Tuesday July 25 2017

Akon tips filmmakers, entertainers and press on branding Africa

Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, aka Akon, is

Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, aka Akon, is an American-born Senegalese singer, rapper, songwriter, businessman, record producer and actor. 


Every time a bad story hits the headlines, tourism suffers as well as the image of Uganda or any other country for that matter. When this happens, tour operators have had complaints with the media for exposing negative news which tends to hurt their business.

And whereas the argument can be made that such press coverage is a reflection of society, the media has a role to play in promoting the image of their countries. This was what international music star Akon (real name Aliaume Damala Badara Thiam) spoke about during the “Youth Connect Africa Summit ’17” in Kigali this week where he called on media and other content creators to be cautious of what or how they put out for public consumption.

“We have to be able to tell our own stories. For filmmakers and the press, it is going to be your job to redefine how people look at Africa. You see the good, the bad and ugly and what you choose to put out there, is what the world is going to get because I can tell you right now that in Chicago alone there are more people dying than the war in Iraq but you will never see that. There are a lot of things that happen in US that you will never see because they choose to show you what they want you to see,” Akon, who is American-born but of Senegalese descent said.

He also said country integrity and a certain reputation needs to be kept. “No one puts their family business out onto the street. One of the problems we have in Africa is when something happens, the press is quick to put out negative energy and quick to put out a negative story and then that story goes onto the internet and broadcasting systems take it and they post it.

“When you look at places like Kenya, for instance, which have suffered two terrorist attacks and it was everywhere so people were afraid to go to Kenya because someone shot up the mall. When you look up, there were over 25,000 attacks in US but you know of five or six. We really need to rebrand,” Akon observed.

He cited the way the world perceives Africa, as one big jungle, with historical images, before civilisation but US enjoys the glamour with superman and batman. He rooted for the need for Africa to tell its stories of great accomplishment.
The international star gave the example of American hip hop stars who show off Bentleys in their music videos, with cool swimming pools and all things glamorous yet after the music video shoot, get their phones to send for Uber.

Yet in contrast, Nigerian music stars like Wizkid, P-Square and Davido who drive Bentleys and Mercedes actually own the cars. “We need to push those stories out there because people don’t know. It is just recently that American singers want to do collaborations with Afro-beat remix [with African stars] but before they were like ‘I don’t know that dude, I don’t want to put him on my record’,” he narrated.
He said that many stars in Africa have a great following and influence but lack an image, and these stories Akon emphasised, need to be told by Africans.