Paramount Africa’s Leading Lady: Busola Komolafe

Africa has 54 countries, 3,000 tribes, and about 1.2 billion people. It is rich in beautiful culture and stories. Over the years, several individuals and media outlets have recognised the value and distinctiveness of African stories. They are committed to placing them on a pedestal within the global community.

One of the people driving this movement is Busola Komolafe, an international award-winning filmmaker, TV producer, and content specialist. She is currently the Senior Channels Manager at Paramount Africa, in charge of production and programming strategy for the Paramount Channel Brands (MTVBase, BET Africa, Comedy Central Nickelodeon) in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

Busola Komolafe’s leadership has been nothing short of revolutionary. Her devotion, vision, and strategic thinking have opened up new avenues for Paramount Africa.

With time, demands, and the changing prevailing culture of the continent, Paramount Africa’s dedication has taken on several forms. First, African music and skills were brought to the attention of the world through an incredibly widespread music platform. Subsequently, it was by promoting the production and marketing of indigenous African entertainment, especially in the film and television sector. Currently, they are working towards translating well-known content worldwide into native languages.

One cannot overstate Paramount Africa’s influence on the media landscape. So far, they have succeeded in building launchpads that have elevated African voices, stories, and culture into the spotlight and platforms that have developed into safe havens for successful African creatives. They’ve done this by creating opportunities for talented people to become stars while keeping the integrity of their stories and spurring reform in the African film business.

In this interview with THEWILL DOWNTOWN’s Dorcas Akintoye, Busola Komolafe discusses the intricacies of her role as the senior channels manager for Paramount Africa, the initiatives and programs Paramount Africa has implemented to support creatives in the media industry, and the impact of technology in adapting content to cater to diverse audiences across Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

As the Senior Channels Manager for Paramount Africa, how do you approach programming strategy for diverse channels like MTV Base, BET Africa, MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon?

In my role as Senior Channels Manager for Paramount Africa, each channel caters to a unique audience, so we try to understand viewers’ distinct preferences and interests for MTV Base, BET Africa, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon. Combining market research, audience feedback, and industry trends, we curate a programming strategy, ensuring each channel remains relevant and engaging. Diversity is a key focus, and we aim to offer a variety of content that resonates with the diverse cultures across Africa. For instance, when it comes to MTV Base, we closely monitor trends in African music, collaborate with artists and producers, and leverage social media analytics to curate a lineup that resonates with our youthful audience. By featuring African artists and showcasing vibrant music culture, we ensure that MTV Base remains the go-to destination for contemporary African music enthusiasts.

In overseeing programming strategy, what key factors do you consider when selecting or renewing shows for channels like MTV Base, BET Africa, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon?

Several factors come into play when selecting or renewing shows. We carefully analyse the show’s performance metrics and audience ratings to understand its impact and relevance. Additionally, we also consider cultural sensitivities and preferences specific to each channel’s target demographic. Collaborating with other talented content professionals is crucial to identifying high-quality shows, and staying abreast of industry innovations helps us curate a fresh lineup. Ultimately, chosen shows align with Paramount Africa’s overall programming strategy, whether it’s focusing on African productions or fostering specific genres popular within the region.

Paramount Africa has been successful in nurturing female talents. Can you share specific initiatives or programs you’ve implemented to support and promote women in the industry?

Paramount Africa is deeply committed to empowering women in the entertainment industry, and I am thrilled to highlight some of the innovative initiatives we’ve implemented to support and promote female talent.

A cornerstone of our efforts is the introduction of dedicated programming blocks such as “Queens of Afrobeat” and “Queens of Base” on MTV Base. These platforms serve as powerful showcases for female artists, providing them with the recognition they truly deserve.

The MTV VJ Search has also been instrumental in discovering some of the most influential female talents in the industry today and giving women a platform to shine, including Stephanie Coker and Ada’ Folu Storms’ Ogunkeye. Additionally, we recently welcomed Oluchi Harrison as the newest member of the Paramount Culture Squad. This dynamic group of young, brilliant minds is passionate about pushing the boundaries of African culture across various spheres. Through initiatives like these, we strive to identify and empower emerging talents, offering them opportunities to showcase their skills, gain exposure, and thrive within the industry.

But our commitment to gender diversity doesn’t end there. We’ve revamped our music blocks to ensure more inclusivity, with a special emphasis on highlighting female artists. This deliberate move reflects our belief in providing equal opportunities for all voices to be heard.

Some of our shows with huge female casts emphasise the importance of women’s strength. The reality show “Unstoppable Thabooty” on BET follows media personality Thando Thabete as she tries to balance multiple careers and maintain close relationships. Also, “Queendom”, set to air in April on BET, celebrates women’s doggedness and resilience, explores themes of fate and power struggles, patriarchy and aggressively celebrates heritage and tradition.

In line with our commitment to talent development, through the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, the Talent Accelerator Program — a platform created to invest in young, emerging female creatives. The initiative saw the selection of 11 outstanding young women to work across different departments through the filming of MTV Shuga season 5. We didn’t stop there; The popular MTV Shuga down south recently provided opportunities for 18 aspiring graduate interns interested in forging a career in entertainment.

During the production of In Bloom, 60% of the cast and crew were Women, both in front of and behind the lens, creating an environment where their voices are valued, respected, and celebrated. These initiatives not only showcase our dedication to promoting gender equality in the industry but also underscore our belief in the transformative power of women’s voices. At Paramount Africa, we’re not just championing talent; we’re igniting a movement towards a more inclusive and equitable entertainment landscape.

How do you ensure Paramount Africa stays innovative and competitive in the evolving TV landscape?

At Paramount Africa, we are committed to telling authentic African stories by continuously adapting to the evolving landscape and staying in tune with audience preferences. We achieve this by focusing on producing compelling content that resonates with our audience, ensuring that we meet their expectations and maintain our competitive edge. We also embrace innovation and closely monitor emerging technologies and trends to explore new opportunities for growth and engagement.
Ultimately, our goal is to continue delivering high-quality and impactful content that captivates viewers and reinforces Paramount Africa’s position as a leading player in the industry.

As a content specialist, what traits do you believe are crucial for success in the dynamic world of TV?

Success in TV requires a combination of strategic thinking, adaptability, and creativity. It is important to anticipate and respond to changing audience preferences. Creativity in content creation and problem-solving is essential for staying ahead. Effective communication and collaboration with a diverse team are also vital, as is a commitment to continuous learning to keep abreast of industry advancements and emerging technologies. There are a lot of things involved; it’s important to have a good blend of all of them.

What challenges have you faced in the African Creative Industry, and how do you see them evolving in the future?

The African creative scene is growing, but hurdles still exist. Funding can be tough to find, and sometimes, people don’t quite see the value of creative work. This means artists might not get the recognition or support they deserve.

However, Paramount has played a pivotal role by providing platforms like the MTV Africa Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and the BET Awards to recognise and celebrate African talent. From Wizkid’s historic win in 2011 to Rema’s recent achievement in 2023, these accolades highlight the global impact of African artists and their contributions to the music industry.

Paramount’s commitment to promoting black excellence and culture extends beyond awards ceremonies. Artists like 2Face, D’banj, Wizkid, Ice Prince, Davido, Burna Boy, Sarkodie, Libianca and Tems have all left their mark on the BET awards, further solidifying Africa’s presence in the international music scene.

Paramount’s impact in the entertainment landscape, providing talents with expression platforms, undoubtedly underscores its unwavering dedication to excellence, empowerment and innovation.

With the rise of online platforms, creators can reach more people and make money from their work. Imagine a future where African creativity is everywhere! By working together, both governments and stakeholders can help artists thrive. This means creating laws that protect artists’ ideas and encouraging more people to appreciate African art, music, and stories. I’m optimistic about the future of the African creative industry.

Can you share some experiences from your time as a presenter and producer at NTA and FRCN and how they shaped your career?

My time as a presenter and producer at NTA and FRCN is invaluable as this is where it all began at age 19. The experience shaped the future of my career. These roles allowed me to hone my presentation and production skills while building a deep understanding of broadcasting. These experiences laid the foundation for my multifaceted career, instilled in me the importance of versatility and adaptability, and helped me become the woman I am today.

As someone passionate about authentic visual storytelling, how do you manage the balance between meeting audience expectations and pushing creative boundaries?

Balancing audience expectations with pushing creative boundaries is a delicate process. While respecting audience preferences, I believe in challenging norms and introducing innovative storytelling formats. Engaging in research and audience feedback helps us understand viewer expectations, enabling us to infuse creativity within those parameters. Collaborating with content creators and fostering an environment that encourages experimentation ensures a dynamic balance between meeting expectations and pushing the envelope of authentic visual storytelling.

What advice do you have for budding filmmakers and content creators looking to break into the industry?

My advice for aspiring filmmakers and content creators is to be persistent, embrace learning, and build a diverse skill set. Network actively within the industry, seek mentorship and never underestimate the power of collaboration. Keep abreast of industry trends, technologies, and audience preferences. Most importantly, believe in your unique perspective and storytelling abilities. The journey may have challenges, but perseverance, continuous improvement, and a genuine passion for storytelling will set you on the path to success.

Are there specific reality shows currently running on Paramount Africa that you find particularly exciting or impactful?

I particularly loved the just-concluded MTV Base Inside Life: The New Wave, which followed the lives of three rising music stars. It offered an unparalleled glimpse into the struggles and resilience of the Nigerian youth and how much hard work they put into their craft. It presented a reality that otherwise goes ignored. The show provided a platform to learn beyond the glitz and glam the media world presents the realities and grit of celebrity life. Shows like these are fun to watch and offer interesting insights into real-life situations and the music industry. We are currently working on another one called Ghosted, which is an MTV international Franchise we are localising for Nigeria. I can’t wait for our audience to see that show.

How do you see the future of reality shows in the African entertainment landscape?

The future of reality shows is very promising. There’s a growing appetite for authentic and relatable content, and reality shows provide a platform for unfiltered storytelling. As the industry continues to evolve, reality shows will likely diversify in genres and formats, catering to the varied interests of the African audience. I’ve worked on a few of them in the past, and it’s nice to see the industry grow. Inside Life: The New Wave, for example, was a different approach to reality TV, and I’m immensely proud of the team and what they were able to achieve. Viewers were taken into the world of their favourite artists and what it took to become them. The key is to strike a balance between entertainment, cultural relevance, and inclusivity, ensuring that reality shows remain a vibrant and integral part of the African entertainment experience.

What strategies do you employ to discover and nurture emerging industry talents?

At Paramount Africa, we employ a multifaceted approach to discover and nurture emerging industry talents through initiatives like the MTV VJ Search now known as the Paramount Culture Squad. The MTV VJ Search has been instrumental in unearthing some of the most popular on-screen talents today, including Ehizojie’ Ehiz’ Okoeguale, Stephanie Coker, and Ada’ Folu Storms’ Ogunkeye.

More recently, we announced Oluchi Harrison as the newest member of the Paramount Culture Squad. The Culture Squad is a dynamic group of young, brilliant minds passionate about pushing the boundaries of African culture across various spheres. By providing platforms like these, we aim to identify and empower emerging talents, giving them opportunities to showcase their skills, gain exposure, and grow within the industry.

Our talent discovery strategies go beyond just on-air personalities. We actively seek out and nurture talents in various creative fields, including music, film, fashion, and more. Through partnerships, competitions, and mentorship programs, we strive to create an ecosystem that supports and elevates the next generation of industry leaders.

Ultimately, our goal is to foster an environment where emerging talents thrive.

Phantom won the Best Short Film award at the Toronto Nollywood International Film Festival. Can you share the creative process behind the film and how you approached storytelling in the short format to make it stand out?

Phantom also won Best Short film at the International World Film Awards. Creating Phantom was a unique challenge and an immensely rewarding experience. The creative process involved meticulous planning, from script development to production and post-production.

The short format demanded precision in storytelling, so every scene and dialogue carried significance. I believe it was important to talk about the importance of mental health from a Nigerian perspective and how it is so often overlooked, and I’m proud of the results. It follows the struggles of a released kidnap victim who is still mentally in bondage and how she tries to overcome the trauma that followed. The aim is to shed more light on the difficulties of mental illness and how to overcome them. I focused on a compelling narrative that captures the core of your emotions.

Short films often pose unique challenges in conveying a compelling narrative within a limited timeframe. How did you navigate these challenges while ensuring the emotional impact and thematic depth of Phantom remained intact?

It required a meticulous approach. I prioritised a strong and concise narrative that conveyed the core themes effectively. The actors played a crucial role, allowing emotions and messages to be communicated efficiently. The collaboration with a talented crew and thoughtful editing ensured that every moment contributed to the emotional impact of Phantom. It was essential to strike a balance between brevity and depth, and the film’s success in maintaining both aspects validated the creative choices made during its production.

In overseeing programming strategy, how do you adapt content to cater to diverse audiences across Nigeria and the rest of Africa?

In overseeing programming strategy, Paramount prioritises the adaptation of content to cater to diverse audiences across Nigeria and the rest of Africa. We leverage technology across all our brands to gain valuable insights into audience preferences and behaviours through social media listening tools and insights backed by research. This data empowers us to create content that resonates with our viewers and drives meaningful engagement.

Dedicated to understanding the evolving needs and preferences of our audiences, we conducted an Insight Study titled “Reflecting Me: Representation on Screen” in 2021, which was updated in 2023. Spanning 73 countries, including Nigeria, this study surveyed over 2.5 million individuals to explore the impact of on-screen representation and the demand for greater diversity and authenticity in media. The findings reinforced our commitment to accurate and authentic representation, promoting inclusivity, breaking down perception barriers, and providing inspiring role models for our viewers.

Our commitment to representing Africa’s diverse cultures and experiences is evident in our reality TV shows tailored to specific markets. Programs such as Inside Life and short-form GenZ Code on MTVBASE, Isono and Redemption on BET Africa, and multilingual telenovelas offer a platform for African talent to shine while authentically reflecting the nuances and complexities of different communities. Through our programming, we aim to foster a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and confidence among viewers, challenging stereotypes and promoting cross-cultural understanding.

Additionally, we prioritise accessibility by dubbing content into local languages and providing subtitles. The isiZulu-dubbed adaptation of SpongeBob SquarePants on Nickelodeon exemplifies our commitment to cultural representation and inclusivity, amplifying diverse voices and celebrating cultural richness. Furthermore, the upcoming launch of the isiZulu adaptation of PAW PATROL on NickToons, 18 March 2024 demonstrates our dedication to expanding accessibility and representation across diverse audiences.

By conducting research-driven insights, and offering culturally resonant programming, Paramount Africa continues to set the standard for inclusive and impactful media content across Nigeria and the wider African continent.

What personal traits or habits do you think have contributed most to your success in your career?

Knowing what my vision and purpose is has kept me grounded in staying the course and never giving up. Perseverance and resilience have been crucial during challenging times. Adaptability and a willingness to embrace change and innovation have allowed me to stay ahead. Effective communication, both within the team and with stakeholders, has fostered collaboration and creativity. Additionally, continuous learning and an insatiable curiosity about industry trends and technologies have been instrumental in shaping my career.

Looking back at your journey, is there a particular project or achievement that stands out as the most rewarding for you?

While every project holds a special place, the international recognition I received from my film, Phantom is one that stands out just because it was rated on an international level. Apart from the two awards in the bag. (Toronto Nollywood International Film Festival and International World Film Awards) It was also nominated for awards in New York and Los Angeles. It was a collaborative effort of a dedicated team and the fulfilment of a creative vision. This achievement validated the storytelling approach and reinforced the potential for African narratives to make a name on the international stage.

Can you share any go-to beauty or makeup essentials you swear by, especially when preparing for public appearances or important events?

I prioritise skincare, starting with a good moisturiser and sunscreen is a non-negotiable for me. My routine is not complete without sunscreen.

I swear by a nicely blended foundation that enhances natural features and a versatile eyeshadow palette for a polished yet nude, clean look. I love my up do’s for hair, because it make my face pop . It’s important to feel confident and comfortable in your appearance, and these go-to beauty essentials have been reliable companions for me.

Beyond your professional endeavours, what hobbies or interests do you pursue in your personal life?

I find joy in travelling. It’s a passion that allows me to immerse myself in diverse cultures and gain new perspectives. Travel enhances my creativity and opens my mind. I also do enjoy bingeing on psychological thriller movies and series. The human mind is very fascinating. I love great conversations and meeting people. I also have a passion for God; without his direction and steady guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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Dorcas Akintoye is a versatile writer with a passion for beauty, fashion, relationships, and culinary delight. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, she adds a touch of elegance to every topic she explores. She is a writer at THEWILL DOWNTOWN.

About Author / Dorcas Akintoye

Dorcas Akintoye is a versatile writer with a passion for beauty, fashion, relationships, and culinary delight. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, she adds a touch of elegance to every topic she explores. She is a writer at THEWILL DOWNTOWN.

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