Hans Rosling of Gapminder Recognized

A few years ago my son, then a student at United World College, sent me a link to "The Best Statistics You've Never Seen", a TED talk by Swedish doctor and statistician Hans Rosling.  I shared it pretty widely.  In recent years, Dr. Rosling (who still seemed quite young) was increasingly turning over presentations to his own adult son.  Last Friday, we learned Rosling had died of cancer [NYT Obituary]

Over Facebook and Twitter, Rosling has not exactly been a celebrity like Prince or Bowie, but you start to observe really really smart people are all noting his passing.

Here's a short 2015 interview with Rosling with Engish subtitles.   If you haven't seen it yet, go to one of his longer 2006 TED Talk video in English.



It isn't the 1970s.  It has not been the 1970s for over a decade.  The talk about "third world" and "lesser developed nations" and "primtive" and dystopian descriptions are being kept alive by a type of white nostalgia that seeks to leverage exoticism into a kind of nuture-instinct currency.  I do it even now - returning from Africa I find far more photos on my card of grass roofs than of metal ones.  We are attracted to documenting poverty, leveraging schadenfreude, gaining a fantasy of heroicism in the process.

 "Herrschaftskritischer Ansatz" is another good German expression to describe it.

Here is my observation about how Rosling's Gapminder can bring us together.  Yes, this is political.  The wealthier blue state democrat demographic and blue collar red state demographic are both guilty of portraying the rest of the world as seriously far more "other" than it is.







How To Pay For Africa E-Waste Cleanup? Part 3


Africans have a better idea about which view of Africa's the fine one

A month living with Africa's Tech Sector is like the opposite of the movie "The Matrix".  In the matrix all the humans think they are living in a normal world, but in reality dwell in torrid humid dystopic conditions.  Take the red pill, and you see the horror of reality...

Africa's Tech Sector has been described in halloweenish, dystopian, horrific terms by agents of the Charitable Industrial Complex, Big Shred, and Planned Obsolescence.  Take the blue pill, and you find a bunch of intelligent, happy, funny people living in a normal world of value added, growing standards of living, and healthy teledensity.

So just close your eyes, count backwards from Three, and when I snap my fingers, we'll solve Africa's real e-waste problems efficiently, fairly, and fairly quickly.

It's time for the good news!

Morpheus's "dirty little secret" isn't the truth.

The Truth in Africa isn't "Sodom and Gomorrah" or "Eden" either.  But it's a lot more like "Avatar" than it is "The Matrix".  Once you live here and see people are kind of the same, the solutions become easier to do.

There are simple and friendly and affordable solutions here.  (And the EU can still get all the unobtanium it wants.)  America is teaching Africa and Europe to "Dab" together, trade together, cooperate together.  With a little Interpol "community policing" we'll suffer less "collateral damage".

Dabbing to the Blue Pill!  Africa Dey FINE!

The Joy of Fair Trade Recycling, continued

How To Pay For Africa E-Waste Cleanup? Part II

So we've established that so far, "saving Africa from e-waste" has made a handsome profit for EU Policy makers, NGOs, Big Shred, and lazy photojournalists and prosecutors. 

We've established that like USA in the 1990s, Africans have a growing volume of junk televisions and computers.  Imported in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, the CRT televisions alone represent a modern "urban mining" project.

The kids at left - ALL of their grandparents had a TV when their parents were born.  This is not a "recent import" or "Basel Convention" disorder.

Here's the problem - Africa's Tech Sector, the repair and upgrade professionals, used to be able to sell third hand televisions and computers, collected from African consumers who traded them in or abandoned a repair after 'elective upgrade'.  They are increasingly finding it hard to resell 20, 30 and 40 year old "third hand" electronics.

Correctly diagnosing the problem is the first step to treatment.  Paying for the solution is the second step.

How to pay for the safe and effective recycling of used electronics abandoned at African repair shops - not by Europeans or Americans, but by African consumers who, eventually, decide not to pay for the repair of a 45 year old television set?

First, stop wasting money on environmental malpractice.


How To Pay For Africa E-Waste Cleanup?

15 years later, let's just ask what he imports
After 2 weeks back in Ghana, the #1 Finding of our research still stands.  E-Waste NGOs made up fictitious numbers about the percentage of imports to Africa that are "waste" and the percentage of waste in places like Agbogbloshie that come from faulty used good imports ("Exaggerations have been made" said Jim P. on our Salzburg panel).  Photojournalists flew to Accra (Agbogbloshie is about 20 minutes from the airport, 9 minutes from Accra's finest hotel), and took close-up photos of Africans in exotic poses.  And EU policymakers got project funding to "save" Africans from e-waste dumping.

Neither the NGOs, nor the journalists, nor the EU Policy funders checked out existing data on Accra stormwater runoff (the water quality at the Odaw Korle lagoon was hideous in the 1970s), the number of households with televisions in Accra 15 years ago, or the number of people employed in the scrap industry generally as compared to the number seen in Old Fadama slum of Accra. They didn't even find it on mapquest, which would show it's at the center of Accra, not a remote fishing village on the outskirts (as should have been suggested by the cab ride from the hotel). They would have found the phrase "Sodom and Gomorrah" appears in a 2002 AMA publication calling for razing the slum to build shopping malls and parking lots.

There was no basic secondary research.  No control group.  No null hypothesis.