After Vuvuzela- What Next?

862 views Published on 13th July 2010

“It was business doing pleasure with you…!” Gado’s cartoon declares in the July 12, 2010 issue of the Daily Nation. The cartoonist depicts well fed characters walking away with briefcases full of dollars while Africans stare at them outside a FIFA World Cup stadium. The South Africa FIFA World Cup is over, Spain is the winner – but just who owns the Vuvuzela? The cartoonist’s characterization of Africans holding Vuvuzelas as millions walk away must get us to rethink our strategies.

Vuvuzela’s origins are not clear. Freddie Maake (53) and Neil Van Schalkwykl (36) have both been quoted in the media laying claim to inventing the “vuvuing” instrument. Many African communities have used blowing of horns from both cattle and wild animals to summon people to meetings or announce important events. With millions of Vuvuzela’s now on sale globally, it is a wake up call to all that commercialization culture will simply rob the continent of wealth if proper intellectual property protection is not enforced. As the cartoonist illustrated, we will simply wallow in the pleasure (which lasts for a short while) as wealth goes elsewhere. 

Kenya has its own versions of “Vuvuzela’s” that are always playing in political functions. For some strange reason; the African cultural system where young people respected the old was overturned by the monetary incentives – it’s now the old that “Vuvu” for young sons and daughters in political office. If we do not seek to protect the indigenous instruments and the key sounds they produce – when Kenya finally hosts Olympics, the FIFA World Cup or any event of similar magnitude; the Chinese will walk away with the dollars.

The Vuvuzela ownership dispute aside; the drowning sounds of bees it produces teach us a vital lesson in investing in culture of growing markets. In Pre – South Africa World Cup, no one would have taken you seriously if you tried to market the bee sound as part of an expression of excitement. Through sports, now it has become acceptable. Most likely with noise anti pollution rules, the instrument itself will still claim space in offices and people’s shelves. Without blowing into it, one will still associate the instrument with times of extreme anxiety (when favorable team was on the edge) and excitement (whenever one’s team won).

The FIFA World Cup event in South Africa has exposed the fact that this continent always looses on the profit drive and settles on the pleasure side.  For instance, political leadership is always keen to mimic the grandiose lifestyle of Western counterparts and ignore their local “Vuvuzela.” The Westerners make profit out of such an attitude, and whenever they land on the continent – they transform the ignored into valuable assets. To name but a few of our ignored Vuvuzelas: Land (Ethiopia now leasing to foreigners 1 acre for 1 dollar for 100 years!); culture, art and music (watch the nearest Television Station); indigenous medicine (study the Chinese approach) and finally African people (listen keenly to the politicians – we are simply voters – nothing else!)

Pleasure is a good thing, but business is what makes the world go round. After blowing our ears deaf with the Vuvuzela’s, we must take a moment to reignite Africa’s quest to become key players in the global economy. Patents, copyrights, and protection of the continents intellectual property must be part of the strategy to make commercialization work for us. A culture of financing and long term focus on growing business will help transform the latent energies locked up on the continent. Congratulations to victors Spain and to South Africa for successfully hosting the FIFA 2010 World Cup. Vuuuuuuvuuuu – this print version is safer with National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) laws!

By James Shikwati

James Shikwati james@irenkenya.org is Director, Inter Region Economic Network.


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