Feb 4th, 2013 10:40 AM UTC
By Nealon DeVore
Earlier this week, ONE met up with 30 of our Liberian members in Monrovia at a local watering hole called Tides, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. As I reported earlier, we have been in Monrovia the past week to engage the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 MDGs (HLP) during their meetings and consultations. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet with some of our members and hear their views on the issues affecting development in Liberia.
My colleague Edith Jibunoh, from ONE’s Washington, D.C., office, and I led the meet up. I started off by giving a brief history of ONE and our work around the world to promote Africa’s development. In particular, I focused on our campaigns to engage our African members on issues around the continent and how we work to influence the policies of select African governments and institutions.
Edith then spoke about this week in Liberia and its importance in the greater scheme of development. The HLP would be using this week to listen to the voices of people through civil society organizations (CSOs) and the private sector on what the next set of development goals should include. ONE also used this week to launch a new report — Open for Development — that would make the case for some key recommendations to improve the post-2015 agenda. We launched this report in partnership with Save the Children with HLP members, which Liberian President Sirleaf joined!
All this talk from Edith and me created some palpable enthusiasm from our members – so they began sharing their thoughts on how governments and partners (like the United States or European governments) could support development.
For me, it was an incredible learning experience. Our members shared their particular sectoral concerns — clean water, HIV/AIDS treatment, environmental sustainability and education were mentioned, with clean water reiterated many times. More importantly though, our members shared how development should be made more accountable. They want the goals applied to everyone, rich and poor. We must speak in peoples’ vernacular languages (while Liberia’s official language is English, I can attest that the vernacular creole or “simple English” can be difficult to understand!) because illiteracy is so high in a country like Liberia.
We have to use radio and other more traditional forms of media to reach people, which I’m proud to say we are already doing here at ONE in our “You Choose” campaign in South Africa, Malawi and Zambia. There were even comments on the need to focus on better results and outcomes, which hits at the heart of our latest thinking here at ONE. You’d think these members were on ONE’s policy team!
Our ONE members in Liberia are incredibly astute. That was driven home to me when a member stood up and pointed out that amongst the 30 of us, they were the educated and relatively affluent in Liberia. The real voices ONE and the world need to hear are those not present and who carry the burden of these problems—and he pointed across the water to a beach where children were playing football in front of what appeared to be an endless see of tin-roofed shacks. My fellow ONE member couldn’t have said it better.
Feb 4th, 2013 10:26 AM UTC
By Nachilala Nkombo
This January, two years away from the expiry of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the post 2015 agenda has already created a buzz in Monrovia and Johannesburg. As Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf hosts the United Nations High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development framework this week, I was privileged to have joined an energetic group of ONE Africa staff, friends, partners and members at the launch of ONE’s new post-2015 SMS and social media campaign called “You Choose”. The main objective of this campaign is to engage Africans from all walks of life on what the new MDGs should focus on.
At the launch event Nigerian music star Dbanj told the audience that he joined ONE because he is passionate about engaging on how best to end poverty, he noted that the “YOU CHOOSE” Platforms provide opportunities for all to speak out so that barriers can be removed – or until they find their Jesus Christ! “We can make it, I am an example … Nigerian born, Nigerian made, Africa is more than what people think we are, we have more and have the opportunity to be more,” He said. He called onto the audience and his supporters to participate in this campaign that will influence their futures.
As Africa has close to 700 million mobile connections, the “You Choose” campaign will take advantage of this mobile revolution to enable millions of Africans to make themselves heard. Young people on the continent who are 24/7 on social media will be encouraged to add their voices in shaping the new MDGs through “You Choose”.
The campaign has already hit major airwaves in South Africa on SABC TV, SABC SAFM, SABC and Metro. All citizens need to do is submit their priority in a simple format via a free SMS or the web based platforms. Their priorities could be as simple as food, land, jobs, public transport, skills, hospitals, leadership, accountability, corruption or another critical issue. Today, a radio phone in caller named Bongi told other listeners on the SABC
Morning talk radio show in Johannesburg that leadership is critical in ensuring that ensure that the current and future MDGS are met. He cited how former President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia inherited a country with only a few schools and colleges and no university. But within the first years of independence, he was able to establish a countrywide network of primary and secondary and a university. Bongi chose, and sent a free text to 30677.
What do you choose? To choose, send a text for free to 30677 if you are in South Africa or submit your issue at www.one.org/youchoose if you live elsewhere.
Unlike when the 2000 MDGs were created, the post-2015 MDGs process is seeking advice this time from citizens on what future MDGs should address when the current ones expire in 2015. ONE is working in partnership with 20-plus organisations and influentials that include the UN, civil society organisations, churches groups, radio stations and various media houses in rolling out this drive. ONE is particularly working closely with the UN My World team so as to ensure that the feedback collected through “You Choose “will be included in the meeting of the High Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda to be held in March 2015 in Bali Indonesia.
ONE is thrilled that African icons such as Hugh Masekela, Dbanj, Lira, Benni McCarthy, Chris Katongo, HHP, have joined hands with “You Choose” to urge ordinary African citizens to join the call to action. Launches in Malawi and Zambia will follow on the 12th and 19th of February respectively.
In Zambia, the campaign will be backed by local celebrities that include former Big Brother Housemate, Mampi, singing sensation, Slap Dee and Zambia’s own TV producer Mary Magambo and one of the hip and hottest artists on the Zambian music scene Kachanana. In Malawi the campaign will be backed by Malawian stars Dan Lu, Bon Kalando. You Choose participants will have an option to join ONE so as to have opportunities to join current campaigns ONE is running on improving health and Agriculture investments in Africa. Remember to choose by texting for FREE 30667!
Feb 1st, 2013 9:24 AM UTC
By Nealon DeVore
As many of you know, we recenlty announced the winner of the 2012 ONE Africa Award in Dar es Salaam. While that was an incredible high—to acknowledge the amazing work of not only the winner but out other four finalists—what’s been more gratifying is the work behind the scenes to tell these organizations’ stories in five easy-to-watch video vignettes. We previewed these at our awards ceremony and since then, we have been editing, perfecting and mastering these videos up to this point.
Watch the videos here:
It’s not as easy as it looks. ONE’s filmmaker for this project, Amr Singh, and I visited these five finalists back in October. We interviewed corporate chieftains, government ministers and everyday citizens who are fighting for change while we also tried to capture the essence of each organization’s work. We had to wake up early, drive long distances and take more red-eye flights than can be considered healthy. All in all, we probably recorded between ten and twenty hours of interviews and footage for each finalist. That’s a lot of video to comb through in order to produce a final video that shouldn’t be more than four minutes (and in reality, we were trying to cap them under three-and-a-half minutes as you’ll see in a few).
It’s also a challenge to actually pick out the story to tell about these finalists. How could we somehow demonstrate the incredible support and integrity that Positive-Generation has engendered amongst its peers in Cameroon? Or what about the poignant story of the rural hospital in South Africa not being able to provide the adapted wheel chairs for the patients in such a rural environment? Inevitably, some incredible aspect of one of these finalists has to be cut and left on the floor of the editing studio. So as you watch these videos, consider them as an introduction to the organizations and challenges they’re working to address. There’s so much more going on behind the scenes, and I hope these whet your appetite to learn more.
These videos will be rolled out over the next week on ONE.org. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Jan 18th, 2013 9:44 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Guest blog post from Malaria No More.
Last summer the Confederation of African Football endorsed United Against Malaria partnership – of which Malaria No More is a key member – as a premier social cause of the most-followed events in Africa: the 2013 Cup of Nations (AFCON) football tournament.
The most revered champions of Africa’s best loved sport talking about malaria during Africa’s most watched public events? A captive audience of 6.6 billion people, most of them living in malaria-endemic Africa? What could be more captivating!
The biggest names in African football and the top political leaders in Africa’s malaria fight signed onto the campaign, and lent their time to record public messages about malaria for their African audience. These include five elite footballers and five African presidents, including football legends Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o, and the first-ever female African head of state, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. TV, radio ads, and billboards were created which feature the players and presidents, targeting policy-makers and decision makers about investments in malaria programs, as well promoting calls-to-action with simple steps to prevent and treat malaria.
Didier Drogba’s Malaria Prevention PSA
To ensure these malaria messages are heard by football fanatics continent-wide, 10 pan-African TV/radio stations, including the biggest radio station in Africa and the official football tournament channel, advertisements in over 10 countries, and 75 billboards in more than 13 countries are helping get the job done.
In addition to the tremendous media support, the campaign launched at the African Union Summit to include more African Heads of State, and a TV spot about the campaign aired during the AFCON Draw and East Africa CECAFA tournament. During the AFCON games, the campaign will be included during AFCON half-times (when football fans are already tuned into watch their favorite footballers), in AFCON sportscasters’ dialogue during televised games, and at the AFCON Final Game’s closing ceremony?
Football stars in malaria prevention billboards around Africa
For Africa’s social media users, a 2-minute quiz is available on the United Against Malaria Facebook page for the chance to win Drogba-autographed swag, like a football or a jersey.
Jan 14th, 2013 12:43 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently created a video featuring Malawi’s first female president, Joyce Banda, talking about the importance of women’s health and empowerment. Blog and Video by Janet Fleischman and Julia Nagel
When Joyce Banda unexpectedly ascended to the presidency of Malawi last April, after the death of President Mutharika, many in her country and around the world wondered what her impact would be as Malawi’s first female president. Among the many challenges, her government faces high rates of maternal mortality, high total fertility rates, and high HIV prevalence among women and girls, combined with low levels of women’s economic empowerment and widespread violence against women.
CSIS wanted to learn more about how women leaders in Africa are bringing new attention to women’s health and empowerment in their own countries, and to bring those voices into the discussion about US policy priorities for women’s global health. To do this, we sent a small team to Malawi and Zambia in December 2012.
During an interview with President Banda in Malawi, which we have turned into this short video, we were able to ask her about these issues. Her response underscored the exciting prospects raised by her tenure as well as the daunting challenges ahead.
President Banda was especially passionate that the economic empowerment of women is an essential step to ensure that there is effective family planning: “it is only when a woman is economically empowered that she can negotiate at household level with her husband about the number of children that body of hers can have.”
President Banda went on to describe her own compelling personal story of the vital link between education for girls and economic empowerment for women, against a backdrop of violence against women. “I had three children, in an abusive marriage. And then finally I said, no. I have to walk out. For the sake of my children… So for me when I talk about the importance of economic empowerment of women, it’s because I tried it.”
In Malawi, we saw a woman wearing a T-shirt celebrating the first 100 days of JB’s presidency. Banda’s supporters expressed hope about the positive changes underway, from public works projects to the re-engagement of key international donors, to a new initiative on maternal mortality. But even her most ardent supporters acknowledge that real change will take time. Their optimism is being sorely tested by Malawi’s tough economic and social and realities, including a legacy of corruption, autocracy and mismanagement.
Yet President Banda made clear to us that she will “stay the course.” As she explained: “while I’m trying to bring the country back on track, I’m also very mindful of my mission – to make sure that I continue to empower women… So for me, that is what being a leader is all about.”
Dec 13th, 2012 3:40 PM UTC
By ONE Partners
Positive-Generation Executive Director Fogue Foguito shares his powerful remarks to ONE after receiving the 2012 Africa Award on behalf of his organization. His message, which reflects on advocacy’s true role in development, is Positive-Generation’s promise to ONE and the NGO community to fight HIV/AIDS through justice and human rights.
We do not know how to express our profound gratitude at receiving this distinguished award, which is beyond our individual merits. Every man, every organization or artist, seeks recognition. We are no different.
But it was hard to believe ONE’s decision. When the news came, we started panicking, wondering how such a young organization, rich in ideas but whose work is still in progress, could have been selected. Furthermore, how could we accept such an honor when in Africa, other organizations have been silenced? How could we accept it at a time when the problems being decried by such organizations are being written off as myths? Where every victory is challenged by a new setback?
We gathered our thoughts. Since we can not only attribute this distinction only to our own merits, we thought it very appropriate to turn to those organizations that have stood by us during difficult times, throughout our short existence, and who have promoted our role as advocates and as a community-based organization. Let me, with respect assure you that we are up to the task.
Personally, the challenges we face in the field tell us how important advocacy is. But we have never placed this role above everything. On the contrary, the field challenges enable frequent meetings between men and women, between communities, and these allow us to move at the level of all, with all and for all.
In our view, advocacy is not an isolated exercise. It is a means of reaching out and mobilizing the largest number of people and sharing a common image of sufferings and joys. Advocacy enables people to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives. It is therefore an obligation to the advocate not to function in isolation. In this context he/she is permanently in contact with people. And whoever chooses his/her destiny as an advocate or an actor of development needs to learn as fast as possible to bring together forces that share a similar vision to his/hers.
A community-based organization like ours is in permanent contact with others, and our dream is that the realities of the communities with which we work, will one day be felt by all. That is why true advocacy organisations do not take anything lightly; they are obliged to understand rather than to judge. And if they have to take sides, they take the side of a vision of society that devoid of injustice, where underdevelopment and dehumanizing actions are a thing of the past.
At the same time, an organization like ours cannot shy away from difficult tasks. Positive-Generation is at the service of those who suffer and we must not shy away from such a vocation. Throughout our existence we have received our fair share of difficulties, in serving two basic principles: truth and freedom.
Since we aim to improve the living conditions of the communities we serve, we stand against lies and any other actions that promote injustice. Not withstanding our individual weaknesses, we strive to route our actions in two difficult but crucial commitments: taking a stand against lies and half-truths; and resisting oppression.
Given our role as advocates, it would be remiss of us not to take this opportunity to launch a strong appeal to our decision makers for more investment, and more political and financial commitment to people’s health, especially in the context of HIV/AIDS. Tremendous efforts have been made in recent years, but much still remains to be done, and this is the time to multiply our efforts.
Let me not divert attention from the major challenge; the issue of permanent access to treatment remains a dream to our people in Africa. If we consider just the issue of antiretroviral therapy, it is a question of fundamental human rights.
It is an issue of social justice, civility and especially democracy. Looked at in this way, it is difficult for a State to distance itself from its obligation to protect its populations. In a nutshell, the degree of the respect of the rights of affected people is a barometer of development, and importantly, is a true indicator of the degree of humanity, solidarity, civility and democracy of a nation.
Each new generation believes they can rebuild the world. Mine knows that this is not possible. But we do believe we can protect the world from further destruction. We are in a critical moment in the global effort to fight AIDS; in a context marked by decreasing financial resources; where financial crises are used as a pretext today to justify the threat on the lives of millions of people in the world and in Africa in particular.
Faced with this situation, today, we call on African leaders to muster enough courage and the political will of the fathers of African independence, to say no to this entire dependence tendency, and to take seriously their own responsibilities.
Let us reflect a little on who we really are, our limitations, our doubts, our sorrows. We feel easier, in accepting this award, to do so as a tribute to all those who share in the same struggle, but who, rather than receiving prizes, have instead experienced misfortune and persecution.
Here, my regards go to those ordinary – in fact extraordinary – men and women, who have inspired us. I think of Joseph Pouagam, Daniel Nonze, Dr. Charles Kouanfack, Flavien Ndonko, the late Gisèle Kengne and many others. We equally think of partner organizations such as ACMS (Cameroon Social Marketing Association), RAME, Act Up Paris, AIDES, Solidarité Sida, Coalition 15%, MOCPAT, GTIA and all community base organisation in Cameroon, who have spared no effort in supporting us in this journey.
We express our sincere thanks from the bottom of our hearts, and publicly declare our gratitude and appreciation for this award.
Long live the struggle for development and human right.s Long live the promotion of health. Long live Cameroon. God Bless Africa.
Show your support for Positive-Generation by LIKING their Facebook page and leaving a comment in this article.
Dec 5th, 2012 2:41 PM UTC
By Nealon DeVore
On the day we’ve announced the winner of the 2012 ONE Africa Award, we also look at our final runner-up, Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP). With two-and-a-half staff members RHAP has made a name for itself in South African policy and medical circles in less than two years.
Seeking an avenue for their voices to be heard, RuDASA (Rural Doctors Association of South Africa) and other medical associations devoted to rural healthcare joined together with leading NGOs and academic institutions to create the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) in 2009. Over the years, it had become increasingly apparent to these healthcare professionals that South Africa outright ignored or would not address healthcare specifically in rural settings. So they took it upon themselves to develop an initiative that would not only create and propose innovative policies for the government to consider implementing, but also begin to address the myriad problems that these practitioners and their patients face on a daily basis.
Since then, RHAP has been at the forefront of taking the data crunched by the Wits Centre for Rural Health on health outcomes and developing policies shaped by the NGO Section27’s vaunted legal tactics to South Africa’s Ministry of Health and other government bodies.
In its relatively short existence, it has become the leading voice for rural health policy that the government seeks out and to which it pays attention. RHAP also has the support and buy-in of the disparate healthcare practitioner’s organizations, including the rural doctors association, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and other healthcare workers’ groups.
RHAP has pioneered an approach by which it is able to score the South African government’s proposed policies on their ability to be implemented in a rural context. RHAP has also been adept at proposing solutions to South Africa’s crisis in adequately staffing its rural hospitalities and facilities, even proposing a revision to the government’s medical service officer personnel policy, which has already been implemented in Kwazulu-Natal province after deliberately building media attention on the issue.
RHAP has also become the de facto ombudsman and quasi-inspector general for rural health workers. Working for government-managed health facilities in rural settings often means that these workers feel pressure to not speak out on problems, whether those problems be drug shortages, poor management practices or missing funds. These workers can now raise their concerns with RHAP, who in turn then takes them directly to the provincial health ministry, the media or the national health ministry in order to find solutions that benefit the patients and rural workers.
RHAP’s core innovation is its “rural-proofing” assessment to which it has subjected South African government policy to score and then recommend changes. It developed the rural-proofing assessment by consulting with the rural health workers closely and also by studying health policies and outcomes from other countries. The credibility that this “rural-proofing” gives RHAP has allowed it to also take up thorny issues with the government that are brought to it by government health workers. Due to the political pressures that district and provincial health authorities feel, they tend to ignore or do not want to act on legitimate complaints and issues that could undermine their work. By involving RHAP, health workers are able to circumvent these politics and reduce any negative repercussions they could face by speaking out.
One other innovation that became readily apparent is that RHAP is not creating its own advocacy juggernaut. RHAP has been incredibly smart in zeroing in on rural health needs, developing its credibility on those, and then piggybacking on the health advocacy work of other community organisations and institutions to infuse a rural perspective that would ordinarily be lacking. In these resource-constrained times for South African’s NGO sector, this has proven hugely beneficial and has resulted in a very lean advocacy machine.
RHAP’s efforts directly address MDGs 4 (reduce child mortality), 5 (improve maternal health) and 6 (fight HIV, malaria and other diseases). They envision a society where rural citizens are just as healthy as their fellow citizens in urban and suburban areas. We at ONE can’t wait to see that day.
Dec 5th, 2012 1:07 PM UTC
By Malaka Gharib
Positive-Generation, a Cameroon-based advocacy organization that fights for health rights for HIV-positive people, received the $100,000 prize for the 2012 ONE Africa Award today at the GAVI Alliance Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The annual award is given to the African organisation that shows the most promise in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Dr. Sipho Moyo, ONE’s Africa Director said, ” I continue to be awed by how much Africa contributes towards it’s own progress and that of mankind. Africa is rising against all odds, led by its own innovative indigenous solutions. We gather today to celebrate the contribution of an organization that is one among many, that are a leading light on this journey of socio-economic transformation and empowerment in Africa. It’s our great privilege to offer the 2012 ONE Africa Award to Positive-Generation”.
A crowd of guests from the GAVI Partners Forum, Tanzanian journalists, local ONE volunteers, ONE staffers from Johannesburg, DC and London, attended the Africa Award ceremony. The Honorable Zitto Kabwe and GAVI Alliance Chair Dagfinn Hoybraten gave remarks on ONE’s work on the continent.
The effectiveness of advocacy was the recurring theme of the event. Positive-Generation (PG) Executive Director Fogué Foguitoexplained that “advocacy allows [HIV-positive] people to participate in the decision-making process in their lives,” both empowering them, creating a sense of community and ensuring their rights to HIV treatment.
“We dedicate this prize to all those who struggle for freedom, social justice and particularly to the young Africans who are engaged daily to improve the living conditions of their fellow citizens,” he said.
ONE was praised for our advocacy work by both Mr. Kabwe and Mr. Hoybraten. Mr. Kabwe said that our through policy intervention on the continent is the reason why he’s been “supporting ONE all the way” and signing our petitions.
Mr. Hoybraten discussed the critical need for advocacy in global health development. “The fact that this year’s winner focuses on innovative advocacy for health makes this an even more special occasion,” he said. “Innovation is what GAVI is all about – from technological innovations in vaccines and vaccine delivery, to GAVI’s public-private business model. And good health, particularly through immunization, is key to economic development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”
He also reflected on ONE’s work in calling on world leaders to fund GAVI last year, and thanked ONE members for advocating for vaccines.
To find out what Positive-Generation plans to do with the prize money, read our interview with Fogué. For specific updates, photos and quotes from today’s events, read live blog of the Africa Award ceremony here.
Join us in congratulating Positive-Generation by leaving a comment and liking their Facebook page.
Nov 15th, 2012 5:08 PM UTC
By Katherine Lay
A Development-Driven Consensus to Improve Africa’s Natural Resource Governance
Africa’s natural resources are an untapped catalyst for massive socio-economic growth. With accountable leadership, responsible investment and the right regulations in place, the natural resource sector can spur Africa’s development trajectory into the stratosphere.
This was the conclusion of participants in the BBC’s Africa Debate on 26th October, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 8th African Development Forum. Both the debate and the forum tried to answer the same question: can Africa overcome its natural resource curse and manage its abundant resource endowments for the benefit of its people rather than the bank accounts of political and corporate elites?
After alerting members to the upcoming debate, ONE received a record number of comments and tweets responding to this question. Your concerns focused on the critical problem of corrupt natural resource management by both governments and multinational corporations, and your emphasis on the disconnect between state and society on resource policy and practice made clear that the relationship of accountability between governments and citizens has broken down.
Participants in the Africa Debate highlighted these concerns. They reached a swift consensus: mismanagement, graft and corporate tax evasion in the natural resource sector are robbing citizens of the revenues needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to deliver essential services that remain non-existent for people across the continent. The gap between rich and poor in Africa is growing, and will not be bridged unless accountable governments and companies commit to an equitable pro-poor development approach to natural resource exploitation rooted on strong political will, visionary corporate leadership and an empowered civil society that, together, build partnerships for change.
The African Development Forum also produced a consensus. Its 800 delegates endorsed a formal Consensus Statement suggesting better ways in which Africa can use its natural resources for people-centered sustainable development. It’s a consensus that recognizes that although Africa has shown strong economic growth over the last decade, it still faces the challenge of translating this into effective poverty reduction, quality social services and opportunities for political and economic participation. With the number of youth in Africa set to double by 2045 – and with 27 percent of them currently unemployed – harnessing the natural resource sector to create jobs isn’t just crucial for social cohesion and stability, it also generates a virtuous cycle of productivity, innovation and growth.
We need solutions that tap into this productivity and that build platforms for citizen participation in resource governance. Solutions like the Africa Mining Vision, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and other instruments that create a rights-based, transparent and accountable natural resource sector in Africa, and that encourage both governments and companies to improve rather than destroy the social wellbeing of the continent’s citizens.
This Consensus Statement is timely. More reserves of oil, gas and minerals are being discovered each day. Over the next decade, billions of dollars will flow into African countries previously starved of financial capital. These revenue flows must be transparent and regulated through open natural resource governance processes. Secret contracts, tax avoidance and illicit financial outflows from Africa are in no citizen’s interest. You’ve stressed it in your comments and tweets, participants in the Africa Debate echoed it, and delegates to the African Development Forum committed to it: we need to follow the money to make sure that natural resources are transformed from a curse into a catalyst for growth.
Thank you to everyone who submitted questions and comments!
In case you missed it, you can listen to the debate on the BBC website.
Oct 9th, 2012 1:06 PM UTC
By Malaka Gharib
Meet Prezzo, a rapper from Kenya with a big heart, great style and a positive attitude. He just won second place on the latest season of Big Brother Africa, earning him a gig as a ONE Ambassador, tickets to a Jay Z concert in New York City, and a trip to ONE’s Washington DC office.
As an ambassador, he will use his musical influence and star power in Africa to help raise awareness for ONE’s issues on a completely voluntary basis. He’s already done some awesome things for ONE — including designing this amazing “Swagger Farmer” shirt (which is available for purchase here) to help make the concept of farming cool to African youth.
We’ve been waiting for weeks for him to come to ONE’s office to meet the team and learn about our issues, and today was finally that day. In anticipation, we asked ONE members on Twitter and Facebook to submit questions for Prezzo, and we got some great ones from all corners of the globe.
After a short talk with ONE staff, I sat down and asked him a few of those questions. What surprised me was that 1) People knew all about Prezzo’s ambassadorship with ONE! 2) People were really interested in his love life and 3) People wanted to know how his advocacy would affect his music.
In addition to answering ONE members’ questions, he also treated us to a little show, freestyle rapping for ONE staffers (at 9 in the morning, no less!) Listen to it here:
Malaka: First of all — we’ve had about 10 ONE members ask about your relationship with Goldie, a musician from Africa who was also on this season of Big Brother Africa. They want to know: What’s going to happen between you and her?
Prezzo: Goldie is a beautiful person. We had a close relationship in the house, so I don’t see why we can’t have a close relationship outside the house. Everything has a reason. We just have to wait and see.
Peris Mugwe, via Facebook: What are you planning on doing with your “Swagger Farmer” idea?
I want to work hand-in-hand with ONE, and I am more than willing to put my contributions out there. I already came up with that slogan, “Swagger Farmer,” and hopefully it will attract a lot of people and youngsters. The more farmers we have, the less chances we have for Africans to suffer from malnutrition and poverty.
Jane Peter Mhina, via Facebook: Are you ready to commit yourself to your duties as a ONE ambassador?
I’m ready. I was born ready like Freddy. Like I said before — I look up to someone like Bono [ONE's co-founder] because he’s a celebrity with a good cause behind him. It’s good to give back. I’m here in the ONE Campaign office right now and we’re having a conversation on working toward a way forward. I am at ONE’s service.
A clip of Prezzo on Big Brother Africa:
@c_uzie, via Twitter: What impact do you hope to make in Kenya & Africa as a ONE Ambassador?
I am sure there are graphs of progress with the ONE Campaign. In my term, I want us to look at the graph and see some changes. I have a lot of friends who are musicians as well who can help spread the word across the continent. Thanks to Big Brother Africa, I have a wide net now. There’s a lot of change that can be made out there. I’m not going to be the one, but one of the people making the change. Together with the other artists and the youth, all they need is the opportunity.
Listen to a sample of Prezzo’s music here:
@paulanxtone via Twitter: Do we expect new songs from Prezzo as a way of creating awareness of extreme poverty and preventable disease?
Most definitely. I don’t think I should be sharing this with the whole world, but I am working with the same people that I was telling you about, my artist friends. With the Internet, you don’t need to be in the same room to record a collaboration. I want to get a few names from each and every country in Africa, have a theme, a song like “Heal the World” kind of theme, and join that together with Channel O [a music channel in Africa], MTV and ONE to help get the message across. I want to look at this as playing soccer. I’m the striker, you’re the keeper, everyone’s playing a role in it, and together the chances coming a winner is very high. I don’t want a one man show. If I have support from other people the message will be easily taken across.
@nyalolwe via Twitter: What do you think the youth can do to change corrupt leaders?
I think what the youth can do to make change is cast their votes wisely. Don’t cast your votes based on hearsay or what you’ve received from an individual. Don’t think just five years down the line. Think 10 years, three or four terms ahead. If you vote for the right leaders, we wont have to worry about the politicians, just other issues. The vote really matters.
Malaka: Which issues are you closest to? Why?
Back home, we have a lot of children’s homes. My mom and I normally give donations to a children’s home called Mama Fatuma every Friday, because it’s near the town where I grew up. There’s also a place called New Life Home, where I got two beautiful sisters and one brother. The kids from that home are brought there because parents think they are HIV-positive, but sometimes they end up being HIV-negative, thanks to medication and care. I believe that there is a god out there, and he is not going to let a child suffer because of a parent’s mistakes. God works in mysterious ways.
Malaka: Any last words for our ONE members?
Mine is really a statement: I’m happy and proud to be here. I was even happier when I saw people rocking the T-shirts [ONE staffers were wearing Prezzo's design when he walked into the ONE office]. I just want ONE members to know that I’m at your service. Whatever you guys would want from me, I’m just a phone call away. I’m very committed to the ONE Campaign and was waiting for an opportunity like this. God has given me a platform to prove what kind of individual Prezzo really is.
Got a question for Prezzo? Tweet it to him at @AMB_Prezzo or leave it in a comment below.
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