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A Very Important Message From Akon To Content Creators In Africa

BY STELLA WAAFRIKA






The 2017 YouthConnekt Africa Summit was held two weeks ago in Rwanda's capital, Kigali.
The three-day gathering was hosted by Rwandan president, His Excellency Paul Kagame and organized in collaboration with UNDP and UNCTAD, with an aim to facilitate a platform for all partners involved in youth development to synergize around policies, programs and partnerships that will help unleash Africa's youth potential.

Senegalese artist and philanthropist, Akon was one of the speakers at the summit and boy did he preach the good word! His speech echoed the Africa we ought to envision, portray and so forth.
His message centered around branding,  re-branding, he also touched on perception and calling upon content creators to rise to their role in re-branding Brand Africa to the world, emphasizing how crucial their input is towards building Africa's reputation as a whole.

Let's take a look at some of the gems he dropped:

On the power of branding.. This world is all about branding and marketing. The number one branders in the universe is the United States.They made the United States seem like, it's the best place in the world to be. It's the land of the free, home of the brave, I go there to find and chase my dreams.

On perception.. This younger generation, we kind of figured it out because now, when you look at hip hop in America, every rapper is rich, gold chains, Bentleys, nice girls in bathing suites, a big pool and this big mansion but when the video is over, they get on their phone and call an Uber. They don't even come in the Bentley you just saw on the TV but you go to Nigeria, we got WizKid,  Davido, P-Square all these guys drive a Bentley, Mercedes; they actually own those cars. That's the difference, but if we don't translate that, they will never know.

They think we're gonna leave the shoot and go home on a horse or a zebra, coz that's what they know. This is why African Americans are so afraid of Africa. You mention Africa they start shaking. There's so much fear, they don't know how to translate that. It was just recently that people are now saying "I rock with Africans", I wanna do some collaborations", "yo I need a Afrobeat remix you know what I'm sayin'. But before that they'd say, "yo I don't know that dude, I ain't putting him on my record"

On image..  So the younger generation is slowly understanding how you have to re-brand the culture because the culture has adapted. They've actually took what we've created and made it look better. They made a superstar look like a superstar. When I look on TV and see our biggest entertainers, they don't look like stars, that's why can't really respect the entertainer. If a politician saw a singer, he'll be like he's just a local singer but if he goes to that local singer's performance, he may sell out the stadium coz he has a huge influence but the image is not there.

We have to take the image as a huge accountability for ourselves and realize that Africa really does have a reputation but if we allow our stories to be told, our stories will be told according to their agenda and what they need to be able to benefit from Africa so we have to tell our story so we can be able to understand how we can utilize our story to benefit our agenda.

On re-branding and a message to content creators.... We have to take the image as a huge accountability for ourselves and realize that Africa really does have a reputation but if we allow our stories to be told, our stories will be told according to their agenda and what they need to be able to benefit from Africa so we have to tell our story so we can be able to understand how  we can  utilize our story to benefit our agenda. This job is for the entertainers, filmmakers, reporters, and anyone that creates content; we have to re-brand, and we have to re-brand in a way that we see it, and tell the story to where they understand it, feel comfortable and want to come here and invest.

At one point, while watching his speech, I felt as though,  like South Africans would say, Akon and are in the same WhatsApp group. It is a great message; worthwhile, however, it made me revisit the issue of Ownership. I have spoken about ownership on so many occasions. Who owns these media powerhouses? What is their agenda? Who controls the narrative pertaining to Africa at these powerhouses? Why are they so comfortable with consistently depicting a negative narrative about Africa? Because as much as we entrust content creators as the custodians of our continent's reputation, not all of them are independent, some of them work for certain institutions where there's a hierarchy breakdown so, not all the power to publish or broadcast content lies with them.

Or could it be what Angelique Kidjo once said in an interview, "any success story from Africa doesn't interest any media" (see full interview HERE). Could it be that positive stories are shared but other channels are more interested in negative stories? Yeah, so many questions that need answers.

Akon's message is crystal clear; it's up to us, for our continent to transform to leaps and bounds. I also think this role is not exclusive to content creators but also you and I, we're equally responsible. For example when it comes to sharing news on various social media platforms, I find that negative stories always garner more shares as opposed to positive ones. People find so much joy in sharing scandalous stories but are reluctant when it it comes to stories of hope and inspiration. Yes, we live in a digital era/digital village but can we be extra vigilant as far as what kind of information we consume and pass on?  There's no content creators without content consumers, so you do the maths.

Don't get me wrong,  I'm not saying don't report on negative truthful stories but I refuse to believe that a continent of over 50 countries is a hotbed for a one-dimension narrative. There's noway that is possible. The ratio of negative news to that of positive news is mind boggling to say the least.

Here's the full version of what I managed to transcribe:

This world is all about branding and marketing. The number one branders in the universe is the United States.They made the United States seem like, it's the best place in the world to be. It's the land of the free, home of the brave, I go there to find and chase my dreams .We have to be here to tell our stories, directors, filmmakers, entertainers and the press; it's gonna be clearly your job to redefine how people think about Africa. Coz You're here, you see what's going on, you clearly can see the in the very picture - the good, the bad and the ugly. What you choose to put out there is what the world is gonna get. Because I can tell you  right now in Chicago alone, there's more people dying in Chicago than in the war in Iraq but you'll never see that. There's a lot of things happening in the US that you would never see because they choose  to show you what they want you to see.It's about country integrity; you have a certain reputation you have to keep. No one puts their family business out into the street. 
One of the problems we have in Africa is that, when something happens, the press is quick to put out negative energy and quick to put out a negative story then that story goes onto the internet then other broadcasting systems take it and they post it. So, when you look at places like Kenya for instance, I know of like two terrorist attacks but it was everywhere, so now people were afraid to go to Kenya because someone shot up the mall. And when you look online, there was like twenty five thousand  attacks in the US but you all know about maybe five or six... So, we have to really re-brand, and when you look at how the world perceives Africa, they're right, you see zebras, lions, tigers, bears oh my! You get to a point where you think Africa is just a big jungle. 
The images that they're showing of Africa is historical images. This is way back before civilization; this when they were still battling with spears, times of Shaka Zulu but when you look at the US, they're showing superman, batman.... you know. Where's our superman? Like Shaka Zulu should be a superhero today. So we have to tell our stories; I means even Jesus is White and you believe but it's okay... because  how you re-frame... if you were taught something from the day you were born and your mother and father taught you that it's real. You never look at your mom and dad as liars but their mother and father taught them the same thing because that's the kind of history that's put out for them to believe. Our history books in the US is all White American history, culture that's been borrowed from other nations . 
Africa has to teach the same history of our ancestors, the great things that they've accomplished. And it's gonna be the job of directors, filmmakers like yourself to narrate that story. How do we wanna be perceived? How do we want that story to be narrated to the world? This younger generation, we kind of figured it out because now, when you look at hip hop in America, every rapper is rich, gold chains, Bentleys, nice girls in bathing suites, a big pool and this big mansion but when the video is over, they get on their phone and call an Uber. They don't even come in the Bentley you just saw on the TV but you go to Nigeria, we got WizKid,  Davido, P-Square all these guys drive a Bentley, Mercedes; they actually own those cars. That's the difference, but if we don't translate that, they will never know. 
They think we're gonna leave the shoot and go home on a horse or a zebra, coz that's what they know. This is why African Americans are so afraid of Africa. You mention Africa they start shaking there's so much fear, they don't know how to translate that. It was just recently that people are now saying "I rock with Africans", I wanna do some collaborations", "yo I need a n Afrobeat remix you know what I'm sayin". But before that they'd say, "yo I don't know that dude, I ain't putting him on my record"
So the younger generation is slowly understanding how you have to re-brand the culture because the culture has adapted. They've actually took what we've created and made it look better. They made a superstar look like a superstar. When I look on TV and see our biggest entertainers, they don't look like stars, that's why can't really respect the entertainer. If a politician saw a singer, he'll be like he's just a local singer but if he goes to that local singer's performance, he may sell out the stadium coz he has a huge influence but the image is not there. 
So, we have to take the image as a huge accountability for ourselves and realize that Africa really does have a reputation but if we allow our stories to be told, our stories will be told according to their agenda and what they need to be able to benefit from Africa so we have to tell our story so we can be able to understand how we can  utilize our story to benefit our agenda. So in closing, this job is for the entertainers, filmmakers, reporters, and anyone that creates content we have to re-brand, and we have to re-brand in a way that we see it, and tell the story to where they understand it, feel comfortable and want to come here and invest.

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