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African American history in Botswana

Jeff Ramsay
GUEST


In the United States February is annually marked as Black History Month. It is in this context that, for the eleventh year in a row, the American Embassy has partnered with the University of Botswana to locally “celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans to the United States and the world.”

At the centre of this year’s programme were three films on aspects of the African-American experience, being documentaries on the rise of Barack Obama and the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, along with “12 Years a Slave.”

The latter feature film is an unvarnished portrayal of the brutality of slavery based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and enslaved in 1841. Many readers will recall that the film won last year’s Best Picture Oscar, being the first time such an award went to a black film director and producer, Steve McQueen; with newcomer  HYPERLINK "http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2143282?ref_=ttawd_awd_2" Lupita Nyong'o also taking the supporting Actress Award for her role in the film.

While the above stories are certainly of universal relevance, what nonetheless appears to have been missing is any direct reflection of the global role played by African-Americans much less black people in general. One cannot, for example honestly speak of 20th century African political thought without reference to the influence of such Diaspora figures as W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey and George Padmore among others.

Longstanding Pan-African ties are further reflected in the fact that many prominent African nationalists were profoundly shaped by their own experiences living in segregation era America. Among these was the founding father of the African National Congress, Pixley Seme, who while graduating with honours from Columbia University in 1906, was also awarded the institution’s George William Curtis medal for oratory for his poetic as well as prophetic address on “The Regeneration of Africa”. This author’s favourite passage:

“Oh, for that historian who, with the open pen of truth, will bring to Africa`s claim the strength of written proof. He will tell of a race whose onward tide was often swelled with tears, but in whose heart bondage has not quenched the fire of former years. He will write that in these later days when Earth`s noble ones are named, she has a roll of honour too, of whom she is not ashamed. The giant is awakening! From the four corners of the earth Africa’s sons, who have been proved through fire and sword, are marching to the future’s golden door bearing the records of deeds of valour done”.

Among those who followed in Seme’s footsteps were such figures as Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Hastings Banda and Eduardo Mondlane.

Less well known and celebrated has been the role played by black migrants from the USA and the Caribbean in Africa itself. During the nineteenth century Cape Town in particular became the home of many such figures. One of these was the earliest know African American visitor to Botswana, the pioneer trader explorer George Fleming. Between 1849 and 1856 he accompanied David Livingstone and others on four pioneering expeditions to Ngamiland and the middle Zambezi.

An ex-slave, George Fleming arrived in Cape Town as a sailor from the West Indies. In his correspondence Livingstone further claims that he had originally escaped from slavery in the US. Otherwise not much is known about his life before 1849 when he was hired as a cook by William Cotton Oswell to take part in the first ‘European’ expedition to Lake Ngami, along with Livingstone and others. The journey organized by Dikgosi Letsholathebe and Sechele, working with Oswell, to further promote the arms for ivory trade.     
 
In 1851, Fleming once more travelled with Oswell and Livingstone to the Makololo kingdom, from where they further explored the middle Zambezi. During this expedition Fleming may have been with Oswell when the latter became the first European to spot Mosi-oa-thunya (four years before Livingstone who had remained behind).

Fleming subsequently succeeded in obtaining financial backing from a Cape Town merchant named Howson Rutherford, in order to establish himself as an interior trader. In a letter to Oswell, Livingstone thus reported: “Your cook George Fleming proposes to go up country on his own account some months hence. Mr. Rutherford seems to approve of the plan and so I think will give him goods to trade with.”

It was in this independent context that Fleming ultimately joined Livingstone in returning to the Makololo country in June 1853. The two parted in November 1853 with Fleming travelling back to Grahamstown with a profitable load of ivory.

Fleming’s final known expedition was in 1856 when he was entrusted by the London Missionary Society with the task of carrying supplies to Livingstone whose exact whereabouts were then unknown. The two were thereafter reunited at Quelimane in Mozambique. After a further journey to Mauritius, Fleming appears to have remained in Cape Town.

While it is clear that a genuine bond of friendship existed between Fleming and Livingstone the latter’s obsession with taking sole credit for his supposed ‘discoveries’ along with the racism of the era has served to obscure Fleming’s legacy. Sadly unlike his contemporary Northup, Fleming only appears in the writings of others.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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