By Ugo Edu*
“Africa is a very human place; a place with a lot of hope.” Mr. James Makawa’s words are ripe with an infectious optimism not often reserved for reference to the continent of Africa. His sincere conviction to highlighting Africa’s positive attributes is unabashedly apparent in light of this continent’s highly misrepresented, misaligned and misconstrued negative press. As Founder and CEO of The Africa Channel, Mr. Makawa is leading the way in exposing the overlooked and under- appreciated stories of Africa; narratives that elucidate Africa’s influence on the world through its history, rich and vibrant cultures, breathtaking landscapes, diverse range of animals and many other treasures.
Mr. Makawa is an African, originally from the country of Zimbabwe. A former journalist by trade and with an affinity for news and information, Mr. Makawa worked with local news stations as a news anchor and reporter before going on to work as a correspondent with NBC News. The opportunity to become an entrepreneur and spearhead the impetus of a paradigm shift came a few years ago when he founded The Africa Channel. The Africa Channel is an English language, comprehensive entertainment network that gives its viewers an opportunity to learn about the continent of Africa in an entertaining way and through an array of programs including movies, soap operas, music, travel, lifestyle, news and other information.
The constant portrayal of Africa as the dark continent over-run by corrupt and savage dictators with nothing to offer the world besides her outstretched hand for millions in aid money to address corruption, wars, disasters, abject poverty and despair, can blind even the most optimistic light seeker to the luminescence of the continent. Makawa’s mission for the Africa Channel is to demystify this misconstrued and very one-dimensional view of Africa by amplifying that African experience which is often ignored. He states that it is easy to emphasize the negative aspects the continent grapples with, but says also that there are many positive aspects which should be underscored such as the fact that Africa represents one of the most profitable operations for Coca-Cola, the country of Botswana has loaned money to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Africa is the fastest growing cell phone market in the world.
In his opinion, television media is a powerful tool in a position to affect positive change in holistic perceptions. Makawa is equipped with stories to tell and draws his inspiration to keep seeking out those stories from many facets of life in the 53 countries of Africa. The continent’s rich history, culture, people and the inspirational things they do serve as major sources of inspiration. “Women really make the continent run…The role they [women] play should inspire anyone,” Makawa remarks as he describes how the opportunity to highlight the role of African women is itself an inspiration. He sees the continent as a place that has and continues to produce great people with great stories capable of touching, moving and entertaining people.
Although his media enterprise has reached and surpassed expectations and continues to defy odds, it has not been without the encounter of many challenges. He described them as the sort of challenges one faces when attempting to do something that calls for the dismantling of barriers and walls and likened the experience to that of climbing a wall with your hands tied behind your back. The biggest challenge identified by Makawa has been that of changing people’s perceptions of Africa. “Few people believe that anything good is capable of coming out of Africa,” he lamented. These perceptions have become so deeply entrenched in the psyches of so many people that any attempt to change them seemingly requires a reprogramming of the human mind. Attempting to convince someone with this mindset to fund or distribute such an endeavor as The Africa Channel can prove futile. Makawa credits the success his enterprise has achieved to his dedication and able staff and community partners. Some key accomplishments include securing deals with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and Cox cable companies in the U.S., distribution in the U.K. and parts of the Caribbean.
With a target audience of people interested in Africa, ranging from businessman to schoolchildren and multiple entry points for all age groups, the Africa Channel hopes in the next few years to be in 50 million homes around the planet and accessible to anyone in the world. The Africa Channel is also developing very interesting stuff for the internet to be available soon. Although most would consider these as markers of success, when asked about success, Makawa described the less tangible measures, like being a positive force for change through television and the importance of playing a role in touching and moving people. To others with aspirations of changing the image that the rest of the world holds about the beautiful continent of Africa, Makawa says you have to be inspired and stay focused. As a young African with my own aspirations to change the image portrayed of Africa, I cannot help but heed the crisp and articulate words of this insightful visionary. Those interested in finding The Africa Channel in their area should contact their local cable or satellite companies. You can find more information on the Africa Channel by logging on to their website: www.theafricachannel.com
*Source immigrant magazine]]>