Many stories have been told of how different people met their soul mates, but Serwaa Kobi Hemaa Osisiadan Bekoe’s story struck me as one of the most dramatic. The Ghanaian television presenter, producer and business entrepreneur is married to producer of Peace FM’s ‘Kokrokoo’ radio programme and Acting News Editor of UTV, Mr. Emmanuel Bekoe.
The couple had their date with destiny when Serwaa went to meet Kwame Sefa Kayi for some business discussion. Her husband-to-be then, who is the producer of Kwame Sefa Kayi, met and ushered her into Sefa Kayi’s office, but decided to hang around like any trusted and dedicated producer would do. Serwaa felt his presence was an intrusion and asked Mr. Bekoe to leave so she could hold private discussions with her host. After telling Kwame Sefa Kayi the reason for her visit, he jokingly said to her “you shouldn’t have sent that man away. He’s like my diary…I depend on him for all the information I need.” Before long, Serwaa’s husband-to-be was asked to join them and he rattled on with the information Serwaa needed off the top of his head. After over a year in their marriage, the presenter and producer of ‘Ghana’s Pride’, reminisced this bizarre experience when I asked her how she met her better half during our interview. Serwaa revealed that she still depended on her husband’s expertise anytime she hit the wall in her job as independent producer.
Contrary to the believe that television producers can only come from media institutions, producers like Serwaa have proven that with the right level of interest and entrepreneurial skills, individuals who are willing to learn on the job and put in a lot of hard work can equally excel. The television presenter and producer is a product of St. Louis Teacher Training College, and was a Mathematics and Science teacher at New Gbawe B.A. J.S.S. After four years of teaching, she enrolled into Regent University to do a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and started her first television programme ‘Ghana’s Pride’ while doing her first degree. In the face of academic pressures, she still managed to produce ‘Ghana’s Pride’, which has clocked over two hundred episodes within a period of six years. Her second television programme, ‘Oheema Dwaso’, which went in recess when she took time off to deliver her baby, had been on GTV for two years.
Explaining how she was able to sustain her programmes on television, the producer and presenter disclosed that the greatest challenge for the independent television producer was the uncertain nature of payments by sponsors and the likelihood of broadcasters to demand upfront payments from producers. With some major broadcasters demanding upfront payments of over GHS 2,800.00 before airing begins and a total of GHS 38,500.00 for 13 weeks of airing programmes, only producers with guts can afford to keep their programmes on television.
Talking about her two programmes ‘Ghana Pride’ and ‘Ohemaa Dwaso’, which aim to showcase and market Ghanaian products and also address trade and industry challenges, she said “Ghana’s Pride was initially created to advertise only Ghanaian products. It was interesting because a lot of Ghanaian manufacturers did not seem to know the essence of advertising so it was difficult getting them on board. Some of them who knew the importance of advertising felt it was expensive and so you had a difficult time convincing them to come on board, but once they came on board they were happy because many people would go to their shops to buy items.
But a time came when many of the people who advertised were not willing to pay the required advertising fee…some of them also wanted their products on air for free. Within this same period, I had clients who sold other products that were not necessarily made in Ghana…they kept calling me to have their products on the programme so at a point I had no choice than to open up the programme to all products and services within Ghana”. Summing up the challenges of the independent producer, Serwaa solemnly said “sometimes you want to put a lot of good stuff on television, but then it doesn’t pay. Rather if you want to bring out the easy-going programmes you’ll get sponsorship. Also, sometimes your programme is taken off air and you’re not informed”. She suggests that the way forward maybe for independent producers to come together to negotiate arbitrary increment of airtime and other relevant issues confronting struggling independent producers in the industry.
When I asked why she was passionate about producing programmes that promoted Ghanaian products, she responded “I have a passion for Ghanaian products, and believe that I’m a true African woman…I always want to be in a cloth and have my beads on me. So I thought that if I was going on television then it would be an opportunity to promote the local Ghanaian industry. Before I started ‘Ghana’s Pride’, I’d done a bit of research which showed that many of our local businesses considered advertising as a cost rather than something that was essential to the growth of their businesses. This made me want to do the programmes that market made in Ghana products and services.”
There are hundreds and possibly thousands of reasons for which producers create programmes for television. Whiles some producers would create a programme to address challenges in our society; others are contracted by sponsors who have specific interests to promote. Serwaa’s new programme ‘Exclusive to Cancer’, which is due to air on Multitv, focuses on cancer and the need for individuals to seek early help. “Exclusive to Cancer is a health programme. It will only discuss issues relating to cancer. My research has made it clear that currently, a lot of people are dying from cancer and I think it was about time that I educated people about the dangers of cancer. I recently lost my elder sister after prolonged period of suffering from cancer, and I feel there are many ways of celebrating the life of the people we love. So if a loved one dies from cancer, I find it necessary to educate others in order to save lives”, she revealed. She further said the situation in Ghana was alarming because many cases of cancer were normally discovered in the third stage which only offered a fifty percent chance of survival upon treatment.
Recalling the role her sister had played in her life, she revealed “she was the first born and a role model and we were all proud of her because she played an important role in everyone’s development. I quite remember that even because of her, after training college when I was posted to Accra, I decided to go to Apam which is a rural area. My reason was that my sister would always buy something for you when she bought one for herself. She always wanted to do things for you, and I wanted to be on my own. So in order to believe that I could start something for myself, I had to stay far from home.”
Serwaa, who pursued her master’s degree in Corporate Affairs at the Maastricht School of Management (MSM) in the Nederlands, is an entrepreneur. Although she has been producing programmes for television for a long time, she considers her production job as a hobby. “Apart from producing, I’m also an event organiser and have organised a number of successful events such as Brong Ahafo at 50, St Louis College at 50 and have also contributed to many other events. As a woman with a passion for African products, I have a brand name and boutique called African Palace. We do design costume, shoes and sandals and everything with an African touch. Apart from being the presenter of my programmes, I’m also Executive Director of Scenic Multimedia which specialises in multimedia production and publishing”, she disclosed.
Concluding our interview, the presenter and producer disclosed that life has been good even after delivering her baby, and that her husband helps to make the burden of professional work easier.