The opening session of The Africa Soft Power Series virtual summit, titled 'Africa Now: Defining The Future', will feature esteemed panelists of African descent.

The Africa Soft Power Project Celebrates Africa Month With A Series of Talks

Featuring some of the most brilliant African minds, the 2021 edition of The Africa Soft Power Series virtual summit will take place from May 5 to 25.

The Africa Soft Power Project (ASP) is launching the second edition of the Africa Soft Power Series virtual summit, aimed at exploring how Africa can utilize its creative and cultural industries to propel itself forward. This, while championing the inclusion of African voices and the diaspora community in bigger global narratives. Featuring a mix of top-notch sessions and 80+ speakers, the free virtual summit is set to take place between May 5 and 25, 2021.

This grand global gathering, themed 'The Bridge: The Past, The Present, The Future', will connect thought leaders, influencers and pioneers through a broader conversation around Africa's creative power and knowledge economy — and how these assets can strengthen ties between the continent, diaspora community and the world at large. The sessions, curated around film, music, fashion, sports, technology, finance, art, social impact and much more, will explore new, tangible strategies and initiatives to help speed up Africa's economic growth and retell its story.

Nkiru Balonwu, founder and convener of The Africa Soft Power Series, says African artists Burna Boy and Wizkid's 2021 Grammy Award wins are proof that Africa's time is now. "The global reach of these artists and the inspiration that they bring not only to Africa and its diaspora community, but to young people around the world, highlights the growing influence of African creativity globally. The creative and cultural sectors can be a strong catalyst for investment, employment, and future economic growth across the continent and beyond," shares Balonwu.

Further unpacking this year's theme, The Africa Soft Power Series co-convener Obi Asika explains: "The Bridge is about connecting and enabling Africa and the global black diaspora to engage, build, and develop together, a more progressive future — a more connected future that will benefit all of the world."

The opening session, 'Africa Now: Defining The Future', will feature a keynote address from Ambassador Rama Yade, foremost French diplomat, author, global thought leader. Ambassador Yade is also the director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center and senior fellow for the Europe Center. At age 30, she was appointed France's deputy minister for foreign affairs and human rights. She was the first-ever French minister for human rights and first woman of African descent to become a member of the French cabinet. Other esteemed panelists for the opening session include: Laureine Guilao, TipMe Liberia CEO and former Deputy CEO MTN Liberia; Nmachi Jidenma, Technologist and former Global Strategy and Business Development Lead, WhatsApp; Shikoh Gitau, CEO Qhala and Member, COVID-19 ICT Advisory Committee, Government of Kenya. The session will be moderated by Sophie Masipa, CEO Kgommuu International and former Head of Communications and Media Relations at Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

"We are excited to be a part of the global community highlighting the history of Africa Day and bringing new energy to its recognition through Africa Month," said Dr. Uzodinma Iweala, CEO of The Africa Center based in New York City's Harlem community. "At a time where African voices on the continent and throughout the Diaspora continue to push the dialogue about what is possible for Africa and its people forward, there is no better moment than now for us to turn our attention toward each other and into tangible ways of collaborating and building closer connections that benefit us all."

The Africa Soft Power Project seeks to establish May as Africa month. By setting aside one month in a year to celebrate African and diaspora achievements, the Project intends to normalise the continent's inclusion within global conversations and make this a regular fixture. This series has been specifically timed to begin on UNESCO Africa World Heritage Day, May 5 and culminate on Africa Day, May 25.

Attendance is free, register here: https://bit.ly/AfricaSoftPower

Visit the ASP website for the rest of the sessions and line-up.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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