Saturday, November 12, 2005

Renewable energy for Africa?

As posted here before, electricity availability is spotty in most of Africa, due to underinvestment in infrastructure and ineffective government ministries. Developing pipelines, big power plants, and an electric grid on the US/European model is very expensive and out of reach of villages or small companies, providing a strong incentive for local energy solutions, which are likely not to be based on fossil or nuclear fuel (except for those people who live on top of oil wells or uranium ore [the latter would be unhealthy]). My friend Adrian, who does solar energy research at USC, has going a volunteer project to provide solar panels for villages in Mali. A conference of west African governments recently published a plan for accelerating electrification using government funds, and hopefully using some renewable sources. One would imagine that a private-sector initiative could likely provide electricity faster and to more people than either a government or a volunteer effort. What do you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

the agent has an agent

an ad in craigslist attracts a response from this person whose client is interested, then an email from me to say call me
From: ???
To: me

My client was much impressed with the condition of your car,
He can't wait to see the car parked in his garage.Send pics
(interior and exterior) if any for my client's veiwing.
However,he would like to know your last price for onward
transaction immediately.
Have a wonderful day.

then i email all the pictures i have then
From: ???
To: me
Subject: shipping,and payment....

My client has finally accepted your price,he hopes the engine is
serviced and oil changed too .He cant wait to see the car parked
in his garage.
However,My client made out a certified cashiers check of($16,000)
before he travelled to japan on a business trip,for a previous car
and its shipment charges etc,but it was unfortunately sold.The
amount on the check he deposited for the car is bigger than what
should be paid to you now, so the check is now meant for the total
expenses which includes the purchase of your car,the pick up of the
car from its present location and the shipping charges/other necessary
shipping arrangements. However he has instructed us to carry on with
this transaction. So you're required to deduct the cost of your car
($9,000)and send the balance of($7,000) to my client via western union
money transfer to enable him offsett shipping charges/arrangements.
once the transaction is concluded,My agent will be coming for the pick
up of the car from its present location, on an open vehicle and then
drive to a pre paid shipper for shipment,and also conclude other
necessary shipping you dont have to bother yourself
about the pick up and shipping arrangements,while title papers and
other necessary documets will be sent by you via fedex courier to my

Please Confirm this and provide name,address and phone
number for check payment to be delivered to you via
fedex courier .
Thanks and God bless,

Hello ???:
Why does this sound just like one of the scams that everyone talks about?
Let's keep it simple - give me $9,000 or if you like give me $16,000 (I could really use the extra money) and the jeep will be available to you or your client.

Scam artists must have a very cruel sense of humour - not only does ??? (fake name withheld) want to steal my money and my car, it wants the added pleasure of having me run around like a fool to service and oil it first!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Intro: new contributor

Thanks for the advertising, t. I'm also at Caltech, where I'm doing dissertation work on emissions and uptake of carbon dioxide in the air by plants and the oceans. My occasional musings on various environemnt-related matters can be read here. I've studied engineering too, and I manage the website of the campus chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, which is working on several interesting projects. I'll post here when business and/or Africa topics suggest themselves. Cheers.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Blockbuster lectures

Engineers for a Sustainable World at Caltech (ESW-CIT) just hosted the second in a series of really cool lectures.

Today, Joel Segre talked about developing Foldable Intraocular Lens, about partnering with Indian Eye Care experts, Aravind, and about partnering with Indian Manufacturing.
Having come from California, he had funny stories about the how the Indian way diverged from his expectations. Energetic young man.

From the ESW-CIT website:
Speaker Bios
October 27 Dr. Paul Polak from International Development Enterprises
November 3 Joel Segre from Project Impact
November 10 Amy Smith from MIT
November 17 Michael Rosberg from the University of Belize
December 1 Ben Linder.

From the advertising for today's talk:
" Engineers for a Sustainable World @ Caltech (ESW-CIT) presents:
Dr. Joel Segre, Project Impact
Medical Device Development for the Developing World: One Recent Grad's Experience
Joel Segre will share how he strayed from the for-profit path and found himself working as an engineer and project manager at a nonprofit focusing on medical device development for poverty alleviation. Over the past three years, Joel has worked to develop a sight-restoring intraocular lens for manufacturing and distribution in India. While much of the development work was done in Berkeley, CA, the product is now manufactured across the street from the highest volume cataract surgery center in the world, the Aravind Eye Care System. Aravind performs over 200,000 cataract surgeries annually, two thirds of which are done below cost. Despite taking a loss on over 145,000 patients every year, Aravind is financially self-sustaining. Joel's talk will focus on his current job, and the unexpected challenges he faces in his work both at home and abroad.
This talk is presented in collaboration with Prof. Ken Pickar and E/ME 105."

News: A certain parent ;) of ESW-CIT will soon join in Money Talk.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Inter-African Trade

After reading the global trade perspectives of both madam T and Nir I was just wondering what you peeps think of trading between African nations. As Nir posited in his post, it is probably a very good springboard for continental prosperity. Presently only 1-5% (can u imagine?) of trade is done between African nation. Imagine raising this to 25-35% in five to seven years. The continent is diverse enough to form a formidable mosaic of interconnected markets like NAFTA, ECC or Mercosur (with Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil at its heart). Me think the first hurdle to overcome is infrastructure the biggest being transportation and electricity. I think an intercontinental free way that have been proposed from Johannesburg to Tripoli is one way, while a connection of existing national railway lines to facilitate freight will go a considerable way in eliminating the artificial trade barriers we have erected against ourselves. Perhaps a common import tariff, encouraging education across African borders (one is presently flourishing between Ghana and Nigeria albeit grudgingly since it is condition that is driving Nigerian students to Ghanaian Universities) are some other measures..What do u think? Please share your thoughts with us ..thanks!

Previously on UpNaira