Launching a Web TV in Africa, it’s daring. Thinking of one that is dedicated to youth who innovate and succeed in the agricultural sector, it’s a gamble. Making this project the first media designed specifically for mobile phones and social media in West Africa, this is the challenge that Inoussa Maïga has taken. This son of a breeder, born in a small village of Burkina Faso, is behind one of the most exciting projects of the moment in terms of media innovation in Africa.
[This story was translated by Nawsheen Hosenally. Original French version to be found here.]
Before telling the story of Inoussa Maïga, I need to explain a bit why I am interested in his project. It has been a while that I am being looked at strangely when I explain the topics on which I work in Africa or with Africa. Projects like Atelier des medias (2007), Mondoblog (2010), and Afrique Innovation (2015) have generated reactions of incomprehension or disbelief in their time, before imposing themselves a bit later as evidences.
Therefore, when Inoussa Maïga contacted me to explain that he was going to launch a web TV on youth in agriculture from Africa, I told myself that I have found someone crazier than me. And in addition, he wants to put in the limelight those who innovate in the agricultural sector and address to all youth on the continent so that they see agriculture differently.
When going to school represents a challenge in a small village of Burkina Faso
This funny idea comes from far. Inoussa was born in a small village in the east of Burkina Faso. The place is called Fada N’Gourma. The child finds himself in a country that has just changed name in an attempt to get rid of the remains of the French colony. Exit “Haute-Volta”, the country is now called Burkina Faso (the country of upright people). Upright and poor. “We are all born poor in this country”, Inoussa Maïga likes to remind us.
Inoussa will be the only one among his brothers and sisters to study. His father would have preferred seeing him running behind the herd, but his mother arranged so that he goes to school. Here, it has been the teachers who did not have a good view on this child who wanted to write with the left hand. Demoralised by the rejection of the teachers, Inoussa has skipped school for a while to avoid these “masters” who wanted to make him a right-hander at all cost.
The child has forged a character. The adult will conserve a deep determination and the will to go to the end of his ideas. After primary school, it will be high school, then the University of Ouagadougou in 2005. In the meantime, Thomas Sankara, the rebel President of “the country of upright people” is assassinated. Blaise Compaoré comes into power for 27 years of authoritarian regime. The life of the capital city is animated every two years by the FESPACO (Festival panafricain du cinéma de Ouagadougou), during which, films from the continent are projected in cinema halls of the capital.
Agricultural journalist specialised in agriculture
After his studies, Inoussa decided that he would be journalist. But it is not the work within the newsroom that makes him dream, neither the race to this information that is so institutional and congesting the pages of Burkinabè newspapers, like the whole francophone Africa. No. For him, his decision is taken; it is agriculture and the rural world that would be his field of reporting and investigation.
With the same assurance and apparent ease that the farmer harvests sorghum, Inoussa obtained his Bachelor’s degree in communication for development, followed by a Master of Research in information sciences and communication.
With these in hands, he registers for an International Master in Management of Media at the school of journalism, ESJ, in Lille, France. The programme is a distance-learning one, but it is not this factor that will discourage him, even if at the beginning of 2010, it was more time-consuming to upload an image than to drink a Brakina, the local beer. Inoussa obtained a distinction for this programme.
A Nigerian farmer invents the name of his blog, telling him “you are a Googol farmer!”
A bit later, while he was working at an audio-visual production company, Inoussa decided to start a blog dedicated to agriculture. In between power cuts, which are even more disturbing than the mosquito bites at night, the journalist publishes his articles realised with farmers or breeders in Burkina and in West Africa in general. The farmers that he interviews do not really understand for which media he is working for.
A Nigerian farmer asked him in detail on his activities. After having listened to Inoussa talking about the Internet, the web, computers, blogs and all, he finally exclaimed: “Oh, you are a Googol farmer, then!”. Googol farmer, this will now be the name of his blog.
This blog would be the visa that would enable him to travel the world. Spotted by international organisations in agricultural and rural development in Africa, he comes and relates his experiences in panels and other plenary sessions organised at the conference centres, which are more or less air-conditioned. It’s during one of these international meetings organised by CTA that I have met Inoussa in Nairobi, Kenya. Between the son of the breeder in Burkina and this Paris city dweller, the chemistry has been good.
A week of working together in Ouagadougou, some weeks after the shooting at Splendid Hotel and the restaurant Cappuccino
Since summer 2014, we are following each other from far, from “retweet” on Twitter to “likes” on Facebook, I have seen him winning awards from the OIF, FAO, CTA, Oxfam, Institut Français. And finally, I was not so surprised when Inoussa sent me an email, some months ago, to tell me that is was in the process of starting a new project. His quiet determination could not have stopped with a simple blog, not even a small audio-visual production agency that he founded. I was surprised, as well as flattered that he tells me that he thinks he might need my help in this new challenge.
The project is called Agribusiness TV and it addresses a young audience. We have just spent a week of work, giving life to Inoussa’s intuitions. In the city of Ouagadougou, still dazed from the attack of 15th January 2016, we have constructed the base of what the first viewers of Agribusiness TV will see on the screen of their mobile phone in some weeks.
A project designed for mobile phones
One of the challenges of the project, it’s to produce videos that will move from one mobile phone to another via Facebook, or exchanged by Bluetooth when the connection is not good. To my knowledge, it will be the first media from Africa, designed specifically for mobile phone.
Before that this project becomes real, there is still a lot to do. During one week, we have felt the energy of newly born projects in the red and dusty air blown by the Harmattan, giving a lunar sight of Ouagadougou. The launch of this web TV has become a kind of evidence for some ten professionals gathered by Inoussa Maïga.
Video reports in 4 African countries… to start
The project will start with journalists based in 4 countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Benin.
- Selay Marius Kouassi (multimedia journalist from Côte d’Ivoire)
- Anne Mireille Nzouankeu (Video journalist from Cameroon)
- Augustin Laourou (Video journalist from Benin)
- Moussa Traoré (Video journalist from Burkina Faso)
- Nourou-dhine Salouka (Video journalist from Burkina Faso)
- Mahamadi Ouédroago (Video journalist from Burkina Faso)
In this team, we should also add Nawsheen Hosenally. Born in the island of Mauritius, she is now based in Ouagadougou after spending some years in the Netherlands, working for CTA. Married to Inoussa Maïga in the city, she will be in charge of developing the audience of the web TV on social media and translate all the video content in English.
The challenge that Agribusiness TV faces is huge. First of all, in terms of media. Affirming its identity, and be able to catch attention on social media, where the solicitations are really high. Being able to work together as a team spread over 4 countries through collaborative tools that will have to find a way around power cuts and Internet issues. Inventing this way of addressing to youth from the continent so that they realise the challenges and opportunities that the rural world in Africa can offer them.
Africa will have to feed a population that will double by 2050
It is here that lies the main challenge for a continent that will have to feed a population that will double on the continent between 2006 and 2050. The main mission of Agribusiness TV is here. Showing that we can innovate in the agricultural and livestock sectors. Showing also that we can live well.
Inoussa Maïga knows that his nights will be short in the coming weeks. The journalist also knows why he is fighting: to make the murmur of the forest that is growing be heard, in a way to counter this touareg proverb that affirms: “We hear the noise of the trees that fall, but not the murmur of the forest that grows”.