Friday, September 28, 2007

Flashing as an "African" Invention

Another "how to write about africa" piece:

Africa invented AIDS. Now, Africa has invented another Condition - a social one this time, not a biological one. It's called "flashing!" While the rest of the non-Western world is consolidating on their hi-tech innovations: (Korea: KIA; China: Chery Motors; Iran: Nuclear Weapons; India: IT Outsourcing, etc), Africa is inventing ingenious ways to manage (without attempting to solve the underlying problem) its POVERTY.

Welcome to Flashing.

Initially the Reuters article (below) was going to get me pissed off. How dare anyone say that such a no-brainer as "flashing/beeping" sprang up only in the poverty-stricken mental ghetto that is the typical african mind.

But when I remember an encounter with BE (British-Nigerian novelist, poet and creative writing teacher) last year at the lobby of Sofitel (Ikoyi), I have no choice than to smile, even if ruefully, and dispose of my irritations.

BE came in to Nigeria for a reading tour organised by the British Council. She was given a mobile phone by the BC to use while in Naija. The phone apparently contained an old sim card, one that must have been in use by someone before it was given to BE.

So, it would happen that every now and then someone (a friend/acquantaince/creditor/lover/stalker/etc of one or more of the previous owner(s) of the SIM) would "flash" the line. BE had apparently been "picking" (more like trying to pick) the call. Poor BE. There she would be, chanting "hello" endlessly like a one-dollar CD on a skipping-scratching binge, perhaps even long after the "flasher" had forgotten about the flashing. Poor BE.

So, finally, one evening, as we sat at the lobby of her hotel, another flasher flashed. BE picked, and helloed. Silence. She gave voice to her exasperation.

I realised that she had been getting herself worked up over mere flashing. I explained (more like tried to explain) to her what flashing meant. It's a way of staying in touch. An e-card that says:

Thinking of you.
I'm around (I'am downstairs; I'am at your gate; I'm nearby)
Where's my money
Hope you haven't forgotten what I told you
I'm bored
Call me now
blah blah blah

BE didn't get "it".
Why would anyone flash instead of simply making a genuine call?
It's called African Culture (and includes other phenomena like African Time/Nigerian Time)
I didn't get why BE wasn't getting it.
Flashing is normal, abi?

Now I know why.

Scientists/sociologists have finally recognised it as an African Disorder. Like sickle cell that afflicts only the black race, Flashing as a habit is imprinted only upon African DNA.

So, we can't get angry at the Yahoo News article, can we?

They're not lying about us...

Read the Article:

Phone credit low? Africans go for "beeping"
KHARTOUM (Reuters) -

If you are in Sudan it is a 'missed call'. In Ethiopia it is a 'miskin' or a 'pitiful' call. In other parts of Africa it is a case of 'flashing', 'beeping' or in French-speaking areas 'bipage'.

Wherever you are, it is one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the continent's booming mobile telephone markets -- and it's a headache for mobile operators who are trying to figure out how to make some money out of it.

You beep someone when you call them up on their mobile phone -- setting its display screen briefly flashing -- then hang up half a second later, before they have had a chance to answer. Your friend -- you hope -- sees your name and number on their list of 'Missed Calls' and calls you back at his or her expense.

It is a tactic born out of ingenuity and necessity, say analysts who have tracked an explosion in miskin calls by cash-strapped cellphone users from Cape Town to Cairo.

"Its roots are as a strategy to save money," said Jonathan Donner, an India-based researcher for Microsoft who is due to publish a paper on "The Rules of Beeping" in the high-brow online Journal of Computer Mediated Communication in October.

Donner first came across beeping in Rwanda, then tracked it across the continent and beyond, to south and southeast Asia. Studies quoted in his paper estimate between 20 to more than 30 percent of the calls made in Africa are just split-second flashes -- empty appeals across the cellular network.

The beeping boom is being driven by a sharp rise in mobile phone use across the continent.

Africa had an estimated 192.5 million mobile phone users in 2006, up from just 25.3 million in 2001, according to figures from the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union. Customers may have enough money for the one-off purchase of a handset, but very little ready cash to spend on phone cards for the prepaid accounts that dominate the market.

Africa's mobile phone companies say the practice has become so widespread they have had to step in to prevent their circuits being swamped by second-long calls.

"We have about 355 million calls across the whole network every day," said Faisal Ijaz Khan, chief marketing officer for the Sudanese arm of Kuwaiti mobile phone operator Zain (formerly MTC). "And then there are another 130 million missed calls every day. There are a lot of missed calls in Africa."


Zain is responding to the demand by drawing up plans for a "Call-me-back" service in Sudan, letting customers send open requests in the form of a very basic signal to friends for a phone call.

The main advantage for the company is that the requests will be diverted from the main network and pushed through using a much cheaper technology (USSD or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data).

A handful of similar schemes are springing up across Africa, says Informa principal analyst Devine Kofiloto. "It is widespread. It is a concern for operators in African countries, whose networks become congested depending on the time of day with calls they cannot bill for.

"They try to discourage the practice by introducing services where customers can send a limited number of 'call-back' request either free of charge or for a minimum fee."

There are plenty of other reasons why mobile operators are keen to cut down on the practice. One is it annoys customers, pestered by repeated missed calls.

A second is that 'flashes' eat into one of mobile phone companies' favorite performance indicators -- ARPU or average revenue per user. Miscalls earn very little in themselves - and don't always persuade the target to ring back.

Orange Senegal, Kofiloto said, lets customers send a 'Rappelle moi' ('Call me back') when their phone credit drops below $0.10. With Safaricom Kenya, it is a "Flashback 130" (limited to five a day -- and with the admonishment 'Stop Flashing! Ask Nicely'). Vodacom DR Congo's 'Rappelez moi SVP' service costs $0.01 a message.

Read the rest of the article here

Sunday, September 23, 2007

senryu by omoalagbede

multitasking. poem,
Memo, novella, Report.
all in a day's work.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Guess Who?




She is a woman
She is Nigerian
She is very famous
She has a son who is about as famous (in a sense) as her.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Call for Submission of Bids: Upgrade/Renovation of FIFA U-17 World Cup Trophy

Our Client is the parastatal in charge of the round-leather game in Nigeria, under the supervising influence of the National Sports Commission. Arising from the recent win of the Under-17 World Cup by Nigeria for a historic 3rd time, our client observed with dismay the disgraceful and dilapidated state of the trophy, and the fact that it does not currently befit the status of Nigeria as a giant of Africa , and 3-time winner of the Trophy. Our client is therefore desirous of renovating/upgrading the esteemed Cup, in line with the rule of law(making).


Major Work:
· Re-electroplating of entire trophy with 64-carat gold.
· Replacement of Map of Africa on the trophy with updated version to reflect the emerging United States of Africa.
· Enlargement of the map of Nigeria within the map of Africa, to reflect historic, groundbreaking, 3-time win.
· Installation of Nigerian coat of arms on the base of the trophy.
· Procurement of bullet-proof vest for the Trophy.
· Production of U-17 soccer world Cup history manual in all the two-hundred-and-fifty languages of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to accompany the Trophy.
· Provision of supporting stand for Trophy to allow for easy movement on National occasions.
· Provision of satellite tracking device to be embedded in Trophy to discourage kidnap by militants.

Supporting Work:
· Drafting and express delivery of complaint letter to FIFA on the poor maintenance of the Trophy by Mexico , the 2005 winners.
· Construction of befitting, airconditioned, bullet-proof glass display case for the Trophy.
· Construction of state-of-the-art display hall for the display case. (The Hall shall be known as the Patricia Etteh Under-17 International Trophy Display Hall.
· Provision of CCTV cameras, and satellite security equipment for the Hall.
· Provision of bullion vans, and power-bikes to form a secure convoy for the conveyance of the Trophy on nationwide tours.

In responding, qualifying firms should send the following documents and details:

· Company profile, including names and contact details of directors. (At least one Senator, Minister or Member of House of Reps of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must be on the company board)
· Company UNAUDITED financial report for the past two weeks.
· A 100-word (max) proposal in any Nigerian language.
· Certificates of Tax-Evasion for the past twelve years.
· Evidence of previously attempted renovation and/or upgrade projects. (Such projects preferably carried out on brand new buildings, cars and infrastructure).


All proposals should be addressed to:

U-17 FIFA World Cup Trophy Renovation/Upgrade Coordinator,
White Elephant Consulting,
628, Patricia Etteh Crescent ,
Asokoro, Abuja ,


on or before the 31st of October, 2007.

The sum of 500,000 naira only, enclosed in a suitably labelled ghana-must-go, should accompany the submission as bid fee. Proposals unaccompanied by a bid fee will be forwarded to the Undue Process Unit for blacklisting from future government patronage.

(c)Omo Alagbede, September 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Changing the World in 30 minutes: A Baby Sniper's Guide

I tried my hand at this mini-essay ("pseudo-rantelligent piece" - my coinage) in response to TBWA/Concept's (Nigeria) call for applications from potential "baby-snipers".(Advertisers have all these crazy, fun-sounding nominal tags they unleash on their "people", targeted specifically at presenting them in the strongest of "creative"/"anarchistic"/"revolutionary" lights).

They asked us to tell them how we intend to change the world in 30 minutes. You can't? Well, I can.


Every sniper aims to inflict MAXIMUM IMPACT (creative damage?) with MINIMUM ammo, and in MINIMUM time.

1)Imagine if the Sniper that killed John F. Kennedy had missed at first. Losing even a few micro-seconds would have given the Secret Service more than enough time to SAVE the President.
2)Snipers do not use machine-guns. No Sniper plans on using a whole belt-load of bullets to accomplish his or her task. The goal of a sniper is to finish his or her work with that FIRST projectile.

Snipers have changed the world in the past. The sniper who killed Kennedy changed the course of the destiny of countless people, in far less than 30 minutes. A whole Nation (the most powerful on earth) was thrown into mourning. A whole generation was disillusioned by the senseless murder of one they had come to look up to. Lyndon Johnson became President. The “Age of Camelot” came to an end. Jackie Kennedy became a Widow. Eventually she would remarry, and become the wife of one of the richest men in the world. The Kennedy Obsession started, evident for example in the conspiracy theories that have flourished, and the bestsellers that have flooded the bookstores.

The Sniper who killed Kennedy went for his head. His brain. The seat of reason, of consciousness.

To change the world in 30 minutes, I will not kill anyone. No. I will not hold a gun. No. I will not be destructively destructive. If I destroy anything in the few minutes left after I have become a Mature Sniper, it will be a Creative Destruction. A pulling down of ONE faulty paradigm in the minds of men.

But, come to think of it, instead of destroying, I’d rather build. Build a VISION within myself. And then launch forth into the world, armed with that VISION. The VISION may seem to need a lifetime to change the WORLD (see Mandela, Mother Theresa, etc), but in truth, it is the TIME IT TAKES TO EXPLODE INTO REALITY in a mind/consciousness that really matters the most.

We think it takes decades for OAK trees to mature. Wrong. It takes only the length of time needed for the OAK tree seed to realise that it IS an OAK tree. The twinkling of an eye. If it is the seed of an OAK tree, then it will surely become an OAK tree.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dispatches from Lagos - the new Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System



Wasiu (Ayinde Marshal), King of fuji music is crooning, as passengers file in. It will soon roar into life, and begin its journey to Berger. The fuji music is a bit on the loud side. I don't care for fuji (with its reputation as the music of motor-park touts and marijuanaed, thug-like entities), and would instead prefer the Yinka Ayefele, or Fela, that I have grown used to on those buses.

I am not alone. Someone asks the bus boy to switch the fuji off. Change it to something else. Another concurs. I do too, silently. And then someone protests. Angrily.

How dare you ask him to change the fuji.

These "corporate" people sef, another person says. (It is a tie-and-suit man/men who doesn't/don't want the music).

What is wrong with fuji music?

It is either they leave the fuji playing, or the music goes off!

The bus boy has already removed the fuji CD. The driver, who is outside the bus at this time, rushes in, and, protests. He puts the fuji music back in.


- Do Not Talk To Driver
- Seated 46
- Standees 36
- No Smoking.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More on Oyo State, Bayo Alao and Adedibu...

“Oyo State is being bogged down by government of illiterates by the illiterates for the enlightened.”
- Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) - Daily Punch, Tuesday, 4th September, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

New African Magazines

Mimi Magazine

Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings

MAZWI Literary Journal

African Writing

England in Ibadan and other Amala Tales

"Mapo Hall has been renovated. If you go there now, you would think you are in England"
Bayo Alao (aka Adebayo Alao-Akala), Governor of Oyo State, South West Nigeria, on (one of) his achievements since becoming Governor on May 29.

Governor Akala is currently at the centre of a "dismissal" scandal, details here