No one is crazier than Africans, because it's crazy to be kind.
That's the premise behind Africa Let's Go Crazy, Coke's new advertising campaign across most of the continent. It's geared, Coke says, "towards inspiring and celebrating individuals who spread happiness on the continent by performing random acts of kindness in their daily lives."
The video below, which features the Ugandan pop star Maurice Kirya, is part of the campaign. Oddly enough, I like it.
Africa Let's Go Crazy.
But I still like it. I like it for the way that it shows ordinary people doing a wide variety of perfectly ordinary things. I like it because is shows happy people being kind to one another. I like it for its celebration of unsung heroes.
I also like it because of what it doesn't show -- hatred, war, famine, disease, brokenness, and incompetence... That is, it doesn't show the stereotypes that still shape the ways that westerners and other non-Africans view the continent as a whole.
Coca-Cola Crazy for Good: South Africa.
Sure, Coke romanticizes the everyday. (And the inclusion of the Peugeot pickup truck in the first video is pure nostalgia.) But Coke's Africa is also an Africa that works, an Africa that isn't on its knees begging for help. It's an Africa that represents the daily lives of the majority of its people much more closely than the tired old stereotypes that were invoked during, for instance, Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign. I'll bet that, as an ad campaign, it will be a huge success.
As far as I know, these ads won't be seen broadcast in the US or anywhere else outside of Africa. That's too bad. They would be part of a growing effort to give Americans and non-Africans generally a more complex and challenging vision of the continent. While the people behind, for instance, blogs like Another Africa and Everyday Africa, and websites such as The Other Africa, are out to confront stereotypes and misunderstandings, they would never deny that Africa has its problems. They would insist, however, Africa's story needs a multitude of voices and visions to tell it.
The effort to create a more honest understanding of Africa goes on at least as much within popular culture as it does in the classroom. It's there that Coke's campaign, for all of its contradictions, can play a positive role.
Many thanks to Independent Global Citizen for the heads-up about the campaign.