Solomon ‘Soló’ Nnanna is who you would call the “go-to-guy”. The 20-something Nigerian is founder of the Royalty Lifestyle Group (RLG), a Multicultural Marketing & Special Events company. Headquartered in New York City, RLG is said to be the city’s first Pan-African focused marketing firm. Their specialty?  Connecting corporations to the rising group of influential young Africans in the Diaspora. Over the past five years, RLG has hosted a number of events, including the week-long Passport to Nigeria festival and The Afropolitan Social Experience (TASE). Soló was recently part of New York University’s (NYU) African Economic Forum, where he was selected to speak at the 9on9 Series to explore what it means to be the “New Face of Africa.”

african-trendsetter-solomon-nnanna

AFRICA.COM: What does Africa mean to you?
SOLO:
Africa means home. The street names, the food, the smell. Africa means beauty. The people. The sights. I’ve been to a few continents and Africa remains one of the few that still takes my breath away every time I visit. Africa means opportunity. Nearly 1 billion people, exploding GDPs in most of its countries and an emerging middle class – no other continent has this much opportunity. And the good news is you don’t have to re-invent the wheel in order to be successful there.

AFRICA.COM: How did you become a leader within the space you operate in?
SOLO:
When we launched the Royalty Lifestyle (RL) Global brand in 2008, no one else was doing Africa focused strategic multicultural marketing in the United States (U.S.). As a result, we quickly became leaders in the space and laid the ground work for how marketing programs for Pan-African brands should be designed and implemented. With our full service agency, we continue to find innovative ways to connect our client’s brands with their intended African audience. From digital marketing to brand awareness via a customized social media strategy, RLG Global takes a holistic and individualized approach with each and every one of our clients. What’s also great is that we have a very strong event management arm that has been a global leader in the industry, with penetrated markets in the U.S. and Nigeria.

AFRICA.COM: There are two common narratives: “Africa is Rising” and “Africa Needs Aid”. Which is it, or could it be both?
SOLO: Africa no longer needs aid. Africa needs strategic partners. We do not need programs that are geared toward “saving” us. We definitely do not need people who want to come to the continent to buy up what a lot of us have spent time building. In fact we will no longer allow it, because Africa is no longer for sale. What we do need is the commitment and intelligence of a dedicated few who want to come in and partner with us. Partners who are willing to come down and get their hands dirty and merge their expertise with our local knowledge of the terrain. I do not know if the term is “rising”, but I do know we are on the cusp of something great.

AFRICA.COM: What do you see being the role of the African diaspora living in the United States and other parts of the globe?
SOLO: There has been a severe brain drain in Africa the past few decades, and as such there is an abundance of intelligent and innovative Africans living in the diaspora. For the ones who want to impact Africa, taking their talents back home would be their foremost choice. For those who do not want to go back, but want to stay connected, there are various ways in which they can contribute to the knowledge base and changes on the continent.  Media publications like Africa.com and Applause Africa, as well as worthy causes including FACE Africa’s water projects, are some notable examples of how many in the Diaspora are staying connected to the continent.

AFRICA.COM: You’re part of what is being called a “new generation of leaders” – what does that mean to you?
SOLO: Being seen as a leader amongst your peers is always a humbling feat. I never really set out with that in mind. When we started 5 years ago, we just saw a need that had not been filled and set out to fulfill that need. But as the saying goes: “with great power comes great responsibility”, it’s now left to us the “new generation of leaders” to inspire the young and upcoming African entrepreneurs. We can do this by giving them access to effective mentorship programs, and the opportunity to be part of something great in our various organizations.

What is your message to young Africans wanting to make a difference,  but are not sure where to start?
SOLO: If they want to make a difference on the continent, they have to be on ground. For all the promise that is Africa, it is still a developing continent and business is still conducted very differently than what they are probably used to in developed nations. So, being on ground is invaluable. That is where I’d suggest they start.