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Bono has been championing the Red campaign for a few years now. Like most initiatives it has its critics and it has its supporters. I’m not sure where I sit on this one. On one hand it’s a great example of innovative financing – allowing consumers to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS. But I’m not a fan of the message.
I get that HIV/AIDS is having devastating effects across Africa, but to have the tagline of Buy Red, Save Lives (in Africa)?
As an African I hate it – again I get that you’ve got to portray an extreme picture to pull on the heart-strings – and therefore the purse-strings – but for the millions of people who’ve never been to Africa, it only tells one story. And that story is that us poor, starving, disease ridden Africans can’t do anything for ourselves and always need the West to bail us out.
I can see how this story can help raise cash for Africa – and I’m not saying we don’t need it – but isn’t there a way we can do this so the world can see that Africa does do some things on its own too? And this is what should be supported?
And now Bono’s the mouthpiece for Africa? I know I should be happy that someone as important as Bono has made it his mission to do something for the world’s poor (in Africa), but I just hate that it also perpetuates this air of hoplessness of Africa. But maybe that’s Africa’s fault too.
In most place – bar Rwanda and Liberia and a handful of other countries – we need new leadership. Not the old guards who are from the independence days, but younger, people with fresh perspectives – we need our Obamas. Young Africans also need to take up the challenge, with social media sites there is no reason why the work and advancement they are doing can’t be communicated and spread.
For now, I hope that campaigns such as OneLove Kwasila – though paid for by the US government – but implemented by young Africans can be one of many examples of the not so futile situation in Africa.
Maybe I’m just cynical or patriotic to a fault. (Oh, I forgot to mention the ridiculous ad spend to support Red products as well – in 2007 alone it was $100 million and guess how much they raised? $18million. I’m sure that ratio is better now…) Ok maybe I’m just a little bit mad at my own foolishness of getting a Red credit card and despite the money spent on it, I’ve only contributed about £50 to the global fund – I should have just given them the money instead – hell, I should have donated to a charity in Africa directly!

One of a series of animations from the OneLove Kwasila campaign

I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages. Late last year – in December – Sandra Buffington from the Hollywood Health and Society Research came to London and visited with my team. Her work is so similar to what we do and I really admired the work that they do that I was so excited to have her share her work and results in the hope that the team could see how much potential there is in our field.

I love what they do, it is something I’d love to do more of, which is put social messages into popular mainstream programming like Law and Order, Greys Anatomy, ER, 90210. And it’s everything from HIV/AIDS to biopolar disorder. To top it off they have the stats to prove that this stuff works. People seem more likely to take in a message when it’s put into an entertaining format, or in a situation that they can relate to.

It’s what I aspire to do with Staying Alive and all other MTV SR programming and I think we’re on the right track, with Shuga, Tribes and Not to Me – if you don’t know, you better google it!

I also think it’s the way to go in Africa. To often Africa gets programming in the form of documentaries, newspieces and PSAs. Yes Africans are probably more into news type content than other young people in other continents, but its just information in a one dimensional way that sooner or later gets boring. Making the issue more three dimensional through holistic programming, especially through fictional characters and storylines to address ‘taboo’ subjects drives the message home.

This is way I’m especially proud of my brother, Fred Phiri, for using his talent to write and produce the drama series Club Risky Business in Zambia. To see the whole series go to the Club Risky Business Channel.


Happy New Year everyone! It’s exciting to be in the new year. It’s another opportunity for us to reflect on the previous year and attempt to do better and not make the same mistakes. It really is a lot harder than it sounds.

The year in my team begins with planning what we want to do and accomplish this year. I’m doing it a little bit differently this year, but it’s led us into a debate about who our clients are. I’m tempted to say it’s the audience who watch our programming that are our clients, but we don’t get our money from them – we get it from our funding partners who want to reach our audience, so are they the clients?

It really is a crucial question that needs answering because it ultimately affect the products we produce. If you have any insights into how we identify this I’d be more than happy to hear it.

In the meantime – as I promised in one of my blogs way back, here is the first episode of Club Risky Business – the now award winning series, created and produced by Media 365 in Zambia (a company I am one of the directors of).

the super secret trailer for the new drama we’re producing for africa. shot on location in Nairobi – i serve as an executive producer on it. it premieres on the 11th of November!

this is an interesting one.  coming from the relatively small NGO world in Africa to work for this huge global entity, it really was like a different world all together. you know the HIV/AIDS world has it’s own language, but then so does the private sector and that excited me.  then i started working with my boss on our ‘partner’ relations (i call it that, that’s not the official term for it – public-private partnerships i think it’s called in the NGO world) and i began to see the merging of the language.  it wasn’t always pretty.

the truth of the matter is that the ppps work because each partner recognizes the need of the other, but when one starts taking the other for granted, it doesn’t quite sit well.  i think sometimes the private sector do have their own little arrogance because they don’t have to play by the same rules as the NGO or UN agencies and other philanthropic organisations and sometimes that’s a good thing – because they can push the boundaries in the way the agencies can’t.  but then again the non-profits don’t always appreciate this.

the non-profits have their own arrogance too, because they know the issues, they’re in touch with the ‘real people’, they’re saving people’s lives on the ground.  allegedly. (ok some of them can prove this).  and they think their way – the tried and trusted way – is the right way.  So you know there’s going to be conflict.

i must admit that sometimes i listen to middle class white americans (no offence) based in a US city telling me what a young African woman would or wouldn’t do.  and don’t get me wrong, i don’t think for a minute that i represent all young african women or that i’m a typical african woman, because i know that i did have the privilege of growing up in London and Stockhom and that i have- as my father would say- western ideals.  but i still think that i know a little bit better about young African women – especially the type we reach with MTV.

sigh.  oh well, at the end of the day the most important thing is getting the message across right?  hmmm i’ll give you my take on that one another time.

(by the way if this post doesn’t make sense, i totally blame it on the fact that i started writing it and then went to a digital thing for almost 3 hours and then came back to finish this off!)