Repositioning Africa

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With the soaring profile and wide acceptability of the All Africa Music Awards, Raheem Akingbolu reckons that the continental awards are fast becoming a major tool for Africa destination branding

To create top of mind awareness, leaders of thoughts in many countries of the world have consistently mobilised support for local and continental awards. Besides, when it involves music, award also helps in marketing and by extension boosting the economy.

Perhaps this explains the followership enjoyed by The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and Grammy Awards. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was formerly the International Advertising Festival, which has remained a global event for those working in the creative communications, advertising and related fields. It is considered the largest gathering of worldwide advertising professionals, designers, digital innovators and marketers. The Lion awards are also the most coveted and well respected in the entire advertising and creative communications industry. Beyond its contribution to creativity, the annual event has become a positioning tool for the host country and her economy.

This also goes for Grammy Award, (originally called Gramophone Award), which is also an honor awarded by The Recording Academy to recognise outstanding achievement in the mainly English-language music industry. For decades, the award has remained a destination branding tool for the United States of America.

Though, stars and Hollywood insiders attend these festivals to promote their films and creative works, most of which are making their world premiere at the events, findings have revealed that people don’t just come to go to the beach, or to watch the films or creative works. They come to work. Buyers, sellers, distributors, producers, directors, all sorts of people come for Grammy or Cannes because they believe they are where they should be.

AFRIMA to the rescue
For years, Africans have yearned for a social platform that will not only unite them but that can also draw global attention to their people and businesses. Few years ago, AFRIMA was berthed on the soil of Africa by some young entertainment inclined young men and women, who saw music as a unifying tool that can as well be used to position the continent.

Speaking on the relevance of the awards to the continent’s effort to make a global statement, the President and Executive Producer of AFRIMA, Mike Dada, said it was conceived to bridge the gap and attract global attention to Africa. He pointed out that the endorsement of African Union was an indication that the award would not only be a unifying tool but also a destination brand platform for Africa.

He also said he was not surprised that the event has grown into a global brand pointing out that that was the idea from the onset. “For us, we know we are still building the brand and plan to take it to a level where people will be glued to their TV sets to watch the award globally. Building it from the scratch has not been easy and in reality, nothing comes easy. We understand what differentiates an ordinary man from an extraordinary one is the capacity to overcome challenges. There are a lot of challenges putting together an award for the African race but we have to do something. We are committed within ourselves as regards where we intend to take AFRIMA to and I must say we are currently on the right track.

AFRIMA as an Activation platform
In what looked like a subtle way to point out how brands that have in the past leveraged on the award fared in the market, Dada urged corporate organisations to join the train and explore the advantage of the brands activation opportunities that AFRIMA could bring to the table. He also stated that the continental award platform would offer opportunities to brand owners and sponsors to interact with the targeted audience.

“Corporate Organisations especially those that have pan-African vision and targeting youths should partner with us to take over the whole of Africa. Music and entertainment sector generally has become big business in Africa and major contributor to GDP. AFRIMA has the appeal and reach with over hundred 4,816 entries from African music artists and professionals for the 2017 edition of the awards at the close of the two-month entry submission process recently. It simply indicates that the future looks bright,” he said.

African Union Endorsement
Speaking on how easy was it conveying an award conceived in Nigeria to the continental stage, Dada said it is difficult to conclude that the award was conceived in Nigeria.

‘’Was AFRIMA an idea thought in Nigeria? My answer is Yes and No. Yes because the root of the idea is from Nigeria and no because the other members of the team that have contributed to its growth are also from different parts of Africa. We have professionals in the media industry, music and entertainment, production industry, public relations and advertising who are members of our international committee. These people are CEOs of various organisations but are part of the team who put in ideas, policies and strategies to ensure the sustainability of the idea. What differentiates AFRIMA from other awards is that it’s not a one man show. We just have to put a face to it and I am only lucky to be the producer and President for a while.

Building it across Africa and the continent has not been easy. There are immigration, finance, transportation, sponsorship and other issues that have affected one way or the other. But for us, we are committed to do it and build a brand for our people to understand the vision and its mission. The media budget alone is on the high side and there are plans to take the AFRIMA campaign across Europe and America because the idea is to communicate the strength of Africa to the rest of the world using the platform of entertainment, culture, arts, and tourism,” he added.

He also pointed out that its spread informed why he was invited as a distinguished speaker to address the 4th Pan Africa Cultural Congress (PACC4) held at Sandton International Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa in May. The congress was organised by the African Union Commission under the theme: “Unity in Cultural Diversity for Africa’s Development, where the AFRIMA producer presented a paper on the “AFRIMA Project” under the topic: Creative Economy: From Policy to Practice.

In a statement issued by the African Union Commission prior to the event, it was stated that; “The purpose of the 4th Pan-African Cultural Congress (PACC4) is to provide a platform for cultural experts, policy makers, private sector, civil society organisations working in the art, tourism and culture sector to take stock of the challenges and record good practices on harnessing cultural diversity to enhance policy development on the theme. Heads of State and Ministers of Culture, Youth and Tourism as well as cultural enthusiasts are expected.

Speaking on how AFRIMA played around the African culture and its splendor last year, he emphasised the efforts being made to promote the African culture and her indigenous music.
‘’I think Africa will continue to evolve and considering that culture is dynamic, the essence of our culture should not be allowed to be degraded or eroded. The onus lies on us as Africans to ensure that our culture, philosophies, and ideologies are not affected in anyway. We must be aware that the essence of our culture in terms of mindedness and identity as Africans must not be affected in anyway. We might dress or act like Westerners, we must always remember where we are from. That is why AFRIMA is bringing professionals from different sectors together to ensure we provide a face for Africans and what we can point at that is ours. We want to commercialise our culture to have a direct impact on the GDP and lives of every African so that we can all beat our chests that, ‘I did this for Africa’.
On what to expect this year, he stated that plans are fundamental principles of planning, adding that the organisers started immediately preparing for this year immediately they finished the awards last year.

‘’AFRIMA is an all year round event and we have been to different countries across the continent attending conferences and other capacity development programmes which are part of the build up for the proper event. The aim is to ensure everyone involved is given good hospitality and that we put out a world class show that is representative of Africa.
In 2017, we are trying our best to have a story to tell. Last year, we told a story that everyone present was able to connect with and we want to continue in that stead. We have decided to give people what they can’t see at the Grammy Award at AFRIMA because it is our culture and we must communicate with ourselves through it. The production team alongside the band, choreographers and the artistes involved are all ready to deliver a night to remember. We will like to tell a story that will be left to the audience to determine if we have been able to wow them or not because it will be arrogant of me to say we are doing X,Y,Z to delight people present,’’ he said.

Looking back at last year’s edition, Dada said it was a phenomenal year for AFRIMA. ‘’The awards ceremony hosted by Lagos State of Nigeria between November 4 to 6 was a cultural fiesta with nominees and invited guests turning up in thousands for the three-day of events in Lagos. About 40 well-known Africa artistes performed at the AFRIMA Music Village to a live audience of over 25,000 and thousands more watching live from different locations in Africa” the producer stated.