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Building creative courage in Africa's youth

Monday, 27 June 2016   (0 Comments)
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“Creativity is a muscle to be flexed,” says Dillion Phiri, one of the founders of Creative Nestlings, an organisation that seeks to connect and empower young people across Africa. “But,” he continues, “many young people don’t feel they have permission to flex that muscle. They lack creative courage.”

This paralysis has led to the development of a new network of young African creative entrepreneurs, the Young African Creative Network. Phiri explains its importance: “Young people today are coming into their own. They feel free to do what they want, but the old systems make it difficult for them to access opportunities. They want to enter creative careers, but they’re excluded because businesses are not fully committed to diversity. Businesses would rather employ freelancers than create formal roles to support young people, preventing them from gaining the experience they need.”

The intention, says Phiri, is to empower young people across Africa and within the diaspora to make their own jobs and to build their own creative courage as they gather experience and entrepreneurial momentum.

In a traditional world that largely excludes them, this can be a lonely and isolated road. It is critical that they make connections with others. The network enables them to share knowledge, resources and work between them; and also access relatable, peer-generated content that can help people recognise their inherent creativity. This becomes a safe space for young entrepreneurs to grow and forge a creative career.

The network exists online and also offers a physical space at The Nest, a three-storey collaborative workspace in Longmarket Street, in Cape Town.

At the same time, brands are beginning to see the young creative generation as a route to new markets. Capturing the youth today is one way to secure lifelong brand supporters. To do so, brands need to know what that market wants. With that comes a need for deep research directly into their target markets.

The solution is the Creative Nestlings collaborative business model. The company offers research services for brands, agencies and government bodies to help understand the young African market. In exchange, the brands facilitate access to resources that can be used to develop the creative muscle of an emerging entrepreneurial generation.

“The collaborative model is a game-changer. It is not a sponsorship model; it’s an equal partnership between us and the brand. We have the young people. They have the resources. We harness both to build the continent together,” says Phiri.

A recent example is a collaboration between whisky brand, J&B Scotch Whisky, Diageo, Creative Nestlings and Independents United, which resulted in the The Hive Joburg , a community of creative entrepreneurs based in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Here, creatives can access shared resources and also build their own networks with like-minded, creative entrepreneurs to build their businesses. To date, 17 projects have been incubated in the space, spurring a diverse range of enterprises, from jewellery design to photography; app development to product design.

This initiative is just one example of how brands and communities can work together to build the continent’s creative muscle and empower a new generation of entrepreneurs.

For more information, contact Dillion Phiri at

For more about Creative Nestlings, see

For more about The Hive Johannesburg, see

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