Doing Business in Africa
Thirty years after he first set foot on the continent of Africa, John Amos feels very confident that he is ready to do business in the land of his ancestors.
�I produced and directed Grambling Takes It All Back Home some 30 years ago, and that was my first introduction to the continent,� explained Amos, who said the film featured Grambling�s band going to Liberia.
Since that first visit, Amos said he has traveled to South Africa, Liberia, the East African nations of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, as well as Uganda. �I�ve become fairly familiar with the continent,� added the actor, who has taken the American-based office for his multimedia company, Step and One Half Productions Inc., and expanded to include a small location in Uganda.
�I have a skeleton staff in Uganda that consists of three people. Their jobs vary from data collection to taking meetings with government and non-government officials. They�re in the business of acquisition of information, as well as learning who the players are in media, radio, and television. We don�t want to go in there acting like we have the panacea for whatever media problems they have. Instead we want to become conversant with the existing problems and programs,� explained Amos.
�Now we�re at the point that we are about to make three presentations in three different arenas. One project is for television, and I think it would be very attractive to tourism throughout East Africa. Second is a one-hour drama with a multicultural cast shot in Uganda, and third is a motion picture shot in Uganda,� said Amos, who is also looking to mount a stage play of a theatrical piece his company owns. �The play has undergone the dramaturgical process at Princeton University and on the West Coast in Seattle. It�s also made a brief appearance at the National Black Theater Festival.�
But Amos is not limiting his efforts to just producing work. His goal is to provide training to Africans interested in the entertainment industry that he wants to be part of building on the continent. That includes acting, behind the scenes, and behind the camera. It means production work and technical aspects as well.
�It�s taken a while to develop credibility and to be recognized by others . . . as someone sincere, capable, and organized,� added Amos about the growing process he and his production company have been involved with. Additionally, Amos, who is currently part of the cast of the television show Men In Trees said it also takes time to learn how to navigate the sometimes challenging landscape that is Mother Africa.
�You have to be very skilled, resourceful, and very cautious about who you deal with. And even when you deal with the government, you have to make sure the person you deal with is authorized to okay whatever proposal you put before them. Because even though you have done your due diligence, if you are not talking to the right people, then all that work is in vain.�
Amos said he is very confident about the future, partly because he has surrounded himself with professionals and partly because of the relationships he has established with key African officials.
�Africa can�t be the sounding board for people�s fantasies. I�ve seen that happen so many times. They get so enthused about what they want to do, but the reality of getting something accomplished there can be daunting. . . Africa is a very volatile place. You�ve got to be equality flexible to make an agenda work.�
Coupling all those things together, Amos is cautiously confident saying that within one year, his company will have one or more theatrical productions touring several venues in Eastern Africa.