Founder's Note - Nkiru Balonwu

Nkiru is Founder & Creative Director, The Africa Soft Power Project

Welcome to The Africa Soft Power Project (ASP), and welcome to the post-pandemic world of 2022, which sees our flagship Africa Soft Power Summit event taking place in the beautiful city of Kigali, Rwanda!

First founded in 2020, our goal at ASP is a simple one: to leverage the awesome (soft) power of the continent’s creative and cultural industries to propel economic growth at home, internationally, and by building bridges with wider communities around the world.

After working for many years in media tech, including as the MD of Spinlet, which at the time was Africa’s largest homegrown music streaming app, I began to realise the huge potential that these sectors had to offer, if only they could attract the right levels of engagement – and investment.

Today, we live in a world where African culture has gone mainstream, as exemplified earlier this year when Burna Boy had a packed-out Madison Square Garden eating out the palm of his hand! We want to celebrate that success, but also build on it, bringing more African creative and cultural pursuits into the mainstream, and helping to fuel the digital and knowledge economies of tomorrow on a global level.

A key part of ASP’s initial two year programme has been to establish May as ‘Africa Month’. There are already celebrations like Black History Month in February in the US, or October in the UK, and that’s great because they champion the diaspora community. But when we are thinking in terms of global blackness, the continent of Africa still gets left behind, and so we seek to paint a modern, accurate picture of what the continent is about today – and that cultural narrative of course, is best told by our creative industries!

The theme for this year’s Summit is: ‘Africa & the Global Community: The New Face of Collaboration’, and it couldn’t be more fitting. In the past we’ve we’ve welcomed speakers from Brazil, Columbia, UK, US, and right across the Caribbean to the Summit – and it’s clear from previous events that when you start to build bridges and collaborate, soft power really begins to shine.

As we take our first post-pandemic steps back into real-life networking, Rwanda couldn’t provide a more appropriate backdrop for celebrating African cultural and creative success. The newly formed NBA Africa/Basketball Africa League playoffs take place in town at the same time as the Summit, with key speakers from the organisation also joining the ASP programme.

As we leave lockdowns behind, we re-enter a very different physical world to the world we closed the door on in March 2020 – this represents a huge opportunity for change. For Africa, it’s not only about attracting greater investment from the Facebooks, Googles, and Disneys of this world (which we need to do), but also having greater confidence in ourselves and our own media tech sectors, and what they can bring to the world.

Now more than ever we invite you to explore our site, to engage with us, and create platforms for collaboration with the African creative and cultural sectors, wherever in the world you may be.

Yours truly,

Nkiru Balonwu

Africa Soft Power Series 24/05/22