You can’t open a Steri Stumpie #butyougotthatiPhone5though

350ml bottle of stei stumpie
If you can’t open this without spilling you do not need an iPhone…any iPhone.

I was well on my way to saving up for an iPhone4 when I heard that Apple had released the iPhone5. As far as technology goes I know enough to get by in today’s world. I know that when my TV is not working I must first make sure I am facing the screen before I call for help. I know that repeatedly pressing the up or down button while waiting for an elevator will not make it come to where I am any faster. I also know that there are no little people inside my TV.

I am a lot of things but what I’m not is one of those people who queue outside a store at odd hours of the morning waiting to buy the newest edition of a phone. I am not alone. Mere observation around the time the iPhone5 launched will tell you that around Africa there wasn’t a rush to buy the iPhone5 as was seen across the developed world. This is mainly because the iPhone5 is expensive and out of reach of most average Africans. That said there are still many people here who can afford to buy it.

I am all for technological advancement. I get excited when new gadgets are invented that make our lives easier while at the same time making the goal of getting a six-pack harder. However, I think that advancement in one aspect of our lives i.e in phones; TVs and cars etc. should match advancement elsewhere. I will give you some examples.

In an age where we have smart phones, like the iPhone5 you’d expect that the guys at Steri Stumpie (South Africa’s current number one flavoured milk brand) would have by now figured out how to make a 350ml bottle of the stuff that opens easily without spilling all over the place. The current 350ml bottle of the flavoured milk is covered by foil that is notoriously hard to crack open without pulling really hard resulting in a jolt that catapults the first 10ml of the stuff all over whatever and whoever is in front of you at the time of opening.

You’d think that in an age where some cars can almost drive on autopilot we would by now have a machine that can put the thread into the eye of a needle so that you don’t have to do it yourself.

You would think that here in South Africa and around Africa by now we would have an efficient public transport system that makes it easier for people in remote areas without cars to plan their days and get around.

Instead, what we have is an iPhone that has a taller screen, a whole 0.5 inches more than its predecessors, a faster processor, a new operating system and still no slot for a memory card.

Most Africans might not have satellite television, computers or cars but almost everyone has a mobile phone. This continent presents a large market for mobile phone manufacturers so they ignore us at their own peril. However they face a challenge in making their products affordable so that we don’t have a situation where you are so broke you eat cornflakes with a fork just to save milk #butyougotthatiPhone5though.


Steve Biko 1946 – 1977

The cover of "I write what I like"
The cover of “I write what I like”

September 11 is a date that will forever live in infamy in the United States and around the world as the day terrorism showed its ugly face. September 12 is a date that will forever live in infamy around the world as the day after the day that terrorism showed its ugly face.

For South Africans and all involved in the black consciousness movement September 12 has a different significance. It is remembered as the day that Steve Biko died. He was one of the founders of the black consciousness movement in South Africa.

If one relied solely on television for news, one could be forgiven for letting this date slip past without much pomp. Even for a struggle hero it’s tough when your memorial has to compete with the memorial of two jumbo jets crashing into two very iconic buildings as far the New York skyline is concerned.

I watch TV a lot and I must say during that week, I saw planes, I saw explosions, I saw aliens, I saw Ben 10 but I didn’t see Steve Biko much.

Steve Biko’s question to the world at the time was very simple: ‘what is the state of the black world?’ Today my question is just as simple: what is the state of the African world?

Well, where do I start? We are held to ransom by politicians who were born in an age where having your picture in black and white was just the way you had to have it and not a choice. In between burps that smell of foie gras and caviar, they go on and on in their speeches about how the youth of today have lost focus and how they died for this freedom that we take for granted.

We have a leader in South Africa who has 5 wives, goes on record as saying he took a shower to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and reads slower than the cookie monster on Sesame Street. We have a leader in Zimbabwe trying to be president and yet he ignores a court order to marry a second wife.

Still in South Africa, we have a situation were black people and other groups are still massively under represented in decision making roles especially in upper management roles in business.

We have a police commissioner who presides over the killing of 34 miners who were protesting (carrying weapons) for better wages. This commisioner replaced the commissioner who replaced the commissioner who was put in jail for corruption.

Plan A is not working. Come election time, what do we say to ourselves? Let’s try plan A again! We vote these same people into power then spend the next five or however years complaining about how corrupt they are.

Steve Biko died attempting to put together a united black front. I wonder what he would say were he alive today about the state of the black world. What is abundantly clear is that at the rate we are going, the black world and the Trade centre Towers might have more in common than we think. Just like the people on those American Airlines planes, we are on our way to crash but unlike them we are in a position to do something about it.

To quote Ben Okri, who spoke at Biko’s memorial lecture “there are three Africas. The one we see every day. The one they write about. And the real magical Africa we don’t see unfolding through all the difficulties of our time, like a quiet miracle.”

In years to come the Africa we become will depend on each and every one of us.

Google+ : ‘weird’ names not wanted!

Today, I tried to open a google+ account using my real name.

As I found out, my real name is not cool enough for the guys at Google because when I tried to open a google+ account using my real name (which they encouraged, I might add) I was greeted with a screen that told me that my real name was in violation of their naming policy.

Berkia Banda name not accepted on google
Berkia Banda is not good enough for google+

This is mainly because as humans we rely on computers that are set to specific algorithms when giving names. We don’t, as most people think try to give our children names with cultural significance, meaning or any such other non-programmable variable that would not get picked up by computer algorithms.

With the knowledge that Google is an American company I had a gut feeling that if I had a, how you say… “normal” name, I probably would not have this problem.

I admit that as far as names go, mine is pretty rare, even by African standards. I’m not quite sure where the name “Berkia” comes from or what it means but I’ve been led by many to believe that it has Afghan roots and it means a strong man (surprise, surprise).

I therefore did what any self-respecting African would do when faced with such a situation, I changed my name (on google+ at least). I figured that since my name sounded weird to google+ I would change my name to Blanket Jackson (the name of Michael Jackson’s kid in case you were wondering he is the one who was dangled out of the window of a Hotel by his then alive, crazy and always weird Pop King of a father).

I did that more as a joke than anything and it actually worked (as you can see from the picture below).

Blanket Jackson more acceptable as a name than my real name
“Blanket Jackson” my new google+ name

Since my name is not actually Blanket I tried to change my profile name back after successfully opening a google+ account and guess what? It wouldn’t let me change it back. Instead it asked me to provide urls where I have been addressed using the name Berkia Banda to prove that I am who I say I am.

I am still awaiting a reply from the guys at google (apparently it will take 24 hours). While I wait I just thought I’d let them know that I’m not chaffed about this.

In 2012 you would not think that the John Smiths, Jane Smiths and Blanket Jacksons of the world have less stress opening google+ pages simply because someone at google is not progressive enough to develop a naming policy that is inclusive.

I mean, what if my name really is Butros Butros Gali or上官文清上官文清 (Shangguan Wenqing)? Does this mean that I have to wait 24 hours longer than normal people (the Johns and the Janes) to start using google plus?