22nd October, 2021
By BadaAkintunde-Johnson, Country Manager ViacomCBS Networks Africa
Nigeria’s cultural and creative industries have experienced formidable growth in the past decade. Home to an influential music scene firmly rooted in Nigerian culture, the Nigerian entertainment space has drastically transformed from a place of local significance to international relevance. This spike in global interest in African content cannot be adequately analyzed without discussing our contributions/impacts as ViacomCBS Networks Africa (VCNA) over the years.
Working with the vision to reimagine Africa, we took on the truly ambitious goal of establishing educational and entertaining platforms for Africans to tell their stories while giving them an avenue to display their talents to a wider audience. This has been aptly demonstrated through unique shows and contents curated on our brand channels such as Musicology, Celeb Living and Inside Life with Erica on MTV Base, the Nelson Mandela Day ‘Let’s Read’ and Nick Music on Nickelodeon, as well as the EP Project and Grab The Mic on Comedy Central.
The channel brands particularly have played, and are still playing phenomenal roles in propelling local talent to global limelight. Asides from creating platforms for artistes to showcase their talent, we have made tremendous investments in creatives that work behind the scene. In the mid-2000s, we recognized a gap in the videography space. We worked to bridge this gap by providing exposure, world-class training and state-of-the-art equipment to Nigerian videographers in order to significantly improve the video quality of music videos produced in Nigeria.
Worthy of note is the increased visibility Nigerian artistes have received through ViacomCBS’ channel brands. With our flagship channel MTV Base, Nigerian music has gained more airplay in the last decade. MTV Base Official Naija Top Ten (ONTT), in particular has featured many of the movers and shakers of Nigeria’s music space, helping viewers understand their journey to stardom.
The MTV Shuga TV series created more awareness about sexual and reproductive health issues which were otherwise considered abominable in everyday conversation. The series paved the way for the emergence of a new generation of African actors in the film industry. Following the launch of BET Africa in 2015, the channel has featured several Nigerian artistes, Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Omah Lay, Rema, Tems amongst others, through the inclusion of African nominees in the highly respected BET Awards platform celebrating Black Excellence across the world as well as the BET Amplified International Artist of the Month spotlight platform.
We also created the MTV Africa Music Awards, also known as the MAMAs to spotlight the most popular contemporary music in Africa. This platform has awarded the likes of PSquare, Tiwa Savage, DBanj, 2Face Idibia, FelaKuti, Tekno, Wizkid, YemiAlade and a host of other artistes that have become household names in the industry today whilst also enabling collaborations between the best African artistes and their counterparts from Europe and America.
Taking the vision of a reimagined Africa beyond the entertainment space, we partnered with global content platform, YouTube, to organize the 2020 and 2021 Africa Day Concert to support UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), and other organizations in their effort to bring awareness to the impact of COVID-19 on the continent and provide much-needed relief materials to vulnerable Africans suffering from the effect of the pandemic.
Over the years, we have worked to change the age-old narrative that African content is not “good enough” to be exported to other countries. Today, more than sixty years post-independence, Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage is being celebrated all over the world. Nigerian artists and entertainers have taken their pride of place amongst their contemporaries. While one may have expected that this emergence would have been more as a result of strategic political or economic planning, we have effectively leveraged the unconventional path of arts and culture to create this phenomenal transformation and we are optimistic for greater strides in the near future.