Africa is taking back its stories, and the world is taking note. The rise of publications, digital and otherwise, broadcasting African voices is growing apace with African innovations. Thought leaders and trendsetters across the continent have made an indelible mark on the world, and they are changing the rules of the game – so that Africa has its space on the global stage.
We are seeing performers and speakers from across Africa talking on international stages, and we are seeing international heavyweights such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg traversing the continent to hear perspectives from African entrepreneurs.
As the founder and CEO of a speaker bureau and talent agency headquartered in East Africa, this brings me endless joy. However, there is a problem. From an industry standpoint, in the formal arena of brand sponsored speaking engagements, African perspectives are undervalued.
There isn’t sufficient demand for African voices on international stages, and as a result a parboiled version of Africa continues to dominate the mainstream discourse. In instances where Africans from across the continent are invited to share their perspectives, the compensation offered is often inadequate, and lower than that of their Western counterparts.
There isn’t sufficient demand for African voices on international stages, and as a result a parboiled version of Africa continues to dominate the mainstream discourse.
The remuneration versus exposure argument is not one that is unique to Africa or international speaking engagements; we see it in music, art, journalism, photography and many other industries. However, this doesn’t make it any less problematic.
We should not have to sacrifice compensation in order to break the visibility boundary. This particular moment, when pan-African voices are carrying further than the continent’s shores, is the best time to tackle this challenge.
It is time for international event organizers to overcome the expectation that African speakers and artists should ‘feel lucky’ to be heard, and instead should value the unique and often unheard perspectives they have to offer.