Friday, February 24, 2012

Make addition onto Google + and create applications in Accra, Lagos and Kampala! (#googleplus)

GH Developers, Programmers and coders? Where you dey? Come show the world what you fit build.

Hello Ghanaian developers! After the successful Hackathons in South Africa and Kenya which saw some amazing applications built, we want to continue spreading the love!

A hackathon is an event when programmers meet to do collaborative computer programming. Hackathons focus on either a technology tool/product or a topic to collaboratively build programs and applications. Hackathons are typically between a few hours and multiple days.

There will be a one full day Google+ API Hackathon with the support of the Google Technology User Group (GTUGs) in Accra (Ghana). If you are ready to wow us with your application, please apply for the event using this form: Accra for the event on the March 21 from 9 to 6 pm at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). The deadline to sign-up is March 3!

Remember to start today on getting those creative juices flowing! Familiarize yourself with the API and review these resources. Begin gathering ideas and coding a little. Use the Hackathon to perfect your application and win one of the multiple prizes we will be awarding - including a ticket for the overall winning application to Google’s premiere developer event, Google I/O!

Any updates relating to these Hackathons will be posted on Google+ (of course!) using the hashtag #hackgplus. Stay tuned!

Similar hackathons happening in Lagos and Kampala. Learn about them here.

Move it fast, chale!

"Chop my money! Cos I don't care... cos I get am plenty". "Amanda, Amanda! Sɔkɔdɛ! dɛ, dɛ! Sɔkɔdɛ!" These are the two songs dominating 'inside my head' recently. What is Sɔkɔdɛ? I hear it is about 4play. No, not for play but foreplay. Foreplay is not always about sex, it could be a forbearing of what might happen next. And what happens next might not necessarily outdo what just happened. But anyway, you can judge if these songs are relevant to this blog post after you read to the end. Cos I'll try hook you so you do. If you skip a bunch of lines, leave a comment so I do better next time. "Pushaaaa!".

So some context. At my age, I live with my aunt and I don't have my own place. If you went to Accra and asked for rental rates & agreements in and around where the 'action' is, you might understand why. So let's not delve into that. I love my family. I get to support them and be useful by being near and available. As I live with others, I have to live under rules. The world operates like that. If it doesn't do so somewhere, show me, lemme see if it might work for me. As part of these rules, I have to be home 'around' 9pm because things shut down at home. Folks go to bed (Ghanaians sleep early - bad news for primetime tv & night clubs), gates are locked, German Shepherd must be released, etc. It's Airport Residential Area alright, arguably the most expensive place in Accra, but armed robbers like challenges. These rules are precautionary. I have and need to live with them, for my own safety and reasonably.

Yes, I have a curfew. It's better than what you see in various countries that have unrest. Or maybe not. I've overstayed it a few times. Last night, I overstayed it again. I left a +Barcamp Takoradi planning meeting late, chatted up some Legon students about their future plans that I missed giving the taxi driver directions, missed the relevant turns, so had to alight and light up another taxi driver's wallet back in the direction of where I stay. On my way, I realized I didn't have phone credit (yes, I know the telco wishes I will mention its name but I won't) so I stopped to buy some. This made me reach home later, circa 9:45. "Ato, the gate is locked, orders are that they shouldn't be opened". The German Shepherd starts barking as if it needs more beer. Because even though it's seen me in friendly conditions since August, it still barks at me like am a stranger cos I've never given it food at 2:33pm.

When this has happened before, I've been able to lyric our security guard to lock up the dog (who will chew me up with the first opportunity) and my 20-something year old cousin who I wish was on my side more. This time, I'm not ready to do the convincing cos it looks like a 'lost case'. E don spoil. Where do I sleep tonight? Hotel room? I could sleep at Villa Monticello (the most expensive hotel in Accra) for a night and beg the owner (who I am related to) to not charge me. "Long thing, e go turn long story". Screw the hotel option. Which Good Samaritan will save me? Nearest haven option happens to be a work colleague who is a nice person. I call her up, she gladly accepts to host me and she lives a 5 minute drive or 23.3 minute walk away. Wait, the phone credit I bought is lost. Now, I've lost my bed, dinner, etc plus my phone credit. I'm not prepared to lose 'more money' chartering a taxi. And 23.3 is a great number, so I'll take the walk.

Walk for 23.3 minutes in the dark alone? This is +233's abode aka Ghana aka Ogyakrom. It's dangerous to walk alone in Airport Residential Area in the evening. Motorbike rider lowlifes/riffraffs/thieves ride around robbing people. It's documented. But maybe because I love Ghana so much and chose the walk because I've lost money, love the number 23.3 and have time to burn, no one will rob me. It's gonna be a routine walk. Heck, I never really felt safe doing such a walk in unknown places in the USA so why worry about doing it in a known place in Ghana? Good to go. Start the highlife playlist, listen to Ghanaian music, sing it aloud, maybe someone thinks am a mad man and doesn't mess with me. Or maybe someone thinks I'm walking alone, have a laptop, listening to music that's on the radio and is wearing a nice shirt. Merry Christmas for armed robbers. Yeah, like joke like joke.

So I start the walk. I keep on looking back making sure no one is following me. I did this when I was walking in Hillbrow, Johannesburg with a friend in a heavy human traffic area anyway. No one is following me. No motorbikes are coming through. All cars passing by are too busy speeding and if they are slowing down, they hope I pay them to give me a ride. At some point, I thought, upon all my plenty friends and folks who know me, can't anyone drive by (and not shoot or rob me but) and help me? Oh wait, I could have announced that I needed help on Twitter. Why did I even forget that? Anyway, I feared maybe the cars passing by might be like... "rich-looking young man walking long distance is looking for trouble walking alone at night and needs to be taught a lesson". So they might call up the motorbike robbers anytime soon. Walk fast, Mighty African. You have 3 junctions to go. Keep on singing. "Ɔdɔ mmɛtu me awɔ yi mu, wɔ yi mu, Ɔdɔ mmɛka me ho hye, Ɔyɛ ɔbaa pa, ɔbaa pa, ɔbaa pa"

At some point, I saw a shadow coming towards me. Kai! I was so scared, I stopped, stood by a gate, waiting to see who this dude was. I didn't see anyone. Shit! It was my shadow, magnified by some bad driver's car's headlights. Whew! A few motorbikes come by but they are speeding so fast. They are not riding this late because they want lonely folks to rob, they want to dodge the traffic. But yeah, that scared me too. I am shameless but I try to be fearless too. But why should I be scared? I love Ghana and God, Ghana and God won't let anything bad happen to me in Ghana. I don't watch horror movies. If I watch one with you cos you love horror movies, I really have to love you. It's around this time that I was singing 'Otoolege'. Ei, mepɛ no o nti, nanso ɔfa me sɛ otoolɛgɛ (otoolɛgɛ).

Soon enough, I had finally made a left turn and was a javelin stone throw away from my destination. I started singing louder. "Why the heck are all of you asleep while I am not and looking for a place to lay my head?" Wake up and hear me sing, I'll tell you my name too so you vote me when I appear on Vodafone GH Icons. I passed by some dude sitting on the street and made sure he heard me singing. When I finally got to the apartment complex where my colleague lives, I sang a few more lines and asked the security guard if he knew what song I was singing. "Ofori Amponsah". Yes, correct for 2005 points. He had to call my colleague to see if she's around, expecting me, blah blah blah. "Do you do this procedure for everybody who comes here?", I asked him. Cos if you are doing it because I am dark and it's dark, then "fire burn you!". He let me in, and led me to my colleague's apartment. Thankfully, she was expecting me so I was let in with no trouble.

So then I told her the short story. Now you have the long story. And the morale of the story is, "Mr. Mighty African, move it fast! Move out into your own place. Get a move on with your life". Yeah, I get the point. I should get someone to chop my money (proper). Get my own place so women can visit me easily and chop more of my money. Get my own place so I can set up for the lucky lady who actually get to really chop my money. Because if I don't, this story will be 4play for worse things to come. "Bedadabe". "Wobɛte sɔkɔdɛ! dɛ, dɛ! Sɔkɔdɛ!". Does this story have something to do with the songs? Hope you read thoroughly enough to decide. More vim to us all as we pursue our agendas and endeavours without fear or shame or risk.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Participate in Barcamp Takoradi happening March 3 #bctdi

This happened at Barcamp Takoradi 2010. Help us make Barcamp Takoradi 2012 a success.

More info below

BarCamp Takoradi 2012 is a FREE networking event to bring people together for a day of discussion, demos and dialogue about Takoradi, Ghana and beyond. It hopes to assemble Western Regional stakeholders to network, build a supportive entreprising community and partner. BarCamp Takoradi 2012 will take place on March 3, 2012 at the Takoradi Polytechnic. The theme is “Empowering the emerging middle class in a budding economy: efficient use of technology in entrepreneurship”.

The BarCamp Ghana team has successfully organized 11 BarCamps in Ghana - in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Cape Coast, Tamale and Ho. Barcamp Ghana is a project being run by the GhanaThink Foundation, an NGO based both in Ghana and the USA. The events have brought together over 1500 leaders and change makers. Barcamp Takoradi 2012 builds upon Barcamp Takoradi 2010 which was held at the Takoradi Technical Institute under the theme “Leading & Entreprising in an Oil & Technology Fuelled Economy”. on November 27, 2010. The event showcased Ghanaian ingenuity through the MIT fabrication lab (fab-lab), sharing of ideas, and had presentations and panels on how to leverage the burgeoning oil industry.

This year’s edition will be organized in conjunction with local groups at the Takoradi Polytechnic. By partnering with these groups, this Barcamp will focus on engaging the youth in Takoradi, especially the students around how to create more value for their localities and shape the development agenda in this election year. The Barcamp is keen to build upon the community from 2010’s event, take stock of what’s happened so far and continue building the Western Region.

The Barcamp will feature a speed mentoring session
where participants get some efficient quality time with selected mentors and resource personnel. We will have a keynote speech by a surprise guest. There will also be a social media session (targeted at the elections) led by BloGh aka GhanaBlogging. Like all Barcamps, there will be user-generated sessions and discussions where attendees get to set the agenda and topics for the day. Local experts will share knowledge on different technologies and successful entrepreneurs and innovators will share their stories to serve as models for participants.

Register/RSVP today at the BarCamp Takoradi eventbrite website. You may also contact the BarCamp Takoradi team through this website for sponsorship opportunities. If you are interested in organizing a breakout session, let us know, especially if you have special needs.

BarCamp Takoradi 2012 is sponsored by the Takoradi Polytechnic, BloGh (GhanaBlogging), GhanaThink Foundation, Fienipa Group, etc. Our media partners are and Melody FM. or barcamp at

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mighty African goes to Kenya! #twende!

After Uganda took the title of "first ever African country I would spend a night in", Kenya followed suit shortly in September 2011. I was going to show off the Swahili I had learnt from my East African friends and been taught by my Kenyan KiSwahili teacher at Stanford. I was in Kenya for more than a week, up till date the most amount of time I have spent in any other African country. I had a lot of friends in Nairobi too. A Kenyan friend commented on an "African returnee" conversation we were having saying, "As for we Kenyans, we move back". Kweli kabisa. I had asked my Kenya based friends et al on Facebook & Twitter what I should do before I left Kenya and I tried to go through with some of their suggestions. I had every intention of getting stories to tell so let's recount the Mighty African experiences.

I arrived in Nairobi on a Saturday and was welcomed by traffic from the Jomo Kenyatta airport on our way to Hotel Sankara. I recognised Nyayo stadium on the way (yea, I pay close attention to my friends' Facebook statuses too). After I checked in, the first thing I wanted to do was get a local SIM card and call my Nairobi connects. After much debate, I settled on getting an Airtel one instead of Safaricom. I was gonna choose Safaricom as the 'African sounding one' till I realized it was mostly owned by Vodafone. Airtel is owned by Indians (Kenya has a lot of native Indians too) but at least I used them in Ghana too. "Niko na Afrika mashariki". I finally called up a few and lined up my Saturday agenda which started with lunch at Pizza Garden with @arthurbuliva who I'd done work with on both Kasahorow & Museke. No, we didn't have nyama choma :-)

I was then properly welcomed by Sankara as I rested before dinner. Hotel Sankara is probably my favoritest African hotel. Highly recommended. They welcome you on their TVs. I met up with two of my favorite people @eyedol, a Ghanaian who's working with the famous Ushahidi & Paa Kwesi Imbeah at an open eatery frequented by many Indians. We joined others to go to KlubHouse where we played some pool and then listened to Gogo Simo band play live. Since we were more than 5 and felt like taking one taxi, I rode the journey in the boot. So I could come and tell you the story today :-) I was shocked to have never heard of them. It's probably the most popular Kenyan band but they have close to zero Youtube presence. Sio nzuri. My friend Eston who moved back to Kenya shortly after MIT came by to take me to explore the Kenyan nightlife. After bumping into a Kenyan Stanford alum (yeah, what are the chances) at , we hit a number of clubs in Westlands, which is right by where Sankara is.

Was I gonna have a chillaxing Sunday? No. From listening to Jua Kali, I knew there was California in Kenya. Nyokabi lit up my Sunday with some sunshine as we met up with maybe the most networked Nairobi resident Buddha Blaze at HillCrest school. There, the famous Wanuri Kahiu (yes, of 'From a Whisper' & 'Pumzi' fame) was working on the set of her next big project, Sauti, a TV show to be broadcast on a Turner network. Yes, African film director making a show for mainstream US television. #Twende! After complaining to Wanuri, I couldn't get Pumzi to watch anywhere, she gave me a personal DVD. Wowzers! Too bad I couldn't get to meet other awesome members of the cast then. Nyo, Buddha and I picked up Buddha's friend and then we went on a Ghanaian restaurant hunt. Mind you, even Arthur & Henry didn't know this existed. The restaurant we found was Nigerian and because they didn't have plantains we didn't buy there. They also didn't have any signage which led us to suspect they might be hiding from the tax authorities. 419 :-) Ended up at Tamasha where I had my first taste of 'Nyama choma'. Meat lovers, rejoice. I was also introduced by Stony Tangawizi here. GogoSimo performed here too. I was entrusted in the care of a couple of ladies (one who had also lived in the Bay Area) and they took me round to some Westlands spots before I retired to prepare for G-Kenya.

G-Kenya? Find out all about it here. A conference held in a movie theatre complex? Only Google will organize something as cool. :-) After finally meeting up Corine Onyango (who I'd set eyes on since 'From A Whisper'), I visited HomeBoyz radio with my Stanford rafiki (Jisas). There, I was on two radio shows, one in which I got to rate four new songs and the other where I chose 10 songs to play on radio. My hosts were some mrembo 'homegirlz', Raquel and Amina. I also talked to the folks at Homeboyzproduschizzle, I even bumped into Wyre da Love Child! Homeboyz does some pretty awesome animation work too. Later on the Tuesday night, I met up with various folks I knew based in Nairobi at a place called 'Casablanca'. That was fun, I was connecting folks in a city I'd never been, one of my things I was born to do.

The next couple of days, we had a little Google retreat where we socialized amidst doing some work. This offered me the chance to go on a Safari. Thank Mungu! Cos I don't think I would have paid to go on a Safari myself :-) Apparently on a real safari, you wanna see 5 things - lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos and elephants. We saw them all except lions and leopards. In fact, I made sure we combed as much of the game reserve as we could looking for the king of the jungle. But like a wise man said, "If you see zebras and antelopes, don't expect to see lions and leopards". We only discovered the a sign that said we were on the equator. Satisfaction. I returned from the 'retreat' or 'advance' if you may to attend the music video premieres of Wyre's 'Njoo Nami' and Camp Mulla's 'Party Don't Stop' where I met several Kenyan musicians including Sauti Sol, Dela, Habida, as well as Jaguar whose Kigeugeu was ruling the Kenyan airwaves.

I do love the idea of getting exotic meats in Kenya though. I visited the famous Carnivore restaurant, though I didn't eat there. I eventually had some crocodile meat at Fogo Gaucho. Eventually that week, I met up two other Stanford Kenyans at Blix, a club that one of them owns. I should go to clubs which my friends own my often. Had a blast there. You know Kenyans are famous for drinking right? Everytime I meet a Kenyan who does not 'drink', I am shockprised. Pombe! I like to claim "Kenyans drink a lot, and then they sit around. Ugandans drink a lot too, and then they dance". Through Blix and more Westlands bars' frolicking, I managed not to get drunk, cos I don't get drunk cos I don't drink plenty lol.

I woke up Saturday morning with no Las Vegas type hangover. So I did what every tech enthusiast who visits Kenya should do - visit the iHub. The iHub is like a tourist attraction. There, I met awesome African developers, including this guy of Olalashe fame who had just won Google's Android Developer Challenge. I also had lunch with Wesley Kirinya, one half of LetiGames, Africa's first and foremost game development company (shout-out to Eyram Tawia). That was not before I bumped into yet another Kenyan I knew, Ciru, who I met by bumping her into at the 2009 Harvard African Business Forum. I even bumped into Mista Majani of Kenyanlyrics who I was also Facebook friends with. I'm not making this up. Bump this if you love Nairobi. Made some great contacts there after which @eyedol took me to Masai mara market in a "matatu" for me to get some gifts for loved ones in Ghana. But on the real though, every African country needs an iHub. It's my prayer that 2.54 years from this post, every African nation gets one. Amen.

So I left Nairobi with no Nairobbery or safari horror stories. I didn't see any lions so no lions chased me. I didn't get to visit Livingstone Lovington or trek to Kisumu or Mombasa. But Kenya felt like home even if its city development had left is less African. I tried to speak Swahili at every opportunity, even teasing the Kenyans that Tanzanians speak better Swahili than them. I should work on my sheng though. Kenya is also home to a lot of tourists, Nairobi is surely the innovation capital of Africa. One of my Stanford friends was working on a Kenyan-made tablet pc. It is similar to Ghana in many ways. Matatus have inscriptions on them just like trotros in Ghana do.

"Narudi Nyumbani". Didn't get to meet Nameless but his "Coming Home" anthem was on my lips throughout my Kenyan stay. Ghana has a lot to learn from Kenya and vice versa. Kenya has a lot more malls, and great infrastructure. Ghana will get that but I hope we keep our culture and 'Africanness' in doing so. I got to see more neighbourhoods in Nairobi but I wish I had visited some young professionals in Nairobi to see where they lived. I didn't go to the Kenya to see tourist sites, I went there to meet and live with the people. That's the way to African unity. That's the MightyAfrican way.

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