21 May 2012

Africa: Rwanda Judged 'Too French' to Compete in Big Brother Africa

Photo: Big Brother
Kenyan Housemate Prezzo

There might be so many TV-shows showing in East Africa but only one is being talked about in almost the entire region.

The Big Brother Africa (BBA) reality show is back with Season seven, dubbed, The Star Game. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania each have representatives again as has been the case since the first season, but it remains a no-show for Rwanda even though many people here like the show.

Kenya has three representatives including rapper Prezzo while Tanzania has two, Julio and Hilda.

Uganda's envoys, Kyle and Jannatte, were not well received by their own when they were unveiled with many saying they lacked 'swag.' But for lack of an option, viewers have learnt to love them and hoping they would win the grand prize of USD$ 300,000.

But if choosy Ugandans don't want to support Kyle, he could turn to Rwanda where his mother hails from. Fortunately for him, no Rwandan is among the candidates in this show, broadcast on DSTV, which is a regular topic of discussion in many a household. As the football season draws to an end, many turn to the game which ends exactly when the football season resumes, but Rwandan TV fans will have to turn to RTV and make do with local soaps.

"You are the journalist, maybe you know why Rwanda doesn't take part in the show," wondered Teta, a fan of the show who first viewed it while visiting her aunt in Uganda.

There could be many who have heard about the Big Brother game but there's equally a huge number who have no idea what the thing is and this includes a receptionist at Tele-10, owners of the Multi-Choice representatives in Rwanda and dealers of DStv which screens the BBA. The innocent and genuinely surprised girl asked what BBA was and for one who had gone to ask questions, I ended up giving answers.

In summary, the Big Brother game is a reality show where organizers, Multi-Choice South Africa, select participants from over 12 countries in Africa based on certain criteria. Successful representatives from each country are then confined into a house fitted with everything (drinks, food and all) for 90 days without contacting the outside world. One only leaves the house when evicted, which happens every week until there's only one member remaining, who then wins the prize.

"The point is for housemates to strategize and emerge last from the house in order to win the grand prize," explained Tina Wamala, Multi-Choice Uganda public relations officer.

Once in the house, CCTV records every single act of the housemates including having sex, something which has raised controversy in the past with critics calling the show obscene. Ethiopia even withdrew from the show saying it endangered their culture.

It's however a clash of cultures in the house with over 30 delegates from various countries. These drink, take on team tasks, and cook their own food and all. Its up-to individuals to choose how to represent their own countries based on how they behave in the game.

Character and personality are on the spot here. Each week, up to three housemates are nominated for possible eviction and one has to be cool to everyone to survive eviction which means you lose the chance to win the grand prize which increases every year. It started as US$ 100,000 now its US$ 300,000 for the winner.

The BBA game might not be an important matter for Rwanda (or any other country), but for the fun of it, Rwandans would enjoy to watch how their own culture blends with others. It would also kind of market the country to the outside world, and maybe even bring in tourists from the continent.

However, Kris Kabacira, Tele-10 sales and marketing manager, says Rwanda is still regarded as a French-speaking country despite having adopted English several years ago. In fact it's for the same reason Mozambique was disqualified from the game because it's a Portuguese speaking country.

This could be a bit harsh on most Rwandan youth who the show mainly targets as they know English, at least enough to follow the game. And this year's season is even special as the Uganda male representative, Kyle, is half Ugandan, half Rwandan.

But Kabacira says language is not the only obstacle between Rwandans and the Big Brother show. "Multi-Choice also considers sales and subscription numbers in a country which Rwanda doesn't have compared to the others such as Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania," noted Kabacira.

The numbers indicate there are only slightly over 8,000 Dstv subscribers in Rwanda, and most of them are corporate subscribers such as hotels, banks, major offices and expatriates. Dstv, is indeed still viewed as a high-end product, which is the reason why Star Time was able to woo so many currently boasting of over 45000 subscribers.

Whilst Ethiopia withdrew from the show for cultural reasons, most Rwandan youth might relish the year they will have their first contestant in the house. "We are trying to engage multi-choice and once they are certified with the market here to boast the game's rating, then Rwanda will surely participate in future seasons," reassured Kabacira.

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