The African continent is brimming with creative talent, from visual artists and graphic designers to content creators and videographers. Like elsewhere in the world, many of them struggle to turn their passion into viable livelihoods. That is why Kudzanai Thondhlana (33) from Zimbabwe co-founded Tribe of Influencers (TOI). This Pan-African platform aims to give way to Africa's largest independent network of creative influencers from across the continent. The venture's biggest achievement so far? Hosting of the Zim Blog Awards earlier this year. "As a start-up on a tight budget, this was not an easy task, but we did it!"
Q. How did Tribe of Influencers come about?
A. It came about as a result of a meeting of the minds among a group of creatives who struggled to pursue a career in the creative sector. This led to the formation of a Facebook group, in an attempt to establish a community of like-minded people to network and support each other. This group eventually evolved into what is now TOI. The firm's objective is to uplift and empower African creatives, from content creators to graphic designers, and enable them to pursue their craft in a financially viable, sustainable ecosystem.
Q. What is your own background? What did you do before TOI?
A. I am born and bred in Harare, Zimbabwe. I studied law and am a self-taught marketing and sales professional. Before TOI, I worked in financial services and media, and I edited the inaugural edition of the Book of African Records. I also founded the marketing and sales firm called Creative Natives Africa. I believe that the digital age has democratised the power to learn and pursue what you desire.
to forge the path you want.
Q. What is your goal? Where do you want TOI to be in five years from now?
A. Our ultimate goal is to become the network for aspiring and established creatives across the continent and to connect brands with influencers all over the continent. Improving the viability and sustainability of African creative work and content is our priority. We want those in our industry to pursue what they love and be rewarded for it. The creative sector is and should be a financially viable, long-term career.
Q. What has been TOI's biggest achievement?
A. Our biggest achievement has been the successful hosting of the Zim Blog Awards earlier this year. As a start-up on a tight budget, this was not an easy task. We were very fortunate to find forward-thinking corporates to partner with us. The Zimbabwean Blog Awards are an initiative to recognise Zimbabwe's best and brightest content creators, featuring 30 categories honouring bloggers, vloggers, podcasters and photographers.
The Zimbabwean Social Media Awards, on the other hand, celebrate my country's most influential social media personalities. The purpose of both awards is to increase the exposure of our local content creators and influencers. The public plays a pivotal role in both awards, by nominating their favourites and voting for who they feel is deserving of being recognised.
Q. You must have met scores of phenomenal people. Who has left the biggest impression, so far?
A. That’s an interesting question. I have met amazing individuals who have and continue to inspire me for a variety of reasons. It would be difficult to narrow down that list and mention some people and exclude others. What I can say is that despite the many obstacles our content creators and aspiring influencers are facing, they soldier on and follow their dream. I am amazed by how people learn to make their own website because they can't afford a developer. Others manage to figure out to make low-cost but quality videos because they don't have the resources for big budget productions. I have seen small teams start with a dollar and a dream, to eventually establish magazines, successful platforms, influential brands, and viable businesses. Their main ingredients: sheer will and determination. It gives me life to see African creatives persevere, grow and achieve.
Q. What makes and breaks you as an influencer?
A. Another interesting question. I think the critical traits an influencer must possess, are:
- A keen understanding of their target market
- A deep grasp of the uniqueness they bring to the table
- Being able to focus on adding value to their target markets
- Being determination and disciplined in terms of delivering consistently
- A willingness to learn. Life is fluid and things change rapidly. So be open to learning and ensure that one stays ahead of the curve.
These are not traits of influencers only, but of any professional or entrepreneur.