LET AFRICAN SPEAKERS TELL YOU ABOUT AFRICA
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story"- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
These are the words spoken by Chimamanda, the Nigerian born novelist, in her popular TEDx talk about THE DANGER of a single story (more about Chimamanda here).
From the perspective of the events and tourism activity, we can observe this problem happening in our industry. Many complain, that the industry's major events and shows are lacking in diversity when it comes to keynotes as well as speaking panels.
Africa is a beautiful continent, with many different countries, cultures, languages and many up and coming destinations for the MICE and tourism groups.
Having briefly worked with a company that promoted Kenya (mostly Malindi), for medical groups, we were taken aback by the beauty as well as the passion of the locals in promoting this gorgeous destination.
But for the Western world, Africa's story is often told from ONLY 1 PERSPECTIVE - the white perspective.
We must do better to involve African born speakers and MICE professionals, to be featured on various speaking panels at major industry shows and conferences (both in Africa and internationally), to tell us the story of Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Africa and many other countries in this large and diverse continent ).
We must allow them to take the centre stage, share their stories and reeducate us about their beautiful countries, their passion and MOST IMPORTANTLY their capabilities and professionalism. Otherwise, we risk the DANGER of a single story.
We have recently interviewed a female event planner and entrepreneur based in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, Mrs Yoadan Tilahun - the CEO of Flawless Events, to give her perspective on this problem.
Flawless Events is a proudly African-based international events management agency, specializing in end-to-end design and production of international conferences, special corporate events, and product launches. Their main office is based in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia while their services cover the entire African continent and their clients span a spectrum of industries and nationalities.
"In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the back office conversations and the corridor whispers on race matters, have taken centre stage.
As an event management agency based out of Ethiopia but serving various parts of Africa, we have and continue to live through a slightly different type of race matters – one where panel discussions about Africa in Africa, are dominated by white men and women.
Sometimes, an entire conference can start and end with no African representing the continent’s voice, except maybe the ceremonial Head of State or Minister giving the opening remark.
I always find it fascinating because if you look in the education systems of Europe and America, Africans are the smartest kids in school. Somehow, when we get to knowledge and expertise on the continent or about the continent, we are left out of the conversation.
In the same way that you see a panel with the token woman, you will also see the token African on a panel amongst non-Africans on issues about Africa.
I wonder if Africans hosted a panel on Europe or the US, others will finally start to see the irony? Not just once in a while, but almost all the time?
You also see how on the ground PCOs are constantly undermined and second-guessed on their capabilities. It takes lots of work to educate and build confidence that Africa CAN! You get so used to it, you stop noticing it.
We continue to be seen as the dark continent. If a terrorist activity happens in one country, the world stops travelling to the entire continent. When Ebola broke out in West Africa, the world stopped coming to the entire continent!
Another mystery is the number of purely African centred conferences that happen outside of the continent!
Due to COVID-19, stronger coalitions are being built across the continent to meet more across borders and build a resilient industry, that is not fully reliant on in-coming business only. "
You can Connect to Yoadan here: