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MTV Africa Music Awards’ joke

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There is new narrative in Africa which recognises the continent’s integration as one way of achieving economic growth. This is being propagated by the African Union which unsurprisingly admits that the creative industry in Africa can transform people’s lives.

While competition would sometimes be necessary, the dominance of South Africa and Nigeria in the MTV Africa Music Awards is a tale of greed. While there is private sector investment in both South Africa and Nigeria, there is little taking place in the other countries; the control of the entertainment space by the two countries has been validated by the so-called MTV Africa Music Awards.

One of the aims of Agenda 2063 is to see Africa integrate. The African dream will render the borders irrelevant and Africans will benefit from that integration with a far much greater benefit of transforming Africa economically.

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A week ago, MTV Africa Music Awards took place in Johannesburg. What was obvious is the fact that South Africans own the awards and the Africa in the MTV awards is not representative of the continent’s creativity industry. The categorisation of the awards either into West or South is meant to deceive people that indeed the awards include all therefore it must be accepted by all. But looking at it closely, there are a number of categories that are cleverly crafted to suit the South Africans’ style which would mean a South African artist will always win an award.

One of the criteria used, they claim, is originality of the video. However, I have some serious doubts whether the awards represent our cultural heritage which the AU recognises should be promoted for it brings Africa together.

Never mind North Africans who might regard themselves as less African although their countries are in Africa. The videos seen on MTV Base are hugely influenced by the pop culture in the developed world.

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What is more concerning is that television seem not to recognise African heritage, often times relegating what Africans could easily associate themselves with to the peripheral. For instance, I am convinced that the television is so much obsessed with artists like Beyonce – who we are deceived can shake better than our Yao women – so much that we are going to imitate the Roca wifey while despising the artists who try to accommodate the Africanness in their music. But seeing most of Beyonce’s videos, are her dance moves not the familiar ones which we have seen in our villages?

Unfortunately, for a video to get the rating, the ladies must be half-dressed. Is that what we should call African? Of course there are tribes in Africa that allow their women to be half-dressed usually with their thighs and breasts exposed. Indeed my motherland has some tribes which allow women parade half dressed (or half-naked) in celebrating their culture. But would the same women make our videos any better?

I believe that television has contributed to the profitability of the creative industry yet few countries – Nigeria and South Africa – have monopolised that knowing very well that if other countries were to be given similar platform, the benefits will be distributed equally.

As it is at the moment, Nigeria or South Africa will be glad to be several streets ahead while countries like Malawi are languishing somewhere at the bottom. Is that kind of competition really necessary?

Perhaps Nigeria and South Africa cannot be blamed but surely, those who control TV content must realise that Africa must move together going forward. Research has proved that the creative industry can contribute to the economies of developing countries yet we are not ready to utilise that unique gift Africa is blessed with.

At the recent AU meeting in South Africa it was discussed that the creative industry is capable of changing the narrative too. It can actually tell that other story rarely told and indeed we achieve Agenda 2063.

While governments will be discussing integration to make progress economically, the creative industry must reconsider the unfair practices that would kill the industries in less advantaged countries. I believe MTV Africa Music Awards is such a joke as it fails to recognise the creative industry as a whole. Although Nigeria and South Africa would not accept this, the use of Africa in the awards is a mockery of the oneness that people like Kwame Nkrumah and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere always dreamt of.

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