding his experience with FrontlineSMS:

He now uses SMS to communicate with the community health workers to coordinate his medical visits to remote villages. Previously he required a motorbike to send a message when he would be in attendance.

Examples of text messages being sent:

– A man missed his appointment with a TB officer. A CHW was texted, who reported the man had gone to Zambia for a funeral. The hospital will be notified upon his return.

– An HIV support group met, and decided on new member guidelines. Via SMS, the group leader asked the hospital to print copies for the lot.

– A CHW asked about ferrous sulfate dosages, so he could administer the proper amount to an anemic child.

We take this type of communication between medical staff and patient for granted.

See also this BBC article.

Malawi-related Photos

Coca-Cola Ad in Blantyre

malawi holidays

See also this previous entry on the Coca-Cola Index.


The queue at the Road Traffic office

Malawi blogger Victor Kaonga writes about the long queue at the Road Traffic office:

NDAGHA: What I saw at the Road Traffic Office in Lilongwe

I waited in a similar queue in Blantyre during my visit last year.


Mobile Technology and Malawian Farmers

Cy has uploaded a video discussing the benefits of mobile technology for farmers in Malawi:


Biking in Malawi

stumbled across this:
Malawi Travel Guide and Bicycle Touring Guide

Not very detailed though. The south is less hilly than the north. Ok.

africa Malawi-related

Hong Kong Restaurant in Blantyre, Malawi

Hong Kong Restaurant in Blantyre

Chinese restaurant in downtown Blantyre in Malawi.

(BTW, this is a Internet Marketing experiment….

If you read this blog post and then end up going to eat at this BT restaurant, please tell the owners where you first heard about it…)


Wikipedia in Tumbuka

stumbled across this:
Wikipedia in Chitumbuka

General Malawi-related

Back from Blantyre

I spent a couple of sunny, winter days in Malawi’s biggest city, visiting family and meeting friends.


I’ve started uploading some of my snapshots to Flickr. More to come as I sift thru the GBs of data.

Travel was uneventful, except for the fact that my luggage took 6 days to arrive in Blantyre. It started out with a harmless announcement by the SAA pilot that he would need to unload some cargo due to overloading. Overloading a plane is a safety issue, and I’d rather wait for my bags than crash into some mountain. Later during the flight, the pilot announced that 23 bags had been left behind. But no worries, the bags would be brought to Chileka on a later flight on the same day. This was the start of various misinformed messages.

The flights between Jo’burg and Blantyre are always fully booked and a lot of cargo is shipped by air.

Anyway, my bags finally arrived in good condition. The SAA staff at the Blantyre office were very polite and helpful. And I learnt that I’ll put my camera charger into my camera bag. Instead of my checked luggage.

Flying back was uneventful as well. Except for a small scare. During the security scan check at Chileka, my camera bag fell right through a defect rung in the conveyor belt onto the floor. Luckily the bag is well-padded and nothing happened to my cam.

Cam bag = already amortized.

Another Chileka detail, I’ll not forget so fast: several Blantyre kindergarden and school classes came out to the airport to watch the aeroplane land and take off. Just for fun. They sat on top of the observation deck’s wall, shouting “aeroplane” and stomping their feet on the iron sheet roof of the departure hall below.

Recurring news topics:

The attacks on foreigners in some South African townships had many Malawians worried about their relatives. Several dozen buses were sent to bring home fleeing Malawians. For generations Malawians have gone to South Africa to work there. And some have lived all their life in SA. From a linguistic perspective I wondered why the BBC and other media used the term “xenophobic attacks” instead of the “r” word.

Muluzi’s arrest.

The Zimbabwe election.

Internet in Blantyre:

wifi at Shoprite / Chichiri

Compared to last year, there are more WiFi hotspots. The costs are high, especially for private customers. The IT marketer in me kept discussing possible business ideas that improved connectivity could entail for Blantyre-based companies. E.g. outsourcing accounting services to Blantyre or working with a creative agency.

It was good to see BT. A mixture of peanut butter, BBC World Service, Chombe tea, nsima, boerewors, chiperoni, jumping dogs, waiting…


Radio Stations in Malawi

Bennett has listed an overview of Malawi radio stations:

  • MBC Radio 1 (state broadcaster)
  • MBC Radio 2 FM (state broadcaster)
  • Capital FM
  • Power 101 FM (Provides live internet streaming)
  • Radio Maria Malawi (Provides 24 hr live internet streaming from Malawi. Currently my fave, because it brings me closer home when I am outside Malawi.)
  • Star FM
  • Zodiak Radio Station
  • Trans-World Radio Malawi
  • CFC Radio (Blantyre only)
  • African Bible College (ABC) Radio (Lilongwe)
  • Joy FM
  • Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) FM

I particularly enjoyed the talk shows on MIJ during my rare visits.

language Malawi-related

Malawi Blog on Learning Tumbuka

Monire monire! Muli uli?

Tobias Kumwenda has started a blog to teach Tumbuka ( via Global Voices):

The mission of this weblog is to teach those people who are not ChiTumbuka speakers located across the world, but have developed passion to learn this language.

Manyani Chiyowoyero Cha ChiTumbuka

A great idea. Keep up the good work!

See also Wikipedia:

The Tumbuka language is a Bantu language which is spoken in parts of Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania.

The language of the Tumbuka people is called chiTumbuka – the ‘chi’ in front of Tumbuka meaning ‘the language of’, similar to ‘ki’ in kiSwahili or ‘se’ in seTswana.

The World Almanac (1998) estimates approximately 2,000,000 Tumbuka speakers exist in the aforementioned three countries.

There are substantial differences between the form of Tumbuka spoken in urban areas (which borrows some words from Chichewa/Nyanja) and the “village” or “deep” Tumbuka spoken in villages. The Rumphi variant is often regarded as the most “linguistically pure”, and is sometimes called “real Tumbuka”.

Disclaimer: Coming from Blantyre, my Tumbuka knowledge is non-existent, except for some vocab overlaps with Chichewa, even though I went to college with lots of northern Malawians.


Web to SMS

for future reference:

I use Twitter’s direct messages to send out an occasional text message. I’m trying to set up a Twitter account for my family in Blantyre. The idea would be to DM them via Twitter. But somehow, the cell phone authentication is *not* working. (Any ideas?)

As an alternative, I found this page listing services that offer free text messages from a web interface, mostly for Switzerland:

A third alternative is to upload a couple of Euro/$/CHF to my Skype account and text directly from my Skype client. I’ve used this in the past for text messages and voice. Works great.

africa Malawi-related

CNN Report on Malawi Doctor Shortage

There’s a CNN TV report on the shortage of qualified medical personnel in Malawi. I zapped into it yesterday. It shows the dire situation at Mulanje District Hospital and in a rural dispensary. They interviewed a volunteer doctor from Uganda, a midwife who works in rural villages, a couple of Malawian doctors that are working in Manchester, UK:

Part 1

Part 2

According to the report, at one point in time there were more Malawian doctors in Manchester than in the whole of Malawi.

I’ve seen some hospital wards and I agree that the task is daunting. The wards are overfull. Patients and their guardians often lie on the floor in the corridors, under the beds.

Regular readers of Chiperoni know that I’ve been pointing to various blogs and articles on this topic from time to time. The dire conditions described in the report are realistic.

How to stop the brain drain? This is not an easy topic, cos every employee will – and needs – to look at their personal situation. Although this is not only about money, the salary plays an important role. Cos one salary needs to supports a lot of dependents. As one of the UK-based doctors says in the report, he can support more relatives with the better UK pay. I read somewhere that the amount of money transferred by Western Union back to Africa exceeds the foreign aid provided by the US and the EU (cf Africa: Sending Money Home) and is probably a lot more effective.

I’m against policies that bar qualified Malawians from working in the US or in Europe as suggested in the report. That’s not the way to go forward on this. The better way is to improve the work conditions in Malawi. I believe that many Malawians would consider returning if some of the surrounding conditions would improve. Cos all is not golden in Europe.

In the 70s and 80s, most of Malawi’s doctors were trained in the US and in Europe. They had a hard time adjusting to the conditions they found when they returned back home. Many stayed in the West. In the 90s, medical schools were set up to educate doctors within the country.

Factors that influence a personal decision to emigrate:

  • Salary
  • Work conditions (i.e. availability of modern equipment, labs and tests, qualification and number of co-workers, quality of management, further training, work load, working hours, holidays)
  • Political situation
  • Corruption within the workplace and outside
  • Merit-based promotion
  • Economic situation within the country
  • Infrastructure (e.g. frequent power cuts, water supply shortages, very bad roads, no or very expensive telecommunication services)
  • Crime rate (e.g. clever guys that steal telephone cables as they are installed and sell them for much less than they are worth, increase in burglary, armed robbery and mugging)
  • Availability of good schooling for your children esp. in remote hospitals
  • Changes in Malawi family tradition (e.g. the rules that quasi-dictate how and when you need to take of your family relatives encourage some to search for kms of distance)

I studied at the Malawi College of Accountancy in Blantyre and we often discussed the greener pastures of Botswana and beyond.

Some figures I found from 2005:

There are only 100 doctors and 2,000 nurses for Malawi’s 12 million people because many health care workers trained in the country now practice in developed countries, which pay higher salaries. Rich countries also provide better working conditions for doctors, as the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has added a “heavy burden” to health care on the continent, the Times reports. In addition, many health care workers in Malawi have become sick with HIV/AIDS or have died. Nearly 15% of Malawi’s adult population is HIV-positive. Some hospitals in Malawi have resorted to hiring retired medical workers to fill the gaps, according to the Times. Atta Gbary, the World Health Organization’s Africa adviser on human resources and health, said the shortage of medical workers in Malawi means that when donors offer funds “it is impossible to use them because the people are simply not there to work anymore.” According to Gbary, 23,000 medical workers leave Africa annually and there are only 800,000 medical workers working on the continent currently. Malawian Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba said the country should require its medical workers to serve several years in the country after completing their training. He also said that foreign governments that employ medical workers from Malawi should compensate the country for the cost of training new doctors and nurses. The United Nations estimates that it costs $100,000 to train a specialist doctor in Africa.

And from May 2007:

A shortage of health workers in Southern African countries is undermining access to antiretroviral drugs in the region, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres report released on Thursday, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. According to the AP/Chronicle, the report focused on the conditions in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho.

The report found that South Africa has 393 nurses and 74 physicians per 100,000 people; Lesotho has 63 nurses and five physicians per 100,000 people; Mozambique has 20 nurses and three physicians per 100,000 people; and Malawi has 56 nurses and two physicians per 100,000 people. According to the report, Africa has increased access to antiretroviral drugs among people living with HIV/AIDS from 100,000 people in 2003 to 1.3 million in 2006. However, the shortage of health workers is preventing further expansion of drug access programs, the report found.

As Victor rightly points out, the CNN report is very one-sided, esp. regarding the images and the way the sick are portrayed. There are many Malawi doctors and nurses that serve their country conscientiously against all odds.


Director of The Fairtrade Foundation recommends Satemwa

and Lujeri Tea Estates in an interview with

My favourite hotels are…

Locally run guesthouses. I stay in many around the world, but recently I was in the tea estates of Malawi and stayed at the Satemwa Guesthouse in Thyolo (00 265 1473 256; and Lujeri Lodge (00 265 8 854 894). It was so beautiful just sitting out on the veranda of these old planters’ houses looking across to Mount Mulanje with the red earth of the land against the vivid green of the tea fields. The guesthouses are almost from another era – basic, but meet all your needs and are quite romantic, with cool marble floors, fans on the ceiling and large beds with mosquito nets.

Me and my travels: Harriet Lamb, Director of The Fairtrade Foundation | Travel | The Observer

General Malawi-related

Website: review everything malawi

I noticed a new website on Malawi:

General Malawi-related

Zomba Plateau

browsing aimlessly thru my Malawi photos…


Malawi runners at Austin Marathon

While googling “porters race” I found this:

Rogue Training Systems, a health and fitness company in Austin, Texas, is giving Malawian runners the chance to run Austin’s AT&T Marathon in February 2008.

africa Malawi-related

Floods in Mocambique and Malawi

Heavy rains are causing the Zambezi and the Shire to flood.

Here’s a BBC report:

Heavy floods have also destroyed homes and crops, displacing thousands of people in southern and central Malawi.

The Malawian government is warning people to relocate from flood-prone areas, but many have been reluctant to leave their farms.

General Malawi-related

Malawi blogger

Another Malawi blog I’d like to share with you:

Dr Khumbo Kalua writes about his studies and work as a Senior Eye Specialist in Blantyre.