Very few people’s names are as synonymous with success within the creative industry as Connie Ferguson. As such, it was befitting that UPIC TV centred its recent Creative Business Luncheon on her presence in an effort to inspire stakeholders in Botswana as they navigate courses toward profitability.
Ferguson, a South Africa-based native of Botswana, has worked from stride to stride to cement herself as a household name within the region and across the continent through the medium of television but has not stopped there. With a portfolio that spans literature, cosmetics, fitness and film and television production, her causality (defined as the science of cause and effect) on the dynamism of the local market is nearly impossible to deny.
The luncheon, hosted at Phakalane Golf Estate, drew an audience of practitioners from all sectors of the creative industry. While the programme of speakers leaned primarily toward those in performance and production spheres, many of the insights presented could be extrapolated to any sphere of the industry as a whole. Tebogo Mokoto, a familiar voice of local radio, facilitated the event with poise, setting the scene for what would be a no-holds barred conversation between peers, regardless of levels of experience.
On a panel titled Arts Landscape in Botswana, participants heard from Ramphal Kgabanyane of UPIC TV, Tselantle Victor of Collection by BK Proctor, Btv General Manager Joel Thuto, and Lebogang Mpofu of Top Power Pictures. Articulating Btv’s growth from being a predominantly news-focused broadcaster to a “hybrid state and public broadcaster” with entertainment offerings, Thuto mentioned that the struggling entity is still highly reliant on third party content.
Presently, Btv showcases 30 percent local content, which is half of what industry innovators, UPIC TV, boasts on their platform. UPIC TV, an imprint under Internet service provider BOFINET, opted to capitalise on the public migration to personal devices and create access points that are web-based. A cautionary tale would perhaps be that of US-based streaming platform Netflix’s recent 39 percent share value drop due to loss of subscribers. However, with a variety of cost efficient subscription packages, such as a pay-per view and P1 per episode option, the platform’s approach to market penetration and customer retention is impressive.
Moving the cursor further for local content, Lebogang Mpofu and Top Power Pictures successfully produced Botswana’s first Kalanga series, Chedza. Airing on Now! TV, it is the brainchild of Btv executives to broaden youth-focused homegrown entertainment, according to Thuto. However, asked to respond on representation of indigenous languages of Botswana in Btv’s catalogue, Thuto turned the responsibility to producers. “As a station, we do not have the money to produce but we have the space for content that is brought to us,” he said, adding that the station is open to receiving a broad range of offerings.
Ferguson, whose production company, Ferguson Films, has cornered the telenovela market in South Africa, offered disillusioning advice to disgruntled producers thus: “Without private media, there is no industry,” she said, further reminding them that the responsibility of quality control lies on their shoulders regardless of the difficulties they face.
Looking to spotlight creatives who have followed in Ferguson’s footsteps, the panel titled, Scale and Globalisation of Arts, featured actors Maxwel Dichi and Letsile Hash Moeti, as well as international award-winning entertainer, William Last KRM. The familiar bureaucracy of gaining access to a foreign market was bemoaned by the panellists. However, each expressed the necessity of leaving Botswana where avenues for profitable exposure are still limited.
While William Last KRM’s ascent to global recognisability could be likened to that of Elsa Majimbo and Italy-based, Senegalese sensation Khabane Lame, it is indubitable that location and industry placement have been the differentiating factors for these three TikTok stars’ bankability. KRM admitted that while social media is where he makes a living, “even as the most followed person in Botswana, having numbers doesn’t mean that they’re converting to coins in the bank”. Regarding how her diversified streams of income have manifested, Ferguson stated that popularity is only valuable when it is profitable. “Start treating yourself as a brand, find your demand and capitalise on it,” said the business mogul.
Entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to gift the star in a bid to associate themselves with her global brand. Upon receiving a custom made dress by Trudy Bakwena, a candle by Honeyfield Candles, a tukwi from internationally acclaimed stylist Tsholo Dikobe, and active wear by Collections by BK Proctor, an emotional Ferguson gushed, “This is love.” Capping off the festivities, Roadmasters Driving Academy opted to empower five young people of Ferguson’s choices by sponsoring their journeys to being licensed drivers.
The upward mobility of the creative industry is something that requires multiple players to motivate. However, the social phenomenon of influence was on full display and in effect at the creative business luncheon. What now remains is for the creatives of all ages to take Connie Ferguson’s sagacious advice and convert it into lasting success by emulating her.