Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution, and how mobile phones helped it happen
The overthrow of Tunisian President Zine Al-Abedine Ben Ali is a sign of political ferment both in Africa and in the Islamic world, fed by economic distress, political repression, and young people with the tools -- including mobile phones and Internet -- to make changes.
I returned home to Africa five years ago because I had and still have a supreme conviction that Africa is rising, that Africa is actually the last great convergence trade of this world of ours. And that the real African story is not about what can be dug out of the ground but about the human capital, the 1 billion souls who walk upon it. And in many ways, the Wal-Mart acquisition of MassMart in the past few months confirms that.Skip to next paragraph
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The silver bullet, the entry ticket for Africa to the 21st century and this super-late cycle convergence has been the mobile phone. The mobile phone [internet-enabled and a mobile wallet] is the game-changer, at least here in Africa and perhaps throughout the world. It is the equivalent of the 21st-century fishing rod. Every development fellow worth their paycheck would say, "Give a man or woman a fish and you feed them for a day; give them a fishing rod and they can feed themselves for life."
Sitting in Nairobi and observing the tape at my investment firm, [It was Edwin Lefevre who said, 'The Tape is Your Telescope' in 1923 in his seminal book, Reminiscences of a Stock Market Operator], the Tunisian tape and the Tunis stock exchange had been flashing on my radar for quite some time. In fact, Tunis was the belle of the frontier-market ball.
From January 2006 through September 2010, it had rallied 243.781 percent. Until the Sri Lankans routed the Tamils and the Colombo Stock Exchange took off into orbit on a Tamil surrender peace dividend, Tunis was probably the best performing stock index in the world. This year it has slumped 10 percent through Friday, and the reasons are best seen in a potted transcript of the week's events.
Mr. Ben Ali in a speech on Monday called the riots “terrorist acts” that were the work of “masked gangs” operating for foreign parties.
"We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are afraid only of God," the crowds chanted on Tuesday in Tunis.
On Thursday, the American secretary of State said the following in Qatar.
“In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand,” said Secretary Hillary Clinton. “Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever, If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum.”