Cheryl Ankrah-NewtonBy Cheryl Ankrah-Newton|May 24, 2022|13 Minutes|In Opinion


Reimagining Africa through the Metaverse.

At the end of last year, I became fascinated with the Metaverse and what it means for Africa. In my last write up, I explored how African Creatives can capitalise on this new iteration of the internet.

However, in order for me to further understand how Africa could bridge the physical with the virtual, I needed to actually immerse myself and really visit the Metaverse myself without just looking on at my 7- year- old son’s exploits.

I was just about to begin setting up Roblox for myself when randomly but luckily my husband decided to get an Oculus VR headset. Perfect for me to now experience the true essence of metaverse with full immersion.

I have to say that I am truly blown away by how technology has advanced. So far, in my VR I’ve built myself an Avatar, connected with friends across the globe, played games, meditated in a virtual setting and more. One of the most amazing experiences to me was the walking tours. (Blame the pandemic!).

Having nearly two years of no recreational travel due to COVID-19, I decided to check out a couple of places that I have yet to visit in reality. So I did a walking tour within the VR I decided to visit Petra and Lisbon (the list of places available in VR is still growing).

This experience was so realistic that it left me wondering if I even need to know actually visit these places or can I just tick them off the list. Of course, there is more to visiting a place than just seeing it, however with travel being such a chore these days, this option is alluring even for the most nomadic of us.


Furthermore, even with my background in Real Estate and the built environment, my zeal for bricks and mortar concepts and my love of creating dwelling spaces for communities, it is undeniable and inevitable that the real spaces we use and create may become less necessary.

Will there be a trade-off between shops and offices etc for data storage facilities?? …well that’s already happening in places like the UK and USA.

All this to say that if we in Africa do not get on the boat we will be left behind (as usual) or can we leapfrog? Can we use underdevelopment to our advantage? Can we provide the balance of not overdeveloping yet empowering our youth to earn and thrive; I delve a little deeper here in part 2 of the Metaverse articles.

PS: I would also like to further explore the pitfalls in a future article because post writing this, I’ve been subjected to racial abuse in a gaming app within VR (yes already!). VR is definitely not for our children to be left without acute supervision. It has also made me very wary of bullying etc that is already a problem online. VR will only exacerbate this…but more next time.

Disclaimer: This is not an Ad for Oculus.

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The Metaverse and What It Means for Africa and African Creatives Pt. 2


The Metaverse has shown immense potential for creatives in developing nations. Many younger internet users – think Gen Z and Millennials – are hopeful that this new virtual world will essentially pave the way for consumers and creators to socialize, conduct business, and do all the other things that we do in the real world. All but physically.

However, digital assets built on the metaverse’s blockchain have the likelihood to keep on expanding well beyond the entertainment and art industries.

As the technology for the metaverse gears up, it is crucial to consider the radical impact it can have on our physical spaces.

We see rich cultural influences of developed nations on the rest of the world – an influence that is emphasized by the presence of centuries-old museums and libraries.

A good example is that of the Louvre in Paris.

The Louvre serves as a historical and cultural landmark for the country, with people flocking from all over the world to get a glimpse inside.

What lends developed nations and the landmarks in them, such as the Louvre, their significance is the longstanding history behind them along with the impressive preservation of that history.

Much of the reason why developing nations are held back is not just mismanagement of finances by authoritative figures but also, the poor preservation of historic artifacts and buildings that hold immense cultural and historical value.

Poor management and lack of funding put historic buildings in developing nations at risk. They leave them open to decay and sometimes even attacks due to a severe lack of security.

One prominent example is that of Africa’s most culturally significant libraries in Timbuktu which was destroyed in 2013. The library was burned down, taking with it centuries’ worth of manuscripts and ancient artifacts that represented a unique record of Sub-Saharan Africa’s rich history.

Along with burning down a precious part of Africa’s past, the library no longer serves as an incentive for historians and history buffs around the world to visit Africa for and indulge in the continent’s remarkable journey.

This is the case with many academic libraries, museums, and other buildings with major historic magnitude that are simply left behind at the hands of either ignorance or simply a lack of resources in developing nations.

This reliance on physical structures to represent our history and keep it safe serves as a roadblock for Africa and its global representation.

Before the pandemic hit, New York artist Beeple’s life consisted of finding art galleries to display his artwork. But as the pandemic struck, all art galleries closed down and so did his avenues of showcasing his work.

So, what did he do?

Taking technology in stride, the emerging artist started experimenting with VR, leading him to sell his unique collection online in the form of NFTs.

This is a perfect example of how the metaverse – being the virtual expanse that it is expected to be – can transform how we experience the physical space around us.

In the metaverse, a digital twin of an already-existing real estate can be built. Entire properties could be managed.

Africa and African creatives have a crucial opportunity here to essentially leverage the metaverse’s blockchain and leapfrog the need for an entirely physical space.

Instead, we can rebuild or replicate important buildings in the metaverse in a much more hybrid fashion.

Not only would this keep the online structures (and what’s in them) safe, but it would also open up new avenues for African countries and their economies by reaching a wider audience.

This would essentially forego the need for massive funding that is required for a brick-and-mortar project. It would also generate income that can then be utilized in rebuilding the physical infrastructure, keeping it sustained, and letting the real and digital twin formations co-exist.

But why limit ourselves to standalone buildings?

Going even further, African creatives could use this opportunity to rebuild entire cities. Beaches. Safaris. Music. Art. Fashion. You name it.

The 3D version of the internet can have it all, helping us build immersive experiences seeped with exotic African culture.

A completely African space. Made by Africans. Owned by Africans. Operated by Africans.

But everyone is free to have a look.

This is how the metaverse could effectively bridge the gap between creativity, space, and the need for physical development.

As real as the opportunity to transform developing nations into developed ones in the metaverse is, it’s not without its risks.

For one, this new version of the digital landscape would be immensely elaborate. Given its monumental infrastructure, we would need immense computing power. This is great for people who have the bandwidth, hardware, and connectivity to support such a demand.

For developing nations, however, this would result in an even bigger divide than before.

Furthermore, tech giants, such as Facebook, Minecraft, and Nvidia, have already forked out millions of dollars worth of investments as they seek to establish a foothold in the digital universe.

This begs the question of whether the metaverse would really be decentralized and not controlled by giant corporations. And would developing nations be at a natural disadvantage due to a lack of investment money?

Developed nations would have to recognize the potential Africa holds and commit to working together with its nations by bringing in investment to help us build an online space for ourselves.

Wise investment in the right areas would also be needed to help libraries, museums, and other historic architecture to be rebuilt digitally.

With traditional government institutions so focused on endowing money to physical infrastructures, a very real question lies in whether they would be effectively able to wrap their heads around the idea of investing in a building that exists online.

The metaverse could serve as the ultimate crossover for Africa and African creatives. If we navigate it carefully, the potential of what that could mean for developing nations is one that holds a lot of promise.

Completely free from physical limitations, this digital world will encompass any number of virtual spaces and include any kind of environment that one can possibly imagine. All while still offering real-world economic benefits.

In the end, the onus is on us to create the kind of cross-platform interoperability that can lead to bigger and better outcomes for our nations.