By Demola Ojo
Recently, a delegation from South Africaâ€™s Kaya 95.9 FM visited Nigeria in what CEO Greg Maloka described as â€œa bid to know our backyard a little better.â€ Maloka and his team spent the better part of a week in Lagos where among other activities, they were hosted to lunch at the Lagos Motorboat Club, Ikoyi, by the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporationâ€™s â€˜Tour Nigeriaâ€™ brand.
Kaya FM is the biggest independent radio station in Guateng, South Africaâ€™s most populous province which includes Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities, and reflects the experiences of the predominantly black, urban listener between the ages 25 to 49 living in the province.
The decades-long apartheid policy previously practiced by European minorities in South Africa meant the country was isolated from the comity of nations including neighboring African countries for years.
So despite over two decades of democratic rule, the process of assimilation for South Africa and its citizens into the international is still ongoing. Currently, many South Africans still say they are â€œgoing to Africaâ€ whenever they step out of their borders and travel to neighboring countries.
According to Maloka, â€œTo accept youâ€™re part of a continent, you need to understand the continent not just by geography, but its heart.â€
And rather than depend on Western media for news and happenings in Nigeria, the Kaya FM team decided to discover Nigeria by themselves and give first-hand information to their considerably large base of listeners.
With one million weekly views on Youtube, Kaya FM is in a great position to help advance South Africaâ€™s integration with the rest of the continent.
â€œOur responsibility is to shape peopleâ€™s opinions and where there is prejudice, to change peopleâ€™s opinion as well,â€ Maloka revealed.
Already, thereâ€™s a healthy business relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, with many South African brands now household names in Nigeria. On the leisure front however, the trend has been for Nigerian travellers to explore the tourism attractions that the South African economy hugely benefits from.
However, the visit of Kaya FM executives is an indication that South Africans are curious about â€“ and willing to explore â€“ Nigeria and its unique culture expressed through film, music, art, fashion, food and more. This coincides with a renewed drive by the Nigerian government to explore tourism as a vehicle for economic empowerment.
â€œWe were able to venture out by ourselves. This is not such a structured visit,â€ Maloka explained against the backdrop of negative perceptions regarding security peddled by some sections of the Western media.
â€œA lot of South Africans are coming on a steady basis and are clued into the vibrancy of Lagos,â€ he explained going further to enunciate the teamâ€™s appreciation for Nigeriaâ€™s culinary offerings, including the sumptuous dishes on offer at the Boat Club.
There was a special mention for the Nok by Alara restaurant in Victoria. The team was so impressed, they had to go back for more.
Reflecting on the uniqueness of Africaâ€™s most populous country, Maloka noted that â€œeverything in Nigeria is Nigerianâ€ and the citizens need to be proud of that. â€œIf you ask a South African what is really South African, we struggle.â€
Leading on from that, the team was asked to point out the uniquely Nigerian attributes that would attract a tourist from South Africa.
â€œI am no tourism expert but what I would say is that we have an opportunity to create a totally new way of selling Africa,â€ Maloka proffered.
â€œIf we take the Western way which has always been in existence, we are not going to win because it isnâ€™t our system and because it is infrastructure based, like selling a beach, selling a hotel, selling tangible things that people touch and feel.
â€œIt will be very difficult to sell infrastructure. What we have to sell is the soul of a place. How do you package the soul of a nation and present it? I donâ€™t want to come to Nigeria to come and view the buildings, or drive on the highways but I want to come to Nigeria because I want to be Nigerian for a week.
â€œI want to leave with a new name like â€˜Oga Chairmanâ€™. I want to leave with new clothes (I had these made here). I want to leave with new friends, new memories. If I meet anyone of you anywhere in the world, I need to be able to be Nigerian with you because I have lived with you, rather than visit your infrastructure.â€
For him and the rest of the team, leaving with the conversations, with dance, with music, with culture, with artefacts, are the things that make memories indelible.
There is a thirst for more things Nigerian in South Africa, according to the delegation. So despite Nigerian music ruling the airwaves in South Africa, thereâ€™s room for more.
â€œWe play a lot more Nigerian music now than we did before. Weâ€™ve played so much of it, weâ€™ve started to want something else within the Nigerian space. For instance, I want the jazz scene of Nigeria. I donâ€™t know it.
â€œIf In represent a station like Kaya that has jazz as its essence, and someone from New York came to me and said, â€˜tell me what the Nigerian jazz scene is likeâ€™, I would be lost. We would like to see other forms and other genres of music from Nigeria.â€
The Kaya tour of Lagos could not have come at the better time, ahead of the Christmas celebrations which Lagos â€“ the entertainment capital of Africa â€“ is famous for. With conducive weather in December and a medley of concerts featuring Nigeriaâ€™s topmost entertainers (who also double as the continentâ€™s leading lights), December is a great time for other Africanâ€™s to feel the cityâ€™s pulse.
David Oâ€™Sullivian, a member of Kayaâ€™s delegation to Nigeria said; â€œWe are here on a voyage of discovery, a voyage of obtaining firsthand information for a better perspective. A voyage that will lead to perception modification and correction.â€
Brenda Modibane, the stationâ€™s Business Development and Marketing Manager, pointed out: â€œFrom my short stay in Nigeria, it is evident that Southâ€“Africans have a lot to see, to gain and to learn from Nigeria . Our incursion into this wonderful country is an eye opener to the vast opportunities open for South â€“ Africans which we shall properly market to them.â€
The Director General of the NTDC, Folorunso Folarin-Coker said â€œIt takes a great mind to understand the socio-cultural international conspiracy against Africa which is being perpetrated through some intercontinental mega media. It is also a matter of great valour for another media giant to rise swiftly and embark on positive intra-continental perception reengineering that is of sustainable mutual benefit.
â€œOn this, I give a warm African kudos and salute to Kaya FM 95.9 for rising stoutly in a rare Pan African information balancing stride between two most distinguished African countries,â€™â€™ he said.