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.
As 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.