"Participation Builds Unity"

"MADE IN AFRICA - FOR AFRICA"

HOW CAN I
SUPPORT AFRICA?

A 'SPECIAL PROJECT' SERVING AFRICA

RURAL DEPLOYMENT MITIGATES
RURAL EMIGRATION


A Paper submitted by:
Eng. Godwin E. Kayondo
AFRICAN RURAL COMMUNICATION Ltd.

Kampala
UGANDA

Email:
abnfda.uganda@isupportafrica.com
financeyourway@operamail.com

Tel: + 256 71-812431
Fax: + 1-801-650-6213 (USA forwarding)

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1. INTRODUCTION

In developed countries there is a trend of net movement of people from metro to nonmetro areas. The trend reflects continuing strength in the rural economy and in people's preferences for small-town living where the environment is more friendly. However, the situation is the reverse in developing countries. In a typical village in Africa every year young people leave their villages. Forced out by shortages of land or the need to earn money to support the family the young and fit adults migrate in search for waged work. However when you talk to members of the village you find out that this is not a recent phenomenon. Since colonialism there has been a constant migration to the towns, the copper mines and commercial farms.

The reserve areas were intended by the colonial administrations to provide much needed cheap labour for the commercial crop and livestock farms of the European settlers located in other areas. These provided wage opportunities for Africans. At independence some of the European settlers sold their land to Africans creating small holdings of 2-25 hectares while some commercial farming continued with farms varying between 200 and 5000 hectares.

The villages were neglected by the colonial administrations. Agriculture was seen as providing a supporting role offering cheap food and a supply of labour for the larger commercial sectors. The large settler-run farms, were allocated the most fertile lands, close to important transport links, and given the task of supplying agricultural produce to the commercial areas and areas of high food demand.

Due to the lack of economic development there is limited access to wage employment in the villages. The farms, characterised by their small size, are lacking in investment and infrastructure. The resultant low productivity and low incomes provides little incentive to live in villages.

Young people leave these villages to work in the towns and commercial areas. People also leave with the hope of acquiring leases for private land and becoming commercial farmers. The communities left behind are predominantly old people, women and children. Rural depopulation traditionally leaves rural areas with shortages of labour preventing them from increasing production - a circular reaction.

Ironically many of the people who have migrated find it difficult to obtain employment as the rate of migration has outstripped the capacity of the cities, towns and commercial farms and mines to provide work. The impact of inward migration to urban areas is great. The influx of large numbers of people into the towns and cities which also lack the resources to provide work, housing and social infrastructure has placed a great burden on the urban areas. The growth of shanty towns and slums with insufficient sanitation, health and medical provision, a growing informal sector, increased crime rates and high incidence of diseases associated with high density high poverty living are a major concern for African governments.

The level of rural depopulation has slowed down as governments and NGOs find ways of preventing the exodus from the rural areas. By providing lending and borrowing facilities for small and medium scale farmers, supporting co-operatives and subsidising inputs such as fertiliser, rural migration can be slowed down. With the growth of these farms both subsistence agriculture and large-scale commercial farms are becoming less important. Farmers see the potential benefits in staying and working the land

2. THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN RURAL AREAS

In most of the world's poorest areas it is often the women who experience the worst deprivation. In both urban and rural areas women are more likely to be poorly nourished and lack access to health and education services, paid employment and social security. In the mining and commercial farming sectors of the economy that constitute much of the wage earning employment in many African countries, women are very poorly represented. In small scale farming, economic equity between men and women is better. However, subtle organisational constraints again ensure women experience worse poverty than men.

In many societies, land, on the death of the male farmer, is divided up amongst his male children. The two effects of this is that first the land is broken down into smaller and smaller plots until there comes a point where it can no longer sustain the livelihood of the family, forcing some or all of the family to migrate to towns. Second women are dis-empowered as the inheritance of the land and its economic benefits follows the male line.

In Zambia, for example, most of the ethnic groups are matrilineal, with land passing down the female line. Hence, women occupy a relatively high status both socially and economically in their communities. Nevertheless the head of the household is usually male and ultimately it is they who make decisions about the use of the land. Typically a married woman receives a field separate from her husband that she cultivates, producing firstly food for her family and then for sale in case there is a surplus. This surplus can be substantial and can generate income and some economic independence for the women. Unlike many low income countries women would appear to be at an advantage in Zambia.

However, there are two problems. First, women are less familiar with the bureaucratic requirements for obtaining access to communal land and obtaining leases for leasehold land. Second, husbands traditionally make decisions about the marketing of cash crops, such as maize, and the disposal of incomes earned. Clearly women have still a long way to go before they become economically independent enough to make decisions to enable their economic development.

3. AGRICULTURE

In most LDCs agriculture is one of the main cornerstones of the economy. Over 60% of the population live in rural areas and the agricultural sector employs about 68.5% of the population and accounts for about 19% of GDP.

Much of the agricultural output in Africais subsistence. Therefore, maize and other crops are for family consumption, and does not reach the market place. Most of the marketted maize is produced by an increasing number of small and medium scale African farms producing cash crops such as maize, beans, sorghum and sweet potato. These crops are very important to rural communities.

Continuing with the Zambian example, due to the country's climate it has the potential to expand agricultural production considerably. It is estimated that of the total land area of 75 million hectares, whilst 42 million is available for agriculture, only 14 million is cleared. Much of this land is traditional and is owned communally. There has been a move towards privatisation since the 1990s. This has been extended to land ownership and the balance between communally owned and private land is changing in favour of the latter.

However, at present because of the low levels of productivity, recent droughts and lack of investment in the agricultural sector the farms have been unable to produce enough maize to meet the annual domestic demand. Maize is the staple crop and this has resulted in increasing quantities being imported from South Africa and Uganda.

As rural poverty has worsened people have left their villages and migrated to areas where they think that they can survive. Some move into the urban areas, some have leased small plots of land with the intention of growing cash crops and some have moved into the forests to eke out a living producing charcoal, firewood and timber.

The commercial farms, mainly owned by white settlers or their families are often larger and able to take advantage of a variety of economies of scale. Many concentrate their production in primary commodities such as sugar cane, coffee, and horticultural commodities for the European markets. Nevertheless, there are an increasing number of small and medium scale commercial farms that are looking towards non-traditional forms of farming such as floriculture. As is often the case their small scale makes them vulnerable to changes in market conditions.

The economy of Zambia is heavily dependent for foreign exchange on its mining activities. However, as the prices of copper have fallen, the government has looked to the commercial farms for alternatives to provide export revenue. The Export Board of Zambia (EBZ) has examined a range of Non Traditional Exports (NTEs) with primary agricultural products like coffee, horticultural and floricultural products being viewed as potentially profitable.

Despite the droughts, falling commodity prices and high rates of interest these areas of production have performed well. Indeed many economists see these non-traditional agricultural commodities as being essential to the economy of Zambia in its attempt to grow.

3.1 Non Traditional Agriculture

Amongst the small scale farms in Zambia are some that have decided to diversify into new and non-traditional crops. Maize production has proven to be very influenced by the weather conditions. In times of drought maize is particularly badly affected. Zambian entrepreneurs have looked for alternative crops that will yield a good return and are less vulnerable. Some have noted that the prices that flowers fetch in the international markets are attractive and have invested in facilities to grow flowers.

Floriculture is flourishing. However, farmers do not have the capital or the same degree of financial backing as the larger commercial farms and estates have. They do not enjoy the varied internal economies of scale that large organisations can. They are able to obtain a limited amount of overseas development assistance. Most of their investments must come from earnings from sales and loans that they can obtain from the commercial banks and some microfinancing. Their existence is vulnerable to changes in the market for flowers.

Small firms have little information and control over the market into which they sell. As would be the case in a perfectly competitive market they are very much price takers. Their roses are sent to the Dutch flower auctions where they are sold to European flower distributors. The European market is a very competitive one with considerable competition from European and African growers, both within and outside Zambia.

If small farmers in Zambia are to sell their roses in Europe they must produce at a competitive price. They are high cost producers. They produce on a small scale and are not able to benefit from many of the internal economies of scale that larger floriculturalists could. They have to export their roses by air to Europe. The cost of auction and air freight are considerable as are the cost of capital and the chemical fertilisers and pesticides need to ensure good yields. Many of these costs depend upon the exchange rate of the Kwatcha as many of the inputs rely on visible and invisible imports. If the exchange rate of the Kwatcha falls the costs of these imported inputs increase.

Having little control over many of the costs of the inputs means that Zambian floricultural farmers are vulnerable to a number of external shocks such as changes in the cost of aeroplane fuel, the introduction of protectionist measures from overseas governments and foreign exchange rate fluctuations. All of these do increase their costs.

In addition they have no information nor influence over the market demand for roses. If the demand for roses in Germany (the largest importer of cut flowers) falls, as might happen if the German economy experienced a recession, the market price will fall. Understanding the agricultural sector of the economy in Less Developed Countries (LDCs) is crucial if we are to appreciate many of the problems and opportunities associated with economic and human development.

4. A R C - AFRICAN RURAL COMMUNICATION Ltd

A Business Concept

4.1 ISSUES

Communication facilities in Africa are characterised by very low teledensities. Low as the figures may be, they are further aggravated by skewed distribution. Although a country may boast of having 300,000 telephone lines, usually about 70% of them may be installed in the capital city and the rest are distributed among the next three or five major towns. Typically over 95% of African populations live in the rural areas. Moreover, they contribute over 80% of the GNP of typical African countries.

Existing facilities are limited in their services. Typically only voice communication is available. The story of a government official in Uganda who had to trek 200 km at a cost of US$ 18 and three days out of office just to deliver a 1-page fax message is not unique. Fax and data services are typically available in only five or so major towns of a country. Email and Internet services are known only in the capital city in many African countries.

The cost of investing in extending existing facilities even to a few towns is extremely prohibitive. The costs of service and usage of existing facilities can be afforded by only a few people. In Uganda, for example, a number of people have bought mobile phones. However, many can only use them to "beep" others, indicating that the recipient should return the call.

Content is virtually nonexistent. Educational, health, developmental content is unheard of by over 97% of the people who use existing facilities. Therefore, social amenities in communication services is a luxury that should never be introduced in any discussions on development. So is the public perception as it exists today.

4.2 SOLUTION

Many of the communication systems that are designed and built in the advanced countries do not address the challenges in Africa. Fortunately some of the developing countries which are getting advanced in their technological know-how and practice are beginning to incorporate African needs in their design criteria.

The corDECT Wireless in Local Loop System, which is designed and built in India, is an affordable WLL for developing countries. The system supports toll quality voice, voice ban FAX/DATA and Internet connectivity. Although the system is targeted at rural communities, its specifications surpass the specifications of systems available for top-end services in many African cities. The corDECT employs a 32 kbps ADPCM and provides 35/70 kbps of Internet connectivity. The system provides all the facilities of a state-of-the-art electronic exchange to the subscriber. At 70 kbps, the service is comparable to that provided by an ISDN connection. It has all the features of an Exchange and can be connected to the PSTN on standard interfaces.

On the anvil are new products that will keep corDECT ahead of other WLL systems: (i) The DECT Packet Radio Service will enable DECT meet 3G requirements for fixed and portable applications. (ii) Towards "always-on" Internet access. (iii) Packet-switched shared downlink Internet channel at 384 kbps. (iv) More integration for cost-effectiveness, new developments in mutiwallsets, increased scalability, and VoIP are some of the developments.

The corDECT can connect 1,000 subscribers within a radius of 35 km with the help of low-cost, solar-powered, stand-alone Relay Base Stations. The entire corDECT system design is optimized for low capital and operational costs, while providing state-of-the-art services to the subscribers. corDECT system components are designed to work in harsh environments without need for air conditioning and call for low infrastructure support. The power consumption of the corDECT exchange being very low, it needs less investment and has lower operation costs on solar power, UPS or diesel generators. The corDECT Switch is one of the smallest 1,000-line stand-alone switches in the world and hence needs very little real estate. These and other similar features make corDECT the most cost effective Wireless in Local Loop system to provide Basic Telephony and Internet access.

The modular feature of the corDECT provides for easy expansion of the wireless network. Communication content can be developed to suit particular localities. Special groups of subscribers can be served with their particular requirements. corDECT is distributed in Africa by MULTISOURCE TELECOMS of Pretoria, South Africa.

4.3 OPPORTUNITIES IN RURAL AFRICA

4.3.1 Virtual Private Network

AFRICAN RURAL COMMUNICATION Ltd introduces an Industry Specific Virtual Private Network (ISVPN). JJ IntaConn, a subsidiary company of ARC, is a unique end-to-end telecommunications infrastructure targeted for the professional services industry, the NGO's community, the micro-financial community, the exporters federation, the national farmers association, the education sector, medical industry, the legal profession, and Internet cafes. ARC will provide a secure channel of high speed Internet and data communication for these market segments free from risk of interception or unauthorized transmission.

JJ IntaConn is a value-added network provider (VAN), focused on the small business and enterprise-level market segments providing industry specific end-to-end solutions for vertical markets such as professional services industry, high-end graphics and printing, community-based financial institutions (COFIs) JJ IntaConn will provide wireless, and traditional communication technologies through ARC directly to/from the international gateway where country licensing provides or using a licensed national operator. Besides managed VPN's, JJ IntaConn will deliver application and web hosting services as well as managed firewall.

4.3.2 Universal Educaltion

Many governments in Africa are embracing the internationally declared policy of universal education: THE CHILDREN's ACT and THE DAKAR FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION ON EDUCATION FOR ALL BY 2015. Among the major challenges in implementation is ensuring uniform standards in the level of education instruction by teachers and performance by the children across various regions in any given country. By working closely with the curriculum development managers and teacher training programs, rural deployment will assist a country to offer uniform standard universal education to its children within its borders. The Directors of ARC have prepared proposals on universal primary education by online distance learning and submitted to the new government in Kenya.

4.3.3 AGOA

According to some African leaders, the US Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) is the best development effort by the United States government towards Africa since the African countries progressively gained political independence. Major challenges facing entrepreneurs in Africa who are intending to export into the US markets include: understanding the US market demands, delivering on schedule, uniform quality of products, market prices, export documentation. Most current exporters in Africa do not comprehend these challenges yet most of the prospective export products are sourced from rural Africa. Only by having the producers at the grassroots in rural Africa appreciate the challenges, will Africa benefit from AGOA now and be able to compete with the rest of the world when AGOA expires. Rural deployment will provide an opportunity to entrepreneurs in rural Africa access the necessary information needed for entry into the US markets and be able to interact with the buyers via both audio and video communication.

4.3.4 RIDBs

Although in their formative stages they will not measure up to the specifications of truly commercial call centres, Rural Information Data Bases (RIDBs) will provide development statistics and other data. What is significant here is that the data will be surveyed, compiled and analysed by people in their own localities. This is important in that the people will take greater responsibility to the correctness of the information because this affects them directly at the grassroots.

4.3.5 Web Content Creation

The growing needs of thousands of small business customers from around the world are empowering tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses to outperform larger, well-financed competitors. Now it is quick and easy to build professional, popular, and profitable web businesses and sites that attract warm, willing-to-buy visitors using skilled designers in Africa who charge fees much lower than their counterparts in developed Europe and North America. Indeed web content pertaining to the development of Africa is best designed by the people in Africa. Rural deployment will enhance this development.

4.3.6 International Competitiveness

Many young people in Africa have won scholarships, study tours and many other prizes by participating in international competitions. Many of the competitions have been carried on SW radio broadcasts like the BBC, DW, RFI and VOA. On unique occasions these have been found "by chance" surfing the Internet. An example of an essay competition with a prize of a study tour of Norway in 2001 saw only a handful of young Africans out of over 4,000 participants from Asia and Latin America. Readily available and affordable Internet access across Africa will open this opportunity to more participants in Africa, while improving international relations.

4.4 STRATEGY

Although the corDECT is a low-cost system, many of the most deserving target communities in Africa cannot afford to install it. Fortunately development agencies including The World Bank and ITU have budgeted funds for rural communications. Hitherto, the funds have been accessed by enterprises parented in developed countries.

The idea of incorporating AFRICAN RURAL COMMUNICATIONS Ltd is being floated by the undersigned. ARC should have its roots here in Africa and should provide solutions to African communications problems. I see two major bottlenecks in getting the company running: (i) funding and (ii) licensing.

In Uganda, the undersigned has taken the initial steps towards the proposed functions of ARC. A strategy has been laid out for target groups of core customers across the country, designed around the corDECT. Licensing discussions and negotiations are taking place. Although Uganda has now introduced the Rural Communication Development Fund to subsidise investments in rural services, the fund is undercapitalised and its operation is yet to benefit investors.

The proposal is to incorporate ARC, design pilot projects in selected countries (Botswana, Djibouti, Gabon, Kenya, Mauritius, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda) and solicit finance from development agencies (The World Bank, INDP, ITU, etc). Licensing should follow after countries realise the benefits ARC offers to their deserving communities. I believe the FOUNDATION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF AFRICA and the FDA PARTNERS are appropriate springboards for launching ARC.


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