On Friday I picked up the February 2007 issue of Inc. Magazine and began reading the cover article on Philip Rosendale, CEO of Linden Lab and creator of Second Life. Though my initial experience with Second Life some months ago was not the best, I have been quite intrigued by it’s possibilities as a business platform. Reading stories about American Apparels successful store opening and concerts and chats by artists such as Talib Kweli, all in taking place in Second Life, has had me trying to get my head around this virtual world. I must admit that one of the reasons I abandoned my Second Life persona was I (the second life me that is) ran into a brick wall, literally, and couldn’t get around it. Funny as it may sound, that’s exactly what happened. Reading Mr. Rosendale’s explanation of Second Life the ability it gives you to create a whole new identity and/or brand extension, has got me thinking about getting over that wall.
What does this have to do with Africa you ask? Well one of the things that drew me to Second Life in the first place, besides the business opportunities, was the ability to create your perfect world as an extension of your real world. From a development perspective I see Second Life as a tool which can allow African’s to extend and re-invent ourselves in a world where anything goes. I know that sounds all Matrix-like but bear with me for a second. If Second Life can allow you to create an ideal personality, visit anywhere, and communicate with anyone without the restrictions of geography, government, or language, then it can certainly level the playing field for re-branding Africa. This is not a far fetched notion as Sweden has already announced it’s opening of a Second Life embassy. In a recent article, Mutumwa Mawere, a Zimbabwean born South African businessman, wrote “I am acutely aware that it is difficult to take nationalism out of many Africans but the Second Life offers us an opportunity to go beyond the confines of where one is born to the reality that through others a better Africa is a not a pipe dream.” This statement I guess is key in exploring the possibilities of Second Life. While I’m not one to take on a non-African personality, I think that involvement in Second Life could possibly allow Africans to realistically compete with anyone else without the limitations of the real world, and ,as Mr. Mawere, notes, possibly create a new African identity. Of course I’m saying all this from an office space in NY City with a T-1 connection, but as the global tide changes I think we all need to think outside the box and look to new ways of creating a second reality.