Back in the summer of 2009, (Man! How time flies!) I had a chance to chat with Ida Horner via Skype for the first time after being virtually introduced via Twitter & Facebook. Ida is based in Surrey, England (don’t let the London Eye tag in the video fool you, we waxed poetic on development at a pub under the London Eye on our first face-to-face meeting last October) and is the founder of Ethnic Supplies, an organization that sources handmade jewelry and crafts from several East African countries.
Put succinctly, Ethnic Supplies is an outlet shop for the best that #brandafrica has to offer in terms of handmade crafts ranging from Madagascar wild silk scarfs, to baskets from Rwanda, and jewelry from Uganda.
Ida is quite the vocal proponent of rebranding Africa as we know it, by actively broadcasting the positive side of developments in Africa. For far too long, Western media has branding the golden microphone on the story of Africa. For a time (okay, roughly a century) it seemed that everyone that came up to the microphone was following the same script when it came to news on Africa; Violence, starvation, death, and general anarchy. Without the above as leading material, you might as well change the channel.
But that status quo is changing. Thanks to social media, the intricacies of story-telling have allowed the African diaspora to become armed with the true version of events, or at the very least, the flip side of the “single story” symptom that Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie so eloquently described. It is become easier and easier to discover members of the diaspora coming to the podium to tell the whole story on Africa. A sign that Africa isn’t simply consuming what the web has to offer, but actively contributing to it’s own collective cloud intelligence.
At the recently concluded Ugandan diaspora summit in Kampala, I had the pleasure of watching Ida take Uganda’s government to task on following through with their promises on laying proper infrastructures for more effective diaspora participation in economic development. For Ida, it seems, laying that groundwork starts with the political elite starting to respect the diaspora as a transformational force, not just as a simple constituency easily-satisfied with political propaganda and party bylines.
But it’s not always as simple as taking the microphone, overcoming the dangers of the single story sometimes involves doing, not just talking. Ida has of late become a pusher for integrating social media as a development and communication tool African organizations and governments alike can use to elevate their profiles and attract Western clients. She’s recently advised Rwanda and Ugandan government officials on how to do just that.
Social media truly is playing a critical role in how the African Diaspora connects and communicates across vast distances to collaborate on projects in Africa. 6 months on, I am still amazed at the speed of developments and the continued collaborations with Ida and Ethnic Supplies.
It should be noted that Ethnic Supplies has become a major partner to the Women of Kireka project. Her recent stop at the quarry to visit the women was a welcome highlight and morale booster for the women.
Keep your eye on Ida Horner, she’s primed to do great things in 2010 and beyond.