Over 12.5 million Africans were transported as slaves between 1525 and 1866, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade database. This led to the forced removal of skilled young Africans, resulting in the loss of talents such as artistic skills, agricultural knowledge, leadership, musical and performance arts, spiritual and religious knowledge, and technical expertise to the continent.
Now, there is a positive shift, with young Africans of the 21st century, making remarkable achievements globally, signaling the resurgence of these lost talents.
Bakare Mubarak, the co-founder of Expedition 54 Limited and the tallest model in sub-Saharan Africa, in this interview with DAVID IJASEUN spoke on how more of these talents can be discovered, nurtured, and harnessed for the continent’s development. Excerpts:
From your experience as a successful entrepreneur, what can be done to identify, nurture and tap into the talent of young Africans?
There’s a whole lot of talent everywhere but one of those things that tend to limit this visibility is the timidity that so many parents put in their children and the ones they put in them in school. I will advise that first, we need to begin to imbibe a culture of confidence in young people growing up. The fundamental bedrock of being in the right frame of mind is education and I do not mean the four walls of the classroom but teaching people to be solution-oriented.
What measures can be taken to bridge the digital divide and enjoy equal access to resources and training for all young Africans regardless of their background?
Our first step is, we must all have a base knowledge as I said previously because every other thing would now leverage on that. Through our exposure to technology through education, we will know how best to harness opportunities and how best to solve problems.
What are the factors that can catalyse harnessing young African talents?
We have to create an environment first of all to make sure that young people feel the need or feel comfortable enough to express themselves. I’ll say creating a level playing ground for talents or young people to be able to showcase what they’ve got; that’s the first thing. It is also very pertinent that the older generations, industry leaders and the government not exempted as well can provide grants for research and development to support youths’ projects for scalability.
When it comes to other corporate entities or private entities, it is also important that we begin to see even more angel investors; that we begin to see even more venture capitalists that will put funding in place to allow these talents reach their full potential. We also need a level playing ground actually to make this happen.
The most advanced technology in the world is the human mechanism and the most resourceful capital in the world is the human capital
How can we create that level playing ground you are talking about?
We must overhaul the educational system by coming back to base. It must be cultural-based. The educational system that we currently operate on is a system that limits your fire; that puts you in a place where you have a creative block because you are concentrating on things that are not the ultimate and make you lose track of the real essence of human existence.
We must come back to a cultural base system because part of the things we have been taught to believe is that the Westerners control the world when it comes to information technology but may I shock you with a great truth? The concept and the basis of the binary system and computer language are the concepts and the basis of “Ifa”. To give you a reference, you could read Socrates and Orunmila; this dissects properly and goes even deeper into this conversation.
Do you think the fashion industry can be leveraged to harness the potential of young African talents?
The fashion industry holds significant importance, as exemplified by the fact that the current richest person in the world owns a fashion brand, LVMH. This serves as a living example of the industry’s prominence. From a modelling
perspective, the fashion industry is often considered cut-throat, implying that it can be highly competitive and demanding. To succeed, individuals must possess self-confidence and self-esteem, as it may challenge their comfort levels.
While progress is being made, there is still room for improvement in the fashion industry, especially when compared to the thriving music industry, which is currently one of Africa’s greatest exports. However, to reach its full potential, the fashion industry needs the right players and initiatives that prioritise the actual benefit of the fashion industry itself rather than leveraging it for other industries’ gain.
I will add that relationships are very paramount. The most advanced technology in the world is the human mechanism and the most resourceful capital in the world is the human capital; so it is very important that we pay attention and keep to network and keep not only to actually meet people but also keep a very healthy and very
resourceful relationship with people.
Are there any roadblocks to achieving this?
One of the challenges in the fashion industry is the lack of standardisation in our designs. Some Nigerian designs do not meet international standards or have exportable quality. We need to address this issue and focus on improving the overall quality of our fashion creations. We have the potential to excel in the fashion industry, but we need to start paying attention and recognising the possibilities.
Just like we have successfully exported our music, we can also export our fashion. Many fashion inspirations have been drawn from the African continent, as seen in the example of Louis Vuitton’s owner drawing inspiration from African elements such as the ‘Maasai shuka’. Another issue in the fashion space is the lack of industry champions and international-scale distributors at fashion events.
This poses a challenge for designers when potential off-takers or distributors express interest in large quantities of their designs. Nigerian designers often struggle with limited capacity, resources, and manpower to meet such demands.
To address these challenges, our company, with the World Fashion Exhibition Nigerian Franchise, aim to bridge the gaps in the industry and create an all-inclusive platform that benefits the entire value chain. Through this initiative, we provide international exposure and market access to designers, while also offering training to meet international quality standards. Additionally, we aim to foster a global synergy by hosting designers from over 60 countries as part
of this project. We have the necessary structures and blueprint in place and are seeking angel investors and support.
What’s the next course of action for African talents and you?
Recognising and embracing our African identity is paramount. We must liberate ourselves from the effects of colonialism and imperialism, both physically and mentally, challenge the lies imposed on us and believe in our problem-solving abilities.
By taking charge and nurturing our opportunities, we can create greener pastures. I’m deeply involved in entrepreneurship and the art world, specialising in art brokerage and curation. Additionally, I’m honoured to be the youngest advisory board member of the Black Professional in International Affairs. This role aligns with our goal of harnessing our potential, representing ourselves globally, and collaborating with our fellow Africans in the diaspora.
As our brothers and sisters reconnect with their African roots through genealogy and ancestral tourism, we must welcome them and work together to build a prosperous continent. We are here to address the needs of those who desire trustworthy and reliable business opportunities.