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On American Television - The Africa Channel

By David J. Saunders

The Africa Channel, a fresh, new "all-Africa" television network for American audiences, is Intended to fill a significant void, The Africa Channel is the first and only U.S.-based television network that will present the African Continent's most outstanding English language dramas, feature films, cultural and historical programming, bio-graphics, soap operas, reality series and children's shows, as well as lifestyle, business and travel programming. Viewers are transported into a world filled with rich cultures, incredible music, the art-stopping adventure, emotional human dramas and award-winning entertainment programming.

The Africa Channel's primary mission is to open up a daily window into modern Africa and into African life through a myriad of programming genres and, in the process, help to demystify Africa for Americans. The Africa Channel's targeted audiences include:

- Thirty-seven million African-Americans;

- Nearly Eighty million households that are already plugged into the History Channel, A&E Channel, Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel and National Geographic; and

- Nearly two million resident Africans.

Many in the African-American community are frustrated with the limited programming choices targeted towards their demographic. They instead want programming that connects with their lives, traditions and heritage; programming that is compelling, intelligent, relevant, and overall entertaining. This is a community that represents 12.7 million households and nearly $600 billion in purchasing power.

African-Americans watch forty percent more television than the general American market yet most of the top-rated television programs for general audiences are not even listed in the top ten shows for African-Americans. Likewise, general American audiences already plugged into the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Travel Channel, will now have an intelligent, entertaining and informational window into the richness and promises of modern Africa. In addition, for African expatriates residing in the United States, The Africa Channel will provide a familiar and steady bridge between their homeland and life in America.

The Africa Channel plans to launch its "all Africa" television network on terrestrial cable and satellite DTH systems across the United States in late 2004. The Africa Channel's initial programming lineup will carry all of the high production values, formatting and branding familiar to sophisticated American television viewing audiences.

In this age of ever-increasing programming options, The Africa Channel has a unique opportunity to not only connect with audiences, but to establish its relevance. The Africa Channel is striving to position itself to be both the destination for, and the bridge to African entertainment, news, information, music, lifestyle, education, business and culture. The Africa Channel's programming will be about the people of Africa, telling their incredible stories about their daily lives, their music and art, their successes, celebrations and challenges.

The Africa Channel's overall purpose is to simply inform and entertain in a way that audiences in America have come to appreciate and understand. American audiences understand quality and relevance in the sense of programming that is engaging, compelling and worthy of their viewing time.

The mega-hit mini-series, "Roots" taught Americans about the African-American audience and its emotional attachment to Africa. More importantly, Roots captured the attention of the general American audiences as well because it was truly a great story with insight into a world that had never before been seen on televisions, not to mention in Prime Time! Roots inspired a nation and the interest in Africa was tremendous. But unfortunately, after the mini-series was over, the African Continent once again fell into "darkness". The Africa Channel will finally tell the rest of the story from a more current perspective. The Africa Channel will open Africa to American audiences and satisfy interest in the Continent that has actually never been quenched.

The Africa Channel has leveraged its longstanding relationship with South Africa's major television producers and suppliers to create daily programming blocks across entertainment and informational genres. The vaults of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Summit TV, M-Net, ETV, Endemol and other suppliers are full of outstanding content, including many award-winning shows that have never been seen outside of Africa. Until now, there has never been a dedicated 24/7 channel outlet in the United States for this high-quality programming or such an affordable conduit through which sponsors and advertisers can reach The Africa Channel's targeted audiences.

The Africa Channel is led by a seasoned team of pay television broadcast and program distribution executives, each possessing special expertise in the African and American television sectors and a passion for bringing African entertainment, information and culture to American audiences.

The co-founders of The Africa Channel are James Makawa, a Zimbabwean and one of the few Executives from sub-Saharan Africa to have enjoyed a successful career in both local and network television in the United States; Jacob Arback, who has over twenty years of international business and media experience, with special expertise in the global satellite and pay television industry; and Richard Hammer, a seasoned professional with over twenty years of hands-on experience in the entertainment industry, with special expertise in marketing and promoting African programming throughout the Continent.

The company has also formed an Advisory Board, comprised of well-known leaders in the African-American community, cable television industry, content production sector and political arena, whose primary role will be to mentor the business, provide access and relationships, assist with fundraising and ensure that the enterprise is meeting the entertainment, social, educational and business needs of the communities that it serves.

Ambassador Andrew Young will chair the Advisory Board, whose other members currently include Rob Weller and Gary Grossman of Weller/Grossman Productions, NBA all-star player Dikembe Mutombo and prominent South African businessmen and activist, Moss Mashishi. The Executive Team of The Africa Channel will include James Makawa as CEO, Jacob Arback as President, Richard Hammer, as Executive Vice President for Marketing Communications and Promotions, and Henry Watson as Executive Vice President for Distribution.

In conclusion, The Africa Channel will bring original, fresh and relevant entertainment and informational programming to American audiences in a way that has never been done before. The Africa Channel's exclusive program distribution agreements, combined with its low-cost content sourcing from South Africa, creates a solid and scalable business model and provides the kind of flexibility to tailor programming that continually meets the tastes and preferences of its targeted audience. For the first time, American audiences will be able to connect on a daily basis with the richness and promise of modern Africa. For more information about The Africa Channel, please visit their website at

About the author: David J. Saunders is the Chief Executive Officer of Venue International Professionals, Inc. (VIP) &endash; a full-service travel and tourism company based in the Washington Metropolitan Area that specializes in the promotion of travel and tourism opportunities to the Continent of Africa. He is a member of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) and has traveled extensively to more than twenty-five African countries and is a frequent writer of news and information articles about his experiences in various trade publications to include the Africa Travel Magazine, Black Meetings and Tourism Magazine and the Africa Travellers' Journal. He can be contacted at


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