12 African emoji we would like to see - including proper sandals and pap

Business Insider SA

Earlier this year, the official list of emoji was updated by the Unicode Consortium, which maintains the official computing industry standard.

Another 157 emoji have been added to the list, including cupcakes and bagels.

Ginger-haired people and those with curly hair will now also be represented as mobile phone companies start to roll out the new emoji


Another addition – the mosquito emoji – will probably be welcomed by Africans.

Still, the official list of 2,823 emoji remains skewed towards the West and Asia.

Here, for example are some of the many specifically Chinese and Japanese emoji on offer:

This is the “Shoshinsha” mark, which must be displayed by new drivers in Japan for the first year after they received their licence. Source:

A Japanese post office, with the Japanese symbol for the domestic postal mark. Source:

Often misused as a hospital – this is in fact a Japanese “love hotel”, with rooms that are rented by the hour. Source:

A gua pi mao, a type of Chinese hat. Source:

A red envelope given with money in many Chinese or other East Asian and Southeast Asian traditions.  Source:

Dango is a Japanese sweet made from rice flour. Source:

Even with the 157 new emoji, we couldn’t find many that specifically reflect life in Africa.

This could perhaps contribute to the fact that South Africans only use emoji 25% of the time in messages, compared to 51% to 75% among mobile phone users in the US, according to an international study

Here are some of the emoji we would like to see:

1. Pap (nshima, ugali)

The unofficial official food of Africa, this is a no-brainer.

2. Flip-flops or sandals

While hiking boots and flat shoes for women are part of the new emoji update, we are still missing Africa-friendly footgear.

The current sandal emoji seems wholly inadequate:

3. The African hut/rondavel

A crucial part of the vernacular architecture.

4. The ostrich and springbok

Kangaroo, hippo, and llama emoji are part of the new emoji upgrade – but we are still missing the springbok and, in particular, the ostrich. Bonus: Both could be handy when sending a message about choosing meat for the braai.

5. Braai

There isn’t currently an emoji for this crucial part of African life – this is the suggested barbecue emoji on Apple:

6. African stew

The Kare-raisu ("curry rice" in Japanese) emoji could be a stand-in for stew. But it is not quite the same:

7. Headwrap/doek

Seriously needed. 

8. African pot

We’ll take either the three-legged cast iron variety ('drie voet') or the traditional clay African pot.

Cast iron pot

9. Wors

This is the closest you’ll get to any kind of sausage emoji currently:

10. Amasi

It is estimated that South Africans drink more than 130 million litres of amasi a year. Two-thirds of South African households consume it, and fermented milk is also popular in many other parts of the world.

11. Baobab 

The iconic tree of the continent.

12. African drum 

The current drum emoji is wholly insufficient: 

To find out which emoji other Africans are currently missing, we consulted with emoji users across the continent. With a group of her students, Professor Agnes Lucy Lando of the communication department at Daystar University in Nairobi, had these to add to our list:

  • Chapati
  • Calabash
  • Spear and club
  • Kikoi
  • Masai blanket
  • Sisal
  • African dancing
  • African ladles
  • Beadwork 

African emoji apps

While we wait for Unicode to add some African emoji, those desperate for a braai icon can download the ZA Emoji app, which also features ostriches and other Mzansi emoji. Alternatively, the Nigerian company Afro Emoji has launched a widely-available app that offers some other Africa-specific emoji.

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