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We sell African Photographs for a living. If you are looking for photos of agriculture in Africa, Uganda, Rwanda etc, or looking for photos of education and healthcare in Africa, drop us a line at our contact page here.  If we don’t have what you are looking for, we will know who might help you. For the last year, we have been almost entirely focussed on our start up nonprofit agriculture social enterprise, Hiinga, which works to end extreme hunger, improve food security and nutrition, and raise household incomes for African smallscale farmers. As such, we have been very broke, in debt, and all those things that start-up social entrepreneurs face.

It is always a joy therefore when we receive that e-mail inquiring about licensing some of our African photographs that they found online. Some times this happens when you most need those dollars, even though pretty much need the money all the time, but there are those 11 hour situations. Having been on very many commissioned assignments in Africa for top humanitarian organizations, we have a collection of images that are now beginning to make sense. In the past, image selling didn’t make a huge difference because commissioned assignments brought in enough revenue. But now that we have scaled back on most that, every dime counts. That doesn’t mean we will sell the images for less than they are worth. We still donate images to people and organizations that cannot afford them – we evaluate this on a case by case basis. And you can also make a donation to our nonprofit organization here! And if you were wondering, our agency still takes overseas commissioned assignments in Africa.

Here below are some African agriculture images that we just got an inquiry on. We will be posting more.

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Over the last few days, the #Kony2012 documentary film made by the Invisible Children humanitarian agency has sparked both acclaim and discontent. I am one of the people who has criticised the organization, not just because of the recent film but for the last couple months. My friend and activist, Michael Kirkpatrick authored a stinging critique of the nonprofit 2 years ago called How Invisible Children Falsely Marketed the LRA Disarmament and the Northern Uganda Recovery Act in June of 2010. He received ridicule and even threats. Kirkpatrick’s monologue was nothing short of a vent on the fraud at which the Invisible Children is. And yet, undoubtedly, Invisible Children must have some good intentions with Kony2012, even with its heavy laden flaws. At the very least, even I, the sceptic believes so. But many a Ugandan or African are not pleased with the style with which this narrative has been framed. In fact, it not in a way a departure from the usual western paternalistic approach to global issues. The emerging class of Africans and Ugandans; the cheetah generation will have none of this. And by the way, it does not help much that this #Kony2012 buzz comes on the heels of the resurrected Uganda Homosexuality Bill.

But it’s already here. Invisible Children has created a viral video that for whatever reasons has put Uganda on the forefront of internet media, television and major newsprint for more than two days. What I would like every Ugandan and African lover to ask is this; how can we leverage this massive unprecedented exposure into something, something really good? I have often heard that even bad publicity can be good publicity. I would like to believe it. Musicians have used it to sell records, and so on and so on. Stanford Graduate School of Business says this of bad publicity:  ”in some cases negative publicity can increase sales when a product or company is relatively unknown, simply because it stimulates product awareness.” That’t exactly my point. Uganda was hardly known. The aging class that could still remotely relate Uganda to the mayhem of Idi Amin was quickly fading. But now Uganda is back in the main stream. It is now even a phrase, you didn’t know? Uganda be kidding me!

True, if you live in the west, many people maystill ask you where Uganda is on the map or if you lived in a tree or something…it doesn’t matter. For now, at least for now, Uganda will be fresh in their memory, they will know it’s a country – even if they may not know where it is in Africa! If you are African and you are not from Uganda, do not be offended if some student or the guy in the grocery store thinks you are from Uganda or Central Africa. You are African, that’s what matters! Many may start thinking that Uganda is Africa or narrowed down to Central Africa, even though it is in East Africa. That don’t matter much either. What matters is for weeks on end, Joseph Kony will be a household name in the west. If that was the objective of the campaign, they have achieved it. We have had our fair share of dissenting with the narrative both on twitter, blog post, radio and television interviews, et al. But now we must seize this moment, take advantage of this free publicity and hunger and talk about Uganda that the world needs to be hearing about. The world is ready to listen. For example:

1. Uganda Tourism: Uganda is a leading tourist destination in East, South and Central Africa. Even though the impression from the Invisible Children documentary may paint a grim picture, Uganda is absolutely a safe country to visit. In fact, many parts of Northern Uganda which were the epicenter of the Kony or LRA war are totally pacified and have some of the most magnificent game parks. Last year, I drove through the Murchison Falls National Park in Northern Uganda while on a photography commission for my client. The photo below was taken in that park. Uganda has more than 342 animal species including lions, elephant, giraffes, zebras, and over 1040 bird species, by far, the most attractive destination for bird watching in the whole of Africa. And did you know that  over half of the world’s Mountain Gorillas reside and thrive within Uganda? Yes, there was war, but that was then. Now come and visit Uganda and enjoy Uganda Tourism!

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2. Uganda Culture: Despite our rants on social media, the internet, the blogs, radio and television about the Invisible Children Kony2012 video, Uganda has the most hospitable of any groups of people in the whole of Africa. Ugandans are calm, very welcoming and amiable. Perhaps that explains why Uganda is the largest home to millions of refugees from different countries across Africa, has a huge Asian population from China and India, and is home to hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, Congolese, Sudanese and Somalis. Many that have visited Uganda enjoy the night life that never stops till 6 in the morning (I don’t recommend it), the boda-boda (you will discover it when you go there, you can’t miss it), and everything. Ugandans speak good english and it is easy to get around, whether you are a tourist, foreign worker or investor. And we do not kill gays, contrary to sensational reports in the media. If you are gay, according to BBC, the president of Uganda says do your stuff, don’t force it on others and don’t brag about it, and no one will bother you.

3. Investing in Uganda. Recently, Harvard University and MIT published a report that shows East Africa will be the fastest growing region in the world between 2012 and 2020. So, for sure 2012 is a great year. Apart from capturing Kony, Uganda is also touted by the Harvard and MIT report to be the fastest growing of all the East African countries during the same period. If you are in business, whether its agriculture or technology or healthcare or construction or energy or anything, Uganda is a great destination. It has a huge educated population and many Ugandans like most places in Africa have a great entrepreneurial spirit. Therefore, do not be deterred by the Invisible Children video. Uganda is a great place to invest – it is a peaceful country.

4. Uganda and Innovation: Recently, a group of Ugandan university students of engineering researched and developed the first ever electric motor vehicle in the whole of Africa. The Makerere University technology students, with the help of their professors and government funding unveiled this car to the public last year. According to American Technology Blog EnGadget, The Kiira EV plug-in was test driven successfully after nearly three years of development…the two-seater successfully completed its first test run, reaching a top speed of 65 kilometers per hour and nimbly making its way up a 55-degree incline…the Kiira is capable of maxing out at a speed of 150 kilometers per hour, and can run for up to 80 kilometers before the next recharge. In fact, one local engineer is currently making a helicopter, while two different groups are each making an aircraft. One of the groups is the Africa Space Research Program, and the progress of their aircraft can be seen in photos here. Besides such bold innovations, many Ugandans have heavily invested time and resources into developing local information technologies, both web and mobile based. Such initiatives should be reported and supported. This photo below is by Edward Echwalu/Reuters. 

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5. Uganda’s Challenges and How You Can Help: As any developing country, Uganda still faces some major challenges. And certainly, poverty is the main challenge. In my view, without poverty we would not have Kony in Northern Uganda, in Central Africa Republic, in Congo, in Chad or the Sudan. Poverty is the main root of conflict, that’s my thesis. But an interplay of various factors can perpetuate a conflict like that of the LRA. We have already argued that the Northern Uganda conflict needs holistic solutions including truth telling and reconciliation that would bring  national healing, real democracy and an open space for different political actors, addressing governance challenges including corruption, and improvement in government social services. We face all these challenges but we are optimistic. Addressing poverty issues and empowering people to have a voice should always be the starting point. That’s why I urge you to look for non profit agencies and social enterprises that address the issue of poverty and self sustainability. Obviously, humanitarian efforts such as dealing with victims of war and trauma cases or the nodding disease in Uganda issue should always happen in earnest, but long term efforts of dealing with the root must always be emphasized. And do let the local people take the lead. Check out our start up social enterprise here.

Lastly, the great English Statesman, World War II England Prime Minister, Winston Churchill upon setting foot in Uganda declared, “Truly Uganda is the Pearl of Africa”. He was attracted to the magnificent scenery (landscape), wildlife and friendly natives (culture). To him, the beauty of it all could only be described as a pearl.” The pearl still remains today. Kony can’t destroy it, the UPDF can’t touch it, and no one will tamper with it. Come to Uganda and experience the Pearl of Africa. Contact me if you would like to visit Uganda. I will hook you up. Follow me on Twitter here!

 

 

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Yesterday, I perused a friend’s blog post and was reminded of what I had promised my self to do when I was in Kampala; to write about the populist multi-media campaign that is taking place right now in Uganda. The campaign, Genext is about advocating for smaller families in Uganda, targeting the youthful population of 18-30 years. With all pomp, it has crafted some cool youthful messaging distributed through “high impact” billboards all clad with statistics, television commercials and social media campaigns. Uganda’s population is worrying, no doubt, and very few get it. But UHMG (Uganda Health Marketing Group), the brainchild of the campaign gets it when they say that the “fast growing population growth currently poses more challenges to the social, economic and political development than opportunities.” But there is quite a few things they do not get, which in my view, has led to the wastage, again, of our dear US tax dollars.

Population control needs a national policy framework. In such an environment, the messaging from different groups that have a stake in the future of Uganda would be congruent, understandable and not confusing. Without this, it makes the work of advocates such as UHMG very difficult; because on one hand they are advocating for small families, while on the other, the government of Uganda (read President) theorizes that a large population represents a cheap labor force, an incentive for a growing middle class. Should UHMG then sit and do nothing? Hardly, because there is USAID money to be spent. But there are smarter ways to spend this money. For example, UHMG or any other interested parties could lobby members of parliament, invest in authoring a bill and finding a sponsor/s of this bill in Parliament so that this issue can begin to get to the fore front. The debate that is likely to ensue could have an impact 10 times higher than your current campaign. Moreover, who knows that it would get adopted and then as a country we would have one direction.

Spending money on billboards and television in the english language clearly shows that they also either don’t get it or have a different agenda. By targeting the youth who are 18 – 30, they are right on the money; because this is the demographic that is either about to get married or has been married for a while. Urging this group to have smaller families is therefore a no brainer. In fact, I would take the target age group down to 15 or 14. Because in rural areas, kids are getting married and having children. While 18 is the age of consent in Uganda, so what? Children are getting married younger and no one is doing anything about it, so the campaign could as well include them.

But that’s where this campaign is not relevant to the population growth issue in Uganda. Crafting a massive media strategy that devotes probably more than 70% of the media dollars to the urban and english speaking demographic misses the mark – gapingly. This group already knows what you are saying. If they haven’t read it somewhere, they have heard it in school. That is why in Kampala, or in other urban centers, the number of children in a household, especially for those below 40 years is less. We need a scientific survey, but I would argue that the average is about 3, a far cry from a national average of 7 children. We therefore need to understand why such a huge disparity? And the answer is quite simple because we all know it (may be we don’t); it lies in the economics.

Families – all the way to the rural areas that earn a livelihood through meaningful monetary transactions also are compelled to budget, whether on paper or otherwise. They budget for food (land production), school tuition (private and better performing schools), and independent healthcare (not Mulago or affiliated hospitals). Because they barely make ends meet, they are forced to make sober choices. They consciously ask; if we want our children to inherit a piece of land, what’s a reasonable number we can produce? If we want our children to acquire a quality education since UPE is still crawling (roots for quantity and not quality), how many children can we manage? This internal self reflection and realty checks are imposed by economics; money! And so, here goes the question? How can we begin to reverse population growth in a country of 33.5 million people in which about 30 million are poor, where there are allures of free (substandard) education, free healthcare that doesn’t work, and free land (in the rural areas)? What’s the mindset of the poor person who’s got these attractive advantages? When his village is facing famine because of poor environmental practices, the UN and USAID at the begging of his government come to his rescue.

How can we begin to teach our people that while it’s true that “Children are a blessing (to us) from God”, we have just become a curse to them! We also need to become a blessing to our children. We need to be able to provide, period. That’s the whole duty of parenthood – whether it is providing love, security, education, protection, we must strive to provide. This calls for holistic approach, it calls for a National Security Strategy (which I still argue Uganda doesn’t have) in which we can all operate, with or without our hip messages. Almost two years ago when we did election messaging, I went to the deepest of the villages in Uganda. I realized then that the people of Uganda’s most immediate means were not elections; it was their survival. No wonder that our message would get eroded by the stacks of cash that made rounds in the villages on the eve of election day.

The poor have become the pawn in a chase game. Corrupt governments need them to keep ruling, NGOs and aid agencies cease to be relevant without them; but this gotta stop. Addressing poverty challenges and helping people out of that misery is the most logical way. People need to get integrated into the economy first. And lastly, learn from those who are doing things right. Ask the right questions; for example, how has Rwanda managed to reduce/drop the fertility rate from 6.1 to 4.6 in less than a decade?

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Feb.9 2012, posted 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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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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I enjoy photographing in Africa, specifically in East Africa (Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan) – that’s where I am from. But more than anything, I have a very soft spot for photographing children. The reasons I photograph people in Africa are many. The most important reason however is to raise social awareness, and where possible, raise money. When I photographed in Karamoja in 2008, a very hot spot in terms of local tribal conflicts, a group in Texas used my photo essay to fundraise for money and items worth $250,000 for education purposes in Karamoja, Uganda. God has given me a gift, and I want to be a good steward of that gifting. I am now getting into projects that I am passionate about. I believe that we can organize small farmers in Africa to increase their household incomes three-fold within two years and possibly tenfold within 5 years. I would like to ambitiously believe God that we can impact more than 5 million farmers by 2020. If we do that, then children of farmers such as these in these photographs are able to be afforded critical services by their parents such as a good education, health care, food security, clean water, etc. We may not be able to eradicate poverty, since poverty is relative, but I am certain that we can alleviate it. Small steps such as buying premium prints from select images can help us in this cause. Please buy our African photos/ Ugandan photos/ East Africa photos and licenses or ask us on how you can get involved in efforts that will meaningfully change lives of poor families in very economically sustainable ways – not charity! Enjoy the photos.