Nigerian-born and US-educated, Alex Okosi is responsible for driving the growth and development of Viacom International Media Networks’ Africa portfolio of iconic kids, youth, music, comedy and general entertainment brands on the African continent. He tells Homecoming Revolution why he decided to return back to the continent after spending a number of years abroad.
I am the last of 7 children and I remember one day sitting with my mother in the kitchen in Nigeria and she said to me ‘you see how all your brothers have come back, please my son come back’. Reflecting in terms of what motivated me to come back home, that sticks in my mind the most.
I convinced my parents to let me travel to the US to see my brothers. My eldest brother couldn’t go as he couldn’t get a visa and I remember as 12-year-old him pulling me into a room and saying ‘This is your chance to get an American education, find a way to stay.’ Telling my mom I wanted to stay in the USA wasn’t easy. I got an athletic scholarship at a very good school, graduated, did well academically and started working for MTV in New York. At the time, I was an international student and the only way to stay in school was to ensure your education was paid for.
MTV said they would sponsor me if I did well. Three months into my work, they told me they would sponsor me for a working visa but my mom’s words still stuck with me – and I wanted to do something different. I love being an African and I always wanted to find a way to showcase a reimagined Africa to the world. So I started thinking of ways I could convince MTV to launch an Africa business.
My lucky break came three years later. I had lunch with our CEO and that lunch turned into my pitch to launch a global business. A year later I convinced him to move me to our business strategy team in London and from there I grew a business plan for Africa. In 2004, I finally convinced Viacom to invest a little money to launch an MTV business in Africa.
We needed to make sure the channels reflected the incredible, passionate and talented youth culture which really wasn’t easy but the talent was immense which was inspiring and drove mine and my team’s passion. Across our business we try showcase Africa and through this people all over the world get to see young Africans really creating great music, which in turn changes perception of continent.
It is hard work and starting a business in Africa isn’t easy but the reality is this isn’t even the time to come back, it’s too late – you have to come back now because the opportunities are immense. Why would Africans not want to be a part of these exciting opportunities?