Posts Tagged With: Africa

African Entrepreneurs

Creators of Ushagz clothing

In a Northeastern University dorm overlooking the Boston city skyline, two students began what seemed to be a fun side project while finishing up their undergraduate studies. However, they didn’t think their small idea would take off in such a positive way.

Africa is usually looked at as one of the poorest continents in the world. Although there are some bad parts in Africa a lot of young Africans have learned to be innovative with the resources they have. This craftiness and creativity allows young African entrepreneurs to come up with interesting businesses and concepts that can often times be inspired by their surroundings.

Martin Kimani, a senior, Engineer major, who grew up in Kenya, and Binja Basiminke, a junior, pre med major, who grew up in both Kenya, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo were both able to bring their cultural backgrounds into their newly formed T-shirt line as well as other African cultures.

It all started with a small idea revisited and a dull spring break that put it into action. Kimani had brought up the idea of a T-shirt line to Basimike a year prior but it wasn’t until it became a reality later on when he conjured up a few designs and later collaborated with Basimike for more design ideas. Both wanted to focus on the progress in Africa as well as the past. That idea came to life as Basimike and Kimani brainstormed some ideas of the different shirts they wanted to create. Basimike who has lived in multiple parts of Africa and speaks a few different languages, which was the jumping point for their T-shirts

Ushagz seemed to be an appropriate name for the T-shirt company, due to the fact that it is a term that mostly young Africans use and the pair had the idea to relate to their younger audience with a catchy name. Ushagz, which is a Swahili slang term for the “rural areas,” became the name of the line because to most it would represent something less modern but to Kimani and Basimike its where they draw a lot of their inspiration. With their quirky shirts that use African humor as well as different languages spoken throughout the continent they are able to use their shirts as both an educational tool as well as an interesting way to meet new people. They wanted to create cultural awareness about Africa by creating conversation pieces.

“We want to help people become more culturally aware,” said Basimike. “I know a lot of people hear of Africa and they think they are hungry, they are dying, there’s so many wars going on, but there’s actually so much more then what the stereotypic idea is”

Kimani, who always found it interesting that people wore paraphernalia from other states brought that idea into the T-shirt line he co-created.

“I’ve always had that idea in the background to represent Africa so what happened was I sat down and came up with a few designs,” Kimani said

“What’s different about us is one of the things that’s in our goal and our mission statement,” said Basimike. “We want our t-shirts to carry a message with it and so the message that most of our T-shirts have is Africa is diverse, Africa has so many aspects to it and we have so much to offer to the world.”

To get their company off the ground they didn’t just start any old website to promote their new brand they hit the social media full force with blogging, Twitter, and Facebook.

“Right now websites and social media is the way to be out there,” Kimani said. “You’re able to reach more people and that’s what helped us a lot.”

However the purpose of the T-shirt line was not to gain a profit, although making a profit is great plus to the company, they plan on giving a large majority of that profit away to countries in Africa that may be in need.

“Our goal as young African entrepreneurs is for us to bring Africa to the world,” Basimike said. “We want to do this through the clothes that we make.”

Whether its something as small as helping one family eat for the month or as big as giving the money towards building a school, the pair have big dreams to better their home continent.

“You can have an idea to vote for where you want your money to go to whether it’s a grassroots organization in Congo or it be in Uganda so we have that type of interaction with the costumer” Kimani said.

Young African entrepreneurs Kimani and Bakimike can be found all throughout the campus at Northeastern University. Mirna Shampemba, a sophmore business major at Northeastern hopes to one day work in Africa as a corporate lawyer and contribute to her home country of Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I just wanted to be able to help my country in some way and business was always something that I have been interested in, said Shampemba.

Shampemba, who has been living in Finland with her family before coming to Northeastern University, has also lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo feels the importance of giving back to where you came from and through her education would like to do so. Although she is not yet an entrepreneur Shampemba does have big plans to bring new ideas to her country.

Coming from a family of euntrepenuers Shampemnba has the experience in creating businesses and running them in her home country. This business background has inspired Shampemba to use her future Northeastern degree for the betterment of her home country.

“We know how important it is to develop and evolve the countries,” Shempemba said.  “My dad has had many opportunities to work abroad but he has always taken positions in Africa.”

Africa has been churning out a lot of different kinds of entrepreneurs who have been working at breaking the stereotypes that people have about Africa. As it moves forward into the future we should be looking to Africa to see the newest development in culture and make the idea of Africa with all the negative connotations that appear along with it.

Whether it starts out in a dorm in the middle of Northeastern University or a corporate office in South Africa, African entrepreneurs are setting the precedence all over the world in order to benefit Africa in the long run.



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Salif Keita

Salif Keita

With a total of 19 studio albums Salif Keita could arguably be one of the most popular and successful artist to come out of Africa. Keita also known as the “golden voice of Africa” has been able to touch many with his music and build great success. The singer who was born in Djoliba, Mali has been creating hit after hit for over 4 decades and is known all around the world for his music. What makes Keita a little bit unique is the fact that he has albinism, which doesn’t restrict his world travels and musical ability at all but instead makes him stand out in the sea of artist. Keita’s music uses traditional African instruments such as the Kora as well as inspiration from European and American influences that adds a modern twist to his music. Salif Keita has been able to gain national success with his music and gain a large fan following. He’s been creating music for a very long time but always finds ways to make his sound new and interesting as North Shore News describes

Almost every track on this latest compilation album takes off musically in a different direction. “Mandjou,” written in the late ’70s while he was with Les Ambassadeurs, shows Keita at his early best. Like a true griot, he composed the tune for the president of Guinea after the politician had named him “Minister of Music and Culture.” Latin-influenced rhythms, a tight horn section and rocking band set the groove for a soaring vocal workout.

Traditionally Keita is from the Madinka tribe and with his last name being Keita and is known as a direct descendent of the founder of the Mali empire Sundiata Keita. With his status as a descendent from royalty he wasn’t expected to choose a path of music as his career because it is seen as a lower status to become a musician or whats known as a Griot. However because of his albinism he was cast out of his village because his disorder was viewed as bad luck for the community. Keita’s luck seems to be very good since he is creating new and impactful music and seems to have no plan of stopping anytime soon.

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From Hollywood to Nollywood


Nollywood Films

Hollywood isn’t the only place movies are being made anymore. There’s a booming film industry based in Nigeria known as Nollywood. They produce between 1,000 to 2,000 movies per year making it the third largest film industry in the world. African movies have been around since the 1960’s however Nollywood hads been steadily gaining popularity all over the world including the US. They are able to churn out so many movies because of their lower budget as The Guardian UK explains,
“Nollywood makes about 2,400 films per year, putting it ahead of the US, but behind India, according to a Unesco report last year. Nigerian film-makers tend to operate in a fast and furious manner; shoots rarely last longer than two weeks, cheap digital equipment is almost always used and the average budget is about $15,000 (£9,664).”
You wont see fancy affects and camera work here. Nollywood movies focuses on stories that draw in the viewer. They have all the same aspects of the films we may watch in the U.S. with romance and action however the difference with these films are the twist they add to the films. They use different aspects of African culture in the films mainly from western Africa to tell the stories. Although Nigeria is the last place people would think of  to have a large film industry as abc news explains,
“Nollywood is a $200-million (€148-million) business in a country where 70 percent of the population still lives on less than $1 a day, where residents can consider themselves lucky if the power is on for two hours a day, and where raw sewage runs through open canals along the streets. It is a country known throughout the world for corruption, Internet fraud, prostitution and oil, but certainly not for its film culture.”
This surprising film industry that Nigeria has built is becoming an impacting force with the rapid growth and popularity through out the world. It’s an industry that should definitely not be over looked. It is even turing out super star actors like Genevieve Nnaji who as CNN described is being hailed as the African Julia Roberts
“The screen diva — dubbed the Julia Roberts of Africa — has starred in dozens of films, enchanting millions of movie fans across the continent.”
So if you ever want to find something new to watch try looking for a Nollywood produced film. You may just like it.
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Mapping Africa

Geographic location is a very important aspect of looking at a map of Africa. There are many countries and with each country many different cultures that come along with it. One mapping error that drives me crazy is when people don’t realize where commonly spoken about countries are located on the continent. One country that gets miss placed often is Egypt, like when Fox news tried to give a visual about the protest in Egypt and placed egypt where Iran should have been in the middle east.

Sometimes maps can be used to Show the severity of things such as in this article that describes the malaria epidemic in African countries. Maps are very effective at backing up a story with more visuals. Sometimes when maps are inaccurate they can make a situation seem worse than it actually is or scare people into believing something about a location. This site does a good job showing an accurate map of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Most people think that the entire continent is ravaged by the disease and although it is a big problem the map shows a more accurate view then what you would see in the media some countries in Africa don’t have as big a problem with it as others.

Mapping can be a large part with telling stories and giving your audience a view of the story you may be portraying. The maps just need to be used well and very accurately in order to make sure your audience gets the full story.

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Beauty in Africa

What if women in America all strived to be as overweight as possible in hopes of attracting the right man? Countries like Mauritania have beauty ideals that the western world would find downright outrageous. With it being international women’s day/month I wanted to discuss the beauty standards of different countries in Africa. Women of Mauritania go to extreme lengths to fatten their daughters up for their future husbands. Some parents even send their daughters to fattening camp,  ran by women such as Fatematou who explains in this BBC article the diet the girls are kept on to maintain their round figures,

“I make them eat lots of dates, lots and lots of couscous and other fattening food,” Fatematou, a voluminous woman in her sixties who runs a kind of “fat farm” in the northern desert town of Atar, told BBC World Service’s The World Today program.”

For the men in Mauritania its more desirable for a woman to be larger because it represents wealth while a skinnier woman may represent poverty or not being able to eat enough. However in Mauritania this tradition is starting to be seen as a little bit old fashioned as explained in the same article,

“Young people in Mauritania today, we’re not interested in being fat as a symbol of beauty. Today to be beautiful is to be natural, just to eat normally.”

Another beauty phenomenon, at least in the western countries is skin bleaching. All though it isn’t as far fetched as fattening women for marriage it is a big thing in the area. Women will use many different kinds of dangerous chemicals all in the name of having fair skin. This beauty trend isn’t only practiced in parts of Africa but all parts of the world including the U.S. However in western African countries the number of women who turn to this practice is staggering as this article breaks it down,

“The prevalence of skin lightening reported among those interviewed in Africa shows some disturbing results. In Bamako in Mali, researchers calculated 25% prevalence, while in some studies in Dakar, Senegal, up to 52% prevalence was observed. A study in Pretoria, South Africa revealed up to 35%, while the most disturbing was a study in 2002 which showed up to 77% prevalence in Lagos, Nigeria.”

Whether women are eating large quantities of food to gain weight or using dangerous bleaching products, beauty practices are different all over the world, so who are we to judge. The only thing you can do is be comfortable in your own skin

Photo by Maindru Photo

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“All things African”

“All things African” is the slogan for the website, Myweku, which stays true to its word by covering all aspects of the African Diaspora. The site uses all types of multimedia to tell stories while keeping an open forum for readers to contribute to the conversations. Myweku is a sort of virtual meeting place for not only Africans but also people who may possibly be interested in African culture.

The site follows current news events such as the issues that have been going on in Libya as well as features such as the impact of the chinese culture in Africa. It covered the story with a feature on a documentary done about the chinese influence in African countries. Some stories they post are features about where to go when in different countries in Africa such as a cool hotels to visit if you want to get some food and drinks. They have features on how to cook some of the popular cuisines such as Jollof Rice; which is a popular dish amongst west Africans.

The site literally covers Africa far and wide and gives their readers a lot to look through as well as a way to voice their opinions and feelings on African issues. It may be a little bit hard to understand certain things on the site if you know nothing about Africa or the culture but as an African it gives me a home away from home feeling. News organizations can definitely get great use out of this site  because they cover things from very different angles then I have seen in the news such as with their story on Christians and Muslims uniting. news sites can definitely  look to Myweku for stories about the continent and show some more positive things about the continent.

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Africa Night 2011!

On y va – Lets go was the theme for the night as Students from all different cultures and backgrounds came, last Saturday, to Northeastern’s African Student Organizations Africa night celebration. There were all kinds of African oriented entertainment from music, dance, food, and fashion. The night kicked off with traditional African dancing to drumbeats and ended with modern African dancing that showed the evolution of West African culture.

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Big Love: Polygamy

With the lovers month of February coming to an end I wanted to discuss a bit of a taboo topic that comes up in all parts of Africa. What is this topic? Well, its polygamy, when a man takes more than one wife. This trend appears mostly in Islamic societies on the continent but many tribes believe in the practice also. Many men take on multiple wives as a sign of status but sometimes for these men it backfires and they take on more then they can handle with the multiple wives and caring for them all such as in the case of Ayattu Nure and Ethiopian man who has 11 wives and 77 children who is struggling with caring for all of his family according to this BBC article,

“After seeing his fortune disappear under the competing demands of his enormous family, Ayattu Nure, 56, even urges people not to get married.”

This is becoming an issue in may different countries where men have been taking on many wives and have been ok to care for them but as the years go by their funds become depleted from all the children that are added to the family at once.

“Mr Ayattu says he used to be rich and wanted to share his wealth around, which is why he took so many wives.”

Polygamy seems to be an interesting subject where many seem to have their different opinions on the matter and even participate for their own reasons. The independent world a UK news org discussed this subject in depth.

“Polygamy is very common in the animist and Muslim communities of West Africa. In Senegal, for example, nearly 47 per cent of marriages are said to feature multiple women. It is relatively high still in many Arab nations; among the Bedouin population of Israel it stands at about 30 per cent.”

Whether you’re for polygamy or against it, it is a long-standing tradition that has been around for many years and doesn’t show any signs of ceasing.

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The REVOLUTION was televised!

Every cause seems to have an effect as the people of Egypt learned earlier today when President Mubarek stepped down after weeks of protest from Egyptians all over the country. He made the announcement this morning that he would step down and leave the country in the hands of the high officers. As I sat in my morning class I checked out CNN (while I should have been paying attention) and stumbled upon the breaking story.  Egyptians disliked the lack of economy and Mubarek’s long reign as president, among a slew of things that they were dissatisfied with. While this is a historic event sparked by Tunisia’s success a month prior, you must start to think about what will become of Egypt now that they have ousted their president. Arab countries have been scrambling to prevent revolts like Tunisians and Egypt’s as the Washington Post revealed,“Many regimes have already rushed to offer concessions to their citizens intended to appease unrest or deflect the threat of revolt.”While this is a historic event sparked by Tunisia’s success a month prior, you must start to think about what will become of Egypt now that they have ousted their president. This unexpected turn of events leaves the country without a real leader and the rest of us wondering where they will go from here. Will the Egyptians get the Democracy they so desperately sought? Only time can tell what will become of the East African country and how they will be ruled in the future, but all we can do is watch as history continues to be made.

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Africans can publish their own magazines?

Picture from Vogue Africa prototype

The words high fashion and Africa are rarely combined. When Conde Nast was offered to create Vogue Africa, along side their many other international affiliations, they kindly passed. Although vogue creating an African magazine would have promoted Africa in a more positive light as well as a more diverse standard of beauty (you can see for yourself here), there are many other African magazines that display high fashion in Africa and promote Africa positively. One of these magazines that you can actually find in the magazine section of Boarders is Arise. This magazine includes vibrant fashions spreads and features on things like street fashions, up and coming African musicians, as well as African super models.

Another African magazine that can be compared to the likes of cosmopolitan (except less sappy) is True Love a canadian based magazine that does interesting features on both African and American celebrities. This magazine isn’t afraid to take on the cultural issues such as polygamy (which is very common all over Africa) that occur throughout the continent. while those two magazines, just mentioned, are physical magazines that you can subscribe to similar to Vogue, one online magazine is a stand out in featuring african fashion alongside intriguing features.

Haute while its working on creating its hard copy magazine is still doing a great job of providing people with an online edition that covers all things African entertainment and fashion related. It even has video for everything from fashion shows, photo shoots, and store events. All these African magazines makes me think Conde Nast may have made a very bad choice by not taking the offer for vogue Africa but knowing that these magazines exist gives me a good feeling, we will be alright without Conde Nast’s help.

Photo by Mario Epanya rights reserved to qiv and flickr

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