Graphic Design Africa (GDA) is a group of young people across the African continent who work in the field of graphic design. Pakis Briggs, GDA’s Admin’s Chief and Meta Certified Community Manager, tells GuardPost Nigeria that GDA is revolutionising the graphic design environment in Africa and will soon set a Guinness World Record. Have a good time reading…
What is the dream behind Graphic Designers Africa (GDA) and who is or are behind it?
The dream is to provide millions of African youth a creative space to belong and be involved, to be recognised and rewarded, and also to be empowered to contribute positively to society via the art and business of graphic design. And this dream is truly powered by the entire community even though I’m at the helm of affairs.
What are the core values of GDA and how do you ensure that members subscribe to them?
Our core values are excellence, creativity, integrity, diversity, and growth. And on Facebook where our community is based, we’ve got a structure and a list of activities that re-enforces these values to ensure members subscribe to them.
Can you share with us the growth trajectory of GDA; for instance, how many members did you have when it was created?
Although we’ve been in existence since February 17, 2016, we have grown in the past 15 months from 50,000 members to about 135,000 members, adding an average of 1,300 new members every week. We are having a lot of young people who are realising the potentials in graphic design and signing up across the African continent. There is this consciousness that they can use their devices in very positive ways to learn, connect and make money.
Young people who carry laptops and smartphones are easily branded as internet fraudsters especially by the police in Nigeria. Have your members been harassed or stigmatised?
Of course, this has happened to a handful of our members, and it is quite upsetting. But I believe the public is becoming aware of the countless legitimate job options available online, and the narrative is shifting. We have continued to say that not every person with a laptop or phone is an online fraudster. Our security agents are parents, therefore, until they claim that they don’t see their kids utilising smart devices for highly beneficial and fulfilling activities, they can continue to believe that people who use such devices are criminals. Moreover, they’re essentially engaging in illegal profiling when they harass and arrest young people who are engaged in the legitimate pursuit of their careers and businesses. And that should stop.
How has your community handled such challenges, and do you have some form of identification for your members and a code of conduct?
Yes, we have a code of conduct and yes, we’re working on a multipurpose means of identification for members of our community. We are in the process of launching them and it won’t be too long from now.
What is your relationship with big techs like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. and how have they help in the evolution and growth of your community?
Graphic Designers Africa is one of the largest, active, and organised communities in Africa that is managed by a Meta Certified Community Manager. As a result, we’ve belonged to Facebook’s invite-only groups: Facebook Community Learning Labs (FCLL) and global Facebook Certified Community Managers (FCCM). Through these global platforms, Facebook/Meta has shown immense support for our community via interviews, public events, expedited technical support, and we anticipate even more.
Getting some form of gender parity especially in the tech space has been a major concern. How are you tackling that within the GDA space?
Oh yes, I agree with you. But in the past 15 months, we’ve seen a growth in female membership with about 17 percent now making up the community from a previous eight percent. It’s great to see more women getting involved in tech and judging from the fact that I’m also a woman, I think that’s a huge one.
Can you share with us some of the activities of GDA and how they benefit members and the public?
Top on the list of our activities includes the Graphic Designers Africa Induction Training (GDAIT) – a free 3-month intensive empowerment programme on the basics of graphic design which started in June 2021 and has graduated over 100 designers. We’ve also got the Graphic Designers Africa Internship Programme (GDAIP), a free 3-month volunteering exercise in partnership with select organisations. It started in December 2021 and many of our members have passed through it. We also have the annual GDA competitions which is a major programme in our community. Through it, our members get to showcase their talents and get celebrated and recognised.
Tell us about your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme and outreach initiatives?
Beginning from 2023, we will roll out annual outreach initiatives such as school & institution visits, community development service, and free empowerment programmes that will be executed across ever cities in Africa where we’ve established a physical presence.
What are the major achievements of GDA between when it was formed and now?
One of our major achievements now is the powerful structure we’ve created as a foundation for our community’s growth including the branding, leadership, the many programmes, and the daily and weekly activities that have had tremendous impact on our members and our partners. Another major achievement is the launch of our community’s digital currency on the Mystova Project which is at the beta-testing phase. With this, we’ve been able to weave a monetary ecosystem within our activities that rewards all active members and increases interaction.
Where do you see the community within the next five years?
In the next five years, I see us having a strong presence and impact in over 100 African cities where we will have over a million members and thousands of graduates on our programmes. I also see us using our creativity to create a Guinness World Record.
Do you meet physically as a community or is GDA only on the virtual space?
This third quarter of 2022, we’re launching our first offline hangout events with the primary aim of establishing a physical connection with our members who live in same cities. This is going to signal the beginning of a regular event where we meet physically, support and show up for one another as a group, and carry out offline activities together. The hangout will be held in several cities across the continent, and we intend to orgainse more in the future.
Is Graphic Designers Africa registered as a legal entity in any African country?
The GDA brand is being trademarked under Sections 35 & 41 of the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment in Nigeria and is managed by Quickprints Media & Communications Limited (RC 1382323). This means that the public is free to do business with us under this legal name – Quickprints but cannot utilise the GDA trademark without our due consent.
What is the relationship between GDA and players in the print industry and are there plans to build partnerships with the tech, financial, and food industries across the continent?
Yes, thousands of graphic designers rely on print services. However, we hope to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with printing presses in every African city so that our members can get to know and work with them as trusted partners. We are expanding our scope to serve the tech, fintech, and food industries in a variety of ways. You are aware that those sectors use graphics in their branding and promotion activities. We are, therefore, open to strategic partnerships that cut across other industries as it relates to our vision and activities.