Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Accra by Night

I do not think I have ever shown a picture here of Accra during the evening, so drum goes:

The picture to the extreme left (top) is that of Fenix lying in the dark last Saturday evening. To the right (top) of that is the front of Papaye, fast-food eaterie, where they sell mostly fried rice and seriously delicious-yet-imported broasted chicken. To the immediate left of this text is inside Papaye, taken two nights ago, minutes before there was a power-cut!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Back to Rain...and AREEBA Inanity


As I write this, rain is pouring down this side of the capital of Accra, and we at the office are all tempted to just stay in and not go out to lunch. Few are intrepid here, faced against the weather-- and for a bunch of social activists, that’s pretty ironic, but that’s another story…


I arrived ten thirty pm on Tuesday evening to a 28-degree Accra. The flight, by way of Alitalia, was okay—could have been better, though. We left around 2.45pm, were served lunch around 3/4pm. But whatever happened to dinner? Instead we got some cake and a drink! What is that about?


We stopped at Lagos for a good hour and a half (nothing indicated on the itinerary/manifest!), before taking off.


It’s always been my experience since we started coming to Ghana in 1997 that each time the plane landed after flying from Amsterdam, or Malpensa, or Germany, for the passengers – predominantly African – to clap.


They clapped again as we touched down to the almost-obscurity of Lagos airport. I am sure one of the things the Italians—like the Dutch and the Germans-- like about us Ghanaians is our empathy to their plight of flying a good six or seven hours from their respective European capital—only for those darkies to appreciate their flying with a clap. I think everyone enjoys being appreciated, and pilots are hardly an exception.


I have to say I was surprised by the number of people who clapped after the forty-odd minute journey from Lagos to Accra!! Yet these were the same people who were mumbling that we were taking too long at Lagos airport…


Things like these make me proud of being African, Black, Ghanaian.


I got my hand-luggage only yesterday afternoon. It failed, along with a couple of passengers’ things, to turn up with my suitcase on Tuesday evening. Got home around 11.30pm…and went back to work on Wednesday!!


Regrettably, I am back to the inanity of those torturous AREEBA ads (the latest is winning a MERCEDES C Class once you buy a starter pack, and may be selected, or something like that). And whilst we are talking about starter packs, who would want to get another starter pack after buying one?!! Get me a phone goddamit—not another number!! What can I do with another number when I have no phone???


Honestly, AREEBA, please do grow up…




On a positive front, I enjoyed Buffy Wednesday, who has somehow met her doppelganger--another slayer! Mmm...the plot thickens...


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ghana Stand Could Have Done Better

As for the Ghana stand, my colleague and I were rather disappointed with them. The best they could do was showcase…our beleagured National Communications Authority, and annoyingly badly-performing AREEBA. Actually, not quite. Sudan did that very nicely for us. What Ghana also showcased was Ghana’s privatised “ONETOUCH” service. I almost forgot. Must buy the sim card at 30 thousand cedis before the end of November, once I get back to Accra. Obour, with his almost indefatigable energy, has had ONETOUCH co-opt his song “SHINE YOUR EYE” for the promo, where you are supposed to get 10 SMSs free, since early October.

Even the African Development Bank was giving out t-shirts—I know, cos the lady there asked me to come at 3 pm, and I was there on the dot!—yet we had nothing free to give out.

More later this Saturday. I am off with my colleague to Hammamet, a more beautiful and historic place to see.

Friday, November 18, 2005

So, We Finally Voted…

…and boy, was it laborious. Democracy in Africa, I swear! No wonder we are so left behind, our democratic process is like the oil that cogs the wheels. I had to run out of there after 9.30pm. After everyone was elected, kind of, they were going to proceed with the voting of the President.

Poof! I was all handshakes, smiles, and out the door to catch the Tunis bus into the town centre 20km away!

Only to come back to see that BBC had contacted me about my humble reportage of the WSIS process, and I had missed it! You can read about here:

It hurts. It hurts…

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Still at Palexpo Kram

We continue to deliberate over which sub-regional coordinators should be represented. Nigeria was not amused at the fact that a predominant number of the people there were francophone, plus the fact that the text of ACSIS statues was available ONLY in French.

Yes, the francophone/anglophone divide exists very much in Africa. It is a great shame. This is one of the reasons why it will take long for us to move forwrd. We started at around 5.15pm. It is now 8.18pm. How much longer?!!!

Running Late to Vote for the African Civil Society on WSIS (ACSIS)

The title says it all. Oh, I posed at the Rwanda stand yesterday with no-one less than Republic of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. He is actually shorter in real life than he seems on tv.

You cannot imagine the security detail that trailed him. Surprisingly, he was VERY friendly, urging all those round to take a picture with him, too. I got to even shake his hand. But I was not in awe. Not when he is going round portraying South Africa and NEPAD like the panacea to Africa's problems.

Not on your nelly!

I have to go vote for the very very personably young woman at this ACSIS election now...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I am Humbled, BBC...More on A&C (Ghana)

Out of 12 pages of looking for "Tunis WSIS", the British Broadcasting Corporation decided to take a look at mine. Obviously, noone left a comment, but they were there!!! Or, rather, they were here...;-)

On the Ghanaian front, someone who has access to aandcdevelopment webmail :(16 Nov, Wed, 11:49:13 ) visited this site.

I now know that A&C Development FINALLY has a website, which you can readily take a look at here:

Why I never thought of going into PR beats me. Honestly...

Off to another workshop, which started late...only ten minutes ago...

Incidentally, the UN delegates deliberations have been beamed through to the Palexpo Kram,and so as I type this, I could literally give you a running commentary...but won't bother. Too jaded by it all really;-)

Microsoft is about to talk, but the CEO of KDDI will talk right now. Let's go:

No idea what company that is. The guy is Japanese; he is talking about "how to enhance" something or other "for developing countries".

PLease change the record!

Reflecting the Eccentric World of...WSIS

For your info, I am writing two variants of my experience of WSIS 2005, Tunis. The one, for the more international audience is at this link here, and the one for the pan-african audience(though all nationalities are welcome!) is on this particular blog.

Thanks, Global Voices, for picking up on my feeds, nut honestly, I cannot for the life of me understand why people would be looking for links like these:

1. 15 Nov, Tue, 17:26:45 Google: wantto have sex in ghana in madina or east legon

In the words of Buffy, in one of those memorbale episodes back in Season I, "I think I speak for everybody when I go "huh?!" "

Ok, ok, so I'm a relic. Sue me!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What, Do I, Like, Look French to You?

Ah stereotypes! Stereotypes, stereotypes, stereotypes. It is bound to run amok in a gathering like this. I hear Kofi Annan is in town. Obviously, the hotel is probably kept secret.

I am in the Civil Society area of the Palexpo Kram. Sorry I cannot bring you any piccies as my Zire Palm decided to give up on me a few days before I left. There was no time to do anything about it...

Pooh, so I am resorting to normal pictures:-( Talk about low-tech in a hi-tech place like this, where almost everyone with a laptop is checking out their emails whilst a meeting goes on. Yes, WI-FI, or wireless internet is in FULL swing, baby!

As for the taxi-driver, well, I had to go deliver something on behalf of my Dad to his acquaintance who works at the African Development Bank. Can you actually believe that there is a road called "Avenue de Ghana", that is one of the three streets that leads to the ADB? Wow...

Anyway, did that, left and caught a cab. He bemoaned the state of Tunis, telling me that "c'est un police d'Etat". Funny, my Dad's friend also said the same thing. You wouldn't think it to see it, though. I thought the place was so secure because of the UN status of the summit and the high number of dignatries--ouch spelling!!--attending.

Both two bemoaned that the police was too much, and what are the Tunisians afraid of? A policeman almost round every corner. Seriously. That bad. For foreigners, I think it's quite welcome, but I can understand why the denizens do not think the same way.

Oh, well.

The taxi driver was interesting. He tried to teach me how to say "welcome" and "bonjour" in Arabic. Sounded cool! Not that I could say it without chuckling or anything, but the language is seriously very elegant. He asked me where I came from, and I was not surprised when he associated football with Ghana. He said that he could detect an anglophone accent.

Conversely, two or three people right here during the past two hours have addressed me in French--and I have responded straight back at them, with a smile, in English, triggering a visceral chuckle from both of us. The anglophone accent and the stunted attempt at speaking French is so detectable:-), don't you think? I doubt any anglophone can ever pass the French test of speaking fluently with a francophone accent -- do you? Bar Jodie Foster, whom I heard, what, four/five years ago in an interview on Belgian television speaking IMPECCABLEMENT. Sexy.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

What One Tunisian Newspaper is Saying about WSIS...The Eve of Day Two of Internet Governance Discussions

It's a cool, dry Sunday evening. It's almost 8pm, and I am sitting at the Internet cafe of the Hotel. I have in my hand one newspaper--Le Renouveau. It's subtitle is "organe du rassemblement constitutionnel democratique", and the redacteur en chef, or editor-in-chief is one Nejib Ouerghi.

Here are some of the headlines on WSIS in today's paper:

1. XVIIIeme Anniversaire du Changement--Le Chef D'Etat recoit des messages de felicitations de plusiers organisations et associations. Cohesion autour de Ben Ali et engagement a faire reussir le SMSI:: 18th Anniversary of Change. The Head of State Receives Messages of Congratulations from Many Organisations and Associations. Cohesion around Ben Ali and an engagement to make WSIS Succeed.

2. Reprise, aujourd'hui, des travaux de la Prepcom3. Le document politique et la declaration de Tunis, a l'ordre du jour: The Resumption, today, of PrepCom3. The policy document and the Tunis declaration top the agenda.

3. L'urgence de reduire la fracture numerique: The urgent need to bridge the digital divide

4. Les Jeunes Au SMSI:Une mobilisation remarquable, un engagement total: Youth at WSIS: a Remarkable Mobilisation, Total Engagement

5. Intel entend lancer un projet de modernisation par le tout numerique en AFrique du Nord et Moyen-Orient: Intel counts launching a modernisation North Africa and the MIddle East

6. Quatre secteurs seront cibles par investissement: l'entreprenneuriat local, l'education, laccessibilite au systeme digital et la specialisation des competences techniques: Four Sectors will be Targetted for investment: Local Entrepeneur, Education; Accessibility to Digital System, and the Specialisation of Technical competencies

...and many more.

Looks like Tunis is capitalising big-time, as one would do, on its status as the cynosure of the place where information society sits at the cusp of historical change.

And it certainly looks to be a big summit. Internet governance talks started tpday, but I stayed in the hotel most of the time, being fed French news and some French inanity left, right centre. It was only later in the afternoon that I decide it was time to listen to the radio, and check out a few good radio stations.

Of course good is relative.

I ended up, apart from Radio Mosaique that inspired yesterday's title, finding two or three other stations. There was Radio Tunis international on 98.2 FM. They surprisingly have a mosaique of languages. First, I heard English, where they interviewed around 2.30pm a civil society activist on the WSIS, then later French news, then later Italian, and some Italian music.

Talk about eclectic.

The other stations were playing some alluring and rather sensual Tunisian music, which sent signals viscerally to your body to shake some body stuff, y know:-)

Later, after having my bath, strolled down the boulevard that runs adjacent to the street that leads to the Hotel I am staying in, and I enjoyed the fresh air and psychedelic lights.

I went to one particular hotel -- Hotel Africa -- that is a towering edifice located right in the heart of the boulevard. AFter passing through the hotel security, where I was asked to take off my watch, several dinar coins and other metalliuc stuff on me, walked through the elegant hallway that made no bones that it was a five star hotel.

I just had to try the food here. SO up I went to the fifth floor. I knew it was fifth because I was here yesterday evening to an empty room.

It was empty again, but I persisted. I asked for Couscous and Lamb stew.


Couldn't even finish it all. For dessert, Tunisian patisserie, which was predominantly pistache and sugar baked together very elegantly. Didin't finish that either. My orange juice, like yesterday at another eaterie, was freshly-squeezed.

AFter about an hour, feeling a bit cut-off from the outside world as I sat all alone on the fifth floor eating, I left--with a very full stomach.

I needed to walk, so I walked plenty...found some papers, and here I am.

Earlier, met two civil society delegates from Zimbabwe who were doing some passive window-shopping. Passive, because the shops were mostly closed.

As I write now, shops are re-opening, and activity has begaun anew.I've been here almost two hours again.

Tomorrow promises to be interesting; I am definitely looking forward to it, but before I take leave of you, must note for posterity that the magasine I bought just a few hundred metres away from here had the alluring title: SMSi. Les Enjeux du Sommet de Tunis WSIS: The Stakes of the Tunis Summit.

Internet Governance is certainly one of those.

I hope to be able to blog from the Kram Exhibition Park tomorrow, despite the business of the place.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tunis : A Mosaique of Breathtaking Frenchness and Beauty

"En Tunis, si tu oublie quelque chose, tu peux y aller et venire, ca restera au meme place". This is how I would begin a memorable period in a country I never dreamt of visiting – let alone for a UN World Summit on Information Society.

It’s getting to 7pm, or 19heures, over here in Tunis. I’m sitting at an Internet café specially prepared for participants of the WSIS, or SMSI in French. I am the only one here, yet I know that there are WSIS participants staying at the hotel. To my immediate left are transparent doors that look into and outside this place.

Goodlooking—nay, gorgeus-looking—women pass with their boyfriends, friends, etc, passing a poster that says “KILL BILL. Cette Semaine au Cinema”.

How long has the film been out again? I thought it was almost a year. Reminds me of the legendary questionable rights that Tunisians are supposed to have. When I say rights, I am talking about censorship.

I’m actually thinking of checking that film out. Maybe not tonite, though. I have to pretend to myself that I can do something serious whilst I am preparing for the Internet governance discussions to begin 13 November. It ends on 15 November. The following day, 16, is when the Summit ends, only to end on the 18. I get almost two days free time.


There are workshops, or ateliers, that I and my colleague are bent on attending, so I am not going to shirk that one.

The information society maybe lost to many people. In the beginning, even I couldn’t get my head round the utility of a conference round it, but now having back-pedalled and seen the bigger picture, I am beginning to think that it’s pretty cool being here.

Especially in Tunis.

We are treated like royalty. We, being those delegates going to the WSIS. These people are far friendlier than I ever anticipated or expected. Many of them after they ask me where I am from say “bienvenue. Tu es chez toi.” Alright so they are tutoieing me, that is not using “vous” since they do not know me, but I am not bothered. They seem to like me, and I certainly find them personable.

They have been very accueuillant, or welcoming, as they say. My French is upping the ante again big time. There is no CNN in my room. Just TF1, France 2 and a host of Tunisian/Arabic stations. I wish I could speak Arabic. Considering it’s a UN language. We sometimes forget don’t we that it’s spoken by a sizeable part of the world.

But a sizeable part of the world do not have signs contemporaneously in French and Arabic. Neither, as far as I know, have predominantly French influence in a country that is supposed to be predominantly Moslem.

There are many Peugeots here—the funk, latest ones—as well as the latest BMWs, even rovers. The buildings like white a lot—as they like blue, shiny faces too. Looks swell.

As I arrived into the town centre (rue de Marseillaise) near the Hotel Oscar, you could have sworn you were approaching Paris. I swear, man.

This is a gorgeous city. It certainly is not reminiscent of Africa, which in many ways is a shame. What happened to the dusty roads?

The security detail (men taking turns in the lobby and outside with their inimitable earpiece) treats you like royalty and you are sure that you will come to no harm.

When I stupidly forgot my suitcase at the badging centre yesterday, I was assured by security that they would find it and bring it back to me. Though they didn’t find it initially, when I was asked to return with the bus people (they did come to the hotel after I reported it), they asked me to tag along.

Within minutes, I found it not far from where I forgot it. It had been on the bus, but in all our haste to get to the badging centre, I forgot it on the bus after I helped a Rwandan delegate who’s bag got torn, leaving all contents trailing. God her colleague was just this side short of very sexy. The slender Rwandan physique, the smooth physiognomy, and that beautifully permed hair she kept on stroking. Wow.

I must have been driven to distraction.

Never again!

The sweat beads that trickled down my face as I pondered over the prospect of losing my suitcase was too great.

And so, when the friendly, congenial and gregarious security man who happened to be a police officer monitoring activity at the badging area late last night told me that "In Tunis, if you forget something somewhere, you can go and come and find it there", I was inclined to believe him.

Just behind us read the gigantic sign "Aeroport Fret".

I was not lost in the irony.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lights Off...I'm Off! Go Buffy!

As I write this, I am getting a live feed from Parliament, thanks to CITI-FM97.3, of the proceedings leading up to the discussions on the budget. Yes, for the first time ever, Finance minister Baah-Wiredu is reading the budget a month ahead of time. Usually, the budget is delivered in February the following year. News reports this morning were indicating that he has lived up to the constitution.
Good stuff.
Accra has been interesting off-late.
What with the taking off of Ghana International Airlines late October this year. Speculation became rife that because GIA was selling tickets to London at $398 plus taxes, Lufthansa and British Airways were slashing their prices, too. In fact, KLM, in tune with its 45th celebration of flying to Ghana, is selling its tickets st $450 to...anywhere in the world.
No, I'm not prepared to do any dubious advertising; I want GIA to succeed, even if 30% is owned by a consortium, with government of Ghana owning the rest. But, for me, it represents exciting times in the country and the aviation industry, especially with Ghana considering itself the gateway to Africa and, I hear anecdotal evidence that Nigeria is...the destination;-)
Good one.
Latest news from my personal side is that, God willing, I will be en route to Tunis, Tunisia, by way of Italy this evening. I'm off, with my colleague, to attend the UN Summit World Summit on Information Society ( There will be a myriad of side events taking place and it promises to be an interesting eleven nights in North Africa. Another colleague at work has suggested that I read some history on the country so that the place comes alive, once we get there. Seeing as diplomatic history is a major area of interest to me(especially 1815-1914--pls check: , I was out to the 'Net and the printer in a flash printing everything and anything I will pretend to read while contemporraneously dosing under my specs...:-)
Ho hum...
Now, back after an hour and a bit of of two mini-meetings, it is now lunch time, and I'm getting butterflies in my stomach. I'm preparing to go down to Alitalia to get me and my colleagues transit visa through Italy.
Just now, the live feed on the reading of the budget by Baah-Wiredu, Ghana's finance minister, is making uncomfortable hearing.
First, there will be considerable tax breaks for companies. Just the type of things many NGOs, like Third World Network-Africa here are campaigning against in the light of the campaign against the Minerals and Mining Bill that is currently in parliament. You can obtain an insight into the campaign at this link here:
Thankfully, tracking of goods by our CEPS (Customs, Excise, Preventive Service) will be intensified. CEPS is one of the biggest collectors of revenue for the state through goods that come into the country.
On a lighter side, which, frankly, is ironic, I got home yesterday evening to darkness that had fallen.
It would continue to be dark up until 3am this morning. I know it wasn't earlier, because I woke up around 2am for a pee and it was still dark outside with only the beautiful moonlight lighting up the area, and houses.
Mosquitoes were not too bad this time as we lit the coils earlier. I heard on the radio that the lights were going to come back around 10pm. Alas, no.
We ended up using our silent generator to watch tv for a good two hours or so. We caight Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, as per usual, on Ghana's TV3. Buffy has been showing for a few months now, and I find myself enjoying it. Yesterday's episode involved Buffy's ex-boyfriend seeking to be a vampire, as well as immortality. So he decides to sacrifice Buffy to a hard-nosed vampire who goes by the name of Spike, who tags along with what has been described as a "criminally-insane" sensual-yet-dangerous vampire. (Episode 5V06)
Back in Brussels, I always changed the channel when I saw it on BBC2.
Reality is very much different these days!!:-)
BTW, I check up on detailed programming on buffy at this link here:


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