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Urban explosion and African youth’s global influence

Dakar city, SenegalOn Wednesday the United Nations Population Fund released an insightful reportState of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth – detailing it’s research on the future of global urbanization. Declaring that “urbanization is unavoidable”, the most interesting predictions were that by 2030 the populations in African and Asian cities will have doubled. The populations of those cities will be greater than the number of people living in China and the United States combined.

While the world’s urban population grew very rapidly (from 220 million to 2.8 billion) over the 20th century, the next few decades will see an unprecedented scale of urban growth in the developing world. This will be particularly notable in Africa and Asia where the urban population will double between 2000 and 2030: That is, the accumulated urban growth of these two regions during the whole span of history will be duplicated in a single generation. By 2030, the towns and cities of the developing world will make up 80 percent of urban humanity.

The report details that the growth will take place primarily in small cities and towns raising a concern about whether developing nations, particularly in Africa, have the infrastructure to manage this growth. We all know that many African cities, such as Dakar, are already becoming hubs of activity, but the predicted urban explosion will bring a new generation of citizens who would have been raised within the digital age. Will African enterprise adapt to the change in time?

Without a doubt global youth culture is already influencing big business. But will the explosion of Africa’s cities coincide with it’s youth’s contribution to global culture? And how will African government react to the sudden change?

In a few days African leaders will convene in Ghana to discuss forming a United States of Africa (USA???!!!). We can only hope that they take the UN report with them and realize that cities are market makers and the infrastructure that support urban areas play a large part in how successful a region is. About cities and economics Wendy Waters explains, “It comes down to how easy it is for people and companies to flow into (and out of, ironically enough) the region.” The UN report says “… no country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant economic growth without urbanization. Cities concentrate poverty, but they also represent the best hope of escaping it.” and Head Heeb adds, “African cities in the next decades will have to be everyone’s commitment.” I will predict that the trend of African youth’s influence on global business and media will explode alongside the growth of cities, with or without government’s support.

Your thoughts?

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LAFF & African Film Commission hosts On the Rumba River

June 27th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Film/Television, General, Music, Politics, Travel

As part of the 2007 Los Angeles Film Festival, the African Film Commission will present On The Rumba River (Le Batelier de la Rumba) a film Jacques Sarasin. I won’t be able to attend but, I encourage any of you who will be in LA this week to support us and catch this exciting documentary. Details below.

On the Rumba River LAFF AFC

Brimming with music and dance, On the Rumba River looks at the life and times of beloved Congolese musician Wendo Kolosoy. Throughout a career that spans decades, Papa Wendo has weathered personal hard times as well as Congo’s troubled political and economic history, all of which he’s faced with a combination of determination, humor and, of course, music. This touching and lively documentary captures Kolosoy’s latest reunion with his band, the Victoria Bakolo Miziki Players, when they gather to play the transcendent music that has come to embody the spirit of the Congolese people.

Screening Times:
Thu. Jun 28, 7:00pm, Mann Festival Theater
Sat. Jun 30, 5:00pm, Italian Cultural Institute

For event information and tickets, call 866.FILM.FEST (866.345.6337) or visit

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Video: “Market Watch” on African Investment Values

June 27th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, General, Travel

Accompanying video for the emerging markets report “Investors In Africa Seeking Undervalued Names, Diversification” article I cited earlier. “Africa’s Improving Investment Climate” courtesy of MarketWatch.

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Who’s doing business in Africa?, Trade Forum Magazine update

Mashudu Ramano Johnnic CommunicationsNot long ago I highlighted a feature in Trade Forum magazine called “Changing Brand Africa”. It turns out they’ve updated their site with a new section called “Who’s Doing Business in Africa?”. The new section complements the previous feature with six new stories:

In all, the six sections give a well rounded view of the various opportunities to do business on the continent. A good read.

The articles below are a collection of inspirational models that reflect the new “Brand Africa.” It is the second in the series of stories about Changing “Brand Africa” to be featured on the Trade Forum site.
From an African media mogul in South Africa, we go to the founder of a home furnishings firm in Ethiopia. A coffee supplier outlines Rwanda’s rapid improvement as a coffee producer, and a Tunisian businessman shows how his country is embracing information and communications technology with a passion. We also look at trends in corporate social responsibility, a “must” for businesses, as practiced at Shell, and at how modern technology used by bushmen opens new job opportunities. – Trade Forum Magazine

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More on trade/business and aid in Africa’s development

June 22nd, 2007 | 2 Comments | Posted in Business, Charity, General, Politics, Travel

The past few weeks have seen an increase in the trade (or business) vs. aid in Africa discussion. Framed by Andrew Mwenda’s presentation at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania, and Bono’s subsequent rebuttal, the issue of what path should lead African development is certainly a hot topic. Here are a few articles which add to the ongoing discussion:

Please Bono, Stop Heckling and Just Listen (Financial Times)

Pro-aid campaigners argue that providing aid to accountable governments is a means of stimulating their economies. This is nonsense. Giving aid to poor countries and working exclusively through their government agencies makes accountability worse rather than better. It makes the governments more accountable to foreign donors than to their own people.
Africa’s only viable and sustainable strategy for economic growth is one based on trade and not aid. For this to happen, African countries need to aggressively support their private sectors to create environments for enterprise, wealth creation and elimination of poverty.

Investors In Africa Seeking Undervalued Names, Diversification (CNN Money)

“We’re convinced that the perceived risk in Africa is greater than the actual risk for disciplined and focused investment,” – Thomas Gibian, chief executive of Emerging Capital Partners, (which manages more than $1 billion in five private-equity funds focused on African companies)

“If you read the newspaper, you’re very worried because a lot of news is bad news,. If you take a step back and you take a look at the patterns that are in place in the world, you’ll see that there’s a long-term movement of the world toward democracy and peaceful settlement of disputes.” – Lawrence Speidell, co-manager of the Frontier Market Select Fund, L.P

Africa market size hinder private equity (The Namibian)

“…funds into Africa would have jumped in 2007, but private equity players’ enthusiasm was dampened by worries about the size of markets and companies, illiquidity and regulations in certain countries that slow down the process of buying out local firms” – Martin Kingston, Executive Deputy Chairman of Rothschild & Sons, South Africa

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112 years later, African art (and controversy) at Venice Biennale

June 22nd, 2007 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Business, Fashion, General, Music, Politics, Travel

Olu Oguibe on cover of Modern Painters Junee 2007 Venice Biennale issueThe June issue of Modern Painters magazine features a cover story on the first African Pavilion to ever open at the 112 year old Venice Biennale. The Biennale, arguably the most prestigious contemporary arts festival in the world, has been around since 1895 with little or no African representation, until now. Curated by Fernando Alvim and Simon Njami (Africa Remix), the Check List Luanda POP show at the Africa Pavilion features 30 artists’ works from the Sindika Dokolo African Collection of Contemporary Art in Luanda, Angola. The exhibition which opened on June 10 was selected by a panel of experts composed of Meskerem Assegued, Ekow Eshun, Lyle Ashton Harris, Kellie Jones, Bisi Silva and chaired by Robert Storr to represent the African continent at the 52nd International Art Exhibition.

Venice Biennale Africa PavilionThe selection of the Sindika Dokolo Foundation‘s collection as a representation for Africa came with a bit of controversy surrounding the business activities of Congolese businessman and art collector Sindika Dokolo’s family and associates. Most notably a July 2006 article in the French-language newspaper La Conscience titled “The Dokolo Affair” which alleged that under the Mobutu Sese Seko regime, Sindika Dokolo’s father, Sanu, created the Bank of Kinshasa, which “channeled money to members of his own family including Sindika himself, bilking the state and normal depositors of more than $80 million dollars when it imploded in 1986″. In a reply to the Artnet Magazine’s story titled “Art and Corruption in Venice”, Dokolo stated that the goal of his art collection is to help Africans build “a strong point of view on the world that would be their own,” Despite the initial controversy, the Check List Luanda POP show has gone on to set a precedent which I hope will continue. Below is a list of the artists featured. Also listen to the “Ghostworld” a mix of music accompanying the show, produced by DJ Spooky.

Check List Luanda Pop - African Pavilion
52nd Venice Biennale International Contemporary Art Exhibition

Fernando Alvim (Angola)
Simon Njami (Cameroon)

Produced and organized by Foundation Sindika Dokolo

Listen to DJ Spooky’s “Ghostworld”

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Artists works showing

  • Ghada Amer (Egypt)
  • Oladélé Bamgboyé (Nigeria)
  • Miquel Barcelo (Spain)
  • Jean Michel Basquiat (USA)
  • Mario Benjamin (Haiti)
  • Bili Bidjocka (Cameroon)
  • Zoulikha Bouabdellah (Algeria)
  • Loulou Cherinet (Ethiopia)
  • Marlène Dumas (South Africa)
  • Mounir Fatmi (Marocco)
  • Kendell Geers (South Africa)
  • Ihosvanny (Angola)
  • Alfredo Jaar (Chile)
  • Paulo Kapela (Angola)
  • Amal Kenawy (Egypt)
  • Kiluanji Kia Henda (Angola)
  • Paul D. Miller Aka DJ Spooky (USA)
  • Santu Mofokeng (South Africa)
  • Nastio Mosquito (Angola)
  • Ndilo Mutima (Angola)
  • Ingrid Mwangi (Kenya)
  • Chris Ofili (UK/Nigeria)
  • Olu Oguibe (Nigeria)
  • Tracey Rose (South Africa)
  • Ruth Sacks (South Africa)
  • Yinka Shonibare, MBE, (UK/ Nigeria)
  • Minnette Vári (South Africa)
  • Viteix (Angola)
  • Andy Warhol (USA)
  • Yonamine (Angola)

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Video: How to help Africa? Do business there

An insightful video of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s speech at the TED conference earlier this year. (via YG)

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Hip-hop’s African ancestry at Odyssey Awards

Beverly Fab5 and Kofi at H20Last Saturday I attended the 5th Annual Hip-Hop Odyssey (H2O) Awards, held at BB Kings in New York City. Organized by the Hip-Hop Association, the awards ceremony recognized today’s hottest Hip-Hop filmmakers, industry professionals and pioneers. The event always features appearances and performances by Hip-Hop heavyweights. This year’s event, as usual, was packed with many of the individuals who have played a major part in shaping the hip-hop landscape including, artist/entrepreneur/hip-hop personality Fab 5 Freddy (that’s him in the picture standing in front of me as we listen to DJ Beverly Bond speak about YO! MTV Raps’ late producer Ted Demme), Ice-T (who gave an excellent acceptance speech about staying true to oneself), Dana Dane, Grand Wizard Theodore, (Dr.) Roxanne Shante, Ralph McDaniels (Video Music Box), The Cold Crush Brothers, Chubb Rock and much more.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the awards and the preceding H2O International Film Festival, is how the organizers (Martha Diaz, Rolando Brown etc) make a conscious effort to show the influence of African (and international) cultures on the growth of America’s hip-hop/urban culture. A few years back, besides the performance by the Nomadic Wax Global Hip-hop All-stars’ Chosan (Sierra Leone) , Eli Efi (Brazil) , and El Gambina (Korea), the festival grand prize went to Hip-Hop Colony, a film about the African hip-hop explosion – now on DVD. This year Hip-Hop Colony’s Kenyan director, Michael Wanguhu, was on hand to present an award. To further encourage the hip-hop generation to connect with Africa, this year’s awards was sponsored by and involved a presentation by popular DNA lineage identification company African Ancestry Inc. Some of you might remember that African Ancestry Inc. was the company behind VH1′s Spike Lee-directed February (Black History month) spot which promoted a stronger connection between African-Americans and the African continent through DNA swab testing. African Ancestry’s President, Gina Paige, was on hand at this year’s H2O Awards ceremony to present the evening’s host, Paul Mooney, with his personal DNA test results. Upon revealing that Paul Mooney’s lineage goes back to Guinea-Bissau (I don’t remember which specific ethnic group was cited), Gina Paige presented Mr. Mooney with a folder containing the details of the tests as well as a t-shirt with a Guinea-Bissau logo. A very nice touch.

African Ancestry offers a great solution for African-Americans looking to re-connect with their African heritage. With the DNA procedure gaining popularity and support from African-American celebrities like Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, and Isaiah Washington – who also holds a seat on African Ancestry’s Board of Directors -, and media outlets from ABC’s Good Morning America to PBS championing the efforts, African Ancestry has already begun to solidify the link between African-American and African cultures.

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(RED) Vanity Fair charity album by Youssou N’Dour

June 20th, 2007 | 2 Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Charity, General, Music, Politics, Travel

(RED) Vanity Fair Youssou N'Dour charity albumThe recent issue of Vanity Fair, the “Africa issue”, has spawned a charity album featuring some great West African musicians. Based on Youssou N’Dour’s personal playlist, the “Tracks in the Sand” compilation album is available for sale on iTunes and includes a digital booklet with liner notes by Mark Hudson, author of The Music In My Head.


1. “Li Ma Weesu,” by Youssou N’Dour.
2. “Senegal Fast Food,” by Amadou & Mariam.
3. “Savane,” by Ali Farka Touré.
4. “Jiin Ma Jiin Ma,” by Orchestra Baobab.
5. “Africa Challenge,” by Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra.
6. “Saa Magni,” by Oumou Sangare.
7. “Chet Boghassa,” by Tinariwen.
8. “M’bifo,” by Rokia Traoré.
9. “Sou,” by Cheikh Lô.
10. “Iniagige,” by Salif Keita.
11. “Miyaabele,” by Baaba Maal.
12. “Jaman Moro,” by Afel Bocoum.
13. “Sigui,” by Djelimady Tounkara.
14. “Debe,” by Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabate.
15. “Allah,” by Youssou N’Dour.

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Top African-American talent plan trip to African Union Summit, Ghana

African Union Summit Hollywood Group

On Friday, June 15th, some of Hollywood’s most influential African-American talent got together at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, California for a panel discussion on promoting African-American interest in Africa. The meeting also served to organize a trip to attend the 9th Annual African Union Summit in Ghana next week. The gathering was organized by designer Ozwald Boateng, and included Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Mos Def, Herbie Hancock, James Mathis, and Isaiah Washington – whose Gondobay Manga Foundation was started after he discovered that he is genetically linked to Sierra Leone’s Mende people. During the African Union Summit, held in Ghana from 25 June – 3 July 2007, 50 influential African-Americans will meet with the 53 attending African presidents to discuss the continent’s future. The African Union Summit’s ultimate goal is of full political and economic integration leading to the United States of Africa. It’s good to see African-Americans playing an active part in planning Africa’s future.

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