Countering Monolithic Africa Image

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“As you know the continent of Africa is huge and diverse,� says John Sarpong, Africast’s President and one of the founders. “Yet, traditional media focus on the negative aspects of our continent. We decided to present some of the other stories. We could not see it being done by people out of Africa. Basically we have created Africast as a global platform to provide what we define as a mirror of African living outside Africa.�

African countries now have the capability to counter some of the negative images about the continent by providing a more balanced picture, with news and diverse feature stories, through Africast TV online network (www.africast.com).

This global television company created by Africans in the United States, allows African broadcasting companies on the continent to channel their programs via Internet Television for rebroadcast on Africast. The website features the Africast Movies & Entertainment (AME) and Africast Home Television (AHT) Channels. The company was launched late last year.

While viewers are now able to watch programming from scores of African countries online, Africast is in talks with cable providers so their customers can eventually watch the programs on their television screens after being beamed from Ghana and then redistributed globally from the U.S. Africast TV has subscribers who pay US$9.95 to US$19.95 per month from more than 25 countries around the globe to view its channels on the Africast TV online network. The Company also offers daily subscription packages ranging from $3.95 to $6.95.

“As you know the continent of Africa is huge and diverse,� says John Sarpong, Africast’s Chairman and CEO. “Yet, traditional media focus on the negative aspects of our continent. We decided to present some of the other stories. We could not see it being done by people out of Africa. Basically we have created Africast as a global platform to provide what we define as a mirror of African living outside Africa.�

Africans in the Diaspora are a strong economic force and annually remit about $6 billion each year to the continent—in some countries such remittances rank second in terms of sources of convertible currency. Africast lets Africans abroad stay in touch with home news.

African Americans will be able to learn about their African heritage and civilization. Balanced and broader coverage will also let African Americans learn more about emerging business opportunities on the continent, Sarpong says.

Africa is often lumped together, the Africast executive reiterates. This means that when there’s negative news from one part of the continent, all African countries are painted with the same brush. “If there is war in Somalia, Africa is at war,� says Sarpong. “When we have conflict in Northern Ireland Europe is not at war. We wanted to demystify the monolithic view of Africa. So we decided to have each African country tell its stories. Each country has an opportunity to show its lifestyles, its weaknesses and strength.�

Africast has deals with 16 television broadcasting stations in Africa and is now finalizing arrangements with 14 others. The goal is to sign up all African countries. “It is a united nations of Africa,� Sarpong adds.

Most of the funding thus far has come from the partners’ individual resources, including Sarpong’s own money. There are also some selected angel investors and the company is gearing for another round of funding, this time within Africa.

To increase name recognition and subscriber base, Africast has been promoting itself online through selected websites and web communities, including the Ghana cyber group. “At the end of the day it is really word of mouth—when more and more Africans realize that they can get their programs,� from their home countries through Africast, Sarpong notes.

Working with Rapid Reality, a game developer in Atlanta, Ga., Africast has created “Africa,� an online educational video program to bring more focus on Africa. “Games are one of the best mediums for covering Africa’s richness and diversity. When a person is playing a video game you don’t realize that you are being educated,� the Africast executive explains.

“Africa,â€? takes the players back to the 13th century and lets them travel through the Sahara and to Timbuktu, the ancient African city where a famous university once flourished.  Players experience the continent’s rich history, mythology and folklore. The game uses the latest 3-D gaming technology to create an interdependent world where players can become wealthy traders or mighty warriors, raise families or rule empires. A preview of the game can be seen at
www.africammo.com

The game is also intended to counter popular U.S. games such as “Grand Theft Auto,� the leading game on the market right now—a game in which African Americans are portrayed as gangsters and criminals.

For more information about the company and to sign up, please visit Africast.com

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