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Idia Aisien steps out with The IDIA Project


Idia Aisien

Idia Aisien is a talk show host on Style 101, ARISE TV news anchor, model, actress and philanthropist who is now using her voice to power her latest project, the International Development Initiative in Africa (IDIA) Project, an initiative she hopes will change the perspectives of the world on Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

Idia Aisien is well known in the media and entertainment industry but what many don’t know about this suave TV anchor is her latest project, The IDIA Project which she is launching very soon and hopes will not only change and shape the conversations regarding Africa in the foreign media, but would also empower and give back sustainably to Africans as a whole.

At a press briefing in Lagos, she pointed out that more and more people have access to various media channels and viewer engagement online is growing rapidly, yet, the content remains negative on Africa and its people, depicting natural disasters, political instability, recession and poverty.

This she says has led to uneven representation of the groundbreaking progress made by individuals, corporations and various groups across the continent.

“The IDIA Project was birthed by the need to change the African narrative by telling stories of groups, individuals or bodies making a difference despite the odds. This would not only encourage more growth, it is our responsibility to Africa. We want to show the positive solutions being provided to tackle these issues we face and this we believe would help grow the positive focus on the African continent, highlight investment opportunities, encourage public trust in the government by showing progress made in various sectors, attract investors, partners and high-calibre talent, celebrate businesses and individuals as well as showcase strong corporate governance and risk management.”

“Most of the time, we have some people documenting the media aspect but not doing it right so what you get is a lot of negative news about Africa and Nigeria in particular.

Yes, we have problems, every country has problems but it should be about shifting the perspective and documenting things that are actually happening in the grassroots, in communities, focusing on social entrepreneurs doing great work in education, for startups, in the media and so on.

These are the aspects this project wants to portray and also the part of giving back, of impact. How can we ensure we multiply the amount of solutions that we need in our communities and actually re-write our stories to get more investors on board and help those doing great work already scale? These are the two aspects we want to focus on, the media and connecting people doing great work with investors to help them scale.

“Every time you go to the foreign media, it is always filled with bad news and always in our faces. Just as they are constantly in our faces with bad news, we need to be in their faces with positive things that are happening. What we don’t realise is that this bad news creates apathy towards the economy, investors and social initiatives being implemented everyday.

Right now, investors are running from Nigeria and Africa because of so many negative reports, they claim that Africa has potential but we aren’t ‘there’ just yet and the news emanating from Africa is bad and we want to change this narrative as there is a lot of improvement taking place but investors won’t hear that, just the bad news.

Right now, Nigeria is home to one of the economies with the fastest growing number of entrepreneurs in Africa. People are creating jobs, training other people to create jobs and so on. Various industries are growing rapidly and nobody is talking about these.

“While the first reason for starting out is to attract the right foreign investment and connecting them to the right people, the second is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

People usually want to know what you are doing to help your community around you and this was a good opportunity for us to address several needs.

We have three missions at IDIA, the first is to report, we have a handbook we are going to release soon that contains up-to-date data and information on several key things.

It’s very common in Nigeria to go to government sites and see statistics from as far back as 2011 when we are in 2018. We want to develop a 24-hour update platform that will inform people on everything that is going on, as they need it.

The second mission is to document, we want to use media to change and shape the conversation: anyone doing any amazing thing across Africa, we want to tell that story.

When I first started, we wrote 23 episodes. I didn’t know any of the people involved and had no idea how I was going to get an interview with them or if they would even let me come behind the scenes but I was prepared to go anywhere in Africa to see a person or group moving the continent forward. We currently have several finished episodes.

“Our third mission is to give back and we anchored this on poverty alleviation, empowerment and education. We have incredibly intelligent young people in Nigeria and if we give them the tools to create the kind of life they want, they can enrich this continent.

Empowerment here is all encompassing and to this end, we have partnered with a few organisations. We are targeting sustainability and not just giving them food for today as food finishes very quickly, we want to create avenues for sustainability where beneficiaries would not only be able to receive long-term aid but would also be empowered to help themselves and others, either by partnering with agencies already doing this or kick-starting it ourselves and enjoining others to join us. We are partnering with Vitafoam to provide mattresses and pillows to 150 people in a community here in Lagos.

We also want to focus on sanitation and so we are joining forces with LAWMA to initiate a cleanup process in that same community and Reckitt Benckiser to provide sanitation materials and condoms. We want to start in Nigeria before moving to other parts of Africa.”

Aisien said she was inspired to do this by her parents who always strove to help even when they didn’t have much. Lamenting the lack of information foreigners have regarding Africa, she admitted that even though it is a huge project, it is worth it.

“I am passionate about many things but I cannot know all about everything so if I see an organisation doing something I am passionate about, I can fundraise for them.” Speaking on challenges she has faced, she said many things have been challenging so far but she is not giving up.

“Many processes that ordinarily shouldn’t take more than a week can end up stretching to three months. Ordinary registration took several months, we paid all kind of dodgy fees as well, getting things done was a major challenge. The second challenge we had was people opening doors for us and getting our feets in the door. If I show the episode of where we shot at Dangote’s refinery, people would think we know each other before not knowing I had never met him till then. Before shooting that episode, we sent countless letters and mails to the group but I kept writing even though I was receiving no answer. When I finally spoke to Dangote himself, he acknowledged it was a fantastic idea but if I wasn’t persistent, I would have been discouraged after several rejections. I know a lot of people are cynical and there is so much apathy but let us give people the benefit of doubt no matter how you feel.”

She also mentioned funding as another major challenge. “No matter your budget, it would be inflated because of the unpredictable nature of our country and just little incompetence all around. You budget N20, 000 for a particular thing but before you know it, you are spending double that amount without even finishing the project.

My personal funds were fast running out and I reac hed out to family and friends who I didn’t even know were interested all the while.” Aisien adds that she is now using crowdsourcing avenues to source funds from all over the world to support and expand the project as much as possible.

According to the actress, while she briefly flirted with showing on Netflix, they would air on YouTube monthly.

“We have 13 episodes in all and one would air every month and a bonus episode to encompass all we have showed throughout the year. It is supposed to be a 10-year project but we would measure it after the first two years to see how successful it is,” she said.

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