What happens to AFRIMA money? - Industry players demand answers

By: Linda Safoa Antwi
Industry players demand answers about AFRIMA money
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi

NEWS of the government pulling out of the organisation of the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) has caused a stir in the entertainment industry and generated discussion among industry players and stakeholders.

The Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, made the disclosure in an interview with Atinka TV and stated that the discontent among industry players led to the government giving up its three-year hosting rights after just one year.

While the conversation picks up steam, some industry players are in interviews with Graphic Showbiz, asking the government to come clean on how much was spent last year on the event and what happens to the rest of the money that was earmarked for the other years.

The Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) was one body that raised issues with the organisation of AFRIMA and the lack of inclusion of local players, with its President, Bice Osei Kuffour (aka Obour), saying they needed to engage the government on it.

“If AFRIMA had been well-structured and more inclusive, it would have been a great event of immense benefit to us. Unfortunately, the government started on the wrong foot and that made us lose out.

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"Instead of pulling out, my expectation was that the government would reconstitute the committee, made up of industry players who would explore how the industry could leverage its hosting rights for a mutually beneficial relationship,” he said.

For Obour, it is now time for the government to start supporting Ghanaian events.

“There are so many events such as the Ghana Music Awards, Ghana Music Week and others which need support so now the conversation going forward should be about what the government is going to do with the money that was committed to AFRIMA.

“Once the contract had been signed for three years, it meant the money had been earmarked already so what we need to do is pick up the discussion and ask the government what will happen to the money,” he stated.

Film producer and entertainment critic, Ola Michael, who was very vocal in his displeasure with Ghana hosting AFRIMA, also asked questions about the AFRIMA money.

“I have always said it was needless for the government to go into it. We have too many festivals and events in this country that are crying for support and the government needs to focus on them. Our arts and culture festival, NAFAC, which is held every two years, could not hold last year because of AFRIMA so it’s a good thing we have pulled out.

“Information available to me indicates that the government was not happy with the whole AFRIMA thing and it is one of the reasons why Catherine Afeku was sacked from the Tourism Ministry. We paid $250,000 to host the event last year so now that we are not hosting again, can we get our balance back?

“Look, there are about 50 domains in the creative arts scene which are all crying for money and about $50,000 dollars can solve our problems so we need our balance,” he said.

The Convener of the Foundation of Concerned Arts Professionals (FOCAP) and arts critic, Kojo Preko Dankwah, was, however, worried about how the government’s pull out will affect us.

“This puts our industry in a bad light because it creates doubts about our readiness to join the African continent and sell who we are.

"This is an AU collaboration to reward and celebrate talents and creativity on the African continent so it would have positioned Ghanaian music on another level but pulling out has brought us shame.

“It shows how we simply did not understand the level of positive drive we were going to have on the continent. We were going to rule one way or the other through the collaborations, music videos, tourism sites, hotels, pubs, etc.” he told Showbiz.

For him, the AFRIMA venture was not handled well and that’s why people are happy about the contract’s abrogation.

“The negotiations for hosting the AFRIMA was done on the blind side of the industry and no one seems to be accountable.  The minister herself cannot even quote figures about the cost though she told the nation at her vetting that she will look at the cost implications.

“We need proper investigations into AFRIMA. Who and who sat to bring it on without the involvement of industry players? What happened with the deal and the money that was paid because we still owe hotels from last year. We need investigation because we hear the entire budget was $4.5 million, so what went into it?” he queried.

Another entertainment critic, Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo, feels it was right for the government to quit hosting AFRIMA. “I am certain if the hosting of the awards last year gave us benefits, the government would not have cancelled the contract.

“Clearly, we gained nothing and considering the amount of money we were going to expend in hosting it for the next two years, it is right for the abrogation. We saved money but the timing was wrong,” he said.

On whether this will have implications for us, Arnold said no. “We rather rushed in taking up the responsibility of hosting the awards in the first place.

"We do not even have the appropriate auditorium with the requisite tools to host an international event like AFRIMA. This was evident when we hosted it at the AICC last year; it was a shambolic showing,” he concluded.

When Showbiz reached out to AFRIMA Country Manager, Francis Doku, he said he did not wish to comment on the matter.