German M-Pesa – would it be successful?

(…in English, und nicht auf Deutsch, because I’d love to see comments from non-German speakers as well. Dankeschön!)

Mobile payment solutions, or m-payment, aren’t anything new to the interested mobile user. There are different (technical) models for mobile payments:

  • Premium SMS based transactional payments
  • Direct Mobile Billing
  • Mobile web payments
  • Contactless Near Field Communication

During this year’s local BarCamp in Darmstadt (for the Rhein-Main area), I also presented a few slides on M-Pesa & M-Kesho which are quite succesful in Kenya since their launch. Safaricom‘s former CEO, Michael Joseph, also talked about the success & struggle that came along with it during his Q&A session at (the) iHub Kenya earlier last month. Afaik, M-Pesa on Safaricom (Kenya, 51% owned by Vodafone) is a Premium SMS based transactional payment system.

You can google for M-Pesa and also check YouTube for the various videos on M-Pesa and why it has become so successful in EAK over the last three years (obviously, due to the lack of and need for alternatives).

Now, Germany. A country with seemingly more ATMs than public toilets :-), a working payment system, affordable (sometimes free) bank accounts with minimal charges, a cash culture where card-based payment systems are diverse and convenient to handle, but most importantly:the existing mix of cash & cards is an approved system that most often works and doesn’t require much behaviour change.

During another session on future mobile apps (during the BarCamp), fellow blogger Kai-Christian asked the attendees about their perception of mobile apps, and what we would like to see being developed.

As a hardware guy, I naturally love the idea of gadget add-ons that will turn your iPhone/smartphone into an e.g. medical test device, but when I look at the African market – and that was my main intention when I presented the slides on AfriGadget, Ushahidi, the iHub & Co (= what can we learn & adopt from them? South>North exchange) – I think it’s a very valid question to ask about the lowest denominator: telephony & sms, and why we are foccussing on High-Tech only (as opposed to the long-tail in mobile phone users, ~ 80% on simple phones), and why the market for SMS-based services still isn’t as satisfied as it should be.

To me it seems that since 1997, since the introduction of WAP, not much really changed in this sector (in .DE) because everyone was looking for the “killer app”, and this perception only really changed with true internet phones like the iPhone and such.

So I asked if a mobile payment system like M-Pesa would be possible in Germany.

One of the attendees, Silke (who is an expert on commerce systems and also blogs their usage on her private site), instantly replied that these mobile payment systems wouldn’t be successful in Germany because ppl wouldn’t need them (due to the aforementioned availability of ATMs & alternatives).

Software developer & technical consultant with a mobile service provider, Ali Pasha, added another comment to that and explained that there are security issues that come along with using SMS (which is true, because there is no 100% encryption). Given that a lot of Germans are having privacy concerns with Google Street View and objected the publication of street photos (which aren’t that private anyways), security issues are to be taken very serious when it comes to doing business in Germany (and, of course, elsewhere, but Germans seem to be very attached to security issues). No risk, no problem?

There are existing mobile payment systems available in Germany (also some upcoming ones based on Contactless NFC right here in Frankfurt), and I also remember the late Paybox service from early 2000 which is now only active in Austria. I don’t know the actual reasons for their failure in Germany, maybe due to investors pulling back or because of a tight competition with banks & providers, or both, but it’s interesting to note that their failure obviously wasn’t due to users who rejected the system, but because of external pressure. I, for one, remember using Paybox as a happy customer. If there is one thing I’ve learned in business, (then) it’s that the best and most accepted solution isn’t always the one that will prevail and succeed.

screenshot mpass

What you see here is a screenshot taken from mpass, a German system run by Vodafone (M-Pesa!) – a list of online shops where you can already pay using mpass. Not too many, if I may say so, and I am sure that mpass isn’t as popular in Germany as it probably should (be).

And obviously, mpass isn’t like M-Pesa because it a) isn’t implemented into the SIM (SIM-toolkit) and b) mpass is also only (?) used as an add-on to online shopping, to confirm a payment, while m-pesa provides much more than that (e.g. the direct exchange of credit).

Sooo…. if a similar technology is already available, and if they have been “alive” since 2008 – what do you think? Would a mobile payment system (of any kind) be successful in Germany? Would it take a SIM-toolkit modification like M-Pesa to reduce security concerns among German users? I remember having an M-Banking menu item on my old D2/Vodafone SIM card which never worked, and I am not the only one who never understood this.

I think one of the main arguments for M-Pesa (from  provider perspective) is that users are forced to stick to a SIM (and the network), while mpass works from all networks. Is this due to a European law which regulates, but also limits the competition? I don’t know. But what I do know is that there’s often a different reality to what has been evaluated in field studies, or what we (as interested users) may assume of the market. Just as M-Pesa had been adopted to the Kenyan market by its users – “misused”, if you will. I like that. I’d like to see a similar development in Germany, if only to further explore what’s really possible with basic mobile phone functionality like telephony or sms.

What do you think?

Schulmahlzeiten für Kenia!

Grosse Spendenaktion bei Penny
(vergrößern)

“Sie kaufen, wir spenden!”

Der kenianische Präsident Mwai Kibaki hat ein höheres Jahresgehalt als z.B. Barack Obama, Angela Merkel oder auch Jacob Zuma.

Vom Premierminister und den vielen (nutzlosen, da inaktiven) Parlamentsabgeordneten und ihren Jahresgehältern ganz zu schweigen.

Deswegen brauchen wir Spenden (“Eine Schulmahzeit hat einen Wet von 20 Cent”) für die Schüler. Weil korrupte Politiker lieber Grundnahrungsmittel & Anbaufläche für einen Gewinn ins Ausland verkaufen und nachhaltige Landwirtschaft (mit allem was dazugehört) auch in Kenia immer noch ein Fremdwort ist.

“Also to be discussed will be the effect on food security of existing land tenure systems and lease/sale of agricultural land to foreign investors “It is hoped that the conference will lead to more informed discussions on food security concerns among important stakeholders, including national and regional parliaments, so that sustainable agricultural development is placed at the centre of investment decision making,” she said.” (Quelle)

GROSSE SPENDENAKTION! !!!1!11! (5 Tage lang)

Ich halte von dieser Aktion überhaupt nichts. Und: wieso gibt es so etwas nicht mal für die Kinderarmut in Deutschland?


(filed under: poverty porn, misguided & embarrassing activism, wrong dev aid policies, disgusting corporate social responsibility)

FarmVille ni…

Story by KBW correspondent
Publication date: Aug 25th, 2009

FamVille

FarmVille is a new Kenyan game on Facebook where you can grab land, excel in overgrazing farmland and overstocking sheep & cattle, buy luxurious decorations and spend the rest of the time idling with a sundowner in your hand.

A report by the KenyaTimes recently revealed that most employees in Nairobi CBD are spending their lunch break in front of computers, playing FarmVille. FarmVille is said to have 9 million users worldwide, a quarter of Kenya’s current population.

A personal computer, commonly referred to as an IBM-compatible device, is a machine often see in offices, hidden under a dust cover. The first personal computer was brought to Kenya by an US-American bible translator family in 1979.

One employee of Kenya Paraffin, Lanterns and Candles (KPLC) who wants to remain anonymous, told us that Kenya currently experiences a power rationing program due to an excessive use of Facebook.

Facebook is a very successful website on the internet (mtandao wa intaneti), often used as a dating site and for subversive political and digital activism. The website includes a microblogging service called “status update” which has recently substituted the blooming Kenyan blogosphere.

Another popular microblogging service called “Twitter” (ndege kelele) has meanwhile been condemned by the Government Spokesperson Dr. Alfred E. Neuman who said that “it can not send SMS” to him. In a related matter, Dr. Alfred recently anounced that those without telephone network should sms him directly so that he can forward the matter to the relevant ministry in charge of terrorcommunications.

A delegation of Kenyan MPs, who is currently touring the United States, recently wrote a letter to the Office of the President, asking for a national holiday to celebrate FarmVille Day. This, as they explained in their open letter, will also help those urban citizens who have in the past failed to secure their own upcountry shamba due to lack of funds and competition in their extended family networks.

A group of young Kenyan writers also published an open letter, claiming that FarmVille actually comes from the United States of America and was introduced to Kenyans by visiting UN interns and PeaceCorps youth who used their daily allowances to access the internet from remote villages. This, as they claim, is “clearly evident as there is no mobile version of FarmVille”.

A group of talented programmers from JKUAT is meanwhile working on a mobile version of FarmVille. The project is financed by Sufericom.

In other news, a Mr. Kamau from Muranga’a was today injured in a battle with Mr. Ezekiel Oluoch, an official from the National Bureau of Statistics who had approached Mr. Kamau for Kenya’s fifth national census. In a heated debate, Mr. Kamau refused to state the actual number of his lifestock.

The fifth Kenya National Census is an inititiative by the GoK to allocate farm land on FarmVille according to family size and fixed assets. In an unexpected move, the World Bank and outgoing ambassadors recently called for a country wide introduction of FarmVille so that no Kenyan will have to suffer from malnutrition in future.

It’s our turn to read

“It’s Our Turn To Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower”, by Michela Wrong, ISBN 978-0-00-724196-5

P1030340

After having read this interesting book by Michela Wrong, written in a similar style as “In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo” (which I really liked) – I am still confronted with some open, or rather: resulting questions this book has generated.

And this although the issue itself – the bogus deals by the “Mount Kenya Mafia” – have been debated elsewhere numerous times. I chose so call it “elsewhere”, as Michela Wrong also mentioned the (Kenyan) blogosphere where John Githongo’s seemingly sudden departure from the official job & disclosure of cosa nostra secrets had been ripped apart in the usual manner. I am yet to see a German publication where the German blogosphere is taken into account with so much attention. This, however, may be related to their media and German sceptism which doubts anything that’s not published or confirmed by numerous sources.

I take it that a lot of readers of my blog with an interest in Kenyan affairs also read, or at least read about this book, and have their own opinion of it.

Another reason for blogging about this – already closed? – chapter of contemporary Kenyan history is that I can somehow relate to the described silver spoon upbringing of JG in a sense that a) discussions and intellectual discourse where part of the family life and b) that our generation – JG is 10 years older than me but I think most of you are just as old as I am (>30) – still enjoyed this limited or filtered view of the world, where everything new was sucked up with great interest for the lack of multiple media resources that would otherwise constantly penetrate your brain with “news”. I actually enjoyed this part the most during childhood – being forced to live in an environment where news would only dribble in, instead of showing up on the web-based RSS feedreader. Why? Because it enables you to take your time for your own development and dreams. I consider this a luxury that I am not taking for granted. Michela also mentioned this part where listening to the BBC World Service (instead of the montonous “HE DT arap Moi today said…” on KBC) was part of the daily habits. And I wouldn’t limit this to a family’s financial status as most Kenyans actually read more newspapers than e.g. Germans.

Sooo…..my first question is: why was such a book written by a foreign observer? Why not by someone in Kenya or in the diaspora? Because of fears? Or because life is so hard & busy that there’s no time for such excursions? Or is it because of the culture which is so much forward-driven, with a focus on things to come instead of those that already happened?

After the first 100 pages into the book, I thought it is a bit too Kikuyu-centric, but then, again, I think it’s Tucholsky who once said it is best to view your own country from the outside – and if these stereotypes (she even mentioned the jokes) are what it takes to draw a rough picture of this group for the uninformed world, then so be it.

Which effect did this publication have on Kenyan society (within and outside of Kenya)? What’s with the role of a whistleblower (anyone still remembers David Munyakei?) in today’s Kenya and what about that anonymous reporting tool introduced @ KACC two years ago? What do you think about JG’s actions (as described via the book)?

“Kenyans tend to quickly forgive or forget”… in the light of the post-election violence, a corruption scandal may not be that interesting after all.

I also wondered how Kenyans would feel about this book + the story it tells. The way it was written, the examples used to explain historically-based feelings inside ethnic groups, the readership it was written for… questions that pop-up between the lines, how it feels to read about your own people, friends and known public figures.

Michela also mentioned the network: “..he became aware of a delicate cobweb of expectations, obligations and duties tying him down” which makes Kenyan politics so interesting to me. It’s like having half of the Kenyan blogosphere / diaspora as friends on Facebook and Twitter, and then publishing opinionated status updates in a Koigi wa Wamwere manner. And, again, comparing Kenya to Germany (which is an on-going mission of this blog, I think), I am yet to see an interesting book on a contemporary German politician. Most of them are just as boring as their political agenda – which is also why Angela Merkel will most likely win the upcoming elections in Germany and remain Chancelorette for the next legislative period. Not because she’s any better or because she’s a woman (only positive reason, it seems), but because she has a network where she remains the queen at the center of the beehive. This is btw the same woman who once refused to meet with Barack Obama and later on licked his boots just because his network is so much more influential then hers.

You know it’s a bit hypocritical to openly wonder about politics & corruption in an African state when at the same time Europe comes up with dictators leaders such as Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. You can write a book about just another African economy that has been corrupted in the past by the Hippo Generation and a laissez-faire mentality in society, and it will sell quite well. But a book on a corrupt European leader? No. Makes me wonder where our priorities are.

Another detail or theme that I’ve been wondering about is the change on Kenyan culture. Yes, Kenyan culture. As paradox as it may seem – and I am not talking about books like “How to be a Kenyan” by the late Wahome Mutahi, the national dress once artificially invented by the Nyayo regime (Nyayo car??!) but rather this new Kenya which developed along with Moi’s last years, NARC and the 2002 elections and the spirit it brought to society since then.

The appreciation of a society for cultural values – their own + shaped style, language, habits, new communication tools – has so often been an indicator to me of how a country actually performs. Please correct me if I am wrong on this, but I think that Kenya has in the past 10 years eventually found its own roots somewhere out there where local stars have become more interesting than foreigners, where the City of Nairobi is actually (& eventually!) regarded as a cosmopolitan place (despite frequent power failures & water shortages) and where there’s much more nationalism to be found these days which is not based on Obama’s Kenyan roots or just another sports athlete. And it’s not that Nairobi has never been that progressive before – only: the speed of growth seemingly increased tremendously, it seems (to me).

Taking this new Nairobi as an indicator (! – pole for the NGO lingo) for things to come, where do these worlds of the old and new mix up to the bigger picture? When will we see the political change in Kenya the electorate voted for in 2002 and 2007? A new Kenya where power failures are a thing of the past, where broadband internet connections will help the youth stay in rural areas (vs. urbanisation), where water bodies are actually protected and land grabbing reversed for the sake of a growing nation? Where education and proper health care are top priorities?

Questions which probably won’t be answered any time soon, but I secretly wish that integre characters like John Githongo are now using the time building up their support on the basis. Bottom-up instead of top-down – maybe that’s the new strategy these days – loosely joined forces that have a nation in mind and not their own pocket, where qualifications are more important than cosa nostra networks.

Politics. I actually decided not to blog about politics anymore since January 2008, and this isn’t even meant to be book review. I’d love to read about your opinion of this book though, and maybe also find some answers to my given questions above and other things I’ve most definitely left out for various reasons. Thx!

Wrong, Johnson, Moyo – eine Auswahl

Ein Artikel online über Demenz brachte mich auf Umwegen zu Tilman Jens, der ein sehr streitbares Buch über …. den Umgang mit seinem Vater, Walter Jens , geschrieben hat.

Überhaupt, dass ein 54jähriger Mann immer wieder als “Sohn von…” eingeleitet wird, wäre dann schon Grund genug, sich noch zu Lebzeiten zu differenzieren. Aber so?

Das Thema Alzheimer haben wir in der eigenen Familie von Anfang bis Ende durchlebt und nachdem der Spuk jetzt endlich vorbei ist, frage ich mich immer wieder: was bleibt?

Was bleibt – außer der Erinnerung, der Liebe, den Verbindungen – vom Intellekt, vom Schaffen zurück?

Menschen sind wie Bäume. Je älter sie werden, desto mehr Jahresringe bekommen sie und können besser verwertet werden. Spenden sie zu Lebzeiten Schatten und Schutz, können aus ihren Stämmen später lange und breite Bretter gesägt werden. Je mehr ein Baum erLebt, desto ergiebiger lässt sich davon profitieren.

Leider stimmt der Vegleich an dieser Stelle nicht mehr, denn Krankheiten wie Alzheimer oder Parkinson befallen Menschen wie ein Pilz, der die Substanz verändert und genau dort ansetzt, wo es am meisten schmerzt. Aus brauchbar wird unbrauchbar.

Eine ähnliche Frage stelle ich mir immer wieder bei Online Publikationen, die oft weniger breit und nachhaltig irgendwo im weiten Datennetz erscheinen und ob der Fülle an Informationen im Datennirwana untergehen.

Dieser Blogpost könnte auch ganz anders betitelt werden und ich könnte vielleicht von Anfang an hervorheben, dass ich mich viel lieber mit der Bedeutung von Onlineveröffentlichungen vs. Büchern beschäftigen würde.

Allein, ich vermag es in seiner Gänze nicht zu erfassen, gar zu überblicken, daher beschränke ich mich auf simple Fragen und stelle im Folgenden drei Bücher vor, die jetzt dank Amazon den Weg auf meinen Schreibtisch gefunden haben und sich elegant an der sonstigen Pflichtlektüre vorbeimogeln.

Die Pflichtlektüre besteht zur Zeit übrigens aus wissenschaftlichen Publikationen zum Thema Abwasserbehandlung in Entwicklungsländern, was zwar technisch überaus interessant ist, aber eben nicht faszinieren vermag – ganz im Gegensatz zu Gegenwartsliteratur über den afrikanischen Kontinent.

Eines aber noch vorweg: wenn wir in Zeiten einer WebCiety den Wechsel hin zu einer sich-ins-Netz-verlagernden-Gesellschaft bemerken, in der die Kommunikation miteinander an erster Stelle steht, stelle ich mir zwangläufig immer wieder die Frage: welchen Stellenwert haben Bücher (gedruckt, auf Papier) im 21. Jahrhundert?

Und: wer soll das alles lesen (?)…. in einer Zeit, in der die Aufmerksamkeitsspanne von Jugendlichen durch MTV und YouTube gerade einmal gefühlte 10 Minuten beträgt und wenn Informationen nicht mehr in kleinen Häppchen oder gar in Linkform präsentiert werden?

Wenn wir weiterhin davon ausgehen, dass sich moderne e-Book Reader (wie Amazons Kindle und kostengünstige Einsteigercomputer wie Netbooks als alternative e-Book reader) durchsetzen werden (oder gar Handyromane, wie in Japan schon sehr populär), wie werden diese Inhalte (und nur darum geht es eigentlich) mit dem neuen Konsumverhalten vernetzt? Werden unsere Kinder das Buch als solches wahrnehmen und konsumieren, oder eher als Teil des Wissens in einer virtuellen Bibliothek abspeichern? Und wie werden sie damit umgehen?

Alles Fragen, die mich immer wieder beschäftigen und die micht jetzt trotzdem nicht vom Kauf der folgenden Exemplare abgehalten haben:

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Michaela Wrong: “It’s our turn to eat – the story of a Kenyan whistle blower”

Über John Githongo und seinen Kampf gegen die kenianische Korruption. Aufgeschrieben von Michaela Wrong, die ihn seinerzeit in seinem selbstgewählten Exil in England aufnahm. Michaela Wrongs Buch über Mobutu wurde schon gierig verschlungen und liest sich gut, ähnliches erwarte ich daher auch von diesem Werk, das die (größtenteils schon bekannten) Verstrickungen kenianischer Politiker in Korruptionsskandale beschreibt .

Dieses Buch wird in Kenia zur Zeit wohl nur unterm Ladentisch verkauft und dürfte sich zu einem Beststeller entwickeln, denn – anders als der Verfall Kongos – handelt es sich bei Kenia um eines der reichsten Länder Afrikas. Freilich hat Kenia nicht die Bodenschätze, wie sie Botswana oder der Kongo (DRC) aufweisen können. Seinen Reichtum zieht es vielmehr aus der geopolitisch günstigen Lage am Indischen Ozean (Hafen, Tourismus), den vielen Exilkenianern im Ausland (die für einen informellen Geldfluss sorgen) und vielleicht auch noch aus der Agrarwirtschaft (Kaffee, Tee, Blumen). Und während viele Ministerien immer noch vom Geldsegen der EU abhängen, die gelegentlich ein paar Pickups als Projektautos finanzieren, verfügen viele kenianische Politiker über ein sehr gutes Einkommen, das im sehr krassen Verhältnis zu ihren eigenen Leistungen, aber vor allem dem Durchschnittseinkommen im Lande steht.

Korruption als solche mag für viele als Ausgleichssystem für die vielen Ungerechtigkeiten in der Volkswirtschaft verstanden werden. Tatsächlich jedoch ist sie wie ein Pilz, der ein gesundes System zerstört und unbrauchbar werden lässt.

Die wirkliche Kernaussage dieses Buches scheint aber zu sein, dass das korrupte System vom scheinbar eigenen Mann aufgedeckt worden ist, der als Vertreter einer neuen Generation mit anderen Werten und Idealen aufgewachsen ist. Was wir hier sehen, ist der ungerechte Kampf zwischen den alten Männern eines über die Jahre gewachsenen profitablen Systems und einzelnen Vertretern wie John Githongo, die über einen viel moderneren Erfahrungshorizont verfügen.

Wäre ich ein bißchen Deutscher und älter – vielleicht so wie Tilman Jens – würde ich es vielleicht mit den Identifikationsproblemenen der 1968/1978er Generation im Nachkriegsdeutschland vergleichen. Interessant dabei: die wirklichen Auswirkungen erkennen wir oft erst an der folgenden Generation.

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Dominic Johnson “Kongo: Kriege, Korruption und die Kunst des Überlebens”

Dominic Johnson ist mir als Afrika Korrespondent der taz bekannt, dessen Artikel seinerzeit mit einer der Gründe für mein taz-Abo waren.

Ich war noch nie im Kongo, jedoch steht die Region auf meiner Reiseliste ganz weit oben. Aufmerksame Leser meines Blogs wissen sicherlich, dass ich hier schon den einen oder anderen Artikel mit Inhalten zum Kongo (als Region, nicht nur DRC) veröffentlich habe. Kurzum: für mich ein überaus vielversprechendes Buch, in dem ich vielleicht auch meine Vermutung wiederfinden werde, dass sich die “Demokratische Republik Kongo” in den nächsten Jahren in Einzelstaaten aufteilen wird. Der Kongo ist die für mich zur Zeit spannendste Region Afrikas.

“Die Kunst des Überlebens” – ja. Trefflicher kann man es wohl nicht beschreiben.

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Dambisa Moyo: “Dead Aid – Destroying the biggest global myth of our time”

Ein Buch im Stil von Prof George Ayitteys “Africa Unchained – The Blueprint for Africa’s Future”, das die “Ablasszahlungen” des Westens an Afrika beschreibt und einen neuen Weg aufzeigen möchte, der wirkliche Entwicklung in Afrika ermöglichen soll.

Da ich auch in dieser aufgeklärten Zeit immer wieder auf Zeitgenossen stoße, die ein komplett falsches Bild vom afrikanischen Kontinent und dem riesigen Potential haben, ist es umso wichtiger, Vertreter neuer Theorien zu entdecken, die – wissenschaftlich fundiert – eine eigene Lösung aus der Misere beschreiben und idealerweise auch noch über die nötige berufliche Erfahrung verfügen, die ihre Glaubwürdigkeit untermauert.

In Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth. (Quelle)

Dambisa wurde letztens auch von der BBC im HardTalk interviewt und ich habe sie vorhin via Twitter auf das Africa Gathering Ende April in London hingewiesen. Mal schauen was draus wird…Sie kann nicht, ist auf Lesereise in den USA.

The silver lining der hier vorgestellten Werke ist für mich ganz klar die Erkenntnis, dass es Veränderungen in Afrika nur durch eine neue Generation geben kann, die – aufgewachsen mit traditionellen Verhaltensmustern und typischen US-amerikanischen SitComs wie dem Fresh Prince of BelAir – ihren eigenen Weg finden muss.

UPDATE: Fünf Wochen nach VÖ dieses Beitrags ist in der FAZ ein Interview zu Dambisa Moyos Buch erschienen. Und jetzt hat sie sogar wohl noch im Vortrag bei der Weltbank überzeugt. Wer sich auch nur ein bißchen mit Afrika beschäftigt, sollte dieses Buch unbedingt lesen – kann es wärmstens empfehlen. Weniger um einen möglichen Lösungsweg aufgezeigt zu bekommen, als vielmehr die moderne Einstellung des neuen Afrikas zu verstehen.