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Tunisia exports the highest number of ISIL fighters of any country in the world

Tunisia is where the Arab Spring began. And of all the countries enveloped in the revolutions that followed, it is the only one where hopes of a democratic future remain strong. Just last week, the Nobel committee awarded the Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet this year’s peace prize, commending the group for “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.”

But the forces of democracy in the country are being challenged by darker elements in their midst. Tunisia has been troubled by repeated terror attacks this year, and is now believed to contribute the highest number of fighters for Islamist terror group ISIL.

According to the latest data from the US House Homeland Security Committee, of the 25,000 fighters thought to be working for ISIL in Iraq and Syria, 5000 are Tunisian.

The government sees ideological militancy among its citizens as an issue of national concern. “The fight against terrorism is a national responsibility,” Habib Essid, the country’s prime minister said after a local beach resort was attacked by a gunman in June. “We are at war against terrorism which represents a serious danger to national unity during this delicate period that the nation is going through.”

This delicate period, while it has opened up the democratic space, has not eased the economic challenges the country is facing, which analysts say has created an opening for ISIL to exploit.

Four years after the revolution Tunisia’s economy is contracting. After 2.3% growth in 2014, the World Bank and IMF project GDP growth for this year at a measly 1%. Overall unemployment is at 15.2%. And for university graduates, unemployment is even worse at a staggering 34%, estimates the African Development Bank (AfDB).

All these factors have created deep disillusionment about post-revolutionary Tunisia. And ISIL recruiters have exploited this air of dissatisfaction to devastating effect, luring young people to their cause. They offer monthly salaries of up $2,000 and the promise of a life of meaning, fighting to correct injustice as epitomized by the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. Where jobs are scarce and those who can find them earn meager wages of $100 a month, what ISIL is offering has proved to be a compelling alternative.

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Petrobras has a powerful ally as it sorts out its financial mess

Petroleo Brasileiro, Brazil’s troubled energy company, is getting the cold shoulder from financial markets as it struggles to overcome a costly corruption scandal and low oil prices.

On Oct. 15, the company said it was postponing an offer to sell $790 million of debentures because of “adverse conditions in the Brazilian capital markets,” the New York Times reports. A century bond Petrobras offered in June, its previous foray into the capital markets, has since plummeted in value as investors worry about the company’s financial health.

But one supporter staunchly remains by Petrobras’s side: China.

On Oct. 13, the company said it reached a deal with a unit of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to lease two offshore platforms for $2 billion. Another Chinese agency, China Development Bank Corp., had already agreed to lend Petrobras another $5 billion in May.

The $7 billion from those agreements would cover only a fraction of Petrobras’s total debt, which is around $130 billion, per Fitch Ratings’ analyst Lucas Aristizabal.

China has long been interested in Brazil, first as a bountiful source of raw materials to power economic growth in the mainland, but more recently as a market for the services and products of its domestic companies.

From 2005 to 2014, China committed $22 billion to fund a variety of projects in Brazil, according to a database compiled by Inter-American Dialogue and Boston University’s Global Economic Governance Initiative.

Brazil’s economic and political turmoil has not scared China away. The two countries signed another 35 deals when Chinese premier Li Keqiang visited Brazil in May, according to Eurasia Group.

As economic growth slows down at home, finding business opportunities abroad has become even more important for Chinese leaders, Margaret Myers, who studies China’s activities in Latin America at Inter-American Dialogue, told Quartz.

“It’s a long-term strategy,” said Myers. “China is in Latin America to stay.”

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The CEO of one of South Africa’s largest mobile networks thinks Whatsapp is a freeloader

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No one likes a freeloader. Ask Mteto Nyati, CEO of MTN South Africa—the second biggest mobile network in the country. Speaking to South Africa’s Fin24 on Oct. 13, Nyati said that over the top (OTT) operators like the popular messaging service, Whatsapp, are making gains without any investment.

“You have to regulate them because clearly they’re making a huge amount of revenue on top of the infrastructure that the operators have paid for. Somehow they have to contribute towards the building of this infrastructure,” Nyati said.

Over the top (OTT) operators like Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and WeChat offer their services—including voice calling, messaging and video calling—over a data connection, without having to use traditional mobile networks. OTTs are increasingly frustrating mobile service providers, who battle declining revenues in their SMS and voice segments.

MTN has set aside R10 billion ($76 million) this year to invest in improving its 3G and LTE coverage—outspending its rival, Vodacom, on capital expenditure, according to a Hilton Tarrant, a South African telecoms commentator. This is to support its growing data service business—nearly 30% of MTN’s revenues are generated from data—while revenues from prepaid and postpaid messaging has been declining over the past two years.

With a 31% market share among South Africa’s social networks, Whatsapp is giving South African mobile operators a run for their money. In South Africa, the average cost of an sending a sms is R0.80, while messaging via the app can cost as little as R0.03.

Whatsapp voice calling, introduced this year in South Africa, has also proven popular with the average cost of a call via the app ranging from R0.02 to R0.92 per minute.

While they may be eating into the messaging and voice revenues of mobile networks, OTTs like Whatsapp aren’t completely bad for business. They can help fuel data consumption—a growing revenue stream for network operators if exploited well.

South Africa’s third largest network, with 19.6 million subscribers by the end of 2014, saw an opportunity a year ago by zero-rating Whatsapp on its network for close to a year. Though the promotion came to an end on Sept. 1—with the network opting to charge its customers R5.00 for a Whatsapp bundle. Cell C’s CEO, Jose Dos Santos, says zero-rating Whatsapp has worked well.

“Cell C has seen such great success in our venture to embrace over-the-top players like Whatsapp, and we are pleased to now bring an incredible value proposition to our customers,” said Dos Santos to iTWebAfrica.

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There’s now a computer program that lets you control someone else’s face

In the prophetic 1997 film “Face/Off,” John Travolta figures that the only way to avoid going back to prison was to surgically replace his face with that of Nicolas Cage’s. Although medical science has not really gotten to the point where that isn’t still completely laughable, a new technology out of Stanford University is getting us closer.

Researchers have figured out how to make one person’s face mimic the facial expressions of another, in real-time video. The method, announced in a paper (pdf) that will appear in a special edition of the scientific journal ACM Transactions on Graphics later this year, uses a regular computer, special cameras, and some seemingly magical new software.

The research team comprises computer scientists from Stanford, the Max Planck Institute, and University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

Their system requires a bit of set-up: A pair of cameras needs to calibrate with each new face, then renders it in digital 3D. Then the program tracks both subjects’ facial expressions using cameras that can sense depth, texture, face shape and location, and maps movements of prominent facial features like nose, mouth, and eyes, from one person’s face onto the avatar of the other. The end result: You can appear to control a friend’s face with your own.

(To make up for the fact that not everyone’s mouths are the same size, the program puts in an eerily fake set of perfect teeth to fill in any gaps.)

It's like Photoshop, but for video.It’s like Photoshop, but for video.

Matthias Niessner, one of the researchers on the project, told Quartz that the team’s main motivation was to create something that could aid multi-language videoconferences like Skype.

David Bowie might be interested in seeing this.David Bowie might be interested in seeing this.

In the future, interpreters could translate someone speaking in real time, and the end user would just see the person they’re watching speak to them in their own language.

In their research paper, the team said they believe that this technology could pave the way to having photo-realistic avatars in virtual reality settings.

Niessner added that the team was also interested in applying this technology to movies, dubbing them for foreign audiences. “Most important though: It’s a crap ton of fun playing around with the system,” Niessner said.

Tesla just transformed the Model S into a nearly driverless car

The most fun thing about driving a Tesla Model S might be not driving at all. The electric car company has unveiled a new software update that will allow its Model S cars to automatically steer, change lanes, and park on their own.

But don’t call the Model S an autonomous car—it’s not quite there yet, though Musk says his vision is to eventually produce fully driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals. Instead, Tesla is billing the new capabilities as “autopilot” features that will occasionally require hands on the steering wheel.

“We explicitly describe [this software update] as a beta,” Musk said at a press briefing today (Oct. 14) in California. “It’s just important to exercise great caution at this early stage. In the long term, people will not need hands on the wheel—and eventually there won’t be wheels and pedals.”

About 60,000 Model S vehicles will get these autopilot features over the coming week. The update will be downloaded and installed automatically in all Model S cars, but only those sold since September 2014 come standard with the necessary equipment for autopilot mode, including an ultrasonic sensor, front-facing camera, forward radar, and GPS navigation with high-precision digital maps.

In North America, Model S cars will receive the update as soon as tomorrow. Tesla is still awaiting regulatory approval in Europe and Asia, which Musk expects to come within a week.

Here are the new capabilities the Model S will soon have:

Autosteer

How it works: Designed to assist with highway driving, autosteer keeps the Model S in lane, even as the road curves. The driver can turn on the feature when the Model S is traveling at least 18 miles per hour. When autosteer is activated, traffic-aware cruise control will also turn on to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead.

tesla model s autopilot autosteer auto lane change auto parkHands still required.

Downsides: The feature doesn’t work when traveling at 90 miles per hour, so you have to choose between driving safe and hands-free, or fast and with steering effort. Every so often, autosteer will ping drivers to remind them to put their hands on the wheel. If the driver fails to do so, the car eventually will to a stop, at which point, the hazard lights will turn on. The company warns that autosteer does not work reliably on roads with sharp turns or faded, missing, or ambiguous lane markings (as is often the case when there’s road work). Performance also will vary in rainy, snowy, or foggy conditions. The dashboard, however, will alert the driver to take over when necessary.

Auto lane change

How it works: When this feature is turned on, the car will automatically begin changing lanes when the driver activates the turn signal.

Downside: This feature works only when autosteer is engaged and only for single lane changes, so drivers who want to quickly switch over several lanes will have to engage the feature for each lane change. You won’t change lanes if it detects a car in the next lane over, but the feature is not accident proof—it’s not able to account for cars behind that are speeding in the destination lane, and it will still require drivers to check their blind spots.

Autopark

How it works: Forget those anxieties over street-parking the Model S. With autopark turned on, the instrument panel will show a “P” when a driver pulls ahead of a parking spot. Once the driver shifts to reverse, the car will use its rear camera to monitor its surroundings and parallel park into the spot.

tesla model s autopilot autosteer auto lane change auto parkThe software update will be available in North America beginning Oct. 15.

Downside: Autopark will only kick in if the car detects a curb, so it won’t work when parking on the side of the road (on hiking or camping trips, for example). The car doesn’t distinguish between different colored curbs, and it also won’t curb your wheels for you.

Vehicle hold

How it works: When vehicle hold is turned on, the Model S will continue to engage the brakes even after the driver removes his or her foot from the brake pedal. The feature—a refresh of a feature previously known as hill start assist—is most useful when driving on hills, but it will work on all grades, including flat roads.

Downside: Tesla warns that drivers should not rely on this as an alternative to putting the vehicle in park.

Side collision warning

How it works: Formerly known as blind spot warning, side collision warning has a larger sensing range to alert drivers to cars and other objects that are close to the side of the Model S. When there are obstacles to the side of the car, the steering wheel will increase resistance. If the Model S anticipates a high likelihood of collision, it will steer away from the objects while staying in the lane; this feature kicks in automatically, even if side collision warning is not activated.

Downside: It only works when traveling between 20 and 80 miles per hour.

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Russia Without BS (Beware of Bad Samaritans)

In the war against Ukraine there is one weapon more frightening than anything in the entire Russian arsenal. Sneakier than “hybrid warfare,” it is a weapon which is designed to be wielded by the Ukrainian people against themselves, and it helps the Putin regime both maintain influence in Ukraine while sustaining itself at home. That weapon is neo-liberal economic theory, and as Sean Guillory points out in this superb article, Ukrainians ought to think twice about heeding the advice of neo-liberal bad Samaritans, in this case Arthur Laffer.

There is an idea among some Ukrainians and Ukraine supporters that Russia is the biggest threat to Ukraine and the be-all, end-all when it comes to survival or defeat of Ukraine as a country. This is woefully incorrect. For one thing, Russia has managed to keep its thumb on Ukraine for so long largely due to the poverty and other effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Russia’s economy soared in the mid-2000’s, plenty of Ukrainian citizens, mainly from the east, could look to Russia and see higher salaries and pensions, so that as one refugee from Donetsk told me, some locals thought annexation by Russia would bring “paradise.” It matters not whether they were wrong because the Russian system wasn’t sustainable, or if those economic benefits came at the cost of losing political freedoms. Poor people with few prospects are likely to embrace any system or regime that appears to be able to reliably put food on the table, and in the case of Russia, put iPhones in pockets.

Hanging out in Kyiv, and particularly in the center, it was always easy to miss the economic reality that faces Ukraine, especially now. It’s obvious when you go out to some place like Donetsk oblast, but in the capital it’s far more subtle. One clue is the increased presence of homeless people and people asking for money in and around Maidan Nezalezhnosti. In my most recent trip this was impossible to ignore. But there were other signs as well.

I don’t mean to sound like Thomas Friedman here, but on my last trip I had a long discussion about the local economy with a cab driver who drove me into the city from the Boryspil airport. The story is the same- lack of work, low wages, etc. I met another expat who explained to me how his friends in Odessa were now living on or below the poverty line. Now I don’t mean to level any accusations against any specific people, but this kind of poverty and desperation is vital for Russia to maintain control over Ukraine by other means. Just as how the Russian government can easily stifle dissent by paying people to support the government in public or harass dissidents, desperate people in Ukraine are a pool of cheap, willing agents for sabotaging progress. If one thinks that some sense of patriotism will keep these people from carrying out the work of the Kremlin, think again. For one, the Kremlin’s motives are not always obvious, nor do they always seem logical from the outside. The origins of the money used to pay these “agents” may be murky, if not totally obscure. Putin’s designs might be carried out by men claiming to be Ukrainian patriots. In fact, bet on it. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, after all.

Getting back to the economy, this is yet another reason why people should be more up in arms about the decommunization law. Proponents of this law essentially preach a sort of voodoo politics, whereby removing symbols and in some cases rewriting history will suddenly make all Ukrainians into patriotic citizens. Patriotic citizens, who, for example, will be less likely to resist in the face of coming austerity. You see, if trade unions and workers band together to protest austerity for them while the rich continue to live in luxury, the oligarch-controlled media can just tar them as Communists or Communist-like. They’ll be accused of wanting a return to the Soviet Union and Moscow rule. A good Ukrainian patriot endures the inequality and poverty, and in return gets flags, slogans, and fairy tales about “national ideas.” Same as the Russian patriot, incidentally.

Does that sound far-fetched? Well it’s already happened in America of all places. Nearly a quarter of a century after the fall of the USSR, America’s Republicans and conservatives have been screaming about Communism, socialism, and Marxism more loudly than ever, lobbing this accusation against a neutered Democratic party which long ago went full-on neo-liberal. Even during the Cold War they were less shrill than they have been since the election of Barack Obama. Take a look at this GOP poster from 1956, for example. That’s a Republican pro-labor union poster. These days the GOP portrays unions as at best, shiftless and lazy, and at worst, “thugs.” If, in America, the idea of requiring private citizens to buy health insurance from private providers can be repeatedly labeled “socialist” or “Communist,” it stands to reason that any significant push back against austerity in Ukraine will inevitably be similarly tarred with the same labels. I guarantee it.

To the people of Ukraine I will make this as blunt as possible. Not everyone in Ukraine is “Ukrainian”, which is to say you are not on the same side. It is not only the top oligarchs you have to suspect either. This has nothing to do with their nationality, their religion, what language they speak, or their sexual orientation, but rather their relation to the means of production and their ownership of capital. These people’s interests are irreconcilable to those of the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens, and they are veryreconcilable to those interests of their business counterparts in Russia. Some of them are having a spat at the moment, and their are some minor differences concerning Russia’s neo-feudal incarnation of capitalism, but capitalists are capitalists.

As these people continue to squeeze you more and more, they will crow more and more loudly about the horrors of “Communism,” and shed mighty rivers of tears for people who died decades ago. They will do this because mourning the dead costs them nothing, whereas actually caring about the Ukrainian people today, and those yet unborn, does cost them. Make no mistake- Ukraine is not a poor country. It possesses the land and resources to provide for the basic needs of every citizen and ensure a positive birth rate as well. Russia is even more endowed with such resources. But what Ukraine cannot do is provide that lifestyle for its citizens while simultaneously providing a life of opulent luxury for a small minority who are unwilling to earn by their own labor, and who use the political system and its monopoly on violence to maintain a system that denies people the means to obtain the necessities of life save for at the mercy of a capitalist.

Those in Ukraine who exploit their fellow Ukrainians have an incentive to keep people’s minds focused on the past and not present, and the effects of this distraction are extremely useful to the Kremlin as well. More equality means a stronger, more inclusive community, and that means a much smaller pool of potential agents for the Kremlin. By contrast, post-Maidan Ukraine’s circus of populism, far-right politics, and patriotic circle-jerks give Putin’s political technologists and intelligence operatives little reason to worry about losing influence in Ukraine.

Finally, it is high time to chuck the politics of opposites, whereby people in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries enthusiastically embrace anything that appears to be the opposite of what they think their enemies represent. Bad Samaritans like Arthur Laffer may seem like the polar opposite of the Kremlin, which presides over a much more restricted capitalist system. Do not be fooled, however. The Kremlin system is capitalist through and through, and what is more it is a system that thrived off of the 90’s and 2000’s amoral neo-liberal, let-the-market-decide mentality. The crisis of 2008 showed much of the West that the capitalist system is inherently flawed and cannot be fixed. Today, there are even progressive capitalists who envision an alternative system, that some are referring to as post-capitalism. There are many flaws in their vision, but they are onto something. With the rest of the modern world waking up to this reality, there is no good reason for Ukraine to listen to outdated dinosaurs like Arthur Laffer and the rest of the neo-liberal cultists.

Alright, I’m stepping down from my soapbox. As a related note though, I think Ukraine can take inspiration from another country that emerged in the 20th century after centuries of domination. I leave you with a key passage from Ireland’s Democratic Programme of the First Dail and a simple question:

“…we declare that the Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation, and with him we reaffirm that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare.”

So, people of Ukraine, to whom do your nation’s soil, resources, and wealth producing processes belong to?

*The title of this post is inspired by one of the books of South Korean economist Ha Joon Chang, which can be found here.

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Code42 Snares Huge $85M Series B Investment

Code42, the Minneapolis-based developers of the Crashplan enterprise backup tool, announced a massive $85 million round today. Code42 doesn’t do them small. It has had onlyone previous round for $52.5 million at the beginning of 2012.

The company could have gotten more if it wanted it, according to CEO Joe Payne. “This was the amount of money we needed for the next stage of our growth,” he said. They were reluctant to take more and risk diluting existing shares.

Code42 went with two big rounds separated by several years, but this could be it says Payne. “This is the last private round we need to do. It gives us years of runway and capital to invest in our business,” he said.

The round was led by JMI Equity and New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA). Existing investors Accel and Split Rock Partners also participated. Today’s investment brings the total to $137.5 million over the two rounds.

Crashplan began life as a tool for backing up your laptop, pivoted to the enterprise and has been growing fast — 100 percent year over year, according to Payne. One of the advantages of Crashplan is that it’s easy to use, and rarely requires IT intervention after it’s in place. Files are backed up automatically and Payne claims end users can restore files themselves in most cases.

The tool is platform agnostic, so it backs up even Macs and Linux machines and it backs up to the cloud, so users can recover their files from anywhere, even on a new machine. It’s important to note that backup is different from storage. You store stuff on your hard drive. You back stuff up in case something goes wrong and you need to get your files back — and Crashplan is designed to backup from laptops and mobile devices, as opposed to backing up the entire datacenter.

While cloud storage can act as a backup in some cases, that’s not necessarily its primary purpose. That means in practice that Crashplan isn’t competing with Dropbox and Google Drive so much as DruvaDatto Backupify (which is designed for cloud to cloud backup) and EMC, HP and the traditional enterprise vendors.

The company typically sees either Druva or the traditional vendors in deals, according to Payne. Customers include Intuit, Adobe, Stanford University, Lockheed Martin and Mayo Clinic.

One of the ways Code42 plans to use the money is to expand its understanding of the data that comes through the system. Like many SaaS vendors, the company collects a tremendous amount of data just by the nature of its business.

It could potentially start to root out information such as when a file carrying a virus entered the system and who opened that file or show that an exiting employee who just gave you a clean laptop, actually transferred 500 files to a private Dropbox account earlier in the week.

This kind of information moves Code42 from a pure backup and restore service into something much more valuable. Being able to access and report on the data about the backup could transform the company in significant ways.

It’s not there yet, but the plan is to move in that direction, Payne says. That could result in an entirely new set of services for IT and security admins over and above what it offers today.

After braving death to reach Europe, this is the final test refugees must pass to win asylum

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Europe is in the middle of its biggest refugee crisis since World War II. As hundreds of thousands of migrants come to seek a better life, European governments have to determine who to let in and who to keep out.

In order to be granted asylum as refugees, they have to convince border agencies they are fleeing serious danger or persecution. There is also agrowing suspicion that the few documents refugees do provide are forged—and most don’t have any papers anyway. European countrieshave “safe” lists of countries (pdf) that they won’t accept refugees from,such as the Balkan states and many migrants trying to get in from those places are disguising themselves as Syrian in hopes of getting asylum.

To determine which asylum seekers are telling the truth about their country of origin, governments use what is called “language analysis.” The test is pretty simple: Do they speak like where they say they are from?

Some European countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium use in-house government departments. But Sweden, the UK, Denmark, and other countries around the world use private companies to carry out this delicate work.

 One Swedish company, Verified, has conducted over 24,000 analyses and insiststheir services provide robust “expert testimony” on an “individual’s linguistic background.” These experts include analysts who are native speakers of the language being analyzed and supervising linguists.

“The way we speak is shaped by our past experiences,” Roderick Martin, CEO of Verified, tells Quartz. “In cases where no documents to support the identity are produced, attributing a dialect to the claimant can greatly help assessing the veracity of the residential history given.”

sample Verified report (pdf) shows how it works. An asylum seeker claims to be from Syria, in the Aleppo province. A native speaker and a linguist are brought in to test for this claim. The native speaker interviews the asylum seeker for around 20 minutes, asking a number of questions, while using their “over-all intuition” to identify particular dialectical traits.

The analyst then compiles a report that looks at different aspects of the language: phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicology. The report will then arrive at a conclusion, in this case “the language analysis shows with certainty that the results obtained are clearly consistent with the linguistic community as stated in the hypothesis.”

Controversies abound

It sounds good in theory. But Verified’s rival, Sprakab, also from Sweden, has been embroiled in a range of controversies.

Last year, one of its key language analysts was accused of being a convicted drug smuggler that lied about his qualifications. Sprakab was also criticized by the UK Supreme Court for providing “wholly inappropriate” advice to the British Home Office, which may have contributed to the wrongful deportations of hundreds of asylum seekers. A Swedish immigration tribunal had also cast doubt on the work by a Sprakab analyst.

Sprakab denies the allegations, insisting the analyst in question’s work is “flawless.” In a statement sent to Quartz, it argues “a drug conviction 21 years in the past, which was erased 17 years back, has no implications of the work ea20 [the analyst] does at Sprakab.” As for claims on quality control, Sprakab says that several professors have failed its tests to become an analyst.

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The small town in Madagascar that is crazy about karaoke

Manakara is a nondescript town on the south-eastern coast of Madagascar.

During the day, most of its residents either work on rice or coffee plantations, or go treasure hunting for bits of gold and sapphire in the rivers and mountains that surround it. With a population of 60,000 people in a country of 23 million, Manakara is small (the capital, Antananarivo, has some 710,000 people), and looks like it must be one of the poorer places in Madagascar—though statistics are hard to come by.

A river in Manakara, Madagascar
Manakara basketball court

But at night the half-dozen or so karaoke bars spread across town burst into life.

Manakara karaoke bar

Singing here, and across most of Madagascar, starts at a young age and is deeply entwined with Malagasy culture. Bigger cities have movie halls, night clubs, and bars of various themes, but karaoke is popular everywhere.

La Terrasse karaoke bar in ManakaraLa Terrasse started out with six tables, and added 15 more within six months.

Nonetheless, the concentration of bars in Manakara is unusual. It might be due to the lack of other forms of entertainment in a relatively poor town.

Young people at a karaoke bar in Manakara

As a result, the bars in Manakara double up as community centers of a sort. Young mothers with their babies pack in, jostling for space with lone teenagers mouthing words to songs and stealing an occasional drink.

Teenagers drinking in ManakaraTeenage drinkers welcome.

One mother, asked whether she thought the bar was an appropriate place for her young boy, replied: “No ideally its not, but nevertheless, its fun for him to spend time listening to music and being around the family.”

Young boy at a Manakara karaoke barKaraoke for all ages.

The bars themselves are perfumed with the smells of sweat, smoke, and alcohol. Cheap Chinese LED lights flash in the corners. Large white screens show the lyrics, projected via computers dating from the 1990s.

Karaoke screen in Manakara

In dark crevasses, extra chairs are piled up waiting for more patrons. Malagasy beer and flavoured homemade rum flow late into the night without any restrictions of time.

Manakara karaoke DJWho needs fancy machines?

As for the music, it ranges from Mariah Carey to local Malagasy. Nothing is left unsung.

“Singing here in Manakara is a very popular hobby. A normal bar cannot open without karaoke,” explains Tipo Arnold Stephano, the owner of a La Terrasse, a local bar, which started with a modest six tables and had to add 15 more within six months. Some of the establishments are tiny, with only four tables and people bumping into each other continuously.

Manakara man in a karaoke bar

“The police are our friends, and are often here themselves,” says Madame Felena, a portly, quirky woman in her mid 40s, and the owner of another bar, Karaoke Be Miditra.  “Couples even come to my bar to resolve fights singing songs of their choice.”

A woman sits alone in a karaoke bar in ManakaraA few songs will sort it all out.

international business loan lenders, agricultural loans, Bg, SBLC, MTN and DLC providers

LOAN AND INVESTMENTS LTD is legally registered in Europe and Asia to provide Loans & International Project Funding. We offer flexible loan terms and our loan interest rate is just 3% per year.

We are also direct providers of banking Instruments such as Bank Guarantees, SBLC, DLC and  Letters of Credit to both local and international customers. Our Bank Instruments are issued from prime banks like HSBC, Barclays bank, Citi Bank, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, UBS or any top bank of your choice.
 
OUR SERVICES ARE: 
 
Loans & International Project Finance

Bank Instruments like BG, SBLC, DLC, Letters of Credit (L/C)
Proof of Fund (POF)
Blocked Funds for Investments
Insurance Underwriting Services
Escrow Services
Trading Platforms
Show Net Worth Requirements
Corporate Finance
Private Equity
Investments/Wealth Management
Commodity Trading
Oil/ Petroleum Transactions
 

 

Email us today for more information.

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Brokers are paid good commission on each successful transaction so if you want to work for our company as a broker or mandate please contact us for more details.