Lifestyle & Culture
What’s with the suit and tie anyway?

What’s with the suit and tie anyway?

An African on a suit and a tie

I imagine Africa as a woman who decides to celebrate young professionals for their global achievements by inviting them to a lavish dinner party. The doctors tear apart the huge fish on their plates as they talk about their favorite nurses. The lawyers laugh over wine that’s older than their grandparents, who are also lawyers. The engineers pile different delicacies on their plates like they’re trying to build a food castle. Economists wave at physiotherapists as they give orders to the servers. But, we stand at the kitchen entrance answering ridiculous questions on empty stomachs.

Graphic designer: please, the creatives have not eaten anything and everyone else seems to be on their third meal. We’re seated at the last table, just beside the door.

Event planner: creatives? How did you get seats? Did we invite you? I thought we only invited professionals.

Creative writer: (slightly confused) But we are professionals?

Event planner: (eyes both the graphic designer and creative writer) Are you?


If doctors and lawyers are the elegant middle finger, creatives are the sixth finger. The anomaly is usually cut off when it dares to rear up its head. We are the ones our parents forget to introduce. After introducing the financial analyst and the mechanical engineer, it seems quite necessary to mention the apple that strayed completely away from the tree: the content creator, and more often than not, the third child.

The other day, I told my mum I was going to spoil her silly when my writing career eventually takes off. But instead of asking me if writing was a career, she gave me a tight smile. Then she asked me to graduate fast so I could start a proper job. By a proper job, she means becoming a civil servant. My Dad and sister also mentioned how they still wish I’d still study law because a certain lawyer said “Law is beautiful”. Perhaps it is, but if we all became choir boys and girls the world would be all monochromatic and no fun. I mean, imagine this world without books, music, advertisements, paintings, poetry, photos, billboards, and comedy. We’d be left with nothing but suits, ties, and dentists’ dry jokes.

Creatives are professionals because any system or pattern that consistently solves a recurring problem is a profession in its own right. With Africa as the mother of all continents and the birthplace of creativity, our contribution to the global creative industry should tip the scale. But we contribute a meager 2.9% of global creative goods exports. We’re overflowing with creativity but our global impact is so insignificant, it can easily be squashed by some random country. Now I’ve tried to understand the root of this problem and here’s the best explanation I can offer:

WE LIKE SUIT AND TIE A LITTLE TOO MUCH: like a clingy ex, we’re finding it difficult to move on. We keep stalking our ex, and we’re shamelessly begging her to take us back. We are no longer in the age of going to school, graduating, get a good job, and live happily ever after. Now people abandon their university degrees to sell spaghetti on WhatsApp. The world is now a big marketplace and creativity is the major currency.

We’re still not comfortable with this new reality and our reluctance to embrace change is slowing us down. Traditional professions will always be relevant, but we now have options, better options. It shouldn’t be heard that parents still force their children to study law in a world where entertainment industries are full of lawyers who have never stepped into a courtroom. We’re in the age of remote work, vintage shirts, Ankara shorts, portable laptops, expensive iPhones, unconventional career paths, food deliveries, personal branding online dating, e-fliers, content creation, skits, influencing, newsletters, entrepreneurs, young millionaires, career-oriented teenagers, and bone straight wigs. Now we have full-time jobs but we stay home all day. We attend professional events wearing clothes that make our parents turn up their noses in displeasure, “Why are you not wearing a suit and a tie? Is it not a professional event?”

But of course, we can do better: Two simple ways to promote creativity and creatives in Africa

Pay us well and allow us to do our work in peace: Certain ideas should have gone extinct with the dinosaurs, so resist the urge to share them with us. Your sole responsibility as our client or employer is to pay us well. Your ideas should be on how you can pay us more money not on how you want to run a PR campaign and 80% of your plan is advertising on NTA and distributing handbills. Once again, leave the methods to us. Focus on paying us and expecting amazing results. Whether you’re an employer, a parent, or one of the random individuals who say things like “Is it not just to write?”, you can do better by not judging what you do not understand. I’d have you know that I spent over six hours on this article. I’ve also written longer articles in less than 30 minutes. When they say man proposes, God disposes; they mean a creative proposes, and creativity sometimes opposes. What we do is brain work that requires silly things like taking a walk, journaling, watching movies, reading books, and speaking to people just to get inspired. It all sounds silly but it is what it is. And fortunately for us, we’re the new crude oil. So pay us well and let us help you shine.

Be proud of us: in counting the numerous resources we’re blessed with in Africa, we must count creativity twice. Although every profession requires creativity and everyone expresses creativity in their own unique way, we are the custodians of creativity. Our livelihood is directly tied to our creativity. Therefore, we constantly have to go out of our way to create and produce results. And we’ve produced an impressive number of mind-blowing results. We’re out here keeping the world on its toes with our music, our books, our brilliant campaigns, and our ability to shine through all the difficulty that comes with being creative. We are creating a place for Africa in the global creative industry, one masterpiece at a time. We’re not wearing a suit and a tie, but our books are read in universities around the world, our artists are winning global awards, our photographers are exhibiting their works in international galleries, and our strategists are the brain behind some of these campaigns that make you go “damn! This is creative.” We’re making you proud, and you should be proud. You should be proud of us.