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BBC: Ghana oil begins pumping for first time




Ghana has officially begun to pump oil from vast underwater reservoirs found off the country’s shores three years ago. It was found in the ‘Jubilee Field’ and is “estimated to hold 1.5billion barrels of oil.” Another nearby field was discovered this year with an estimated additional 1.4 billion barrels significantly adding to potential revenues and the prospects of a new booming industry. A UK based oil production company, Tullow Oil, is now producing 55,000 barrels every day. The oil’s discovery and production will certainly have a large impact on the African country as revenues are expected to eventually reach $1 billion yearly. Although, some reports are skeptical of the benefits the oil will bring to Ghanaians. In other developing countries of the region, such as Nigeria, the cash flow from oil production has done more to fuel conflict rather than aide development. Indeed there is some concern about the lack of legislation and formal procedure to manage the new industry.


However, Ghana is notably different from countries in the region which have had less than favorable results of oil revenues. Stephen Hayes, head of the Corporate Council on Africa notes that Ghana has a “fairly transparent society compared to other countries dealing in oil – so they’ve got a better opportunity to get it right.” The country also has developed a strong civil society with activists organized and ready to monitor pending oil legislation in regardless to the environment, civil rights and development. Hayes also points out that Ghana’s economy is diversified, with “oil revenues expected only represents 6% of their economy – compare that to Nigeria where oil revenue represents 92% of the economy or Angola where it’s almost 100%.” This allows Ghana to manage the revenue without stalling the economy. This is not to say that oil will not have a large and positive impact on the economy as it is expected to increase the country’s growth by an additional 7 percent in the next year.




A video from Al Jazeera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncQexNRPvUc

An article from the Ghana Chronicle titled “Oil Flows Today”: http://allafrica.com/stories/201012160131.html

A website dedicated to information and news oil in Ghana: http://www.ghanaoilinfo.com/

An article from National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2010/12/1012115-oil-ghana-environment-jubilee/




1. Do you think Ghana will be able to uphold its promise to spread the wealth among the people and not in only a few hands? What challenges may the government/activists face in working towards this goal?

2. Should a country’s natural resources be shared by the people or given to those who discover it? What do you think has been done in most cases? Is it fair? How can we determine this?

UNDP: Tackling the Costs of Gender Inequality to Africa’s Development



The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the African Institute for Economic Development (IDEP) have recently launched a new program which intends to advance policies which benefit men and women equally in Africa. The mission of the ‘Global Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative-Africa’ program (GEPMI-Africa) is to “target government officials, development practitioners, civil society organizations and research institutes to help countries promote gender-responsive policies in specific areas such as health, education and labour.”[i] The program is a result of increasing evidence and support for economic growth through gender equality.

As increasing evidence from research on gender studies has mounted it has become clear that women’s rights are not only ethical, but also economically beneficial for developing countries. Currently, “women continue to consistently trail men in formal labor force participation, access to credit, entrepreneurship rates, income levels, and inheritance and ownership rights” which often alienates the population from gaining from development programs.[ii] This alienation hampers women from taking part in development and as a result “slows down poverty reduction and economic growth” for the population as a whole.


Alternatively, increasing access to employment, education, technology and credit in women allows this portion of the population to actively engage in development, not only to their own benefit, but to their families and local communities as well. Many studies have suggested that “putting earnings in women’s hands is the intelligent thing to do to speed up development and the process of overcoming poverty…[as] women usually reinvest a much higher portion in their families and communities than men, spreading wealth beyond themselves.”


As for development initiatives, those that are ‘gender blind’ may be missing an essential element in their purpose. Tegegnework Gettu, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Africa, noted that many “fail to take into consideration the division of labour between men and women in the private and public spheres, and their access to and control over economic assets and opportunities.” Without addressing the innate challenges to development for marginalized groups in these communities development programs risk alienating a large portion of the population they aim to serve. The GEPMI-Africa program hopes to highlight the essential need for development programs to consider gender in order to be effective.



Gender and Development is a scholarly journal which focuses on the issues of its namesake: http://www.genderanddevelopment.org/

A UNDP report on “Gender and Indicators”:


The World Bank’s webpage on Gender and Development includes many studies and articles on the subject: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTGENDER/0,,menuPK:336874~pagePK:149018~piPK:149093~theSitePK:336868,00.html

A UNDP report entitled “Taking Action: Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering Women”: http://content.undp.org/go/cms-service/download/publication/?version=live&id;=1844034

The ‘Africa Gender Program’ Website from the World Bank: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/EXTAFRREGTOPGENDER/0,,contentMDK:20297760~pagePK:34004173~piPK:34003707~theSitePK:502360,00.html



1. Do you think development is necessarily a gender issue? Are some there some aspects that are and some that aren’t?

2. What is essential to promoting gender equality in developing countries? Must laws come first? What about public attitude? Will funding lead to other changes? What is most important?

3. Are gender issues necessarily woman’s rights? How can men benefit from greater equality?

4. What could you do to aide in gender equality in a developing country?





[i] "Tackling the Costs of Gender Inequality to Africa’s Development." Newsroom. United Nations Development Programme, 26 Nov. 2010.


[ii] "Why Is Women’s Economic Empowerment Important for Development?" Gender and Development. The World Bank.


[iii] Ibid.


[iv] Ibid.


CNN: The Fight to Stem Africa’s Rural Exodus




While many African cities are thriving, providing more and more people with amenities such as clean water, electricity and medical care, these strides are often not matched in rural areas. It is no wonder then why many Africans are choosing to leave their rural villages to try and find a better life. In fact a new report from the U.N. estimates that “14 million people in sub-Saharan Africa migrate from rural to urban areas every year [and] of those, 70% move into slums,” indicating that not everyone finds what they were looking for.


Programs have been set up to address this challenge, like Rural Futures, which has support from major organizations such as the U.N. and World Wildlife Fund. This organization is focusing on closing the gap between things like access to opportunity, services like water or electricity, and jobs in urban and rural areas. As it is, the continent is facing a sort of paradox, where it is necessary to foster agriculture for development yet development “has not benefited the rural world.” A possible solution, which is currently being explored by Rural Futures, is creating jobs in rural areas through supporting “rural industries and agribusiness.”


Increasing the viability of prosperous rural communities in Africa also requires special attention to recent changes in the environment. Many families and individuals are forced to leave their communities after a drought or other natural disaster which can obliterate their livelihood. However, fairly simple measures such as “introducing irrigation, insurance policies against crops failing, and drought-resistant crops” can help to reverse this trend. Initiatives which help farmers modify their traditional approaches to meet the demands of a changing climate can also significantly aid the viability of small scale farming in Africa.


Responses to this growing trend have not only stemmed from large international organizations but from grassroots as well. Seda Bawiena grew up in a rural village in Togo but, like so many, saw opportunity in the city and left as an adolescent to further his education. He returned years later to find that many other people in his community had also left the area out of necessity or a yearning for a brighter future. This influenced him to found the International Center for Agro-Pastoral Development (CIDAP) which “emphasizes community, education and sustainable agriculture.”


The organization works to enhance and “rediscover” traditional ways of farming rather than introducing totally foreign ideas. They also have established a technical institute which “teaches diploma courses in agriculture, administration and home economics,” and provides a greater sense of opportunity for young people. All of these initiatives are aimed at changing attitudes as well. They hope to explain that “going to the cities is not the only option” and that “through a different way of working the land it’s possible to live off the land and grow better food and have a better life." Improving the lives of those in rural Africa and allowing them to stay in their communities will have a long lasting and wide spread positive impact for both urban and rural Africa.




An article on rural to urban migration in Africa: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/study-abroad/101012/africa-unemployment-rural-migration-ghana

A video from Save the Children about the effects of severe drought on one family: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoMSwJ8bCrE&feature=player_embedded

The United Nations Population Fund Website: http://www.unfpa.org/public/home;jsessionid=F40621014CC2A2E9E6C7937D515A1BC9

A video from Yale University about the effect of climate change on some of West Africa’s traditional rural communities: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/when_the_water_ends_africas_climate_conflicts/2331/




1. Which of the programs mentioned here do you think will be more effective, Rural Futures or CIDAP? Why?

2. What do you think is the main motivator for people in Africa who choose to move from rural to urban areas? Is it climate change, opportunity, the perception of a better life, etc.? What would it take to convince you to move away from your home?

3. What do you think is the best solution to this trend of overwhelming rural to urban migration for Africa? For a rural community? For an individual?

Al Jazeera: "Millions register for Sudan vote"



The registration process for the referendum on Southern Sudan’s independence ended earlier this week without major incident or accusations of fraud. The process began on November 15 for what was an initially scheduled two week period but was continued for an additional week following “high demand in the south and also to encourage a bigger turnout by southerners living in northern Sudan.” The initial estimates from the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) were that more than 3 million people were registered in the South and 76,000 in the north. These numbers represent a high, but not inclusive, representation of the 5 million eligible southern Sudanese living in the region, in the north or abroad.


Current reports suggest that the registration process was carried out fairly and freely with surprisingly few complaints from either party. The results of the registration match commission estimates confirming little, if any, fraud. However, there were low levels of registration in both the northern region of Sudan and abroad – while southern Sudan registered voters at a rate of about 60 percent, the north and the diaspora registered only about 40-50 percent. Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, SSRC Chief, commented that “if all of the registered voters go to the polls on January 9 then ‘the turnout would not be bad and could be considered as representing the view of south Sudan.’"


While it is encouraging that this step of the referendum has ended peacefully, democratically and without widespread intimidation, many still hold reservations on the same outcome for the vote in January. In particular, for those southerners living in the north of Sudan there are security, safety and fraud concerns. The southern government has encouraged those residing in the north to travel to the south in order to cast their ballot to ensure that it is counted fairly and reduce security concerns.




An article on the registration from the Sudan Tribune: http://www.sudantribune.com/Voter-registration-for-South-Sudan,37212

A piece on Enough’s blog on the registration: http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/registration-south-sudan-referendum-finally-underway

An article from UN Dispatch, “Scenes From Voter Registration in South Sudan”:http://www.undispatch.com/scenes-from-voter-registration-in-south-sudan

A short Al Jazeera video on the registration, “Deciding the fate of Sudan”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtKhFtC8LNg




1. Why do you think a higher percentage of eligible voters registered in southern Sudan than in the north or abroad?

2. Whose interest is most at stake in this referendum? Do you believe the north will be more negatively affected than the south will be positively affected? Will it affect the diaspora?

3. Are you surprised that the registration was successful? Do you think this is an indicator for the vote?

4. What challenges did the South Sudan Referendum Commission have to overcome in order to carry out the registration?

5. Do you think you would register and vote in a referendum even if you felt you might be putting yourself in danger by doing so? Do you think this is a major concern for southern Sudanese people (especially those living in the north)?

The Guardian: Ugandans turn Kampala’s uncollected garbage into versatile fuel



Two Ugandan entrepreneurs, Fred Kyagulanyi and James Sendikwanawa, found opportunity when others only saw a public hindrance. They were inspired by piles of rubbish in Kampala which they saw as a useful resource and an opportunity to profit. Today, the pair are successfully converting the trash into “’non-fossil fuel’ made from refuse such as plastic bottles, polythene bags and organic waste.” The fuel can be used in any diesel engine and is regularly bought by taxi drivers and locals for around $1 a liter, nearly half of what gas stations charge.


Kyagulanyi and Sendikwanawa found their technical knowledge in German literature on biodiesel and, despite a bumpy road, used trial and error to figure how to transform the waste around them into fuel. The pair did not only succeed but now offer their customers “super,” “premium” and “pure” grades. Customers confirm that the fuel works well in their vehicles and saves them money. One purchaser estimates that he has “been saving about 2,000 shillings per day [about 90 cents] compared to the past." They are now processing up to 2 tons of trash a day, have established their business and are planning to expand their capabilities.


The project is not only an advantage to Kyagulanyi and Sendikwanawa but for their community as well. Waste engineers in Kampala have calculated that “the city generates an estimated 1,500 tonnes of garbage a day, three-quarters of which rots uncollected on the streets, or gets thrown into in sewerage outlets and water channels.” The pair admit that they not only began this project to make money but also to “be part of the solution to the global demand for environmentally beneficial practice.” They hope to eventually expand their capabilities enough to clear every piece of waste from the city and turn it into something useful.






A UN paper on “Small Scale Production and Use of Liquid Bio-Fuels in Sub-Saharan Africa”: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/csd15/documents/csd15_bp2.pdf

A Video on Electrical Energy from Waste in Durban, South Africa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIsio3gc6Jk

An article from the BBC on fuel from bananas: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8044092.stm

A Video on recycling ‘e-waste’ in South Africa: http://www.mnn.com/eco-biz/money-green-jobs/videos/assignment-earth-e-waste-creates-jobs

An article from the New York Times on the development of a ‘Waste Powered Fuel Cell for Africa’: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/11/world/africa/11iht-dirt.1.17710804.html?_r=1






1. Why do you believe these entrepreneurs were successful? What can we learn from their success?

2. Do you think international intervention in this type of endeavor would have helped or hampered this project?

3. What are the benefits to local business versus those that are created or heavily supported by non-profit, aid or government organizations? What are the difficulties?


The south Sudan referendum commission has reached a major milestone towards the impending January referendum for southern succession. This week marks the beginning of registration for voters in the south. The registration is scheduled to take place between 15 November and 1 December and will operate from 3,000 sites across Sudan and in 8 additional countries (Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States).[i] United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) panels have also arrived in Sudan to monitor the endeavor.


While the procedures of the vote are being carried out as planned and on time there has been some criticism from the commission towards international aid groups in reference to funding the referendum. While Sudan’s law requires that all funds be given to the commission which governs it many international groups are refusing to pay directly. For instance, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has “budgeted up to $50 million to help stage the referendum” but will not release any funds directly to the commission. Rather, USAID and other agencies like it are offering assistance in the form of grants and foreign contractors. The chairman of the commission in Sudan, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, described the aid which has been offered as patronizing: “They give us finished goods, materials just as you cater for a minor. You don’t give a minor cash in case they should misuse it but give them finished goods and services which, incidentally, we resent.”[ii]


Beyond some funding disturbances there are still major issues to be settled before succession were to occur. These include the ever present issues of “border demarcation, issues of citizenship, [and] issues of how to share the oil wealth.” There is also a genuine threat of violence or all out war if the vote isn’t carried out transparently, efficiently, and appropriately. Despite concerns and complications, preparations for the vote have gone forward without major stalemate or violence. The advent of voter registration is encouraging and substantial progress to settle a bitter dispute in a peaceful and democratic manner.




 1. Do you think aid agencies should give funds for the referendum directly to Sudan’s commission? What is the danger in this? What are the benefits?

2. How can international agencies ensure that the proper procedures are met in Sudan? Is funding the effort best? What about election observers? What is best to leave to the Sudanese?

3. Can you think of some complications of voter registration in Sudan? What might be more difficult about this than something similar in the United States? What might be easier?




An article from Voice of America, “Voter Registration Begins in Sudan”: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Voter-Registration-Begins-for-Sudan-Referendum-108164694.html


A video from Maxims News Network on the voter registration in Sudan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4KpA4G5F3w


An article from the Sudan Tribune “Conflicting reports on readiness for voter registration in Jonglei state”: 




[i] “Sudan: UN Panel Monitoring Referenda Arrives on Eve of Voter Registration.” All Africa. 14 Nov 2010.

[ii] “Sudan vote ‘held up by donors.’” Al Jazeera English. 15 Nov 2010.

AllAfrica.com: Mobile Phones ‘Powerful’ in Promoting Health, Advocates Say



This week in Washington policy, health, telecommunication and development representatives have gathered to draft strategies to improve healthcare systems through mobile technology in developed and developing communities alike. The “mHealth Summit” is designed to “advance the discussion around ways mobile technology can increase the access, efficiency and effectiveness of health systems.” While basic needs, like those outlined in the UN Millennium Development Goals, are still waiting to be realized in many parts of the world new, creative solutions are required in order to meet them.


As mobile phone use is dramatically increasing across Africa the potential to use these resources to increase the efficiency of health care systems is remarkable. In fact of the “five billion subscribers today, almost 70 percent of them are in the developing world.” These devices are a reliable resource to send information, in some cases medicinal, from remote areas previously disconnected from available resources. For example, one village could immediately notify another when health care professionals or medical supplies are nearby.


Mobile technology initiatives have already proven to be successful in increasing the efficiency of healthcare in Africa. In Uganda, mobile phones have dramatically reduced the diagnosis time for HIV positive infants from three months to two weeks. Local clinics in isolated areas can send blood samples to hospitals which test the sample and return the results via SMS. This allows the children to begin treatment much sooner and greatly increases their chances of survival. As a result “the number of HIV-positive infants receiving treatment has more than doubled, from 40 per cent to more than 90 per cent in the last two years.”[1]



An article from the Center for International Health and Development at Boston University titled “Can the ubiquitous power of mobile phones be used to improve health outcomes in developing countries?”: http://www.globalizationandhealth.com/content/2/1/9


An article from aidsmap entitled “Mobile phone messages improve adherence and HIV control in Kenyan trial”: http://www.aidsmap.com/page/1540898/


An article from Smart Planet entitled “Bill Gates: mobile health technology will save lives, help overpopulation”: http://www.smartplanet.com/people/blog/pure-genius/bill-gates-mobile-health-technology-will-save-lives-help-overpopulation/4908/


A video from CNN titled “Cell phones save lives in Rwandan villages” : http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=video&cd=1&ved=0CDwQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Frss.cnn.com%2F~r%2Frss%2Fcnn_health%2F~3%2F-cUnc_exaTs%2F&ei=xBLbTIfINcH98AaUqLXCCQ&usg=AFQjCNHj4YCzO3ft2eKGlpfNATEw3PgqGA&sig2=eKY7NRaNvg_bgZdQBihI9g




1. Can you think of other types of aid that could be enhanced through the use of mobile devices?


2. Are there any concerns with the use of mobile devices for healthcare? What about patient privacy or the accuracy of information passed through a cell phone? How could these concerns be overcome?




[1] Nakkazi, Esther. "Mobile Technology Doubles HIV Treatment Rate in Babies." SciDev.Net. 1 Nov. 2010.

CNN: "Guineans cast ballots in presidential poll"



Sunday, November 7, 2011 marks Guinea’s first free and fair presidential elections since the country gained its independence 52 years ago. This is the first election to move the country from military rule to democratic governance and is a major milestone for the region of West Africa. This election follows the primary elections last June in what was called “the nation’s most credible and democratic election ever.” The results of the June poll allowed opposition leader, Alpha Conde, and former prime minister, Cellow Dalein Diallo, to compete in Sunday’s runoff. Reports indicate that the election was a close race but generally transparent, peaceful, and technically sound.


While both parties seemed satisfied with the elections it was not without its complications. Diallo, the front runner, noted that his coalition was short on representatives to monitor the voting in some regions due to displaced supporters fleeing recent ethnic and political unrest. At least 2,800 people have been displaced since election proceedings began, however local officials of Diallo’s coalition claim the number is more likely between 15,000 and 20,000. The people who fled potential violence said they had been “threatened with death by the towns’ residents if they did not leave before the election.” Although Guinea has not seen significant politically motivated violence yet, the threat of an outbreak is sincere. However, many are optimistic of a peaceful transfer of power. The end result will depend on how the candidates decide to mobilize their supporters after the results of the election are announced.


Despite the threat of violence, Guinea’s successful execution of last Sunday’s election is a constructive democratic development for the country and the region. It has set the stage for future elections and the democratic notion that “those who govern are accountable to those they govern” has entered the mind frame of the general public. If the transfer of power is peacefully executed it has the potential to provide political stability, allowing for greater foreign investment, international aid, and in turn, economic development.




1. What do you think is the best way to ensure the transfer of power in Guinea happens peacefully? Do you think the AU, UN or other international agencies should get involved? Or do you think this should be up to the Guineans?

2. Do you think the act of voting has democratic value in itself? Does it change the way people thing about government? Do you think the influence is the same if the election results are not (or perceived not to be) accepted by the leadership?

3. Do you believe democratic principles, human rights, civil rights, etc. are more or less important that stability? When is one more important than the other? Why?



An Al Jazeera (English) article on the Elections: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/11/2010117175249728291.html

An article from UN Dispatch: http://www.undispatch.com/analysis-guineas-presidential-election-part-1

A video entitled ‘Guinea Election Preview’ by TV2Africa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xy8nXNN8Hk

Sudan Tribune: "’Postponement of Abyei Referendum is Undesirable But May Be Unavoidable’ – RVI"



Speculation that Sudan’s January referendum that will decide if the northern and southern regions will split into two autonomous states or remain as one will be delayed in the Abyei border region has continued to mount following a local non-profit report. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended Sudan’s civil war 20 years ago and provides guidelines for the referendum requires a separate vote for the people of Abyei to decide if they would be absorbed into the Northern or Southern regions in the event of a split. Although the referendum is expected to be held on time in the rest of Sudan, several key issues have yet to be negotiated for the preparations of the referendum in Abyei to move forward.


Despite the ever nearing date of the referendum, negotiations to resolve outstanding issues over the Abyei region have remained in a stalemate. The most contemptuous issues include “north-south boundary demarcation, the appointment of members of the referendum commission, the question of voter eligibility and residency and issues of public security.” As a result, no necessary procedures for the referendum, such as voter registration, have begun with just over a couple of months before voting day. Even if the disputed subjects were to be agreed upon today, there is little hope that the legal requirements for a vote to take place would be met in time. The report concluded that the “postponement of the Abyei referendum is undesirable but may be unavoidable.” However, the parties have made clear that the rest of Sudan will carry out the vote on January 11.


Several proposals have been made to resolve the disputes and move preparations for the Abeyi vote along even if it does not occur in January. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of the south has suggested that they hold the Abyei vote independently of the National Congress Party (NCP) in the north following the initial referendum. However, many have argued that any vote independent of Sudan’s current ruling party would not only violate the CPA but “would be unlikely to gain full international recognition or promote national consensus.” Others have suggested that the Abeyi region be split into two, half going to the north and half going to the south. However, border demarcation and citizenship issues have proven impasses for successful negotiation.


If the referendum may indeed be delayed in Abyei the complications may not be. After the referendum has been completed and the dust has settled, outstanding issues such as citizenship and the sharing oil revenues must still be addressed. The stakes in this region are so high that without successful negotiation unresolved conflicts could trigger another civil war. It is the responsibility of the NCP, SPLM and the international community to ensure that something is applied to deter this harrowing possibility. However, the success of the CPA and preparations for the larger referendum to date should be encouraging for the possibility that there is still time for a ‘political fix.’




1. Do you think Sudan’s referendum in the Northern and Southern regions will carry on without Abyei’s? What would be the consequence?

2. Do you believe the despites over Abyei will be ever be resolved? What could the USA and the international community do to ensure that it is done peacefully?

3. Of the potential solutions listed here, which do you think might be best? Can you think of a solution both the SPLM and the NCP would agree on?



A ‘Guide to Abyei’s Referendum’ from IRIN News: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?reportid=89832

A series of posts on the Abyei referendum from The Enough Project: http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/abyei-sudan%E2%80%99s-other-referendum-part-i

A video and article on the Abyei referendum from France 24 (in English): http://www.france24.com/en/20101014-officials-rule-out-january-referendum-disputed-abyei-sudan-south-north-politics

A video clip of John Prendergast and George Clooney speaking on Abyei at the Council on Foreign Relations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD6UoO-QM4k

The latest newspaper in Mozambique is printing nearly 10 times as many copies previous papers – and it’s free. The model behind the newspaper is nothing new, like many websites or basic cable, the organization is making money from advertisers, not readers. Erik Charas, the publisher of Verdade (or ‘truth’), says he’s not a newspaper man, but a social entrepreneur who hopes to encourage knowledge and ambition throughout Mozambique with this latest business venture.


Although his readership is primarily low income, Charas says they still have a lot of buying power. He explains that his readers could use the dollar they would have spent on the newspaper and buy a coke or airtime for their cell phones. Companies wishing to advertise such products and services could stand to gain quite a bit from this previously untapped audience. Charas explains the value of a free paper beyond access to information for readers as well – “you don’t have to make a choice feed your brains or feed your stomach, ultimately you have been empowered because your dollar counts.” The advertisers hope the readers will choose to make that dollar count towards their bottom line.


However this newspaper has much more to offer than advertisements and financial empowerment. Beyond the desire to give low-income Mozambicans access to knowledge, Charas explains that his wish is to “build ambition” through his newspaper. He hopes the newspaper will do this by opening “a window to another world” for its readers by exposing them to luxury items like the i-phone or BMWs. The idea is that when people want more out of their own lives they will want more out of their country as well. Through this desire Charas hopes that Mozambicans will demand better government, social services, businesses and jobs.


The effect of the newspaper on the public can already been seen – “in the districts and regions where Verdade is distributed, there was a proven link between reading the newspaper and increased political involvement.” For instance, these regions saw a higher percentage of the population vote, especially women. With these social benefits, not to mention a business model which has been posting profits in one of the poorest countries in the world, it certainly seems to be beneficial for all actors involved.




1. Do you believe developing the media, and its autonomy, in Africa is important to influence more transparent governing? What might be at risk when access to information is not widely available?

2. Do you believe access to information is a human right? Should governments, aid organizations, etc. work to provide free access to information where it is not available? Who might be primarily responsible for providing this?


UNESCO’s Page on Information and Communication Technologies: http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=19377&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

Findings and Plan of Action from the Carter Center’s Right of Access to Information in Africa: http://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/peace/americas/conference2010/african-reg-findings-plan-of-action.pdf

The Verdade Website (in Portuguese): http://verdade.co.mz/