AFRICA BY THE AFRICANS:<br />
Young Tastemakers Aim to Challenge Stereotypes

Sandra Appiah, Ngozi Odita and Issac Babu-Boateng

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on the global stage. For this reason, New York-based Appiah and Babu-Boateng launched Face 2 Face Africa Magazine, embracing “Africa Re-branded” as their tagline.

“When we say ‘rebranding Africa,’” Appiah, 23, clarifies, “it’s not just…rebranding Africa to non-Africans, but to Africans ourselves.” Citing her personal evolution, Appiah who was born in Ghana and lived in Italy as a small child before moving to the States when she was 12 admits, “I was completely ashamed of being African, and there are a lot of people today who are also going through the same stages. There are a lot of Africans here who don’t want anything to do with the continent.”

With the magazine, Appiah hopes to give young readers in particular a view of Africa they can be proud of. “We want to start by instilling a sense of pride in them so that they can see the necessity and the need for them to go back to the continent and help solve some of the issues there.”

For many Africans, there’s more at stake than proving to the world Africa can solve her own problems. Eager to deepen the connection between their parents’ birthplace and take advantage of the continent’s growth potential, the first-generation of Africans born outside the continent are starting to return in waves.  Meanwhile, Africans living in Africa want to stay and improve conditions.

Odita, who is producing the upcoming Social Media Week Lagos, has observed the shift over time. Recounting trips to her family’s native Nigeria in the ‘90s, she says “All my cousins, people I knew, friends, everybody was just wanting to exit Africa. They were just like ‘I want to go to school in America. I want to go to school in UK. I wanna leave. As soon as I’m old enough, if I can get a visa, I’m leaving.’” She adds,  “Now, when I go home, and when I go other places, whether it’s Dakar or just talking to other people, …young people are just very prideful of where they’re from.”  

With the Lagos social media conference and her AFRIKA21 program, Odita, 37, wants to offer platforms that showcase and extend this pride.   “I’m always bringing people together to talk about how great the continent is and all the really great things that are happening, but we’re doing it in New York or we’re doing it in Boston. …we should be having this conversation on the continent ‘cause that’s where all these things are happening that we’re talking about.  We can get a firsthand account from the people who are creating all these things.”

Desire to focus on Africa’s positives notwithstanding, neither Odita or the others interviewed for this piece are about ignoring the challenges impacting the continent. But, Odita points out, “the only way that you can change people’s perceptions is to show them another perspective. Show them another image, and that’s what branding is.”

Asiedu-Gyan says it comes down to fairness in news coverage. “Europeans have negatives,” he points out. “There are homeless, hungry people living on less than two dollars a day in the United States, how often do we read or watch that on CNN or BBC?”

*name changed because the nature of his job does not allow him to speak on the record

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.