The Africa Channel

Dr. Mike Okeke with Ambassador Andrew Young during his On-Location television coverage of the Africa Channel introduction at the Georgia State University Student Center.

It was a delightful evening on Monday, June 6, 2005, at the Georgia State University Student Center as hundreds of dignitaries gathered from Hollywood, California, Washington, DC, New York State, Europe, Africa and other parts of the globe, to witness the historic introduction of The Africa Channel on U.S. Cable television. Present on the scene to capture the memorable event, was the host and executive producer of the pioneer television show African Treasures, Dr. Mike Okeke and his television crew. As the reception went on in the adjacent banquet room, Dr. Mike Okeke had his on-location television studio set up at a corner in the lounge area of the GSU Student Center, where he respectively, interviewed the founders and board members of The Africa Channel.

Dr. Okeke congratulated the Chairman of the channel’s board, Ambassador Andrew Young for such an innovative move in providing a window to Africa for the American audience. “What we get from Africa is only the bad news from Darfur, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, etc” said Ambassador Young. “The cable news channels in the United States tell the same horror story over and over, but there are so many exciting things going on in Africa” added the Ambassador.

Dr. Okeke nodded his head in total agreement. “This is the message I have been trying to get across to the American audience consistently for more than three (3) consecutive years now on my weekly television show - African Treasures” said Dr. Okeke. The African Treasures TV Show airs in Atlanta on the AIB Network cable channel 5 at 8:00 a.m on Saturdays and 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. It can also be viewed from any where in the world 24/7, simply by logging on to the website: Once you log on, click on the button captioned “TV Show”. It will open up to about 45 different episodes aired thus far. Click on any topic of your choice and enjoy Africa.

Ambassador Young recently returned from Rwanda, where he said a new constitution dictates that a percentage of candidates who lose elections be seated anyway in Parliament, where 30% of the members are women. In Nigeria, he said, “traditional medicine doctors are getting very interesting results in AIDS treatment - such stories will grab people’s curiosity on The Africa Channel”.

Ambassador Young stressed that The Africa Channel will not be aimed solely at the African American market but at viewers who are already watching A & E and the History, Discovery, Travel and National Geographic channels.

In Africa, traditional medicine doctors are getting very interesting results in AIDS treatment.” The channel’s major investors and Advisory Board members include two players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Dekembe Mutombo and Theo Ratliff. Included also, is a prominent South African businessman and activist, Moss Mashishi. “Marketing and promotion will be limited by cost. We’re counting on the grapevine to popularize this channel. Eventually, we’re looking at building a communication bridge between Africa and the U.S.,” said Ambassador Young. The Africa Channel had concluded a partnership Agreement with Ambassador Young and his Atlanta-based firm, Goodworks International, LLC (GWI). Ambassador Young serves as The Africa Channel’s senior spokesperson and chairs the company’s Advisory Board. GWI assist The Africa Channel in developing key corporate sponsorship and distribution relationships, provide political and business counsel in Africa and help promote the channel in the U.S.

Dr Mike Okeke & Mr. Jacob Arback, who is the President and Co-Founder of the Africa Channel.

Please don’t forget to include and involve in your programming, the many talented Africans living here in the U.S.

The CEO and co-founder of The Africa Channel, Mr. James Makawa, from Zimbabwe, was on-location at the GSU Student Center to chat with Dr. Okeke. “When this channel goes on the air, Africa will no longer be known as the dark continent,” declared Mr. Makawa, who worked for NBC News as a correspondent in New York and Chicago and in 2000, helped start the African Broadcast Network, a pan-African network of television stations with affiliates in 18 countries in sub-Sahara Africa.

“We’re not saying there are not negative things,” noted Mr. Makawa, whose family fled to the United States in 1977, during the Rhodesian war. Despite predominant images of genocide, famine and disease in some African nations, he said, interest in Africa remains enormous. “Historically, if there had not been interest in the place, the colonial powers would not have plundered it or built the empires that they did,” Mr. Makawa said. Modern-day Africans say it’s different now. They want to be heard and they want to participate in the global economy, but they can’t participate if people don’t know who they are.

Dr. Okeke brought to the attention of Mr. Makawa, the importance of including and involving many talented Africans living in the United States, in the programming that will be featured on The Africa Channel. “I am saying this because the BET Channel had consistently ignored our presence since it’s inception in the early 1980s, despite the fact that there are about 5 million of us (Africans) living in the United States. Our children born in this country are not included in this number,” said Dr. Okeke.

Dr. Okeke and Mr. Makawa both agreed on the importance of opening up a daily window into modern day Africa and into African life, which exactly is what Dr. Okeke has been doing with his weekly television show, African Treasures for over 3 years now and hopes that Mr. Makawa’s Africa Channel will take to a higher level and open up bigger windows. “Many in the African American community are frustrated with the limited programming choices targeted to their demographic. They want programming that connects with their lives, tradition and heritage; programming that is compelling, intelligent, relevant and overall entertaining. As a whole, American audience will now have an intelligent, entertaining and information window into the richness and promise of modern day Africa” added Mr. Makawa.

Mr. Jacob Arback, President and also one of the co-founders of The Africa Channel, was on-location to chat with Dr. Okeke. “We’re personally invested in really transforming the way people think of Africa,” said Mr. Arback, a former vice president at DirectTV International with over 20 years of international business, media experience and special expertise in global satellite. Mr. Arback and his colleagues have secured the rights to 1,200 hours of movies, music and reality and variety shows that have already been broadcast in various African countries, primarily South Africa. Some features, including a daily current-event program, “Africa Today,” will be produced specially for the 24-hour channel. “Whether they perceive it as a land of barbarous political extremes or as a stunning setting for tracking wildlife, Americans have long tended to reduce the vast continent to a list of clichés,” noted Mr. Arback.

“With the start of The Africa Channel later this year on cable television in the United States, we hope to demystify the continent of Africa for American audiences,” declared Mr. Arback. Dr. Okeke reminded Mr. Arback not to forget to involve the many talented Africans living in the United States in programming shows for The Africa Channel. “In my 27 years of living in this country, I have noticed that we Africans here are treated as if we don’t even exist, despite the fact that most of us are U.S. Citizens. I want to see that change,” said Dr. Okeke. Dr. Okeke had a chat on-location with Mr. Mark Walton, who is the Executive Vice President of Sponsorship & Corporate Development for The Africa Channel. “We plan to bring a host of new sponsors to the medium of television that previously have not been able to afford broadcast or cable airtime in the U.S.,” said Mr. Walton, who is American and married to a lady from the country of Gambia, in West Africa. Dr. Okeke congratulated Mr. Walton for going to Motherland Africa to get a wife and added “I love to see more African American men go to Africa to take a wife.” Before the memorable event came to an end, Dr. Okeke had a chat with Mr. Dennis Pemberton, Jr., who is the CEO of his Atlanta-based Global Asset Alternatives, LLC. Mr. Pemberton stated that his company is in the business of providing investment advisory services for his clients which include The Africa Channel.

At the conclusion of Dr. Okeke’s interview with the various officials of The Africa Channel, he took some time out to review the events of the spectacular evening with his protégé/assistant, Chrislen Okoma, who is a full time student at Clark Atlanta University, majoring in Mass Media with concentration in Broadcasting. Born in the U.S. to her Nigerian parents, (Alex & Cecilia Okoma), the Nigerian-American Chrislen, works with Dr. Okeke in the reporting and coverage of events for the Metro Ebony Pages magazine and also works behind the scene on the African Treasures TV Show.

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