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Simplified

Kathleen Ndongmo

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Complicated becomes easier on Simplified, a how-to series that takes the pain out of the seemingly difficult and unavoidable.

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Culture & Tourism

Ake festival 2019: A festival of arts and books

The preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival

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Ake Festival 2019 partners News Central
A panel session with speakers discussing at the Ake Festival

What happens when two Afro-optimist giants and pioneers of African cultural advancement form a partnership to host the biggest cultural and artsy event on the continent?

You guessed right. An invitation to an authentic African experience. From October 24-27, the 7th edition of the Aké Arts and Book Festival will take place in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital. News Central will, this time, bring you all the action live from the venue.

Themed “Black Bodies: Grey Matter”, this year’s edition will feature book chats, readings, panel discussions, art exhibitions, films, music, theatre and many more creative expressions through black bodies that genuinely tell the African story.

The Ake Festival –  News Central Story

In the royal town of Ake, Ogun State, South-Western Nigeria, the birthplace of Professor Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, a passion for the preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival.

For 6 years, the festival, founded in 2013 by renowned Nigerian writer, Lola Shoneyin has converged Africa’s brightest and most artistically creative minds to engage in pro-African discourse.

And this year, News Central hopes to infuse the “Africa. First.” narrative, an important piece in the Ake Festival puzzle for a successful celebration of Africa in all of her uniqueness.

What does Africa. First. mean for Ake Festival?

In a recent interview, Lola Shoneyin revealed her delight in partnering with News Central, a frontier media platform that puts Africa and Africans in the driver’s seat of our stories.

“I love Africa. First…and I love it because it really resonates with me.”

Lola Shoneyin

Africa. First. is a movement by Africans and for Africa! It seeks to put the conversation on African culture and power back on the front burner.  The African culture is vibrantly expressive, uniquely diverse, progressively modern and enviably embodied in Black Bodies and Grey Matter.

Our boldness and power are sourced from the blood of great inventors, mighty rulers and pioneers of civilisations that courses through our veins. African power is rooted in this transfer and it is our responsibility to protect and prolong it.

News Central is proud to pioneer this movement and shared vision to promote the African culture and power at events such as the Aké Fest, using our balanced and Afro-optimist media platform in making these stories accessible to Africans.

As our Director of Content and Programmes, Becky Muikia puts it:

“We give them a voice on a pan-African scale.”

Becky Muikia

Africa, now is your time!

Promoting, amplifying and celebrating the African experience is at the heart of the Aké Festival and News Central partnership.

For four days, come witness a full blend of Afro cultural immersion and untold stories told by hundreds of writers, poets, dancers, artists, film-makers, and other creatives. Join us on this shared journey by registering to attend here Aké Festival.

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All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

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Struggle continues: Nigeria’s Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

Edo State government has set up a support programme for the returnees which is rare in Nigeria

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Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

Emerging from her ordeal, Gloria considers herself “privileged”. Last year, the 26-year-old left Nigeria with four other women, dreaming of a better life in Europe.

On a tortuous journey, three of the five friends died before reaching Libya, where the two survivors were stranded for almost a year. Now, only Gloria is back home in Nigeria.

She dreamed of being a fashion designer but now sews synthetic tracksuits in a shabby workshop in Benin City, southern Nigeria, for ₦15,000 a month.

“After transport, the money is almost finished”, she says.

Still, she adds quickly, she “thanks God for having a job”.

Her employment is part of a training programme, set up by the local government of southern Edo State — the departure point for most Nigerian migrants.

Gloria is one of nearly 14,000 young Nigerians to have returned from Libya since 2017 under a United Nations voluntary repatriation programme.

She and the other returnees quoted in this story asked not to be identified by their real names.

READ: Iddris Sandu, the 21-year-old expert behind Instagram, Snapchat and Uber

She is “not asking for too much”, just a roof over her head and to be able to eat, Gloria tells reporters.

Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

But she blames herself for daring to dream that life could be better elsewhere and believing the smugglers’ promises that they would reach Europe within two weeks.

Broke and broken – 

In Libya, prospects of crossing the Mediterranean vanished, after a tightening of European Union immigration policies.

Many spend months, even years stranded in Libya, sold as slaves by their smugglers.

But once back home in Nigeria, life is even more difficult than before: saddled with debt, struggling to find work, broken by their treatment at the hands of the traffickers and by their failed dreams. 

Human Rights Watch highlighted the “continuing anguish” that returnees face. 

Many suffer long-term mental and physical health problems as well as social stigma on returning to Nigeria, a report released last month said.

Government-run centres tasked with looking after them are poorly funded and “unable to meet survivors’ multiple needs for long-term comprehensive assistance”, it added.

Edo State government has set up a support programme which is rare in Nigeria.

The state hosts some 4,800 of the nearly 14,000 returnees — mostly aged 17 to 35 and with no diploma or formal qualifications.

Under the scheme, they can travel for free to Benin City, Edo’s capital, stay two nights in a hotel, receive an hour of psychological support and the equivalent of a €100 allowance.

It barely moves the needle for those starting again but is enough to stoke envy in a country where state aid is scarce and 83 million people live in extreme poverty.

Stigma –

READ: Ethiopian youths “pimp out” jalopy Beetles to revive auto culture

Showing potential students around, Ukinebo Dare, of the Edo Innovates vocational training programme, says many youngsters grumble that returnees get “preferential treatment”.

In modern classrooms in Benin City, a few hundred students learn to “code”, do photography, start a small business and learn marketing in courses open to all.

Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

“Classes are both for the youth and returnees, (be)cause we don’t want the stigma to affect them,” Dare said. 

“It’s a priority for us to give youth, who are potential migrants, opportunities in jobs they can be interested in.”

According to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, 55 per cent of the under-35s were unemployed at the end of last year.

Tike, now 28, had a low paying job before leaving Nigeria in February 2017 but since returning from Libya says his life is “more, more, more harder than before”.

Although he returned “physically” in December 2017 he says his “mindset was fully corrupted”.

“I got paranoid. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t sleep, always looking out if there is any danger,” he said, at the tiny flat he shares with his girlfriend, also back from Libya, and their four-month-old daughter.

Crime –

A few months after returning, and with no psychological support, Tike decided to train to be a butcher.

But, more than a year since he registered for help with reintegration programmes, including one run by the International Organization for Migration, he has not found a job and has no money to start his own business.

Struggle continues: Nigeria's Libya returnees experience tough reintegration

“We, the youth, we have no job. What we have is cultism (occult gangs),” Tike says.  

“People see it as a way of getting money, an excuse for getting into crime.”

Since last year, when Nigeria was still in its longest economic recession in decades, crime has increased in the state of Edo, according to official data.

“Returnees are seen as people who are coming to cause problems in the community,” laments Lilian Garuba, of the Special Force against Illegal Migration.

“They see them as failure, and not for what they are: victims.”

Debt spiral –

Peter, 24, was arrested a few days after his return. 

His mother had borrowed money from a neighbourhood lender to raise the €1,000 needed to pay his smuggler.

“As soon as he heard I was back, he came to see her. She couldn’t pay (the debt), so I was arrested by the police,” he told reporters, still shaking.

Financially crippled, his mother had to borrow more money from another lender to pay off her debts. 

READ: “Okada” Wars: How Nigeria’s Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes

Peter’s last trip was already his second attempt. 

“When I first came back from Libya, I thought I was going to try another country. I tried, but in Morocco it was even worse and thank God I was able to return to Nigeria,” he said, three weeks after getting back. 

“Now I have nothing, nothing,” he said, his voice breaking. 

“All I think about is ‘kill yourself’, but what would I gain from it? I can’t do that to my mother.”

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Culture & Tourism

Iddris Sandu, the 21-year-old expert behind Instagram, Snapchat and Uber

At the age of 10, Sandu began to learn the ropes of Programming independently at a public Library

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Iddris Sandu speaks onstage at the Culture Creators 4th Annual Innovators Camp

During his days in high school, 16-year-old Iddris Sandu created a mobile software that caught the attention of the U.S Former President Barack Obama. This got him an invitation to the White House where the honorary Presidential scholar award was bestowed upon him. The 21-year-old talented guru who is currently based in Los Angeles has completed many phenomenal feats, one of which includes building algorithms for Uber, Instagram and Snapchat which has given them the repute they have today.

At the age of 10, Sandu began to learn the ropes of Programming independently at a public Library for a period of two years. It was there he got an internship offer from a designer who worked at Google at the company’s headquarters. He had his first encounter with programming at the age of 13, alongside the first-ever Google Blogger, Google Plus and a host of others. Sandu was still determined to affect the world around him positively and at age 15, he built an app that students at his high school used to get directions to their classrooms.

He considers himself a cultural architect and aims to create a level playing ground between Silicon Valley and the younger generation of colour. He was given birth to and raised in Harbor City, California by his Ghanaian parents. He recalls an unforgettable and mortifying experience he had at the age of 8, while on a trip to Ghana with his dad during an interview with Oxford University’s Music and Style Magazine.

Iddris Sandu attends Beautycon Festival Los Angeles
Iddris Sandu attends Beautycon Festival Los Angeles 2019 at Los Angeles Convention Center on August 11, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Beautycon/AFP

He revealed that on the fourth day of the trip, he abandoned him in a village, took his passport and came back to the States. He further added how he was abandoned and was only able to get in contact with an NGO after almost nine months, it was with the help of this NGO that he was able to travel back home. It was on his return to the U.S that the first-ever iPhone was unveiled and this propelled his journey into the world of technology.

According to him, he was greatly inspired and thought – this device is going to change the world. The iPhone was so highly regarded because for the first-time regular consumers developed for other consumers. He explained that in earlier times, you had to have work experience for a few years at a tech company for your offer or input to tech or creation of an app to be regarded at all. Apple conquered that problem and he knew that was the future.

Sandu gained recognition far and wide inadvertently from this. It led to him being invited to a meeting with former President Obama. During this period, he wrote an algorithm that he sold to Instagram and later became a consultant to Snapchat and Uber respectively. He created for Uber, an Autonomous Collision Detection Interface software for self-driving cars. He left big companies in the tech industry with the purpose of bridging the gap between the ignorant and knowledgeable. He further went on to the need for invention and creativity among youngsters like himself.

Sandu believes that information is one of the various things that keep people divided. You must think on a more advanced level in order to become a creator rather than a consumer. He posits that people of colour, in particular, are more likely to be consumers than creators; he further went on to say it is hard to make a difference in the society when you are a consumer rather than a creator. 

Iddris Sandu poses onstage at the Culture Creators 4th Annual Innovators Camp
Honoree Iddris Sandu poses onstage at the Culture Creators 4th Annual Innovators Camp; Leaders Awards Brunc.h Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Culture Creators/AFP

Sandu says he has been trying to change the narrative and he has experienced some success doing this. Upon meeting the late rapper Nipsey Hussle at a local Starbucks in 2017, Sandu and Nipsey were able to transform an abandoned store into the Marathon Clothing Store. All these happened while Sandu encouraged the study of STEM subjects in schools and at higher levels. According to The New York Times, the smart store offers exclusive music and other content to customers who have downloaded an app. The store drew its overall makeup from Nipsey’s cultural influences and Sandu’s solid background of tech and design. It attracted many big cultural icons such as Russell Westbrook, Vegas Jones of Roc Nation, among others along with many journalists.

In an interview with CNBC, Sandu said the store has helped him bridge the gap between culture and technology, and would love others to do the same. During the interview, Sandu expressed that we are in the digital age and we are constantly exposed to content instantaneously. He also said that more focus and attention should be placed on the more pressing issues affecting society and capitalize on that.

CNBC gathered the information that the genius is set to partner with Kanye West and Jaden Smith on some future businesses, clothing lines and disaster relief projects in 2019. Sandu has also partnered with Kanye West after he succeeded at creating his own music album whose sonics and instrumentals were created in just 3 days. Sandu is also working on a book that will discuss innovators such as Kanye West; Robi Reed, a casting director; and Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue.

Sandu is undoubtedly on his way to becoming a leader for the next generation of influencers and entrepreneurs; considering his passion to use all his connections to empower young people in America and to make a positive impact on the community around him.

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All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

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