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Using Twitter for Nigeria election reform

April 12th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Events, Politics, Technology

At the center of grass roots efforts to keep Nigeria’s notorious election process clean is a small, indistinguishable man armed with a cell phone…Amara, wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “Light Up Nigeria” and with his mobile phone always close by, is perhaps Nigeria’s best-known Twitter activist….But as Amara tours polling stations across Lagos, he is leaving nothing to chance. He uses the internet as a platform to encourage as many people to get involved in the voting process as possible….Nigeria has 43 million Internet users — the largest in Africa — and they are increasingly using Twitter, Facebook and blogs, such as Nigeria’s, to access information and make their views heard.


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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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42 country, 100 exhibit Africa Pavilion unveiled for 2010 Shanghai World Expo

April 19th, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted in Business, Events, Film/Television, General, Music, Politics, Travel


50 African nations and the African Union will present their interpretations of the “Better City, Better Life” theme in Shanghai, China at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo running May 1 to October 31. Along with a number of other countries, African governments and businesses will exhibit at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo in efforts to showcase tourism and trade potential. Of the 50 African nations exhibiting, 42 have joined forces to build the Joint-Africa Pavilion, a 22.6 thousand square meters (243,264.38 sq. ft) exhibit hall with individual country exhibition areas and over 100 exhibits from Africa. Located near a main entrance of the expo, construction for the Joint-Africa Pavilion began in August 2008, and is developed in part with investment money from a $100-million fund set up by the organizers of the expo for the over 100 participating developing countries participating. The remaining 8 African countries exhibiting, including South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria, will rent their own separate pavilions.

The Joint African Pavilion consists of exhibitions provided by 42 African countries including Angola, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Zambia, and Sudan. The Pavilion embraces the theme of “The Great Ballad of Africa”. It aims to represent the cultural diversity, solidarity, and the rosy future of the African countries. Welcoming visitors at the entrance of the Pavilion is “Lucy”, a 3-and-a-half million year old fossil of a female hominid. She was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974.” - CCTV

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Of the 191 countries participating in the World Expo in Shanghai, most are investing record amounts to build pavilions., Most world governments will be providing the bulk of investment, with heads of state promising to make special appearances. In an effort to solidify Shanghai as a global city, China itself is spending $4.2 billion on transforming the world’s fair to a blowout extravaganza, surpassing it’s recent efforts on producing the Beijing Olympics. “Compared with the Olympics, the expo will have a richer culture,” said Zhu Yonglei, deputy director-general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination. “It will be more interesting.” An extimated 70 million visitors from the public and private sectors, civil society, international organizations and others will attend the Shanghai World Expo, making it the largest World Expo in history.

More images of the Joint-Africa Pavilion available here and here.

Video: Joint African Pavilion unveils design

Video: South Africa at World Expo

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


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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NY African Film Festival opens, celebrates World Cup and independent Africa


The 17th annual New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) has opened on April 7th celebrating the 50th anniversary of 17 African nations’ independence from colonial rule as well as the freedom that the rise in technology has given African filmmakers to tell their own stories. Among the 13 features and 25 short films from emerging and veteran filmmakers from 18 countries are four soccer films in honor of the World Cup’s first games in Africa opening in June 2010, an animated short program, Focus Features’ Africa First short program and an environmental film.

The festival runs from April 7 through the 13th at The Film Society of Lincoln Center and continues at Columbia University’s Institute for African Studies, 3ten Lounge, New Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music BAMcinématek with dates in April and May. Some films showing during the festival include The Absence, directed by Mama Keïta (Senegal/France), Eliane de Latour’s narrative film Beyond the Ocean, winner of the Jury Prize at the Festival des Cinéma du Monde 2009, and Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi, which I highlighted here before.

Take a look at the full film schedule.

On Saturday, April 10, a panel discussion will also be held where established and aspiring directors and producers will learn how to craft an attention-getting pitch and utilize social networking tools at “Getting Exposure: Securing the Buzz You Need for Your Film.” The panel takes place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center at 1:30 pm, and is part of  the film festivals “Independent Africa”.

Panelists will include Jennifer Merin, film journalist with and founder of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists; Misani, culture writer for the Amsterdam News; Paul Burani, social media strategist; and Pam Pickens, digital marketing expert. The event, which is open to the public, will be moderated by veteran entertainment publicist and NYAFF’s public relations consultant Cheryl L. Duncan of Cheryl Duncan & Company Inc.

For panel or film tickets, go to

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Video: Nigeria’s Brain Gain

December 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, General, Travel

If you can’t see the video above click here.

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Microsoft, GE look to emerging markets for reverse innovation and profits

September 29th, 2009 | 4 Comments | Posted in Business, General, Politics, Technology, Travel

GE's healthcare reverse innovations

When GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt wrote in this month’s Harvard Business Review that GE’s “Success in developing countries is a prerequisite for continued vitality in developed ones” and as a result the company was full on adopting the reverse innovation model, he sent shockwaves through the US-based business world. Looking at the numbers though, who could argue. The HBR article explains that “GE’s revenues outside the United States soared from $4.8 billion, or 19% of total revenues, in 1980, to $97 billion, or more than half of the total, in 2008.” all while the global economic crisis surged on.

… (business leaders) are shifting their energies from managing the present—surviving the financial and economic meltdowns—to creating the future. But we worry that too few U.S. business leaders have recognized that the future is far from home. Indeed, many of the innovations that propel global economic growth over the next few decades will originate in the developing world. – BusinessWeek

While the idea of reverse innovation – or trickle up innovation as the business practice is sometimes called – is nothing new, the business climate is ripe for it’s large scale adoption. With the global economy in peril, and waning consumer confidence particularly in the west, multinationals are increasingly seeking alternatives to old revenue and product development models. Reverse innovation – creating entry-level products for developing nations and then repackaging them for sale in richer nations – solves many problems for multinationals including reducing product development costs and increasing revenue by diversifying globally. But to truly see the gains of a reverse innovation business practice companies must make an honest effort to observe what makes it profitable; most importantly, understanding how emerging markets like China, India, Brazil and Africa, have become politically stable, more self reliant, and how innovation is now driven locally.

In a Businessweek article, C.K. Prahalad, author of the newly reissued The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits gave 5 tips for trickle up business innovation:

  • Affordable Products – Emerging nations can’t afford goods priced for the U.S. and Western Europe, which pushes companies to find inexpensive materials or manufacturing options.
  • ‘Leapfrog’ Technologies – Developing countries lack 20th century infrastructure and so have fast-forwarded to newer technologies such as mobile phones or solar energy.
  • Service ‘Ecosystems’ – Entrepreneurs in poor nations often must rely on others for help, creating new partnerships like video-game cafés where gamers test offerings such as online identity verification.
  • Robust Systems – Emerging markets require products that work in rugged conditions. A gadget sturdy enough to survive monsoons can handle spilled coffee in Boston or San Diego.
  • New Applications – Customers in poor countries have few product choices, providing market openings for add-ons that update and extend the lives of existing merchandise.

More on Reverse Innovation / Trickle Up Innovation

Interview: GE’s Vijay Govindarajan, chief innovation consultant, Discusses `Reverse Innovation’ (Bloomberg audio)
Vijay Govindarajan talks with Bloomberg’s Tom Keene and Ken Prewitt about technological “reverse innovation,” or developing products in emerging countries such as China and India for sale there.

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Interview: Microsoft’s Trickle-Up Strategy – (Businessweek audio)
Microsoft is looking to developing-world audiences for inspiration on new products for the U.S. Now it is also increasingly hunting for R&D talent among students in emerging markets. The company’s Amit Mital explains.

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Feature: Innovation Trickles in a New Direction – (Businessweek video)

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Designer Ozwald Boateng on dressing President Obama and his Made in Africa wealth initiative

August 31st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Business, Charity, Events, Fashion, Film/Television, Politics, Travel

In this three part series fashion designer Ozwald Boateng talks with CNN about outfitting President Obama for his recent Ghana visit and the designer’s new initiative “Made in Africa”.

Part 1: Tailoring for the President
CNN’s Monita Rajpal talks British-Ghanaian tailor Ozwald Boateng about his rise to fame and tailoring for President Obama’s Ghanaian visit.

Part 2: Made in Africa Ozwald Boateng talks about ‘Made in Africa.’ An organization designed to promote wealth and self sufficiency in Africa

Part 3: Designer to role model
British-Ghanaian tailor Ozwald Boateng explains his plans to help tailor Africa’s image problems.

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Growing middle class and Africa’s demographic opportunity

August 27th, 2009 | 4 Comments | Posted in Business, General, Politics, Travel

The Economist writes an insightful article about the direct relationship between Africa’s lowering birth-rate, it’s growing middle class, and the continent’s economic growth.

Africa is still something of a demographic outlier compared with the rest of the developing world. …Its population has grown from 110m in 1850 to 1 billion today. …To get a sense of this kind of increase, consider that in 1950 there were two Europeans for every African; by 2050, on present trends, there will be two Africans for every European.

…Yet Africa is also starting out, a little late, on a demographic transition that others have already traced: as people get richer, they have fewer children. …It is surely no coincidence that the past 15 years have seen Africa’s fastest-ever period of economic growth. Africa, exceptional in so many ways, does not seem to be an exception to the rule that, as countries get richer, they experience a demographic transition.

…The result is a “demographic dividend”, which can be cashed in to produce a virtuous cycle of growth. A fast-growing, economically active population provides the initial impetus to industrial production; then a supply of new workers coming from villages can, if handled properly, enable a country to become more productive. China and East Asia are the models. On some calculations, demography accounted for about a third of East Asia’s phenomenal growth over the past 30 years.


The article presents an interesting view. Africa is going through a renaissance of sorts as the demographics of influencers have shifted tremendously in the past 10-15 years. It’ll be interesting to see the shape the continent and it’s cultures takes in the next few years.

More about the growing African middle class in the videos below:

The Nigerian middle class profiled

Ghana on the rise

Middle class life in Nairobi, Kenya

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Birth and boom of a new African design industry

Design Indaba 2009 setup
Image by mallix via Flickr

A recent article in African Business magazine looks at the recent boom of modern African designers on the continent and internationally. From February’s ThisDay Arise Magazine African fashion event at NY Fashion Week to architect David Adjaye being appointed to design the new African-American National Museum in Washindton DC, the influence of modern African design in global culture continues to solidify. But while there are more and more role models for budding African designers, there’s still a long way to go before Africa itself recognizes and taps into it’s strong creative capital.

To become truly competitive though, the continent must do things in
its own way, with its own brand of excellence and innovation. Africans
can grasp the best of design worldwide, as well as the best the
continent has to offer and transform it into something new, compelling,
beautiful and sustainable. Small pockets of success show that African
design development has reached the point at which it can play a very
real role in addressing poverty and unemployment throughout the
continent. From craft initiatives in rural villages to
multi-disciplinary industrial projects that boast global collaboration,
design can boost a nation’s GDP. (more)

CNN also reports on a new contemporary African design aesthetic in the video below shot at the 2009 Design Indaba in S. Africa.

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