Africa

Desire, for hire, would tire a shire, phone, phunkel, or wire

When the world’s first cellular network was installed in Washington, D.C., in 1983, Gatt and Rwayitare knew instinctively that cellular could solve many of Africa’s communication problems. […] “How do you educate a government on what cellular is all about?” asked Gatt. […] You hand him a mobile phone and get him to call home, of course. […]

On an official state visit to the United States, Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko was handed a Motorola mobile phone and urged to call home. It was 1985, so he had to be persuaded that the device — which weighed as much as a bottle of wine and boasted a retractable antenna — was not a walkie-talkie. But once he’d spoken to his family in Kinshasa, he needed no further convincing. Joseph Gatt and Miko Rwayitare’s plan was coming together.

Telecel, the company they formally founded a year later, would soon have 3,000 subscribers in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) — well before mobile phones were ubiquitous in America. Zaire’s near-defunct fixed-line infrastructure meant that the country’s elite were willing to spend $5,000 on a handset and up to $16 per minute to remain connected. […]

Despite being impressed, the dictator — like most people in 1985 — hadn’t fully grasped how life-changing the technology would be and he initially refused to grant Telecel an operating license. Gatt and Rwayitare knew they were onto a good thing, however, so they used their life savings to purchase an ailing U.S. mobile technology firm and obtained finance from Motorola to erect a small system in Kinshasa. All that remained was to buy a couple of hundred handsets — at $3,000 a pop — and give them to Mobutu and his inner circle.

“These 200 Zairean officials called each other and overseas over the next year without paying for a single call.” […] At the end of the trial period, and faced with the prospect of losing what had now become an essential cog in the state machinery, Mobutu agreed to give them their license.

{ OZY | Continue reading }

‘In the world of the dreamer there was solitude.’ –Anaïs Nin

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Polygyny rates are higher in western Africa than in eastern Africa. The African slave trades help explain this difference. More male slaves were exported in the transatlantic slave trades from western Africa, while more female slaves were exported in the Indian Ocean slave trades from eastern Africa. The slave trades led to prolonged periods of abnormal sex ratios, which affected the rates of polygyny across Africa.

{ Economic Development and Cultural Change | Continue reading }

From the deep pain of having to confess again and again that you never loved as you were loved

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{ The Great Pyramid, built for the Pharaoh Khufu in about 2570 B.C., sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, and still arguably the most mysterious structure on the planet. | Inside the Great Pyramid | Smithsonian | The Secret Doors Inside the Great Pyramid | Guardians }

Keywords: Malagasy dialects, Austronesian languages, taxonomy of languages, lexicostatistics, Malagasy origins

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The dialects of Madagascar belong to the Greater Barito East group of the Austronesian family and it is widely accepted that the Island was colonized by Indonesian sailors after a maritime trek which probably took place around 650 CE. The language most closely related to Malagasy dialects is Maanyan but also Malay is strongly related especially for what concerns navigation terms. Since the Maanyan Dayaks live along the Barito river in Kalimantan (Borneo) and they do not possess the necessary skill for long maritime navigation, probably they were brought as subordinates by Malay sailors.

In a recent paper we compared 23 different Malagasy dialects in order to determine the time and the landing area of the first colonization. In this research we use new data and new methods to confirm that the landing took place on the south-east coast of the Island. Furthermore, we are able to state here that it is unlikely that there were multiple settlements and, therefore, colonization consisted in a single founding event.

{ Maurizio Serva, The settlement of Madagascar: what dialects and languages can tell | Continue reading }