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Kenyan soap operas to reach African audience

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A determined businesswoman hopes that her company’s production of a Kenyan soap opera will help position Kenya as a global television producer.
Kenyan soap operas to reach African audience
Frustrated with the amount of foreign television imports, Alison Ngibuini has devised a plan to focus her country’s attention on itself through the production of a Kenyan soap opera, Mali ("wealth" in Swahili). This will be Kenya’s first soap opera filmed in a studio, and will focus on the consequences that result when the patriarch of a family dies and various heirs begin to show up. "At the back of my mind I've always been really upset with the amount of Mexican and foreign television on our screens,” Ngibuini said. "I sort of thought, you know, what is it, why are you trying to tell us - as broadcasters - that Kenyans don't want to see Kenyans on the screen, that we are so razzmatazzed by the Mexicans, the Spanish, the Nigerians, that we really don't have our own to showcase on the screen?" Through “Mali”, Ngibuini hopes to tell a truly African story that will resonate most with the people of Africa, tackling the most prevalent issues that the continent faces. "I came from a very polygamous family. My grandfather had like 11 to 12 wives. My own father had two. I also grew up in a very dynamic household," she said. In fact, this won’t be the first time that Ngibuini attacks social issues. She was previously involved in the production of BBC Show University Challenge, the Zain Africa Challenge, and also produced the drama series Siri, which dealt with issues such as HIV. "Most of my dramas have been a lot on HIV. I think when I meet people and people want to confide and say, 'Look, how do I reveal to my husband that I'm HIV positive? I saw it on your show', that for me is just so uplifting, that I'm able to change people's lives. You know, it's beautiful,” Ngibuini said. Aside from her hopes to produce something that the African people can relate to, Ngibuini also has high hopes that the show will help to position Kenya as a growing television producer. "I try to do my bit because I can't be alone up there. It's about an industry. It's bigger than Alison,” she said. "It's about creating jobs. It's about everybody benefiting. It's a space that hasn't been tapped. It's got such a great potential." Hailing from an advertising background, Ngibuini launched All Is On Productions in 2003. Since then, the company has grown immensely, currently employing 22 full-time employees as well as many freelancers. "I started off working as an assistant in an ad agency. At the time we were just doing TV commercials and I thought 'I want to go into this a bit more,'" she said. Although her Nairobi-based company still makes commercials as a way of increasing revenue, Ngibuini’s true passion continues to be the creation of local television programs. "It's hard but you've just got to have the resilience of focusing on what it is that you want and getting it, and I'm that sort of a person. When I focus on something I get it," she said.

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