Africa: Celebrities Reach Out

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(Simmons wants to empower African diamond industry workers).

Increasingly, American celebrities are increasing their interaction with the African continent, including the recently concluded visit by Russell Simmons and Michael Jackson’s announced visit to Rwanda next year.

The good thing is that while some have been criticized for seeking photo-ops, one thing is certain—such visits can highlight the suffering of children in some African countries.

"Yes, Michael Jackson will be here in June 2007, he confirmed this," said Kije Mugisha, a Rwanda official, in published remarks. Mugisha met Jackson during the recent Global Music Awards show in London.

She said Jackson, together with his administrative team was keen to assist in areas like health care, child education and the media.  "What I can say is that he appreciated coming to Rwanda; to know of Rwanda's achievements since its a post conflict country," she said and added:  "Michael Jackson is eager to know how many hospitals are in place in Rwanda and how he can help in improving people's health here."

Kije, who is also a director general of Rwanda Television, revealed that Jackson, who remains widely popular in Africa, had also promised to help the national television. "He promised to do what he can afford to do. It could be in terms of equipment or any other assistance. We shall get to know much of that when he is here in June next year," she said.

The successful US celebrities wanting to contribute to the continent’s development includes tennis star Serena Williams, who recently announced plans for a Serena Williams Foundation for Education, during a tour of a youth education centre in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

Simmons, media, fashion and entertainment mogul, during his visit to Botswana announced plans to ensure that more African workers share in the wealth generated from diamonds exported from that country—Simmons company sells diamonds in the U.S.

Simmons plans to launch a Diamond Empowerment Fund—one of his many companies is The Simmons Jewelry Company. His new Fund will train Africans how to cut and polish diamonds themselves, so that they can realize more value added. “We want more of Black Africans to become executives,” Simmons has said.
The diamond industry has been criticized for using stones from conflict areas—a new major movie, Blood Diamond, is set for release in the US.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’ Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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