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A few weeks ago, myself and a few other Lancaster Photographers grabbed our gear, went downtown, set up shop, and took portraits in a give back gesture. We also had other volunteers that included make-up artists, hair stylists, and many other volunteers. I grabbed my light and handy Elinchrom Ranger RX battery power pack that makes my on location photography so seamless. For light modification, I took the elinchrom rotalux deep octa 27″ softbox which is also handy; small, but big enough for individual portraits and small group photos. It is not heavy, and if your are shooting inside  where there is no wind, there is hardly any need for sandbags. I am a fun of one light photography, and the elinchrom system gets the results for me. I also had a the Westcott 40″ – 5 in one reflector which I found no need for as I found another photographer with a similar set up (I used their neat brown paper backdrop) for these photographs below.

Back to giving back to Lancaster! When scripture says it is better to give than to receive, it is very hard for us to believe, or even process! For boy, I love receiving. I love gifts, I love free stuff. I love to receive! In fact, if you and I stop right now and reflect a little bit about that, the truth will at first, slowly sift into our minds and then suddenly bring us to the realization that every one loves to receive. To love them, as we are commanded to love one another as ourselves, would imply that we need to give to people, because if we wear their shoes for one passing moment, we will understand only too well what it would mean to them. But that’s not the bottomline. How can giving be better than receiving? Well, if you have ever been on the side of giving; and I don’t mean those instances when you share leftovers or pass on used clothing; the genuine “it costs me something” giving, you realize that the genuine happiness of the recepient gives you some inner satisfaction and joy that one can’t buy. This exactly what happened to most of us when we went out to offer free professional portraits to families and children. Boy, the photos from that event are some of my all time favorite!

I hope that you too will give or continue giving back to your community. Everyone has something to give. I do not have a lot of money to give, but I have gifts and talents and abilities, and so do you. Everyone has something to give. Do not hoard it, give it back. I can’t wait to give back in this same way to my Ugandan community in Kampala, Gulu, Mbale, everywhere, and of course to Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Burundi, South Africa and Jamaica…oh, I want to give photos, photos, photos! Please continue checking the progress with our new initiative, VillageServe, coming soon. Together, through this social enterprise, we will give back and impact thousands of small farmers in Africa.

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Nov.29 2011, posted in Africa

My photo-blogsite is not just a place for photo blogs, weddings, engagements, etc. It is also my platform from which my voice about Africa can be heard. As an African migrant living in America – a very wealthy country, I desire to see some of that wealth transferred into Africa through creating business opportunities (for both Africans and Americans). Yet, solutions to Africa’s problems of poverty, hunger (famine), disease (HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, etc) and conflict (civil wars, coup de tats etc) corruption and a host of other problems  lie in economic empowering of the masses through jobs creation through business opportunities. Even though we have seen again and again that the old way of doing charity doesn’t work, that is still the common practice.

Make no mistake! Africa is the last frontier (read the definition of market frontier here, only that part!)  in terms of investing in Africa, and the time for investing in Africa is now! According to The Next-Web, within the next 4 years, mobile growth and penetration is set to increase by a staggering 60%, bringing the total number of cell phone and mobile computing system owners to about 1 billion people! Now that is phenomenal. It is therefore not rocket science that people who invest in technological applications, data services, mobile apps, etc will reap big. It also means that there is still room for newer or foreign telecommunications companies such as the UK’s O2 to enter the African market and earn a buck. But most importantly, it means that African entrepreneurs, investors and developers are presented with an opportunity of a lifetime.

There are many growth areas in Africa. Agriculture, housing construction and infrastructure development, mining and manufacturing; all these are areas still in their infancy or totally untapped but promise a lot potential. For someone trying to reap big, Africa is no longer that place that you shun as volatile, unstable, etc. Recent history shows us, as Reuters News put it two years ago while quoting the BRIC Report, that it as risky to invest in Africa as it is to invest on Wall Street. So the wise investor will spread their capital across the spectrum but the wiser investor must include Africa in their investment plans. If I were the chief executive of a technology or telecommunications company such as the UK’s O2, I would seriously push to invest in Africa. This Wall Street Journal Report gives as a snapshot on how some investors including big name organizations such as Wall-mart have found their way into Africa even though the same report is quick to underscore how small businesses and enterprises are finding it difficult to raise money.

If you are entrepreneur looking to invest in Africa, regardless of your weight, you could talk to investment advisory firms such as the Africa Maven Group which is made of young African entrepreneurs looking to establishing connections and advisory for business and people looking to invest in Africa. As most of you know, I am working hard to push our non profit social enterprise for Africa called VillageServe that will work to provide opportunities for village communities in Africa through training, providing start up costs and creating vast markets (investing in small farmers of Africa). Please contact me if you have more questions about this program and how you can be involved.

 

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Around 1960, the world’s population was about 3 billion. By the turn of the last century, the population had doubled! Today, the population, according to data from the UN Population Fund will hit the magic figure; 7 billion. The BBC has an online application that if you place into the box your date, month and year that you were born, it will show where you fit in the 7 billion. For example, if I were born on June 25, 1983, I was the 4,693,296,339th person to be alive, and the 79,424,999,362nd to have ever lived. Whether this algorithm is on the mark or not is very inconsequential. The fact of the matter is that humanity is around the 7 billion point now, and counting. By 2050, all things remaining constant, we will be about 9.3 billion people. If you are my age, or 35 years and below, the odds are that you could be alive; and the signs are that (if we stay with business as usual), it will be a difficult time.

Let’s bring 7 billion people into perspective. What does it really mean in very ordinary terms? It means more cars, more homes, more mouths. It means more hunger, more deforestation, more poverty, and more conflict. It means less food, less water, it simply means less of everything that we need. There is no doubt that conflicts around the world will continue to be resource based. It will not be about oil, gold or diamonds. This time, it will be about food and water. Already, we have witnessed a slew of corporations and countries running to Africa in search of cheap land and water to feed their populations. But in the places where they seek these resources, populations are growing unchecked, while resources continue to dwindle.

Poverty is very closely connected with bad environmental practices in the third world. Paradoxically, it is even worse in richer countries, where hunger, conflict and diseases are not a major worry. But in many third world countries, the tree cover has vanished due to massive encroachment on natural vegetation by local populations who lack alternative sources of energy. Environmental degradation is in all time highs, food yields have drastically declined and water sources are drying. The ramifications of climate change affect everybody, and yet, we don’t seem to be united in effecting meaningful change to bad practices and finding long term solutions. It is not lost on the whole world that the United States, the world’s biggest emitter of green house gases shied away from signing the Kyoto Protocol (1997). It is almost 20 years later and one can’t imagine the changes that could have happened had the USA taken the lead and shown commitment to this global challenge that we all face.

The solutions that Africa need are well known and they are achievable. Africa is a dumping site for old Asian vehicles, especially from Japan, and this could change if Africa invested more in durable infrastructure that would give people the confidence to start investing in newer vehicles and vehicle manufacturing plants. But this could be considered a minor problem as more than 90 percent of the Sub Saharan African population still can’t afford a used vehicle, or even costs of maintaining one. The real problem is energy for home consumption. Rural electrification in Sub Sahara Africa is at 12 percent. Yes, one, two, three…thirteen, fourteen percent! Even in Urban Sub Sahara Africa, electricity access is at about 55 percent. In short, more than 45% of the people that dwell in urban areas do not have electricity. And that’s not all, in the cities, the other 45% who have electricity, they probably don’t have it all week and sporadically experience power outages during the week. And to bring it further home, only about 5 to 10 percent of the 45 percent can afford to use the electricity for cooking, water heating, and other high electric consuming tasks.

Therefore, 90 percent of the rest of the populations in Sub Saharan Africa have their hopes fixed on trees. Not for shade, for beauty, or for the climate but for fuel or firewood. When I was consulting for the Government of Uganda and the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) during the Juba Peace Process, one of the recommendations I made after thoroughly touring Northern Uganda, was to mobilize the communities through radio and have them plant trees, each family a few trees every year. But like most recommendations made to the Ugandan government, it was swept under the rug. 7 billion people today, and a few million following shortly is just not cool. I don’t think that the babies in our bodies are crying out loud to have us produce them. They certainly don’t want to come to this earth that we are simply destroying. They don’t look forward to the tsunamis, the droughts, the landslides, the flooding, the climate change. I bet you, and you know it that they’d rather be where they are right now. That’s how much we have sucked!

So, where doyou fit in the 7 billion? Does it matter? Yes, it does, but only if where you fit isn’t just in the numbers, but in doing things that will consciously improve the place that we live in. We don’t own it. So we must become good stewards.

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Oct.17 2011, posted in film

You want to know who I am? You really want to know? There is a small price to pay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. So only click if you are really curious. And once you are done watching the video, please click this link to learn more.

 

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A girl leans into a dirty stream to collect water for her family in Namalu, Eastern Uganda. Millions lack access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities which is a major contributor to deaths and illnesses of both infants and adults.

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