... in africa

A Bridge Between Europe and Africa

18 Jul 2011 | 39 words | europe africa future

Brilliant BLDGBLOG post on the possibility of a bridge across the Strait of Gibraltar and it’s implications (i very much like the idea an underwater bridge):

1000 AFRO front

1000 AFRO backside

Bonus points for introducing a new currency.

Beyond City Limits

Kimon pointed me to this impressive article by Parag Khanna in which he argues that (mega)cities are slowly emerging as the dominant international actors replacing nation states along the way. His article titled ‘Beyond City Limits’ is well worth a read and a refreshing take on the subject of urban growth.

Ever since the publication of Mike Davis’ ‘Planet of Slums‘ in 2006 contributions to the discussion about this subject seem to have deteriorated to become a constant stream of repetitions of the observation that since very recently ‘more than half of the worlds population is living in cities’. In his essay Khanna examines what this development means on the level of international relations and politics. One of his most interesting observations focusses on the relationship between urban centers and international borders:

Instead, [Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo] seem to be headed toward division, with the new borders following and surrounding the main cities that are their gravity points, like Juba in South Sudan and Kinshasa in Congo. Or perhaps borders don’t need to change at all, but rather melt away, so long as locals have access to the nearest big city no matter what “country” it is in. This is, after all, how things really work on the ground, even if our maps don’t always reflect this reality.

One other passage that caught my eye (given today’s news it seems very appropriate to examine relocation options) is Khanna’s praise for Doha (a place that i will have the opportunity to visit next month):

Already the result in the Persian Gulf is something truly new, as a once-barren cultural zone features increasingly global melting pots like the Qatari capital of Doha, where residents hail from more than 150 countries and far outnumber the locals. If these new five-star hubs play it right, they could convince Westerners to give up their citizenship for permanent homes in a friendlier, tax-free environment.

go read the full article here.

A beach near the city of Syracuse

01 Nov 2009 | 437 words | africa border europe migration

In november 2007 i added the following entry to the ‘meanwhile at the borders…‘ page on noborder.org:

29.Oct.07: The bodies of 12 migrants were pulled from the water at a beach near the city of Syracuse on Sicilys eastern coast. Seven survivors were found on shore and two others were considered missing. (Update: by 6 november 4 additional bodies had been found bringing the total dead count to 16 (source: reuters AlertNet)

This month i spend a week of vacation on that same eastern east cost of Sicily and one day, while going for a swim (just north or Marzamemi, which is 45 minutes by car south of Syracuse), we ran into this sign:

the sign reads: ‘At this place in Contrada Cittadella on the tragic night between October 27th and 28th 2007, a rubber dinghy in which 37 Palestinian and Egyptian refugees who were being transferred from a larger ship by unscrupulous people traffickers had set off from a harbor in Egypt , capsized in a furious sea in its attempt to reach Europe claiming 16 victims. We remember the Egyptians: KHALED ABD ELHAMID MOHAMED ABD ELAZIZ (04.05.1985), TAREK ABD EL GHANY MOHAMED ATTIA ( 01.02.1983), IHAB MOHAMED TAHA ABD EL AZIZ ELESAWY (* 08.11.1978), MOHAMED TOLBA ABD ELMOTAI AB ABD ELRAHEM (* 19.09.1988), ESAM MOHAMED ABDEL SADEK (* 05.12.1977), MOHAMED EID RAMDAN (* 08.08.1989), AHMED RAMADAN NEMR RAGAB (* 08.04.1985), EID MOHAMAD SHABAN (* 01.06.1970), IBRAHIM AHMAD SHABAN (* 06.07.1972), ALI AHMED SHABAN (* 10.11.1987) ELSAYED SAAD ALI (* 03.01.1970), REDA ALI ELSAYED (* 05.12.1979) and four unknown Palestinians. We mourn them as well as the thousands of other human lives list since 1992 as a result of the closure of the European continent to those people forced to flee their country’.

Unfortunately the sign does not provide any clues with regard to who actually put it up (and thus who it is who is mourning these deaths) which would be interesting to know.

Shipping disasters involving undocumented migrants trying to reach Europe are relatively commons on this particular stretch of the Sicilian coast. The most deadly of these took place on christmas eve 1996 off the coast of Portopalo di Capo Passero which is situated 12 kilometers to the south of this particular spot. Interestingly there is no memorial for the almost 300 migrants who lost their life when the fishing boat that was supposed to bring them to shore collided with the cargo ship that had brought them from Greece (unless you are willing to count the Stella Maris statue off one of the small beaches as a tribute to those unfortunate souls).

Parallel infrastructures

28 Jun 2009 | 221 words | africa india europe migration rain

Have been spending the last 2 days in Torino for a succession of workshops and conferences, and have used my spare time to revisit some of the places that here we had planned to install the expertbase during the big torino biennial back in 2002 (before we were kicked out of the exhibition). Seems that those parts of the city that we were working in have remained relatively unchanged by the construction madness caused by the 2008 winter games.

However it appears that there has been a change among the migrant street hawkers selling all kinds of goods on the streets of the city. It appears that this trade has been taken over by Indian migrants that have replaced the Senegalese migrants that were all over the place back in 2002. However they still seem to operate in the same networked fashion that i observed back in 2002. On friday evening there was a brief (and relatively unannounced) thunderstorm, and all the street sellers were conveniently offering umbrellas:

I talked to one of them under the arcades of via Po and he confirmed that they do receive advance warnings that bad weather is coming from migrant street sellers in other cities. This enables them to anticipate on the type of merchandise they are offering (and provides a very convenient weather forecast).

Pirates vs ship-owners

24 May 2009 | 237 words | piracy africa business

Last friday’s edition (‘three baby camels‘) of the NPR planet money podcast contains a wonderful nugget about the economical aspects of how to determine the amount of ransom money that is to be paid to somalian pirates in order to get a hijacked ship back.

The story is based on the negotiations a Danish shipping executive (Per Gullestrup) conducted with someone representing a gang of Somalian pirates (Mr. Ali). The problem both parties are facing is that there are no other buyers or sellers for the merchandise (the hijacked ship) who would provide them with clues about the market price in markets with more sellers or buyers (in economics this situation is called a monopolist monopsonist bargaining problem).

In this situation exchanging information (with fellow pirates or fellow ship-owners) about prices paid for the release of other ships is one of the very few ways of speeding up the often time-consuming process of finding a price that is acceptable to both the seller and the buyer. According to Per Gullestrup the pirates are fairly good at that while the ship-owners are not (emphasis mine):

The owners are escalating the ransom payments because they are not really coordinating how they deal with pirates. The pirates on the other hand are extremely good at sharing information. And we know for a fact […] that they so have piracy workshops, that the pirates are actually meetings ashore and exchanging information.

The Big Picture: African migration to Europe

25 Jan 2009 | 38 words | migration africa europe border

Yesterdays Boston Globe’s Big Picture has a feature on ‘African migration to Europe‘. The site collects 34 high-resolution (relatively that is) photographs of African migrants arriving in Europe (to be more precise, on the Canary Islands and Malta):

Rain vs. the border (long live the rain!)

26 Oct 2008 | 116 words | africa border european union europe migration rain

A storm washed away part of a wall designed to keep out illegal immigrants crossing into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla on Sunday and heavy rains flooded many of the city’s streets (via reuters).

Update from bbc news [27/10/2008]:

As many as 30 African migrants have taken advantage of flood damage to cross into the Spanish enclave of Melilla, from neighbouring Morocco.

Update from typicallyspanish.com [29/10/2008]:

Three Guardia Civil were injured in Melilla yesterday when a second wave of immigrants tried to cross over the border fence from Morocco into the Spanish enclave. […] Despite the help of the Moroccan security services several Sub Saharans made their way into Spanish territory at 7am yesterday morning.

From the comments (i am not a audio equipment salesperson)

25 Jul 2008 | 232 words | africa lebanon beirut business

Apparently there is a number of confused people reading this blog and checking my flicker account (or it some clever new form of comment spam that i am failing to understand). in any case these people seem to be (a) interested in audio equipment and (b) confusing me with the persons pictured in photos i have taken:

Two weeks ago a certain Williams Robert from ‘Ghana West African’ left the following comment on a post containing this picture:


Please let us know if you have any of these models of Bus campaign, we will like to have, our some parties need us to supply the campaign Bus soonest, please confirm as we hope to hear from you soonest.

Thanks and remain bless

and about a week ago samia_begum1997 left the following comment on this photo from the shatila refugee camp on my flickr stream:

i have been since i was 10 years old trying to get hold of hitachi TRK8190E ghetto blaster and i havn’t had much joy i have seen in your photo file that you have two of those ghetto’s sitting on a chair “doing nothing” please would you let me know if you would sell one urgently please leave contact deatails thanks…………………

I really love the part about ‘sitting on a chair “doing nothing”‘ although i certainly fail to discern even a single TRK8190E in this guys inventory…

Imagination of desperation (4): Euro2008 has a higher purpose

24 Jun 2008 | 73 words | africa border europe migration

Looks like even the most eventless soccer game can have a higher purpose, especially when observed from the fringes of europe:

On Sunday about 20 immigrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, attacked the Beni-Enzar border crossing, armed with sticks and stones as Italy and Spain were in the final stages of the quarterfinals of the Euro 2008 football tournament. Six illegal immigrants successfully crossed the border during the violence. [from adnkronos international, emphasis mine]

Exceptional display of compassion...

27 May 2008 | 197 words | migration europe africa dead people border

… in todays Guardian: the last two paragraphs of an article which describes the death of two Tunisian men who stowed away on a german cargo ship traveling from sfax in tunesia to ayr in scotland actually treat the two deceased as human beings (plus the entire article does not label them as ‘illegal immigrants’ even once):

Scott [the Conservative(!) MSP for Ayr] said: “This is tragic news, that these two men who appear to have stowed away, lost their lives in such desperate, lonely and sad circumstances. These are people who, for whatever reason, felt they had to leave northern Africa and in desperation boarded this ship. They took a huge gamble with their lives, which didn’t pay off.

“As I understand it, it is an occasional occurrence that economic migrants stow away on these boats. They leave that port to go all over Europe and indeed the world. Perhaps they were gambling on this being a shorter sea voyage than it turned out to be. Very sadly for them and their families, it has resulted in their deaths.”

Guess that is because very few of the victims of fortress europe wash up on scottish shores…

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: