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The Power of the Word: African Blogging and Books

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

“Culture is not a luxury … Culture is the spiritual backbone of society”: with these words Jan Kees van de Werk, the Dutch poet and long-standing advocate of African literature, summed up the importance of culture to Africa’s development. Two trends could significantly alter the prospects for African writers in 2007: the new wave of African bloggers and websites that are now emerging, and the increasing awareness of African literature. More traditional writing is now being joined in 2007 by a surge in African blogging. As internet access has increased, and awareness of free blogging websites like WordPress has also shot up, Africans are jumping online to express themselves (see also Development Challenges, March issue).

African literature is gaining an ever-greater audience through high-profile prize-winning. From veteran Nigerian writer and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador Chinua Achebe winning this year’s Man Booker International Prize, to best-selling French language authors like Ivorian Ahmadou Kourouma (Allah is not Obliged) and Albert Memmi, winner of the French Academy’s Grand Prix de la Francophonie. They are joined by many others gaining international acclaim, including Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko – winner of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing – Nigeria’s Chris Abani (Graceland), Cameroon’s Calixthe Beyala (Lost Honor), Congolese writer Daiel Biyaoula (Alley Without Exit) and Mauritius’s Carl de Souza. The Salon International du Livre et de la Presse de Geneva has established the Ahmadou Kourouma Prize, and the new Book Show for African Literature, Press and Culture is scheduled for 2008.

Increasingly, the creative industries are gaining respect as a key part of a vibrant economy. The power of a successful author or musician to generate awareness and excitement about a country and its products, has gained the respect of many governments. And they are also learning to respect the wealth that can be generated. For example, in Britain the creative industries earn almost as much as the powerful financial sector (Work Foundation). The World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, has singled out Africa’s creative sector for its future investment.

Blogger Titilayo Soremi in Abuja, Nigeria, is typical of the new wave. A business development officer for an NGO, her blog is a vivid snapshot of life in her country. Obed Sarpongin Accra, Ghana is a budding poet and does not shy away from thorny issues. In his current blog, he tackles domestic politics and writes about the on-again, off-again electricity supply. The secretive Kenyan banker known by the name Bankelele is a lover of new ideas judging by his blog. The content is a mix of financial tip-offs and upcoming business investment opportunities in the region, all stirred up with some rather frank thoughts on politics. He has also gone the extra mile and acquired sponsors for his blog (that banking experience is not going to waste).

The Internet age has also given birth to a new phenomenon: the so-called ”long tail” This is best explained by Kelvin Smith in his paper ‘African Publishers and Writers in British and International Markets’: “What now emerges is that more than half the revenue of Amazon is in the ‘bottom’ two million books on the list.

“So, the ‘Long Tail’ principle goes, we are now looking at a technology that can service the needs not of dozens of markets of millions, but millions of markets of dozens. This has great significance for the small publisher, whether that publisher is in a large publishing nation or in a country where publishing is a smaller scale activity.”

It looks as if getting creative is not only fun, it can be the next goldmine for Africa’s entrepreneurs.

Resources

Published: August 2007

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Update: There is no better proof of concept than impact.

“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa Renewal, Africa Section United Nations Department of Public Information

The story Nollywood: Booming Nigerian Film Industry, from UNDP e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, cited in Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellence edited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina, Joao Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing, 2016).

Southern Innovator was published from 2011 to 2015 by the United Nations.

Team | Southern Innovator Phase 1 Development (2010 – 2015)

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Food Diplomacy Next Front for South’s Nations

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

The meal is a universal bonding ritual, a time for families or friends to socialize and catch up on the day’s activities. Food has the ability to transcend cultures and societies when humour, the arts, and diplomacy cannot. A person may know nothing about a particular country or culture, but they know what their appetite and palate likes. So it’s no surprise that countries in the South are turning to cuisine as a new weapon in their armoury of diplomacy and cultural outreach.

The phenomenon of ‘gastrodiplomacy’ got its start in Thailand. Thai cooking and restaurants had been on the rise around the world since the 1980s. But in 2002 the Thai government decided to use these kitchens and restaurants as new cultural outposts to promote brand Thailand and encourage tourism and business investment. The “Global Thai” campaign sought to increase the number of Thai restaurants around the world and boost Thailand’s cultural impact.

As The Economist reported at the time, more restaurants “will not only introduce delicious spicy Thai food to thousands of new tummies and persuade more people to visit Thailand, but it could subtly help deepen relations with other countries.”

Thailand’s 2002 campaign boosted the number of Thai restaurants around the world and made popular dishes like pad Thai and tom yum soup (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/tomyumsoup_85069) familiar to many more people. They are now signature dishes, as synonymous with Thailand as hamburgers are with the United States.

Malaysia, whose varied and delicious cuisine is less known globally than that if its neighbour Thailand, has been running an aggressive campaign in Britain to promote its food. This included setting up a street market in the famous Trafalgar Square in central London: a high foot-traffic spot guaranteed to get the city’s attention.

South Korea also has been pursuing its “Kimchi” diplomacy, an ambitious US $44 million campaign to promote Korean food, or hansik (http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_1_5.jsp) as it is known, to more nations. They aim to make Korean food one of the top five most popular cuisines in the world. Using a master plan, South Korea is opening Korean cooking classes at top culinary schools like France’s Le Cordon Bleu and the Culinary Institute of America, increasing the number of overseas Korean restaurants to 40,000 by 2017, and promoting the food’s health qualities. The Korean staple of kimchi – a fermented, spicy cabbage dish – will be perfected at a “kimchi institute” to appeal to foreign palates (http://www.korea.net/detail.do?guid=45469).

Neighbouring North Korea has also turned to gastrodiplomacy with its chain of “Pyongyang Restaurants” (http://www.pyongyangrestaurant.com) around Asia and Europe. These eateries first appeared in China, near the border with North Korea, but have expanded widely during the last decade. Pyongyang Restaurants can be found in Vientiane, Laos; Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Bangkok and Pattaya, Thailand. In Europe, a restaurant has opened in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. The restaurants’ formula offers staff in traditional clothing, authentic North Korean interiors, North Korean art, cooking lessons, cultural performances, and singing. The food includes traditional Korean dishes like kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage), Pyongyang “cold noodle” and barbecued cuttlefish (squid).

One example of how gastrodiplomacy can work on the ground is the Kogi Taco Truck (http://kogibbq.com/), which serves up Korean-Mexican fusion food  in Los Angeles, California. This food truck moves around the city and uses social media like Twitter (www.twitter.com) to notify customers and fans of its location. The truck quickly developed a cult following and had lines lasting two hours as people ordered barbecued beef tacos topped in Korean “salsa roja” with coriander, onions, cabbage and a soy-sesame chilli dressing. The truck has been praised for bringing the appreciation of Korean food and culture to parts of the city that knew little about Korea.

A passionate promoter and chronicler of gastrodiplomacy is Paul Rockower, Communications Director of the Public Diplomacy Corps (http://publicdiplomacycorps.org), an organization dedicated to bringing
diplomacy to the public. He noted on the Nation Branding (www.nation-branding.info) website that “a keen eye for the irreverent is a must if you really want to make the nation brand stand out. Highlighting exotic tastes and flavors, and engaging in nontraditional forms of public diplomacy help under-recognized nation brands gain more prominence in the field of culinary and cultural diplomacy.”

For Taiwan, which has tense relations with China, which does not recognize it as a nation, gastrodiplomacy is a way to get the island’s message across. Taiwan is spending US $31 million on its food diplomacy campaign around the world.

“Taiwan has figured out it can do better outreach work through the kitchen table,” Rockower told The Guardian newspaper. “When someone tries a sea-salt latte (a Taiwanese drink) it creates awareness about Taiwanese culture. The Koreans embarked on Kimchi diplomacy partly because their brands weren’t being recognized as Korean – Samsung was being recognized as a Japanese brand.”

Resources

  • Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization: Is an international, nonviolent, and democratic membership organization. Its members are indigenous peoples, minorities, and unrecognized or occupied territories who have joined together to protect and promote their human and cultural rights, to preserve their environments, and to find nonviolent solutions to conflicts which affect them. Website:http://www.unpo.org/

Published: December 2010

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Launched in 2011, Southern Innovator’s first issue on mobile phones and information technology proved highly influential, profiling the work of a new generation of innovators. It has been cited in books, papers and strategic plans.  The third issue focused on agribusiness and food security, including the phenomenon of ‘gastrodiplomacy’.

Abduazimov, M. (2017) “Gastrodiplomacy: foreign experience and potential of the republic of Uzbekistan,” International Relations: Politics, Economics, Law: Vol. 2017 : Iss. 2 , Article 2. 
Available at: https://uzjournals.edu.uz/intrel/vol2017/iss2/2.
Gastrodiplomacy: foreign experience and potential of the republic of Uzbekistan by M. Abduazimov, International Relations: Politics, Economics, Law, 2017. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Southern Innovator in Southasiadisasters.net

Innovations in Green Economy: Top Three Agenda

c22e6-innovations20in20green20economy20top20three20agenda20december202013

South-South Cooperation for Cities in Asia

South-South Cooperation for Cities July 2014

Lima To Delhi: What Can Be Learned On Urban Resilience?

Published: March 2015

Publisher: Southasiadisasters.net

Issue No. 128, March 2015

Theme: Challenges of Urban Resilience in India

Fast-growing cities and urban areas in the global South can be vulnerable because they lack the web of structures and institutions that enable more long-established cities to mitigate risks and, when a disaster does strike, to bounce back quickly. But thanks to many new technologies, and some smart new thinking, it is possible to bring resilience to even the poorest and most deprived urban communities.

The essence of resilience is to build into plans and daily activities a
community’s ability to weather any disaster, small or large. All cities, rich or poor, can experience a disaster of some sort, be it weather, civil unrest, war, earthquakes, shortages, or economic, financial and health crises. New technologies make it possible for all cities, no matter how poor and overcrowded, to build in urban resilience. The ubiquity of mobile phones introduces a powerful city and urban planning tool. Mapping chaotic and unplanned areas is already underway in many cities of the global South (in Brazil and Kenya for example (http://tinyurl.com/qgba8kb).

Impressively, innovators in the South are using affordable microelectronics in the form of mobile phones and laptops to gather data and map it. This computing capability was once the sole domain of big information technology companies such as IBM. Now, a single laptop computer combined with a smartphone equipped with the right software can manage a large urban area, a task that once required rooms full of computers. The data can then be used to manage growth today and re-build after a disaster. Any excuse not to be resilient has been wiped out with this technological leap.

But how to deal with the common reality of feeling overwhelmed by the many obstacles to rational planning and building for urban growth in the South? Innovators have stepped in to take matters into their own hands with simple construction technologies as the solution. One example is the Moladi system of recycled plastic moulds (moladi.net). Anybody can master this simple building technique, as the mortar-filled moulds are designed to fit easily together to construct an earthquake-resistant, beautiful home.

This approach has the advantage of bypassing the failings of authorities to enforce building codes and standards in poor, urban communities, creating safer places to live and preventing the growth of unregulated shanty towns at risk to fire and earthquakes.

Others have found social ways to organize people, even in the most desperate of conditions, providing services and laying down the groundwork for an upgrading of an urban area to improve living conditions and long-term opportunities. The concept of ‘cities for all’ has inspired many to re-energize civic organizations and networking in poor areas to ensure they are not left out of economic growth. In Colombia, a famous example of this is the escalator in the city of Medellin, which connects a hillside slum to the centre of the city, opening up economic opportunities to all (http://tinyurl.com/nm47d3u).

Still more exciting, new technologies are in the works to simplify construction of major infrastructure and new buildings. A future city will be able to gather extensive data on an expanding urban area, make detailed development plans with architects and engineers, and then have robots and 3D fabricating machines quickly lay down infrastructure and erect buildings. Sounds far-fetched?
Well, in China one company recently used a 3D machine to make 10 houses in a single day (http://www.yhbm.com/index.aspx).

An infographic from Southern Innovator’s fourth issue (http://
tinyurl.com/m9vfwur) shows 10 ways any urban area – either planned or unplanned – can build in resilience. All are proven approaches from cities in the global South.

Southern Innovator’s upcoming sixth issue will explore the interplay
of science, technology and innovation in the global South and how people are making the most of 21st century advances to increase wealth and improve human development. Hopefully, all of this innovation will lead to more resilient cities in the future!


– David South,
Editor, Southern Innovator, UNOSSC

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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New Paper Citation For Southern Innovator Issue 3

Launched in 2011, Southern Innovator’s first issue on mobile phones and information technology proved highly influential, profiling the work of a new generation of innovators. It has been cited in books, papers and strategic plans.  The third issue focused on agribusiness and food security, including the phenomenon of ‘gastrodiplomacy’.

Abduazimov, M. (2017) “Gastrodiplomacy: foreign experience and potential of the republic of Uzbekistan,” International Relations: Politics, Economics, Law: Vol. 2017 : Iss. 2 , Article 2. 
Available at: https://uzjournals.edu.uz/intrel/vol2017/iss2/2.
Gastrodiplomacy: foreign experience and potential of the republic of Uzbekistan by M. Abduazimov, International Relations: Politics, Economics, Law, 2017. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021