10 Things That Are Changing Africa’s Narrative (Part 1)
10 Jul 2014
I write about Africa. A lot. I need to. There are still too many misconceptions about this vast continent that (unbeknownst to many) fuels a good chunk of the world economy. Just check your electronics, gas tank, closet, or jewelry box to find the evidence. But I’m glad to see that there are more people writing and reading about Africa and what’s going on there—beyond the typical war/poverty/famine theme. And then, of course, there's that one lonely tree sunset image that seems to represent the entirety of the African landscape…
Although there are a number of pundits who question whether Africa is really rising (with good reason), I’m of the opinion that Africa’s rising goes beyond economics, and has everything to do with its image. You’re hard-pressed to get investors, attract businesses or promote your exports if the rest of the world is still scared of or ignorant about doing business with you because of an archaic narrative. And this is why I’m so excited to see this rising wave of awareness that, not only is Africa not a country, but it’s a place of opportunity, innovation, and yes—the next big thing. Actually, it’s already here. Here's my list of things that are bringing Africa to the forefront:
- Fashion. Beyond just the more established African designers we know (i.e., Boateng, Amsale, Korto) you have a new crop of designers who are making African print permanently fashionable. Take a look at Ohema Ohene, DPiper Twins, Kaela Kay, Simply Cecily, A Leap of Style, Fenix Couture, and Rahyma Designs, to name a few. What are you waiting for? Go on and get your Ankara on…
- Books. The New York Times recently published an article about how African writers are giving a fresh perspective on what it means to be, well, African. Besides Chimamanda (and her deal with Lupita), you’ve also got Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Taiye Selasi. And did I mention this up-and-coming-book, “Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be” co-authored by yours truly and my sister, Christine K. St. Vil? It’s a fresh take on personal transformation—from an African perspective. For sure, these are not your Mama’s books.
- Innovation & Technology. In my series on the 30 Most Notable Africans from earlier this year (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I highlight people like Kelvin Doe from Sierra Leone who, at 13, built his own radio station using scraps he found in the trash. Every time I sign on to Twitter, I find a slew of new tweets about tech and innovation in Africa. I’ve lost count of the number of new apps, devices, social enterprises, and products that are changing the way we live, work and do business on the continent. Who needs old-school electricity when you’ve got human innovation? (And yes, we do actually have electricity.)
- Music. From Michelle Williams’ adaptation of the Nigerian Gospel song “When Jesus Say Yes” to urban stations in the U.S. playing PSquare during prime time, it just goes to show that those African drums are not just good for playing in the village during community gatherings. They have seeped into everything. Well, they’ve actually been there for a while; it’s just that now, we’re not afraid to admit and showcase where those rhythms—in just about every genre of music—really come from.
- Business & Entrepreneurship. Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Folorunsho Alakija, Patrick Ngowi, Monica Musonda. If you told someone 30 years ago that there would be so many multimillionaires and billionaires from the continent, they would have probably given you the side-eye. Fast-forward to 2014 and you’ve got 4 of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world, in Africa. Quite a few savvy Africans are taking advantage of the myriad opportunities that many virgin markets on the continent provide. If you’re not already exploring opportunities to do business on the continent, or at least considering it, you’re about to get left behind. Ask President Obama. Even he realized that the U.S. is sleeping and has called the first-ever U.S. Africa Leaders' Summit with 47 African heads of state and their spouses expected to attend this August 4-6 in Washington, D.C. China ain’t the only one tryin’ to get their swag on in the motherland.
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