Yolanda wrote yesterday about 50 Cent and his new philanthropic endeavor. Feed one billion Africans. The question was about what we thought of this new "project" that involves us buying his new energy drink? I thought of answering as a comment. Then, I decided to turn it into a post. So, here we go.
I'm a fan of TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, Out of Print Clothing and the general one-for-one give-back business model. I like when people come up with creative ways to solve a problem. So, a part of me after watching the video and reading about the initiative went, "hmm...okay. A lot of people are currently dying of hunger in the Horn of Africa. Plus, 50 Cent looks quite vulnerable and honest in that video. So, this effort should be applauded...but hold on". I think the one-for-one business model works well when it's things like books or glasses, but when it's about food, something that makes a difference between life and death, I start asking questions. Why is profit tied into this? What if we decide we don't want to purchase the energy drink? Do people still get fed? Why not just encourage people to donate to the organizations on the ground right now distributing food? I know, I know, the money might just get that tied in their bureaucratic blah blah blah...I get it, I get it.
Here's a better idea, though. On something completely un-related to hunger. If a celebrity were to ask me about one idea that would really make an impact, here's what I would suggest:One of the biggest problems facing a lot of African countries (like many countries elsewhere) is Unemployment. Especially Youth Unemployment. Many times, a lot of young people have ideas but they don’t have the capital to get it started, or the know-how to build something up, manage it and make it grow.
You want to make a difference, Mr/Mrs. Celebrity? You (help) organize a business/entrepreneurship contest, either at one university or on a national level for young people. This is about "the next big idea". You choose the best ideas you see. You pair them with business people as mentors. You could (i mean, should) even serve as a mentor, since your brand is essentially a business and you're a celebrity, so naturally young people feel like you understand them.
You help them write a business plan. You help them secure capital. Or you work with an organization that does that. You build relationships with them and you stay in touch with them about how their business is evolving. You advise them through challenges. You make a catch to this help that you're providing. As their business grows, they have to give back to their communities, in one form or another. If this works, you take it to another country and do the same thing. You multiply your influence, you multiply your impact.
But the results aren't as quick as getting food in the plates of one billion Africans though. It's not as sexy either. It's definitely not as sexy.
That's my two-cent on that. Yep, it's a bad pun.
P.S. This is not just for 50 Cent, but to all non-Africans who do this. When you mention something about Africa, say what part of Africa you're talking about. Which country? Which region? Just saying "Africa" doesn't create a picture we can see in our heads. Are we supposed to picture villages or skyscrapers? Hotel rooms or hospital beds? Just saying "Africa" creates this overly vague image in your listeners'minds about the continent and it's so 2000-and late. So, stop it!- The Management