Cheryl Ankrah-NewtonBy Cheryl Ankrah-Newton|May 10, 2022|12 Minutes|In Opinion


How to survive the Metaverse.

When I look at my 7-year-old son -AJ- emulating his Roblox avatar in our everyday reality it dawns on me that the metaverse is nothing new, even though I feel like such a dinosaur who needs hand holding on this, I read and write about it so that I can get up to speed fast.

The next generation thinks in a manner that seems so foreign to me. For example, as Christmas approaches, I asked AJ would he prefer a hypothetical $500 in cash or in Robux. To which he responds half cash so he can buy toys and “gaming equipment” and half in Robux so that he can spend it to buy his Avatar clothes and things in the Roblox universe.

Simply put, our children and the next generation are already conditioned to operate in the metaverse.

As we walked past a Gucci store at Heathrow Terminal 5, AJ gets super excited and says to me “Mum that’s Gucci!!!” Of course, at this point I’m impressed thinking yes he’s just like his mother and loves good luxury brands, but then he swiftly follows this with “I can buy my Roblox Avatar Gucci if you give me that money in Robux!!!” This totally stumps me.

Roblox = metaverse,


Robux = Cryptocurrency,


Clothes & Things in the Roblox Universe = Digital Art or NFTs

I am just baffled that anyone would want to “waste real money” on what is effectively digital nothingness but then I see its not just the kids. High Net Worth Individuals are spending millions on NFTs, luxury fashion brands and companies are minting designs into NFTs and selling at crazy prices, crypto currency and blockchain is real.   It is inevitable, it is happening and apparently it is set to grow to an $8 Trillion industry.

So now as we hurtle to what effectively is the next iteration of the internet, I keep thinking to myself, as a forty something year old living in the developing world, what does this all mean for me and for Africa as a whole? How can we as a “third world continent” get on board and take advantage of this? I am writing about this to help myself further understand it, but also to delve into what it means for Africa and African Creatives. I will break this down into a two part article. Please feel free to comment, educate me or join me on this journey.

The term “Metaverse” has been making its rounds on social media and the news in recent weeks. Described as the next revolution of the Internet, metaverse raises a plethora of questions from both skeptics and believers of the technology, especially in terms of the many doors it can open for young talented creatives from underrepresented communities, such as that of Africa.

But what exactly is the Metaverse?

Metaverse is simply the combination of multiple aspects of technology, including VR (Virtual Reality), AI (Artificial Intelligence), and AR (Augmented Reality), where video users exist within an online digital universe.

The idea of a Metaverse is set to change the way we socialize, interact, and work in a virtual world. But as futuristic as it may seem, the concept of Metaverse is not brand new. This idea of an ultra-connected and interactive virtual reality first made its appearance in the science fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in 1992.

In his book, Stephenson envisions a three-dimensional virtual space, in which a character can evolve similar to how they would in real life through an avatar or a hologram.


While the idea of a metaverse existing may sound like something out of a movie, something that is a little too far-fetched, it has some of the world’s leading tech giants backing it.

Most notably, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, announced his plans to employ a team of 10,000 employees to build such a universe. Moreover, Microsoft laid out its vision for the metaverse by announcing a new product called Mesh for Teams, that would allow employees to take avatar forms and work in a virtual environment.

While developments in the field of AR, AI, and VR sit at the forefront of the metaverse, it is becoming increasingly clear that cryptocurrencies, Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs), and the blockchain technology will be key in unlocking many crucial parts of the concept.


NFTs are digital assets that represent reproducible items such as art, music, videos, and other types of digital files that contain a unique object. They are bought and sold online, oftentimes through the use of cryptocurrency.

To store NFTs, blockchain technology is used. Blockchain is simply a public ledger that keeps a record of transactions. It is a concept used for the transactions of cryptocurrencies as well.

In recent years, NFTs have gained notoriety amongst the creative community. This is mostly due to the digital bragging rights that come as the owner of an expensive piece of art. An NFT allows the person buying to have full ownership of the original item. It contains built-in authentication that serves as proof of ownership.


NFTs have opened up new avenues for artists and creatives all over the world but the technology also holds great potential to empower the African youth in monetizing their artistic capacities in more ways than one.

In the vast future realm of the metaverse, NFTs and cryptocurrencies can play a huge role for emerging African artists who increasingly take technology in stride to express their creative side.

Africa has long been a community of creators looking to influence consumers by embracing innovation and technology. With the inception of the COVID-19 crisis, African creatives have brought many advances in the continent, specifically in key sectors relating to AI, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs.

With tech giants backing the next generation of the internet, African creatives have a game-changing opportunity to focus on creative collaborations and revenue-generating experiences through the metaverse.

The truth is, digital artists are the underdogs of the traditional art world. However, in the realm of the metaverse, the opposite would be true.


Nerdy creatives who can create immersive collectibles and moving-image artworks would find great success in exchanging their works for cryptocurrencies. NFTs would allow people in the metaverse to take ownership and hold their digital assets in their digital wallets.

Some people are skeptical of the longevity of NFTs and their use in propelling the creative industry forward. Art collectibles and blockchain artworks have no physicality to them. They are virtual – a fact that does not sit well with most older generations. Conditions in which a certain hybridity of virtual and real-life scenarios exist are something that will take time for the masses to accept and adopt.


However, the efficacy of NFTs and blockchain in providing African artists with a platform is something that provides more hope than it does skepticism.

xx1OFF is one of the first art galleries in the metaverse that caters specifically to Black-identifying artists and their digital works of art sold as NFTs. They plan on expanding their virtual gallery into a multi-facility district on the blockchain, exclusively for Black creatives.

Through NFTs, artists can share a digital asset in the metaverse that will grow in value. Of course, the value would fluctuate similar to how an investment value changes over time. However, beyond that, creatives could take what they have earned and borrow against it. Essentially, they could use their imagination and art to earn an asset and get access to capital.

The Metaverse provides a great opportunity for artists of African origin to emphasize innovation and propel economic development through the merits of using a decentralized blockchain technology.

Through the use of blockchain, a unique signature is added to a digital art file. This is known as tokenizing or mining it on the blockchain. Tokenizing would allow creatives to add monetary value and uniqueness to their artwork and save it from forgery. In this way, blockchain technology would allow digital art to be bought, sold, and collected in the same way as physical art is.

What’s more is that NFTs would bridge the gap between artists and the consumer, something that is absent in the real world. Artists and collectors will be able to collaborate directly without the need of industry gatekeepers as is the case with the traditional entertainment industry.

This will offer support to artistic communities, such as the African, Black, and Brown creatives, that are often underrepresented. Many optimistic African creatives are hopeful that the new metaverse concept would bring a higher sense of economic equality and potential across the board through the use of decentralized marketplaces.

The bigger question, however, is how and whether Africa can leverage the existence of the Metaverse to propel its rich art history forward by bridging the gap between both virtual and physical infrastructures.

Can we find a way for the virtual and the physical to co-exist? This is a question we explore much more comprehensively in the second part of this article.