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Actor to host 2nd star-studded virtual event

Idris Elba on celebrating Africa, surviving Covid-19 and retirement

Idris Elba to host Africa Day Concert on May 25.
Idris Elba to host Africa Day Concert on May 25.
Image: Mike Marsland/WireImage

Since its inception, Africa Day has been commemorated by various countries across the continent, celebrating the advancement of liberation movements across the Motherland. As part of the fanfare, last year saw the introduction of the inaugural Africa Day Benefit Concert which sought to raise funds for families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following its success, this year’s concert will see some of the brightest young stars, including Elaine, Focalistic and Blaq Diamond, performing during a star-studded virtual concert hosted by award-winning actor, Idris Elba. He shares his thoughts on the importance of Africa Day.

You hosted the inaugural Africa Day Concert last year, what inspired you to agree to return to host this year’s event?

Last year I hosted the first Africa Day Concert and it was a really interesting time as the whole world was under lockdown – and here we were trying to celebrate a very historic day in Africa, a day that is lesser-known. I was really inspired to tell the story and put the spotlight on new talent, even though the world was going and is still going through a crisis. I’m attached to it. I am African until the day I die. As long as there’s an Africa Day and an opportunity to showcase new talent and showcase what’s happening in Africa, I am definitely going to be a part of it.

What does Africa Day mean to you?

Africa Day to me is a day to have a real focus point; to look at things in Africa, around the issues concerning Africans, our growth and just really taking the time to celebrate. There are so many beautiful things happening across the continent and in the diaspora. It’s always good to pat yourself on the back every now and then, and that’s what having Africa Day means to me. I didn’t realise how important it was on the continent and the history of it going back to the '60s. But here we are in 2021 giving a new spin on it, giving it new energy.

Do you feel that the African narrative is being portrayed accurately?

The African narrative has always had different messages. Some of those messages don't come from the continent. I think what we're seeing right now is Africans controlling the narrative. Africans showing people and showing the world who we are, what we're about, what our culture stands for and what our expression is. It is such an exciting time, especially for the young who have the ability to touch the world from their phones.

Do you see Africa Day going live next year?

Africa Day has to go live. I mean, it has to go live. We've had two years of doing it without the audience participation live. I think the next level up is to go live and if we can do it, my dream is that we do the first Africa Day live in Sierra Leone, right there in Freetown. That's what I'm trying to do.

What message do you have for young Africans about the future?

We have to strive forward, you know what I mean? There's no point looking back or sideways, we have to look forward, and that means innovation –that means being innovative and flexible. There are so many avenues of growth. We're now seeing young people that are tech-savvy, that are really, really penetrating markets. The music and entertainment industries are also seeing financial districts growing. But the idea is that everybody should just keep looking to the future.

Africa has the largest growing population and the youngest populous all over the world. So, we can't have one eye on the back or on the past. Africa has faced adversity and we know that, but what we're looking for is going forward. That's what I try do by what I do as a living as an actor and as an entertainer. I'm always trying to push my narrative forward and I'm always trying to be innovative. If anyone that follows me sees that, hopefully, it plants a seed for them. So that's my message to you guys.

What is the biggest lesson you've learnt?

Failure is a part of success, you can't succeed without failing.  It's the yin to that yang, and obviously, failure doesn't feel good. But the truth in hindsight is, if you don't have those failures, you will never understand what feels good and what it feels like to win. I've taken some “Ls” in my time, and every time I have, I've learned from it. My skin grows thicker, my confidence goes up, because, hey, I've been rock bottom. But ultimately, you don't dwell on that, the most important thing about being knocked down is getting up.

How did your Covid experience affect your view on life?

I was very, very lucky to have gone through Covid and survived. And I tell you what, as a human being, I have come out of that experience a much more appreciative person. I realised that tomorrow is not promised and having a situation like Covid, which for a lot of the world has been absolutely fatal, to have the opportunity to live past it just makes me thankful for the days that I have. I certainly don't want to take things for granted.

If you retired tomorrow, how would you like people to remember Idris Elba?

If I retired tomorrow? Nope, that's never going to happen. Look, I would like to be remembered as someone that lived by their heart and lived by their instincts. I tried to be a decent human being, hopefully, inspired people to be decent human beings and be good at what they do.

The Africa Day Concert 2021, will be streaming globally on YouTube this Africa Day, May 25, at 19:00 CAT and on MTV Base (DStv Channel 322) at 21:00CAT. 

Idris Elba to host Africa Day Concert on May 25.
Idris Elba to host Africa Day Concert on May 25.
Image: Mike Marsland/WireImage