“Closing Africa’s Digital Gap”:         Why is Bill Gates amazed about Africa’s laggard status, knowing full well what has gone wrong?

13 Feb

Editor’s Note:

    Yes, Africa is at the tail end of nations in every respect, notwithstanding the slight indicators that seemed to raise hope for almost all nations, after the end of the Cold War. Before that, Africa struggled for unrealizable goals, only growth to elude it simply because it was a battlefield for the big powers and the rivalries between Eastern and Western nations.

    Even after the end of the Cold War, Africa remains the arena for the struggle of powerful nations and powerful individuals’ interests from the developed world. The G7 meets and the states receive communiques drafted and approved by billionaires, a few individuals more than others, especially after Obama’s takeover.

    Africa may not be interested in, for that matter it does not have the say – nor the influence – how many billionaires from the West make decisions in governments? What we are certain is that billionaires are smart people and that they would always find each other and their common interests!

    This evening what surprised my friends and I most is Bill Gates’ expression of surprise about Africa not being on the worldwide web – the least connected region. Yes, we understand that it would have been good for all of us if Africa is as connected. As Africans, we would have been educated better and acquired more knowledge, while making more money for Mr. Gates and other companies in the field.

    We are rather surprised that of all people, Bill Gates should retweet the following, knowing as well as he does how Ethiopian leaders behave in promoting their interests, in a situation where there is clear dichotomy between official and individual interests.

    That is why, in reading his retweet: “What is the world’s least connected continent? Hint, it’s not Antarctica”, we politely retweeted: “@BillGates #Billthanks #4everything. But U seem amazed by this as if U’ve no part n it, while U hobnob wiz Z obstacles n #Ethiopia’scase!”

    We mean this very seriously. At the Gates Foundation, they hire only people from the ruling party’s ethnic origin to all posts they have in Addis Abeba. This touches raw nerve, refreshing inside us how much Italian colonialists have mistreated Ethiopians doing the same thing. We are also aware this is a colonial experience, common to so many African countries, although China also has now added its own form of subjugation!

    Recall that President Obama came to Ethiopia in July for a day-long visit; as if we, as a people Ethiopians do not, have a sense of long history and pride, he literally told them that Ethiopians are working for the US in the defense field. In that context, the president told Ethiopians from their National Place: “So we don’t need to send our own Marines, for example, in to do the fighting. The Ethiopians are tough fighters…”

    This shows that there is need for improving how Western governments treat Africans. The truth is that it is not their fault. It is the bootlicking behaviour of our leaders.

    Africa is not being treated fairly. For instance, on February 12, 2016, the United States issued its statement of “concern about Uganda’s electoral environment”, which is to take place Sunday.

    If this US concern is serious, why hasn’t it expressed its USUAL concerns about DEMOCRACY and President Yoweri Museveni’s permanence in power. The world knows Museveni has been in power over 30 years and still now he has put in place his ‘liberation movement-day machinery’ to rig the votes.

    Yet, as if the US has different positions on matters of policy and principle for different countries, in the case of Rwanda the US was categorical in rejecting Kagame’s third term, which we fully support.

    Although a private citizen with great influence, I must state that Mr. Gate is more consistent in what he does, who he accepts and rejects, as long as nothing interferes with his business interests.

    Getting Africa into the digital age requires good governance, not the regimes the West hobnobs with, bankrolls and arms to kill their peoples and subvert their future!

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by Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Africa is the world’s least connected continent — and that includes Antarctica. Getting more Africans online will require not only drones and lasers — to name just two of the whiz-bang tools philanthro-capitalists want to use to expand access — but also a more grounded commitment to infrastructure investment and good government.

Only 21 percent of Africa’s population has access to the Internet. Mobile phone penetration in sub-Saharan Africa is 73 percent, versus 98 percent in high-income countries. Internet access is relatively expensive: In the Central African Republic, for instance, a month’s service costs more than 1.5 times the annual per capita income.

Plugging more Africans into the World Wide Web would provide an enormous economic boost. If just over half the continent’s population had Internet access, for instance, that could yield a productivity gain of $300 billion (more than one-tenth of its 2013 GDP). What can African countries do to get more of their citizens online?

For starters, they could stop taxing personal computers and smartphones so heavily. These aren’t luxury goods; they’re essential tools for building a 21st-century economy.

Freeing up telecom markets can also help. There’s a balance to be struck — too much competition can reduce the incentive for more investment — but there’s evidence that greater competition encourages adoption. Mobile phone use in African nations with state-controlled monopolies is less than half of what it is in Kenya, which opened up its mobile market in 2000. Countries with multiple providers are also more likely to have independent regulators, another key building block for a competitive marketplace.

A lot of these initiatives depend more on will than wallet. Moreover, their success would provide more than just economic benefits, promoting public engagement and greater political accountability. That may not be as sexy as lasers, but it’s essential to making any talk of “Africa rising” come true.