Africell and Sotheby’s celebrate African creativity

Panel event and cocktail reception coinciding with the March 2024 Modern and Contemporary African Art exhibition at Sotheby’s in London shine a spotlight on African creative excellence

20 March 2024, London | What is the relationship in Africa between economic growth and creative expression? According to actor, musician and entrepreneur Idris Elba, the connection is strong and direct.  

Image: from left to right, Alexis Akwagyiram, Dana Endundo Ferreira, Idris Elba, Smooth Nzewi. Credit: Haydon Perrior

“There’s a stigma in Africa attached to creative industries as not being serious business”, Mr Elba explained at a panel discussion hosted by the Africell Impact Foundation and Sotheby’s in London on 20 March. But if investors and policy makers change this attitude, he argued, the arts could become a “significant driver of economic growth” on the continent, not least because of all the jobs it would create in logistics, technology, construction and tourism. 

Timed to coincide with the Sotheby’s bi-annual Modern and Contemporary African Arts exhibition, the event assembled an expert and high-profile panel of commentators and practitioners. 


Image: the event took place in Sotheby’s Main Gallery on New Bond Street in Central London. Credit: Chris Smith

Moderated by Alexis Akwagyiram, Managing Editor of Semafor Africa, the panel explored topics including the phenomenal success of Afrobeats music, the role of governments in nurturing Africa’s creative industries, and opportunities available in the sector for international investment. In addition to Idris Elba, the panel consisted of Smooth Nzewi, Curator of Painting and Sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Dana Endundo Ferreira, CEO and Founder of digital art gallery Pavillon 54.

“As Africa’s young population grows, matures and gets more deeply connected into global markets, its creative voice will only get louder” says Ziad Dalloul, CEO, President and Founder of Africell. “We take African arts and culture incredibly seriously because it enables us to better understand our customers. This event was intended to highlight current themes in the space and introduce them to an international audience”.

The panel discussion took place on the penultimate day of Sotheby’s bi-annual Modern and Contemporary African Arts exhibition. Over 90 works by artists from 23 countries were displayed, with the final auction generating a combined total of £1.3 million – the highest total for a sale of its kind at Sotheby’s since October 2022. Sotheby’s also set auction records for six artists, and a third of the lots sold exceeded their high estimates - proof that interest and confidence in African arts is stronger than ever.

Hannah O’Leary, Head of Modern and Contemporary African Art at Sotheby’s, says that “It was a great privilege to host such an innovative panel discussion at Sotheby’s. My mission has always been to platform the incredible variety and diversity of talent on the continent, and now, more than ever, it feels like African art is very much at the fore, captivating the imagination of collectors and the public alike. There is, though, still so much more to unearth – its deep history, individuality, and kaleidoscope of cultures - and it feels exciting to be a part of this journey as creatives from Africa and the diaspora rightfully become ever more prominent on the global stage.”

The event represented the first phase of a longer-term collaboration between Africell and Sotheby’s, with a schedule of joint arts-focused initiatives due to take place in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo later in the year. 


Image: the event coincided with the biannual Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African art exhibition. Credit: Haydon Perrior


Image: the panel, from left to right: Smooth Nzewi, Idris Elba, Dana Endundo Ferreira, and Alexis Akwagyiram. Credit: Chris Smith


About Africell and the Africell Impact Foundation

Africell provides mobile network coverage to almost 20 million subscribers. We operate in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. US-owned and headquartered in London Africell’s social impact, entrepreneurial spirit and secure technology make us the ideal mobile partner for Africa’s future. To learn more, visit or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About Sotheby’s

Established in 1744, Sotheby’s is the world’s premier destination for art and luxury. Sotheby’s promotes access to and ownership of exceptional art and luxury objects through auctions and buy-now channels including private sales, e-commerce and retail. Our trusted global marketplace is supported by an industry-leading technology platform and a network of specialists spanning 40 countries and 70 categories which include Contemporary Art, Modern and Impressionist Art, Old Masters, Chinese Works of Art, Jewelry, Watches, Wine and Spirits, and Design, as well as collectible cars and real estate. Sotheby’s believes in the transformative power of art and culture and is committed to making our industries more inclusive, sustainable and collaborative. To learn more, visit or connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.