Malawi Twitterers

As Malawi celebrates independence day tomorrow, here is a list of Malawi twitterers you might like to follow:

Vincent Kumwenda – currently at Muloza border, Mulanje; topics include Malawi news, world news, interesting Malawi web pages, and soccer. He also writes a blog.

Fred Bvalani – in Blantyre; tweets about mobile applications and phones, Oracle training in freezing cold Cape Town, Manchester United, movies, church, Escom power cuts, and Malawi news and websites. Check out his blog.

Dannie Grant Phiri – first started twittering during the recent Malawi elections; writes about Malawi and soccer in his blog at http://daniso.weebly.com/.

Soyapi Mumba – well-known Malawi blogger and twitterer, software developer, volunteer developer at Ushahidi, lives in Lilongwe. He writes about software development, interesting mobile and web applications, Malawi news. He is the programmer behind Owinna – a web app on Malawi football league fixtures and results, as well as the Premier league and other international championships. You can access this information through the website or SMS by texting FOLLOW owinna to +447624801423 or on Twitter.

Clement Nyirenda – blogs and twitters from Tokyo, where he is doing a PhD in computer science. He covers many IT and development topics related to Malawi. A good resource to learn about projects such as Seacom. He discusses entrepreneurial ventures and their effect on Malawi. Read his blog post on Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter stunt to raise awareness about malaria.

There are many more, which I might mention in a second blog post.

Calling Malawi from Switzerland

Online bookmark:

Check Teltarif.ch for the cheapest telephone rate to Malawi.

Yesterday I couldn’t remember the name of the cheapest Swiss “callthrough” provider… and googling for something like “Billiger telefonieren Malawi” just lists tonnes of German “call-by-call” sites.

BTW, Swisscom costs CHF 1.40 per minute.

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.

Twitter, SMS and Africa

This recent Twitter announcement is disappointing on a personal level, but also on a more global level as White African discusses:

Twitter represents a change in communication. By acting as a global gateway for updates via SMS (or the web), that then updates all of your followers, Twitter succeeded in breaking ground in one-to-many messaging. There have been a couple times over the past year where Twitter was used in Africa to get news out that wasn’t possible in any other format.

And in the comment thread he explains:

What’s missing for it to work in Africa is not just the sending of updates, but the receiving of your contacts updates. That really is what created the network effect for Twitter, and why it can’t succeed where it’s not available.

In Africa, not having SMS is a deal killer. Though there would undoubtedly be users who access it through the web – as is true throughout the rest of the world, true penetration in Africa can only come through services that can be fully operational using only SMS. Why I think this is particularly disappointing is that those third generation Twitter services that could really serve the needs of both ordinary Africans and humanitarians globally will not be built now.

The really interesting thing to me, so that Twitter doesn’t have to shoulder the load by itself, is the opportunity to build services that are separate and independent, but also equal. I guess the closest analogy I have would be to Jabber in this case – where anyone can run a server and that makes the whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.

A very interesting thread, which I’d like to recommend here.

My observations in Blantyre:

  • Despite the relative high cost, nearly everybody has a cell phone.
  • The top present to get for your girlfriend is a cell phone (!).
  • Most people use prepaid cards. See the current tariff plans at Zain (previously Celtel) and tnm.
  • Cell phones are helping to connect remote places, that never had a telephone connection. Villagers can hear more often and directly from family members that have moved to the cities or emigrated to SA, the USA and other countries. Farmers can compare market prices, receive weather updates. See Cy’s video.
  • Internet services are relatively expensive. Out of reach for personal use. Connecting via fixed line is slow and error prone. The way forward is wifi. Despite these encouraging developments, Internet will remain out of reach for most people for many years to come.

IMG_1890

Questions

Check out this music video by John Legend. It’s part of the Show Me Campaign.

John (…) recently shot and released a music video in Tanzania for the Show Me Campaign to introduce his fans to critical global issues. Watch this story of a young boy overwhelmed by the weight of the world who is asking questions and searching for answers.

For more see: http://www.showmecampaign.org/index1.html

IHT: The 53 places to go in 2008

The International Herald Tribune writes:

29. MALAWI

Blame Madonna. Safarigoers tended to overlook Malawi, but that has changed since she began her effort to adopt a 1-year-old boy from this tiny African country that lies within the Great Rift Valley. Next July, the luxury lodge Pumulani (www.pumulani.com) is set to open 10 villas on spectacular Lake Malawi, home to rare cichlids and pied kingfishers.

All listed in the NYT