I have always believed that the smartest, coolest, most creative people on the planet reside on the continent of Africa. Without a doubt. I spent a significant chunk of my formative years in Nigeria, and man was it a fun experience. The music, the people, the stories, the plays, the drama, the culture...they defined me and planted a bug in me that has never wavered.
As I was navigating the complex maze of corporate media in the US, I made a one last gasp pitch to my last employer to send me and my family to Africa to embed and do the due diligence, on the ground reconnaissance on how digital and mobile was transforming media consumption and creation on the continent, and opportunities that could be exploited outside of the normal cable news, entertainment and sports tropes. It didn’t go well, as I essentially found myself iced out of the company. An unfortunate situation.
And the best thing to ever happen to my career.
As Zain and I plotted the path for aKoma, we kept coming back to this theme of how we could add to the waves of jet fuel firing up the various creative ecosystems in Africa. One thing that kept hitting us was how we could help build up a vibrant community of amazing content creators and storytellers across the continent. As we said in our thesis document for Amplify:
“It is extremely hard to break into media, and creating stand-alone content shops is a daunting prospect for anyone on the continent. Programs like Amplify are very rare on the continent, but are much needed to boost the quality and variety of content created around Africa. What makes Amplify stand out is that we are particularly focused on transforming our Fellows into world-class content creators, who will present Africa in powerful and authentic voices.”
Again, these are times of my life.
We have rolled with twenty five Fellows for the past six months in our inaugural cohort of Amplify. It has been smooth, coarse, free-flowing, choppy, fun, tough. It has been everything. The Fellows have been creative manifestations of their different countries - the energetic, opinionated, imaginative Nigerians; the smoldering, quiet, intense, cerebral Rwandans; the fiery, proud, candid Kenyans. When they all get together, it’s like they are all from the same damn tribe, a bunch of rabble rousers putting together the narratives that Africa deserves. I have been privileged to rock with a young group of storytellers - writers, photographers, animators, and videographers - who have infused me with that rocket juice to be a key piece of the creative, entertainment and media renaissance happening across Africa. And now they are at that next step in their quests, and I don’t know how much of an impact the program made, but let me tell you...they got some stuff for you, child.
Oh, believe me when I say we are not letting go completely. This is family now. Even as Zain and I hustle to finish up Amplify I and simultaneously put the bricks in place for Amplify II, we know that we are part of something special. Amplify has exceeded our expectations in terms of impact, outcomes and value to the Fellows and their local environments. The growth and quality of content has been impressive, and the communal aspects have been wonderful. So why would we let go? Would you? Come on, now. We will keep working with this tribe of story makers, and do what we can to support them as they push forward. I got my people in Lagos, Kigali and Nairobi now.
As for me, Amplify is a key part of my evolution as a creative, a leader, an entrepreneur. Being part of a team that is hustling, scratching, fighting, bootstrapping its way to make big moves to support the phenomenal storytellers and content creators in Africa is what I viscerally have always wanted to do, and you best believe it when I give props to someone I admire tremendously, Ted Turner, for saying this:
“You should set goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for.”
That’s right, Ted.