DIVERSITY: The first black emoticons have been created.

Johannesburg - After years of rapid smartphone evolution, an African company has finally created the first black emoticons.

Oju Africa, a division of African mobile manufacturer Mi-Fone, has come out with a small range of simple emojis in an attempt to put a dent in the 800 that already exist on Apple phones.

Oju means “face” in the Yoruba language of Nigeria, and the emoticons are already available for Android and will be released soon for Apple.

The company states on its website that it created the emojis because “Africans need a voice in today’s modern world that represents us in the computer-driven present and future.”

The ethnic emoji debate was started by controversial singer Miley Cyrus when she tweeted in 2012: “RT if you think there needs to be an #emojiethnicityupdate.”

Since then there has been an increasing outcry from cellphone users of colour who felt that they weren’t being represented by Apple, Android and Microsoft.

An online petition launched to get Apple to update its emojis received more than 4 000 signatures.

The petition states: “Apple has already made emojis more inclusive by adding same-sex couples. Now take the next step towards diversity and minority representation by adding at least four faces with melanin (a man, a woman, a boy, and a girl) to the emoji keyboard.”

The petition has since closed, but the debate is continuing on Twitter. Tweeters have been using the #emojiethnicityupdate hashtag to express how they feel about the newly released black emoticons, which have received both negative and positive responses.

- The Star