Upile Chisala and Richard Akuson: images from OkayAfrica and BellaNaija respectively.

Forbes Africa has released its annual 30 under 30 lists for 2019 and on it are the Nigerian LGBTQ+ rights advocate Richard Akuson, founder of the boundary-pushing platform A Nasty Boy, and the Malawian poet Upile Chisala, author of soft magic. and Nectar.

The lists, recognizing “entrepreneurs and innovators rewriting rules and taking bold new risks to take Africa to the future,” include 30 personalities in each of four categories—business, technology, creatives, and sport—bringing each annual class to a total of 120 personalities. Akuson and Chisala are included in the Creatives category. In 2018, four writers made the list: Safia Elhillo, Koleka Putuma, Kemiyondo Coutinho, and Sonia Irabor.

Here are Forbes Africa‘s citations for Akuson and Chisala.


Founder and Editor: A Nasty Boy

Richard Akuson’s activism for LGBTQ+ and challenging gender norms resulted in him being named one of the 40 most powerful people in Nigeria under the age of 40 in the 2017 YNaijaPower List. He founded A Nasty Boy, a magazine that is a fashion platform celebrating alternative and creative ideas, forms of expression and lifestyles, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community. It was named one of Vogue’s ‘What to Read This Fall’ in 2017.

“That’s pretty radical, given the political climate and culture there,” Vogue said. Akuson is a lawyer by profession, but dove into this creative activism after experiencing a brutal homophobic attack. He sought asylum in the US and grew his platform into a global brand. A Nasty Boy has since created a safe space to have meaningful conversations for people persecuted for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

But Akuson plans to take it a step further. “Through collaborations with American institutions, I’d like to focus my time as a licensed American lawyer on pro-LGBTQ+ rights policy advocacy in Africa,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

He is currently writing a memoir about his journey to the US and co-producing as well as co-directing a documentary series about the lived experiences of African asylum-seekers in the US.


Author and Poet

Upile Chisala started writing at the age of four. By the time she started primary school, there were piles of paper with little stories scattered around her house, in Zomba, Malawi, which was already chock-a-block with books. But it took her years to embrace her talent.

After moving to the US, she studied sociology and graduated in 2015 but struggled to find a steady job. She turned to poetry for comfort and self-published her first book at the age of 21. It was her first collection of poetry called Soft Magic.

She continued her studies and enrolled for an MSc in African studies at the University of Oxford. She revisited her writing and published a book called Nectar in 2017. This brought the opportunity to travel and do readings, but it was when she traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, that her talent was reaffirmed.

“The room was filled with over 200 people who didn’t mind that there were no seats left for them. They were happy to stand and listen to me read from both books,” she says. Next, she received an email from two Folio Literary Management agents in New York City. In no time, Chisala signed a three-book deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing worth ‘hundreds of thousands US dollars’.

Since then, she founded Khala Series, a monthly mentorship program for writers in Johannesburg. All profits from this series are donated. “Khala is my way of giving back to the community,” she says.

Brittle Paper congratulates Richard Akuson and Upile Chisala.