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Lola A. Åkerström: Award-winning Travel Photographer of African Descent Exploring The World Through The Lens

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Award-winning Stockholm-based author and photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström explores culture through food, tradition, and lifestyle for high profile publications such as National Geographic Traveler, BBC, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, amongst others. Alaba Ayinuola chatted with Lola about being an award-winning travel photographer, what sparked her interest in photography, how she’s connecting with local cultures across the world and telling the African story in the Diaspora through photography and more!

Alaba: Tell us about the Geotraveler media and the gap its filling? 

Lola: Geotraveler Media is my umbrella company that covers all aspects of my work within travel media and culture. In essence, I am sharing through words, photography, and video how I am experiencing the world as an African and through those lens. Whether it’s exploring Greenland or working with local communities in Nepal. It is sharing my voice and others on a mainstream level.

Alaba: What inspired you to go into writing and travel photography?

Lola: I’ve always loved writing and used to pen fictional short stories all through secondary school while growing up in Nigeria. Then over time, I replaced fiction with creative non-fiction once I ventured into travel writing because I love exploring culture through food, tradition, and lifestyle. Photography, at the time, was a means to an end. I used to be an oil painter and so I took photographs of various scenes I wanted to paint when I returned from my travels. 

Then over time, I realized my photography could stand on its own and I began to use it as a medium of expression over oil painting. But this career path came together many years ago, while volunteering with an expedition race in Fiji. It was while in a remote part of the country I realized that could create a career from becoming a travel writer and photographer.

Once when I returned back to my job as a GIS programmer and system architect, I started plotting my career transition.

Alaba: Which came first, the writing or the photography?

Lola: Writing came first as I love exploring and describing worlds through words. Photography became that ultimate complementary skill, because sometimes, painstakingly describing a detail can be answered through a single powerful shot that takes away all doubt and stops the viewer in their tracks.

I started out as an oil painter and used photography as a way of capturing scenes I wanted to paint once back. After awhile, I realized my photography was strong enough to stand on its own and so I stopped painting and started exploring photography as my new medium of expression. Semblances of my past life as an oil painter can be seen in the way I edit my photos – very vivid with a lot of heavy contrasts.

Alaba: How have your writing skills as a writer helped further your photography journey?  

Lola: Within the world of travel, if you can do both and do them very well, then you’re at an advantage when it comes to getting assignments. Because editors know you can illustrate your stories powerfully with your own photographs. As an artist, you can choose whichever medium you’d like to focus on more, based on when you feel inspired or not.

Sometimes, it’s writing, other days, it’s photography. My writing skills have helped me develop my visual voice as a photographer as well. So my images feel like my own writing voice visualized.

Alaba: What makes a great image stand out from a good one? 

Lola: For me, a great image is one that answers as many of these questions as possible: When, why, what, who, and other details, while leaving a bit of mystery. For me, a great image is not a technically perfect one, but one that moves me emotionally. There are thousands of amazing landscape photographers who have perfected technical settings to the point of not being able to differentiate whose photo of Patagonia is whose.

I would rather have a less technically perfect shot with a clear visual style than a technically perfect shot and no visual voice. 

Alaba: How has photography enabled you to connect with local cultures across the world?

Lola: For me, I love observing interactions and connections… from how light is interacting with the landscape in front of me to capturing that moment of awareness and connection in the eyes of my subjects. I especially love environmental portraits of people and capturing a sense of them and their personality as wholly as I can.

Photo credit: Liam Neal / Intrepid Travel

Alaba: What is the impact of social media (Instagram and Pinterest) on travel photography? 

Lola: Social media has ushered in a raise in overly staged travel photos. What once inspired people to go explore a new place, enjoy its cuisine and learn about different cultures is now forcing people to relegate places to just backdrops in search of the most creative angle. The main advantage is that it’s inspiring more people to get out there and see the world. The main irony is that they may end up not seeing as much of the world with their backs turned towards it.

I use Instagram and think it’s a great platform to play creatively as a photographer and take bold risks, regardless of whether Instagram rewards you or not based on its weird algorithms.

We can do much better by turning around and taking time to soak up and appreciate the places we’re exploring. Think about longevity and timelessness. We can always find a balance between the types of images we share. That cool visual trend today will become tiring and predictable tomorrow. 

Alaba: How do you balance your time on the road between work and travel? 

Lola: I always say you can’t raise the walls of a house without a solid foundation. In other words, taking time to develop roots for your company, business or brand. So I’m not always on the road and often plan my longer travels so I have at least four weeks in between.

Overall, I keep my travels short and targeted, so I am exploring a place through a focused, deeper theme instead of skimming its surface. That’s why I’m an advocate of slow travel. It’s not duration for me, but rather, the pace with which you explore a place. Whether it’s 24 days or 24 hours, you can still slow travel based on how you explore a place.

Photos from Jokkmokk, Arctic Sweden

Alaba: How are you telling the African story in the Diaspora?  

Lola: I am showing that as an African, I am richly layered and multi-dimensional. That as an African, I can be a professional travel photographer on a mainstream level. I’ve worked with many high profile publications (National Geographic, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, to name a few), yet I still get “Did you shoot that?” questions while my white male colleagues are revered with no questions asked. 

My photography has been represented by National Geographic Image Collection for over years, I have contributed to the Nat Geo brand and magazines with writing and photography, and I’m one of the contributing photographers at National Geographic Traveller (UK). I am showing up and taking space as an African within travel media to represent as well as inspire the next generation of travel writers and travel photographers of African-descent.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African travel photographer?     

Lola: As a professional travel photographer of Nigerian descent, it is extremely vital for me to show the world through my own eyes. That my voice and way of capturing the world is valid and relevant on a higher level too. Sometimes people react and interact with me in a way that’s different from the traditional white male travel photographer, and I can capture those special interactions on camera. This diversifies the stories of places we visually tell. 

Alaba: What is your view on the travel and leisure ecosystem in Africa? 

Lola: There are still so many untapped opportunities and stories we could be telling, including advocating for us to explore our own backyards a lot more. With people like Pelu Awofeso championing travel within Nigeria, PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson championing travel within Ghana, and Cherae Robinson of Tastemaskers, championing local niche experiences across the continent as a whole (just to name a few), I am excited about the deeper, more nuanced direction of travel and leisure within the continent.

Also Read: Interview With Oyetola Oduyemi On The END Fund, Impact Philanthropy And Sustainability in Africa

B I O G R A P H Y

Award-winning Stockholm-based author and photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström explores culture through food, tradition, and lifestyle for high profile publications such as National Geographic Traveler, BBC, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, amongst others.

As a photographer, she has collaborated with many well-known brands – from Mercedes Benz and Dove to Intrepid Travel and National Geographic Channel. She is the author of two books – award-winning Due North & bestselling LAGOM: Swedish Secret of Living Well. LAGOM is available in 18 foreign language editions around the world. She is editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm and founder of NordicTB Collective which brings together the top professional travel bloggers and digital storytellers from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. 

She is the 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year Bill Muster Award recipient and was honoured with a MIPAD 100 (Most Influential People of African Descent) Award within media and culture.  Her photography is represented by National Geographic Image Collection.  

Visit: Lola AKERSTROM

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CliniDo: Your Personalized Healthcare Companion

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CliniDo Mina Shawky CEO and Hitham Essam CTO, at GITEX Africa

CliniDo, a MENA leading health tech innovator, With CliniDo’s revolutionary voice search functionality, connecting with a healthcare provider takes mere seconds. CliniDo transcends the limitations of a typical healthcare app. They envision themselves as your trusted healthcare companion, offering unwavering support throughout your health journey. Whether you’re experiencing a new symptom or managing a chronic condition, CliniDo provides personalized and exceptional customer-focused solutions.

Founded in January 2020 in Assiut Egypt, by Wael Soliman, Mina Shawky, and Hitham Essam, CliniDo aims to be the ultimate healthcare companion, providing top-notch medical services in Egypt and the MENA.

Your Voice Heard: Instant Connection Through Voice Search

Imagine needing medical attention and simply voicing your needs. With CliniDo’s revolutionary voice search functionality, connecting with a healthcare provider takes mere seconds. Forget complex menus or frustrating typing – just speak your needs, and CliniDo will connect you to the right healthcare provider. This innovative approach showcased at GITEX exemplifies CliniDo’s commitment to streamlining healthcare access.

Guiding You from Symptoms to Solutions: AI-Powered Support

CliniDo takes the guesswork out of your healthcare journey. Simply describe your symptoms to their AI-powered system, and it will recommend the most appropriate medical specialty for your needs. This ensures you receive the right care, right away – a testament to CliniDo’s commitment to efficiency and patient well-being, a theme that pervaded GITEX discussions.

Personalized Content Tailored to Your Needs

CliniDo doesn’t stop at connecting you with healthcare providers. Recognizing that knowledge empowers, they provide customized medical and educational content that aligns with your specific condition. This empowers you to make informed decisions about your healthcare journey.

A Complete Healthcare Ecosystem at Your Fingertips

CliniDo offers a comprehensive suite of healthcare services, all conveniently accessible through their platform. Here’s a glimpse into what attendees at GITEX found particularly exciting about CliniDo’s offerings:

  • Book appointments with doctors: Find the right doctor for your needs and schedule appointments in seconds.
  • Book clinic consultations: Schedule in-person consultations with your chosen healthcare provider.
  • Book home visits: Get the care you need from doctors or nurses from the comfort of your own home.
  • Book lab tests from home: No need to go to a lab. Order your tests and have them collected from your home.
  • Request Medication: Easily request your medication.
  • New! Book medical services: This exciting new Product allows you to directly book any medical service you require, streamlining the process and saving you valuable time.
  • Next: Bookings and Payment Solutions: CliniDo’s commitment to continuous innovation is clear. you will soon be able to book surgeries and procedures directly through CliniDo, with a convenient installment payment solution built into the platform.

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Making a Measurable Impact

CliniDo’s dedication to patient care is reflected in their impressive achievements. They’ve proudly served over half a million patients, connected them with more than 11,000 doctors and healthcare providers, and facilitated over two million dollars in healthcare transactions. These numbers represent countless individuals who have received the care they need, thanks to CliniDo’s innovative platform.

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Rhea, a women-led Kenyan startup is cultivating change in AgriTech

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Rhea CEO and Co-Founder, Priscilla Wakarera (Image: Supplied).

Rhea is a dynamic agritech start-up that is revolutionizing soil health management with innovative IoT sensors, empowering smallholder farmers to practice precision agriculture for sustainable and profitable crop cultivation.

GITEX Africa 2024, was held in Marrakech, Morocco from May 29th to 31st, 2024. The event was an incredible platform for tech enthusiasts, startups, and industry leaders to converge, showcasing the dynamic growth and potential of Africa’s tech ecosystem.

Participating at GITEX AFRICA allowed Rhea to make meaningful connections with service providers who will be instrumental for our growth. The showcases by established market players were a source of invaluable learning and inspiration as we continue to build our vision.

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Additionally, engaging in insightful conversations with ecosystem drivers has opened new avenues for collaboration and support. Rhea is looking forward to the days and months ahead, the organization is excited to foster collaborations with the connections that were made during GITEX Africa 2024.

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Tapiwa Guzha: making African-inspired ice cream with local flavors

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Tapiwa Guzha is a South African entrepreneur and founder of the Tapi Tapi ice cream brand. This amazing journey all began in July 2018 which already feels like a lifetime ago. What began as a self imposed dare by Tapiwa to share a passion for ice cream, any sort of ice cream, has evolved into an amazing storytelling vehicle. A unique way to share African folklore, rituals and cultural practices through frozen morsels and crunchy cones. A way to celebrate our diversity and embrace our differences while also realising we’re far more similar than we are different. Very creative, Tapiwa stands out for his ice creams with new flavors. Dried fish, hibiscus, Mphepho, toffee, chilli, dried blackjack leaves with caramel. Flavours that are simply unprecedented.

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In February 2020, Guzha launched Tapi Tapi, and the shop quickly became a success. Tapi Tapi is a Shona expression that means “yum yum”. Tapi Tapi began as a direct-delivery service that dropped off ice creams all around the Western Cape. While also orchestrating pop-up tasting experiences where people could engage with the diverse food and food practices from all over the continent. It is a one-of-a-kind shop that showcases the flavors of Africa. Tapi Tapi’s ice creams are tasty, bold, and unique, and they’re a great way to experience African cuisine.

This Zimbabwean molecular biologist, PhD in biotechnology at the University of Cape Town, passionate about cooking and entrepreneur, he makes African-inspired ice cream with local African flavors after experimenting with dry ice (dry ice making process). Tapiwa began experimenting with dry ice, a form of solid carbon dioxide that sublimates into carbon dioxide when exposed to heat. This allowed him to create ice cream faster, smoother and tastier. 

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