Africa Calling

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A little over a year ago, a group of New York Times journalists met in Nairobi, Kenya, to talk about story ideas for the coming year. Laurie Goodstein, deputy editor of International and editor for the Africa region for The Times, led the charge. In attendance were many of the correspondents who cover the continent: Declan Walsh, Abdi Latif Dahir, John Eligon, Ruth Maclean, Elian Peltier and Lynsey Chutel.

One of the most exciting conversations revolved around a question that Declan had been noodling over for months: What does it mean for Africa, where the median age is 19, to be the youngest continent on the planet? The result of that conversation was the start of what became our new series this fall called Old World, Young Africa.

As Declan writes in the opening piece in the series: “As the world grays, Africa blooms with youth. By 2050, one in four people on the planet will be African, a seismic change that’s already starting to register. You can hear it in the music the world listens to. You can see it in movies, fashion and politics. You can sense it in the entrepreneurial drive of young Africans, and the urgent scramble for jobs. You can see it in the waves of youth who risk all to migrate, and in the dilemmas of those who remain.”

As the editor of the Projects and Collaborations team at The Times, I returned from that week in Nairobi buzzing with ideas and eager to get started. Our team decided to focus on how, through the vast African diaspora, the world was increasingly becoming, culturally, more African. Our guiding question: How is what one scholar calls the “youthquake” in Africa shaking and shaping creativity abroad?

We started with dozens of names, anyone who turned to Africa as a touchstone in their work. We knew we wanted to include visual artists and craftspeople, chefs, musicians and writers.

In the end, we photographed and interviewed 12 extraordinary people, across four continents. The piece involved a huge team of Times editors and reporters, including Abdi, Lynsey and Elizabeth Paton, who reported from Nairobi, Johannesburg and London.

In the piece, you’ll hear from Mr Eazi, the Afrobeats superstar; Ruth E. Carter, a two-time Oscar-winning costume designer; Omar Victor Diop, a photographer; Nnedi Okorafor, a science fiction writer; Mory Sacko, a chef; Grace Wales Bonner, a fashion designer; Adamma and Adanne Ebo, two filmmakers; Lesley Lokko, an architect; Toheeb Jimoh, an actor; Zhong Feifei, a singer and model; and Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg, a textile artist.

The Kenyan scholar Keguro Macharia once wrote: “Sometimes the Black diaspora calls and Africa responds. Sometimes Africa calls and the Black diaspora responds. Most times we exist in the tangled frequencies of calls and responses, as we pursue freedom.”

Our piece, a treasure trove of voices, ideas and perspectives, is exactly as Macharia describes, a series of calls and responses, all of which point toward a deeper understanding and appreciation of what Africa has to offer the world.

One more thing: If there are countries in Africa — or anywhere else in the world — that you want to keep up with, you can sign up for our new Times newsletter, Your Places: Global Update.

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The New York Times recently launched a series called “Old World, Young Africa” which explores the significance of Africa being the youngest continent in the world. The series investigates how the youthquake in Africa is shaping creativity abroad and features interviews with 12 extraordinary individuals from diverse fields such as music, fashion, writing, and cooking. The piece aims to highlight the cultural influence of Africa and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for what the continent has to offer. Additionally, the Times has introduced a new newsletter called Your Places: Global Update, which allows readers to stay informed about countries in Africa and other parts of the world.

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