Can you hear them now?

About 20 elephants in the Samburu-Laikipia ecosystem currently wear Save the Elephants GPS collars. The latest model delivers one positional point from each elephant every hour. The technology of the new collars is not only intricate but also economical: To save expense, conserve battery power, and minimize weight, the collar mechanisms receive positional information from GPS satellites but then transmit that information by way of low-cost SMS (short message service) blurts on Safaricom, Kenya’s leading cell phone network. In other words, everybody in Kenya has a mobile phone, even the elephants. Read the rest of this article from National Geographic Magazine>>

From 2000 to 2005, mobile phone subscribers in developing countries grew fivefold, reaching almost 1.4 billion. Subcribers in China, India, and Brazil outnumber those in the United States and European Union. Wireless Intelligence expects that between 2005 and 2010, the world will add an additional one billion mobile phone subscribers. Eighty percent of that growth will occur in developing countries, mostly among households making less than $3,000 annually in locally adjusted dollars. Growth is accelerating fastest in sub-Saharan Africa, where, for example, Nigeria’s mobile phone subcribers grew from 370,000 to 16.8 million in just four years.

People like to think that we are social animals, driven by our need for interaction and community, and that may be why the mobile phone industry has become a bellweather for economic growth in regions across the world. Phones are used for more than keeping in touch with family and friends, they are used for conducting business – allowing for transactions not otherwise possible due to distance or lack of financial infrastructure (bank accounts are often linked to mobile phones in developing markets).

Phones can even become a business unto themselves, as mobile phone kiosks become more popular. At these sites, entrepreneurs charge a small fee for the use of a mobile phone. Many are located along popular walking routes such as those where water-fetchers make their daily trips.

Given such potential for growth in Africa – and not just in the mobile phone industry and the markets it catalyzes – it makes perfect sense for the Washington Post to publish this story in its front section on August 29:

Foreign investment is pouring into [Africa] at unprecedented rates, doubling in recent years to around $39 billion, according to U.N. figures. In recent months, some investors have even appeared convinced that Africa might be a safer spot to sink their money than the shakier U.S. and European markets. Read more >>

If the world can learn anything from the late 1990’s Asian Tiger Collapse, it is that larger and more liquid international capital flows need to be accompanied by appropriate standards for corporate governance and financial transparency. That’s not only for stability and crisis prevention; it is also a selling point to increasingly risk-averse (read: sub-prime stung) international investors – on whose dime jobs, and therefore political fortunes, are staked.

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