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Wharton Business School on entrepreneurship in Nigeria

March 29th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Business, General, Politics, Travel

Nigerian President Olusegun ObasanjoWhile I’m on the subject of entrepreneurship in Africa, here’s a podcast from the Wharton Business School’s Knowledge website where Peter Bamkole, General Manager, Enterprise Development Services at Lagos Business School, talks with Olayinka David-West, a lecturer in information systems at Lagos Business School. The two men discuss Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ambitious goal to have Nigeria become one of the world’s top 20 economies during the next two decades. Listen here and let me know what you think.

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Inc. Magazine’s ease of global business map

March 29th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Business, General, Politics, Travel

As a follow up to my previous post on my concerns about going home to do business, here is a link to Inc. magazine’s interactive map which plots the ease of doing business around the globe. The map shows the rate of growth for a country’s gross domestic product – according to World Bank data – and helps entrepreneurs evaluate the risk/ease of doing business in countries around the globe. To construct the map for it’s new Going Global issue the Inc. magazine staff says,

“We consulted a variety of sources including the most current research from the World Bank, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor consortium, and the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. We also interviewed academics, government officials, business consultants, and business owners based around the world.”

The map allows you to zoom in on specific countries and, combined with the Treasure Map pdf, is certainly a good referenence tool for African investors.
Inc. Magazine GDP map

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Designers for Darfur event on Fashion Television

March 28th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Charity, Events, Fashion, Film/Television, General

Here’s the Fashion Television feature of the Designers for Darfur event from the Fall 2007 New York Fashion Week. Designer Malcolm Harris (Mal Sirrah) and model Lydia Hearst did a great job of pulling the event together.

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Going home with a business plan

March 26th, 2007 | 7 Comments | Posted in Business, General, Politics, Travel

Ghana BeachOn the train ride home last week I ran into a Ghanaian friend of mine and we got to talking about what else, doing business in Ghana. As we compared stories and ideas, my friend expressed to me his frustration with building a house in Ghana. Granted he still lives in the US, it is taking him 3 years to begin the process due to land disputes. The way he tells it, the land he purchased had been sold to another person by the same chief who was now dead. And because of the “light” record keeping, he was now stuck trying to haggle with another developer who stood to gain a lot more from the land. The discussion brought about one of my many fears of going back to Ghana with a Western mentality of doing business. I’ve heard from more than enough people about the complicated processes which slow down or even halt business in many countries on the continent, and at least for now I can’t get my head around it. In my rationale it serves a government entity, or even a businessperson, well to maintain processes that allows for ease of enterprise, particularly when that entity already has a bad reputation with foreigners. I’m not saying that we should kneel to foreign investments, but it doesn’t do anybody any good to run things as if it were a personal household. When we are in a position where we need all the help we can get, it serves us well to go beyond our comfort zone to make things easier for both foreign and domestic businesses. I guess Ghana in particular is in a transitional stage right now, with many of us returning home after living for so long in the UK and US, and trying to create a way of life we are already used to. In an article Benin highlighted in his Africa Investment series we are made aware of the Ghanaian ambassador’s investment “tour” of the US. In the article the ambassador, Dr. Kwame Bawuah-Edusei, says,

“The right environment should be created in the country so that those who have shown interest in setting up businesses in Ghana would not be frustrated. For example, the registration of businesses should take a day not days or weeks. That is the only way we can attract more investors into the country.”

This is good to hear from a government official especially since Ghana has been posting GDP gains for six consecutive years and is currently the most stable country in West Africa according to Inc. magazine. For those of us looking to retire to our homeland, I can only hope that processes and infrastructures back home back up the efforts of the ambassador. But despite the problems, I will continue to see the glass of opportunity as half full.

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Maasai herdsman/model talks Gisele Bundchen, American Express, and maintaining maasai culture

March 23rd, 2007 | 2 Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Charity, Fashion, General, Travel

Amex RED ad
In the news this week were features on the previously unknown Maasai herdsman who appeared with Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen in this ad for American Express’ new card for the much-criticized RED campaign. Having seen the ad quite a few times in fashion magazines such as Vogue, I often wondered what the effect on the Maasai man had been. Here now, the Maasai herdsman is making news in multiple media outlets telling his story about his experience. What makes the story worth noting is that the herdsman, though having been paid $5000 for his efforts – an amount five times the annual wages in Kenya – has chosen to return to his life in his Maasai village. “To be honest all I was thinking about when I was with this woman was my cattle and goats,” Keseme Ole Parsapaet told The Associated Press, confessing to sleepless nights worrying about who was looking after his herd. Now that’s love for life and culture. How many of us would have taken the money and abandoned our simple lives.

“It is a good experience to work and make some money, but I believe people should be proud of their country… one should always return,”
- Keseme Ole Parsapaet

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This week in African Style 3/17 – 3/23/07

March 23rd, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Charity, Events, Film/Television, General, Music, Politics, Travel

• Virgin Atlantic opens East Africa route and competes with British Airways.

• Innovation and investment at Oprah’s African schools.

• Tragedy of 5 lost in Bronx fire lead American media to Mali’s red earth.

• Russia looks to sign energy, metals deals in Africa.

• Americans milk Africa to death.

• Queen Latifah competes against Botswana’s Health Minister for detective role.

• The cost of a free Zambian education.

• Google bets on Africa.

• Innovation happens in unexpected places: mobile banking in Kenya, and mobile tv boost in North Africa.

• Governmental inaction and decay of public infrastructure in Africa.

• Pan-African businesses: Do they exist?

• Zimbabwe under fire, pleads for African solidarity.

• Sing the African alphabet.

• Rise of West African tourism.

• “Hip-Hop Colony,” African hip-hop explosion film available on dvd.

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Selling African culture Bollywood-style

March 19th, 2007 | 2 Comments | Posted in Film/Television, General, Politics, Travel

Bunty Aur Babli movie posterReading this article about Bollywood and the brand new Kenyan film commission has me thinking about the African film industry and how it can grow. As some of you might already know, for the past year I’ve been consulting with the African Film Commission in developing and promoting the African film industry. This article about the Kenyan Film Commission’s growing relationship with both Hollywood and Bollywood has got me thinking about what impact Indian film and culture has been on my own African experience and how African countries can learn from Bollywood in marketing themselves. Growing up in Liberia I cannot remember a time when Indian film and culture were not a part of our daily experience. At that time (before cable and satellite) television was scheduled for a short time daily and the second main source of programming content, besides American films, was Indian dramas. Similar to Saturday Karate flicks in the US, Bollywood movies were a much anticipated indulgence of my daily childhood TV viewing. While I never always understood the context of the movies (same as with the American imports), the general themes of love, deceit, and camaraderie were familiar to all us Africans. We even adopted some of the sayings and mannerisms we saw in the films. Now with the Bollywood industry growing exponentially and reaching into Africa for inspiration, the relationship we Africans have with one of India’s greatest exports deserves some analysis.

Similar to Hollywood, as Bollywood has grown it has come to depend on Africa for production resources and content inspiration. What makes the Bollywood-Africa relationship interesting is that the Bollywood audience couldn’t be farther removed from Africans. For the most part Bollywood films are targeted to South Asian audiences though it continues to widen. Beyond the exoticism of the films, it is hard for someone who is unfamiliar with the culture to understand certain concepts without knowing the cultural reference. And though the films have adopted a global appeal, they are innately cultural. The fact that Bollywood movies can maintain their cultural perspectives and still appeal to different culture is a perfect example of how African cultures can export content that promotes their culture. I think Kenya is getting it right in organizing and creating a structure to nurture this relationship with foreign film companies to create a brand image, promote tourism, and inject foreign money into their economy. The lesson in this article for other African governments is that there are rules and procedures which, when implemented, will allow us to re-brand ourselves and promote our cultures to the world. And without certain structures such as a government created film commission, it becomes a free-for-all and stands to be ineffective in promoting tourism. Part of what makes India one of the hottest business destinations is the country’s ability to learn the rules of global business, create/maintain structures that encourage foreign investment, and – through their film industry – promote the uniqueness of their culture. I hope other countries look at the benefits of the business model Kenya is trying to implement and realize that they too can reap the benefits of such a relationship. They just need to understand how the game is played.

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My Brother, the movie

March 16th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Film/Television, General

My partner Dante (Mixtress X, Jungle Crooks) dropped me a line to tell me about a movie I need to check out called My Brother. I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this movie and knowing that a fellow African is working on the project makes it all the more interesting. Check out the trailer below. My Brother opens today in the US.

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This week in African Style 3/1 – 3/16/07

• BBC launches new Africa Beyond website.

• CNN, Niger Delta and Western Media Portrayals of Africa Part III.

• Ghana: Independence? Try ‘aid-dependence’.

• Chinese Minister: African people will never welcome colonialists to plunder their resources.

• Africa and Europe set for tunnel link.

• MySpace and The New York Times sends readers on African reporting trip.

• Fighting the elusive beast: corruption in Africa.

• Will a Tough Government Save or Sink Rwanda?.

• West Africa Emerges as Drug Conduit to Europe.

• Oprah opens second S. African School through Angel Network.

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Minding my business

Kofi at the H2O Film FestivalI know, I know I haven’t posted anything since Friday and surely there are new developments in the world of African fashion, entertainment, business, politics. But I’ve been running around trying to organize things for the re-launch of my clothing line, Annansi Clothing. Even-though I haven’t gotten the chance to express my views on Oprah’s problems with her new school and Anglina Jolie’s tears for Africa here as yet, I’ve been keeping up with the developments as best I can. I’m feeling organizational these days and the 65-degree weather in NY is getting me focused on getting my business ready. In the last few days I attended an apparel convention in Atlantic City, consulted with my friend, mentor, and fellow designer Arlinda (Sofistafunk Skirt Co.), and tried to track down my company’s features in The Source Magazine, T-World Journal, and my interview on WorldSpace’s Flava hip-hop show. I tell you, running your own clothing company is not as easy as it seems, and doing it all myself is definitely not the best way to proceed, that’s why I’ve resolved to get a team of interns. Over the years I’ve seen many designers get eaten up by the grind of running a clothing label by themselves, and I certainly don’t want to be a statistic. I think more than creating designs, and connecting with the many people who “get” the direction I’m trying to go in, many creative people neglect the business aspect. We are usually drawn to the fashion industry because of the “lights, camera, action” image of it, but the industry is highly complex and it takes a lot more than talent to grow in it. So while I love reading and writing about the goings on in the progressive African community, I think it is equally important to play an active role, and to do so my business must be intact. I never want to be that person who complains and criticizes others’ decisions without going through the process myself. And nothing shapes your perception more than walking in someone’s shoe’s to understand the reason they make certain decisions. Of course this speaks directly to outsiders’ criticism of Africans and African business as well. On that note take a look my new website and check out the March 2007 issue of The Source Magazine on newsstands for some information about my clothing line. Your comments, good or bad, will be greatly appreciated.

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