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From aid to opportunity in the conversation age

April 30th, 2007 Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Charity, General, Politics

Sometimes, I wonder why I do it to myself. Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a pension for trying to do more with little. Maybe it’s because I feel guilty for partying my college years away or maybe because I really believe that I’d rather do it all while I’m still young(ish) so I can bask in the African sun sooner than later. But at times like this when my days are filled with family and work-related deadlines, I feel the most energized. And as I meet each deadline, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
In my 1 week absence from posting here, I finally finished my chapter for the Conversation Age e-book. I planned to write about “the Age of African conversations” but as I put pen to paper, the focus of the chapter began to shift. I never realized how little 400 words were and how difficult it is to put all your thoughts into one paragraph (I DO tend to be long-winded). I’ve gotten used to writing here on Annansi Chronicles, and writing for my own business materials (mission statements, press releases, business plan etc.), but writing for a book is a lot harder. And to think I was looking to get into authoring soon. So after the 10th edit, late nights collecting my thoughts, and numerous discussions with members of the debate team AKA the Annan family, I’ve settled on penning a piece tentatively titled “From aid to opportunity: Afri-activism transitions into a new consumer market”. If you can’t tell from the title, the chapter is about how, if approached through conversation with Africans, the Africa aid movement can and does help develop the African consumer market. The chapter has been signed, sealed, and delivered to the two publishers, however I would like to hear your opinion on the topic anyway. Can Afri-activism – strategies where a person, group, or company engages Africa through aid and charity – be used to grow the African market? Is it too weighted in negative presumptions to allow market growth?

  • http://www.servantofchaos.com Gavin Heaton

    It is a fascinating topic — and we are so glad you took the time to write it for the eBook. I am also looking forward to how this conversation evolves!

  • http://www.annansi.com Kofi

    Thanks fro stopping by Gavin. The project is turning out to be very exciting. I can’t wait to see what the final product is like.

  • Sijui

    IMHO, Afri-activism through aid and charity to enable the growth of markets and consumers is an oxy moron. My reasons, the lion’s share of aid and charity in Africa is modeled based on paternalism and dependancy. Not all aid/charity programs but most…….unless the mindset turns to aid from a perspective of entrepreneurship and self reliance, the twin goals: charity and consumerism will clash.
    Other evidence, the most innovative and creative ideas to spur the growth of an African middle class all came from ‘private sector’ actors who saw Africa’s poor and low income as ‘consumers’ not ‘welfare candidates’ hence they developed products and services that were appropriate for their socio-economic situation. Examples the mobile phone industry, microfinance, internet penetration.

    Again, I’m not saying there are no charitable driven ‘success stories’…my point, the scale and breadth of impact of the private sector initiatives dwarf the charitable ones because the originating mindset was already based on a ‘consumer focus.’ I see more promise in the emerging and blossoming social entrepreneurship culture.

  • http://www.annansi.com Kofi

    Interesting analysis. I see your point about social enterprise being a more promising approach. We find ourselves in a situation where consumers are attracted to Africa from an aid perspective and corporations follow those consumers’ lead to keep their products relevant. My hope is that while aid is necessary, somehow we can transition the interest it brings from corporations – who naturally have a consumer focus – into social enterprise and hopefully move into full on enterprise. It’s a dangerous road to navigate but we Africans must initiate the change to make it work in our favor.

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