Okayafrica calls itself, ‘the largest online destination for new African content’ and since its launch in 2010, has become a go-to platform for the latest on music, film, culture and entertainment from throughout the diaspora.
When Abiola Oke (@abiolatweets) left his career in financial services on Wall Street to become Okayafrica’s CEO, he called it his dream and says since that time he’s been working to fulfill what he sees as the company’s mission.
“Okayafrica quite frankly is a media company that enables a global audience to interact with Africa in the most compelling way and the key word there is compelling. What is compelling? It depends on the medium, through music, through fashion, lifestyle, events, and merchandise. Okayafrica truly is a hub that’s capturing this youthful exuberance that’s emanating out of the African continent and in the diaspora. ” – Abiola Oke
Oke says his goal for the company is to “bridge all Africans around the globe” and says his team is able to do that by using its network of contributors to create articles, video, and social media content that connects with individuals wherever they are. But along with building a community online, Oke says he’s making plans to grow Okayafrica to locations throughout the continent. Recently, Oke led the opening of the company’s first offices outside of New York, in Johannesburg.
As Oke went through the process of establishing the new Johannesburg location, he says he learned to better appreciate the value of contributions being made by people on the continent and the importance of providing a platform to give local voices greater access to a global audience.
Oke’s experience growing up was, in his own words, ‘pretty diverse’. In an interview with Black Enterprise magazine, Oke said his experiences from growing up in Nigeria as well as in the U.S. helped mold his worldview.
“So I’ve had a unique experience with the American way of life, as well as the traditional Nigerian way of life. It’s something that’s made my network diverse, as well as how I think about the world and myself as a professional. ” – Abiola Oke
Now he says he wants to use his role as CEO at Okayafrica to change how the world views life in Africa.
“We’re living in a very interesting time as Africans because we have the opportunity to tell our own stories, we have an opportunity to share our own content and dictate how we want to be represented creatively, culturally. Gone are the days where the sole image of the African was the poverty stricken, hunger, you know hungry kid in the village somewhere. Or the narrative that Africa is a place for financial investment for mineral resource extraction.” – Abiola Oke
Although he says he’s noticed a shift in the way African culture is seen by many people, Oke says he wants his work to have impact on a global scale.
“African fashion getting the recognition that it needs, African models, African cuisine, African destinations for travel. And quite frankly it’s not about the homogeneous or you know single African, this is us and it’s for us. I think for me it’s a matter of Africa having a seat at the table on the world stage.”
While Okayafrica’s current audience may be thought of as an online niche, Oke says as CEO of a media organization with a global reach, his company should be valued as equally as any other large media organization.
“As an African that runs a very large media company, we’re not looking for a hand out, we’re not looking for special treatment, we just want to have our creativity measured no differently than we would have the creativity that’s created anywhere around the world”