Monday, March 19, 2012

KONY 2012-Africa should not wait for Garvin to grow up

“The next 27 minutes are an experiment but in order for it to work, you have to pay attention”

These are the words of the narrator one minute thirty six seconds into the new record breaking You Tube documentary video titled KONY 2012. The first few seconds have been devoted to telling the viewer how the world has changed with the advent of instant communication and feedback by the web. The video lets you know that “The rules of the game have changed”

I am not sure what the final aim of the KONY 2012 video makers is about? If the aim was to get people to view the video, then it has been more than successful. Over 100 million viewers have so far seen the KONY 2012. I just checked this morning on You Tube and it has been viewed by over 82 million people on You Tube alone so far. This makes it the most watched video ever on planet earth.

The fact that this record was achieved in so short a time only confirms KONY 2012 producers’ statement  that the world has changed. As the narrator says  “There are more people on Facebook today than they were on planet earth 200 years ago” Most significantly, the population of the earth on Facebook are connectable and connected with a click. Definitely “The rules of the game have changed” and you better understand those rules.

For the fact that KONY 2012 has been such a successful online product in so short a time may just be the proof that the makers of the KONY 2012 understand the new rules of the game. I have looked around the web and have seen more touching videos on KONY made by other organisations like this  .  As you can see, this video to date has had just 1,134 views compared to KONY 2012 over a 100 million views, yet it was uploaded on the web almost a year ago. 

KONY 2012 has also been successful as a commercial product for its makers. As part of the video, the makers of KONY 2012 have also produced souvenirs branded the KONY 2012 KIT.  

 I checked producers’ website this morning (here) the KONY 2012 KIT which cost US$30 per kit were already sold out.  The kit contains a T-shirt, KONY bracelet, Action guide, Stickers, Button and Posters. The bracelet alone goes for US$10.

For me, this looks like one of the most successful fund raising ever done. I am not sure how many packs of the kits were made but imagine if just five per cent of the people who watched the KONY video were persuaded to buy the kits for $30 each, which could be a potential windfall of $150 million. And it could be the fastest money raised in so short a time with so little effort further emphasizing the fact that “The rules of the game have changed”

But while the video has been a run-away success, it seems to have turned a PR disaster for its makers. It has drawn critical attention to the video makers” Invisible Children” so much attention that the founder of Invisible Children is reported to have been arrested which has resulted in several funny videos including this.  

The organisations finances has come under critical scrutiny showing that only about 31% of the funds raised by it is spent in Uganda where it carries out its charity work. In fact a look at the finances shows that Invisible Children spends almost every penny it raises on itself except funds that are specifically raised and tied to causes in Uganda. See the organisations finances here

Also the video says that the rules of the game have changed, but the portrayal of Africa as the begging continent did not change in the movie.

“I am gonna be like you dad, when I grow up. I am gonna come with you to Africa”

These are the final words in the KONY Video from the video maker’s son Garvin who is also the central character in the video. Obviously, he wants to be a “hero” like his dad working in the "dark" continent of Africa to save children from monsters like KONY.

Thus Africa remains the land where those who want to feel good about saving the world come. However, the movie is not really about Africa. It is about Uganda, just one of the 56 countries in Africa. Yet, often in the narration of the movie, Uganda is used interchangeably with Africa as if Uganda is Africa and Africa is Uganda.

Yet “Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² (11.7 million sq mi) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area.[2] With 1.0 billion people (as of 2009, see table), it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population” taking a direct quote from Wikipedia

Here is Uganda on map of Africa 

KONY is  in Africa, but he is in Uganda and a small part of Uganda for that matter not roaming the African continent as if the Africa is a small Island. Actually, he is even said to have left Uganda six years ago, possibly dead or hiding in the bushes between Uganda and its neighbouring countries. He is no longer a factor in the life of Ugandans.

KONY 2012 also seems to have turned KONY into a hero rather than a villain. This is a man accused of the most heinous crimes against humanity yet Bracelets and T-Shirts are being branded in his name. It is difficult to reconcile beautifully branded T-Shirts and bracelets with the evil that KONY represents. Imagine wearing a T-Shirt or bracelet with “Hitler” written on it.

But maybe KONY 2012 is also a wakeup call to Africans generally. There is no doubt that there has been a significant improvement on the continent. We have more democratic and more responsible governments than we have ever had. Our economies are growing faster than we have ever had. Poverty is reducing faster on the continent than we have ever had. There is plenty of good news about Africa that the world is not hearing about. Imagine, if KONY 2012 was a video about the many good things happening in different countries in Africa and not about some monster who vanished six years ago?

So perhaps, before Garvin grows up and starts packing his bags to Africa, we should mobilize and tell the world that people like KONY are in our past.  We must tell our story and let the world know that our Invisible Children are no longer invisible. They are also visibly online and they are conquering global challenges just like any kid in the world.

Africa should  not wait for Garvin to grow up before we start sharing the good news about Africa. Yes, we have our challenges like any other part of the continent, but we are making significant progress. The cup is not half empty, it is half full. 

What do you think? Share your thoughts with a comment below. Also please share the article either on Facebook or twitter or any of the social any networks you are on. Do not be Invisible. 

1 comment:

  1. Am not sure if the writter has been in a war ridden country before. Even a small part of a war troubled country affected by people like Kony is enough to cause trouble. I do not think we need to wait for more people to die or for war to spread to 'significant' portions of a country before we take the lead in blocking it from happening.