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Bridging the Digital Divide In Uganda, By Freight

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the my-most-beloved-recipient dept.

Businesses 146

jtrust27 writes "Slow or non-existent Internet connections have meant that the people of Uganda have not been able to harness the many advantages of the online economy. This social and economic exclusion of the poorest of the poor was further accentuated by the impossibility for a Ugandan to obtain a credit card or make PayPal payments — a simple requirement to be able to pay for goods and services online. Most merchants and payment gateway providers automatically block all credit cards from Africa, and it is not possible to get a verified PayPal account in many African nations." Now, a Ugandan company called EasyPayUganda is helping people sidestep these restrictions, by allowing customers to make online payments by proxy in order to pay for services and goods. EasyPayUganda is also providing a logistics solution, forwarding customers' shipments to Uganda, as most online merchants will not ship to Africa.

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146 comments

Africa (4, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31971978)

It's interesting that people complain how Africa is a third world country and how we should help them, but interestingly everyone sets artificial restrictions on them and restricts them from the other world. Many countries in the world ship food help and money there but if African countries are banned from using the services the rest of the world uses their region will never develop to the same level.

Instead of spending billions dollars to help Africa every year, what about if we open the services and let African countries develop normally like rest of the world?

Obviously theres the danger of fraud single they're still developing countries, but it's better to think long term. We can use the aid to cover the cost from frauds, and maybe in a few years we can stop spending so much money to help them. It will save us a lot more, especially in the long run.

I'm glad theres those single individuals who fight for it and try to make the world a better place.

Re:Africa (1)

dlochinski (1542339) | about 4 years ago | (#31972014)

I agree, we are not helping by holding restrictions, but we definitely don't want to let them loose. I also can't help but think that if Africa was improved, if some other continent or region will take their place, kind of like equilibrium.

Re:Africa (3, Insightful)

feuerfalke (1034288) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972440)

How in the world would another nation or continent regress simply because conditions in Africa improve? I guess you could make an argument that there are limited resources in the world - but I seriously doubt that another developing or developed nation would suddenly plummet into the stone age simply because Africa is catching up with the rest of the world. Whether or not the rest of the developed world wants to share any of its resources with Africa is another story, however... how many Americans would give up their oversized homes and cars and reduce their ridiculous consumption of meat, water, and so on just so that some far-off distant nation can fare a little better?

Re:Africa (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972998)

"how many Americans would give up their"

I wouldn't be willing to give up very much of anything for Africans, Asians, Europeans, or even for Martians if we found that Martians are starving. The fact is, Africa has enough resources to provide for their own people. The real problems in Africa center on two core issues: warfare, and education. So long as millions of people remain uneducated, and rely on ages old superstitions born of ignorance (having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS, for instance) there isn't a whole lot that can be done about Africa's poverty. Worse, young men are going off to join one army or another, to kill their neighbor's young men. What can you expect of war ravaged nations?

The governments need to mandate that the kids are given decent educations, and they need to stop the warring factions. That done, the world couldn't do much to hold them back.

Re:Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31974474)

Agreed. Europe was in much the same condition for thousands of years until we collectively decided that the idea of constant warfare was stupid and bad for business. The notion that anyone needs our help to get out of their bad situation is ridiculous.

Re:Africa (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 3 years ago | (#31974610)

The real problems in Africa center on two core issues: warfare, and education....The governments need to mandate that the kids are given decent educations, and they need to stop the warring factions.

Absolutely agreed. It would really help if the U.S. were as concerned about that as it is about the Taliban. If we would put real pressure on those governments through trade, diplomacy, etc., to show a sincere urgency that they stop murdering and oppressing their citizens, I think it would help. But there is no real effort in that direction, compared to say, mining their diamonds.

Re:Africa (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#31975536)

The Taliban consists of people who harbor people that want to blow us up. Africa, not generally as much. The other problem is that a lot of Africa is not really under the control of a government - any government. People were so hot and bothered about getting the Europeans out of Africa that they never bothered to think about teaching the locals how to replace them. In India, this set the stage for decades of near-Communism and a Byzantine government bureaucracy - and that was in a country that was relatively modern. In Africa, well, they never stood a chance.

Re:Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972032)

Erectus walks amongst us, [erectuswalksamongst.us] my friend. Perhaps the largest indicator of the American conservatives' folly is denying Africa birth control. Try teaching your un-neutered dog about "abistinence" when bitches in heat roam the streets and you have no leash.

America is the new Africa. Why go through the trouble to gather a slave from Africa while America's citizens will buy anything while being too fat, docile, and content to rise against their corporate overlords?

"Laugh and grow fat" -- Fatman, from Metal Gear Solid 2...the best game ever made aside of Metal Gear Solid 4

Re:Africa (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 4 years ago | (#31972200)

the problem is the aid doesn't come close to covering the fraud that would happen if you just opened the doors.

it's chicken and egg, we can't trust transactions from africa, but they can't rise above the need to steal to survive because we can't trust them. unfortunately for the people in africa it's not going to be the credit companies and merchants that give in first.

credit and merchant issues aren't their biggest problems though, it's the lack of stable government. some area's in africa are pure machette country, meaning you'll be hacked to death for a 350ml bottle of water. no business can safely operate there, so the people don't get to benefit from trade dooming them to at best a poor farming lifestyle.

Re:Africa (2, Insightful)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973276)

the basic problem seems to be that we have a habit of talking about africa as a single place, rather then multiple nations.

Re:Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31975522)

Alternatively, you talk of Africa as if it consisted of groups that exist in a cohesive manner and behave in a coordinated fashion.

Really, Africa consists of arbitrarily designated territories that cover hundreds of disparate groups, each consisting of people who only have in common ancestry and hatred of nearby groups, but otherwise act mainly as individuals and thus little concerted action to improve their situation can be performed.

Until we can truly form nations of constant purpose dedicated to the betterment of our people, nothing anyone else can do will help.

Re:Africa (5, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | about 4 years ago | (#31972206)

It's interesting that people complain how Africa is a third world country and how we should help them, but interestingly everyone sets artificial restrictions on them and restricts them from the other world.

It's not that interesting, because you are talking about two different sets of people. The people upset about poverty in Africa are not the same people who run financial institutions that block Africa from global participation.

Re:Africa (2, Insightful)

CondeZer0 (158969) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973114)

What blocks Africa from global participation are the tariffs, subsidies and other trade barriers in the 'developed' world; specially theinsane farm subsidies in Europe and the US [cat-v.org] .

Financial institutions on the other hand have little if any incentive to block Africa from global participation as Africa does not represent a threat to their business and actually represents an opportunity to expand.

Re:Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31974676)

I don't get the reasoning. If financial institutions have no incentive to block Africa, why are they doing it? For fun? I think the logic is that the fraud is too high, and that leads to loss, and that is a financial disincentive. But then again, I didn't rtfa.

Re:Africa (2, Informative)

Jyms (598745) | more than 3 years ago | (#31975748)

It's interesting that people complain how Africa is a third world country and how we should help them, but interestingly everyone sets artificial restrictions on them and restricts them from the other world.

Another thing that hurts Africa is that even an intelligent audience like Slashdot thinks of Africa as a third world COUNTRY, when in fact it is a continent with a billion people spread over 61 territories (53 countries), covering about one fifth of the world's landmass.

Re:Africa (2, Interesting)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972334)

Yeah, I'm with you: if there's any place that needs help, it's Africa.

But there are barriers to the help.

Remember Idi Amin? When THAT asshole left, the country was in ruin. THEN they got a new, bigger, meaner asshole to make lives miserable. Not opinion: he set up parties to attack towns, binding women's hands behind their back, instructing the parties to rape them, and throw them from the bell towers of churches. I guess it was some sign of brutality; as if they were any unaware.

One family escaped a group like this, trying to get home, when 'mom' fell and was beaten with shock absorbers (of all things). The rest of the family made it, but the 'dad' still has to walk past her body every day to go to town/work because the raiding party took 'mom's' head. And the local custom/religion says she can't be buried until she's complete.

These kinds of problems make sharing and cooperation difficult to say the least.

Outside forces have other devious plans. Take the mosquito-net thing. France is the world's largest (if not only) mosquito net maker. So they fear-monger the continent into believing that America's DDT is death incarnate. Somehow they are to believe that DDT has made zombies of the largest superpower.

So instead of using DDT and getting past the 300,000 deaths each year, they buy French mosquito nets, and wonder how the US survives. DDT stopped being deadly about 50 years ago. The deaths were minimal. But these days almost no one has malaria in America.

So here it is: how do you do business with neighbors that use brutality as their government and healthcare system? How do you bring in power lines when neighboring rebels will just cut them down? How can *ANYONE* theorize about the coolness of an iPod when the family is dying of diseases?

It's not about money or food; it's about FREEDOM.

Those starving people you see on TV don't have the freedom, or in many cases the knowledge that selling a good or service could make their lives better. TONS of food are brought in weekly to be wasted on warlords. They lack the freedom to find a better life.

If there ever was a place on Earth of which mankind should be ashamed, it's Africa. I wish them well; it's all I can do.

Africa is fungible and unpleasant (1, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972356)

To promote aid in most regions of Africa, you have to be prepared to deliver that aid against armed resistance, or accept that that aid might be coopted to feed the army that oppresses people who need aid. That's not really helping.

I really do want to help these folk, and I can think of no better way to do that than to repeat the message of the great (and missed) Sam Kinnison: Move to where the food is. You're in a freaking desert where things don't grow. MOVE.

Re:Africa is fungible and unpleasant (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972482)

Aha, but we don't let them. Immigration into the land of milk and honey is nigh impossible for these third-worlders and in case they start uprooting the rainforest, we make that a preserve (except where we do the uprooting in our own interests). We plunder their natural resources and cut them out of the loop, often by controlling their resistance through helping the oppressive regimes. Telling the people of Africa to "move to where the food is" is cynical at best. Besides, food isn't the biggest problem in most parts of Africa. It isn't all a desert, you know?

The Land of Milk and honey (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972692)

First, the moral position: If I was them, I'd come here. I can't hold it against them if they do what I would do if I were in their place. How could I do that? I could tell myself I was an idiot? Legal? What is legal? If your daughter needs bread you do what you have to do to get her bread - weather, obstacles, international borders notwithstanding. The borders don't matter to her - if she doesn't get calories she'll die no matter which side of a border she's on.

Telling the people of Africa to "move to where the food is" is cynical at best.

Actually, none of them are reading this because Internet access is sparse in the Sahele, and they have other stuff to look at. That means I'm being insentive for show to my fellow Internet geeks. Yeah, that's what this is about.

You're probably pinning me as some "don't care" prick. I really do care. I just don't see what I can do. If I give these people money, it winds up in the hands of the junta that's killing them.

Look, this is Africa. I have a reasonable amount of disposabe income and if I could actually help the poor there with it they could have it. But I can't. The best I can do is to say: move to where the food is. If you can find a path out of Africa, go!.

Re:The Land of Milk and honey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972808)

The things which hurt Africa the most are all external to Africa: Stop the exploitation of Africa's resources which destroys the local environment (and thus livelihood of the people) but doesn't let them participate in the value of these resources. "Fair trade" is an attempt to better the situation, but the biggest impact is made by mining and drilling for raw resources, which are typically not available at fair trade shops. (Also look into the financial system's role in this mess: We leave these countries no choice but to "pay" with their resources after we've put them deep into debt.)

Arms dealing with the third world is a big factor. Again, this is not something which the people in Africa can control. This is our doing, we need to stop it.

Helping the third world is always about giving them food or money to buy food, i.e. about sustaining their plight just above starvation level. How about we stop robbing them blind?

Most of africa is rather nice, actually. (4, Interesting)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972636)

To promote aid in most regions of Africa, you have to be prepared to deliver that aid against armed resistance, or accept that that aid might be coopted to feed the army that oppresses people who need aid. That's not really helping.

Patent nonsense.

Most regions of Africa don't need food aid.

Most regions of African don't have ongoing armed conflict.

I really do want to help these folk, and I can think of no better way to do that than to repeat the message of the great (and missed) Sam Kinnison: Move to where the food is.

So you campaign for open borders?

You're in a freaking desert where things don't grow. MOVE.

Most of the inhabited regions of Africa are not deserts. Things grow.

Africa has problems, but it is not the starving hell-hole you seem to think it is.

Re:Most of africa is rather nice, actually. (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972714)

Since you would school me, specifically which part of Africa is immune to these ills?

Re:Most of africa is rather nice, actually. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#31974622)

The countries of Africa are:

  Algeria
  Angola
  Benin
  Botswana
  Burkina Faso
  Burundi
  Cameroon
  Cape Verde
  Central African Republic
  Chad
  Comoros
  Côte d'Ivoire
  Democratic Republic of the Congo
  Djibouti
  Egypt
  Equatorial Guinea
  Eritrea
  Ethiopia
  Gabon
  Ghana
  Guinea
  Guinea-Bissau
  Kenya
  Lesotho
  Liberia
  Libya
  Madagascar
  Malawi
  Mali
  Mauritania
  Mauritius
  Morocco
  Mozambique
  Namibia
  Niger
  Nigeria
  Republic of the Congo
  Rwanda
  Senegal
  Seychelles
  Sierra Leone
  South Africa
  Sudan
  Swaziland
  São Tomé and Príncipe
  Tanzania
  The Gambia
  Togo
  Tunisia
  Uganda
  Zambia
  Zimbabwe

How man of them currently have ongoing armed conflict?

Re:Most of africa is rather nice, actually. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#31975604)

Would you please just explain yourself? He admitted ignorance and asked for knowledge. I'm doing the same.

Re:Most of africa is rather nice, actually. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#31976084)

Would you please just explain yourself? He admitted ignorance and asked for knowledge. I'm doing the same.

Well, you take the list I posted, and remove the countries where there is armed conflict and that gives you some idea of where there is peace.

Where is there conflict at the moment?

Probably the worst is in the Congo, near the Rwanda/Burundi border. (The Congo is insanely huge and difficult to move around in, the rest of the country is probably pretty calm).

There may still be some minor fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan, but nothing like previous levels.

I think the LRA may still be pissing around in the far north of Uganda.

There has been some inter-communal violence in Nigeria.

There is some trouble in Angola's enclave Cabinda.

There is still fighting in Somalia. And pirates. (Did anyone outside France hear about the recent pirate attack on a French warship? Poor buggers mistook a fleet supply vessel it for a civilian ship.)

There's a bit or terrorism up north (Algeria, Niger and so on).

Any I've forgotten?

Re:Most of africa is rather nice, actually. (1)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 3 years ago | (#31976246)

That's what he was asking! From memory, most of those have turned up in the news as having bloody wars in the last twenty years, let alone insurgents. At the very least Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Congo, Mozambique, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan have had nasty wars recently. Probably a few more I have forgotten about. Nigeria is filled with religious tension between Islamic and christian areas and also anti-oil company violence. There are/were armed groups in Zimbabwe, Uganda (killing tourists) Egypt (ditto) and a fair bit of violent crime in South Africa. Even the Seychelles now has Somalian pirates picking off boats nearby, and that applies to Kenya and I guess Comoros as well. Mauritius is probably the nicest/safest of those places to visit.

Re:Most of africa is rather nice, actually. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973514)

I'm an American citizen living in Mexico. I can hear the gunfire from the drug wars outside, and I have an armored car that I use the fight my way to the shops to get food so that I can hunker down at home hoping that some drug-crazed loony doesn't smash my door down and take my wife into white slavery for drug money.

Not.

Having lived and worked in Africa as well as a few other "third world" countries, I totally agree with the above poster. The new agencies don't like to post news about the latest nice thing that happened - they like it better then people shoot each other because that rather, umm, unusual. Are there problems in Africa? Sure. Are there problems in Detriot? You betcha. The vast majority of people in any of these places are hard working honest souls who would just like to join the rest of the world.

What are you worried about? Do you think they would compete with you?

Re:Africa is fungible and unpleasant (3, Interesting)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 3 years ago | (#31976684)

To promote aid in most regions of Africa, you have to be prepared to deliver that aid against armed resistance, or accept that that aid might be coopted to feed the army that oppresses people who need aid. That's not really helping.

I've worked in medical/humanitarian for the better part of a decade, mostly in Africa, in some of the most active conflict areas. I have worked in Darfur, eastern Congo/the Kivus, northern Uganda, etc during some of the peaks in violence and insecurity. I have never delivered aid against armed resistance, nor do I know anyone or any organization who has. That's movie/TV stuff, not reality.

Second, of course aid will be coopted, redirected or siphoned to various armed groups. That is the nature of armed groups, to take by force.

The "not really helping" comment - actually, the entire paragraph reveals your naivety - it is impossible to provide aid without a diversion, either into the grey/black markets, pockets of armed factions, open markets.

I really do want to help these folk, and I can think of no better way to do that than to repeat the message of the great (and missed) Sam Kinnison: Move to where the food is. You're in a freaking desert where things don't grow. MOVE.

An ignorant joke that only makes sense or is funny when the listener has no knowledge of the subject.

The mostly heavily populated areas of Africa are temperate. Humans evolved on the African high plains. Think about it.

Re:Africa is fungible and unpleasant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31977266)

thing is, much of subsahara africa was a bread basket (zimbabwe for example). now, perfectly fertile land is laying fallow because the farmer can not compete with american aid food, the warlords and such will raid their farm, and there is no water for growing european and NA crops (canola, yams, and other root crops do great there, but rich countries don't like them)

when you can't sell your crops without getting pushed out by subsidized foreign stuff or getting pinched by the goon squad, begging looks like a better choice.

if we want to fix the problem, we should help them with irrigation, bust up the warlords, and stop flooding their markets with our excess.
otherwise they will be dependant on the west forever

Re:Africa (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972488)

I searched for Uganda news. The message as I see it is that we need engineer boots on the ground to build infrastructure. Just sending money will not be enough there and it would not be enough here. Send auditors too.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201004050070.html [allafrica.com]

Re:Africa (1)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 3 years ago | (#31977184)

I searched for Uganda news. The message as I see it is that we need engineer boots on the ground to build infrastructure. Just sending money will not be enough there and it would not be enough here. Send auditors too.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201004050070.html [allafrica.com]

Read between the lines of the story you linked. This is a problem that's typical of Uganda and it's not matter of "needing more engineer boots on the ground to build infrastructure." The problem is corruption at all levels.

Huawei and the Chinese are bending the Ugandans over on this one, which is normal because in Uganda, everyone gets screwed at some point.

Re:Africa (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972606)

Obviously theres the danger of fraud single they're still developing countries, but it's better to think long term. We can use the aid to cover the cost from frauds, and maybe in a few years we can stop spending so much money to help them. It will save us a lot more, especially in the long run.

Well there's the rub. Credit card companies are not charities. If a large enough % of purchases originating from poor countries are fraudulent, they're going to implement measures to prevent such purchases happening in the first place. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of overseas purchases by $ value originating from Uganda and similar countries were fraudulent

Re:Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972658)

"Slow or non-existent internet connections have meant that the people of Uganda for the last three decades have not been able to harness the many advantages of the online economy. This social and economic exclusion of the poorest of the poor"

Bullshit. There is no "economic exclusion" of Ugandans, they are simply too STUPID to make their own bloody country work, and everybody knows it.

But don't tell me, it's all white people's fault. Isn't it always?
Let them run their own lives, and they will all be living in mud huts and starving to death. Not OUR fault. THEIR fault.

And if you love living around blacks so much, YOU move to Africa and live with them, stop FORCING them on US.

Good, you do it then (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973058)

You ship your goods from your small story to Africa then and just take the 100% fraud as the cost of doing ethical business. See how long you survive.

Re:Africa (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 3 years ago | (#31975524)

Due to the amount of fraud and corruption in the country, shipping anything to Africa is an expensive proposition. The country is pretty much shut out of online shopping because a very high percentage of purchase attempts are fraudulent in nature. I have an older laptop I was going to give someone in Africa. Shipping on a 10 lb box is in excess of $300 US. I was unwilling to pay that much to give away an old working laptop. Most major carriers such as USPS, UPS, etc will not ship freight collect. DHL is the only major carrier that will ship freight collect, but they will only do so prepaid in cash. They will not take a check or credit card. They are all too often stolen, forged, or fake.

Until the corruption is fixed so it is not a large percentage of all freight going to Africa, this problem will continue. Ebay and Craigslist fraud are a good portion of the stuff that does get shipped to Africa. If you contact the fraud department of UPS or DHL, they admit to the large numbers of complaints on shipments to Africa. The worst area is Western Africa state.

The attempts to acquire goods and money by fraud is so prevelant that answering the fraud offers to ebay scams and such is a sport. Search and read scam warning sites such as scamwarners, 419eater, and others. There is a large range of common well known scams including Advance Fee (419 scam), Music Lessons (piano, guitar, trumpet etc lessons for an unacompanied minor), Property rental (they don't own the property being rented) apartment or vacation rental (they rent your property with fake check or money order then have to cancel) you take the cancellation fee from the fake check and wire them the rest. Guess who gets stung when the check bounces. Learn the scams. One youtube video shows the huge number of fake checks one guy collected in responding to these fake offers.

On one of the scambait sites a couple of the users decided to have a friendly competition to see who could get a scammer to send them the largest fake check. They made a video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2zEU74LFMk&feature=related [youtube.com]

Here is a collection of fake checks sent to just one scambaiter who was wasting the time of fraudsters.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEsC4cD9FEU&NR=1 [youtube.com]

Warning, if you visit the site linked in the video, many of the photos are NSFW.

Re:Africa (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#31976266)

Well, it reminds me of Stargate (the movie). Keep people on a low tech level, so they can’t defend themselves against being exploited.
Ask the Yes Men about how the WTO deliberately does this, backed by the will of the western population for cheap crap.

Or when was the last time you did fair business with an African?

The wonderful thing about the Internet is, that you can (theoretically) even do business when you live in a tent in the desert. (Not judging the lifestyle here.) So it’s perfect for areas poor of resources.
In my opinion, if you simply gave poor African regions a Internet connection, own laptops, a freed them from the “I don’t know how to do that.” social conditioning, then it wouldn’t take long until they would come up with lots of great services that we happily would pay for. Because the knowledge is all on the net. (Of course learning foreign languages would be the recommended first step, and should be pre-installed on the system. :)

Re:Africa (1)

nroets (1463881) | more than 3 years ago | (#31976966)

It's interesting that people complain how Africa is a third world country and how we should help them, but interestingly everyone sets artificial restrictions on them and restricts them from the other world.

The restrictions of Paypal and other payment networks on African citizens are not artificial. They are market forces reacting to the failure of African governments to prosecute fraud cases properly.

It is not difficult to understand why African governments are soft on crime. For example, the much stricter US criminal justice system is now incarcerating 10% of African American males, drastically increasing the number of single African American mothers. The Economist has a detail explanation of the phenomenon.

Helping Africa has proven extremely difficult: Aid in the form of infrastructure projects have often resulted in making governments lazy. More recently, some economists have speculated that increased trade leads to higher HIV rates and subsequent decline.

It is however not all doom and gloom: Celphones have had a enormous impact, arguably more than all other inventions combined. Renewed interest in it's resource wealth, esp. from China.

And I think the process can be accelerated: Aid money going towards education and investment flows to countries with reasonably good economic policies.

Let's just hope... (2, Funny)

ls671 (1122017) | about 4 years ago | (#31971982)

Let's just hope those people are reliable ;-))

Re:Let's just hope... (5, Funny)

Bugamn (1769722) | about 4 years ago | (#31972188)

Dear Mr./Mrs.,

First, we must solicit your strict confidence in this transaction. This is by virtue of its nature as being utterly confidential.

We represent the poor people of Uganda and we need your help with some online transactions. We have created this site to allow the poor people of Uganda to take part on the online economy, but worldwide distrust won't allow us to continue.

We have got the ammount of two Million Dollars, but we need the help of an american citizen to receive the money. After careful research we have chosen you to help us.

As part of this business you will be allowed to keep one quarter of the total money, while using the rest to buy the goods for our clients. We only need 2 thousand dollars for legal fees to transfer the money, which will given back at the end of business.

Yours Faythfully,

Dr Clement Okon

Is Uganda in Africa? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31971984)

If it is, then I can go there and say WOW! Look at all the niggers! It's almost like any inner-city shithole!

Re:Is Uganda in Africa? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972254)

If it is, then I can go there and say WOW! Look at all the niggers! It's almost like any inner-city shithole!

Only they don't dress as funny? Seriously, I doubt Ugandans have their pant waists around their knees and wear bling.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972016)

Why don't they just get the friendly African prince to buy their goods online. He is always willing to send me money.

can't honestly discuss the place (3, Insightful)

r00t (33219) | about 4 years ago | (#31972034)

People in the USA have the weird experience of public schools going on about Africa having wonderful culture and natural resources, then as adults slowly realizing that the place is totally fucked up.

Re:can't honestly discuss the place (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972046)

In my experience people in the USA are a weird experience in their own right.

Re:can't honestly discuss the place (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 4 years ago | (#31972140)

Based on my experience, human nature is pretty universal and similar in every part of the world although it might sometimes look like it is expressed differently at first glance ;-)

Re:can't honestly discuss the place (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972216)

You're terribly naive, just plain stupid or a denialist. Africa is a violent, corrupt and sad place. Even in South Africa, which is a mix of 1st/3rd world, the level of violent crime is staggering (particularly against vulnerable elderly white people and women of all races -- there is an undeniable sense of entitlement to rape, steal and murder amongst young black africans). Electric fencing around homes is the norm.

Go do some research you stupid little fuckhole.

Re:can't honestly discuss the place (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972264)

Funny, what you describe sounds exactly like the United States. Projection much?

Africa is not a place, you know. It's an entire continent.

Re:can't honestly discuss the place (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972340)

Africa is not a place, you know. It's an entire continent.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/place

1.
a. An area (other than a continent) with definite or indefinite boundaries; a portion of space

Hey, looks like you're right, nigger.

Re:can't honestly discuss the place (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972602)

if you think the USA compares in anyway to the violence in africa, I question your life experience in a big way.

south africa has the 2nd highest rate of murder in the world, most of the other african countries would be right up there with it if they had accurate records. the USA is ranked 24th, and has 10x less murders then south africa. and remember south africa is probably the most developed country out of all of them. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita [nationmaster.com]

The truth is somewhere in the middle - been there. (5, Interesting)

Shag (3737) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972342)

I've been there several times, and Uganda - like most former colonies in Africa - isn't so much fucked up as it was fucked over. Faced with the lack of a middle-class (since of course they didn't want to stoop to being middle class, nor did they want any of the Africans to rise to that status) the British empire imported Indians by the score. Post-independence, there was all kinds of unrest, eventually culminating with Idi Amin kicking out all the Indians, which of course failed to solve anything because it wasn't like the locals were ready to take over their jobs or anything. Cue another 10-15 years of unrest, a couple coups, Museveni lets the Indians back in, they go right back to business and become more wealthy and powerful than ever, and aside from lingering problems with transboundary rebel groups in the far northwest near the borders with Sudan and Congo, the place has actually been relatively peaceful and stable for 25 years.

Unfortunately, given the history 1960-1985, development was starting from a pretty bad position - but it's been developing crazy-fast. The African Union's NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) project has been pushing good governance, anti-corruption, computers in schools and all that stuff, and Uganda's national planning authority just released a 5-year development plan, written by development professionals without consulting the parliament (which the parliament are pissed about, hehe!), and emphasizing electrification, high-tech industry, mass transit, and a bunch of other good ideas.

Of course, Uganda's still less developed than anywhere in the US except for maybe some back-woods hillbilly shack - my fiancée helped with editing the 5-year plan, and her apartment, just a few km from downtown Kampala, is at the end of a dirt lane, off another dirt lane, off a dirt road, off a paved road. And it's more surprising if the power stays on all day than if it doesn't.

The good news, though, is that thanks to some development aid partners (like Norway), it's being given development options other than "get as much oil as possible and build your economy around it" (a.k.a. the US-China model). Norway is huge on hydropower, and Uganda has a lot of potential in that area. Straddling the equator, there's plenty of solar potential too. So there's hope, at least, to preserve some of the environment, which of course is being exploited through eco-tourism.

As far as getting goods to Uganda, though... sheez, this is dead on. Never, ever try to mail anything there. I don't know whether it's customs or the postal service that's corrupt, but it's like mailing things into a black hole. I think one or two postcards I sent might have made it through. Even Express Mail doesn't get any respect. If you want to get anything to anyone, it's FedEx/DHL or bust.

The goods sold in stores have pretty much been shipped overland from Mombasa (in a barroom, drinking gin *weeps for Warren*). Former UK colony, so they're all UK-spec electrically. In '05 or '06, a clock-radio you'd pay $19 for at WalMart cost $100 due to all that shipping. Thankfully, things have gotten a little better now, but an unlocked iPhone 3G S is still $1200+. Oh, yes, there are iPhones. There's an Apple authorized reseller right downtown in Kampala, although there's an unhealthy lag for them to actually get each new revision of things in-stock. Some of the bigger regional supermarkets even carry US brands.

But credit cards... yeah, they're a novelty over there. Ugandans hardly use credit. A young man will bust his ass to get through school, then work like crazy and live on almost nothing, until he saves up enough cash to buy land and build enough of his dream house to live in. They're insanely hard-working. So basically you either meet people who have nothing (because they're working and saving) or you meet guys who are 25 and already have a large house, nice car, etc. Not so much in-between. And not on credit.

4 years ago, you could walk around the top shopping mall in the city, and nobody would take credit cards. 2-3 years ago, a few of them started. Now, they're becoming widely accepted - but mostly in the shops that cater to western tourists. And it's still nowhere near as seamless as we'd be used to. I was there in January (solar eclipse!) and I'd go to the checkout, get everything rung up, show the card, they'd fill out a form, I'd take it to the customer service desk, which had the 1 or 2 card swipe terminals in the whole store, and they'd swipe it there, and hope the network was up. :) Booking a lakeside venue for an event this summer, I was told they took credit cards... but only in person. So to those who suggest that things be treated with caution... no worries there, they've got plenty of caution. :)

It's going to be interesting to see where they're at in another 5 years, or 10, or 20. If the Gates Foundation and everyone else can get malaria eradicated, and the 5-year plan gets implemented at least as far as hydropower and electrification, maybe I'll be on flights that are less than 50% missionaries.

Re:The truth is somewhere in the middle - been the (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972500)

Faced with the lack of a middle-class (since of course they didn't want to stoop to being middle class, nor did they want any of the Africans to rise to that status) the British empire imported Indians by the score. Post-independence, there was all kinds of unrest, eventually culminating with Idi Amin kicking out all the Indians, which of course failed to solve anything because it wasn't like the locals were ready to take over their jobs or anything.

Whose fault was that? Sure, the situation he inherited wasn't ideal, but you have to play the cards in your hand.

Amin could equally have chosen not to expel the Indians.

Re:The truth is somewhere in the middle - been the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972670)

Dude, Idi Amin did that like 40 years ago - that's at least two generations, maybe more given the mortality rate there.
Sounds like they are playing the cards in their hard.

Re:The truth is somewhere in the middle - been the (2, Interesting)

Shag (3737) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972738)

Life expectancy is an aggregate, of course, and you can drag it down real fast with childhood, neonatal and maternal mortality. Sure, I know Ugandans whose kids died young, and I know ones whose kids died as young adults, and I know of people who died in their 50s or 60s, but I also know ones who are 70+ and have heard of them living to 90 or more. And of course, among the Indians, who tend to be moderately well-off, the numbers may be different. The richest man in the country, Sudhir Ruparelia (you can google him) is a hotelier who was a teenager when they were ejected; I'd put him in perhaps his late 50s now, and certainly he can afford the best medical care.

By the way, I've nothing against Uganda's Indians or Mr. Ruparelia; I've stayed at his flagship property before and my fiancée is well-acquainted with his people as well. Had the Brits handled things differently 100 years ago, perhaps the kind of perverse logic Amin espoused would never have arisen, but what's done is done.

Re:The truth is somewhere in the middle - been the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973004)

learn English. Your reply has nothing to do with the post you're replying to.

But a step is being missed (4, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973320)

We had war-torn countries before. Europe was in a bad mess after WW2. My own country, Holland had to build up from mass starvation in the last winter of the war to a modern western nation. But that did NOT happen at once. Dutch living standards took decades to reach American living standards. And in those decades, people did NOT have huge American cars or huge American style homes or living on credit. The post war years were spend working hard and saving lots and then buying modest AND domestic.

And that seems to be missing in your story. Granted, the working hard is there, but then they buy a iPhone and a big car... understandable, everyone else in the world has it, but it means local industry can't develop. If you buy a Chinese clock radio instead of an african windup clock, then that African factory can never develop to build clock radio's. Why do you think the tiger economies were so hot on producing cars, their own cars? Because if they had just bought American, they would never have developed their own economy long term.

The African economies/cultures seem to be close to cargo-cults.

A lot is made of the fact that Africa is skipping the landline and a lot of westerners think this is a great thing. WRONG.

What pacified the west? The telegraph. Telegraph lines were an essential part of conquering America, they had to be kept safe and so as a side result, any land with a line on it became safe. Same with the rail lines. As the network spread, the lands around them were made safer and became safer.

If landlines can't be installed in Africa because it is not safe, then installing a wireless network is NOT dealing with this safety issue. It doesn't matter wheter you attribute the taming of the west to train, the postal service or the telegraph. The building of these networks and the need to protect this network protected the lands around it.

When something is beyond the pale. What does that mean? Hignfy refreshed my mind on the recently, it refers to the old european punishment of putting wrong do'ers beyond the city limits. Not so long ago, being outside a city and its protection was a serious form of punishment.

If you can understand the difference that has come over europe were we can't even see why that would be a bad thing, we leave the city for FUN!!!!!, then you can't understand how Africa where lawlessness reigns is missing an essential foundation, an infrastructure for its development.

It is like building a skycraper on sand. It might look the part, but an essential part is missing, the foundation.

While this new service might sound like a good idea, I think it is very wrong indeed. It is shipping in western goods and skipping the development of the local economy, industry, infrastructure to truly support it. That you mention you need to use FOREIGN postal services to ship anything is telling enough.

The postal service is the most fundemental service of any country. Without it, nothing else can function. There is not a single developed country that did not have its own postal service and most still do.

Skip it and you are a cargo-cult, completly dependent on a foreign entity, who may bear you no malice but simply might one day not come around anymore. An African buying an iPhone at inflated prices is NOT a sign of progress.

Re:But a step is being missed (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 3 years ago | (#31974114)

If landlines can't be installed in Africa because it is not safe, then installing a wireless network is NOT dealing with this safety issue. It doesn't matter wheter you attribute the taming of the west to train, the postal service or the telegraph. The building of these networks and the need to protect this network protected the lands around it.

Very interesting point. In Uganda, I would say the issue isn't one of safety at all - it's one of the safest and friendliest countries I've ever been to - but of cost, and of the absence of sanctioned utility monopolies. (In the case of customs or the postal service, I suspect plain old corruption is to blame.) Anywhere in the US, and most places in Europe, the landlines are there because some organization has gotten the government's blessing (and support) to run phone lines everywhere, and since the phone line is going to go right past your house anyway, you may as well hook up to it.

This has not happened in many "least-developed countries" (a category to which Uganda belonged in the very recent past). Why? Well, what little money the government has is usually going to other higher-priority infrastructure projects, like roadways and electricity. And honestly, I can't be sure it's entirely a bad thing that by the time Uganda got around to developing, landlines and snail mail were largely passé.

But I certainly agree that in-country production, beyond the agricultural sector (Ugandans are certainly not going to starve!) is negligible. The 5-year plan talks about building more self-sustaining domestic production, and there are mineral or oil resources waiting to be exploited, so hopefully they can stop being a "cargo cult."

Re:can't honestly discuss the place (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972646)

The media don't really help either. As someone lamented (might have been Dambisa Moyo): when the media show someone in Africa, it'll either be a fly ridden hunger victim... or Nelson Mandela. But there's a great deal in between.

Take it from an African (2, Insightful)

musmax (1029830) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973046)

I'm an African, a white one that is. My progenitor arrived in the Cape of Good hope in 1697, the latest family register counts the member of white descendent of my family close to 6k, the number of brown/black descendants are unknown, those that kept the original family name and are classified "coloured*" are a 1000 or so, but I digress. Africa is indeed fucked up, this is primarily due to Africans, not Europeans or "Colonialists" but africans themselves. Africans are not simply less fortunate white people with black skin. They have fundamentally different world views and cognitive abilities. I cannot compete with a black African digging a ditch, he can keep at it for hours and hours, the last 30 years has seen most of the Olympic track and field go to black Africans. The average black African cannot plan or appreciate cause and effect to the degree that another member of the species would find to be "common sense". I believe this to be a wetware problem, not simply due to culture or lack of education or opportunities. This, of course makes me a racist, or at best, or a white supremacists. I have grown comfortable with that label. I'd rather be that than delusional.

I've also realised that most non african whites simply have no clue or opinions worth considering when it comes to race related matters. You have no clue, have no real experience dealing with people significantly more different than yourselves. Come to South Africa for the Soccer World Cup, you will gain what you lack. You might not like what you may become.

* Americans note: Your president is "coloured", not black, regardless of what he claims to be. If Africa had 10% of the calibre of Obama's the continent would be a unstoppable superpower. But be not alarmed, barring a mind-enhancing super virile pandemic mind-enhancing air-borne virus, infecting every african, your position is save.

Re:Take it from an African (2, Interesting)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973872)

What you said about blacks is the same I could say about manual laborers in Germany (and I mean locally born ones, not immigrants), having a manual labor job simply builds a lot of strength and endurance but smart people will usually take the better paid office jobs instead. As for common sense, considering the logic the ancient Greeks espoused at times (Socrates' apology... *shudder*) I don't think what we call "common sense" really is so universal to the species, it's built by the society around it. A thousand years ago (that's right in the medieval age) the average European peasant would have been equally confounded by any talk about cause and effect.

Last 3 decades? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972042)

The online _economy_ really only came to prominence the last decade and a half or so in North America. How have the Ugandans been missing out for 3 decades?

Re:Last 3 decades? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972052)

Well, the 1990's, 2000's, now we're in the 2010's... 3 decades. :)

Re:Last 3 decades? (2, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972552)

Centuries start on the "01" year rather than the "00" year, so shouldn't decades start on the "x1" year as well? Meaning, right now we're in the LAST year of this decade.

Re:Last 3 decades? (2, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973456)

Centuries start on the "01" year rather than the "00" year, so shouldn't decades start on the "x1" year as well? Meaning, right now we're in the LAST year of this decade.

I never recognized that convention. But then, I've been a computer sciency geek as long as I can remember, so I started counting at year zero. It's still 2009 to me.

Seriously, though, although you're technically right, practically speaking, I accept that most people think of 2010 as the first year of the '10s, just as most people thought of 2000 as the first year of the new millennium. Yeah, pedantically speaking they're wrong, but it doesn't really make a difference and people tend to hate "that guy" who feels the compulsive need to correct everyone.

If you're programming software that has to calculate time differentials across the BC/AD boundary, then by gummy, have at it. But otherwise, my advice is to not make an issue of it. Choose more worthwhile battles to fight, lest people not pay attention to you when you are arguing about something important because you make all skirmishes into full-scale battles.

Re:Last 3 decades? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31974716)

Depends. The 200th decade AD was 1991-2000, but the 90s were 1990-1999. Why should everything be (for want of a better term) word-aligned?

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972054)

so, bridging the digital divide means being able to order stuff from abroad and pay online? Great.

That's how it used to work (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 4 years ago | (#31972080)

That's the way international ordering used to work. You had to order stuff through some import company or freight forwarder, which had business relationships with foreign suppliers. You paid the import company, they ordered, handled the shipping, and sold the item to you with a markup. That's how it worked back in the days of sailing ships.

Note that this Ugandan company doesn't have a posted price list. You have to ask for a quote before they tell you how much they're going to mark up your Amazon.com order. So they're probably expensive.

Re:That's how it used to work (3, Insightful)

ls671 (1122017) | about 4 years ago | (#31972106)

> and sold the item to you with a markup. That's how it worked back in the days of sailing ships.

It is the same with Paypal and credit cards with the difference that the merchant pays the markup.

In the end, merchants adjust their prices to compensate for the paid markup. The consumer always end up paying in any business model.

As I stated in another post, I hope those people are reliable and that they won't abuse anybody because of their positioning. Given the fact that some people complain about the way Paypal behaves, it seems like a reasonable wish to make.

http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1630376&cid=31971982 [slashdot.org]

Re:That's how it used to work (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#31974276)

It is the same with Paypal and credit cards with the difference that the merchant pays the markup.
The thing with services like this is you end up paying TWICE. You end up paying card/paypal fees shipping etc to the original vendor, and then you end up paying them again to the forwarder plus the forwarder needs to cover thier time and efford making and forwarding the order and make some profit.

Sometimes you end up paying sales tax in the forwarder's jurisdiction too (at least that was the case when I looked into using a service called "shop any american store" to get an item from the US sent to the UK).

The net result is that this is an expensive way to buy stuff. If I can find a vendor who will ship direct it will almost certainly be much cheaper.

Credit cards blocked in Africa? (1)

Paktu (1103861) | about 4 years ago | (#31972166)

"Most merchants and payment gateway providers automatically block all credit cards from Africa"
Would someone knowledgable explain the reasoning behind this? I know Africa has more than its share of scammers, but why couldn't a merchant simply set rules requiring the funds to clear, a minimum amount of time between the purchase date and ship date, etc.? Why is an outright ban needed?

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972170)

Because there isn't a single fucking nigger you can trust.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972610)

Because there isn't a single fucking nigger you can trust.

So give credit to the married, sexually impotent ones.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 4 years ago | (#31972226)

because the problem is just so huge in some African countries, and the profit from operating there so small it's just not worth dealing with. the sad thing is Africans see these scammers as hero's, when it's really them holding everyone else back.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31972228)

It's based on previous bad experience wrt losses incurred. It's bad business.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972248)

It is not true; I think a few countries are blocked, but not the whole continent (I've been living in "Africa" for most of my life and my "African" credit card has never been blocked because me in "Africa" or my credit card belonging to an "African" bank). I think part of the problem is when people talk of Africa as this one state (it's not; it consists of many countries and cultures, from arabs in the North East to whites @ Cape Point). Have look at Western news - They tend to talk about something happening in Africa and not the specific country in question. One example is a famous cricketer (British) that went on holiday - the press put it like this: "Peterson went on holiday in France, Italy and Africa". See the problem? Until journalists educate themselves about Africa and realise that it is not this single country with a single culture, people reading the news will still think of Africa where lions walk in the streets throughout the whole continent.

(I know that (some) countries in Africa have problems, but this is not the point of my post).

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972450)

Peterson went on holiday in France, Italy and Africa". See the problem?

No, I don't.

Until journalists educate themselves about Africa and realise that it is not this single country

Who said it was?

If I say "Last year I holidayed in the Lake District, this year we're going to Canada and next year we're hoping to tour round Europe" that's perfectly valid.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (2, Insightful)

cbraescu1 (180267) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972344)

Most merchants and payment gateway providers automatically block all credit cards from Africa

This is a silly phrase.

Africa is a continent, not a country. Nobody can block cards "from Africa", since cards are issued "per country".

Now, let me tell you something: cards from South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco are not blocked. Cards from Nigeria, Uganda are blocked. It's about the fraud rate originating from a specific country, not about some continent-wide blockade.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972564)

Africa is a continent, not a country. Nobody can block cards "from Africa", since cards are issued "per country".

Assuming you have a countries table and it has the continent on it, yes you can.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972668)

Assuming you have a countries table and it has the continent on it, yes you can.

But you only would if you were brain dead or racist. If some African countries don't give you problems why would you block them? If some European countries gave you problems would you block the whole continent?

Fraud from neighbors and no demand (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973090)

If some African countries don't give you problems why would you block them?

Because there is an indication that they are more likely than not to give us problems. Too many countries on that continent that aren't South Africa or Egypt fit the following pattern: We see an unacceptable rate of fraud from the country's neighbors, enough to extrapolate the likelihood of fraud within the borders of that country, and not enough complaints from people in the country.

Re:Fraud from neighbors and no demand (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#31974518)

We see an unacceptable rate of fraud from the country's neighbors, enough to extrapolate the likelihood of fraud within the borders of that country

So you when see a lot of fraud from Romania you block transactions from Hungary. How odd.

Re:Credit cards blocked in Africa? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973274)

Now, let me tell you something: cards from South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco are not blocked. Cards from Nigeria, Uganda are blocked. It's about the fraud rate originating from a specific country, not about some continent-wide blockade.

Look at a map.
North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt
Sub-Saharan Africa: All the countries whose cards are blocked, except for South Africa.

North & Sub-Saharan Africa might as well be two different continents, in much the same way that we normally talk about India, Russia, and the Middle East separately from "Asia" even though they're all properly part of the same continent.

Ob (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972310)

It's interesting that people complain how Africa is a third world country

Some of us are better informed. We know that it's a continent containing a large number of third world countries.

Please help me! (4, Funny)

leachlife4 (638543) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972624)

Now the tables have turned:

I am an American prince and I need your help to access my millions of dollars being held in a bank, and in return I will let you keep 10%.

All you have to do to get you share of the money is to wire me $3000 for the unlocking fee at the bank.

PalPal is a criminal organization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31972678)

They will seize your money. Happens all the time.

Not for the poorest of the poor. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972704)

Terrible summary again. In good /. fashion I didn't RTFA - it may be better but not likely.

TFS suggests this helps "the poorest of the poor". Now how those people would get the money to buy goods over the Internet (almost by definition luxury goods - if only due to the added cost of shipping) is beyond me. The poor generally spend most of their money on housing and food, neither you can buy over the internet (basic food of course; not the luxury stuff). They will buy their stuff at the local markets, generally cheaper than over the Internet.

This is obviously a service for the upper class only, those with money that can afford such luxury goods.

And this is even less "bridging the digital divide" as all it does is allowing people that have an Internet connection already to actually use it to spend money overseas. It does not bring digital tech to the poor that do not have it yet, nor does it make Internet connections cheaper, faster, or more readily available.

This is just a commercial business, intent on making money by exploiting some hole in the market: in this case trying to solve the problem of payments from Africa and transportation of goods to Africa. Both which I can imagine are real issues. But there is surely no philanthropy involved as suggested in TFS.

Re:Not for the poorest of the poor. (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#31972846)

Is buying university textbooks on the internet luxury? It's not aiming the poorest, but it can still have positive side effects on them.

Non-free textbooks are a luxury (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973092)

Textbooks that aren't licensed freely [freedomdefined.org] are a luxury. If there isn't yet a good free book [wikibooks.org] on a given subject, whose fault is that?

Re:Non-free textbooks are a luxury (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973818)

If there isn't yet a good free book [wikibooks.org] on a given subject, whose fault is that?

I don't know, but it's irrelevant to the Ugandan student.

Re:Not for the poorest of the poor. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#31975446)

I get the idea but it's a poor example as getting to university, maybe even being able to read in the first place, indicates higher education, which is expensive, and in many poor countries only for the upper class. The rest of the people doesn't have the money - if only to not have to work and have time to study.

advantages of the online economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973160)

IIRC, even in the U.S., no one has been harnessing the advantages of the online economy for the last 30 years, more like 15.

Shipping to Africa is as safe as wiring your money (3, Informative)

zelik (1131765) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973304)

Anyone who complains about foreign companies not "helping Uganda" or Africa in general by denying sales transactions with them has obviously never seriously ran an online business. I ran a moderate ecommerce site (google PR6 at the time) and during the 5 years I had it I received about 10 fake or bad orders from Africa daily. Of course, they were all from Nigeria and wanted ridiculous shipping requests (mail to lagarda bus stop (or something like that)) and for exorbitant amounts (40 DVD players) with insane shipping charges (international UPS expedited!). You can't blame a merchant for not wanting to take the risks of dealing with Africa. One bad experience can cost you quite a bit and credit card companies will never side with the merchant. If you want to blame somebody, blame the credit card companies who place most of the blame on merchants for any fraud that occurs.

Too expensive for 99% of ugandans (1)

gozu (541069) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973908)

As an african third-worlder who welcomes the service, , I'd like to mitigate people's expectations. Shipping prices to Africa are prohibitively expensive and anyone with enough income to afford them knows someone overseas who can facilitate the same service and is part of the elite 1%.

In other words, this service is mainly for the rich and thus not doing much about the very real digital divide alluded to by the title.

Credit cards = evil! (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#31976196)

the impossibility for a Ugandan to obtain a credit card

Sorry, but in what weird society is a credit card an ideal over actually non-customer-raping alternatives?
Credit cards are by their very design made to fuck you over. There is no such thing as a credit card that doesn’t.
If you do digital payment, do it right. If you do money, do it right.
Hell, half the reason the US economy is so bad for people, is the money system behind it. For which credit cards — the concept of giving you imaginary money and taking back more than there is actual money, to get free work from you without you noticing ” are an essential part.

Credit cards? No thanks. I won’t ever in my life take a credit. And if I can, I’ll avoid imaginary money (e.g. €) altogether.

In Africa, it's not that simple. (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#31976740)

I volunteered in Ghana for six months last year. Ghana's one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, and it's still royally screwed.

The first problem is simply the result of Mother Nature: Many regions lack sufficient resources to live. Try growing crops in an ever-advancing Sahara. There's barely enough food to live on, let alone sell off elsewhere for profit. Where there is food, there's no building materials, or no electricity, or something else. There are very few places where everything needed is all in one place.

The solution is transportation, right? Again, it's not that easy. The current national borders are more or less arbitrary, drawn by colonists with only a vague understanding of local culture. In reality, there are many tribes everywhere, each with its own ancestral feuds and allegiances. In trying to force tribes together, war becomes constant. Some shipments leave for their destination and never arrive.

Furthermore, whichever tribe controls the government has a major influence on what areas are repaired. Africa's environment is harsh. If you think potholes in Detroit are bad, try going down a road that is 100 miles of six-inch washboarding. The government could fix it with a bit of chain and a tractor once a month, but they don't, because another road elsewhere has their attention. After a while, vital roads are simply lost, and communities lose commerce.

The solution is money, right? If we just send enough aid, every road can be fixed. Still not that simple. Partly because everyone's broke, partly due to the lack of unity, and partly just due to human failure, corruption is rampant. The Western world has a long history of serving the kingdom/colony/country, even when it means taking a bit of harm to oneself. In Africa, the family comes first. If your family wants something, it is the single most important priority. Most of the foreign aid that is sent over disappears into family pockets, and rarely actually contributes to the intended project.

For example, consider a road-building project. If a manager goes to Africa to build a road, he'll have a hundred men claiming they'll make the best road. Of course they'll outbid each other, but since they've been collaborating beforehand, even the lowest bid is far more expensive than it should be. Once the builder is selected, he has to purchase materials. By amazing coincidence, he has a brother in the next village that has exactly what's needed. The price is high, but the quality is supposedly much better than anything available locally. During construction, there is an inspector that must approve every detail of the project. He'll never travel down the road, so he's willing to allow a few mistakes in exchange for a small bribe. Try fixing the mistakes (whether they actually exist or not), and that's when it's discovered that those high-quality materials weren't so great after all. More money gets spent on new materials, and the old materials mysteriously vanish.

Surely, with enough money entering Africa, something good is coming out, right? I hate to say it, but again, it's not that simple. There is a heavy emphasis on looking nice, and no emphasis on actually being functional. School children are required to have uniforms, but may not have a pencil or notebook. The school may have a gate, but no walls. Money that could go toward actual improvement is instead spent on showing off how much money a family has.

Even when a family does try to improve themselves, the culture as a whole is against them. The bribes are always needed, and the harsh environment mandates continual repair.

The only real solution is for large regions to band together, decide they want to enter the modern world, and campaign to convince their people to improve their ethic. The first thing to go must be the nepotism. Work should be done to benefit the country as a whole, not just the family. Next should be the appearance. Africans must not be afraid to show what they need, and should strive to achieve mediocrity before greatness. Once the example road doesn't need to be inspected for perfection, corruption can be more easily reduced. Finally, with enough money going where it's intended, the infrastructure can improve, and Africa can finally harness its natural resources.

The road ahead for Africa is as bumpy as any washboard highway. There will be potholes, cracks, and giant uphill struggles. The road is long and treacherous. There are opportunistic bandits. At times, the road isn't even well-marked. The road is there, though.

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