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No Law Against Chasing Light

Photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi turns in his barrister’s wig and gown for a zoom lens and pixel power.

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It’s not easy to be a photographer, not when your father is a high court judge and there are four lawyers and two doctors in the family. Photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi has made peace with the fact that he’s a bit of a black sheep in the family. And looking back, his family should have known all along that he was going to be an artist.

Growing up in the eastern region of Nigeria, in the city of Umuahia, he quickly developed a passion for drawing.

“It all started with reading comics and drawing Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk. I realized that I had talent with visual arts and I started to draw. My drawings earned me respect among my peers,” says Amadi-Obi.

With the encouragement of those around him, he was spurred on to improve his skills. Unfortunately in the neighborhood where he grew up, there were no museums, art schools or galleries where he could hone his skills.

“I would go to the local library to do research on drawing. The more I read and practised, the better I got and the quicker I improved,” he says.

Amadi -Obi dressed as a barrister

Even with his passion for drawing and the visual arts, his family put his career choices down to law or medicine. Amadi-Obi chose law and duly enrolled at university. Ironically though university exposed him to art in a way he had never encountered before.

“When I got to university I realized there was an active art scene there. I naturally gravitated towards artists,” he says.

The law student became the talk of his campus as his artwork surpassed that of the art students. Yet he kept hitting the law books and graduated to take up a job as barrister. He only wore his gown and wig for one year after being called to the bar.

“After my one year of service I started working at an art studio, where I exhibited my art and became a successful exhibiting artist. Photography came gradually. I used to make photos as a reference material for my paintings. I started making paintings of human forms and took photos of models in my studio with light coming from my window,” says the painter-cum-photographer.

“I learnt to use a camera and learnt to capture light in a very intricate and delicate way to achieve my purpose. The photographs themselves became artworks. I started associating with other photographers too. Once I finished taking images I would go to the darkroom to print my photos. I looked at the darkroom process and it looked very similar to my painting process, only it had quicker results,” he says.

His decision to settle in Lagos shaped his career forever. The city has not attracted many photographers but it has certainly attracted those with an eye for drama. The city exposed him to spectacular sites including the picturesque lagoons of the region, which span over 635 kilometers and cut across the southern part of the metropolis, linking the Atlantic Ocean and Lekki lagoon. But it wasn’t just the beauty of the lagoons, which attract so many artists that inspired Amadi-Obi. He also saw inspiration in the sprawling fishing slums that draw together the huge influx of people migrating to the region.

His photographic career took off in 2001, when a German friend invited him to exhibit at the Rencontres De Bamako or “African Photography Biennale”. Since the exhibition’s inception in 1994, it has caught the attention of jet-setting curators, critics and dealers. It has also popularized African photographers such as Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé.

Soon after he was invited to Milan to showcase the collection he exhibited at the Biennale. But while Rencontres De Bamako has opened doors for many African photographers, it has also been a source of controversy.

“Some of the reasons for this controversy are familiar and echo long-standing issues in the presentation of African art to Euro-American audiences,” write Jennifer Bajorek and Erin Haney, who are independent curators.

They claim that such exhibitions perpetuate asymmetries of power and leave young artists and organizers feeling alienated from their work. To overcome these challenges artists are forming new alliances and building their own networks, which are not remote-controlled by the West.

Amadi-Obi is no exception. After his exhibition in Milan he established a career in Nigeria in collaboration with other upcoming photographers. Depth of Field, set up in 2001, is the brainchild of Amadi-Obi and five other photographers: Uchechukwu James Iroha, Toyosi Odunsi, Amaize Ojeikere, Emeka Okereke and Toyin Sokefun. This artist collective was formed to deepen the conversation among the photographers and aims to attract local audiences to their work. They critique each other’s work and share resources including a library, publicity platforms and web visibility.

The ace photographer’s online portfolio is stacked with fashion photos he took before he was commissioned to such a shoot.

“I wanted to shoot fashion but there were no fashion magazines. Still I would call models and take pictures of them like the ones I would see in Vogue Magazine. So I was making a portfolio with no clients.

“When someone in Nigeria bought the South African franchise of True Love magazine [to the country], they needed a photographer and someone recommended me,” says Amadi-Obi.

His work with True Love earned him recognition among mushrooming corporates looking to improve their image with slick photographs in company brochures, annual reports and on their websites. With commissions from companies such as Guinness, MTN, British American Tobacco, the Ford Foundation, Prima Garnet Ogilvy, Insight Grey, Flour Mills of Nigeria and Orange Drugs, his career is on the up.

His passion for photography has made Amadi-Obi a household name in Lagos. To be a successful photographer does not require extraordinary equipment, he believes. When he started his career he used a Mamiya RB67 film camera. Today, most of his images are taken with several professional lenses but he’s hooked on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II body.

“I am not particular with equipment. There was a time when I used to be crazy about cameras but I got tired because they keep changing… To get a good image you just need to have a good eye,” says Amadi-Obi.

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‘AI Is A Powerful Tool’

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Research forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans. Murat Sonmez, member of the managing board, and Head of the Centre for the WEF Fourth Industrial Revolution Network, expands on the role humans might play.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is at the center of the current economic frontier. In reality, is Africa prepared for such changes?

Moving quickly and being agile are key principles of success in the 4IR. Any country can succeed if they take on this mindset. A few years ago, Rwanda saw the opportunities drones, a 4IR technology, brought to their country.

They helped save over 800 lives by delivering blood to remote villages. To scale this, the government worked with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) drones’ team to create the world’s first agile airspace regulation. Now, we see countries in Africa and around the world looking to the Rwandan model.

READ MORE | 5 Ways Tech Can Revolutionize Education

What feasible solutions can  artificial intelligence (AI) offer in terms of forecasting natural disasters, droughts food security on the African continent?

AI can help predict diseases, increase agriculture yields and help first responders. It is a powerful tool for governments and businesses, but it needs a lot of data to be effective.

For AI to be all that it can be, countries and companies need to work together to build frameworks for better management and protection of our data and ensure that it is shared and not stored in silos. Data is the oxygen of the (4IR). If countries do not leverage data and have their policies in place, they will be left behind.

There is a growing concern that the 4IR will strip people of jobs, of which there is already a shortage. How true is this?

The world is going through a workplace revolution that will bring a seismic shift in the way humans work alongside machines and algorithms.

Latest research from the WEF forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans, compared to 71% being performed by humans today.

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The rapid evolution of machines and algorithms in the workplace could create 133 million new roles in place of 75 million that will be displaced between now and 2022.

Consumers have real concerns around the potential harm technology can cause in areas such as privacy, misinformation, surveillance, job loss, environmental damage and increased inequality. What ethical precautions are being considered in the robotics space?

Now more than ever, it is important to incorporate ethics into the design, deployment and use of emerging technology. Innovating in the 4IR requires addressing concerns around privacy and data ownership, while attracting the skills and forward-looking thinkers of the future.

There are big challenges and bigger opportunities ahead. We have seen many companies and countries create ethical and human rights-based frameworks. What’s important is they are co-designed with members of both communities along with academia, civil society and start-ups.

A multi-stakeholder approach will result in a more holistic set of guidelines and principles that can be adopted in many different industries and geographies.

READ MORE | It’s Time For Africa’s Gazelles To Shine

What changes need to take place for the African continent to be on par with global developments, and are there tangible goals set?

The 4IR provides governments the opportunity to be global leaders in shaping the next 20 to 30 years of science and technology. It is important they create an environment where companies can innovate.

The other tenet is to be open to working across borders and learning from each other. The global health industry has access to mountains of data on rare diseases, but it is trapped within countries and sometimes even within the hospital walls.

If we can build trust and find innovative ways to share the data while protecting privacy, we can employ tools like AI to help us cure disease faster. Countries and companies need to have the right governance frameworks and mechanisms in place for these breakthroughs to happen. It is possible to do these things now, but we need to work together to make it happen.

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Businesses At The Heart Of A Greener Future

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With every day that passes by it becomes more apparent that the Earth is deteriorating and time is running out to save it. Scientists have estimated that we have less than a decade to save the planet before it is irreversibly damaged, mainly due to climate change.

Businesses claim the largest percentage of global emissions (at approximately 70% since 1988, according to The Guardian) which is an alarming statistic, especially in a time when the planet’s well-being is being compromised.

Many large business corporations are hastily coming on board with operating sustainably by transforming their practices and placing business ethics at the forefront of their priorities.

READ MORE | The Most Sustainable Companies In 2019

Last week, a round table discussion was held at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel, Sandton hosted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM) – the world’s largest sustainability consulting firm. Their aim was to discuss how imperative it is for African businesses to get on board with sustainability.

“We have been talking about how to be sustainable for a long time but now it is time for us to do sustainability,” says Thapelo Letete, Technical Director of ERM.

An engaging and thought-provoking panel discussion ensued with representatives from ERM and mining companies, Anglo American and Gold Fields. They emphasized the importance of sustainability being recognized by investors, especially in mining and oil companies that rely solely on Earth’s natural resources.

Civil society has a colossal role to play in ensuring the sustainability of businesses. Due to the law of supply and demand in production, consumers are being urged to be mindful of their buying habits and to make sustainable decisions. These are as simple as minimizing the utilization of plastic straws by replacing them with metal or paper straws and reusable shopping bags and by recycling selected items.

READ MORE | Challenging The Gender Divide

“Research suggests that socially and environmentally responsible practices have the potential to garner more positive consumer perceptions of (businesses), as well as increases in profitability,” according to an entry in Sage Journals published in May.

The advancement of science, artificial intelligence and the rapid growth of the technological industry make it an undeniable fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. Many businesses across the globe seem to be well prepared for this change. However, businesses in Africa seem to be vulnerable. 

“It is difficult to say that all businesses in Africa are prepared for it. It is not a country specific thing but it does vary across corporations. There will be businesses that are well prepared and businesses that are not so well prepared,” says Keryn James, CEO of ERM.

A large part of sustainability also relies on empowerment and equality. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of female-owned businesses who contribute a large amount of money towards their respective countries’ GDPs. However, most of these businesses struggle with the issue of scaling.

“Women sometimes underestimate their ability and they don’t necessarily  have the confidence that they should have about the value that their businesses present. Women often take less risks than men,” says James.

“The issue of scaling is one that we see globally. One of the issues are access to funding to support in the investment and growth of their businesses.”

READ MORE | Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa

Going forward, the availability of mentorship programmes and skills development opportunities for women, especially black women in business should be encouraged.

According to a study done by the UN Women’s organization, an average of 3 out of 7 women score higher in performance when they are placed in senior managerial positions. Additionally, if more women work, the more countries can exponentially maximise their economic growth.

Women will be empowered when given the correct skills and opportunities to be able to run their own businesses independently which would ultimately lead to the scaling of female-owned businesses in Africa and sustainable development.

The Nedbank Capital Sustainable Business Awards aim to recognize the efforts of businesses that operate sustainably and to encourage other corporations who intend to adopt more sustainable strategies into their practices. Initiatives such as these prove that business value also depends on how sustainable they are.

It is clear that the prioritization of sustainability and accountability in businesses is the only way forward in the midst of this global crisis. With a combination of will and the rigorous work that African businesses have put into sustainability initiatives and strategies, it is easier to be optimistic about our planet’s wellbeing.

-Buhle Ntusi

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Ex-Google Staffer Says After Split With Chief Legal Officer David Drummond: ‘Hell Does Not Begin To Capture My Life’

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Former Google employee Jennifer Blakely has written a scathing blog post with allegations about how her affair with chief legal officer David Drummond unfolded.


A former member of Google’s legal team who says she had a child with the company’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, has written a scathing blog post about the way that their relationship unfolded within the search engine giant, including that he issued “terrifying threats” to take custody of their child after initially refusing to pay child support.

In a Medium post, Jennifer Blakely says that she was inspired to detail her experience after an explosive New York Times story last fall put a spotlight on how the company shielded top executives from harassment claims and sparked massive employee protests.

“Looking back, I see how standards that I was willing to indulge early on became institutionalized behavior as Google’s world prominence grew and its executives grew more powerful,” Blakely writes.

READ MORE | Google, Facebook, Twitter Fail To Live Up To Fake News Pledge

“Women that I worked with at Google who have spoken to me since the New York Times article have told me how offended they were by the blatant womanizing and philandering that became common practice among some (but certainly not all) executives, starting at the very top.” 

While her relationship with the married Drummond was included in the Times story and first reported byThe Information in November 2017, this is the first time Blakely has written about the experience herself.

Drummond is one of several current and former Google executives who has reportedly had relationships with employees or extramarital affairs, including Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Andy Rubin.

READ MORE | Calling Out Sexual Harassment

Blakely alleges that after their relationship ended, Drummond had another relationship with a subordinate, which is against Google’s workplace policy. He is still employed by Google and made more than $47 million last year. 

Blakely says that she started working in Google’s legal department under Drummond in 2001 and that after he told her that he was estranged from his wife, they began a relationship in 2004. She says the two had a child together in 2007 and that Google’s human resources department then told her that one of them had to leave the department.

She moved to sales, an area where she had no experience, and subsequently struggled with her work. Blakely alleges that after she ultimately left the company at Drummond’s urging in 2008, but that while they were living together in Palo Alto, he broke off their relationship via text message.

“‘Hell’ does not begin to capture my life since that day,” she writes. “I’ve spent the last 11 years taking on one of the most powerful, ruthless lawyers in the world. From that fateful night forward, David did things exclusively on his terms.” 

She alleges that Drummond initially refused to see their son or pay child support, and then fought against her in a custody battle. While she says they ultimately reached a settlement and he began paying child support, she writes that “months or years” would go by when he wouldn’t see their son. In 2014, Drummond allegedly showed her an article about Eric Schmidt’s reported history of extramarital affairs during an argument, implying that the executive’s position granted him impunity.

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“His ‘personal life’ (which apparently didn’t include his son) was off limits and since I was no longer his ‘personal life’ it was time for me to shut up, fall in line and stop bothering him with the nuisances or demands of raising a child,” Blakely writes.

Blakely’s story is the latest in a string of public posts from former Google employees highlighting issues with the company’s culture and policies (or their lack of enforcement).

One of the women who helped organize last fall’s protests, Claire Stapelton, recently wrote about her experience with retaliation, another employee detailed the disappointing way the company’s human resources department dealt with her harassment reports, and former senior engineer Liz Fong-Jones posted about “grave concerns” with the company’s decision making in general.

The outspokenness of Google employees exemplifies — and has helped spur — a broader activism in the tech sector that has seen workers speaking out against their employer’s internal policies and business decisions.

Blakely’s post also taps into the larger #MeToo movement which has drawn attention to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace across industries.

“Until truth is willing to speak to power and is heard, there’s not going to be the sea change necessary to bring equality to the workplace,” she writes.

Neither Google nor Drummond immediately responded to a request for comment. 

This story is developing.

-Jillian D’Onfro; Forbes

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