Friday, January 26, 2007

World Economic Forum at Davos 2007: Are we at the periphery or the center of their attention?

Have you been paying attention to the World Economic Forum annual gathering down in Davos, Switzerland this year? Guess who’s at the center of attention… or as the forum organizers have put it "at the center of The Shifting Power Equation”?

The global media networks and press have published over 200 articles and programs about The World Social Forum 2007 over in Nairobi, Kenya. Maybe the two (WEF & WSF) should hold their forums in the same locale next year, sort of bring people together. Non? Won’t work? Why not? Here is a link to the official website of the World Social Forum 2007 and a detailed article about the WSF at Wikipedia.

Below are listed some of my favorite news sources on DAVOS 2007 and online journalists and editors should pay particular attention to the latest news aggregator service whose software powers the WEF Davos Conversation website.

Jeff Jarvis, author of the hugely popular BuzzMachine blog has many interesting posts and lively debates about the fourm over at his place as he blogs Live from Davos floor this year. What do you think, do these global forums and conferences make any real difference in peoples lives or is it just a chance for the organizers and attendees to grab some media attention and Internet bandwidth?

Blogs and news sites reporting on Davos 2007:

Davos Converstaion
Forum blog (official blog of the World Economic Forum) (checkout the Flash graphic cover to today’s top stories) (version for visitors with a low Internet bandwidth)

The New York Times

Dealbook blog: DAVOS Diary

BuzzMachine by Jeff Jarvis

Davos 07: Gates, Wolfowitz, and the world
Davos 2007 posts (tagged posts)

Reuters blogsDavos 2007

CNN International

Davos 2007 special coverage

BBC News – Blogging Davos
The Promise of Africa

The Business of Poverty

WEF Forum blog
Enlarging the Davos Conversation - 01/09/07
Davos 07 – a category listing of posts

Experentia blog
Enlarging the Davos Conversation – 01/09/07

Open (finds, minds, conversations)
Davos Conversation (w/ Jeff Jarvis video on the Davos Conversation Project)

The Economist – Democracy in America blog
Davos: an idea for Professor Schwab – 01/24/07

BBC News
Vibrant anti-Davos has impact – 01/24/07

Kenya, Hear Our Voices – 01/25/07

A babble of bloggers at Davos – 01/26/07

DayLife Webified Newspaper Launches – 01/04/07

Micro Persuasion
Daylife Establishes A New Way To View News – 01/04/07

Lost Remote
Daylife news startup launches: give us your review – 01/04/07

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Just for Fun Meme: 5 Things About Me

There is meme going around the Africa sector of the blogosphere (and beyond?) and I’ve been invited by Fikirte at The Concoction to participate in the fun. Normally I turn these invitations down with some lame excuse but since it was Fikirte that asked I decided to go along.

Warning blogger friends and readers:
Don’t ask me to do something like this again. Pay particular attention to Item #1. Here is my response to Fikirte.

I just saw this meme reference to "Jewels in the Jungle" today Fikirte, sorry about the delay in responding. I almost never talk about myself at my blog but I am interested in giving it go with the "5 Things About Me" meme. Give me some time to buildup my courage. O.K., I'm ready.

5 Things About Me by BRE:

#1. I am a coward when it comes to some things...

#2. Hmmm, let me think. Oh yeah, I love to collect handmade art and crafts. As a matter of fact at one time I represented some of the best artists and craftspeople in Europe who created pieces from glass, wood, ceramic, and metal.

#3. I can't dance (well) even though I'm black. The girls of my younger years loved me anyway for my brains and kindness and most of all for my good lucks and my 1962 baby blue Chevy Impala convertable.

#4. I love to read books and have a fantastic collection but it takes me forever to finish a book. I read for pleasure mainly at night before I go to sleep and often lose my place while dozing off. Then I have to start all over again.

#5. I am a clean freak and everything has its place in my home but my office looks like something out of a Mad Professor film. I shop for groceries and can cook as well as a 5-star chef, I clean floors and windows and the bathroom, wash and iron, repair stuff around the house, you name it but I can't sew on a button without assistance.

Ironing clothes is my favorite form of meditation and I even iron & fold my undershorts. I guess that I'm much like the character Mr. Monk in that popular U.S. TV series by the same name when it comes to cleanliness and order but sometimes I behave like Louis Gosset Jr. in "An Officer and a Gentleman". We guys like to talk tough and be in charge, you know.

How am I doing? Want to know more? Forget it.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Africa Open for Business: Nation branding in sub-Saharan Africa. Perceptions vs. Reality

CNN Inside Africa features business and economics blogger Emeka Okafor and documentary filmmaker Carol Pineau on year-end show
Source: CNN International Inside Africa program – 12/30/06

While watching the popular CNNI weather anchorwoman and TV host Femi Oke moderate the December 30th program for Inside Africa from Johannesburg, South Africa a familiar face popped-up on my TV screen. I couldn’t believe my eyes so I got real close to make sure that I was seeing straight and hearing right and there he was, Emeka Okafor, author of the Africa Unchained and Timbuktu Chronicles blogs. Of course I was very surprised to see one of our own (Africa’s bloggers) appearing on CNN International with zillions of viewers around the world watching. This is Proof Positive that Femi Oke and the production staff at CNNI Inside Africa have been reading our stuff online and using our discussions to create programs for their show… which is fine with me.

I should point out that I’m talking about Emeka Okafor, the Nigerian born New York City-based business consultant and online author, not the NBA star playing for the Charlotte Bobcats and posing with President George W. Bush in this photo. Read more about the other Emeka at the TED Global blog re: his leadership in organizing the upcoming TED Global conference to be held in Arusha, Tanzania from June 4-7, 2007 (Africa: The Next Chapter).

The Inside Africa program Africa: Perception vs. Reality focused on the efforts underway in sub-Saharan Africa to improve the image of African countries in the world of foreign investment, business and trade, and tourism. Uganda and Nigeria were just two of the countries highlighted on the program that have lauched international image campaigns, a marketing strategy called “nation branding” or "place branding".

Emeka was interviewed about building a positive image for Africa in the media and online and he pointed out the contributions that Africa’s bloggers have made over the past year. The show also featured an interview with Carol Pineau, the journalist and filmmaker who produced the Africa Open for Business documentary. Pineau’s excellent documentary about entrepreneurship and business opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa was a top pick in the Best Documentary Films of the Year 2005 by the BBC (U.K.) and it was a favorite pet project of the World Bank Group who provided funding for the film.

Other guests featured on the Inside Africa program were Simon Anholt (marketing consultant and “nation branding” specialist), top Ugandan fashion designer Sylvia Owori, and Suphir Ruparelia, CEO of Ruparelia Group, a Ugandan business conglomerate of hotels, real estate, financial and business services (see Speke Group Hotels). Frank Nweke Jr., Nigerian Minister of Information and National Orientation was also interviewed on the program.

The show was videotaped at the upscale Moyo restaurant at Zoo Lake and the Sel et Poivre restaurant located in the Quartermain Inn in Sandton, both venues being top addresses for African haute cuisine dining. Here is an earlier news article about the Moyo Restaurant at Zoo Lake from the official website of the City of Johannesburg where the residents were trying to stop its construction.

The CNN website for Inside Africa unfortunately had NOT been updated since December 5th as of the original draft for this post and the CNN transcripts page for the show was last updated on December 23rd (see Christmas in Africa program, aired Dec 23, 2006). Now as much as I enjoy the great work that Femi Oke, Zain Verjee, Jeff Koinange, Alphonso von Marsh, and newcomer Isha Sesay along with the show’s production team have been doing to improve Inside Africa over the past year, the webmaster for the program is “asleep at the keyboard”. I had to wait a whole 8 days before the CNN Inside Africa transcript archives were updated to include this show and they have the nerve to call it a “rush transcript”. Get it together Inside Africa. This is the World Live Web of the 21st Century and not the World Wide Web of yesterday.

Here is an excerpt from the show featuring our man in New York Emeka Okafor and other distinguished guests talking with Femi Oke about building a positive image for African countries:

Africa: Perception Versus Reality
Aired December 30, 2007 - 12:30:00 ET


FEMI OKE, HOST: Hello, I'm Femi Oke. This is INSIDE AFRICA, your weekly look at life and news on the continent. Coming to you this week from Moya's (ph) restaurant at Zoo Lake (ph) in Johannesburg. It's more than just a restaurant; it's more of an African experience. Their motto here is modern sophisticated African, which fits in beautifully to our theme this week, which is all about image and a lot about perceptions. How can the African continent abolish some of those old stereotypes, and make way for fresh interpretation? That's exactly what some African countries are trying to do. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Uganda, it's a bright...

OKE (voice-over): It's hard enough to market a business, let alone a country. But whether trying to attract tourism or investment, it's catching on. And for good reason, says Simon Anholt, who advises countries on just how to convey more favorable images.

SIMON ANHOLT, GOVERNMENT ADVISER: The countries have images, and those images are very important to them. If you've got a bad image, everything is impossible, as is the case of most African countries. If you've got a good image, everything is so much easier.

OKE: Most agree that Africa, the entire continent, could stand some improvement in the area. Emeka Okator is (inaudible) director of TedGlobal 2007, an initiative that aims to spotlight Africa's talented people and opportunities to the world.

EMEKA OKATOR, TEDGLOBAL: It's very evident that Africa battles with this problem of perception. The perception being one of disease, of war, breakdown of societal structures, and so on.

OKE: But in the case of Africa, it's clearly more than just perception. The images that flash across our television screens are all too real, but, says Okator, Africa is so much more. But that can be a difficult point to make to the rest of the world, even with those who want to help.

ANHOLT: Because you have a lot of very well meaning and very effective people like Bob Geldof and Bono, who have enormous power over the media, and stand up on the TV every day of the week branding Africa as one big bad black basket case. Now, this is great if you want to generate charity, and a lot of those counties do need charity, and of course Geldof and Bono do a lot of good work. But without meaning to, they also cause a lot of harm, because what they're doing is they're creating this very strongly negative brand for the whole of Africa. And if you're an entrepreneur in Botswana or Uganda or Tanzania or anywhere else, or a tourist resort, or a manufacturer, and you're trying to get visitors and customers and investors, the net brand works against you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... presents "Sights and Sounds of the Gambia".

OKE: So, how do you shed light on the brighter side of Africa?

EMEKA OKATOR, TEDGLOBAL: It's coming from the bottom or primarily from the citizen media type, the bloggers, who are covering Africa to an extent it has never been covered before. There's strong belief that the rest of the world will catch up as this process accelerates.

OKE: While swooping marketing campaigns may serve to accentuate a country's strength, Anholt cautions that they're pointless unless the country itself lives up to that image in policy, business and other areas.

ANHOLT: One of the most dangerous ideas that's out there in the developing world today is this idea which unfortunately is catching on very quickly, that branding is some kind of magic trick, and if only a country could raise a Nike-size marketing budget, they could have a Nike-size brand in three months, and it simply doesn't work like that.The reputation can only be earned. It can't be constructed.

OKE: And how do Africans feel about the way their continent is perceived?

OKATOR: They do accept the fact that they have challenges, but they're not overburdened by these challenges. They do not wake up on a daily basis thinking that it's -- all is lost. So when they put on their television and look and see what others see of Africa, in many ways it's very alien.

OKE: As alien as these pictures of Africa, however true, appears to many in the West.


OKE: Here in Johannesburg, there are a lot of Nigerians. And I'm one of them. And some anti-Nigerian jokes too mean for me to show to you on TV, but isn't it interesting that Nigeria, one of the most powerful nations on the African continent, has an image problem, and the government is spending millions to try and fix it.


OKE: There are around 140 millions Nigerians - give or take a million or two, and all about to get a makeover. Nigeria's government is running a campaign called "The Heart of Africa," part of an ongoing effort to try and change the country's image.

FRANK NWEKE JR., MINISTRY OF INFORMATION: The Heart of Africa project is a conscious effort on the part of the people of Nigeria to tell their story. This is the belief of government policy (ph), and the people of Nigeria believe that Nigeria has been unfairly and unjustly profiled by the international media in a very negative way.

OKE: But Nigeria knows it has real problems behind the image.

NWEKE: (inaudible).

OKE: Nigeria's ad campaign is not just about glossy pictures. The government is also reaching out the people to project a better image.Jeff Koinange was CNN's Lagos bureau chief for four years.

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you say I'm from Nigeria, they say, oh, you're a con man. You send e-mails to people demanding money, you take advantage of people. You're corrupt, you're thieves, you're crooks, you name it - every bad word in the book - that's what people see of Nigerians. And yet, that's not the way it is. It's just a tiny percentage of those people.

END Transcript Excerpt. Read more at the Inside Africa transcripts archive.

There is always at least two sides to every story and Inside Africa did not give equal and fair coverage to the critics of “nation branding” as can be found in an article by Jeremy Kahn for Foreign Policy magazine in the Nov/Dec 2006 issue online. Jeremy Khan writes about the branding campaigns of Uganda and Nigeria featured prominently on the CNN International TV news network:

Close your eyes and imagine Uganda. What comes to mind? Images of Idi Amin and his genocidal murders? Or more recent scenes of “night-commuting” children swarming rural towns at dusk to avoid impressment into the Lord’s Resistance Army? That is not the picture of Uganda that has greeted viewers of CNN International during the past year. Instead, the channel has aired a steady stream of commercials featuring lush jungle foliage, silver-backed gorillas in the mist, and rugged river gorges—all meant to convey the message that Uganda is, as its new advertising slogan states, “gifted by nature.”

Uganda’s marketing blitz, concocted by the giant public-relations firm Hill & Knowlton at a cost of nearly $650,000 and promoted through a $1 million ad buy on CNN, is simply the latest example of what has come to be known as “nation branding”—using modern marketing techniques to reshape public opinion of a country. Other countries launching controversial brand-burnishing efforts in the past year include Nigeria (billing itself as the “Heart of Africa”) and Israel, which, after three years of research and focus groups, started a new marketing push that makes no mention of the conflict with Palestinians, or even religion (“Israel starts with I” is one of the oh-so-snappy slogans).

The brand management of nations, regions, and cities has become such a hot topic that there is even a quarterly British journal devoted to the practice: Place Branding, now in its second year of publication. Last April’s issue tackles such topics as whether Africa could use branding to improve its image, the use of food to help brand places, and an exploration of whether England needs to develop a brand distinct from Britain. Most of the articles feature turgid academic language—replete with buzzwords such as “correspondence analysis” and “tertiary communication”—and are illustrated with nearly incomprehensible flowcharts and diagrams describing “brand personality dimensions” and “image communication.”…

It would be easy to dismiss Anholt as a huckster, cloaking an old idea in marketing jargon in order to wring hefty consulting fees out of governments desperate to drum up foreign investment. After all, countries have always tried to market themselves as destinations for business and travelers. They have always tried to promote their products abroad. And they have always tried to shape public perceptions of their foreign policies through propaganda. They just never had hexagons or “brand personalities” to help them do it. Moreover, the image of a country, linked as it may be to stereotypes, often has concrete roots in history. It cannot be as easily manipulated as the public’s perception of a laundry detergent or cereal.

But to Anholt’s credit, he is acutely aware that “rebranding” a country is a difficult business. He is especially disdainful of marketing campaigns that attempt to slap a new slogan on a country that remains fundamentally unchanged. “A lot of very poor countries—Uganda and Nigeria, for instance—are spending millions on TV campaigns. I would be astounded if that made any difference to people’s views of the country at all,” he says. “In fact, I suspect it will make it worse because people know how much advertising costs. It will simply reinforce the idea that these places are corrupt because they are spending so much on what amounts to propaganda while their people are starving.”

End excerpts. Read more at Foreign Policy “A Brand New Approach” by Jeremy Kahn

In a detailed 29 page October 2006 white paper by brand strategist Uche Nworah titled “Rebranding Nigeria: Critical Perspectives on the Heart of Africa Image Project” Mr. Nworah writes the following in his introduction:

Branding has traditionally been associated with products and services, rather than with countries, places and cities. Global companies and corporations and their marketing communications agencies have continued to create and use branding as a distinguishing and strategic competitive factor in the market place, and also in the fierce market drive for consumers.

Brands such as Coca-Cola, Mercedes, Nike, Microsoft, Harvard, Guinness, and Ford are beneficiaries of strong and strategic brand building efforts, this may therefore account for their global brand leadership positions.

Increasingly, governments and countries are beginning to employ branding and marketing techniques to sell their regions and countries to the rest of the world, in order to increase their international profile, attract foreign direct investments and make the places ideal destinations for tourism and trade.

The Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation (the supervising ministry) launched the Nigeria Image Project (now renamed The Heart of Africa project) in July 2004, following in the footsteps of some other African countries which had launched similar image campaigns such as Uganda and their Gifted by Nature campaign, and South Africa which launched a Proudly South African image programme.

Uche Nworah references the work of several marketing experts in his paper including the work by Simon Anholt, guest on the Inside Africa program and author of the book “Brand New Justice – The upside of global branding” as he writes:

Simon Anholt in his book Brand New Justice (2005) writes of the strategic imperative for developing nations to apply branding principles in their trade relations with the developed countries, according to him “more branded export business is most certainly a step in the right direction for an emerging country”, this argument justifies the need for both product and place branding from the perspectives of the developing countries including Nigeria. This is because the rising trend of globalization and the breaking down of international barriers of trade has increased the competition amongst countries and companies for consumers and investments, also known as Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). Therefore it is the country, place or region that is able to project the most positive image to potential investors and tourists, and also guarantees peace and stability of investment, as well as security of life and value for money that will likely attract tourists and foreign investments.

Uche Nworah describes the uphill battle that The Republic of Nigeria has in generating a positive global image for investment, business, and tourism as follows:

Nigeria is an oil rich African country with an estimated population of over 130 million people; it also occupies an envious position as the 6th largest oil producer in the world. Despite these positive attributes, Nigeria’s reputation as one of the most corrupt nations in the world, coupled with other socio-political issues has greatly affected its global image and has directly impacted on its attractiveness as a potential investment and tourist destination. According to the 2004 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria still ranks as the third most corrupt country in the world in a survey of 146 countries, coming only ahead of Haiti (the most corrupt country) and Bangladesh (the second most corrupt country).

Nigeria's current position is only a slight improvement from its previous positions as the second most corrupt and the most corrupt country in the world in 2003 and 2002 respectively. According to Peter Eigen, the Chairman of Transparency International:

“Corruption robs countries of their potentials… Corruption in large-scale public projects is a daunting obstacle to sustainable development, and results in a major loss of public funds needed for education, health care and poverty alleviation, both in developed and developing countries."

Some Nigerian citizens including the members of the political class have also not helped matters with their ever increasing corrupt and fraudulent practices; these fraudsters are known locally as 419 people, named after the section in Nigeria’s constitution which deals with advance fee fraud. The new wave scammers comprising young boys and girls (mainly university students) are called Yahoo boys and girls, as a result of their information technology (IT) dexterity and their penchant of perpetrating the scams using the internet, constantly sending unsolicited scam emails using Yahoo and other free email websites to targets all over the world, promising them spurious and ludicrous financial deals. There are however some Nigerians such as Dumebi Agbakoba and Rosemary Ajayi who have started various praise-worthy initiatives aimed at turning the 419 curse on Nigeria into positives. Dumebi’s website aspires to be the rallying point for Nigerian youths.

Note: also see Rosemary Ajayi’s website as referenced in this report. Rosemary’s site focuses on 419 positive attributes of Nigeria and Nigerians. The report by Uche Nworah goes on to describe additional image problems that the country of Nigeria faces and is trying to combat in its branding campaign:

Nigeria's other problems and brand eroders have also been identified as bribery and corruption, unemployment, poor infrastructural development, over dependence in the oil sector for federal income and revenue, poor work ethics, increasing citizens dissatisfaction and disaffection with the government, political structures and politicians, corporate and large scale organizational irresponsibility, inadequate funding of the educational, health and other key sectors, neglect of the agricultural and other non-oil productive/manufacturing sectors, continued manufacture of poor quality, fake and substandard goods and services, over dependence on imported goods, poorly regulated capital and financial market, tribal, ethnic and religious squabbles, homelessness, poverty and hunger, poor maintenance culture, poor planning, lack of security and disregard for human life and property, armed and pen robbery, and others (Nworah 2004).

Long periods of military dictatorship which saw the country’s national treasures pillaged, and citizens’ rights abused have also contributed to the negative international image that Nigeria has. However, a civilian democracy is now in place since1999, which is committed to changing the negative perceptions that the world has about Nigeria, and also gain some respect for Nigeria in the international community. In 2004, the Olusegun Obasanjo government launched an image project for the country which it called the Nigeria image project at the time, the project was renamed in 2005 by the new Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Frank Nweke, and is now called the Heart of Africa (HOA) project.

Planned as an informational and orientational campaign, the HOA project received an initial government contribution of 600 million Naira (about $3 million), with the expectation that the private sector will also contribute towards the project as part of their corporate social responsibility.

End of excerpts. You may download a copy of the report “Rebranding Nigeria: Critical Perspectives on the Heart of Africa Image Project” at the – Brandpapers website. Scroll down the page to locate the report.

What do you think? Will Nation Branding (Place Branding) help attract the desired new foreign investments, new business, and loads of tourists to sub-Saharan African countries?

Additional online resources and related articles

CNN Inside Africa website
Inside Africa transcript for Dec 30, 2006 show – Africa: Perception vs. Reality
CNN International Inside Africa – Transcripts archive

Nigeria Heart of Africa marketing campaign website
Uganda Gifted by Nature marketing campaign website

Africa Open for Business – official documentary website
National Black Programming Consortium – U.S. Corporation for Public Broadcasting
NBPC – Africa Open for Business documentary video

Washington Post – Apr 17, 2005
The Africa You Never See by Carol Pineau
Inside Africa – May 19, 2005
World Bank Funds Documentary on African Entrepreneurs
National Public Radio (NPR) – News and Notes May 20, 2005
Africa Open for Business
U.S. Department of State - Washington File Jul 18, 2005
Journalist Carol Pineau shows “Africa is open for business”

TED Global Conference 2007 at Arusha, Tanzania
Note: The TED Global Conference 2007 in Arusha is a must event this year for people interested in learning about solid business opportunities and business challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. The invited speakers list is a literal “Who’s Who” of the continent’s most promising entrepreneurs, seasoned businesspeople, and leading thinkers.

TED Blog – Ideas that matter in Technology, Entertainment, and Design
TEDTalks website – audio/video podcasts from some of the world’s most fascinating and innovative people
TED Conference website

Foreign Policy magazine online
A Brand New Approach by Jeremy Kahn – Nov/Dec 2006 issue

Simon Anholt’s Nation Brands Index website

Nation branding explained at Sourcewatch

East African BusinessWeek
Gifted by Nature brand for CHOGM (Uganda) – 07/31/06

New Vision Online (Uganda govt. backed newspaper)
Selling Uganda on CNN was a brilliant idea – 11/01/05

The Economist
State promotion Mississippi turning – 01/04/07 – Brandpapers (whitepapers)
Rebranding Nigeria: Critical perspectives on the Heart of Africa Image Project by Uche Nworah – October 2006

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Oprah helps South African girls start the New Year on the good foot

I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions since they usually don’t work out as planned but one thing I have promised myself is to focus more on positive news and stories about Africa and African people at this blog. Let’s be honest, Africa is NOT all about starvation, conflict, deprivation, and exploitation. If the 1000’s of global citizens who write and publish about Africa consider our work important in helping to tell Africa’s story then we had better make sure that we highlight the Good News right along with the Bad & Ugly News. Here’s a short news items that supports that philosophy:

Oprah Winfrey Opens New School for Girls in South Africa

Source: CNN International – 01/02/07

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) -- Oprah Winfrey opened a school Tuesday for disadvantaged girls, fulfilling a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela six years ago and giving more than 150 students a chance for a better future.

"I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light," Winfrey said at a news conference.

Mandela was among the guests at the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg.

"This is a lady that has, despite her own disadvantaged background, become one of the benefactors of the disadvantaged throughout the world," Mandela said in a statement.

Singers Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, actors Sidney Poitier and Chris Tucker and director Spike Lee also were in attendance. Each guest was asked to bring a personally inscribed book for the library.

Winfrey has said that she decided to build her own school because she wanted to feel closer to the people she was trying to help.

The $40 million academy aims to give 152 girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid.

Eventually the school will accommodate 450 girls. Read More…

All I can say is “Go on Honey (Oprah), put your hard-earned money where your mouth is and help these deserving young people out.” You know Oprah is serious about this project when she has built a house on-campus for herself in order to monitor the progress of her girls.

Reminds me of my 4th grade teacher Ms. Smith who devoted her life to making sure we got a first class education under her strict but loving care. I’ve still got the scars on my backside to prove it too. Ms. Smith meant business when it came to learning God bless her heart and soul. French language, history and culture lessons in the 4th grade at a segregated public school in the heart of the American Midwest. Such an opportunity for advanced learning was rare for minorities and poor folks back in those days but the hard work and efforts of Ms. Smith was appreciated very much by the predominately black and poor white student body and by our excellent teachers and caring parents.

Grandiose Parlor has posted about the new leadership school for girls today as well and the comments have already begun to stream in over at Imnakoya’s place. Read “Oprah’s $40 Million High School” and pay particular attention to the link to Gavin Chait’s critical article “How Much Does A Free Education Cost?” at the WhytHawk development blog from South Africa.
O Philanthropy – The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation
Official website of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation

Yahoo! News – Press Release from Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls
Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls… Celebrates Its Official Opening

U.K. Times Online
Oprah Winfrey Opens School for Poor South African Girls

SABC TV News (South Africa Broadcasting Corp.)
Oprah Winfrey’s school for girls opens today

Independent Online (South Africa)
Mandela cheers Oprah's new school

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