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On being broke, being poor, and being glad that I have the luxury of saving

I hate the end of the year in Benin. Everybody turns into a liar. “I’ll pay you tomorrow.” “I’ll call you this evening.” “Stop by at the end of the week.” “Let’s make an appointment for 4:00.” Nobody calls, and we constantly show up to empty offices. It’s more socially acceptable (and easier) to lie than it is to simply admit that they don’t have the money. Manipulating and manging...

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On Freedom of the Press in Benin, and the New Lack Thereof

Freedom of the press and the right to say what I want, when I want, is something I take for granted. Despite the many problems that plague American media, our right to free speech is well protected. The press, while beholden to its corporate interests, does not fear jail or sanctions for telling the truth, nor for expressing a negative opinion about the current administration. On November 3, CAPP FM,...

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On Internet in Benin and the lack thereof

Last Thursday, we woke up to no Internet. At 8:00, we called Benin Telecoms to signal the problem. “We’ll send a team right away,” they said. “Are you sure you need to send a team out here? We just can’t log in, so the problem’s probably on your end.” “What could you possibly know about our servers? We’ll send a team over right away,” they responded. At 10:30, still no...

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Why is so hard to understand why Universal fucking Health Care is a GOOD THING?

I had lunch with an expat this morning, and said I that sometimes I have a hard time talking about development in Benin, as even we haven’t gotten it right yet. She looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “We??!? *I* come from a country that has universal health care and free education up through university.” She’s Danish. For everyone who’s not actively involved in the battle for a...

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On why language is important when talking about women in tech

This is the second in a series of posts where I address technology, women in technology, and women in technology in Benin. * Accompanying the recent spate of questions about how to find more and better women speakers for tech conferences, the general lack of women in technology, and a lot of comments about women’s capabilities and skills, has been a dreadful abuse of the English language hinting that women...

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On women in tech, in Benin and back home in the States

This is the first of a series of posts in which I’ll discuss technology, women in technology, and women in technology in Benin. My clients are all businessmen. Accent on men. After over two years of developing websites and web applications in Cotonou, we have a lot of clients (what can I say, we’re good at what we do!). Of these clients, two are women. Less than 5% of all...

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On why I don’t hate on PayPal for not operating in sub-Saharan Africa

I’m just going to get this out of the way: I am quite sympathetic to PayPal and how they’ve cut off the entire continent of Africa. Going to a cybercafé in Cotonou means two out of three computers are occupied by Beninese or Nigerian boys scamming rich Americans and Europeans. Sometimes, they’re training 9 and 10 year olds. Benin has a very small IP block, which means that almost all...

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On my new job (yes, I am just that awesome)

I have a new job. I mean, a new job in addition to running Benin’s most successful web development firm. Jon Gosier at Appfrica just relaunched and hired my magnificent self to blog about technology, entrepreneurship, and other awesomeness in Africa. I’m getting paid to write about things I love! I know, I know, I know. Half of you don’t care about tech in Africa, and the other half of...

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Limited bandwith = THERESA IS CRANKY

Nigerian ISP Internet Speeds. Originally uploaded by Wayan Vota This is an awesome screencap by Wayan Vota showing just how bad the bandwidth gets in Nigeria. Normally, Benin has similar service levels during the day. Night time speeds approach a whopping 56kpbs (we are paying for 256kbps). Now image that the undersea cable connecting Benin with the rest of the world has been cut, and now our traffic is being...