Friday, 9 January 2015

Tweeting Africapitalism

Lev Manovich’s  The Language of New Media was one of the first books I read on the concept of new media. Published in 2002, the book offered the first systematic and rigorous theory of new media. More than a decade later, many more books on the subject have appeared. These latest publications highlight the digital ethnography of the social media – from Facebook to Twitter.

As a researcher on African culture and technology, I am particularly interested in the role of Twitter in fostering change in Africa. And so, during Africapitalism Institute’s inaugural board meeting/panel discussion, on January 7, I looked forward to seeing how new media could also complement discussions around Africapitalism – a term coined by Tony Elumelu. It was a mixed multitude at the event. There were diplomats and journalists – plenty of them. Plus politicians too. I spotted Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Ekiti State.

When the online discussions kicked off, I was over the moon. Journalist Tolu Ogunlesi tweeted: “Attending @AfricapInst panel discussion in Abuja. Distinguished panel, speaking on 'Local Value Creation In #Africa'” – a first in a serious of tweets. Arunma Oteh, DG Securities and Exchange Comission tweeted too. And, of course, the Africapitalism Institute itself was disgorging  tweets as Zain Verjee, moderated the panel session. People asked questions too, on Twitter. Professor Calestous asked: “What can be done to strengthen links between entrepreneurship and engineering?”

These tweets, retweets and hashtags  on Africapitalism  highlight how the public sphere can help to shape discussions. In the past, the public sphere, as conceived by social scientists was  a physical melting pot of some sort, where people converged to discuss matters of public interest. In the era of Twitter and Facebook,  the public sphere transcends space. The Africapitalism Institute’s inaugural board meeting gave a voice to many Africans (who could not attend the event in person) by encouraging Twitter discussions around Africapitalism.

Thought leaders that make up the Africapitalism Institute’s Global Advisory Board include former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar; notable economist and proprietor of the economic classification terms “BRIC” and “MINT”, Jim O’Neill;Professor Tandeka Nkiwane, Special Advisor to the CEO of NEPAD; Matthew Bishop, globalization editor of the Economist, and Amir Ben Yahmed, Managing Director of the Jeune Afrique Group.

More about the Institute here

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