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Bridging the Digital Divide In Uganda, By Freight 146

Posted by timothy
from the my-most-beloved-recipient dept.
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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Bridging the Digital Divide In Uganda, By Freight

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  • Africa (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) *

    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 A

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by feuerfalke (1034288)
        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 giv
        • "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

          • 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

            • 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 relati
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      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 machet

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hitmark (640295)

        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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @03:39AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CondeZer0 (158969)

        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: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Jyms (598745)

        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.

      • 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 is indeed interesting how many people feel compelled to give advise to Africans (advice being the worst vice of them all), w/o realizing that Africa ain't no country, but that is is the 2nd largest CONTINENT on planet earth.
        And about as diverse as piece of real estate as it gets in our solar system.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by WheelDweller (108946)

      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

    • 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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

        • 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 t

          • 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?

            Immigration policy doesn't have anything to do with moral superiority, and although there are people trying to make the case on the basis of racism, that's really not useful to immigration policy either.

            The reason to have an immigration policy is because you can only assimilate so many people into your culture. And if you're talking about a refugee situation where part of the problem is cultural, you've got to set your limits at somewhere where you're going to be able to assimilate the newcomers, or you'll

      • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:50AM (#31972636) Journal

        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.

        • by symbolset (646467)
          Since you would school me, specifically which part of Africa is immune to these ills?
          • 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
            Mala

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

                • Well, I checked the US State Department's travel advisory page, and they also mention Chad, Mali, the Central African Republic, Angola, and a few other spots. Most of those are about the risk of kidnapping, violent crime, or armed robbery rather than warnings of active, ongoing conflict, but it would be a strange criminal element that preyed only on foreigners.

                  That having been said, you're right that feeding the population is not generally a problem.
            • 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 touri
        • Nope, just the genocidal hell-hole. Remember Uganda is the country that has the death penalty for homosexuals.
          • Remember Uganda is the country that has the death penalty for homosexuals.

            Well, I remember that some Americans [nytimes.com] went to Uganda claiming to be "experts in homosexuality" and warned "the gay movement is an evil institution". A "previously unknown Ugandan politician" then introduced a bill, which as far as I know has not been passed.

            Has it been passed? Could you provide a reference?

            • Oh, yes, this is fun, while doing some searches to find out the current status of this bill I ran across this thread [freerepublic.com].

              Some choice quotes:

              Five Republican representatives - Chris Smith, Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts, Trent Franks and Anh "Joseph" Cao - have written a letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Mouseveni pressing him to stop pending legislation that would severely criminalize homosexuality and sometimes impose the death penalty for homosexual acts.

              replies:

              To: markomalley
              Are these Log Cabin Republicans ?
              4 posted

            • No, you're right. I do realize that American 'Evangelicals' pushed the homosexual bill, but for a while it had a lot of media traction and looked like it was going to pass. I guess I shouldn't over-react in a public forum.

              However Africa as a whole still has issues with Genocide, this time with references:
              Rwanda [wikipedia.org]
              Darfur [wikipedia.org]
              Western Sahara [wikipedia.org]

              That being said I would love to go to Africa and help locals build roads and sanitation. With roads come security and sanitation comes health. Commerce and stability wo
              • Rwanda was clearly a genocide. Why it happened is enormously less clear. What was the US and French involvement?

                Was Darfur a genocide? That's not so clear. Who pushed for Darfur to be considered a genocide, that's also pretty murky. Why do the people who consider Darfur a genocide base the numbers of deaths on research by the same team, using the same techniques, that came up with the 100,000 - 1,000,000 death figures for Iraq but deny those death rates for Iraq?

                Western Sahara? A new one for me. I've

      • by Weedhopper (168515) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @02:47PM (#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.

      • 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.

        I think Africa and the Africans will be just fine w/o your help or that of "the great and not so missed Sam Kinnison".
        Last time I checked the age where white people were allowed to tell Africans where (not) to settle within their very own continent is thankfully over with.

        Why don't you go to Las Vegas and tell the folks there to demolish their own town and move to where the water is?

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      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]

      • 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.

    • by DrXym (126579)
      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

    • 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.

    • 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 i

    • 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 ar

    • by nroets (1463881)

      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 phenomeno

    • It's interesting that people complain how Africa is a third world country and how we should help them

      Usually, I tune out any argument that starts out with a claim about what kind of country Africa is (third world or not), since any claim of that form is a pretty good indicator that the argument is coming from someone who doesn't have the first clue what they are talking about.

  • by ls671 (1122017) * on Sunday April 25, 2010 @02:16AM (#31971982) Homepage

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

    • by Bugamn (1769722) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @03:34AM (#31972188) Journal

      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

      • by ls671 (1122017) *

        > We have got the ammount of two Million Dollars, but we need the help...

        I call fake on this post, a real one would state:

        We have got the amount of two Million US Dollars (2,000,000.00 US$), but we need the help...

  • by r00t (33219) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @02:31AM (#31972034) Journal

    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.

    • by ls671 (1122017) *

      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 ;-)

    • by Shag (3737) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:28AM (#31972342) Homepage

      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 aroun

      • 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 w

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:48AM (#31973320) Journal

        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.

        • by Shag (3737)

          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 pho

        • It pains me to see how little, next to nothin, you understand about Africa and its problems.

          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.

          What "African windup clock radio" are you talking about?!
          And where, by the way, are the Dutch, German or American "windup clock radios"??
          Have you ever been to a back country town in Africa?
          Don't bother to reply to that one, I already know the answer.

          What pacified the west? The telegraph. Telegraph lines were an essential part of conquering America,

          So you got no clue about the American West either. Figures.
          The COLT "pacified the West", and the railway helped conquer it.

          The Telegraph had about as much to do with it a

        • Your points about the need for development of the local economy are well taken. However, one must be cautious not to take the other extreme, as for example the North Koreans, that every good or service must be produced locally first and be completely self sufficient to the exclusion of all imports. There is a balance to be struck with local production and economic development and free trade in goods and services. The major problem in Africa, as others have mentioned, has always been poor, underfunded, or co
      • *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* ...

      • 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.

        Good luck on good hydro power.

        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.

        Both are corrupt but customs will give you more trouble. I've had FedEx packages held hostage at customs over ridiculous excuses, same as postal service. The difference between the postal service and FedEx/DHL is that with the latter, once it clears customs, it will actually get to you. Postal service is a crapshoot.

        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.

        Four years ago, my power supply for my Powerbook went bad while I was upcountry. The Kampala Apple guy was happy to sell me a spare for 200USD. It only took a f

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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).

        The bad news, though, is they're intent on pissing away all that foreign aid by passing legislation to kill all homosexuals at the behest of American evangelist fucktards..

    • 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.
    • by musmax (1029830)

      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

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        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 th

      • Hey, Eugene, I thought you were dead!

      • 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.

        Mr. you sound like a white boorish motherfucking a*hole and are about as African as Heinrich Himmler was.
        To you I sing a "one settler, one bullet" any time of the day or night for free !

        Take this from damn *real* African, who can trace his family tree back at least as far as you do and can show African freedom fighters in each and every generation of the same.
        And I come from a country that had the nick name "white man's grave" during the colonial era - and I just love that one :-)

        My Grandfather, Father, Unc

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @02:48AM (#31972080) Homepage

    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.

    • by ls671 (1122017) * on Sunday April 25, 2010 @03:00AM (#31972106) Homepage

      > 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]

      • 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

        • by ls671 (1122017) *

          > The thing with services like this is you end up paying TWICE.

          Yep, for various reasons, it costs more to buy goods and services depending on where you live, even in some parts of North America. Try Dawson City, Yukon for example ;-))

          So I still say it is not a unique situation; the consumer always end up paying a markup to get the goods while the total markup percentage may vary depending on where you live.

          I admit although that since apparently nobody provided the service before (no competition), they pr

      • From what I know about Hungaria, I wouldn't be to worried about it.
        Now if they were from Bulgaria or Romania, that would be a different story.
        In that case you could just as well flush your dollars down the toilet.

  • "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?
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      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: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 happenin

      • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cbraescu1 (180267)

      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.

      • 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.

        • 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?

          • 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.

            • 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.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        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 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665)

    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.

  • by leachlife4 (638543) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:48AM (#31972624) Journal

    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.

  • 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, gener

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

      • 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?
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        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.

    • by glodime (1015179)

      Terrible summary again. In good /. fashion I didn't RTFA....

      That's OK. In this case, the summary is the article (or TFA, if you prefer slashdot colloquialism). The only link in the summary is to the website of the payment service described, namely, EasyPayUganda. [easypayuganda.com]

  • by zelik (1131765) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:46AM (#31973304) Homepage
    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.
  • 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.

  • 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 ge

    • Aside from the stupidity of the rest of your post, what makes the Euro any more 'imaginary' than any other fiat currency, such as the British Pound Sterling, or the US Dollar? Is it because it came into existence only a few years ago, rather than a couple of hundred years ago?
  • 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

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