Rwandans were beaming with pride as one of their own won the Tusker Project Fame competition; our boy Alpha was the favourite expected to win and he didn’t disappoint. This show made me realise that TV can unite a nation in purpose and patriotism, all the talk around town was about the show, even non-fans were being pestered to vote on the show.
I eventually succumbed to the pressure and voted twice.
Even though most Kigali residents do not own TV’s, neighbours opened their doors to let others watch and the bars turned off the football to show it.
It was watched in total silence and even though the majority of Rwandans watching didn’t speak fluent English, they could still pick up enough to understand.
When he won, they all jumped with joy; all were happy because one of their own had taken the challenge to the region and won.
For Rwanda, it was the final confirmation that we are now East Africans because, for so long, we sat on the fringes of the region barely making waves.
Ironically, a show like this does more to promote the profile of Rwanda than we give it credit for. The medium of TV is uniting Africans psychologically in a way that Nkrumah and Pan-Africanists could only dream of.
Shows like Big Brother Africa, Pop Idol Africa, Deal or no Deal and Tusker Fame Project show that television can be a unifying medium.
Being a visual medium, television can teach, communicate, interact, persuade, cajole and sway the heart in ways that radio simply cannot.
The one thing that truly brings Americans together nationally is TV; during the 50’s it was the only medium that could unite a country 5,000km wide.
So today, it is the TV networks that call the election results long before the Electoral College.
There is a downside to TV, like any medium, it depends on what you use it for but it is undoubtedly powerful.
In today’s modern media, the Internet is taking precedence but don’t write off television.
It is primed to take the place of radio as the main medium of the masses because of the small screens now available that are comparable to little transistor radios of old in price.
Africa has an estimated 25 million TV sets, but that doesn’t tell the full story. We have around 150 million daily viewers, so it’s six Africans to a TV set.
TV’s have to be made available and affordable, it is the only way to spread aspiration among the masses, and develop a regional market that can produce and promote mass-consumption.
TV opens avenues into other careers, like for Alpha; he has got regional coverage, he has won a tidy sum of money that can set him up in business for life and we should smile for him.
We need moments like that one on Sunday, sometimes it is momentous moments that bind us, and sometimes it is relatively trivial moments, but what matters is that we shared a moment of unity.
The author is a social commentator and regular contributor