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Emoji Diversity Update: Oju Africa Launches Black Emoticons


Oju Africa has launched a set of ‘afro’ emoticons, following a debate over the lack of diversity of emojis—those silly little icons that iPhone and Android users add to texts frequently.

It started with an article by MTV journalist Joey Parker, who flagged up the fact that there are no (or barely any) non-white emojis in the basic range in most text-message apps used by Apple, Google and Microsoft. Parker contacted Apple’s CEO Tim Cook about the issue and, remarkably, received a reply. It wasn’t from ‘Big Tim’ himself, but from Katie Cotton, VP of worldwide corporate communications for Apple. She told Parker:

“Tim forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

You can see the standard Unicode list of 800 emojis here. Only two seem to be non-Caucasian: “man with gua pi mao” and “man with turban”. The list is looked after by the Unicode Consortium to ensure consistency and interoperability between mobile devices and carriers.

Since then a petition has been launched on, to get Apple to update its default emojis in iOS7.

It reads:

“Of the more than 800 Emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blonde boy, blonde girl and, we’re pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.”

Apple is singled out, the petition reads, because it has been “one of the biggest pioneers of emojis, from offering them as full-color images to introducing them to the American market in the first place.” Apple has introduced same-sex couple emojis and should therefore diversify the range to include “people of color.”

Oju Africa, a division of African mobile manufacturer Mi-Fone, has launched its own range of Black emojis: Oju translates as “faces” in Nigeria’s Yoruba language. They have been designed for Android, but will also be released on iOS. Creative director Eserick Fouché says:

“We follow global trends but we are differentiated by our authentic African voice. So as a brand we wanted to do something that only Africa could pull off, something that could become so iconic that it would have the world talking. I believe what we have created will ensure that every African on the planet won’t be able to help but love it!”


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