28 June 2011

The Standard's Financial Journal is having a particularly impressive day

The Standard was the second paper I read today, and by the time I got round to the Financial Journal insert, I felt a little worn down already, so it took a nudge from the ever lovely Limo for me to do my duty to society. Here goes:

KQ is yearning for growth!
Kenya Airways, we learn, is hugging risks to drive revenues, possibly biting off more than they can swallow. This will involve complimenting ticket sales with other revenue streams. And now that KQ has ordered 10 Embraer, it is sending shivers among small airlines serving the East and Central African market. This article is accompanied by a text box titled: ‘Airline Woes: It’s Just a complicated Math’.

Then turn the page.
On p. 6 and 7, you’ll find exactly the same article published twice, albeit with different photographs and two different headlines, none of which is particularly elegant:

CBK finally concedes foul play in shilling attack


Central Bank smells fishy attack on sliding shilling.

There’s a lot to be said about this, and the fact that Standard can’t make up its collective mind whether to use CBK or Central Bank is just a minor issue.

Moving on swiftly. On p. 8, we find this intriguing subtitle: ‘Commercial banks return peanuts on savings even as they rip from high lending costs’.

I’m feeling exhausted. And there are more pages.

23 June 2011

Africa Curios

Alice Temperley makes pretty clothes, but I had a bit of a WTF reaction here:

'We stayed with the Mursi tribe ... I asked one of the women to take out her lip plate and I engaved William and Catherine on it with a nail. I know they love Africa, so I've just sent it to them as a wedding present. It's a piece of history they'll really appreciate' (Sunday Times magazine from 12 June 2011).

10 June 2011

Buy fragrance, donate water - how does that work?

A Ghanaian friend sent me a blog post on this Acqua for Life Challenge sponsored by the Giorgio Armani:

It promises to provide 100l of clean water for every bottle of fragrance bought.

Since I do finding-out-things for a living, I was curious how exactly this worked.

The one bottle of fragrance = 100l of water equation sounds like a great deal, but is clearly a PR tool: lots of charities use something similar to fundraise. The send-a-cow charities often let people choose cows, goats etc from a catalogue to send to a specific village, but typically, that money goes into the fund for a programme rather than to individuals. Which makes sense, but it's still a little dishonest in advertising. Same with Kiva, the online small loan platform: people who choose to provide a small loan to help small entrepreneurs in developing countries are given the impression that their money will go to a specific entrepreneur. Again, this is not true, as the money is bundled and then given to (micro) finance institutions to onlend to their clients. This has been debated online quite extensively recently.

But back to fragrance purchase = water for kids. So how *does* this work?

The website is full of very pretty blue pics, and hardly has any useful information. Nothing of substance even here:

I then consulted Google, and Google tells me that the implementing partner organisation, Green Cross International (GCI), is a Geneva-based non-governmental organisation founded by President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993. Its main areas of activity are:
• conflict prevention
• sources of conflict and war, and
• value change

The section on structure and organisation shows an impressive governing and honorary board. See here:
Robert Redford is an honorary member - yumm!

The staffing section is much skinnier with 11 employees: http://www.gci.ch/en/who-we-are/staff.

Since this includes the president, vice president, and chief operating officer, it's a bit top heavy, but they might all be incredibly effective in preventing conflict. It doesn't strike me as an organisation that has much experience in carrying out on-the-ground water projects, but then they have a local implementation organisation: Green Cross Ghana.

But back to my initial quest of finding out how this water for fragrance thingie works:

I have dug around a bit and found the Ghanaian school programme under Conflict Prevention, sub-category Water for Life & Peace, sub-sub category Access to Water and Sanitation. Logical, not so? There's the 'Case Study Ghana'. I'm not sure this is quite the right term as Ghana seems to be the only project and is actually a pilot - they state that they plan to expand the project beyond the five communities that they currently work in.

The programme was launched in February 2010 and plans to do this:
'SWGS aims to provide safe drinking water, as well as sanitation, environmental and health awareness for children and their local communities in transboundary river basins. This includes:
1. Setting up a rainwater harvesting system
2. Providing ecological latrines
3. Bringing more water to the communities by building additional water systems
4. Running educational programmes'
(from http://www.gci.ch/en/what-we-do/conflict-prevention/water/access-to-water).

I can't find more details. They have a backgrounder on the school initiative in Ghana to download, but it basically repeats the information from the website.

So I still don't know how one bottle of fragrance = 100l of clean water actually works. I'd be keen to see the amounts raised through this so far, and what exactly they have been spent on – and how much went to GCI and how much to their local implementation organisation. When I clicked on the Aqua for Life Challenge website, an automatic counter told me that 44.646m litres of water have been ‘raised’ so far.

I think I’d also be more comfortable with donations being used for such a project if the implementing organisation had done the pilot already and had therefore demonstrated its expertise in running such projects.

08 June 2011

Grace and Graceland

When I was a teenager, I had a copy (on tape – remember those?) of Paul Simon’s Graceland. Back then, I loved the music, even though I had no idea of the history behind it. A while ago, I bought the DVD of the 1987 Harare Graceland concert after fishing around for the individual tracks on YouTube. The music still stands all those years later, and I was blown away by the beauty of the performance and the strength of the performers – it’s a historical document.

Ethan Zuckerman has an interesting write up on the background to the Graceland album here.

Simon recorded the album and played the Zimbabwe concert with an amazing line up of African artists, for which I love him muchly: a musician doing what he does best, and to do so, he sought out his South African peers.

The Daily Mail of all publications recently had an interesting article on the corrosive legacy of LiveAid, and what I find particularly irritating is that these days, musicians and actors expect us to listen to them hold forth on how to save Africa. Shouldn’t we have sent Wahu and Nameless to Greece to advise them on their financial crisis?

Live 8, the 2.0 version of LiveAid and a massive global circus to fight poverty in Africa, started out without African musicians. When they were later added to the agenda, they were sent to play in an artificial rain forest – interesting symbolism no?

When Bono heard that the great, late Ali Farka Tour√©, accomplished musician and mayor of Niafunk√©, did not think the Live 8 concert was a good idea, he reportedly said: “If he doesn’t reckon Live 8 are helping his people, maybe they should rethink him being mayor.”

I will listen to Bono et al when they play concerts in Africa like they play concerts in Europe and the US. Nairobi, Kampala, Kinshasa, Lagos, Accra, Bamako, Dakar. They are musicians. They do music. Just not in, for, with Africans?

I’m looking forward to the Hugh Masekela concert tomorrow and Albertina Sisulu’s recent passing made me think about South Africa’s history again.

With gratitude to those who stood up: