Pambazuka News

Paradigm shift for the African Diaspora

Dibussi Tande

2010-04-01, Issue 476

This week's review of African blogs includes a call to reexamine links between Africa and its diaspora, a lament about technology's negative impact on the Kenyan blogosphere, Ghana's first indigenous language blog and Kenya's very own superhero, Makmende.

In Postnewsline, Victor Anjeh says it is time for a paradigm shift in the relationship between African countries and the African diaspora:

'It is thus incumbent on the Governments and those in the Diaspora to adopt a collaborative posture designed to improve the domestic investment climate and better attract active participation by the elements outside of the country. This will begin with the reduction of unfriendly business regulations, lack of transparency in the judicial enforcement of contracts, bureaucracy, corruption, which are all factors that make the local business environment less attractive to foreign, Diaspora and even domestic investors...

'The Diaspora community must learn how to deploy its knowledge base, and pool the intellectual and capital resources of its global network. We should do this to facilitate foreign direct investment in income and employment generating sectors of the local economy. We should also learn to engage home country authorities to promote good governance (in a non adversarial context), and to create an inviting business environment for Diaspora participation.

'We should also actively engage host country business promotion institutions and foster links with host country firms by facilitating access to top management and providing useful insights to market entry for goods and services. While every consideration must be given to the creation of a Diaspora Investment Fund, the most visible support we can offer is to make contributions to “represent and sell Africa in a positive light”. That may turn out to be the most important Diaspora input to national development.'

Kenyan Urban Narrative laments about the negative impact of technology on the Kenyan blogosphere – and analysis that seems to hold true for the rest of the African blogosphere:

'Days I miss: when Kenyan blogs were about stories... The death of Story came when Bloggers turned into professionals- Internet authorities. Suddenly the broadcaster and his equipment became more important than the broadcast.

'By then, many of us had started clocking speaking engagements to talk about blogs and blogging... Who could find time to blog anymore while shuffling from ‘How to set up a blog’- Tech Aid, Kibera- to ‘The future of African blogs’- Afri Tech, New York?

'Meanwhile, words buzzed into meaninglessness: Social media; cyber-activism; citizen journalism and Story died...Tech for Africa became both media and content; all our internet lives became tech.
The ‘social media’ crowd made serious games; the ‘cyber-activists’ made and talked about web tools and gadgets and the ‘citizen journalists’- with the indolence and gravy-train-spotting of their mainstream media kin- followed the social media hacks and the cyberactivists around...
Tech is good and I fully support and admire those who are doing it, but if anyone wants to know: As a storyteller, I struggle with writing; writing is not the way I learnt how to tell stories, so how does innovating Wordpress make my work easier?'

HIV in Kenya explains why leading diseases are less about medicine and more about economic s and human rights:

'According to Dr Marcos Espinal of the Stop TB Partnership, "TB is not a medical problem. It is a development issue. It is an economic problem. It's a human rights situation." And I applaud him for saying this. If developing countries are not allowed to develop (and I would argue that developed countries are doing all in their power to stop them from developing), diseases like TB will not successfully be treated by drugs alone. People in developing countries are poor, they suffer bad health, they receive little or no education, they live in terrible conditions and their human rights are being denied. It is no wonder that TB and many other diseases are rife and increasing.

'I would add that HIV, also, is not just a medical problem, nor is it just a matter of sexual behaviour. Parallel arguments could be used to show that, so far, both HIV and TB programmes have failed to prevent the spread of the diseases and will continue to do so. If you don't deal with the conditions that result in diseases spreading, all diseases, you will not eradicate the diseases. After using little more than expensive pharmaceutical products to treat TB for many years, an estimated 440,000 people are now resistant to commonly used TB drugs...

'So the approach to development and human rights related problem, such as HIV or TB, is to improve education, health, economic circumstances, gender imbalances, employment, infrastructure and many other things. The approach should not be to set up well financed vertical programmes that target single diseases or narrow issues at the expense of other, broader issues.'

What Yo' Mamma never Told You About Ghana comments about Ghana’s first indigenous language blog:

'I was browsing the internet today and stumbled upon Jojoo's blog. To my delight, I found the blog was written entirely in modern Akan! How awesome, I thought. Now I can improve my akan. So I started devouring the articles.

'The first one I read was bitching about some Chinese folks who have posted signs written in bold Chinese with the English translation in small print. And no Ghanaian language! What I loved about the article was the fact that it was so insider. Y'know...a Chinese man/woman could have stumbled upon the article and not had a clue! But because I can read and understand akan, I got it. Point being, that the target of this article was Ghanaians, and more specifically Akans. It felt really good to be part of some inside group that could decode the language...

'How can local languages gain more prominence in both new and old media. Local language radio has changed our lives. But is this success replicable in other media like newspapers, short stories published in pamphlets and sold cheaply? etc. How can we do this without Akan taking over?

'One of the reasons local languages haven't caught on in print/web is because lots of people cannot read it. Even from the comments, on this post, it seems like some of you checked out Jojoo's blog but had much difficulty reading the text. How to get around this? Is there a place for local languages on the web? If so, where? In entertainment? News? Opinion? Everywhere?'

Myweku showcases beautiful Gele head wraps created by Nigerian designer Segun Olalaye:

'"Gele" is the name given to the head wrap synonymous with the Yoruba in Nigeria. Aso-Oke, Brocade, Hayes Original and Damask are just some of the materials used for a “Gele”.

'Historically, meanings were given to the way a ‘Gele’ was wrapped. To the novice the intricate ‘Gele’ styles may look identical. Some believe that if the right end sticks out it denotes that the wearer is married and if the left end sticks out it means the wearer is single.

'West African women take immense pride in their ‘Gele’ and see it as more than just an accessory. The finest ‘Gele’ can be spotted at the most important events.

'One of the most sought after ‘Gele’ head tie experts is none other than Segun Olalaye, popularly known as Segun Gele! Segun sees his profession as an art. He was born in Nigeria and currently lives in the United States.'

My Heart’s In Africa comments on Makmende, the Kenyan Superhero who has in recent weeks become an Internet and Youtube sensation:

'For the past few days, Kenya’s blogosphere and twitterers have been in thrall to the latest African superhero, and what might be Kenya’s first viral internet meme. An article in a Wall Street Journal blog today confirmed that Makmende is receiving attention beyond East Africa, demonstrating that our Kenyan friends are just as capable as any Moldovan boy band of creating internet buzz.

'The video for Just a Band’s single “Ha-He” features a badass protagonist straight out of blaxploitation films. Armed with an array of freeze-frame kung fu moves, Makmende brings justice to the mean streets of a hazy, sun-drenched city that seems caught somewhere between Nairobi and 1970s LA. Tongue is firmly in cheek, as the video credits introduce characters including “Taste of Daynjah”, “Wrong Number” and bad guys “The Askyua Matha Black Militants”...

'Given the high production values of the video, the fact that it accompanies a sweet track from Just a Band, and that the video producers evidently released a set of photoshopped magazine covers featuring Makmende as GQ’s sole “Badass of the Year”, perhaps it’s not surprising that Kenyan netizens have taken the Makmende trend to the next level. He’s got a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a dedicated website filled with thousands of testimonies to his badassitude: "Makmende uses viagra in his eyedrops, just to look hard."'


* Dibussi Tande, a writer and activist from Cameroon, produces the blog Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

There is 1 comment on this article.

I have an African heart, having been brought up with my brothers among the Kikuyu during the so-called 'Mau Mau' rebellion. My request to those of you who are more familiar with INTERNET research is How can I link up with my Kenyan peers to relay the truth of the injustices done to the Kikuyu at this dreadful time? Thanks

Hugh Harrison