Wild About Africa

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Awake at 3 am in New York or About to blow my brains out

It’s 3.30 am and I can’t sleep. I’m in a cafe across the street from Starbucks waiting for SB to open so that I can get onto the internet.

I love NY at night

New York at Night

New York at Night

The conversation yesterday got me so mad that if the energy could be captured, Nairobi would never have power cuts again.

After the Jackson Hole Film Festival and everything wild  we celebrate about our amazing continent, the views I’ve heard here in USA reveal that We are doing a superbly crap job of Branding Africa.

“You can’t save wildlife without tourism but how can you convince people that Africa is safe?” by little old lady

the reason why people are starving in Africa is corruptionby someone I respect (ed)

And my all time SFG (Super Fume Generator)

The problem with Africa is tribalism” by the same guy I respect Ggrrrrrr

And the statement that pushed my tolerance beyond blood boiling to geyser eruptions

racism is genetically hard wired into us”, by someone who is funny most of the time – but not anymore

I had a light bulb revelation – Americans think in epiphanies – Our enemies want to destroy our way of life, and “It’s the axis of Evil”. George bush isn’t a moron, the man is a genius. He deserves  a frigging medal.

I was told that nobody can say America is racist, look at our most powerful marketing icons “Magic Johnson”, “the …what are their names, the Tennis sisters”, “oh, and  whatever Ophrah touches turns to Gold”, “We aren’t racist, but the problem with African Americans is they can’t stay out of jail, it’s because most of the men were raised by neurotic women  who had been molested by a relative in the past, they are breeding and raising psychotic children”.

Oh my head hurts …

So now you know why I woke up at stupid O’clock in search of a Starbucks. It’s not in search of a caffeine hit, it’s not even because I’m a twitter addict, but it is because I need internet access. I dressed and packed my back pack to impersonate a hobo and left my flea ridden hotel in search of the nearest spot.  The first Starbucks opens at 5.30 am…so I kept walking. The second at Times Square looked more hopeful – open 24 hours it says on the door. There’s actually a woman in side but there is a distinct absence of the homely Arabica aroma …as I try to get to the door by edging around the bins, she looks up, waves at me and mouths ”NO”

So It take out my camera and capture the photo – open 24 hours – I want to photoshop the words in a bubble “psyche!”

She sees me and opens the door but asks me for 5 minutes as she starts turning on machines. There isn’t a seat in that place –it’s like a standing up café …well at least they will have internet right? Wrong – I’m told that to get internet I first have to buy a Starbucks card and then I have to go somewhere else and get onto the internet in order to sign up and use the Starbucks internet card. Sound bizarre? I bet she was just trying to get rid of me. So I’m  skulking in a different café across the street from the Starbucks of choice like a vulture. Feeling guilty about just ‘using the place’ I bought a cup of herbal tea sat down and pulled out my comp – only to find out that there’s now power plug in the entire café and it’s a huge place. My battery is on about 1%,  I COULD SCREAM!

Maybe I’ll wake up and still be in my warm bed….no, I’m still here and that pinch hurts.

Despite the hour, NY is awake-  I passed a hobo who had perfected the art of sleep reading – sitting on a bench in a position that suggests he’s reading but it’s totally dark.

In the café is a group of youths who have clearly just met each other. God young people are so stupid. It’s impossible to ignore the loud South African dark haired blonde. She’s flirting with a gang of predatory NY dudes in a coffee shop at 4 am. She’s saying rubbish like “the guys over here are so friendly”

And “I’m a lawyer. What do you guys do? Oh you’re a bum. And you? You sell sunglasses? Oh I need sunglasses. Where can I get some – the Sunday street faire – but I’m leaving tomorrow..?” Oh God my head hurts even more now

Painful as it is, at least they aren’t just making friends on twitter. That’s what I’m dying to do!

57 more minutes to wait for Starbucks to open…time to start thinking of how to Rebrand Africa – I need a strong coffee for that – send me your thoughts


October 6, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Oh damn…..we have a really bad image out there, don’t we? How do we change it? How can I help?

    Comment by Kelvin | October 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Kelvin thanks for this – all you need to do is learn about Africa from first hand experience and don’t get swept up into a frenzy of regurgitating nonsense from ignorant people. Africa is an amazing continent full of incredible promise – the steriotypes we see in the west about us are so deflating. 😦 Learn and share the positive stuff more than you share the negative. We need people like you who ask “how can I help” I love that! Thank you!

    Comment by paulakahumbu | October 6, 2009 | Reply

  3. Paula – Are you serious? No wifi in the hotel? Ugh.

    If I may share my opinion, as an American in the hospitality industry who visited Kenya this year.

    If I’m being 100% honest, the entire African continent — with the exception of Egypt and South Africa — are completely misunderstood by the vast number of Americans. I would go so far as to put that number at 90%, maybe higher.

    The perception of Africa, as I suspect you are seeing, is that the entire continent (excepting Egypt & South Africa) is roughly 50 years behind in terms of development. This creates a bias that the African countries are backwards. This bias is reinforced by the three prevailing images that Americans are shown of Africa – starvation, tribal wars, and corruption.

    A perfect example is the BBC & CBS 60 Minutes pieces that were promoted on Wildlife Direct. As much as the stories highlighted the natural beauty of Kenya, they focused a great deal of attention on a corrupt system. Again, one of the three prevailing images I referenced previously.

    That said, Americans are fascinated with the mystique of Africa, based partly in fact and partly in myth. (I find this very similar to the fascination that the Japanese have with Texas, but I digress….)

    I can’t begin to tell you how many questions I get from complete strangers when I talk about the weeks we spent in Kenya this year. And every time, we focus on the same messages – beautiful country, amazing wildlife, rich culture, and generous people. As some of our new Kenyan friends asked us to do, we always close by telling them how safe we felt (which is true, by the way).

    The rebranding of Africa is a huge undertaking and – in my opinion – will probably take at least a generation to pay dividends, at least in the States. In some ways, I think the task itself may be too large in scope to ever be manageable.

    To borrow an old expression: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course.

    I would suggest that rebranding take targeted steps, such as as one nation at a time. If even marginally successful, the notion will gain momentum throughout the continent. Best practices can be built upon to speed the process as more nations are brought on board.

    The (multi) million dollar question: How?

    I would suggest utilizing the following:

    – Create a robust & diverse online resource focusing on tourism. In many ways, this would be the equivalent of a visitors bureau, similar to what Texas has done with http://www.traveltex.com or Florida’s http://www.visitflorida.com. This site would focus on the diverse regions, tribal cultures, art, wildlife, etc. Right now, the tourism message for Kenya is dominated by tour group operators who have their own agendas. This site would engage social media (obviously) and could be revenue positive through premium listings, etc. Both Visit Florida and Travel Tex are great models.

    – Heavy PR outreach via Facebook. Without question, the easiest way to influence & engage thousands and thousands of potential advocates. Just as Wildlife Direct talks about the impressive work done throughout the country, this Facebook fan page would promote engaging, real-life stories of life in Kenya.

    – Unite the thousands of “brand advocates” that come into contact with Americans every day. Kenyans that are living & working in America must embrace the opportunity to talk about the beauty of their homeland. There is a beautiful woman working for Southwest Airlines in Jacksonville, Florida. Her name escapes me at this hour, but she is Kenyan and has lived in Florida for several years with her mother. She wears beaded bracelets and a beaded lanyard for her employee ID. I noticed the beads and asked her if she was Kenyan. Despite the line, she must have spent 5-10 minutes sharing stories with me about Kenya. More conversations like that will definitely impact the perception Americans have of Kenya.

    Sorry for such a long comment, but I believe you’re on the right track, Paula.

    Enjoy this visit in our great country and please tell everyone to come visit the USA! 🙂

    Comment by Kevin Donahue | October 6, 2009 | Reply

  4. Enjoy NYC and watch out for Dave Letterman. You know if you flipped a few details in your story it could easily make the NYTimes or other travel page of a tourist stumbling around nairobi in search of internet (how things have changed)

    Comment by bankelele | October 6, 2009 | Reply

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