This blog has been triggered by the numerous emails I get every day about the apparent lack of African speakers prepared to come forward to talk about certain industries at Africa-focused events.
I attend many events in Africa and around the world and my exasperation is growing because I struggle to find African speakers capable of representing the continent effectively, apart from the usual faces we see at every event, and they are few and usually from the USA or part of the International Development world. As for African women in ICT, they are very hard to find.
So I am wondering, why is it that African people are not stepping forward? What is the problem? Is it a lack of confidence? A lack of visibility? Is it their fault? Do they not know how to speak? Or are they overshadowed by what we might call ‘friends of Africa’ or by Afro-Americans who left Africa 20 years ago and now have little direct contact with Africa. This is not to be critical of Afro-Americans — they are part of the Diaspora, have links in Africa and could have much to say if they engage more regularly with the grassroots — or other ‘outsiders’ with a passion for the continent, but I believe that we should also be able to find some Made-in-Africa speakers. Surely there are eloquent Africans capable of telling their stories. Storytelling is in their blood. From a young age, Africans are surrounded by amazing stories that can be shared with a wide audience to vibrant and inspiring effect, even changing people’s lives.
I am sure if we look hard enough within the continent we will find that we have vibrant young Africans who are dying to have their voices heard. If empowered, supported and trained to take the stage, Africans can tell their stories better than anyone else, whether it be about mobile technologies, ICT development, international development or other areas of the economy and business. It’s time they emerged from behind the scenes and stopped being overshadowed by Corporate Americans, or the ‘lovers of Africa’ who take all the credit for their hard work. African People need to get more visibility as a matter of urgency. Some are already making a name for themselves — Jessica Colaco Mobile Technology Evangelist from Kenya and London-based Nkeiru Joe to name but two. And I have been following others on social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook. I have also identified a few speakers on my Best of Africa list on Twitter. But I am sure we can find more. So, I’m appealing to any Africans out there who have an exciting story to tell, who want to learn how to stand up with confidence or who already know how to speak in front of an audience, to step forward and share their experience with us.
You can always email me you know! I will do my best to help!