Wyclef? Why Not?

Sure, he’s suspected of misappropriating funds from his own NGO (and America’s IRS), but Wyclef Jean could be just the kind of marketing maniac Haiti needs.

Wyclef? Why Not?
Wyclef Haiti


How much attention does Wyclef Jean crave? He confirmed he is running for President of Haiti on the radio this morning (and just filed the necessary paperwork). Tonight he’ll announce it all again on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” Remember that. We’ll come back to it.

Tonight’s bigger announcement in English (and maybe some Haitian Creole if we know him like we think we do) will undoubtedly elicit immediate uproar. And there are some good reasons for it. Jean has a $2.1 million tax lien and sure, he has cheated his own charity and the people who have donated to it, using funds to pay his alleged mistress.

But given his aggressive attempts to galvanize teenagers and Rastafarians alike since The Fugees’ forever-ago decline, he may just be the perfect person to step in and give Haiti a little sparkle in its name, attract foreign investors, ensure long-term aid and recovery efforts (and, okay, give his own stardom a little boost). This is the man who actually wrote a song called “If I Was President” years ago and undercut his own (for real) presidential announcement on the biggest PR outlet on television (Larry King) with a spoiler on Radio Tropics 12 hours earlier (see above).

Think about it. Having Wyclef on board would ensure that, even after Anderson Cooper packs up and heads to the next disaster, Haiti will never be forgotten. At least not during his five-year term as President (aka Haiti marketing blitz). And with a more public persona, he’s almost forced into cleaning up his act (see our earlier announcement today that Wyclef will hand off control of his NGO).

Cause marketing legend, Carol Cone, whose clients have worked with Wyclef and his Yele charity on Haiti projects, had this to say to

“Overall, Haiti needs to be re-imagined. There was so much devastation from the earthquake, the country has the opportunity not just to rebuild but transform approaches from overall infrastructure and, construction, to education, business and politics. Can Wyclef Jean do that through the power of his passion for his country and its people? The country needs more than marketing. It needs highly dedicated, and ethical individuals in government, business and social services to collaborate surrounding a new vision for the country. The question is could he galvanize that collaboration and does he have the long-term will to keep up the fight for change?”


Cameron Sinclair, TED prize winner and founder of Architecture for Humanity, told

“Having spent time with Wyclef I know that deep down he is very sincere
in his commitment to his country. He will do what it takes to keep it on
a path for progress and to keep the reconstruction process front and
center of the political agenda.”

Never has there been a stronger case for electing a pop-culture figure to office. We’re talking one term (he’s no Reagan). Then a real candidate takes over, Haiti becomes a permanent part our global consciousness, and Wyclef gets inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Everyone wins.

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.