(Photo by LUCA SOLA/AFP via Getty Images)

A South African Police Service (SAPS) officer (L) push back informal vendors in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on April 8, 2020, as they try to obtain a permit for working during the 21 days national lockdown that started on March 27, 2020, in an attempt to halt the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

These are the 52 African Countries That Have Reported Cases of Coronavirus

Here's an updated country-by-country break down of coronavirus' presence in Africa.

UPDATE 4/09:

South Africa is currently on day-14 of its 21-day national lockdown. Despite vigorous efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 1845 with 18 reported deaths. Recently, the Minister of Communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, was placed on special leave by President Cyril Ramaphosa after an image of her enjoying a lunch at a friend's home, and thus going against the rules of the national lockdown, was posted onto social media. Ndabeni-Abrahams now faces criminal charges as a result, according to IOL.

Ethiopia, which now has 55 confirmed coronavirus cases with 2 reported deaths, has declared a state of emergency in the country in order to help fight the outbreak. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a recent statement, "I call upon everybody to stand in line with government bodies and others that are trying to overcome this problem." He added that "grave legal measures" would be taken on any individual seen to be undermining efforts to curb the spread of the outbreak.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, the number of coronavirus cases has risen to 276 following the confirmation of 22 incident cases in Lagos, Abuja, Edo and Bauchi states. While 6 people have lost their lives, 44 have recovered and been discharged from various hospitals across the country.

While Burundi has put in place several preventive measures, its first-division Vital'O FC football team is continuing with scheduled fixtures for the league. Responding to the decision made to continue training and competing despite sporting events around the world having been postponed, coach Jean Gilbert Kanyenkore said, "They told us that we should always wash our hands with soap or other antiseptic products, to not get too close to people face to face, we should observe at least one meter distance, not greet each other using our hands, not shake hands, no contact." The country has 3 confirmed cases with no deaths reported.

Zimbabwe has eased the restrictions of its 21-day national lockdown to allow farmers to get their produce to markets and citizens to access remittances from the diaspora. With food shortages, soaring inflation and a struggling economy, many citizens rely on funds which are sent to them by family members living in the diaspora. The Southern African nation reportedly has nine confirmed cases with popular media personality and broadcaster Zororo Makamba having been the first death.

- RS

UPDATE 4/08:

Seychelles is set to begin a 21-day-lockdown after a 26-year-old man working at the airport contracted the virus. Two patients who were preciously diagnosed have recovered.

Liberia's president George Weah has called a state of emergency in the West African nation in order to restrict non-essential movement. It will last for three weeks, and be reassessed at the end of the period and will continue "until the threat to Liberia from the Covid-19 virus no longer exists," said Weah.

Leaders of several African countries including South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa and Rwanda's Paul Kagame have stepped in to defend the head of the WHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusagainst unfounded attacks from US President Donald Trump, after he threatened to stop funding the organization. "The most potent weapon against #COVID19 and its devastating health, social & economic impact is international cooperation & solidarity," said Ramaphosa on Twitter. "Which is why the exceptional leadership displayed daily by WHO & Dr. Tedros during an unprecedented global public health crisis is incalculable.


UPDATE 4/07:

There are now over 10,000 confirmed cased of coronavirus across Africa. So far, there have been 492 deaths, while over 1,000 people have recovered.

Lockdowns are in place in several countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and more. Extreme safety measures have also have been put into place in other countries. According to BBC Africa, in Morocco, those seen in public without a mask risk jail time.

In Rwanda, were there are 105 cases, marked the 26th anniversary of the 1994 genocide under lockdown. President Paul Kagame addressed the nation via video and shared his sympathies with survivors who had to forgo the usual mass gatherings and events, and instead mark the occasion indoors. One survivor by the name of Augustine Ngabonziza spoke to the Associated Pressabout the disappointing circumstance: "It's terrible not to be able to honor the dead," Ngabonziza told The AP. "We have gone through difficulties, but this is horrifying."

The number of confirmed cases has spikes in Ghana, where 73 new cases have been recorded, bringing the total to 287. While Malawi confirmed its first coronavirus related death on Tuesday, a 51-year-old woman who had recently returned from the UK. There are eight confirmed cases in the country.

The only countries remaining without confirmed cases of COVID-19 are Lesotho and Comoros, according to Africa News.


UPDATE 4/01:

Burundi recently confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus. Now the 48th African country to confirm the presence of the coronavirus outbreak, the total number of confirmed cases on the continent has now risen to close to 6000 with at least 201 reported deaths.

While Burundi had already put in place travel restrictions, Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns around authorities disseminating information that is not fact-based.

Botswana, on the other hand, has now reported its first death from coronavirus. The death came shortly after the Southern African country announced its first three cases. As with several other African countries, Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced a state of emergency and has now enforced a 28-day national lockdown which will prevent citizens from leaving their homes except for essential services.

Yesterday, Nigeria began its 14-day lockdown of key cities including Lagos and Abuja as part of government's efforts to prevent the spread of the outbreak in the heavily-populated cities.

South Africa is now on the sixth day of its 21-day national lockdown. The number of confirmed coronavirus has risen to 1353 with 5 reported deaths thus far. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize described the trajectory of the outbreak in the country saying, "The rate of increase in the numbers is not as much as anticipated. Our modelling already shows that we are falling behind the number we thought we would reach." Mkhize added, "The figures we thought we would reach by the end of April was between 4,000 – 5,000, but I don't think we will get there."

- RS

UPDATE 3/31:

Botswana now becomes the 47th African country to confirm the presence of coronavirus.

Yesterday, Botswana's Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Lemogang Kwape, announced in a televised address that three nationals had tested positive for the corononavirus and were being quarantined at the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital. Dr Kwape said, "We have now moved from prevention to containment," and added that, "In the past we have preached prevention but now that we have cases, we have moved to prevention and containment at the same time."

South Africa, on the other hand, is currently on a 21-day national lockdown which forms part of the government's efforts to contain the outbreak and begin to flatten the curve. However, South Africans on social media are increasingly calling out the alleged police brutality targeting Black people. One man has already died allegedly at the hands of law enforcement officials who were reportedly enforcing restrictions of the lockdown in the Vosloorus, Johannesburg area. Additionally, President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced that mass screening for coronavirus would begin soon.

The Ugandan government announced a 14-day lockdown yesterday. President Yoweri Museveni declared, "Except for cargo planes, lorries, pickups and trains, starting on March 31 at 19h00 hours, there will be a curfew throughout the whole of Uganda." The East African country, which has already put in place strict travel restrictions, has 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus thus far with no reported deaths.

Following the death of popular Zimbabwean media personality and broadcaster, Zororo Makamba, Zimbabwe has also put in place a 21-day national lockdown. However, due to the country's struggling economy, hyper-inflation and food shortages due to a long-standing drought, many Zimbabweans fear that they will starve in their homes during the lockdown.

- RS

UPDATE 3/30:

According to BBC Africa's coronavirus in Africa tracker, there are close to 5,000 cases across the continent. The death toll has reached 161, while 284 have recovered. Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Lesotho, Malawi, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe,South Sudan, and Western Sahara are the nine countries which have not recorded cases of the virus.

South Africa, where there have been 1,280 cases as of Monday—the most in Sub-Saharan Africa—is currently on nationwide lockdown. As a result, citizens have been ordered to stay at home for three weeks. A curfew has been set across Algeria, where 25 people have died from COVID-19.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame has announced initiatives to help the country's poor, including food provisions. Rwanda has the highest number of cases in the East Africa region. Kenya recorded its first coronavirus related death over the weekend. Curfews have been set in place across the country, and over the weekend Kenyan police were accused of using excessive force to clear the streets ahead of curfew, after they fired tear gas at a group of commuters in Mombasa. Several human rights organizations have condemned their actions.

Nigeria's President Buhari announced new funding for Lagos State, where the majority of coronavirus cases in the country have occurred. The number of confirmed cases reached 65 over the weekend, while Nigerians on Twitter mocked the president, who many believe has been slow to address the country during the pandemic. The #BuhariChallenge began in response to a picture showing Buhari "still at work," during the outbreak. People have responded by sarcastically sharing old pictures with captions claiming that they recently occurred. Here are a few examples:


UPDATE 3/23:

Zimbabwe's first coronavirus casualty occurred on Monday, when it was announced that popular broadcaster and media personality Zororo Makamba had succumbed to the virus, he was 30.

Makamba was the son of politician and former broadcaster James Makamba, and was known for his talk show Tonight With Zororo which began in 2015. Tributes have been pouring out in remembrance of the young broadcaster.

Nelson Mandela's grandson Ndaba Mandela has announced that he has also tested positive for coronavirus. The author shared the news via his Instagram page, stating that he was taking the diagnoses seriously, after being accused of not doing so in an earlier post.

In an update post shared on Sunday, he urged people to take the necessary precautions, but to not "stress" over the virus, saying: "This is a very serious situation, and I don't take it lightly for a second. However, when you've gone through so much in life, I know, for example, that stressing is not going to make a difference. So, I urge you not to stress. I urge you not to get anxiety."

South Africa currently has 402 confirmed cases of coronavirus.


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa is steadily rising.While the continent had just over 100 cases a few weeks ago, the total now stands at over 900, according to estimates by the Anadolu Agency.

Zimbabwe, Uganda, Eritrea, Madagascar and Angola are now among the latest African countries to confirm their first coronavirus case.

The governments of various African countries continue to implement preventive measures as part of efforts to contain the growing outbreak.

Rwanda, which now has a total of 17 confirmed coronavirus cases, announced that it would be suspending "unnecessary movements and visits outside the home" in what are arguably the toughest measures that have been put into effect thus far in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Similarly, Nigerian authorities have ordered almost 70 percent of the workforce in Lagos to stay home for a period of 14 days in addition to advising civilians to stay away from all government offices and to instead make use of online or telephonic modes of communication.

While South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be following the stringent social distancing measures recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the country has been struggling to prevent an increase in its existing number of coronavirus cases. Recently, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhizeconfirmed that there are now 402 cases after an increase of 128 occurred in just a day.

The global number of coronavirus cases now stands at well over 350 000 with at least 15 000 deaths. While a number of European countries including the UK, France and Italy remain hard-hit, in addition to North America and the Middle East, China is seeing a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases with new cases now being reported as imported from other countries.

- RS

UPDATE 3/19: The number of African countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak remains at 33. While it is thought that Angola has registered its first case, no major news publications have as yet verified the claim.

Yesterday however, did see Sub-Saharan Africa register its first death. According to AfricaNews, Burkina Faso's Vice President of Parliament Rose Marie Compaore, was the first patient with coronavirus to pass away. Martial Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso's COVID-19 response coordinator, released a statement following Compaore's death saying, "This tragic event calls us all to recognise the scale and seriousness of the problem which confronts us all. This is a very contagious illness that is potentially fatal and that for now has no treatment aside from prevention."

Head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has put the governments of African countries on blast saying, "Africa should wake up." Ghebreyesus also added that, "In other countries we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point."

Travel restrictions have been put in place by a number of African countries already including South Africa, Uganda, Algeria, Kenya and several others. Kenya has recently paused religious gatherings in churches and mosques in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Five major churches in the country are set to livestream their Sunday services on various social media platforms.

South Africa also recently cancelled its annual Easter pilgrimage to Moria, Limpopo as part of efforts to contain the outbreak. The event ordinarily sees the gathering of approximately 10 million members of the Zion Christ Church (ZCC).

- RS

UPDATE 3/18:

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continues to rise steadily as various African governments put in place a number of travel restrictions to contain the outbreak.

The Gambia, Djibouti, Benin and Zambia are among the latest countries to confirm the presence of COVID-19.

Djibouti's health ministry confirmed the East African country's first coronavirus case earlier today which reportedly came from a Spanish national who was part of special forces unit that arrived in the country. It is alleged that the unit did not come into contact with any Djiboutians and would be returning to Spain shortly.

News24 reports that Benin reported its first coronavirus case this past Monday. The case came from a man in the neighbouring country of Burkina Faso who had reportedly traveled to Belgium in the weeks past and upon his return, had tested positive.

A few hours ago, The Gambia confirmed its first case of coronavirus. The country's health minister Dr. Ahmadou Samateh confirmed the news in a statement saying, "The Gambia confirms its first case of COVID 19 who's currently in isolation and she is receiving an excellent care at the Medical Research Council (MRC) clinic in Fajara." Zambia on the other hand, recently confirmed two cases of coronavirus which came from individuals travelling from France. The individuals are in quarantine and the country has already closed all schools in an effort to contain the outbreak.

South Africa on the other hand, has now reported 116 cases in total, the second-highest figure after Egypt's 166. Namibia and Zimbabwe have both declared national emergencies as the outbreak spreads within the Southern African region. The latter has, however, not reported any cases as yet.


UPDATE 3/17:

African countries continue to take precautions amidst the coronavirus outbreak, which has reached 400 confirmed cases across the continent.

Tanzania has closed schools in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, Ivory Coast has places a block on international travel, while Kenya—which currently has four cases—has taken an early economic measure by "slashing the cost of mobile money transfers in a bid to encourage people to go cashless," according to BBC Africa. It is expected that similar measures will be taken in other countries to offset impending economic impact.

Nigeria confirmed a third case of the virus on Monday, after announcing that the first two index cases had been cleared earlier this week. According to BBC Africa, doctors in Nigeria's capital city of Abuja, have gone on strike due to poor pay and unsafe working conditions, which they say has been ongoing since before the outbreak.

Liberia confirmed its second case on Tuesday. The person who tested positive was a domestic worker for the country's first patient: Nathaniel Blama, agovernment worker who had recently returned from Switzerland. Blama has been suspended from his role following accusations that he failed to follow health protocols related to the virus.

Rwanda remains the most impacted East African country with seven confirmed cases. In Algeria, the outbreak has impacted the current wave of protests in the country. Despite the governments warnings, some have decided to continue with ongoing mass demonstrations.


UPDATE 03/16:

A number of African countries imposed travel restrictions over the weekend in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. South Africa announced a "state of disaster," banning travel from countries that have been highly-impacted by the disease, including China, France, Italy, Spain, Iran, UK and the US.

Kenya, which has reported three cases of the "COVID-19" coronavirus, also blocked travel from impacted countries, along with Ghana. Algeria, has announced a ban on all travel from Europe beginning on March 19. There are currently 48 confirmed cases in the country.

The East African country of Djibouti, which currently has zero cases, has taken a sweeping preventative measure and restricted all international travel. Morocco which currently has 28 cases, as well as Libya and Tunisia have also closed their borders. Travel by government officailas as well as large gatherings of 300 people or more have also been banned in Mozambique.

According to BBC Africa, the coronavirus is now present in 26 African nations.Tanzania recorded its first case of the coronavirus on Monday morning after a 46-year-old Tanzanian woman, who had traveled to Belgium, tested positive for the virus. The news was confirmed by Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu.

Somalia has also recorded its first case of COVID-19. The patient is a citizen who recently travelled abroad, according to BBC Africa.

Rwanda has now recorded a total of five cases, after four new cases were discovered on Sunday. Each case involves Rwandan nationals. The country currently has the highest number of cases in East Africa, and schools and large gatherings have been cancelled as a result.

The country's president Paul Kagame joined the World Health Organizations (WHO) "Safe Hands" challenge, sharing a video of him washing his hands on Twitter, and challenging other leaders, including Kenya's President Kenyatta and South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa and more to participate.


UPDATE 03/13:

Guinea has now confirmed its first case of coronavirus. It was found in an employee of the European Union (EU) delegation in the country who had recently returned from Europe, reports Reuters. She is currently in self-isolation.

Ethiopia also reported its first case on Friday. According to Takele Uma Banti, the mayor of Addis Ababa, a Japanese citizen in the country tested positive for the virus. This brings the number of African countries with confirmed cases to 16.

In better news, Nigeria's Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, has announced that all "index case of COVID-19" virus in the country have successfully completed their followup periods and will be allowed to rejoin society.

- DD

Kenya, Gabon and Ghana are the latest African countries to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Yesterday, the Kenyan government confirmed its first case of coronavirus in a citizen who had returned from the US via London, according to reports by Bloomberg.

Ghana's health ministry confirmed that its first two cases were also imported and had been the result of travellers returning from Turkey and Norway. Meanwhile, the Gabonese government reported that its first case of coronavirus was a traveller who had been returning from France.

Additionally, Senegal has reported five new cases of coronavirus bringing the total number of cases to 10. Algeria, which now has 24 confirmed coronavirus cases, has reported its first death. South Africa, on the other hand, has confirmed 8 new cases of coronavirus bringing its total to 24 as well.

- RS

UPDATE 03/12: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the latest African country to confirm the presence of coronavirus.

Yesterday, the DRC's health department reported that a Belgian citizen who had been in the country for a few days, had tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Anadolu Agency. The individual has since been quarantined at a hospital in the capital city of Kinshasa. It is the West African country's first recorded case.

Health Minister Eteni Longondo broke the news saying, "I would like to announce to the Congolese population that we diagnosed this morning the first case of coronavirus." Longondo added that, "It has been discovered in a Belgian national who has come to stay here for a few days."

Senegal, on the other hand, confirmed its fifth case in the city of Touba just a few hours ago, according to News24. A Senegalese national who ordinarily resides in Italy, reportedly visited a doctor in the "holy city" after exhibiting symptoms. The West African country is now currently developing "rapid test kits" which will aim to diagnose coronavirus in just 10 minutes of testing.

Additionally, South Africa's number of confirmed cases has now risen to 17. As of last week Thursday, the number of cases stood at 13 and spanned four provinces including Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. However, the first locally transmitted case has now been reported in the Free State province.

- RS

Continue for Original Story:

Globally, there are more than 115,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19). There have been over 4,000 deaths due to the virus, while around 65,000 people who were infected have recovered. By and large though, Africa has been affected by the virus on a much smaller scale than the continents of Europe, North America and Asia, with just 100 reported across the continent, according to BBC Africa. As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of two deaths have occurred on the continent, one in Egypt and another in Morocco.

While the spread of coronavirus appears to be slowing down in China and South Korea, other countries are seeing an increase in confirmed cases. Italy, where 463 people have died—the most in any country outside of China—is currently on nationwide lockdown due to the outbreak. Iran reported the highest single day toll after 54 people died within 24 hours. The death toll in the United States has reached 27.

READ: Coronavirus: Africa is Not the Center of This Epidemic and the West is Pissed.

Coronavirus' much smaller presence in Africa, however, has caused many observers in the West to scratch their heads, mostly in contempt (and possible envy), as OkayAfrica writer Rufaro Samanga points out in her op-ed Coronavirus: Africa is Not the Center of This Epidemic and the West is Pissed.

This, of course, doesn't mean that African governments don't need to take proper precautions to combat the virus. In fact, many of them already have such procedures in place. "While it may be a better pill to swallow African governments are already leading the way in terms of response efforts and they will continue to show the rest of the world what needs to be done and how," writes Samanga. "Tasked with facing off with an epidemic every so often, many African countries have invariably developed effective strategies over the years to contain, treat and resolve. Quarantine and self-isolation are not foreign concepts to us, but they appear to be for the West."

Nonetheless, there have been confirmed cases in ten countries in Africa. If you want to learn more about coronavirus' presence on the continent, check out the country-by country breakdown below.


At 55, Egypt has recorded the highest number of cases on the continent. The majority of cases came from a group of people who had previously been aboard a Nile cruise ship, reports CNN. The first coronavirus related death on the continent occurred there yesterday, after a German man succumbed to the disease.


The North African country of Algeria has reported 20 cases, but zero fatalities. According to Business Insider, 16 of those cases are from within the same family.

South Africa 

South Africa has a reported seven cases, with four of those cases being confirmed this past Monday. The four new cases are from the same group of ten people that returned to the country after vacationing in Northern Italy in March, according to CNN. Travel bans have been implemented in the nation.


Tunisia has recorded five cases of COVID-19. The government suspended Northern Italy ferry services last week as a preventative measure, reports The New York Times,while football gatherings in the country have also been restricted.Geographically, Tunisia is the closest African country to Italy and flights to the region have been given a separate terminal at Tunis airport.


There have been four confirmed cases in Senegal. There are concerns that religious pilgrimages slated to begin this month, could add to the spread of the virus. A video from Al Jazeera, outlines the lengths that some Senegalese citizens have gone to protect themselves against coronavirus.


Morocco has reported two cases of the virus. According to a recent report from, the Anadolu Agency, the country announced its first COVID-19-related death on Tuedsay morning, after an 89-year-old woman succumbed to the virus. This marks the second coronavirus-related death in Africa.


Cameroon has also reported two cases since the outbreak. The spread has also impacted African nationals living outside of the continent. A piece in BBC Africa, outlines the journey of a 21-year-old Cameroonian student living in Jingzhou, China who contracted the virus, but later recovered.

Burkina Faso 

Burkina Faso became the sixth Sub-Saharan African nation to report cases of the virus on Monday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). According to Gulf News Africa, the two people affected were a husband and wife who had recently returned from France.


There have been two confirmed cases in Africa's most populous country. It was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to be hit by the virus, after an Italian man traveling to Lagos tested positive, according to a report from ReutersviaCitizen Digital. There have been zero fatalities so far. As a recent story from Quartz points out, it is the spread of the viral Lassa disease in Nigeria that poses a more significant threat in the country at this time.


Togo reported its first and only case of COVID-19 last week. A 42-year-old woman who had previously traveled to several countries in Europe contracted the coronavirus, and was subsequently placed in isolation. She is believed to be in stable condition, according to a report from Reuters.

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Lost In Riddim Music Festival Pushed To 2023

The music festival was canceled by organizers as they prepare to come back even bigger and better in the New Year.

Update 08/17: And another one bites the dust.

This year's Lost in Riddim international music and art festival has been canceled, according to a statement shared via the event's official Instagram page. What would have been the Bay Area's delicious groove fest to end off of summer 2022, the raincheck has left both concert-goers and event organizers, Sol Blume, in distress. Performances from the likes of Burna Boy, Wizkid, Major League DJs, Davido, legendary Jamaican rapper Sean Paul, were set to set the stages on fire over this year's Nigerian Independence Day weekend. We trust that they'll come back even stronger after some time to regroup.

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Image courtesy of the Institute Museum of Ghana

Spotlight: Nigerian Artist Festus Alagbe Is Unmasking Your True Identity

We spoke with the visual artist on identity and letting your intuition guide you to success.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Nigerian visual artist Festus Kehinde Alagbe. The painting major comes from a family of creatives and entrepreneurs and uses his life experiences and understandings to reflect messages back to the society to which he belongs. Acknowledging his strengths and choosing to focus his energy on his creative pursuits, Alagbe uses the concept of 'masking' to reveal the hidden meaning behind the norms that society has placed upon us. Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem 'We Wear The Mask', acts as a great inspiration for the young artist, as his understanding of human nature led him to portray his artistic subjects as unmasking and masking whichever expression they believe will suit the mood. Alagbe's work also illustrates how the everyday person copes with the harsh realities of life on Earth.

We spoke with the artist about his current spot in Ghana's Noldor Artist Residency, allowing yourself to learn more about your craft, and the pressure that comes with identity.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your background as an artist and the journey you've taken to get it to where it is today.

My artistic journey began in childhood: I was born into a family that holds entrepreneurs and creatives in high esteem. And we're all creative -- my parents were fashion designers, and, likewise my twin brother.

I’m an instinctive artist. I have always wanted to express my imaginations and experiences in a visual form -- either on a two-dimensional surface or in three-dimensional form. That which I can not express with words, I want to express as messages that people can learn from, relate with, and encourage society. But, knowing that instincts aren't enough, I joined The Polytechnic, Ibadan's Department of Art and Design as a painting major to be mentored and become a professional Artist. I became a full-time artist when graduated from school.

I’m currently a Visiting Fellow at the Noldor Artist Residency in Accra, Ghana.

What are the central themes in your work?

I capture different bisected facial expressions to represent time and seasons in the form of masks. I believe that the range of expressions that a face creates is not the true identity. Facial expressions are subject to the situation of society. “We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,” says a poem titled “We Wear The Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

The true Identity is hidden inside every individual. The characters you exhibit will be determined by the kind of seeds you sow into yourself -- either love or hatred. I use flowers to capture love, passion, seasons, and transient time. The elements I use in the back are biomorphic and fluid in shape, depicting structures and institutions in the world. I also capture and depict Black bodies bursting through with floral elements, referring to the optimism that lies with the pain of being Black, depicting a sense of growth and resilience in the face of ubiquitous racial prejudice and adversity largely faced by people of color. And the flowers bursting through different genders captures different emotions and expressions.

What is your medium of choice, and why?

I use various mediums to express myself, like acrylic, oil, charcoal, etc. I use different mediums as a professional artist because I don’t want to be limited to a medium before I can express myself.

Recently, I uses oil to detail my subject (faces) and acrylic for the background because it dries faster and can be controlled easily.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

It has actually affected me in the area of market value and the unavailability of materials to work. But all glory to God for today.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism' and 'Surrealism’?

I’m a surreal artist of African origin. So, my artistic practice is based on surrealism from an African perspective to address some situations or issues in society at large. I strike a balance between realism, fantasy, and imagination. Afrofuturism addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora through technoculture and speculative fiction, encompassing a range of media and artists with a shared interest in envisioning Black futures that stem from Afro-diasporic experiences. While Afrofuturism is most commonly associated with science fiction, it can also encompass other speculative genres such as fantasy, alternate history, and magic realism. These are what make my practice relate to Afro-futurism.

Can you talk about your use of colors and jewelry in your art?

I use dark skin tones and colors to depict Black faces with bodies, and I use monochrome colors to explore abstract landscapes as my background. And the abstraction elements in the back are biomorphic and fluid in shape which is the representation of structures and institutions in the world and society.

Image courtesy of the artist

'Split Intent' 2022

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

Ugandan Designer Bobby Kolade is Resisting the Secondhand Clothing Trade

We talked with designer Bobby Kolade about his experience working in Uganda and his perspective on industry and community.

In 2018, Bobby Kolade moved back to Kampala, Uganda — where he grew up — with a dream of creating a brand that used sustainably grown Ugandan cotton. Having been away for 13 years — making a name for himself in the European fashion world working for high-end brands like Balenciaga and Maison Margiela — his first priority was to engage with and learn as much as possible about Uganda’s textile industry.

But, after a little research, he found that the country’s textile industry no longer had the capacity to support such an endeavor. In the 1970s, Uganda was producing 84,000 tons of cotton yearly and processing 85% of it for local consumption. Today, only 5% of Ugandan cotton is consumed by its own people, with the rest being exported in its raw form.

Chief among the reasons for this decline in industry is the large-scale import of second-hand clothing from the Global North. Each day, millions of unwanted clothes from thrift stores and donation bins in Europe and North America land in cities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Their low-cost and sheer abundance leaves little room for local designers in countries like Uganda to thrive. Even worse, the vast many of these clothes are ultimately discarded, overwhelming African landfills with the waste of western nations. In Accra, Ghana, for example, 40% of the 15 million used garments that flood into the city every week are deemed worthless upon arrival.

Responding to this crisis in his local fashion industry has been at the center of Kolade's work and research since he returned home. Between 2018 and 2021, he frequented major trade points like markets and boutiques, textile mills and even worked for two different cotton processing companies.

The data that he compiled — alongside his research partner, Nikissi Serumaga — ultimately turned into a limited series podcast called Vintage or Violence.Released in 2021, the podcast brilliantly tells the story of Ugandan textile, the essential arm it has historically played in the nation's progress, and the sinister implications that the second-hand hand clothing trade has on youth unemployment, education, national morale, and Ugandan society at large.

Buzigahill green and black shirt

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

Alongside this research, Kolade also inadvertently found himself at the helm of Aiduke, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Ugandan fashion and textile practitioners. He also joined the Uganda Fashion Council as one of three directors responsible for sourcing funding for local fashion projects. But after two years of struggling to create exposure for their projects, the other two directors quit within weeks of each other, leaving Bobby alone at the reins.

As he sees it, the council failed, mainly because it was a council — a foreign concept that didn’t work in the Ugandan context. He rebranded it as Aiduke Clothing Research and switched its focus to learning and experimentation. Their first project was a pop-up shop that ran from December 2021 to February 2022 in a corner of a Japanese restaurant in Kampala. It featured a mixed selection of vintage pieces with accessories and crafts by local designers.

Kolade's latest act came with the launch of Buzigahill, a brand with a mission to “return Uganda‘s textile industry to the peak levels of the early 1970s, when more cotton was processed than exported.'' Their first collection, Return to Sender, responds to Uganda’s secondhand clothes crisis by “treating them like raw material.” They source bales of clothes from markets across Kampala, then combine and reconstruct them into distinctly new garments to be sold to customers in countries like the US and UK, from whence the discarded clothing first came. The collection further illuminates the devastating effects of the second hand clothing trade on countries in the Global South and points the conversation towards accountability by making western consumers reckon with the effects of their over-consumption. Following the success of their first drop, Buzigahill just released a second collection as part of the Return to Sender series.

The collection embraces an elevated yet playful streetwear aesthetic with an emphasis on comfort. Each piece is unique to itself, but there is a prevailing spirit that all the garments embrace: multi-panel t-shirts made from pieces of other t-shirts stitched together; mis-matched hoodies; track pants partially fashioned from denim jeans; and elongated t-shirt dresses.

We caught up with Bobby Kolade ahead of Buzigahill's second release to talk about his experience working in Uganda and his perspective on industry and community.

Buzigahill hoodie

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

How has the transition been since you moved back to Uganda in 2018?

The first three years, I went through a series of disappointments because I realized that it wasn't going to be possible to do what I had come back home to do. Our industry is not as far as it needs to be in order to set up a brand with a diverse collection that can compete on a global scale. But that’s life in Kampala — a series of disappointments that you make work for you somehow, especially if you are trying to set up something in a professional manner. So, the transition for me was having to adapt into a designer who repurposes secondhand clothes.

Along the way, so many beautiful things have happened and they overshadow the disappointments. The sense of community here is much stronger than I had in Europe. I feel like because of the scarcity of certain cultural activities, almost all the creatives stay on one side of town.

What is the significance of the name Buzigahill?

Buzigahill came about at the beginning of lockdown. I realized that all the people who inspire me — DJs, filmmakers, journalists, artists — all lived in this bubble that was on Buzigahill. One day, in our WhatsApp group, I joked that we all needed Buzigahill e-mail addresses. I love domain hoarding so I said, "you know what? Let me actually get e-mail addresses for everybody." So I bought [the domain name] and a couple of weeks later I registered the business.

What has shocked you most over the course of your research?

The biggest shock was the realization that we are in an industrial regression. I do not see any signs whatsoever that the cotton industry is going in the right direction. During my time here I've seen decline in industry [and] production. I've seen textile production decrease [and] cotton facilities shut down. That was bitter for me. I felt naive because I wrote so many pitches and I had this grand vision of a brand based around Ugandan cotton and it just couldn’t come to fruition.

Our educational institutions are also not training people to produce clothing for global markets. There is no clear distinction between a tailor and a designer. You study fashion design for three years but at the end of the day, you end up sewing a few custom dresses for clients.

Buzigahill sweater

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

What is the distinction, for you, between a tailor and a designer?

A tailor is a service provider for a designer (or a custom client). It's a craft. A designer spends time thinking about form, color, function markets people, culture, and not necessarily sewing.

So you feel that so-called design institutions largely only equip people to do the technical work of creating the clothes and not necessarily the bigger picture thinking that it takes to be a designer?

Absolutely! Also our textile knowledge is not to the standard it needs to be. I visited a textile university where they were still using manual sewing machines. We need to be using the latest technology. We need labs, we need people to be experimenting. The abundance of raw materials in this country is crazy but we're not using them to the extent that we could be [because] our institutions haven't modernized.

What do you think about the rate of secondhand clothing being bought?

I don't see secondhand clothes going anywhere. There are more and more shopping malls. More boutiques are opening up, run by people who purchase second hand clothes from markets and present them better and make it more comfortable for people who are not interested in going to Owino because of the hassle. We have imported a culture of overconsumption and ultimately it will lead to a culture of over disposal. People own much more than they used to in the past because these things are dirt cheap.

Buzigahill jumpshoot

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

In 2015, the member states of the East African Community pledged to ban the import of second hand clothing, but after the US threatened to revoke the African Growth and Opportunities Act, which gives African countries duty free access to export certain products to the US, only Rwanda ultimately followed through with the ban. Though it was tough at first, their local textile industry has since grown 83% between 2018 and 2020. Do you think that Rwanda’s success might influence Uganda to revisit those sentiments of 2015?

What's the population of Rwanda?

About 12 million.

So 12 million people. Uganda has 47 million people today. Think that answers the question. I don't think our local textile industry is anywhere close to being able to cater to the demands of the market right now. Secondly, I don't think we have the same strength as Rwanda does when it comes to talking to the US. What I would like to see happen more is what Buzigahill is doing; embracing the fact that we have all these second hand and treating them as a raw material to develop our industry.

If at some point raw material production, in terms of linen, silk, and cotton, does catch up and we can integrate them into the production systems that we've set up using secondhand clothes, then that is all well and good. But the key issue here is that African countries need to be treated as industrial resources, not just as a source of materials that need to be extracted.

Tell me about your experience speaking at the Global Fashion Summit.

There was a lot of talk. It was a lot of rich companies from the Global North telling us all the great things that they were doing. I went on stage and just said my truth and. It was well received but a part of me also felt like I was on stage performing a theatre piece. You kind of feel weird when people congratulate you for what you've said on stage because I wasn't performing anything. I was telling the truth. We have a serious problem and it remains to be seen if more African voices will be given the platform that I was given. Although it was the most diverse and youngest edition of the global fashion summit, there is [still] a lot of work that needs to be done and more voices need to be added to the conversation.

The highlight for me was the OR Foundation announcing the EPR fund with Shein. Ghana has the biggest secondhand clothing market on the continent and they experience the [most] devastating side effects of clothing waste disposal. The OR Foundation signed an agreement with Shein to receive funds to alleviate the effects of second hand clothing in Ghana at Kantamanto market. It’s the first time that a fast fashion company has acknowledged the fact that their products are part of the problem on the African continent. It's a model that should be replicated by all the other huge brands: H&M, Nike, Adidas, Topshop, Primark — the ones that are suffocating our markets.

Buzigahill pants with jeans

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

Other than upcycling, what ways do you think that designers can strive for sustainability in their work?

Sustainability, for me, always comes down to the raw material. The most obvious thing is using natural fibers. We need to see more designers interact with local craftsmanship. I love it when I see a designer carry something that is considered artisanal and use it to make something contemporary that appeals to a youthful market. We don't need to be using fabrics imported from other countries. I don't want to see Ugandan politicians wearing three piece suits and a tie. It's ridiculous.

How would you describe Kampala's sense of style? Do you think there is an essence that generally informs the way people dress throughout the city?

No, I don't think so. There are many different scenes which don't really mix very well. Each borrows a lot from their counterparts in the Global North. In my opinion, the best dressed people in the city are the boda boda [motorcycle taxi] drivers. They have an understated sense of swag, mixing things up unknowingly. It's innate. You can find somebody wearing cowboy boots, Adidas track pants, a beanie, and then a really cool jacket. It's all over the place, but it's special. It's unique.

Buzigahill women

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

Photo Credit: Adayliving

Chopstix on Crafting Burna Boy’s Biggest Hit "Last Last"

We spoke with Chopstix, one of Nigeria’s most in-demand producers, about his career and working on Burna Boy's smash 'Love, Damini' album.

Much of the credit for Afropop's rise over the last decade is usually credited to its artists. Thanks to their chart-topping singles, propulsive personalities, and swell catalogues, these acts are bringing popular African music to the attention of a global audience. The hyperfocus on these musicians often means that other participants in the music creation process are overlooked.

The rise of super-producers like Sarz, LONDON, P.Priime, and Chopstixis quickly refining the future of the genre as they receive more attention for their critical role in shaping the direction of our contemporary pop sound.

“Times are changing, before now producers didn’t have access to all the tools we have now,” Chopstix told OkayAfrica during a Zoom early in in August. “We’re receiving more recognition for our work and that’s a great thing.” At the moment, Chopstix is one of Nigeria’s most in-demand record producers, serving as a link between the heady rush of the hip-hop-inflected sound of early 2010s Afropop and its more recent iteration.

Born as Malcolm Kolade Olagundoye, Chopstix got his start in music production as a student attending St. Murumba College in Jos, the alma mater of iconic Nigerian pop duo P-Square. The music-loving principal of St. Murumba had set up a studio in the school and established a music and drama club to get students engaged. “We had a live session part and a recording session where computers and software were set up to record and produce music but I didn’t know about that session for a while, I only knew about the live session part,” Chopstix said. “One day, while rehearsing, I was hearing music from the other room and I found an older guy producing music all by himself. That was my lightbulb moment and I just knew it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life because he looked so good and was so in his zone.”

Introduced by a friend to music production software FruityLoops (now known as FL Studio), Chopstix dove head-on into music production, experimenting widely with the tools at his disposal. Those early days spent sleuthing around in FL Studios also helped crystallize his affinity for the innovative sampling technique that gave birth to his producer tag. “When I first got my FruityLoops installed, it was just a couple of sounds that came with it but I didn’t want to use those stock sounds because everybody had them and I wanted my music to sound different,” he said. “So, what I’ll do is listen to songs by [hip-hop producers] Kanye West, DJ Premier, and Timbaland and listen for places where a kick or snare stands out and chop it. I spent hours of my time chopping up those samples and stacking them up. At the end of the day, I had tons of samples that I had taken from different places. Those were the samples I was using to produce at the time and when people heard my beats they were always asking where they came from because it didn’t sound like the usual stuff people used.”

Chopstix wearing a suit

Photo Credit: Adayliving

Around 2009, Chopstix met fellow Jos-based musicians Ice Prince, Yung L, and Endia, coming together with the latter two to form the music collective, GRIP Muzik, that helped to refine an era of Jos’ music scene. “At the time, we were just remaking global hit songs,” Chopstix said. “We would go on radio and have people request that we remake a song and we remade it. We were mostly remaking music and putting out our original songs occasionally. When we saw the traction we were getting, we figured that we could do it bigger than we were doing it and that’s when we moved from Jos to Lagos.”

The move to Lagos came with its unique challenges as the rising producer had to face the unrelenting pace of life in Nigeria’s entertainment capital. He took time out to understand the pulse of the city’s entertainment structure and the industry that had grown around it, taking a backseat from active production for close to a year. In Lagos, his relationship with Ice Prince metamorphosed into a full-blown creative partnership that saw him produce hit singles like "Aboki" and "Gimme Dat" while helping Ice Prince complete his sophomore album, Fire Of Zamani.

“At the time, we made 'Aboki,' we were trying to experiment with the traditional sound because I always like to push people out of their comfort zones," Chopstix said. "The first few days after the song dropped, it got a lot of backlash on blogs but a week after that, it just switched. The reactions were great and the song just went viral and blew up... That was my first hit single after coming to Lagos. It introduced me officially as Chopstix.”

Working with Ice Prince meant that Chopstix was always collaborating with some of Nigeria’s biggest stars. He remembers officially meeting Burna Boy, when the Port Harcourt-born star came to record his verse for "Gimme Dat." That meeting started off a working relationship that continues to this day. “The first song I did with Burna was 'Rockstar.' it was the first time I recorded one-on-one with him after 'Gimme That,'" Chopstix said. “I think we connected instantly from the first time we met and it’s still the same to date. It hasn’t shifted and it’s only become stronger. There’s always been an understanding between both of us of what type of musicians we are and the connection just happened seamlessly.”

The connection between both musicians has deepened as they have ascended to new levels over the last five years with Chopstix being a part of the four-album run — from Outsideto Love, Damini — that has catapulted Burna Boy to international fame. (Another album, Gaddafi, which Chopstix worked heavily on was put on hold. “It’s probably one of the hardest projects I’ve worked on sonically but I don’t think it’s something that the world is ready for now because he was talking about a lot of real facts and global political stuff that I’m not sure people are ready for,” Chopstix said of that project.)

In July, Burna Boy released Love, Damini with "Last Last" as its lead singles. The song, which samples Toni Braxton’s "He Wasn’t Man Enough," was recorded one month before its official release and has become the most commercially successful song of Burna Boy’s career, peaking at No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on the UK Top 40 Chart. Despite the heavy thematic references of the song, Chopstix says he was sure it was going to be a global hit record.

“Bro, as soon as this song was done — as soon as I hit export — Burna and I had a moment where we looked at each other and we knew that we had caused trouble,” Chopstix said. “He knew instantly and we were already talking about how he was going to perform it and what the performances would look like on stage. That’s how much he is into his craft. When he says he put his life into his job, it’s not just lyrics — it’s facts. That’s why I enjoy working with people that take their work seriously because I take my work seriously. He called up the video director that same night, the director pulled up at his place the next day and the video was shot there.”

According to Chopstix, the decision to sample "He Wasn’t Man Enough" wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision; both he and Burna were huge fans of the song. “[The sample] was specifically picked out by Burna Boy himself," he said. "And it happens that I've always wanted to sample that particular song as well so the stars basically aligned in our favor.” A lot of the recent online chatter around “Last Last” has focused on Burna Boy’s comment about Toni Braxton receiving about 60% of the royalties on “Last Last” but Chopstix insists that this is the way such collaborations work.

“Sampling is a culture in music that has been around for decades,” said. “After 'Last Last' was done, the rest were label and management talks and Toni Braxton's team had been contacted for clearance. When a song is sampled and done right, it is indirectly a feature or collaboration. This automatically bridges gaps between the artists involved. It will introduce African artists to new territories and also their music is not completely alien. This means more listeners, and African artists can easily tour the new areas and further spread our music and culture.”

While still basking in the success of Last Last, Chopstix is working on bigger projects, viewing the success of the single as a portal for the next phase of his career. “I’m just super excited because 'Last Last' has just opened a door for the journey to start," Chopstix said. "I feel like I’m just starting right now. All I’ve experienced till this moment has just been preparation, this is just the starting point. I can’t wait for the next record and the next record and on and on.”

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