African Speakers and Artists: new agency brings continent's most talented individuals and brands together

New speakers bureau and talent agency represents the most innovative and creative speakers and artists from the region

 Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin(Photo/World Bank collection/Flickr)

Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin(Photo/World Bank collection/Flickr)

A NEW organisation has joined the ranks, riding the wave of rising opportunities in Africa. But, unlike many others, this one is focusing purely on the human resource that Africa has to offer: the continent’s most talented people.

Speaking to George Issaias, the founder and managing director of African Speakers and Artists (AS+A), he described how his leading “speakers bureau and talent agency represents the most innovative and creative speakers and artists from the region. [They are] pioneers in the fields of technology, environment, business and economics, culture, politics and entertainment who are lighting up the world with their outstanding professional achievements.” 

As African growth plays out, more and more companies and events are looking to the continent for talented individuals to speak or perform at events. These are people with broad appeal, or a niche specialism, that can give fresh energy or insights that challenge the conventional views of Africa and the world. 

George first noticed the demand for African speakers and artists at events when he worked for Jack Morton - a global brand experience agency. He noticed that “Africa” was increasingly creeping into his briefs and having been raised in Kenya, he became the go to guy for anything African as people still saw the continent as unchartered territory and were fairly clueless on how to navigate its talent pools. 

The demand grew so large that he eventually decided it was time to go back to Kenya and, in April 2015, he launched AS+A and started pulling together the region’s most interesting people, giving them a platform where agencies could find them. 

Perfect storm

Fortunately for George things were coming together in what he described as the “perfect storm.”

At the macro-level, global brand events are increasingly shifting towards Africa and Africans. At the ground-level he was based in Kenya where the country’s business infrastructure was improving, there was a great deal of brand activity and a growing number of events and conferencing. 

Also, George had noticed that almost 90% of the world’s “Africa roster” was dominated by Nigerians and South Africans which meant that there was a gaping hole in representation of East African talent - a perfect place to start. 

He started looking for individuals that had a big “buzz” around them, with stories to tell and who could tell them well. Today, he has a total of 60 game-changing clients on the books. 

They come from all corners of the continent and are some of the giants in their fields. They include, to name just a tiny fraction:

Eleni Gabre-Madhin an Ethiopian economist who built Ethiopia’s first commodities market, bringing rates and standards to the trade of crops.

She is positioned to be the industry leader in designing, building, and supporting the operations of commodity exchange eco-systems in frontier markets, currently working on projects in Ghana, Cameroon, and Tanzania

Zain Verjee is one of the world’s most  recognised journalists, with 14 years of experience at CNN as an anchor, reporter and profound interviewer. 

Her passion for Africa has led her to create aKoma, Africa’s premier digital storytelling platform. The platform is a content network where you can create, read, watch and share African content.

Mark Kaigwa is the founder of Nendo, a strategy & storytelling consultancy for digital Africa. 

He has published  among two of the most stand out  African blogs of the past 6 years – AfricanDigitalArt where he presently works as partner and digital strategist and Afrinnovator where he served as partner until end of 2013.

One of Africa’s pioneer solar energy entrepreneurs, Patrick E. Ngowi is a Tanzanian businessman and environmentalist who founded the Helvetic Group, which operates in East Africa, and has made millions providing solar products to Tanzanians. 

He has since then masterminded the growth of Helvetic into a group of diversified companies.

One of Kenya’s leading investment gurus, Aly-Khan Satchu, is a former banker and trader who has a wealth of knowledge on taking risks, strategy, how to seize opportunities, operating in crisis and prospects in Africa. 

At his peak with Sumitomo Bank the balance sheet that he controlled was in excess of $17 billion. In 2006, he published his book “Anyone Can Be Rich”, based on the NSE and the Kenyan Economy. Today he is the CEO of Rich Management. 

Award winning Kenyan band Sauti Sol blend warm resonant pop with traditional Kenyan influences. 

Their mix of energetic rhythms has promoted the group to become one of Africa’s most celebrated. The band has received both local and international accolades like the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act.

Nse Ikpe-Etim is a multiple award-winning actress with a strong and loyal following.

She is popularly known for her roles in Chinwe Eguagwu’s MR AND MRS, Kunle Afolayan’s PHONE SWAP, Jeta Amata’s BLACK NOVEMBER and INALE, Shirley Frimpong Manso’s DEVIL IN THE DETAIL, and Biyi Ban dele’s FIFTY.

If AS+A’s extensive lists aren’t what the brand is looking for, the company now has a bespoke service to find the closest match to what the client needs. 

In terms of the professionals that get the most work, George said that the women have a slight edge in booking and that at the moment the greatest demands are for business and technology speakers or individuals with a background in social investment or philanthropy. 

For now, African Speakers and Artists has been able to tap into a unique and valuable area of demand. As Africa continues to be recognised as a region which can lead, in terms of the businesses and professionals it produces, the sky is the limit for this start-up. 


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