For a very long time, Africa has been dying to share its passions, potentials and stories with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, these desires were quickly dampened by the lack of an appropriate channel through which the people could share their “African experiences” by themselves. This brought about a very one sided and Eurocentric perspective, that starved the world of Africa’s colorful, vibrant, inspiring and diverse creative scene. Thankful to the social media there has been a significant break through unwarranted barriers, resulting to an evident change of perceptions with regard to the African people and their cultures. These changes can be noticed in our daily interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds as we engage in conversations relating to Africa.
As air is to man, so is the social media to the creative African scene today. In just a few years, these online platforms have greatly improved the level of interconnectedness within the African continent; building bridges of mutual understanding, and sharing information between contemporary Africa and the rest of the world. “The social media is showing how people of African descent see their homeland or country. Social media is a platform where everyone can express his feelings and share ideas. That’s why it’s important to address social media and creative Africa together.”– Beatrace Angut Oola, Fashion Africa Now. In commemoration of the Social Media Week 2017, a high-profile international panel of African entrepreneurs in Lagos, New York and Hamburg ceased the opportunity to stress on the importance of the social media for the creative African scene, using their success stories as key references. The panellists included: Mai Atafo (Fashion designer & entrepreneur), Funmi Fagbemi (Entrepreneur & Founder of VR Creative Agency), Kukua Odoi (Entrepreneur, Founder, African Prints in Fashion (APiF), Beatrace Angut Oola (Fashion Entrepreneur & Consultant, Founder, APYA Productions & Fashion Africa Now).
Paris was another venue where ‘Digital Africa’ was further celebrated. The first edition of Adicom Days (Africa Digital Communication Days) on March 2nd equally brought together 30 influential figures in the field of digital communication from Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana etc to discuss on the topic: Brand Content and Influence Marketing-Key Drivers of Digital Africa. The event provided a unique opportunity to explore digital trends, brand content, web influencers, new video media, social networks and innovative formats of digital advertising in the context of Africa, where the internet penetration rate is expanding fast. Likewise their counterparts in Hamburg, these African influencers took the opportunity to share not only their personal and professional experiences, but also how they inspire their audiences with these experiences, with their career paths and with the daily challenges they face. The event concluded with the inaugural Adicom awards ceremony rewarding creativity, talent and innovation in African digital communication.
VR Creative Agency is a Nigerian based agency that scouts and pushes emerging Nigerian brands onto the international scene. A few of her brands have appeared in international magazines like the New York Times and Hunger Magazine. All its brands such as Henri Nduku and Bloke, are ‘out of the box’ fashion concepts and they tell their stories primarily through social media. According to the founder & CEO of VR Creative Agency Funmi Fagbemi, Africans are the biggest users of Instagram on the planet. Instagram is seemingly the easiest and the best platform for African creatives to tell their stories. “We are very good at telling stories in Africa. We are itchy to tell our stories and I think that is the reason why we are the biggest users of Instagram.” In South Africa for example, Instagram grew from 680 000 active users in 2013 to 1,1-million in 2014- Arthur Goldstuck.
Based in Nigeria, 360nobs.com can proudly work in many parts of the world because of the social media. “It has given us and others the opportunity to see you for who you are and tell your story your own way. Personal style is now more than corporate style.”– Noble Chibuzor, Founder & Chief Marketing Officer.
Five years after starting her online company, the New York based Ghanaian-German Kukua Odoi who is the Founder & CEO of African Print in Fashion acknowledges that, the online platform has witnessed dramatic changes in a very short time due to an increasing use of the social media platforms. Using the social media as a primary means of contact between designers and clients on different continents, her business has experienced groundbreaking changes. This shows that the diaspora and the African continent are evidently already well connected, as there are extensive exchanges and engagements happening between both worlds for the benefit of the continent in general and primarily in terms of economic development. A good example is the online money transfer platform “Wari” based in Dakar Senegal. It was created in 2008 with only 2 employees. Today it records a workforce of about 300 employees across Africa. Wari is currently in partnership with 152 African banks. The platform scores transactions worth one million dollars per day and 5 billion dollars annually. This is possible thanks to the increased level of digital interconnectivity on the
continent. Moreover, people prefer to establish networks through social media first before engaging in personal contact. Through Instagram and WhatsApp everyone with a phone can instantly tell a story and share their experiences with the entire world. It is easier and faster! Also, there is an increased diversity in the voices sharing their stories and insights. Most importantly, “…it gives consumers the opportunity to engage with the producers directly. I think the digital phase on the continent has been very beneficial to established entrepreneurs and new designers a like.”-Kukua Odoi.