As an executive at Paramount Africa, a global television and multimedia broadcast organisation based in South Africa and Nigeria, I have personally witnessed the immense talent and ambition of young people, who are eager to make a difference in their host communities. However, they face significant challenges such as limited resources, lack of access to quality education, unfair compensation, joblessness, and limited professional growth opportunities.
To overcome these challenges, partnerships between organisations, governments and businesses are crucial. By combining our strengths, resources, and expertise to create, we can develop innovative solutions that empower African youths to reach their full potential.
A powerful example of such a partnership is between Paramount Africa and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation (SAF). Together, we launched the MTV Shuga campaign in 2009, utilising taboo-defying edutainment on television and digital platforms to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and sexual health among African youths. Through this partnership, we have reached millions of young people across the continent, equipping them with vital information and resources for a healthy and safe life. The fusion of data-driven insights and pop culture has proven to be a winning formula for SAF in its mission to drive social change among African youths.
As an NGO, SAF relies on funding from dedicated partners to produce life-saving content that raises health awareness among African youths. Unitaid has been a longstanding supporter of MTV Shuga, aligning with their commitment to ensuring that young people across the continent have access to health information and available options. Since 2021, the Global Innovation Fund has also joined the list of partners supporting MTV Shuga Naija.
The decision to invest in the MTV Staying Alive Foundation was based on compelling evidence showcasing the impact of MTV Shuga productions on gender attitudes, and behaviours, and addressing gender-based violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Let’s take a look back at the debut season of MTV Shuga Naija, which brought a fresh perspective to African television, shedding light on pressing issues faced by young people. It quickly garnered attention, igniting conversations, raising awareness, and inspiring positive change among its viewers.
In its most recent season, MTV Shuga Naija 5 took its mission further by empowering women through a partnership with 1Pod Pictures, a female-led production company. The show introduced talented young musicians from Chocolate City Music, adding a fresh sound to the series. By giving new faces lead roles and according to them the Nollywood star treatment that they deserve, MTV Shuga Naija attracted notable personalities from various sectors. The season truly brought together a dynamic mix of individuals from the corporate, medical, advocacy, and entertainment spheres. With the support of partners like the Global Innovation Fund and Unitaid, MTV Shuga Naija continues to push boundaries, challenge social norms, and empower African youths with vital health information while promoting positive gender narratives.
Paramount Africa is dedicated to amplifying the authentic African narrative through its platforms and believes that extensive collaborations will make Africa’s voice an undeniable force in the global film landscape. By partnering with the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), Paramount Africa enhances the outlook of the African creative industry, showcasing and expanding the African narrative beyond the continent’s borders. Guided by its core values, Paramount Africa uplifts aspiring and emerging stars in the African film industry, propelling them to achieve global recognition. This partnership focuses on investing in African talent development, creating cutting-edge content, and pushing the African narrative worldwide.
These partnerships extend beyond public health, they also play a crucial role in promoting entrepreneurship and economic development. By creating conditions for young people to start and grow their businesses, partnerships lead to job creation, increased economic growth, and greater prosperity for communities and countries.
In 2008, a remarkable all-female film and television production company was established by the Ramaphakela siblings: Katlego, Tshepo, and Rethabile. This small, medium, and micro enterprise (SMME) has propelled exceptional short-form and long-form content for a range of esteemed local and international broadcasters. Their work has graced the screens of notable platforms such as Netflix, SABC, eTV, Multichoice, and Paramount channels – BET, MTV Base, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central.
Paramount Africa’s partnership with such SMEs exemplifies the mutual benefits that partnerships can bring and the added value they contribute to the creative economy. By collaborating with these enterprises, Paramount Africa not only enhances its own content offerings but also helps create job opportunities for talented cast and crew members. In fact, the latest season of MTV Shuga Down South featured sixteen interns who gained invaluable industry experience through this collaboration.
As leaders in the African business and non-profit sectors, we have a responsibility to explore the many opportunities that are offered by partnerships, to create a brighter future for Africa’s youth and the continent.
Of course, partnerships are not always easy to create or maintain. They need trust, communication, and a shared vision for the future. However, when done right, it can be a powerful force for good in the African youth space, helping to unlock the potential of millions of young people and driving lasting change – something we at Paramount Africa are committed to doing.
We are dedicated to discovering and nurturing new talent through our talent-growth program called Culture Squad. This initiative has been instrumental in shaping the careers of young individuals such as Ilooise ‘Ilo’ Omohinmin and Folu Storms, while other influential figures in African entertainment have also graced our screens as hosts, captivating audiences with their talent and charisma.
Recently, we announced the addition of Susan Pwajok to MTV Base’s Culture Squad. At just 20 years old, Susan has already made a remarkable impact in the entertainment industry, gaining recognition for her role as ‘Blessing’ in the popular TV series ‘The Johnsons. Her appointment to the Culture Squad is a significant milestone, as she joins the highly esteemed ranks of champions on the network. It further emphasises Paramount Africa’s unwavering commitment to providing opportunities for young African talents to thrive in the entertainment industry.
By nurturing and developing talent, we can make a significant difference in shaping Africa’s future trajectory and ensuring a thriving environment for its youth. And by embracing partnerships and investing in the potential of Africa’s youth, we can create a more prosperous and inclusive future for the continent. It is through these collaborative efforts and shared visions that we can drive sustainable change and empower the next generation of African leaders and innovators.
The writer, Monde Twala, is the senior vice president, general manager and lead, BET International