Monday, August 26

Let's Talk About Celebrities and Africa

I have been following the spectacle of the race to a million followers on twitter between Ashton Kutcher and CNN since very early Wednesday morning (or very late Tuesday night), depending on where you’re located.

I first caught wind of it when Kristie Lu Stout reporting on CNN from Hong Kong announced that Kutcher was looking to beat CNN to the 1 million followers mark and that when he did, he would pull a prank on Ted Turner. Soon after, Larry King threw back a taunt, and an appearance on Larry King Live entered into the bargain. There was mention, also, of a prize for the millionth follower. I don’t have a sense of how much buzz all this created.

Somewhere along the line, however, probably an hour maybe two after this announcement was made, suddenly, he added the Mosquito Nets for Africa angle. Even that evolved. First he said he’d provide 1,000 Mosquito nets if tweeps helped him cross the 1 million follower mark before CNN. Then someone told him he really should be donating 1,000 nets anyway, which he promptly conceded and on account of which he raised that number to 10,000 nets. That finally seemed to win him the kind of attention he was looking to garner and today, as I understand it, the race is tighter than it was on Wednesday and the tape at the finishing line is in sight.

So, it’s official: Africa trumps pranking Ted Turner, a head to head between Larry King and Ashton Kutcher and a mysterious prize to the nth follower for garnering attention. Because, let’s face it, it’s about the publicity. The race to get to the one million mark came first. The mosquito nets for Africa were an afterthought. It was about figuring out, by trial and error, what would move the tweeps into action. He tried this, he tried that, and finally, he hit on the magic formula.

As @remarkabletweet succintly put it, it’s “Classic PR Genius.” Which @itsjustmimi heartily agreed with, tweeting enthusiastically: “The man's a business/pr genius.”

Oh but we already had a clue about the power of Africa to sanitize a reputation or a cause. Remember Lindsay Lohan announcing her post-rehab plans a couple of years ago to go on a humanitarian mission to Africa?

My only response is to harken back to this post from my past. And point you, also, to the thoughts of fellow afrophiles.


kachwanya said...

I think it is high time Africa stop depending so much on the help from outside. At the end we exposed ourselves to the outside world as people to be sympathize with and not being engaged on any meaningful discussion. I don't blame these celebrity for using Africa as their redemption course, we need self assessment and a change of direction. Currently there is an interesting discussion going on whether aid has helped Africa by any chance. Spear headed by Moyo Dambisa (2009). Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa. I am still researching on this but i think she has a point


It would make me cry, if I had any tears left. I am all for people having their fun. But, why must 'Africa' be the crutch upon which all jokes depend?

Cee said...

The nets will help a couple of people in Africa I agree but it's sad that our own governments can't provide them for our people in the first place. It's sad that Aid to Africa has become a PR stunt rather than people working towards developping Africa.
I totally agree with Dambisa Moyo for finally speaking against giving aid to Africa.
Great post.