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WISH Africa seeks to promote culture, commerce, others

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Emeruwa

Founded in 2016 with a mission to promote a more positive image of Africa and Africans to the world, WISH Africa, a social enterprise in the form of media and marketing platform with focus on culture, commerce and its development in Africa will launch its inaugural expo come June 8, in London. The maiden edition will showcase the best of African art, architecture, design, food and drink, tech, travel and others. MARGARET MWANTOK recently caught up with its founder, Lola Emeruwa, and she spoke on the platform and the forthcoming expo.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
CURRENTLY, I’m an operational consultant. I studied law and have a master’s degree in management and finance. Professionally, I have worked in the luxury industry for over a decade with brands such as, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Net-A-Porter and Ermenegildo Zegna in offices located in London, Milan, Paris, New York and Lagos.

I recently worked on projects like the African Cultural and Design Festival and The Nigerian Creative Arts Exchange with the Nigerian Embassy in France.

Now, my focus has shifted to developing media platform, because I feel the real need to showcase positive stories that even some Nigerians don’t know about let alone the rest of the world. I felt the need to tell more positive stories about Africa, because we can’t have a full sense of pride if what we are always hearing is the negative.

Why are you having the maiden edition in London? Charity they say begins at home, is it not?
Wish Africa believes that this will lead to greater cultural understanding, greater inter and extra African commerce, and have positive impact on the socio-economic development of the continent.

At the moment, a lot of people making waves in media and across all sectors we are looking at are currently based in the UK. I’m happy that the Ghanaians started off with expo. I felt the expo is just a travelling expo, so we wanted to start at the highest point of the globe. We will start in London, then Morocco next year, Nigeria in 2021, Kenya in 2022 and South Africa in 2023. We cannot deny the impact that western media have on Africa, but London is such a huge hub for the dissemination of information. My fear was that we would do something and we would not be able to spread it to the world.

With key focus on just four African countries, are you likely to expand to other African countries?
Our content combines different cultures from the 54 African countries. We thought about how to manage the content/stories, in every five years we want the event to focus on a diaspora country, hence the choice of Nigeria for the West, Kenya for East, Morocco for North, and of course, South Africa. We focus on people who won’t compromise standard and push out their brands globally.

In five years time, we would start the next batch, to shift the focus countries from Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya and South Africa.

What conversations would you be having around the African art?
African art is not always highly valued, but the narrative is changing now, thanks to the likes of Art X Lagos and others. But when you look at some of the most revered artists from Europe — Picaso and others — you would see that there is a lot of strong African influence on their works. It is things like this we want to investigate to show the biggest artists in Africa. Yinka Sonibare would declare the show open.

To what extent has westernisation helped to shape or shrink the African story, what can be done to deepen the patronage of African brands?
It has made it a lot more relatable to the younger generation. If you are just adopting tradition but not applying reality, then you are not able to make your own imprint in the development of culture. I feel westernisation has allowed the next generation to also imprint their thoughts into the culture.

With WISH Africa, we would take the African story, brands and products. We hope that greater cultural education would lead to more commercial transactions; promote greater awareness and understanding of African culture and increase levels of international commerce, in order to generate socio-economic development on the continent.

Can you share your experience at the Nigerian Creative Arts Exchange, Paris?
I was a late stage coordinator and that has helped me in shaping the coordination and organisation of WISH Africa because I saw the challenges in trying to expose your culture to another country. There is such a hunger for African/Nigerian culture, especially, the food and fashion. This really helped us to plan better.

What makes Wish Africa different from other platforms?
The reason why we focus on many industries is because we want everything t be inter-connected. Sometimes we miss it when we don’t know what is going on in other sectors.

As a media platform, we go to art fairs, design conferences, tech conferences and it is always the same people that go for these events. We thought would it not be wonderful to bring everything under one umbrella? The idea is that as we move from one topic to the next, there is a thematic flow with the team. We want people to come and see, listen and learn about the people who are currently at the top of their game in all these respective industries. We want to interrogate the negative notion about Africa.

The western media has always promoted negative stories of hunger, war and poverty about the African continent. How can WISH Africa correct this negative perception about Africa?
This affects everything we do; when we go to school and interact. Our culture has evolved, we have become globalised; we don’t want it to be about just simple story, or quoting people like Chimamanda. We want to showcase the merrier of African diversity and the excellence that exist on the continent.


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