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Photo: Kobi Williamz

A Smiling Macron Wants To Make France Africa's Best Friend, But at What Cost?

The charismatic French President came through to Fela Kuti's temple, played some drums, gave a speech, and potentially lit a fire.

The characteristic smell of weed was missing from the the New Afrikan Shrine, Tuesday. On regular evenings in the home of Afrobeat, built in honor of Nigerian cultural icon Fela Kuti, young men stroll up and down the street, seeking to convert tourists and visitors into buyers for their products. But today was different.

Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic was on his way.

The young President of France, the poster boy for business friendly centrism, swept into Nigeria on June 3, 2018, where he sealed an agreement between Nigeria and France to carry out projects in Lagos, Kano and Ogun states at the cost of $475 million. First stop was in Abuja, the Federal Capital of the country, where the standard photo-ops and press releases were done and disseminated. But for young creatives in Lagos, State, the hub of the music, fashion, and movie industries, the agenda was different.

The cultural extravaganza at the New Afrika Shrine saw President Macron joined by 200 VIP guests and 250 journalists, who packed the hallowed music venue, home of Femi Kuti and his world-famous band. On the night, the legendary musician, and son of Fela, performed a show-stopping set, bringing Macron up for the finale, in what is the first time in the Shrine's history that a serving President has graced the stage.


The evening's full line-up included stars of music and screen, never before seen on stage together, including Afro-pop queen Yemi Alade, Cameroonian singer Charlotte Dipanda, talking drum performer Ara (Thunder), prominent Nollywood director Kunle Afolayan, world-famous artists Angelique Kidjo, Asa, and Youssou N'Dour, Nollywood stars Joke Silva, Rita Dominic, and Ramsey Nouah, and Kareem Waris Olamilekan, an 11 year-old genius child artist who stole the show by producing a hyperrealist drawing of President Macron in under 2 hours.

Legendary writer, Wole Soyinka was there for the show Photo: Kobi Williamz

The French President is no stranger to the country and the Shrine. In 2002, he held an internship position at the French Embassy, where, he says, he became familiar with the country, its importance in the region, and the sheer potential of the country's creatives.

"My main memories about Africa is the strength. Proud people, proud of their culture, proud of their arts, proud of their music," Macron told the crowd. "And that's why I have a very different view of Africa, than a lot of foreign people in Europe, because I was educated here."

During his return visit to the New Afrika Shrine, the French leader recollected happy times he spent there when he was working in Nigeria as a student in 2002. President Macron recognized the Shrine as a cultural and political symbol for Africa. "Let me just remind you that this place is obviously a cultural place, a music place, but it's a space about politics as well," said the French president. "[Fela Kuti] was not just a musician, he was a politician as well... He was a politician because he wanted to change society. So if I have just one message for young people here at the Shrine tonight: yes, politics are important. Yes, be involved."

16 years later, he is president of a world power, with a long history of colonisation in Africa. And while much of the young generation that he is a part of never experienced this colonialism directly, the negative effects of that chapter remain evident in numerous aspects of African lives. As more young people become aware of Africa's history, these unequal relationships stand out as a sore point in millennial conversations on international relations—especially on social media. Nigeria wasn't a French colony, but her neighbours were, and the sentiments of that era run deep. Macron recognizes this.

We have a very complicated history with Africa, especially when you speak from France…we have to recognize the bad, and the negative pages of that history. You have to recognize all the bad deeds, and face them." Macron admitted in an interview with popular broadcaster, Keturah King.

Femi Kuti meeting Macron Photo: Kobi Williamz

"But you have to move forward," he continues. "And if you are always consumed by them, and that vision, you will never move forward. Which means, how to build the future for Africa."

Macron claims to be seeking a bright future that embraces creative work, under the a new initiative named the "2020 Season of African Cultures in France." During this week long celebration, France aims to showcase the best creatives from Africa, across art, music, fashion, movies and more. Approximately 3.3–5.5 million (5–8 percent of the French population), are blacks of African descent, and President Macron intends to help build a positive narrative with this event.

He announced this after playing African drums, receiving African art, watching Yemi Alade perform and shaking a lot of African creative hands. And while on paper there's everything to love about a big event celebrating African creative life in France, there's a lot of work to be done, by France mostly, and by Africans before skepticism around French intentions in Africa can be retired.

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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Convener of "#Revolution Now" Omoyele Sowore speaks during his arraignment for charges against the government at the Federal High Court in Abuja, on September 30, 2019. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

Nigerian Activist, Omoyele Sowore, Re-Arrested Just Hours After Being Released on Bail

Sowore, the organizer of Nigeria's #RevolutionNow protests, was detained by armed officers, once again, in court on Friday.

Omoyele Sowore, the Nigerian human rights activist and former presidential candidate who has spent over four months in jail under dubious charges, was re-arrested today in Lagos while appearing in court.

The journalist and founder of New York-based publication Sahara Reporters, had been released on bail the day before. He was arrested following his organization of nationwide #RevolutionNow protests in August. Since then, Sowore has remained in custody on what are said to be trumped-up charges, including treason, money laundering and stalking the president.

He appeared in court once again on Friday after being released on bail in federal court the previous day. During his appearance, Sowore was again taken into custody by Nigerian authorities.

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14 Cultural Events You Can't Miss this December in South Africa

OkayAfrica's guide to must-see events during South Africa's festive season.

South Africans will tell you that December is not just a month, it's an entire lifestyle. From beginning to end, it's about being immersed in a ton of activity with friends and family as well as any new folk you meet along the way. Whether you're looking to turn up to some good music or watch some provocative theater, our guide to just 14 cultural events happening in South Africa this December, has something for everyone.

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Screenshot from the upcoming film Warriors of a Beautiful Game

In Conversation: Pelé's Daughter is Making a Documentary About Women's Soccer Around the World

In this exclusive interview, Kely Nascimento-DeLuca shares the story behind filming Warriors of a Beautiful Game in Tanzania, Brazil and other countries.

It may surprise you to know that women's soccer was illegal in Brazil until 1981. And in the UK until 1971. And in Germany until 1970. You may have read that Sudan made its first-ever women's league earlier this year. Whatever the case, women and soccer have always had a rocky relationship.

It wasn't what women wanted. It certainly wasn't what they needed. However, society had its own ideas and placed obstacle after obstacle in front of women to keep ladies from playing the game. Just this year the US national team has shown the world that women can be international champions in the sport and not get paid fairly compared to their male counterparts who lose.

Kely Nascimento-DeLuca is looking to change that. As the daughter of international soccer legend Pelé, she is no stranger to the game. Growing up surrounded by the sport, she was actually unaware of the experiences women around the world were having with it. It was only recently that she discovered the hardships around women in soccer and how much it mirrored women's rights more generally.

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