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It was only when I came to study in the UK that I began to identify as ‘African‘. Before that, I was just Kenyan. I never saw myself in the context of the wider world and I guess that’s one of the benefits of studying abroad- you discover a lot of new things but also begin to see old things from new perspective(s).
I’ve watched myself become fiercely protective of African identity (if there is one at all). I recognise the difference between when an African speaks about Africa and when a non-African speaks about Africa. The former is usually from a place of understanding the many similarities between African nations while the latter is more often that not, bound with ignorance. I’m reminded of a time when someone asked me “Are you planning on going back to Africa?” Excuse me, but what do you mean?
Things are changing and there are people who are at the forefront of this process- undefining stereotypes and challenging global perceptions about Africa in small and big ways. For today’s #faves post, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite African changemakers. Here we go!
Africans are activists – Boniface Mwangi
(picture courtesy of bonifacemwangi.com)
Boniface Mwangi is a Kenyan activist and a photographer by profession. For me, he defines what it means to be a patriot. This past year working in student politics has taught me the importance of grassroots activism and community organising. When politicians misuse and manipulate systems to benefit themselves, the most powerful course of action is to take the streets and make our voices too loud to ignore. Boniface has pioneered and set the pace for other young Kenyans to take a stance and not let powerful politicians get away with setting our country back. His courage is inspiring!
Africans are creators– Sharon Mundia
(picture courtesy of thisisess.com)
Internet and connectivity is opening up opportunities for many to have a space of their own which they can use to express their creativity. Sharon Mundia’s ‘This is Ess’ is my favourite example of this. She’s created a brand from a simple idea, consistency and quality delivery. It’s a worldwide phenomenon but in Kenya and other African countries, there’s still a slow response to the huge platform that bloggers provide for brands. People like Sharon are changing this- one blog post at a time.
Africans are educators– Patrick Awuah
(picture courtesy of myafricanow.com)
Patrick Awuah left a career at Microsoft to set up Ashesi University– an independent, co-educational, public benefit education institution operating on a not-for-profit basis. I think it’s wonderful that there are some visionary leaders setting up educational institutions with a focus on how people can use their skills and knowledge to transform the continent. It’s so important that these universities exist to challenge the perception that one must get a Western education to succeed in life.
Africans are entrepreneurs– Tara Fela-Durotoye
(picture courtesy of globalblackhistory.com)
If you’re African you know the stigma that was once attached to careers that are not medicine, engineering or law. But things have changed and we have people like Tara Fela-Durotoye to thank for that! Tara is the Founder of House of Tara, a cosmetics company with a focus on make-up. It’s tough enough to be an entrepreneur, let alone in the untapped beauty industry. House of Tara is a reminder that Africans can succeed and pioneer, even in fields that are perceived ‘non-African’.
As a continent, we are nowhere near reaching our capacity. We are an awakening giant. Slowly but surely transforming our communities, our brands, our economies and our world.
I love you Africa!
Share some of your #fave African changemakers below!
© Tessy Maritim