Nils Elzinga

June 1, 2021

PART 1 of 4


Arthur Nkusi is one of the most successful comedians of Rwanda. He also hosts a radio show and is the creative director of a communications agency. On Instagram, Nkusi boasts some 425 thousand followers (and counting); it’s fair to say that he’s famous throughout east Africa.

Nkusi represents a side of what was once called the Third World that Western people still seldom see, numbed as they are by decades of being fed images of anomalies like famines, wars and children with hunger bellies. It’s a side that’s young and well-educated, plugged into the internet, and tired of being portrayed as victims in need of Western aid.

All this made Nkusi a perfect candidate for an innovative project that Makmende Media is doing for Yalta (Youth in Agroecology and Business Learning Track Africa). Yalta, aiming to connect East African youth with the possibilities of ecological agriculture, asked Makmende to produce an engaging communications campaign. And since the target audiences was young people in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, Makmende proposed letting local celebrities like Nkusi present the video content that’s the backbone of the campaign. That content could then be shared not only by Yalta, but also by the presenters themselves, who after all have larger followings on social media in their home countries than any development organization. 

“Normally, the creative process is mapped out over here, and then the plan is just executed over there”, says Baukje Kleinbekman, Marketing & Communications Manager at the Netherlands Food Partnership, Yalta’s mother organization. “But this time, we relied on the knowledge and expertise of our presenters. In Rwanda, Arthur came up with the angle ‘making agriculture sexy again.’ His humourful creativity produced very different videos than say in Uganda, where the presenter was a famous food blogger. The presenters were absolutely leading in the content creation.”   

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“The videos we made are raw and real”, adds Arthur Nkusi. “My followers keep asking me to share more of them. They particularly liked the video with Dominic, this young farmer who explains he makes more money doing what he calls ‘dirty business’ – growing worms to be precise – than doing ‘smart business’ in the city. Even though he has a university degree in engineering.”

“Working with Makmende was cool”, Nkusi continues. “Their team always left space for my creativity, and always wanted to know how better to execute the concepts we created together.” In effect, real co-creation could take place. Nkusi: “I mean, agroecology was all new to me, too. I got exposed to a whole new world myself.”  

“For us, the question is always: how can we move beyond the idea of us and them, and into the space of actual human connection?”, says Giselle Micollo, Creative Director at Makmende Media. “We aspire to be inspired by all media makers who participate in our productions, here and there, instead of being the top-down employers. That way, working together becomes so much more interesting.” Baukje Kleinbekman agrees: “Those stereotypical sad stories about Africa are terribly outdated. I really don’t understand why they keep being produced.”

“There are incredible amounts of talent out there”, Micollo continues. “We’ve been working with film crews worldwide for years, and currently we are actively broadening our network with influencers, art directors, presenters, actors, costume designers, voice-over artists and so on wherever we can find them. I mean, a film about Kenya should have a voice-over with a Kenyan accent, not a British one. Right?” 

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