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Top 100 global thinkers of 2010

December 2nd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Charity, Featured, General, Politics

Foreign Policy Magazine has named their top 100 global thinkers of 2010. The list, which I’ve outlined below, is a mix of policy makers, advocates, and media professionals among other global influencers. A special congratulations goes out to Rosa Whitaker (#53), Ory Okolloh (#59), and Ethan Zuckerman (#81), all of whom  I’ve had the pleasure of connecting and sharing ideas with. View the full list below, and read the full story on the Foreign Policy website:

Beginning with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (1), who teamed up to prove that even in tough times great new ideas can emerge, to forecasting economist Nouriel Roubini (12) to political leaders Barack Obama (3) and Angela Merkel (10), FP presents more than just their big ideas. Once again we took a unique survey of this very smart crowd. Nearly two-thirds participated to give you insight into their thinking on everything from how Obama’s doing to their preference in new-age reading device (iPad, by a lot). But don’t take our word for it — take the same questionnaire we sent to our FP 100 and see how your answers match up against theirs. – Foreign Policy Mag.

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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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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

paul_sika_hamac-3

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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African contemporary art having a global renaissance (videos)

April 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Business, Events, General, Travel

CNN’s Inside Africa recently aired a series of features on the growing global demand for contemporary art. View the 3 parts of the feature below.

Part 1

Johannesburg Contemporary Art Fair
The Johannesburg Art Fair recently showcased the works of 400 African contemporary artists, attracting more than 10,000 visitors. – CNN Inside Africa

PART 2

First US-based commercial art auction dedicated solely to contemporary African art
Auction house Bonhams’ recent ‘Africa Now’ auction in New York was first commercial auction dedicated solely to contemporary African art in the United States

Part 3

Ghana’s ancient beads back in vogue
A new generation of Ghanaians are rediscovering their heritage — and rediscovering the appeal of traditional beads – CNN Inside Africa

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

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Celebrity colonization of Africa (infographic)

Much has been said of celebrities taking an interest in Africa. Celebrities like Oprah, Madonna, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Danny Glover and, of course, Bono,  have pusued a wide range of Africa-related causes and initiatives to mixed response here and elsewhere in the media. For their March/April issue Mother Jones magazine has put together a fun interactive map outlining which American celebrities have been most involved in which African countries. The Mother Jones feature also contains a mini timeline of celebrity involvement in Africa. Click on the infographic below to access the full interactive map.

celebrity_colonize_africa

Ego Trips: What can Africa do for you? (via Mother Jones)

“My life changed, really, there.” —Bono

“Totally changed my life.” —Alicia Keys

“It’s changed my life.” —Country singer Michelle Wright

“This trip has changed my life.” —NFL player Reggie Bush

“One of those things which will sort of change your life.” —American Idol‘s Simon Cowell

“It truly was a life-changing experience.” —The OC‘s Mischa Barton

“It was truly a life-changing adventure!” —Disney teen star Selena Gomez

* h/t @kenyanpundit *

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Notes from Columbia U’s 2010 Africa Economic Forum

2010-AEF-Logo-300x223Last week I attended Columbia University’s annual African Economic Forum (AEF). The two-day conference was a diverse and insightful one with discussions ranging from Branding Africa to the growing, sometimes controversial China-Africa relationship. The organizers put together a great program with much discussion during and in-between panels. While I couldn’t attend the full program, I was able to participate in some great discussions with attendees and panelists in the Africa Arena. I’ve provided my notes from the discussions I was able to attend below. My notes cover a mixture of discussion topics and perspectives from the esteemed panelists and attendees. Please keep in mind that the notes below are portions of the hour plus long discussions from my perspective as an attendee. If you have any insight into any of the topics in my notes please feel free to comment. For clarification on any of the points in my notes please shoot me an email.

ATTENDANCE NOTES:
Panel: African Fashion Going Global
Moderator: ZANDILE BLAY, Market Editor, Paper Magazine
Panelists: OLUCHI, Supermodel and the Original Face of Africa; BUSIE MATSIKO, CEO and Co-Founder, Fashion Indie Media; AISHA OBUOBI, Designer & Founder, Christie Brown; MIMI PLANGE, Designer and Founder, Boudoir D’huîtres

  • Should Africans sell primarily to Africans?
  • African designers are more torn about designing Africa-inspired clothes vs. other western designers designing Africa-inspired clothes
  • Western designers are not limited or stigmatized when using African influences in designs
  • Should there be an African fashion capital? Some panelists say no
  • Is there a viable African consumer enough to support African fashion industry?
  • Designers don’t want to get pigeonholed as an ethnic designer; need room for growth
  • There is very limited support (i.e. factories, retail outlets) for African designers on the continent
  • Some panelists say African designers should focus on African consumers rather than targeting global consumers first
  • There is lack of business expertise among designers on the continent
  • Designers need to partner up with business professionals on the continent
  • Pricing African designs is tricky
  • Not too many Africans will pay high prices to support African designers
  • There are two types of African consumers: 1) those that travel and buy high-end western clothes 2) the locals who can’t afford couture and buy mass
  • It’s hard to produce on the continent particularly if you’re not doing mass production
  • Many African designers aspire to go to South Africa fashion week because it’s the top African continent fashion industry
  • Just like you don’t only have New Yorkers in New York Fashion week, South Africa’s Fashion Week has Africans from all over continent
  • African designers get inspiration from everywhere just like other designers
  • Some African designers are more drawn to cultural design than others

More »

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Africans on Forbes 2010 World’s Billionaires list

March 12th, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, General

2010ForbesAfricanBillionaires

Forbes Magazine has compiled and published it’s annual list of the world’s billionaires. The 2010 World’s Billionaires list represents “billionaires with publicly traded fortunes, net worths…calculated using share prices and exchange rates from February 12, 2010″. Of the 937 people named to the list, there are 8 African country citizens who made the list. Of the 8 Africans, the individual net worths range from $1.5 to $5.9  billion. with Egyptian nationals maintaining the biggest presence with 4 individuals from same family  listed. Here are the Africans on the 2010 Forbes World’s Billionaires list according to rank:

#127 Nassef Sawiris
Net Worth: $5.9 bil
Fortune: Inherited and Growing
Source: construction
Age: 48
Country Of Citizenship: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
#154 Nicky Oppenheimer & family
Net Worth: $5.0 bil
Fortune: Inherited
Source: De Beers
Age: 64
Country Of Citizenship: South Africa
Residence: Johannesburg
#307 Onsi Sawiris
Net Worth: $3.1 bil
Fortune: Self Made
Source: construction
Age: 80
Country Of Citizenship: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
#374 Naguib Sawiris
Net Worth: $2.5 bil
Fortune: Inherited and Growing
Source: telecom
Age: 55
Country Of Citizenship: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
#421 Patrice Motsepe
Net Worth:$2.3 bil
Fortune: Self Made
Source: mining
Age: 48
Country Of Citizenship: South Africa
Residence: Johannesburg
#421 Johann Rupert & family
Net Worth: $2.3 bil
Fortune: Inherited and Growing
Source: luxury goods
Age: 59
Country Of Citizenship: South Africa
Residence: Stellenbosch
#463 Aliko Dangote
Net Worth: $2.1 bil
Fortune: Inherited and Growing
Source: sugar, flour, cement
Age: 52
Country Of Citizenship: Nigeria
Residence: Lagos
#655 Samih Sawiris
Net Worth: $1.5 bil
Fortune: Inherited and Growing
Source: hotels
Age: 53
Country Of Citizenship: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
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Top 6 African business and culture trends to watch in 2010

Africa_fireworksIf, like me, you’ve been watching people and events surrounding Africa in mainstream and non-mainstream news, you’ll know that 2009 was a big year for Africa, From President Obama’s visit, to the new fiber-optic cable in Kenya, there was a lot of president-setting efforts going on in Africa. While there were the instances of political unrest, in all I think African countries had one of the better years. Looking forward to 2010, Africa seems in line to be put through some vigorous tests, From politics to agriculture and technology, in 2010 Africa will be challenged to show the world what is brewing under the hood for the next decade. Here are a few trends I think will greatly influence how Africans live and work in 2010:

1. Trickle-up innovation/reverse innovation

In 2007 C. K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, highlighted five ways that developing nations are often ahead of the curve and how multinationals can adapt to the the changing product development lifecycle. In 2010, though some analysts say the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 is in recovery, we’ll continue to see an increase in businesses looking to developing nations, including Africa, as ground zero for new product and service innovation. Organizations will not neglect consumers in developed nations though. Rather, developing nations will take precedence in business development, with markets in the west getting re-targeted efforts already proven elsewhere. The big question is will African nations also turn their innovation sights into Africa to bolster African business and gain a home-field advantage against foreign businesses.

Watch: Google, GE, Microsoft, Nokia

2. Mobile and connectivity growth and standards
At this point, mobile technology is synonymous with connectivity in Africa. From government to industry, Africans are growing more reliant on the mobile phone for all aspects of life. 2010 will see a continuance of this trend within communities, and more importantly, governments will increasingly begin to use the mobile phone as a way of reaching African civilians. We are already seeing that in Kenya’s Obama-inspired mobile campaign to educate Kenyans on public policies. Beyond mobile technology, we’ll also see a surge in government-funded connectivity efforts and legislation around Africa. With the new fiber-optic cables launch in Kenya and other regions moving more services from analog to digital, Africa’s connectivity will be a priority for forward-thinking leaders. Case in point is the Kigali government’s recent launch of a $7 million wireless hot spot facility. We can expect to also see a lot of foreign investment in development and organization of the African mobile sector. I, for one, am looking forward to the growth of mobile innovations by African entrepreneurs. Hopefully African private and public sectors can engage the independent developers to accelerate the mobile industry in 2010

Watch: Government data centers,  2010 Fifa World Cup mobile marketing, Netbook market growth, M-pesa, Fiber-optic cables usage, MTN, KenyaAirways on Twitter, Zain, Safaricom

3. Rise of the African creative class
For the past several years, young Africans have been struggling to define a new identity for the themselves in the connected global community. As political stability has solidified in many African countries and African youth have begun to exert their influence at home and abroad, a community of independent creators have strengthened their voices and come to the forefront to re-define Africa for the 21st century. Fueled by connectivity, voluntary repatriation, international travel, and the growth of African cities, Africa’s creative class will be at the center of shaping Africa in 2010. In 2009 we saw African blogging reach it’s peak and a surge in African style and design multi-media channels. From Arise Magazine, to BHF Magazine, to Design Indaba, the exploration of what it means to be African in the 21st century continued to influence all areas. In 2010, with the debut of the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, we will see Africa’s creative class flexing their influence on everything from technology, to government policy, to international business. With so many African and foreign private and public organizations hoping to capitalize on the event, Africa’s creative class will be at the center of it all. As the core drivers of Africa’s urban areas, the creative class are the ultimate influencers. 2010 will be the year when they will be thrust into the limelight internationally. Let’s hope they (we) are ready.

Watch: Arise Magazine, Fela on Broadway, Design Indaba, Maker Faire Africa 2010, The Blk Jks, FESPACO, African Gay & Lesbian groups, Paul Sika, African Avante Garde

4. The Africa brand and tourism
The 2010 Fifa World Cup will have a major impact on Africa whatever the end result is positively or negatively. Most importantly, the World Cup will challenge African tourism, marketing, infrastructure and related industries to develop and maintain a consistent African brand identity. With the advent of high-profile global events like this and a need to share resources, African governments will have to re-visit and form cross-border alliances. While we have already seen regional groups like the East African Community strengthen their intergovernmental ties, 2010 will be the year when all African countries will have to answer the cross-border alliance question at the behest of foreign political engagement.

Watch: 2010 Fifa World Cup, African government summits, Cross-country tourism packages,  ICT sector, “Made in Africa” labeling

5. Africa and African-Americans
Not much has been said about the growing relationship between Africans and African-Americans. By and large there is still a communication rift between the two groups. But slowly, the relationship between the two groups is becoming symbiotic. While I don’t see a major shift in opinion between the two groups happening in 2010, I do expect a continuation of the rapid growth of African-American wealth to playing a part in African development. Resourceful and wealthy African-Americans will continue to invest in African culture and politics both on the continent and abroad, while Africans borrow from African-American history for lessons on developing an international identity. Particularly, a growing number of African-American entertainers and business people will see Africa as an extension of their life in the United States. some will even maintain plans to buy and move to the continent seeking a more personally and financially fruitful life. Africans will also begin to formally recognize this trend and capitalize on the brain gain. As more African-Americans look to Africa, African will become more high profile in African-American press pushing Afropolitan culture further into American pop culture.

Watch: Fela On Broadway, African real estate development, Africa correspondents in urban media, African-American foreign invetment groups.

6. China..and India
In November 2009, China pledged a multibillion-dollar package of financial and technical assistance to African governments over the next couple of years.  This was among one of the many efforts by Chinese government and business to form a tight alliance with Africa. China’s relationship with Africa will continue to dominate Africa news in 2010, with support and objections from many diverse groups as we’ve seen in 2009. The new year will also see an increase in Indian alliance with countries within the continent though it will continue to pale in comparison to China’s efforts. India and Africa will strengthen their ICT development relationships as African countries continue to push themselves as outsourcing destinations.

Watch: India-Africa learning trips, Chinese import export from Africa, Sino-African cultural conflicts.

What do you think? What other trends will influence Africa’s growth and development in 2010? Please share your comments.

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FELA! musical hits Broadway with rave reviews

December 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Business, Events, Featured, General, Music, Politics

FELA! musical

If you haven’t already heard FELA! The Musical has opened on the Broadway in New York City. For many people, myself included, this marks a milestone in African culture’s rise to global recognition. Nigerian musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti has been an major inspiration for many young Africans looking to re-define what it means to be African in the West. Ever the African icon, Fela’s music and ideas have been at the cornerstone of the growing Afropolitan culture in New York and other metropolitan areas around the world. He has inspired many creative expressions of African culture including my own early foray into Africa-influenced business. After many years as an Afropolitan lifestyle inspiration, now the essence of what Fela has defined for modern Africans has brilliantly been captured in this new musical.

In it’s glowing review of the new musical The New York Times writes:

There should be dancing in the streets. When you leave the Eugene O’Neill Theater after a performance of “Fela!,” it comes as a shock that the people on the sidewalks are merely walking. Why aren’t they gyrating, swaying, vibrating, in thrall to the force field that you have been living in so ecstatically for the past couple of hours?

The hot (and seriously cool) energy that comes from the musical gospel preached by the title character of “Fela!,” which opened on Monday night, feels as if it could stretch easily to the borders of Manhattan and then across a river or two. Anyone who worried that Bill T. Jones’s singular, sensational show might lose its mojo in transferring to Broadway can relax.

FELA! The Musical features the Afrobeat music of Fela Anikulapo–Kuti, a book by Jim Lewis and the direction and choreography of Tony® Award winner Bill T. Jones. The musical is co-produced by Jay-Z, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith among others.

Watch the opening night and behind the scenes videos below.

If you can’t see the videos above, click here

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