Why big brands are bringing African storytellers Into their business strategies

Launched in September 2016 in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, Amplify’s mission from day one has been to develop a fellowship of young, dynamic multimedia content creators who could craft compelling stories about Africa.

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On Friday 7 April, teams from Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria presented their final Amplify projects  to an all-star panel of Africa’s leading business, media and technology personalities. The inaugural graduation, held in Nairobi and in partnership with GE Africa, was the culmination of an intensive six-month fellowship that saw 25 fellows - writers, photographers, animators, and videographers - learn technical, creative and business skills to enhance their careers in content creation for Africa.

Launched in September 2016 in partnership with The Mastercard Foundation, Amplify’s mission from day one has been to develop a fellowship of young, dynamic multimedia content creators who could craft compelling stories about Africa. Importantly, the team wanted to create value - not only for the content creators themselves, but for big brands; brands who are looking to build their presence in Africa, reach new audiences on digital platforms, as well as better communicate the work and impact they are having on the continent.

According to Zain Verjee, aKoma co-founder & CEO, this is why GE Africa came on board with the project from its inception. She says,

“It was evident from the earliest stages of this project that we could bring a lot of creative value to GE  in terms of helping them tell their stories and better curate their narrative. They make a huge impact on the continent, but too few people know about the breadth or diverse nature of their work. They were looking to develop new and innovative ways of connecting with their audiences in an authentic way, and we have been cultivating and working with a pan-African cohort of brilliant storytellers. For us, us collaborating with GE Africa was a natural fit."

During the program, each fellow had to attend weekly virtual training sessions, post a story on the partner content platform, akoma and, importantly, learn about branded content. Verjee adds, “This final point is particularly important - what we are focussed on is how to make the connections between content and business; how can creatives build a business out of their work? How can companies best utilise creatives and their storytelling skills? And finally, how can companies and brands integrate original, powerful storytelling into their marketing strategy.

“We don’t think big brands can afford to restrict themselves to old-fashioned, static advertising. We think they need to open their eyes and see how and what their audiences are consuming, and design powerful user generated content campaigns that speak directly to them.”

To complete their Amplify Fellowship, each country had to develop a media campaign that reflected the stories of GE employees, and the impact the company’s products are having on the wider community. Presenting to a who’s who panel, including Professor Bitange Ndemo, Pamela Sittoni of Nation Media Group, Patricia Obozuwa of GE and Google Kenya’s Charles Murito, the Fellows also had to demonstrate how they would interact with new audiences, across a number of platforms, making a business case for why their work would benefit GE.

Praised for their storytelling capabilities and attention to detail, on the day, the Kenyan team notched top spot.

Verjee continues, “Together with our partners, and  we have been able to deliver mentorship, facilitate pan-African collaboration between young creatives and foster a community of learning, shared interests and, importantly, passion for authentic African storytelling. The Amplify Fellows are the next generation of influencers and thinkers for Africa, and we are thrilled to have been a part of their journey.

“What each team has presented us with here in Nairobi has been outstanding. Both GE and The MasterCard Foundation were genuinely taken aback but the  quality of what our Fellows had delivered, and both of our partners have plenty of ideas to take back to their respective companies, and re-think how they connect with African audiences”.

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