Category Archives: Culture

#data will fall

In a ground-breaking move, South African mobile operators have announced a deal whereby people who cannot afford data would be able to barter their goods in exchange for data bundles. The new deal is set to come into effect in 2017 as some ground work needs to be done to design a structure of how this system will work practically.

Speaking to reporters, Vodacom’s Jal nied ta jus Pay said, “we are tired of the FOMO that is going on out there because people cannot afford data and as one of the biggest networks in the country we have taken it upon ourselves to bring data to the people.”


The system will see collection centres being set up across the country to collect goods and other items in exchange for airtime/recharge vouchers. Although it is still unclear what goods will be exchanged for which amounts of airtime, unconfirmed reports also suggest that those who have nothing to exchange will even be offered the chance to get contract deals as long they can work it off in 24 months.


The deals on offer range from getting a Huawei p9 with 1G of data per month in exchange for doing the Vodacom CEO’s gardening for 2 years to getting an S7 with 5G of data per month for doing lap dances at Teasers on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The latter deal would see the club covering your contract costs.


Experts around the world are hailing this new cost model as the way most mobile network providers will go especially in developing countries where data costs are so prohibitive that some people are even unable to respond to friend requests from as far back as 2 years ago.


A spokesperson for the Ministry of Communication said, “hopefully this brings down the cost of airtime and who knows people could free up more money to afford university fees making the feesmustfall hashtag obsolete and in turn all the (insertproblemhere)mustfall hashtags”


Johannesburg: A world class African…wait a minute

Johannesburg skyline

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa recently ruled on a case brought before them by Steven Haywood. He felt that in a promotional radio ad the City of Johannesburg misled people by making certain false claims relating to the city’s financial stability, its job creation and its environmental initiatives. The ruling, which was in Mr Haywood’s favour, was that the City of Johannesburg had two weeks to withdraw the advert.

Although Mr Haywood’s complaint was not based on the tagline of the ad, there’s been a lot of talk about the City of Johannesburg and its tagline “a world class African city”.

Whether or not Johannesburg is a world class African city is a story for another day however, I’d like to look at some taglines in existence in South Africa today and give more fitting alternatives.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) curently has “to serve and to protect” but given the number of innocent bystanders they shoot “to serve and to protect prices start at R100 plus shipping and handling” would probably be more apt. Here are a couple more.

Company Current tagline What it should be
Vodacom power to you power t..please recharge your account to finish this sentence
Sofn’free love your hair love your hair just not in its natural state

Please feel free to add your own interpretations of popular taglines in the comments section.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom

Today is mother’s day and as you may have noticed I didn’t get you a present. You taught me that it’s the thought that counts so I’m comforted by the fact that you have always practised what you preached.

To be honest, for a large part of my early life there were days when I thought you were really horrible and mean. Like the time you ratted me out to my dad in the first grade about my refusal to write in class. And the time you took me to school in 1991 and left me there with strangers for 8 whole hours. Off course I would later find out that the strangers were actually teachers and that I would be stuck in that institution for 17 good years of my life. Then there were the times when you used my fear of policemen and soldiers to scare me out of misbehaving. It worked, to this day I am still afraid of policemen, soldiers and any figures of authority.

As I grew older I realised that much of what you did was for my own benefit. Upon moving to South Africa your gems of advice stood me in good stead when I was faced with different problems. I have grown into a respectful, considerate man who is a model citizen (apart from the times when I drink milk straight from the milk carton without anyone looking).

Raising a family in Africa is not that easy in fact it’s not that easy no matter where you are. Nothing I can buy will ever fully express the appreciation that we (my siblings and I) feel for showing us so much unconditional love even though we made it difficult to do so at times. All we can say is thank you for being such a great mom!

Zimbabwean English

My English teacher used to say: “the Queen would be cross if she heard you say that” everytime someone made a grammatical error. I imagined the Queen, an old lady with glasses hanging down at the end of her nose as if she didn’t want to wear them, sitting in front of a computer receiving notifications everytime someone in the world ‘butchered’ the English language.

Every region in Africa has its own version of English. Some colloquialisms (apologies your Majesty I’m not sure if that’s plural for colloquial) are so unique that they clearly mark the speaker’s country of origin.

For example, you know you are from Zimbabwe if when you are sent to buy drinks for visitors you ask them “which Coke do you want?” (Coke is used as the generic name for all fizzy drinks). This can be confusing especially if you really want coke.

This trend stretches to cover all toothpaste (referred to as Colgate), washing powder (Surf), bleach (Jik) and many others.

When someone talks of ‘meat’ in Zimbabwe most often they are referring to beef. Chicken is not meat it’s chicken. So it’s not rare to hear someone say “we’ll buy some meat, sausages, some chicken and …”

While our English as Zimbabweans is rated highly in Africa our English accents are a different matter. Off course this is relative.

Ndebele speakers are well known for saying cackle when they mean kettle and lickle when they mean little because in most Nguni languages the ‘tle’ sounds more like ‘ckle’ when compared to English.

In 2006 I was fired from a job at a call centre in Cape Town because I didn’t have a ‘neutral’ accent (a.k.a I didn’t have a twang). There is no such thing as a neutral accent. My accent is influenced by the fact that I grew up in Bulawayo (predominantly Ndebele speaking area), went to a school where English was the language spoken in and out of class and had an English teacher who loved her job.

I’m against this idea of England being held up as some sort of default English setting as if people there speak the same English. Even the Queen has an accent. An accent shaped as much by her heritage as it is by her education, her social circles and her social standing as a Monarch.

English does not belong to anyone. All over Africa this language has been adapted to suit different localities. Given that this language is slowly eclipsing many of our indigenous languages especially among the younger people it is only fair that we be allowed to infuse it with a bit of local pzazz (again your Majesty my apologies). After all, one does one’s best.

Forget Santa or the Easter Bunny TIA!

With Easter coming up I am sure Santa’s reindeer are pretty disappointed that some cotton-tailed cabbage eating creature will be taking centre stage instead of them. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate Easter and Christmas. I am just not a fan of all the commercial stuff that has come to represent these holidays. Think about it, for every holiday that exists there is some kind of fad or mascot that is used as an excuse for people to spend copious amounts of money all in the name of celebration. It is sad that as Africans we are falling victim to all the excitement.

For Christmas there is Santa and his promise of presents when we all know full well there is no way some pot bellied old man with a white beard will fit in the chimney. We have different time zones, so the logistics needed for Santa to make his deliveries would be the stuff of legend. Assuming he travels the whole globe in one night he would have to make 822.6 visits per second. That means for each celebrating household with at least one child in it, Santa would have 1/1000th of a second to park his sleigh, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, place presents under the tree, eat the cookies, drink a glass of milk and return to the sleigh. Given his fitness levels and the fact that it is extremely hot and rainy in Southern Africa in December, this seems all the more impossible.

So before you go lying to your children about some old man or some bunny delivering toys to them during the holidays remember that this is Africa. The heat and the rain make it extremely impossible for any one or any bunny for that matter to be running around the world delivering toys.

Don’t shoot hun, it’s just me in the bath

In a week preceded by the horrific gang rape and murder of a teenage girl in Bredasdorp in the Western Cape came the shocking story of Oscar Pistorius. Oscar Pistorius aka ‘blade runner’ is the double amputee who is famous world over for competing in Olympic athletics despite his use of prosthetic legs. No doubt, moving forward he will be known more for what he did this past week than for his exploits on the track.

Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend. He claims he shot his girlfriend who was in the bath at the time (according to him) because he mistook her for a burglar.

It is both disturbing and a sign of our increasing insensitivity to violence to see that amidst all this tragedy people have been coming up with all manner of jokes. Most, are heavily reliant on puns revolving around Oscar Pistorius’ legs or lack thereof. This has been done in ignorance of the fact that at the end of the day there is a family that has lost a loved one. I am not uptight but I am not one to laugh at a man when he is on his knees.

Personal opinion aside, has South Africa really become so crime ridden? So full of crime that a guy who lives in a gated community with security that rivals even that of the Berlin Wall at its peak feels so vulnerable he shoots at the first thing that moves? So unsafe that he feels he needs, in addition to such security and a burglar alarm (assuming he has one), a collection of weapons to defend himself in case someone breaks into his house? So unsafe that he shoots multiple times at a target whose identity he has not established (assuming his version of events is the truth) because in a house where he is alone with his girlfriend if something moves in the bath it must be a burglar?

When I was younger I always knew I was in trouble when my father called me by my middle name. So, Leonard, I don’t know you or what really happened at your home on Valentine’s Day but come the start of your trial you have a lot of explaining to do.

Lost In Abroad (Part 2)

As an African living abroad, what are you doing about Africa’s problems?

Have you ever been asked this question?  I was recently, and the following is the second installment of my answer.  As with most things in life, I think money is part of the solution.

[Read the first part here if you haven’t done so already]


Unfortunately many of us in America work too much.  We don’t manage to save much under the age of 40 – even though most of us are well-paid professionals. By our 40’s the sense of adventure required to contribute significantly back home is gone.  Family responsibilities ($$) take center stage, and other things become more important.  Those with the incomes that make wealth-building easier often stay here because life is easier and rich people are safer.  The huge houses that can be purchased in nice upper-class neighborhoods are too hard to resist.

I also doubt that Africans live like visitors in the U.S.  We don’t behave like people that have a home elsewhere.  We acquire hard assets, and live upper-middle-class lives – some even create social clubs and the sorts of things that make it feel like “back home”.  If you come to Houston, you’ll quickly find imported African foods as well as traditional fabrics.  Our home countries inevitably become vacation spots, rather than places we go to get goals accomplished.  Sure some people do Medical Missions, but other than saving a few lives, what systemic changes can that affect?  In Lost In Abroad, one of the characters understood this, and made an effort to use his Architectural skills back home where he thought it was needed most.

For my part, I don’t have plans right now to live in Nigeria.  However I recognize that plans change.  I remember that I was sent out to acquire certain things, and once I have them I don’t want to be stuck here or anywhere else.  I am also starting to question the merits of living out the rest of my life in the Western world. Do I want my children to grow up here?  I’m not saying that there is something wrong with being here, but I have other options.  I just heard that my father built a [second] small house, with the notion that my brother and I should not have to share space in the house he already has.  Somewhere in the world I can live in a house without rent or mortgage payments!

Will I Be Lost In Abroad?

My family wasn’t stuck in Nigeria; nor were we stuck in Zimbabwe.  When the kitchen got too hot, we moved on to greener pastures.  Doesn’t it make sense that if we weren’t stuck at “home” that we wouldn’t become stuck abroad?  This has many implications for how we build wealth in foreign lands, and how much we strive to be “at home” in another man’s house.  Citizenship acquired through legal means doesn’t feel quite like the citizenship that is a birthright.

Every time President Barack Obama’s race or citizenship is a topic in the American media, I smile at the thought of having a place where my grandfather’s house still stands.  I haven’t been there for a while, but that doesn’t mean I never will.  The prodigal son always knew he could go back, because even time cannot call into question the rights a person has on the land of his ancestors.  That means, no big house for me and no fancy car — not unless and until I can go home and contribute my sweat to African progress.  I may or may not, but I never will if I cannot.

So now I ask you.  As an African living outside your home country, what are you doing about Africa’s problems?

Albert Okagbue is a world travelled and globally educated Certified Public Accountant from Houston, Texas. He is a guest blogger on norushinafrica but mostly writes about finance related issues on