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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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‘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

Fela_highres 2.1

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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Africans on Forbes 2010 World’s Billionaires list

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


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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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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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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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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Corporate America’s Changing Views on Africa

June 15th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, Film/Television, General, Politics, Travel

Baird, the management consulting firm, recently asked senior officers of 30 American Fortune 100 corporations about their current attitudes on investing in Africa. While some of the results showed that not much had  changed, the study also revealed that corporate America was increasingly optimistic about Africa’s role in their future business strategies. Three of the key points of the study, “Inside the Boardroom: How Corporate America Really Views Africa” are:

• USA Inc. is more interested in Africa than before, because the African market appears increasingly attractive, but Africa has tough competition and high hurdles for US investment. Education is at the top of the US corporate wish list for Africa; “educate your people so that we can employ them”

• The African countries that hold most interest are South Africa and some countries in the North, like Egypt; there are also some pockets of interest in West Africa, most notably Ghana, Nigeria and to some extent Angola; while some in the South (Botswana and Mozambique) and East (Uganda and Kenya), are also being watched

•To make itself more attractive for US investment, Africa should:

  • Invest in education , health and infrastructure
  • Ensure the rule of law and a business-friendly climate for all investing companies
  • Show it is serious about attracting foreign investment
  • Market itself as aggressively as other regions of the world
  • Demonstrate opportunity cost of not investing

A recent CNBC broadcast from Lagos, Nigeria (video below) also expounded on what Africa has to offer corporate America.

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Painter Kehinde Wiley’s World Stage: Africa

August 11th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Events, General, Travel

Kehinde Wiley, The World Stage: Africa Lagos~Dakar
July 17—October 26, 2008
The Studio Museum in Harlem
144 West 125th Street
New York, New York 10027
tel 212.864.4500

The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar is Kehinde Wiley’s first solo exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem and features ten new paintings from his multinational “The World Stage” series. Wiley is known for his stylized paintings of young, urban African-American men in poses borrowed from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European figurative paintings, a practice he started in the early 2000s while an artist in residence at the Studio Museum. Over the last two years, Wiley has expanded his project by living and working abroad; he temporarily relocates to different countries and opens satellite studios to become familiar with local culture, history and art. His “The World Stage” series is the result of these travels.

pictures from the exhibit opening

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Video: Fela! A New Musical (off Broadway)

August 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Events, General, Music

Tony Award winning director Bill T. Jones directs and choreographs this new musical about the life of African Pop Icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Play runs August 5 Through September 21 only at the 37 ARTS located at 450 W. 37th Street between 9th and 10 avenues, NY, NY. Visit the website and get tickets.
More clips

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“Africa Rising” festival brings JAY-Z, Rihanna, Alek Wek to Nigeria & Washington DC

July 14th, 2008 | 3 Comments | Posted in Business, Charity, Events, Fashion, General, Music, Travel

Friday was the kickoff for Nigeria-based media company THISDAY’s 3rd annual festival titled “Africa Rising”. The star-studded THISDAY Music and Fashion Festival at the THISDAY Dome in Abuja, Nigeria featured performances by Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Usher. The fashion portion of the festival featured models Naomi Campbell, Tyson Beckford, Alek Wek, Oluchi, and designers Chris Aire and Ozwald Boateng. The annual festival which is “focus on finding ‘sustainable solutions’ rather than the ‘problems’ facing Africa”, will be making it’s international debut with stops in Washington DC’s Kennedy Center on August 1 with Beyoncé and Seal as headliners, and in London on October 14. THISDAY has some 700 staff members in 38 offices across Nigeria. It also maintains a bureau in Washington DC, from which it provides news on Africa to a variety of global news organisations and agencies across all platforms- from online to broadcast.

“Right now the international community seems to be dealing with the symptoms not the problems of Africa. The symptoms are poverty and disease, but the problem is lack of social and physical infrastructure. This initiative is to highlight the need to focus sustainable solutions on the problems through massive investment in infrastructure and microfinance in order to rebuild Africa from the ground up. Europe is what it is today because after World War II the ‘Marshall Plan’ took hold. It did not deal with poverty, it focused on rebuilding Europe.” – said media mogul Nduka Obaigbena, THISDAY’s Editor-in-Chief.

The “Africa Rising” event “tour” reflects a rapidly growing trend in the Africa-focused aid sector: African’s creating products with a sustainability focus targeted to both African and international consumers. I’m eager to see what the attendance numbers are for the UK and US events.

more pics

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