December 15th, 2010
03:26 PM GMT
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So Ghana has joined the club of oil producing nations. The taps have been turned on at the offshore Jubilee field.

So what does this mean for Ghana? How will ordinary Ghanaians benefit from this resource windfall?

The first concern that should be addressed is the perception that suddenly the country will become flush with petrodollars. Importantly, expectations must be managed. As those citizens in Nigeria or Angola know, the oil money often doesn't trickle down to the people.

Firstly, Ghanaians have to not think that oil will magically create more jobs, or make people richer. Secondly, civil society has to be tough on government and ensure they constantly monitor how proceeds are being spent.

Also, Ghanaians need to quickly implement legislation to govern the administration of this new industry; hopefully these laws will be passed soon. An independent regulator is also needed to oversee the sector.

Luckily, Ghana has a relatively diversified economy compared to other oil-rich African nations. ­The country earns foreign currency from gold and cocoa. This alone makes it more likely to avoid the mistakes of places like Nigeria, where oil revenue accounts for approximately 92% of the GDP, or Angola, which is just about entirely reliant on oil proceeds.

However, the numbers are staggering. ­The Jubilee fields are some of the richest and largest oil deposits discovered in many years. In the long term, oil production is estimated to bring in $1 billion a year. This is a lot of responsibility, as well as a wonderful gift for Ghana.

So my questions: Is this oil discovery a blessing or a curse? Can Ghana avoid the mistakes of some other African countries where oil revenue is used to enrich the elites and not the ordinary people?

December 15th, 2010
12:53 AM GMT
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Shanzhai (山寨) is such an awesome word.

It's Chinese slang to describe a range of pirated or imitation goods. But with a difference. Shanzhai products include cellphones, cameras, computers and laptops that try their darndest to look like the real deal.

But Chris Chang of MIC Gadget offers a more nuanced definition. He says, "if a device looks like the authentic iPhone at first sight, we call it an iPhone knockoff. If it doesn't, we just call it shanzhai."

In tech markets like Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei you can score shanzhai versions of everything from Sony PSP players to Nokia phones. But Apple's designs are the most copied, as they are the most coveted.

Chang, a 19-year-old student based in Hong Kong, came by the studio armed with a select array of charming and eyebrow-raising shanzhai gifts including the shanzhai iPad. At first glance, you can imediately tell it's smaller than the real thing. It also runs a rival operating system, Google's Android, and lacks a truly multi-touch screen. In fact, you have to use your fingernails to touch it. But the shanzhai version has a handy feature that Apple left out of its tablet - a micro SD card slot. It retails in China for $135.

Next up, the Magic Mouse Phone. It has absolutely no link to the iPhone and looks just like Apple's mouse. It's a $45 GSM-only handset styled after a much-loved peripheral. Consider it a charming nod to Apple's design savvy. Shanzhai as geek tribute.

And then Chang revealed the very buzzy Apple Peel. It's a skin that turns an Apple iPod Touch into a GSM-only iPhone. When fully charged, it provides 4.5 hours of call time and 120 hours of standby time. Price tag? $45.

It may be a clever hack, but you have to extremely clever to put it together. It took Chang more than two hours to assemble at his first go, and that after jailbreaking his iPhone.

And yet Chang is a big fan, as the Apple Peel showcases Made-in-China tech not as a shameless rip-off or even shanzhai tribute... but as a "magical" example of innovation.

But there is one more thing...

The S-J "iDoll" is designed by MIC Gadget. With black turtleneck, glasses, and New Balance sneakers... it is a remakarable likeness. MIC had 300 figures made and, at just under $80 a pop, they quickly sold out. But then Apple told them to stop immediately, for violating Apple's copyrights and trademarks.

A bit ironic, considering the blog's content. It is after all a celebration of all things shamelessly shanzhai.

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