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October 12, 2009

Wyclef's thought that counts

Nairobi put on a good show Saturday night at the annual MTV Africa Music Awards. There was more talent (Nigeria's D'Banj, Kenya's own Nameless), style (tight dresses, shiny sunglasses), celebrity (Akon, Wyclef Jean) than this city usually sees. I can't judge how it looked on TV but inside the hall it was a pretty great party.

WyclefAs the host, Wyclef brought his A-game, a pleasant surprise to those of us accustomed to big stars coming to Africa and putting on lackluster performances (I'm talking about you, Ja Rule, and you, Mos Def). Wyclef even went topical, at one point bringing a chef onstage to talk about Kenya's current food crisis.

What's the one thing Kenya needs to stave off a food disaster, the chef was asked. "Seeds," he responded, as the crowd cheered. Kenyans need help growing more of their own food, he went on. They don't want handouts.

Then Wyclef looked into the camera and made a plea to viewers -- to donate to the World Food Program. The massive U.N. agency that provides food handouts by the megaton to crisis zones, and is sometimes accused of distorting local agricultural markets and criticized for buying the bulk of its food from American farmers. The exact opposite, I think, of what the chef intended.

Wyclef is a smart guy, thoughtful, deeply committed to the plight of his troubled homeland of Haiti. He got this one wrong. Then again, I'm not sure how many people in that rocking, booze-soaked concert hall noticed.


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Andrea Bohnstedt

I'm completely with you - donations to the WFP are really not the solution. I'm astonished how our ever dedicated, ever hardworking politicians stare at the dry countryside, and skinny people, and dying cattle, with wide-eyed wonder - like the drought is a once-in-a-lifetime, totally and utterly surprising occurrence.

However, as much as I usually love to hate celebrities doing charity in Africa, I can't really get upset about this one. Wyclef came and played and was fantastic, in contrast to people like Bono who play their concerts elsewhere, and only come to Africa to talk about throwing more donations at it. Oh, and Wyclef took his clothes off .... :)

Shashank Bengali

Agreed, Wyclef was on good form -- and it seems like all the ladies enjoyed the completely unnecessary strip show that he and Akon provided...


I think you give Wyclef too much credit!!!

Oscar in Miami Beach

Countries as people have to pull themselves from their disasters.Africans do not want to get out of the hole because it they do they have to go to work and they would lose all those charity $s that the likes of Bono,Oprah,Brad Pitt,Angie Jolie,etal...are pouring in by the truckload.It is more comfortable to stay home and cry poverty than to have get up at dawn to go to work.Africa is used to the handout and does not intent to change.We have to change and force them to do.

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Somewhere in Africa was written by McClatchy correspondent Shashank Bengali, who covered sub-Saharan Africa from 2005 to 2009. He's now based in Washington, D.C., as a national correspondent.

Read Shashank's stories at news.mcclatchy.com or send him a story idea.


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