In May, the Africa Soft Power Summit returned to Kigali, Rwanda for its second ‘physical world’ Summit in what represents the highest-level convening for Africa’s creative and tech industries, as well as women’s leadership.

Across five action-packed days, leading voices and bright minds from the public and private sector organizations, as well as pioneering individuals from the fields of business, finance, law, media, technology, sports, art, entertainment, academia, philanthropy and politics discussed in clear terms, the establishment and sustenance of a more modern – and equal – African voice on the world stage.

“From political participation to business leadership opportunities and even boardroom conversations, there’s a need for greater representation, inclusion and acceptance of the African woman and culture is not an excuse”, says Ozonnia Ojielo, Resident Coordinator and Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Rwanda. Ozonnia believes that only a concerted shift in attitudes, policies and implementation that harness African women’s rich knowledge and experiences will set the continent on the path of sustainable progress.

Rwanda stands out globally for its efforts in advancing gender equality and women’s participation. Nearly two-thirds of its parliamentary seats and 52 per cent of cabinet positions are held by women. Claire Akamanzi, CEO, of Rwanda Development Board says the impressive results are due to strong political commitment and institutional-level accountability. “I recall when our president was asked why he was happy to lead one of the most pro-women countries in the world for empowering women. His answer, simple yet profound, was ‘How do you expect to maximize output if you leave out about half of your active population’?” she added.

Delegates at the Africa Soft Power Summit.
Delegates at the Africa Soft Power Summit.

The RAW Women’s Leadership Conference, powered by African Women on Board, in its inaugural edition at this year’s Summit, showcased leading female and male voices alike, with conversations focused on pushing the reset button on traditional gender discourse.

 Christopher O.H. Williams, Chairman, Enda Athletic Inc. believes that there’s greater gain if the continent makes the most of private sector resources, strategies and innovative financing mechanisms to create an inclusive investment environment that addresses the funding gap women business owners face. He would later go on to tell the inspiring story of Enda, Africa’s only running shoe company.

By 2050, Africa will be home to a quarter of the world’s population. This unprecedented population growth will impact virtually all sectors of the continent’s economy. How can the continent wield its soft power and leverage the growing population as an economic resource for significant progress and prosperity?

As the Creative and Innovative Industries conference shines the spotlight on African creative sectors to deliver growth and return on the continent, Tariro Washe, Filmmaker/Managing Director, Meso Mavir, maintained that a unified currency and seamless mobility would be a great changer in the unification of the Africa continent for shared prosperity.

 “There’s an additional 4.2 billion dollars that can come to the African economy and an additional almost 600,000 new jobs to be created if we can connect each other better by air”, says Adefunke Adeyemi, Secretary General, The African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC).

Partners for this year’s Africa Soft Power summit, include Templars, Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, Bank of Industry, United Nations Rwanda, EXP, FCMVA, Africa Prosperity Network, Africa Legal Associates, Africa Women on Board, BellaNaija, Trace, NewsCentral, African Business, Asaase Radio, Basketball Africa League, among others.

Excited about the significant progress made since the inception of Africa Soft Power, Founder and Creative Director, Nkiru Balonwu, said the Summit will continue to inspire greater collaboration between the creative and financial sectors, the public and private, individual entrepreneurs and companies, and beyond.

“The creative, digital, and knowledge economies emerging today, represent the best opportunities for generating future growth for our young people. Our desire is to continuously leverage soft power and strategic collaborations to communicate modern Africa more accurately on the world stage” Balonwu added.

Participants the Africa Soft Power Summit.
Participants the Africa Soft Power Summit.

The Summit’s programming ended with a masterclass for photographers and interested creatives on linking creative endeavour with commercial viability, delivered by Illume Creative Studios and the Business of Photography. A workshop on “Youth Power & Building Movements: Security, Climate Change, & DEI”, also featured the announcement of the inaugural Climate Change Photo Essay Prize – a partnership between Africa Soft Power & African Women on Board, as part of the Road to 100 Million Climate Soldiers in Africa campaign.

Africa Soft Power isn’t slowing down anytime soon – with plans including designing climate education programs and global media campaigns that will speak directly to Africans, particularly young people, and those in the diaspora community; upcoming photo prize exhibitions in New York, London and Lagos, and side-track events alongside UNGA and COP28.

As the organization continues to power conversations and projects aimed at optimizing the continent’s creative economy and driving connections between Africa and the diaspora community, it is clear that ASP’s vision of communicating the continent more accurately on the world stage is one that requires concerted effort.

Feature by Africa Soft Power.

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