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 regards 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 today to the creative African scene. 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 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 2. equally brought together 30 influential figures (Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana etc) in digital communication in Africa 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 an Africa where the internet penetration rate is expanding fast. Likewise their counterparts in Hamburg, these African influencers shared their worlds, how they inspire their audience with their paths, their experiences and their daily challenges. 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 these brands such as Henri Nduku and Bloke, are out of the box 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. In South Africa for example Instagram grew from 680 000 active users in 2013 to 1,1-million in 2014- Arthur Goldstuck. Instagram is seemingly the easiest and the best platform for 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.”.
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. Using the social media as a primary means of contact with designers and clients, her business has experienced groundbreaking changes. The diaspora and the continent are evidently already connected. There are extensive exchanges and engagements happening between both worlds for the benefit of the continent in general 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.
In the fashion industry, the social media is a die-hard necessity. “Social media is the only way to show people from my country, my family and the world what I am doing. It is also very important for the fashion agencies, because they are starting to grade the models based on their followers on social media. “- Alpha Dia, Model. For those Africans who can travel the world, they tend to view their business adventures in different countries, as an opportunity to constantly compare both cultures and bring home the best aspects of these foreign cultures. “I compare and bring these narratives back home through social media. I use the narratives from these places to empower and inspire the people back home, telling them that we can achieve the same level and why not better”- Mai Atafo, Fashion Desinger.
In a highly digitalized world like ours, one might be tempted to think the print media is outdated or preferably dead. You would be wrong to make such assumptions. Despite the success story of digitalization, the print industry is still very much alive and has an active market. Print is not dead yet! One can still find publications such as New African Woman and Genevieve Magazine which are equally available in print form. “I believe in social media too but, print is still needed in the world. You can feel it and the feeling you have is different. There are still people out there who are not so much into the social media so you should try to reach all of them. You can have a balance between print and online. You should combine them because you have more influence with both.”- Nussin Armbrust, Entrepreneur, Publisher, Editor, Elbblick Magazin Hamburg.
Though the number of active internet users has reportedly increased by 14% since 2015, digital communication indisputably represents a key challenge both now and in the future. That means there is still a huge gab regarding how many people can actively become part of Africa’s social economy. Nevertheless, the print and social media have a very bright future especially on the creative scene of contemporary Africa. Personalised content will continue to grow. It is going to get bigger.
As Africans enjoy the warm cuddle of digitalization particularly in the form of social media, it is important to understand that, creativity, ambition and passion are central to enabling the diversity needed for a continuous and proper representation of the continent in the global media. “It is the future and we should be part of it”-Beatrace Angut, Fashion Africa Now.