Sunday, August 8, 2010

African Renaissance and Intellectual Property

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is an interesting guy. Under his presidency the country has experienced economic expansion and remained an example of a relatively successful democracy in Africa. Interesting men have interesting ideas. Wade's biggest idea (physically) has turned into reality and is shown in this weeks image of the week. The African Renaissance statue in Dakar, Senegal. It can be seen in the center of the image to the right or at the coordinates 14°43'19" N 17°29'41" W.

Despite an expanding economy, Wade has come under serious fire for the monument. At a cost of more than $27 million, many Senegalese are questioning the investment when many infrastructure and public works projects are needed- and already being heavily subsidized by the USA by the way (the infrastructure projects that is). This has caused many to question Wade's motives, particularly because he is claiming the idea as intellectual property as well as 35% of proceeds related to the statue. You read that correctly. Because he envisioned the statue, had a foreigner design it and North Koreans build it, he thinks he should be entitled to 35% of any future income it generates. The corruption is mind boggling. The fact that Jesse Jackson spoke at the opening speaks to his excellent judgement. This non-sense has become all too common in African politics. Even the design itself has been seriously criticized. It certainly doesn't look like any African family I've seen.

Political considerations aside, the statue is a wonder and while arguably inappropriate, I think, quite beautiful. Near the eastern edge of the continent it certainly exudes a sense of strength and pride. While it may be years before the statue brings an additional 27 million dollars of tourism dollars (especially after Wade's cut of the money), its something I'd really like to see some day. Just a few months ago I was less than a mile away from the statue but it was dark and I was on the wrong side of the plane. Next time! If you've seen the African Renaissance statue in person I'd love to hear your account.

I started thinking about this post after the team at the geographic travels blog did a piece on the twenty tallest statues in the world. Despite being taller than the Statue of Liberty, the African Renaissance is not even in the top twenty. There are certainly some large statues out there. Go check 'em out!


  1. This non-sense has become all too common in African politics. I love this. Hey Ryan would you consider coming to Nigeria? I bet you you have no idea of what corruption is. I'll be following you because I love history and geography.

  2. Thanks for following, Osey. I'd love to come to Nigeria. I was very intrigued by the amnesty concept to eliminate both arms and vandalization of the oil line- what was your take on that issue? I'd love to hear about your thoughts on corruption in Nigeria.