Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Ethan Zuckerman has posted roundups on Africans talking about Live 8 here and here and blogs about it himself. Please do read these. They are an important voice.

Ethan is clearly weary and skeptical as are many of the Africans. I can understand this. However, I think Live 8 is a good thing. Although the concert may not have the effect on the G8 meeting that some people hope it will, I think that the concern will reach a broad audience and increase awareness. We should not forget how few people even realize there is a problem in Africa. I understand the arguments about nuances and stereotyping. They are valid. But I believe the benefits outweigh the costs in such an effort to "get the word out". The average person won't get the nuance. Not yet at least.

Also, I don't think it's fair to slam people for having fun or for the promoters for trying to add to their career. I think it's all part of getting things like this to happen. If you read any of the books or diaries of leaders of the various political movements and protests in the 60's, most of them were having a lot of fun. That didn't make the movements less effective or relevant.

QTVR Photo of Live 8 goers having fun in Philadelphia by Hans Nyberg

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OTOH, LiveAid '85 didn't increase awareness, so it's natural that most Africans are sceptical.

It's all very good "getting the word out" about poverty in Africa but glib attempts at like Live 8 that suggest that the cause of Africa's ills is Western indiference do nothing to actually tackle the real problem in Africa, and that's governance. Sure, forgive the debt, that's not a bad thing, but we'll all be back here in 5 or 10 years time when all the corrupt leaders have spent their interest savings on brand new Mercedes Benz's and have run up the debt again and the same people promoting Live 8 will be saying the same rubbish again. At the end of the day there will never be a solution to the problems of Africa without tackling the issue of corrupt and poor governance.

Yes, I agree. I guess my position is that Live 8 doesn't replace anything that we are or should be doing. It just provides additional attention. I agree that it does add to certain understandings and stereotypes that are not constructive, but now at least we now have an opportunity to talk about it. If you see someone with a Live 8 T-Shirt on, I'm sure you'll get a better response to the question, "you know, the real problem in Africa is not... but rather..." than if they didn't have that T-Shirt on. I think the key is to follow up and agument what is going on right now with dialog about the issues and to amplify the voices of the African bloggers and others who have important views on the topic.

"This is simply an exercise in white, Western megalomania."

From an African blogger who has a lot more to say on this:

"Weary" is an interesting word, Joi - I need to think about how that does and doesn't fit what I'm feeling right now. "Skeptical" is one I'll embrace wholeheartedly.

I think what I find so tricky about Live 8 - and about large-scale relief and development efforts - is that people want so badly to do good things, and that it turns out to be so difficult to actually accomplish those goals.

When the Boxing Day tsunami took place, millions of people around the world rallied, raised money, kept the issue in the media and the blogosphere. Unfortunately, six months later, reality has intruded and there's been very little reconstruction - politics on the ground have paralyzed most rebuilding, and help up critical aid in Sri Lanka. Agreed, this doesn't mean that the world's laudable reaction to the tsunami was a bad thing, or that people shouldn't have raised the money - just that the awareness and fundraising is only a small part of the problem.

Live 8, as I see it, isn't trying to address relief issues but development issues, which are longer-term, more complex and involve deeply entrenched powers. What a lot of my African blogger friends have been pointing out is that the slogans being promoted by Live 8 may not actually be such good things. Debt relief? A two edged sword, which has the potential to make it difficult for countries to borrow more funds in the future. More aid? Not a good thing unless there's sufficient transparency and governance on the ground to ensure it isn't embezzeled. Fair trade? Absolutely - but I'm having a hard time believing the huge concessions that would need to be made will take place.

Is this an opportunity to help people understand the nuance? I hope so, and that's what I've been trying to do. And I'm with you on the notion that people need to have fun while accomplishing change. I guess I continue to be skeptical on whether change is going to come out of this...

Hello there, I am from Mali living in Japan.

Personally I support Live8 and all the thoughts behind this event.
However the main problem in Africa is corruption.
And this problem is not solved with liveAid or other events.
This event might even not be recoginzed in Africa itself. Which is very sad.

If you ever have the change to go to Africa, take it. You will see that we take
things very slowly and see the world with different eyes as westeners do.

Africa will be a continent one time but it needs its OWN time.

I get the point. Yours and Zuckerman's. I support Live8, but I can see the contrattictions in this kind of things.
I'm trying to express it by some Rome Live8 videoes I shooted and I'm editign. I'm releasing them under Creative Commons. Hope you would watch at least one of them.

I took a weekend trip from Japan to London to see the concert and was in the front ten rows at Hyde Park (to happily fulfil my lifelong dream of seeing Pink Floyd reunited). I have been trying to tell people about how great it was to be there, but it takes about two hours :)

There have been many, many criticisms of the event, but I agree with Joi that raising awareness is the main issue. For the past six weeks in the UK (and around the world) Africa's problems have been at the top of the global agenda. That simply would not have happened without this event. And it will continue to be a point of reference in the future, as the original Live Aid was. (After that event Geldolf realised that individual charity, while noble, was simpy not getting the job done). Even those who complain about St. Bob's methods must surely agree that, even if there is no clear solution, there is now a dialogue on the problems. Even the blogger who racistly complains about "white megalomania" is still an important part of the dialogue. (Although his argument is misguided: the issue is not about helping "blacks" but about helping other humans, not because we seek power over them, but because we are lucky enough to be in a position to help.)

I completely agree with the premise of the concert that Africa's problems cannot be solved with charity or aid, but by multifacted action on trade, aid and corruption and motre. The organisers and participants are well aware that these problems can be solved simply through a concert, but it's a start. Critisizing them for being simplistic, is way off the mark.

The death of one child is a tradgedy; don't let the death of thousands just be a statistic. If that means creating a concert, or donating some money or volunteering, at least keep the issue in our minds so that we can work together with Africa to stop these children dying unecessarily.

Hello everybody, I just happened on an interview with a kenyan economist by the name of James Shikwati whose general response to the possibility of more monetary aid for africa was not to do it. He sees the prime reason for the state the continent is in in misguided western aid. As in the road to hell is paved with good intentions....
If foreign aid was abolished most africans on the street wouldn't even notice. The money is just used to uphold powerfull and corrupt bureucracies.
The problem with free food from the western country is that it makes african farmers not farm anymore since produce from the west is sold at low prices on the black market, same goes for dressmakers and donations of cloth by the way. One more reason why no reseve stocks exist, it's just not worth it. And this way africans are raised so they learn dependence.
As soon as there is a famine african leaders cry for help from the west instead of trying to solve the problem on their own. Like for example kenyans could start up trade relations with Tansania or Uganda.
Again I just reproduce his statements from a recent interview in "Der Spiegel" a german magazine.


So what should we do? Say if we (Europe, Japan, the US) were to build a two-lane paved, flat, straight road from the north to the south and the east to the west of Africa, thereby opening a few of the countries to trade, would that help?

Antoin - both practically and symbolically, that would be a very good idea. A number of smart economists believe that one of the major factors contributing to African poverty is the isolation between individual African nations. (Nancy Birdsall, an American development economist, is fond of asking people whether some of the US's more rural, isolated states - say Mississippi - would have had a difficult path to development between 1950 and today had they not been part of the larger nation.)

I find, when I'm in West Africa, I often need to travel back to Europe to go from one country to another, because road and air links are so poor nation to nation. So yes, good roads would be a big deal especially if those roads were accompanied by the lowering of tarrif barriers, the phase-out of subsidies and a change in European consumers' perceptions of Africa...

(Love that you're trying to find a logistics solution to this problem, Antoin...)

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趕緊上傳成績(唉,又是全校最後一人),整理完兩天全球live8的照片與相關外電,反省與批評,打發實習生後,我趕著最後一班公車上山。經過辦公室旁邊的佛教新店慈濟醫院,兩名坐在人行 Read More

I just want to point out that Joi's recent entry on the whole Live 8 thing has the best comment stream I've seen over there in a long time. (Sorry Joi... it's not you, it's the nutjobs and relentless pessimists... Read More

Since you’re reading this, I’m pretty certain you’d found it impossible to avoid the week-long wall-to-wall coverage of Live8 — Bob Geldof’s pet project to raise awareness for the Make... Read More