The All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) earlier scheduled to hold on Sunday November 9, 2014 has been postponed. According to the organisers, the reason for the postponement is that a major continental sponsor of the awards was unable to conclude its commitment by the deadline required to deliver on the world-class event. AFRIMA executive produce speaks on the development. Excerpts:
What’s the latest about All Africa Music Awards? Is it true that it has been postponed?
The latest about All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) is that there is a modification in terms of the date of programme of events. Due to certain fundamental reasons, the International Committee of AFRIMA sat down and agreed that rather than do a shoddy production that none of us or Africa will be proud of, the event should be put off to a later date that will avail us the opportunity to execute what we have designed and worked hard for in the past months. The simple reason is that our major continental sponsor could not meet up with the deadline. It stated certain fundamental concerns bothering on the issue of increasingly ravaging Ebola scourge in some countries in the West Africa sub-region as well as the unfortunate insecurity that has pervaded the northern region of Nigeria. Those things have been there and we put forward an argument that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Nigeria an Ebola free country. But they felt that nominees and other international guests are expected from all over Africa to assemble in Nigeria and there might be implications resulting from that. For us, we respect their opinion, but we are not deterred or discouraged. We just need to re-strategise, fix a new date and put up a world-class event and production that we are all committed to do.
Prior to this development, the voting process has been on. What have been the responses from all over Africa?
The responses have been very encouraging and inspiring. Don’t forget that there is a mystery and story to this; we had 2,025 entries when we asked artistes to submit their works. That was unprecedented in terms of an award of this nature. People submitted online and we had our jury that comprises of professionals with impeccable integrity and wealth of experience in the business and production of music in Africa and Diaspora. And the jury had to go through the works that were submitted, screened them, watched videos, analysed and scored those works. The voting has been very fantastic in terms of responses across Africa and the reason is clear. During our press conference when we announced the nominees, we told the world that the processes would be very transparent. There were categories for public voting and technical voting. We had the academy and the public voting. For instance, in public voting, if you think you are a Michael Jackson and there is no need for you to mobilise and encourage fans to vote for you, and a Mike Dada, who is an unknown artiste mobilised for people to vote for him. That is not AFRIMA’s fault. The result will be published two weeks after the award ceremony. The entire votes for the public and that of the academy will be published 50:50 ratio. And the winner will be declared. Don’t forget that an international auditor is involved, that will see through all the processes and declare winners.
Will this postponement affect the activities already lined up for the awards?
The postponement will only add more value and make AFRIMA stronger. In fact, there will be opportunities for sponsors who are involved to enjoy more benefits. There will be more windows and artistes will have the opportunity to mobilise for more votes because the International Committee has decided to extend the voting period for about three weeks more. Rather than closing on November 4, it will now end on November 25. Even for those of us who are involved in the production, there will be room for more creativity. Based on the script we are working on, we will definitely embellish one or two things to align with the period and mood. From our own perspective, it is going to make it bigger and stronger. However, we apologise to all our stakeholders across the world that might have to face any inconvenience because of the change in the date. Sometimes, we need to sacrifice to make things bigger and better.
For people to vote for artistes of their choice online, do they need to pay some money?
The principle and vision of AFRIMA is simple. We want to encourage more people to be involved and buy into the ideals of AFRIMA, that is integrating Africa, and ensuring the peace and prosperity of Africa. The more people we can use that platform to communicate with, the better for us. Then, voting is free and the same with AFRIMA award ceremony, which is invitational – it is free. No ticket, even our summit is free including the proposed AFRIMA village. We want more people to be part of the process. The more people we have to understand this consciousness, the better for Africa.
Are we still going to have the AFRIMA Music Summit and AFRIMA Village?
I am thinking in my head that the award ceremony is critical for us and the summit too is key. How can it add to the values in Africa? How can it add to Africa’s GDP? How can it create jobs and grow our economy? It is about how AFRIMA can change the image and perception of Africa through the instrumentality of music. Those are the fundamentals of AFRIMA. Those programmes are key. However, the final decision lies with the International Committee who makes the decision based on the facts on ground and in line with the policies and ethos that guide AFRIMA. However, it must be all-inclusive. They take various opinions into consideration. We are sure that the potpourri of activities that have been developed will be dished out well to Africa and the rest of the world in a very palatable manner.
Have you communicated the new development to nominees, stakeholders and other partners across the continent?
Really, it was a painful decision, but after it was taken, all our stakeholders and partners were part of the decision making process. And they were communicated to either in Africa or around the world. I am very glad with the solidarity and the sympathetic responses we got. No scourge of Ebola or insurgency will kill the spirit of AFRIMA. We believe in that. Colonialism did not kill Africa and we defeated slavery. Africa will eventually defeat Ebola and insecurity. The solidarity from the nominees has been very fantastic. They were getting ready to travel to Nigeria. Many of them had problems of not getting flights in their various countries due to one issue or the other. But they strived to travel long distance to another country so as to arrive at their destination, Nigeria. In terms of the words of encouragement and assurances that have come from these people, they have been fantastic.
Do we have our fingers on the new date yet?
Well, the new date will still be in the wraps. The International Committee is going to take a decision next week, considering many factors .We will communicate the new date very soon. I don’t want to mention any particular date, but we are going to communicate it to the rest of the world. It will be an event that everybody will look forward to and have that glamorous musical awards they have been waiting for.
Would you say the excuse of the major sponsor is valid?
Looking from their perspective, I will say it is valid. They are seeing it from their own point of view, but from my own viewpoint, I feel life is about challenges. Challenges and problems will always be there, but how do we support the system and the society to ensure that the problems are gotten rid off for the common good? The sponsor has the right to give reasons, while we have the inalienable right to fight on, get the job done and make things work regardless of the challenges. Ebola and insecurity will go and other challenges will come. But for us, we are committed to facing and weathering the storm together.
What is the amount of support you have gotten from the Federal Government of Nigeria?
The African Union (AU), which is our partner, wrote the Federal Government concerning AFRIMA. The Ministry of Trade and Investment, and particularly the Minister, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, who is a gentleman, has been very supportive and fantastic with his words of encouragement. Even when we had issues and we wanted to take away the event from Nigeria to a country like Namibia or South Africa whose governments have shown consistent interest to host AFRIMA, he insisted that we should not, that we should just endeavour to hold it in Nigeria. The Director General of Department of State Security has always assured the AFRIMA team and the expected international guests to feel at home, as security of life and property in Nigeria during the award will not be an issue, as Nigeria remains one of the safest places in the world. This is an electioneering year in Nigeria and many of them are busy with elections and political processes. By and large, the government has been there. AFRIMA is private sector driven, but we will always welcome any genuine partnership from various quarters. The support we have been getting from people and organisations like the African Union, ONE, Africa 2.0 as well as major media institutions across the world has been utterly encouraging.
What have been the major challenges of putting the awards together?
First and foremost, nothing in life comes easy. The last three years have been full of challenges. The last one-year has been hectic. In terms of finance, we have spent over $1.5 million even for conceptualization and planning stages alone, and we are now going to the execution stage. That is a lot of money. Of course, time has been a major challenge. It requires enough time to put this together. Another challenge is the dichotomy in Africa where we have the Francophone, Anglophone and the Lusophone. Though, we are one Africa, the cultures are enormously different. It is a challenge especially where you have different people from all over Africa, so you have to manage these people who are professionals and experts in their fields. They are CEOs in their various organisations such as media, marketing, entertainment, music production, law, PR, and journalism. You are managing all these people and you want to get it right. The challenges are surmountable. Sometimes, we are the challenges ourselves and they can be resolved.
What is the role Lagos State government is playing in AFRIMA?
We approached the Lagos State government, we sent letters to the governor who minuted on it and passed it to the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism. They called us for a meeting once or twice. And they were supposed to get back to us, but we didn’t hear from them. My colleague tried to follow up and we just had to move forward because we have our programmes and calendar. For us, it is not necessary that people see the vision at the beginning; over time they will realise that there is something in it, as it keeps evolving for the benefits of Africa and the host country, Nigeria. I have always posited that a few people initiated FIFA and is private sector driven with enormous global power. So, for us, we are not in a hurry as we are building an initiative that will outlive us.
For example, when Karl Marx died, about five or six people attended his burial, but at the turn of the millennium, he was declared the thinker of the millennium. I know the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Babatunde Raji Fashola is a very intelligent, vibrant and dynamic man. He is well exposed. Ordinarily, if AFRIMA is brought to his attention, he will embrace the project. And in any mega city, tourism is a key factor, because the oil will dry up one day.
Tell us more about the impact AFRIMA will make in Nigeria and Africa?
The impact AFRIMA will make in Nigeria and the continent stems from what even led to the initiative in the first place. Africa is called the Dark Continent not because we have dark skin. I think other people in the world believe that our mindset is not right. Africa contributes about 6% to the world GDP. For me, that is not encouraging and as PR/ marketing professional, we realize that at the end of the day, it is all about perception, mindset, and image management. What can we do to change the story? That is what led to developing this initiative that will be a platform to communicate the strength of Africa for global competitiveness. An initiative that will change the story, perspective, and narrative about Africa, and that is what informed AFRIMA.
The benefits are in abundance. We want to change the perception. We want to put up an event that is excellently done, that all Africans will be proud of. For instance, when you mention Grammys, the country that comes to mind is America. The same with Oscars, it is the glamour you want to see. And when you mention BAFTA, Britain comes to mind. It is about brand positioning. For Africa, using the instrumentality of music comes naturally because it stems from our culture and who we are. Music is part of our culture. How can we showcase this our God-given culture to the rest of the world? That is what AFRIMA will package in such a way that the whole world will come and see. That is the reason we are broadcasting live to the rest of the world. It is going to be done that every year, tourists, investors and music lovers across the world will want to be part of AFRIMA festival. We are not doing something for the next five years, but we are building something for the next 100 years; a project that will outlive all of us that started it. The benefit is going to be humongous that generations yet unborn will be proud of AFRIMA, and the people that started and supported the dream.