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Africa connected

Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 14:03 UK time, Monday, 7 June 2010

The single most common advertising billboard along all our roads so far is the billboard of mobile telephony. A mother talks to her daughter, a father talks to his son, both of them talk to each other, even on their own as if talking to themselves. But the most popular is the one when a young and athletic HIM sends a romantic message to young and exquisite HER.

There's even a kids version of it: a cheeky 10 years old schoolboy keeps his iphone in his hand and whispers to the ear of an innocent schoolgirl: 'Let's stay in touch!'

And the reality is not far from what you see in the adverts. In Drogba's village Niapaiho, which is in about 300 km from Abidjan, Drogba's father Albert speaks to his son, who is now in London. In the middle of the rainforest we see a telephone mast, and from another village in the woods we easily call a taxi, which comes from Abidjan. In the Ghanaian town of Takoradi I see schoolkids sending SMS messages as they pour out onto the streets the minute school is over.

rooney_blog.jpgIndeed, my own mobile phone was working without fail. And I was amazed that free broadband connections allowed us to regularly send videos, pictures, and this blog. However, seeing so many shanty towns, talking to many desperately poor people (one farmer said to me in an Ivorian village: "I have tired of my machete! Please help with some tractors...") I am far from thinking that the recipe for solving all problems in the West Africa is found in telephony or the Internet.

But at the same time a timber merchant from Ghana said something encouraging to me: "You know that the rainforest is connected both underneath and over the ground as one organism. So are we African people".

Then I easily understood why on the border between the Ivory Coast and Ghana a boy, whose name was John and who wore a T-shirt with the name of the English football star Wayne Rooney on it, while telling me about the intricacies of border trade - didn't ask who, what or where from I was, but asked my telephone number and writing it down, said: "Let's keep in touch!" - and added: "I'll message you".

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