Africa Works, this ad campaign from Benetton promotes the Birima micro-credit programme in Senegal, a co-operative credit society founded by the Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. The programme will also receive financial support from Benetton Group. Photographer James Mollison portrays working men and women with the tools of their trade against a neutral background.
They include, amongst others, a fisherman, a decorator, a musician, a jewellery-maker, a farmer, a tailor, two textile sellers and a boxer. These everyday people become tangible symbols of an Africa that uses the dignity of work to fight poverty, promote equitable development, maximise its resources and take back responsibility for creating its future.
Youssou N’Dour, one of Africa’s best-known singers and a man committed to humanitarian projects, comments: “my personal experience led me to realise that when a loan, however small, is used to develop an idea or realise a project, it is an effective way of fighting poverty. This is why everybody must understand the value of micro-credit. Africa doesn't want charity, it wants repayable subsidised loans.”
Alessandro Benetton, Executive Deputy Chairman of Benetton Group explains the conviction with which Benetton has backed the project: “We chose to support and promote this important project because, unlike traditional acts of solidarity, it offers tangible support to small local entrepreneurs through the effective use of micro-credit. Precisely because it is based on entrepreneurial talent, hard work, optimism and interest for the future, this project effectively promotes the new face of Africa.”
Birima, N’Dour's co-operative credit society, offers financial services for SMEs, craftspeople, professionals and artists to help them start and independently develop their business. Apart from being the title of one of the singer's international successes, Birima is the name of a legendary king of Senegal who, speaking to his people only once a year, became a symbol of the value of keeping one’s word, of a moral code reflected in the credit society's key tenet: those who ask for a loan need offer no other security than their word and the good name of their family.
The press release we got reads "The new Benetton campaign will be officially presented in Dakar in February 2008" - for the record the release was mailed to use yesterday. It is still March isn't it?
It continues: "Together with outdoor and press advertising, the campaign will include a co-ordinated series of projects and events, such as a Colors special supplement on credit and ethical finance around the world; in-store communication, with special window displays and informative literature; communication during the singer's world tour, especially his concert at Paris Bercy on 5 April 2008; a cartoon produced specifically for the Senegalese community and African TV channels; a Benetton website devoted to the campaign and the related events and the www.birima.org portal, both devised and developed by Fabrica. "