There’s a lot of information to disseminate in the world as Africa opens up more year after year cause the internet is piercing through our cultures and opening up new doors, content is more widespread making everyone see things in certain perspectives relatable to just them. It’s an amazing time to be in the media sphere, just parts of Africa that have been told through the underwhelming eyes of global media for far too long. It all began from blog spots like Linda Ikeji, YNaija, NotJustOk, years later you have young media platforms like ours, and foreign media opening up branches in Africa cause we’re the heart of everything cool and trendy now (what a perfect time to give a fuck and show the true stories of the people).
Regardless, we’re born in a generation conscious of the media around them, with multiple platforms at their disposal and more news being dispersed.
Damilola Odufuwa is a 27-year-old pioneer in the media eco-system of Lagos, Nigeria carving a niche on the down-low, curating a new age persona of content the current generation actually relates to, she’s taking hold of every narrative that affects the stories of how her country and continent is represented, working with multiple international and local media companies she’s been able to crack the fourth wall.
I thought about different ways of introducing Damilola Odufuwa in this feature, how would I perfectly say how influential she’s becoming in the modern African media environment, to highlight her unique view of the social media sphere and how pop culture, trends, the youth influence the attention span of what you read, watch or hear about. In all honesty, I concluded to not even try, but to let her words and my questions open her gifts to us.
How did you learn to understand the idea of media and how it’s helped shape a new African generation?
I think my generation (as 90s kids) grew up with the extreme changes in media and technology – when I was about six years old we still had tapes, then by the time I was nine we had CDs which we could play on our home PCs or in our cars and on discmans. Preteen years there were MP3 players and by the time I was in my teens we got iTunes and Facebook and social media was born! So we’ve always had to learn to utilize new media and tech tools rapidly and that’s why we’ve been fully able to quickly harness the potential of every new social app. Specifically from an African media perspective, as the technology was changing rapidly, so was the global interest in African culture. I remember sitting at my desk while working on MTV Shuga’s social media and thinking “this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is how I can help Africa and tell our stories”. Because I sure as hell didn’t want white people telling it.
What would you say media means to a millennial generation born through the internet, fake news and social media?
While the birth of social media has its pitfalls – bullying, fake news etc, social media has done more good than bad. Information is now democratized. All you need is a basic smartphone to access information and tell your story. Now truly every voice counts and as millennials, we love that shit! We can finally create the change we want and we can also see the ripple effects of online coming offline – policy changes, social recognition etc. But with this comes great responsibility and I’d like to see more young people being cautious with their stupidity.
Take us through your journey from Zikoko, to your current job with CNN?
I had just moved back to Nigeria when I took over as editor-in-chief at Zikoko. Prior to this I was working for MTV Viacom and my boss at MTV Shuga told me about this cool site creating entertaining and authentic African content and I loved it! But after a year I was ready for more responsibility and to make a bigger impact and that’s when Konbini came knocking. I remember two years ago when we started, it was just me and Daniel Orubo and we built a pop culture publication that had the quality – both written and visually – that many other local publications lacked. But again, two years on and the thirst for more is back. I’m a go getter and I don’t enjoy being limited so I’m always looking for the next growth opportunity. Joining CNN Africa to tell engaging social-driven stories is an honor and I’m looking forward to where this journey goes.
Do you feel women are underrepresented in executive roles of media in Nigeria, Africa?
YUP. Because we live in a patriarchal society that hates women. Next question.
But seriously it’s not just media, it’s in every industry, so the reasons and issues are not peculiar to one industry. Men are given opportunities based on potential and women are given opportunities after they’ve proven themselves. This creates an environment where men can get to the top faster despite, more often than not, being less capable.
What challenges does the African journalistic system still face in spreading and sourcing news accurately?
QUALITY. African and specifically Nigerian ‘journalists’ lack ethics and that’s why many feel comfortable putting out shoddy work that often has no true value to our culture in the long term. Yet when someone else comes along and does better, there is an attitude of copy and paste. Sigh. Now more than ever, the world is looking to Africa and it’s important we own that narrative with the most impeccable level of reporting. So investors, both foreign and local, please invest in your teams and the quality of content they put out and focus less on page views and clickbait news to get your ROIs quickly.
Brands like Konbini, CNN, Quartz & BBC are all foreign media/news platforms with reporters in Africa reporting their stories, how important is it for more indigenous platforms like Big Cabal, TheNet and YNaija to take more charge and how?
I think I’ve touched on ‘how’ a bit in my previous answer. But on why it’s important for local platforms: Because competition is good and there is beauty in diversity. Everyone should find their niche and cover it, there are many stories to be told across the continent.
Africans around the continent are taking more control of their narratives on issues like politics, creativity, innovation, tech. Do you think this could be attributed to more widespread information on the continent through the internet, social media and digital publications?
Yes definitely! I feel I answered this in Qs 1 and 2. I’m loving the pan-African love I see going on. The interest in West African and South African music and cinema, East African technology and innovation! It’s beautiful because the internet has helped us discover our continent because we finally have the information easily available!
Viral content is a current trend of spreading information to the general mass, can a conscious stream of information be what the populace needs to help broaden their perspectives?
Yes. I like that sentence; ‘conscious stream of information’. Yes, I need to see more people having a sense on topics like gender, sexuality, religion etc. If you cannot critically evaluate your thought process to see the broader, fuller picture, then are you even truly educated? Many people on social media lack critical thinking skills and that needs to change.
Is Africa due for its own 24/7 News network like CNN or BBC?
Do we need one? We have the internet and it’s 24/7. We’re already there. It’s a digital world now!
In a masterclass you gave at White Space, you detailed how you studied the specific time you noticed your audience reads, studying the numbers and impressions. How did you pick on that system and what has it taught you about the way we consume content in certain African states?
It came with practice and constantly trying to understand the numbers and my readers’ behavior. This is one thing I love about having an Economics degree. It’s forced me to embrace maths and stats. Numbers are important in EVERY job. But you don’t have to have a math degree to understand your social stats. Most apps explain what everything means anyway. But in terms of how it’s made me understand how we consume content in Africa:
For example, we have internet infrastructure challenges here, so it often takes longer to load a heavy page. By heavy I mean loads of images, gifs, videos etc and human beings, especially millennials have a short attention span. If it isn’t loading then we move on! So you have to understand that your audience is completely different to the same demographic in the West.
What do you find fascinating about African culture?
Wow, honestly everything. Our music, our fashion, our hairstyles, our ability to find humor in everything. We birth culture! We are the start and the end of everything. Our continent itself is stunning and I’m fascinated by this. It’s only just been in the past four years that I started exploring other African countries. Learning more about our heritage has been a blessing and we should all travel more! (It’s expensive I know)
You’re part of ‘two girls, one guy tv’, a medium that critics films. What’s your take on the current film environment from young Africans and which directors or films do you recommend as a must watch?
‘LMAO‘, this is a tough question. I’m more into TV shows than films, that’s Daniel’s area. So in terms of African TV shows, there’s been a lot of improvement over the years, but I need fewer shows with new graduates living in massive houses in Lekki and more realistic narratives. I mean Nigeria is a parody of a country! There’s so much content to cry and laugh about at the same time! I need a show like Veep making fun of our African political system. I need a Lagos version of Atlanta because I’m ready to write a Nigerian version of Paper Boi. He’s my spirit animal: he’s tired of Atlanta and I’m tired of Lagos. I need a show like Insecure depicting what it’s like being rational, woke AF single woman in this illogical country.
What’s driven you to keep expanding your horizon and opportunities so far?
I’m a black woman living in a sexist country, in a racist world. I just want to be filthy rich so I can have peace tbh and do ‘rich people things’ like Oprah. And also so I can do more charity work because say what you want, but money changes lives. I mean Oprah has a whole school in South Africa! Bill Gates has a million dollar foundation!
What advice do you have for young writers and journalists?
Stay true to yourself, find your passion and what you’re good at and stick to it. Learn how to monetize it. There are so many platforms, thanks to the internet, where you can find freelancing gigs if that’s what you want, for example. Also, hone your craft, there’s nothing more annoying than a shitty journalist.