Here are some random actions I’d encourage someone to take;
– start a new news programme on the Ivorian state broadcaster called “L’actualite sans ministres” (the news without government ministers). Instead of focusing each day on the activities of the president, prime minister and ministers, the bulletin would focus on real changes taking place in the country. As an alternative, one evening news programme a week could have a ‘meeting boycott’. Such an initiative would provide a more interesting news bulletin to the public, and help reinforce the message that ‘actions speak louder than words’.
– in a similar vein – organise a “seminar against seminars”. A western diplomat I was with this week made me smile when he threw up his hands in frustration and said ‘Ivorians can’t do anything without organising a salon or a seminar’. Yes, if seminars were all you needed to develop, Ivory Coast would be one of the most advanced in the world. Sadly, they tend to be something of a reflex reaction to any desire for action, which – to be cynical – often seem more about having a nice bit of food and giving a juicy contract to those who organise such things (often related family members or friends). The “seminar against seminars” would start with a brief 30 minute introduction by the maitre de ceremonie, with at least half of this spent welcoming the various distinguished members of the audience. Then the “president” invited to give the talk would have an hour to present his thesis (that seminars are frequently a waste of time) but take 1.5 hours, followed by questions from the audience that were already answered in the speech, followed by a speech of back-slapping praise by the moderator and a sumptuous feast to finish served by charming hostesses.
– set up an association called ‘iTunes screwed up my African music collection’ to allow people in similar situations to share their frustrations and then to lobby Apple to get up to date. Whenever I put in the latest CD from a favourite artist it disappears under unknown artists categories and is impossible to identify later on. Almost as frustrating, but not quite, is albums put in one order for the Ivorian market and another order for the French (for example the Magic System album Ki Dit Mie).
– according to one article in the press this week, a good number of the weddings celebrated in town halls in Abidjan have been arranged over the internet between Ivorian and French partners. Sadly when you see the wedding photos from the special day, there is usually only about 1-2 other people in the audience, which makes a poor wedding photo. So create a hire-a-crowd company that makes you look popular when you publish the photos in the local celebrity press, but doesn’t mean you need to feed them all afterwards and cope with i) jealous friends who wish they were getting married, and ii) family members against the marriage.