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Why Africa aid campaigns FAIL (free ebook)

May 19th, 2010 | 4 Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Charity, General, Politics

On April 27, 2010 the popular website Mashable ran a post titled 1MillionShirts Leverages Social Media to Help Clothe Africa. The post was about a new charitable campaign launched by a pair of US-based social media marketing professionals whose goal was to get everyday consumers to “Help us send one million t-shirts to the people of Africa”. As the Mashable author wrote

The 1MillionShirts project, launched this month, is asking for used (but decent) T-shirts to be sent in with a one dollar bill to help with container costs. The shirts will then be shipped to Africa to help clothe folks in need.

The mis-guided campaign team set out to use social media tools to spread the word,  encouraging supporters to use the #1millionshirts tag in comments about the campaign on Twitter. Within hours of the #1millionshirts tag appearing on Twitter a heated debate ensued between the marketers and the African development and aid professionals with both sides writing online, talking on Twitter, and even getting on an international conference call. In 24 hours what started out as a typical American-lead Africa aid charity campaign had fueled a full blown debate on the merits of such efforts, and how campaigns such as these negatively affect African communities and the aid industry.

To further the open discussion, and educate other would-be Africa aid campaigners, I have tapped the wisdom of the crowd to produce a case-study document titled “No Tees Please: Why Africa aid campaigns #FAIL”. The contributors to the eBook have shared their perspectives on this and other Africa aid campaigns and the hard lessons which can be learned when they miss their mark.

Feel free to download and distribute the eBook embedded below freely to anyone you feel can learn from the diverse perspectives on smart aid and foreign-lead African development initiatives. A special thanks to the numerous contributors and my co-editor Raquel Wilson for helping get this project out the door in a short period. Leave your comment below or follow me on Twitter (@GKofiAnnan) to join the ongoing conversation.

No Tees Please: Why Africa aid campaigns #FAIL

If you can’t see the embed above go here to view or download

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Do we need an African version of Vogue Magazine?

May 18th, 2010 | 5 Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Fashion, General

Vogue-Africa-Mario-Epanya

Recently, Paris-based Cameroonian photographer, Mauro Epanya, created a layout of what a possible African version of the trend-setting fashion glossy, Vogue Magazine would/could look like. The images, though creatively done, have sparked a debate about the merits of an African version of Vogue. In a well thought out analysis, Uduak at Labybrille Magazine, outlines the reasons why an African Vogue is not a good idea:

  • VOGUE Does Not Need to Validate Africa Before Africa Becomes Fashionable
  • The Internet has Created an African Fashion Media Revolution, So Why the Continued Need for Validation with a VOGUE Africa?
  • VOGUE Africa is Bad Business For Africa
  • VOGUE Africa Will Not Eliminate Racism in VOGUE’s Fashion Pages

For her part in the debate, Vanessa Raphaely, editor of Cosmopolitan South Africa and editorial director of Associated Magazines (Marie Claire, O, the Oprah Magazine, etc.) also writes an insightful commentary on her blog.

Then there’s the nuts and bolts of the business: Magazines generally follow where the cosmetic and fashion industry lead. On this continent, there are only two Vuitton stores. They are in Jozi and Cape Town, not in Gaberones, Brazzaville, Dar es Salaam or Libreville.

There is no High Street to speak of in Africa (not even in South Africa,) there is not a proliferation of shopping malls and high end international clothing giants littering the Sahara, North, Central, Western or East Africa,  ergo, little demand for advertising pages.

In South Africa, the powerhouse of the region, local manufacturing is floundering due to a failure to compete with Asia and The Far East with regard to price.

That is why there is, to date, not even a South African Vogue. While fashion magazines like Marie Claire and ELLE are both well-established in the country, neither has the advertising riches to thrive that their sisters in the more developed parts of the world enjoy.

Both, it can be argued, require less very high-end advertising than Vogue to achieve the expectations of their European principals.

It’s not rich pickings here on the wild frontier.

So, even though it irks me to be so pedestrian, I have to ask: who would advertise in this Pan-African Vogue?

In the short term, a Vogue Africa would get many people excited and even generate a bit of revenue. Soon enough though, the novelty will wear off and the realities of organizing, producing, and shipping an African glossy in a global economy which has not been kind to print media will take hold. From platform (print vs. digital) to talent (African writers vs. Western writers) to business strategy (South Africa headquarters or not), there are different factors to think of when planning Vogue-type content for Africa; and corporate accounts will not ease the pain. That’s not to say an African fashion and style magazine cannot exist, but rather the strategy to launch and maintain one would need to take into account certain factors which aren’t an issue in the West.

One of the side-effects of the marketing and advertising activity around the upcoming World Cup is that in an effort to  cash in on the African renaissance multinational corporations are again attempting to transplant their business models to a continent that lacks the same context that made those strategies successful in the West. They are looking to what their western experiences dictate and overlooking the unique opportunities that Africa has to offer – mobile  proliferation being one of them.

If major publishers like Vogue/Conde Nast want to enter African markets they should look to partner with “local” businesses who have already dealt with the challenges and figured out what African audiences want and need. As I said in the comments section of the Ladybille Magazine blog, there are many many African media and content creators whose efforts are still being overlooked because their success is judged by Western perspectives. It’ll do Africans and global partners well to recognize and capitalize on what makes African stories, contexts, and perspectives unique.

Read more on the debate:

VOGUE Africa? No. Thank you Very Much I’ll Pass!

Is the World Ready for an African Vogue?

Fashion Enthusiasts Ponder Vogue Africa

Vogue Africa Creator Mario Epanya Responds to Critics

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‘Fela!’ musical lands 11 Tony Noms; Chiwetel Ejiofor cast as Fela in biopic

May 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Business, Events, Film/Television, Music

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A BIG congratulations to the cast and crew of ‘FELA!’ The musical as they have just received 11 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. The Tony Awards is the leading awards which honor Broadway productions that opened during the 2009-10 season. Along with the musical ‘La Cage aux Folles’, ‘Fela!’ has received the most nominations. ‘Fela! is nominated in all major categories including Best direction, Best performance by a leading actor, Best performance by a featured actress, and Best choreography. The 2010 Tony Awards show will air June 13 on CBS.

In related news Golden Globe nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots, American Gangster, Inside Man) has been cast to play Fela in the feature film biopic about the iconic Nigerian musician/activist. Deadline New York reveals:

(The) Focus Features movie about the African musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti now officially has its leading man. Chiwetel Ejiofor is formally attached to play Fela in the film that will be directed by Steve McQueen, the British artist who made his helming debut on Hunger, the drama about the Irish hunger strike that starred Michael Fassbender.

When I revealed the project last year, Ejiofor seemed the obvious choice, but Focus Features wouldn’t confirm. Ejiofor sure has been taking it seriously on his end. In between his work on the upcoming Angelina Jolie-starrer Salt, he has been learning to play piano and saxophone to prepare for the role. I’m told he’s gotten quite good.

When I first heard about the biopic some months ago many people on Twitter, including myself, put in their vote for Ejiofor in the lead role. It seems the producers were thinking as we did. Though the two projects are unrelated, I can’t help but think the musical helped solidify production plans for the film. I, for one, am excited for both projects. Go see Fela! The Musical.

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Africa in vibrant technicolor, Paul Sika talks to CNN

One of  the most dynamic, engaging young creative talents coming out of the African continent recently is Ivorian photographer/creative director Paul Sika. After being introduced about a year ago by a mutual friend, I was impressed by his creative vision and passion. Paul’s use of color and juxtaposition of characters in his photo and video creations expose a new way of looking at contemporary African life, culture, and style. A true entrepreneur, Paul has put together an upcoming book titled “At The Heart Of Me …” featuring his intricate work and concepts. As I mentioned in my earlier post “Top 6 African business and culture trends to watch in 2010“, Paul Sika is one of the African creative class making an impact this year. For more about Paul Sika and his upcoming book, visit PaulSika.com

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Trailer for the book “At The Heart Of Me …” by Paul Sika

CNN Inside Africa’s Isha Sesay talks to Ivorian photographer Paul Sika about his vibrant images, filled with eye-catching colors.

If you can’t see the videos above, go here to view

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