Over the last decade, comedy, music and motivational speaking have registered impressive growth in Kenya. Stand up speakers have emerged in the local entertainment industry and corporate industry, making millions laugh and at the same time getting rich out of their efforts.
Kenyan born George Issaias is a 37-year-old Greek Kenyan who is founder and chief executive officer of African Speakers and Artists, AS+A. He has worked abroad with some of the global brands, and now comes home with a plan to bring together gifted people in a same interest group that can vouch for their interests.
“My family has lived in Tanzania and Kenya since the 1930s and I now live in Nairobi. I was born in Nairobi and went to school here at Kenton College until I was 13. Those were the best years of my life. I left for boarding school in the UK, followed by four years studying history at St Andrews University in Scotland. I then moved down to London, “ he says.
He has lived in London for about 13 years, most of which were spent working with a global brand experience agency Jack Morton Worldwide.
“I was the sales director. Jack Morton produces some of the most high profile events in the world, from Olympic ceremonies to corporate brand experiences. We even delivered a big project in Kenya once when we ran the Pan-African 'Celtel to Zain' re-brand campaign.”
But it was while in London that the bug to go back home started to bite. He could tell that Kenya, and Africa, were becoming an intoxicating, exciting place to do business. He says listening to similar sentiments from so many 'returning diaspora' friends would solidify his intent.
“They urged me to come. The key thing for me was to find the right thing to do, and once I spotted the opportunity to set up African Speakers and Artists, and to champion local speakers and artists on the world stage, I couldn't get here fast enough.”
His company was launched last year and has become the leading speaker bureau and talent booking agency in East Africa, representing the region's finest minds and voices.
“My experience as a sales director of a major global events agency has allowed me to build a considerable network of marketing and events clients spanning most Fortune 1000 companies. I see my role as a matchmaker, connecting those international brands with East African speakers and artists who can provide real African insights, perspectives and entertainment to their global events. I'm very lucky to represent people such as Bethlehem Alemu from Ethiopia, Ashish Thakkar from Uganda and our very own Sauti Sol.”
He is convinced that local talent is rich, and ready to hit the global speaker and entertainment circuit.
“Our role at African Speakers and Artists is to work closely with all our talent to make sure they are presented and marketed in the best possible way, and to make sure they get their story across in the most engaging way possible. For any up and coming speakers, my tip would be to ask yourself the following questions: why should someone pay to hear my story? Is my point of view unique? Is my content truly original? If you can answer those questions positively then we'd love to hear from you.”
Over the last three to four years, the thematic focus of global events and campaigns has begun to dramatically shift towards Africa. The 'noise' about Africa, and in particular East Africa, has been getting louder and louder, observes Issaias.
In tandem to this, East Africa is a region that is beginning to produce many successful, creative, innovative personalities who now have a globally relevant story to share. The role of AS+A is to provide a matchmaking service that will connect global brands with speakers and artists from the region who can offer unique perspectives, or entertainment, to their events and marketing campaigns.
In order to build the AS+A roster, his team proactively sought out individuals who are already very visible in the public domain and who already have extensive experience in public speaking.
They began to seek out 'the next big thing'; young, up and coming people with incredible stories to share such as Patrick Ngowi from Tanzania or Josephine Kulea from Kenya.
“We are still very open to hearing from anyone interested in joining our roster so long as they can answer one key question: will international companies be interested in what you have to say?”
On the artist side, they have focused on established artists who already have a considerable following and in most cases, plenty of experience in performing for the corporate sector.
He feels that the 'Africa Rising' story has already been well documented. What has been less documented are the people on the ground making this happen, the people who are putting this corner of the world firmly on the map. AS+A is simply bringing these individuals together under one roof, and giving them a platform from which global brands can access them.
The AS + S bureau is a place to watch, as it will shine a spotlight on East African talent, and create a 'shop window' to allow multi-national companies opportunities to tap into the expertise, insights or entertainment that our roster can offer.