Tuesday, July 21, 2009

China in Africa – Why it Matters to Americans

White Shaka Music Goes to Top of the Charts

White Shaka is going online and now the theme music from Episode 2 - Umile - went to no. 2 on the Rhythm and Blues charts of overplay.com

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dear Mr. Obama: What Africa Needs is a New Kind of Digital Marshall Plan

Forget charity. Forget cash. What Africa needs is a way to unleash its own entrepreneurship.

Its already doing that thanks to cell phones. There are now over 50 million on them on the continent.

So here's how to do it. Convert these to smartphones, create a secure online currency a la Paypal and let individual Africans participate on the world market.

It is really that simple. Once businesses and non-profits can go directly to individuals and vice versa then thieving government officials and billion-dollar banknotes like Zimbabwe become irrelevant.

Why send a bag of rice when you can give a village a way to earn rice credits that they can cash in at a store?

Why send a mosquito net when you can finance a local mosquito net factory.

You get the idea - we can leapfrog the old barriers of post-colonial Africa just by tapping into the wireless economy. Instead of giving people things we enable them to jumpstart their own economies. Cell phones offer a way to bypass the traditional gatekeepers who are generally forced to become corrupt by the system itself.

In fact, cell phones themselves are an example of this new approach. Look at it this way - in 15 years Africa grew from a legacy of just 5 million phone lines - almost all government controlled - to 50 million cell phones - mostly privately controlled.

Old thinking is to give conscience money to the poor while buying up resources cheaply. This isn't grand collusion although it might as well be - Bono raises money and give it away to poor villages while the corporations funding him look for ways to sell baby formula or extract minerals for less. Unfortunately, the Chinese are beat us at this game because they skipped the conscience money part and increased the direct payments to the governments and top officials to get the resources even more cheaply. Example 1 - Darfur (in case you wondered who paid for the oil pipeline that financed the janjaweed).

Plus the Chinese don't place moral conditions on anyone. Example 2 - sending weapons to Mugabe in Zimbabwe so that he increase military pressure when his rigged elections were being contested.

Smartphones and the wireless economy tied to small manufacturing infrastructure is the new success model for Africa. It requires two things: underwriting the distribution of phones and the guarantee of a new "Marshall" Protection Plan. Hands off the little guys - if you steal from the world wireless economy we can find you and we'll get you, so don't do it.

Once people are engaged they buy or borrow what they need to grow their own food, information on how to do it and access to markets that will buy it. They will know what to make or grow and who to trade with.

This will extend to medicine and medical knowledge.

It will tend to redistribute wealth and power among the harder working and women.

This concept will require on-the-ground guarantors and vigilance against a new kind techie kleptocrat, but it is still much, much better than anything we have done in the the past. And it is inevitable.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

White Shaka Wins International Storytelling Award

International Fuze Slideshare Storytelling Contest Winner

White Shaka Boy
- the multimedia graphic novel about a New Yorker who discovers his personal Obama-like connection to Africa, won an Award in the Fuze Slideshare online storytelling contest.

White Shaka was judged the best Multimedia Story in the International Fuze Slideshare Storytelling contest that attracted contestants from all corners of the universe, where it was described by one voter as an "AWESOME...use of slides to tell a story."

Judges included Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos; Om Malik, Journalist; Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics, Pete Cashmore, Founder, Mashable and Ann Handley, CCO of MarketProfs.

Slideshare is the leading Powerpoint presentation sharing site. Fuze Meeting is a collaborative videoconferencing site.

White Shaka Boy is a parable about the new land grab taking place in Africa today. It is based on a true story about a teen who discovers he is the biracial heir to the only white Zulu Chief of Africa. To win back his empire he has to learn about Zulu culture and the new realities of urbanized Africa. He also discovers early feminism in Zulu war culture and the underlying connection between Shaka fighting method and Gandhi's Satyagraha (passive resistance).

White Shaka features an award-winning, sophisticated Zulu hip-hop soundtrack from the album by Imbube, produced by Draztik. The graphics were produced by Revo Yanson.

The book and story concept was created by Alan Brody, a well-known new media pioneer, journalist, speaker and entrepreneur who stumbled upon this saga while researching an article about his early years, growing up in Africa. "I wanted to show my clients that to succeed in sales you have to be willing to make direct contact with your prospects - a grinding, rejection-laden process. I thought I could use the techniques of Zulu warfare to show how to thrive. Then, I stumbled upon this story and somehow, my inner comic creator, music-lover and African adventurer came together."

White Shaka can be ordered on Amazon with the complete 17-song soundtrack CD for $19.95 or directly from the White Shaka website

All 35 Webisodes will be loaded on Slideshare over the next 6 months.

Slideshare is a popular presentation-sharing site in the business world that has crossed over to the creative world.