Scepticism as Kora awards return

The current hype being created about the return of the Kora All-Africa Music Awards after a long hiatus and them being held in Namibia at the end of the year need to be taken with a bit of caution. 

Not that the awards are a bad thing, nor that Namibia will not reap any benefits from them but reports say their organisation or lack thereof, may paint a bad picture.

Chairman and executive of the awards, Enerst Coovi Adjovi, a Benin national, recently announced that the awards – an African version of the Grammys in the US – would be held at the Windhoek Country Club on December 13 and that the awards would “create a millionaire” in Namibia.

That the awards would create greater scope for Namibia’s exposure to the international world and the immense opportunities that may be created as a result is no exception but what could downplay the hype towards the event is President Hage Geingob’s recent cagey response to Adjovi’s announcement of their “endorsement”. This, coupled with a host of other allegations of corruption in countries where the awards have been held before, and the surreptitious disappearance of Adjovi from the scene, only to reappear in Namibia last month, could raise a few feathers. 

When Hage (as he is popularly referred to in Namibia) boldly declared  “don’t use my name in vain” in response to Adjovi’s call, he must have been cautious of the tumultuous journey that the awards  – originally supposed to be hosted annually in various African countries but had some unexplained hiccups in-between – had gone through.  Hage flatly denied he had been consulted about him taking part in the hosting of the event in December although suggestions that an earlier event in Namibia 1993 when he was still prime minister.

“With regards to the Kora Awards, it is true that while engaging in a game of tennis at my home several years ago, I discussed with Ernest Adjovi (founder of the Kora Awards), the idea of having a music awards show in Africa similar to the Grammy Awards in USA. It was during this discussion that the seeds for Kora were planted and later began germinating. However, although I have supported and attended the Kora Awards before, I want to make it clear that I have no partnership with the event or founder thereof,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

And throughout, Adjovi himself has had a series of ill-fated marketing and public relations disasters that left those who had poured in money with a sour pill to swallow and the winners going empty-handed without their promised prizes. Not only did this happen with the awards, but also their sibling, the Miss Malaika beauty pageant that has now been long forgotten on the African showcase map with the exception of some less glamorous pageant in Ghana in 2014 won by a university student Eirene Nsudoon Binabibi.

All the while, Adjovi has survived impeachment and managed to wine and dine with leaders and business moguls from one African country to another and even hosted international music artists and film stars. Like a cat with nine lives, he has ducked and dived through the storm and after the departure of the awards from the global screen in 2006 he suddenly appears in Namibia.

Founded in 1994 by Adjovi, the awards were first broadcast to 45 countries in Africa in 1996. The total television audience for the live broadcast is estimated at 380 million viewers – from 45 African countries, 28 European nations and nine countries in North America through TV rights agreed upon various international networks.  However, subsequent public relations and marketing disasters have dented the events.

Zimbabwe’s Brita Masethulini was crowned the inaugural Miss Malaika in South Africa 2001 and was promised a host of prizes including cash prize of US$200 000 and a top-of-the range  BMW convertible then, but organisers later settled on a sports Mercedes, ostensibly bankrolled by the Zimbabwe government to avoid embarrassment.

The following year, Adjovi arm-twisted the Zimbabwe government to organise the event as the country held the title and for it Adjovi demanded US$65 million in licence fees, an amount granted by the government. At that time, Zimbabwe badly needed to spruce its international image and the money raised would, among things, be expected the boost the country’s tourism industry. The event was later held in Harare and not Victoria Falls as originally scheduled but Adjovi claims his licence fees were not met and as a result had to forfeit the promised packages for the contestants.

Meanwhile, the Koras continued being held intermittently in South Africa and other African countries but the real disaster happened in 2005 when the event was hosted by the city of Durban. The provincial government of Kwazulu-Natal lost close to R50 million after it endorsed a sponsorship deal with Adjovi for what was supposed to be an opportunity for boosting tourism and commerce. The event, however, flopped as the expected numbers did not match the much hyped event even as the international artists, who came in, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot, performed at the event. Reports say Adjovi left the country in a huff and was never heard of until recently when it was announced that that the Kora awards will be held in Namibia.

At a glamorous dinner to announce the return of the awards to Namibia last month, kwaito star The Dogg finally received his award  of N$200 000 for Best Male Artist Southern Africa for the 2013 Koras  from Adjovi that he had ‘forfeited’ because he could not make it to the ceremony then. The dinner was attended by several government officials and the business elite as well as the South African Afro-pop sensation Mafikizolo and a number of Namibian artists. 

That too, raises suspicion and reading between the lines; one can tell that this was one other public relations gimmick from the organisers.

All that aside and despite all the negative publicity surrounding Adjovi’s awards, Namibia stands to benefit from the event should all logistics be organised as planned. Using the theme of  ‘Back Home’ Adjovi now aims to bring out a brighter side of the African musical showcase as he ‘conceived’ the idea while he was a resident of Namibia in 1996.

Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta who attended the dinner said Namibia would grab the opportunity and make the best out of the event.  

“We have so much to offer as a nation. We need to be competitive and innovative in how we grab opportunities such as this,” Shifeta said.

“The Kora awards have been unwavering in our commitment to rewarding and celebrating excellence in African music,” Adjovi also told guests.

One has to be optimistic therefore, that that the 2015 Koras would, indeed, mark the return of the African Grammy’s and what a better way to do this than in one of Africa’s most prosperous nations – Namibia.

A short word of advice to Adjovi though, is that running such a big event in several African countries annually not only requires a big budget but also logistical support of the highest level – and that cannot come from just one individual or company but a global organisation of the same calibre that the Grammys or other international awards are made of.

June 2015
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