Monday, 27 April 2015


At the TEDx Conference run by the London Business School at the Royal Geographical Society on April 24th there was one stand out presentation.

Gareth Cliff at 37 is regarded as a stalwart broadcaster in South Africa. He is the founder of the Cliff Central radio station which has the slogan - “Uncensored. Unscripted. Unradio”.

Cliff is a contrarian who has created a show which he describes as follows:-

real conversation about everything in the news, guests, edgy material and a healthy dose of inspiration and intelligence. Without limits... there will be entertainment, provocative content and unhinged reality.

His talk was inspiringly positive. No doubt he ridicules the absurd and has rows with politicians but in modern Africa he can. His thesis was about the new found freedom of speech and the explosive effect on the continent’s growth this would bring.

Digital is the new voice of Africa with over 900,000 mobile subscriptions. Now everyone is a broadcaster. By 2018 Africa will have overtaken the USA for smart phone ownership.

The story of democratisation was novel in the context of an African narrative of Ebola, Boko Haram, Somalian piracy and 91 year old Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Cliff talked about this old man to whom something happened recently which went viral.

Mugabe fell awkwardly on some stairs after addressing supporters in Harare. The blameless bodyguards have all been fired albeit not executed. Now in the past this minor incident would have been censored but this is 2015 and not only did it get full coverage but the satirists have got to work. The web was full of Mugabe in action from breakdancing to football and more. Cliff mildly observed that personally he had no reason to make fun of a very old man but wasn’t it great that everyone out there thought it was safe now to take a pop at this long serving dictator.

Cliff’s vision of Africa was impressive. It may be far from perfect in pockets, for instance he and the South African President Jacob Zuma are unlikely to be bosom buddies after Cliff posted a piece to him explaining what a crap job Zuma was doing.

Recently Cliff questioned the cost and need for a very expensive public funeral for a footballer called Senzo. Imagine a state funeral for a Wayne Rooney. There was an explosion of outrage from people calling him racist to which he responded in his blog:

I was called every kind of vulgar thing by a horde of the least eloquent, most furious, marauding lunatics I didn’t know, and who couldn’t have all known Senzo either.

Hurray! They are out there in the open talking, shouting and even laughing.  Democracy and free speech works.

Postscript to the BT Soap Opera.

To conclude it’s not working at BT.  The engineer due to fix up the TV (three weeks after we’d moved house) was about to go to our old address and said he was unable to come to the right address for “health and safety reasons”. Aaagghh!!!!!

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