Whether as a topic of conversation or an area of academic study and research, discourse on Africa-China relations has been increasing in popularity over the last few years. As with many topics that involve bridging cultural barriers and building mutual understanding, engaging in a healthy way comes with its fair share of challenges. Yet, fortunately for China’s African community and friends of Africa, Accra and Beijing-based social enterprise and consultancy Kente & Silk have spent the last three years ‘Changing the status quo of Africa-China relations’ through their flagship annual Beijing Africa Week events and a host of other activities. This year Beijing Africa Week will take place from June 20th to June 27th. Read on to find out more about their story and how you can get involved!
Kente & Silk first launched in 2018 when, as Co-Founder Miatta Momoh, from Sierra Leone explains, the team decided a drastic change was needed in the way many understood Africa-China relations.
‘‘We wanted to lead new African narratives, improve Africa-China relations with deeper cultural exchange and discourse, but also use the week to showcase African entrepreneurship and innovation in China as part of these celebrations”.
Before long, the team had formulated a week-long itinerary of events known as Beijing Africa Week, aimed at changing the understanding and narrative around Africanness in China and providing a platform for young Africans across the country to showcase their ideas.
Now in its third year, the success they’ve seen so far speaks volumes to the importance of their message and vision – some 1000 people participated in the 2019 Africa Week, held at various venues across the capital and giving birth to fruitful exchanges and networking opportunities for those in attendance. Proceeds from the week’s 8 events were given to the winners of China’s first African start-up pitch competition. Wenzhou Hams Information Technology won a total of 15,000 RMB towards their brand.
This year, the week’s theme will be Sankofa, a principle which teaches that ‘To understand why and how we became who we are today, we must go back and reclaim our past, so we can move forward.’
As with previous years, the events culminate in an African Start-Up Pitch competition, a priceless opportunity offering one promising start-up the chance to be mentored, funded, connected and registered as a promising Africa-China related business in Beijing.
Co-Founder Miatta Momoh tells us more about the genesis of Beijing Africa Week’s start-up pitch competition:
“Inspired by Black Livity China’s call for group economics in 2018, we wanted to use this competition to tangibly reward African entrepreneurs that are co-creating better business in China. As a social enterprise, social innovation is crucial and we often highlight how the continent is leapfrogging in tech initiatives delivering incredible societal advancement.”
The competition has already seen two winners afforded the opportunity to grow their exciting new brands.
The very first winner, Ghanaian entrepreneur Anima of Nani’s Creations continues to be an advocate of the week and has been able to expand her handmade accessories brand to reach overseas markets. Last year’s winners, Wenzhou Hams Information Technology have since gone on to start expanding their services in Beijing, connect with leading Chinese Science Parks and speak at China’s first-ever Africa-Tech Summit in Shanghai following their exposure to the competition.
While the week has traditionally been scheduled for the month of May (Africa Month) and more specifically to coincide with Africa Day, this year, it’ll run a month later in June due to COVID-19.
‘This year’s competition focus is tech and social impact’, Miatta explains, ‘In our strange COVID-19 world, we wanted this year’s competition to focus on social impacting solutions, utilising things like MedTech and AgriTech. In addition, this platform can give hope to students on lockdown in China or locked-out of China with an opportunity to share their own phenomenal plans for sustainable development.’
So what are the team looking for in an ideal candidate?
If you’re interested in applying, the K&S team advise getting a solid understanding of the problem you intend on solving with your business and conveying that in your application, ‘be clear on your why – why you are solving this problem, why it creates social impact as well as revenue, and why everyone in your target market should care? Problem-solving is creative, so I am excited and expecting start-ups that clearly communicate the foundation of what is driving their business and communities forward in these pandemic times.
Hot on the heels of the announcement of Beijing Africa Week’s third installment, the Kente & Silk team are excited to continue their work in other, equally important avenues. When asked about their hopes for the future, the team explains they see themselves ‘creating solutions that really educate and empower better Africa-China relations where factors like improved African agency exist.’. In the coming months, we can look forward to ‘more high-quality African-centric events and additional deep-dive trips to Africa visiting places like Rwanda to highlight “Made in Africa” engineering’ like Mara mobile.
The ultimate dream?
Aware of the lack of physical location to promote Africa in China, Miatta shares the sentiments of many in the community on the need for a physical space to serve such a purpose :
‘We would love to create an Africa House/ Centre in Beijing, establish a Kente & Silk product brand as well as replicate the success of Beijing Africa Week across China’
Africa Week takes place between the __20th_ of June and the _27th__ of June this year.
To be eligible for Kente and Silk’s competition applicants must meet the following requirements:
- An African Founder or Co-founder that is active in the daily affairs of the business.
- An African Founder or Co-founder based in China.
- Started less than 3 years ago/ less than 3 years old.
- A clear business connection to Africa/ Africans in China and/or Africa-China relations
- Create social impact – your business results must provide benefits to a community/ and or create well-being value for society.
For the full details on how to apply go to : https://www.kenteandsilk.com/pitch-application-2020/
Applications close on the 7th of June!