A little over a week ago I became aware of an initiative by Africans in the diaspora called #BrandAfrica through a twitter conversation with TMS RUGE and today I was interviewed by him in relation to the African image in the western world.

A UK based journalist called Jon Snow once said Africans are terrible at telling their story, there are so many good things going on in Africa but the Africans are not shouting about them. He should know as he spent several years in Uganda for instance and even managed to get an interview with Idi Amin and it would appear he is right

The Brand Africa project sees African in the diaspora who have had enough of the the poor representation of the continent and are taking advantage of Social media especially to tell their stories.

In the interview with TMS RUGE we spoke about the typical images of Africa, the dying children with flies and what we can do to change that. Yes granted those starving children with flies on their faces do exist however we never get to see the “after pic”

I can remember a conversation I had with a woman earlier this year in April about our project in SW Uganda and wondered whether she would be up to volunteering at teh project.

She asked what the project has got to do with me, before she went on to tell me that Africa isn’t Britain, I asked what she meant and she said well it is a different culture isn’t it? She went on to say that before she agrees to volunteer she would need to know that the set up was the same as it is in Britain specifically that the buses arrive on time?

I must admit to being lost for words for a few minutes before saying to her that we were looking for people with a great sense of adventure and wondered if she felt she met this criteria because this is what you get in Africa.

First forward to May 2009 I was at Entebbe Airport and I got into a conversation with a British man for whom this was the first visit to Africa. I asked him if he had enjoyed his visit and he said he had. I asked him whether he had had any thoughts of whatt to expect before he arrived, I nearly fell off the chair when I heard his answer ” I thought there would be animals, lions that sort of thing as soon as I got off the plain but all I saw was a monkey somewhere in the countryside”

As the conversation went on it transpired that he was not aware that the source of the River Nile was in Uganda nor was he familiar with the great explorers like Speke and Stanley.

Why is it necessary to show a different side of Africa? In my mind this is important because only then can Africa start to shake off her image of poverty, disease and be treated like an equal.  Africa offers real opportunities to the rest of the world in terms of business, culture and heritage, but these are never reported because this type of story does not sale News!

Our central message here at Ethnic Supplies is that “African women are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty and just need access to a wider market and equitable trade terms. I am not alone as far as this view is concerned, my good friend and associate Neill Kelsall of RAISE TRADE is passionate about increasing the GDP of African countries through positive PR amongst other things.

So watch this space as Africans start telling their story and I live you some images of Africa

Oh and don’t forget to visit/join our facebook group

Lake Bunyonyi

Lake Bunyonyi Kabale SW Uganda

Mt Elgon North Eastern Uganda

Sipi River Mt Elgon North Eastern Uganda

Antisarabe Madagascar

Lovers lake Antisarabe Madagascar

 As someone that lived through 20 years of civil wars in Idi Amin’s Uganda etc, I can say that my experience of both poverty and absence of peace is hard earned. Business needs certain conditions or the right environment to thrive. One those conditions as I see them are effective institutions and these in turn thrive on consensus.

The situation in Uganda for instance roughly from 1975 to 1985 was that there were no effective institutions to speak of and as such the infrastructure failed as well as the economy. Typically regardless how much money you had it was near impossible to set up and or run a viable or sustainable business, some days there was simply nothing available to buy in the shops, nor people to transact business with.

The buildings that housed shops and other institutions in the capital city got burnt out during one of the civil wars and people got rounded up and taken away for no apparent reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. First forward to the current day Uganda and at this point I would urge you to get hold of a copy of Bob Geldof’s DVD entitled Geldof in Africa by way of illustrating my point. The documentary is a tale of two cities, where the north of the country is war torn and children are on the run during the night to avoid being captured and taken into bush to fight.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geldof-Africa-DVD-NTSC-Bob/dp/B000B9PW8K .

The South is stable and has been since 1986, and to date there are institutions in place that oversee enterprises and this has enabled investors to etc. You would indeed be forgiven for thinking that you were in two different countries if you compared the north and the south Therefore from my personal experience I would argue that economic development would be near impossible without peace in any given country.

A peaceful environment from a political point of view provides for confidence in would be investors as well as building on local enterprise. The Uganda that I grew up in was far from this and as such we tended to live in the present moment as we had no confidence that we would still be alive that afternoon let alone the following day. It is this confidence that is a building block for sustainability, in my opinion.

 Going back to the central question: How can business contribute to sustainable peace? I would have to draw from my personal experience again and say Yes, But to a certain extent and this would be premised upon perception, specifically perceived inequality.

If I can just take you back to Idi Amin’s Uganda There was a perception that the Ugandan Asians had monopolised Business and enterprise generally that by getting rid of them the Africans would have a chance at running successful businesses/enterprises. On my recent visit to Uganda (September 2008) this perception was still alive in some quarters, although I am unclear as to how wide spread it is. However this may go some to illustrating my point please follow this link

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6548107.stm.

The manner in which businesses/corporations conduct themselves, may feed this type of perception leading to unrest, riots etc, and from that point of view Businesses can contribute to peace by ensuring that their practices are equitable, inclusive and transparent.