For decades, the youth have been at the forefront of significant change on the continent. In more recent years, we have seen youth-led movements make use of new media platforms like social media to effect change. From the #SayNoToRape protests in Nigeria to the #BlackLivesMatter movement which has gained global attention in recent weeks, youth all over the world are increasingly speaking out and making their voices heard.
The revolution, however, is still being televised by media networks which recognise the importance of being able to tell the stories of young people. Bada Akintude-Johnson, the Country Manager of ViacomCBS Networks Africa helms the Nigerian arm of the company which houses youth, family and entertainment brands such as MTV, MTV Base and BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central that reaches 100 million people across the continent daily.
MTV Base is the cultural home of the millennial generation in Africa, pioneering and creating innovative content for young people. Since the launch of the channel in Africa 15 years ago, they have prioritised telling stories that are relevant, fun, bold and stimulating while reflecting this generation’s hopes, dreams, talents, ambitions and diversity with distinctive programming for the youth by the youth.
The network led an industry approach across their platforms to address Gender Based Violence (GBV) in late 2019 with the STOP the Violence campaign and again in June with #BlackLivesMatter. Social media has helped drive social justice movements in Africa and African youth are determined to drive change in their communities and in their countries.
As today’s youth continue to grapple with several socio-economic and human rights challenges, Akintunde-Johnson, says it’s the responsibility of the media to provide content that extends beyond entertainment formats and echoes the transformation African youth are championing in society.
In recent months, this has been against the background of the most unprecedented health crisis that the world has faced in over 100 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not only affecting the livelihood and well-being of today’s youth but is affecting their economic mobility and ability to take advantage of opportunities that will better their lives. These are real stories being experienced by real people which MTV Base in partnership with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation wanted to highlight in an adaption of the popular youth series MTV Shuga. MTV Shuga Alone Together is the channel’s first-ever self-shot series that depicts every aspect of life during the pandemic. The story is told through video calls between MTV Shuga characters, reflecting how social media has become the new form of socialising during this era of lockdown and tackles subjects including health messages, myths about COVID-19 and the personal struggles of the characters and their hopes for the future.
Even in these uncertain times, Bada remains optimistic about the future of the youth on the continent citing that the work they do on a day to day is not only a reflection of what’s happening in society but it’s also about educating people on the power of storytelling, platforms and finding innovative ways to champion meaningful impact and purpose. This is what ViacomCBS Networks Africa has successfully done with productions like MTV Shuga Alone Together as well as other properties like the BET Jams, MTV Base DJ Takeover and MTV Base Lounge which have allowed artists to continue doing what they love in the comfort of their home while mobilising audience engagement.
Like their predecessors, the youth of today are continuing to move society forward through their progressive views on various issues plaguing the continent, tackling issues of inequality, gender-based violence and education security. They are also banding together in times of global crisis to do something for the continent which was the case at the recently held Africa Day Benefit Concert At Home – a partnership between ViacomCBS Networks Africa, YouTube, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, which brought together African and global superstars, artists and leaders to raise funds for COVID-19 food assistance and health support for those most in need.
While there is a lot that remains uncertain about the future, what is certain is that the future rests in the hands of the youth, and if their strides over the past couple of decades is anything to go by, we have much to be optimistic about.