WHEN the Kora Awards were introduced in 1996 in Johannesburg, many in Africa were excited to have a continent-wide event that was going to equal the American Grammys or the BRIT Awards in the United Kingdom. And it did seem that way for a while. Each event was well organised and brought prominent musicians from across the continent and even prominent Africans from the Diaspora. At some point, late South African President Nelson Mandela was the guest at the awards ceremony.
The brainchild of one Ernest Adjovi, the Kora Awards were meant to award critical acclaim to the best music artistes by region. The formula was very simple. The categories were called “the best” female, male, group, etc. by region. It seemed to work for a while with more southern African categories and mainly South African winners. The second most prominent winners were the West Africans, where Adjovi hails from. Zambian music artistes such as JK, Shatel, Marsha Moyo, Maureen Lilanda and Maiko Zulu appeared in the southern African category but not one Zambian won. Other than what was termed a mistake when Maiko Zulu (then Saint Michael) “won” an award, Zambia has never won a Kora Award. The Kora Awards marched on for 10 years as they were hosted in South Africa until 2005 when they came to a screeching halt! It is not clear what happened, but the founder mentioned in some media release that the Kora Awards were undergoing reorganisation. The next time we heard of the Kora Awards was in 2010 when the base had now moved to Burkina Faso. The Kora Awards fell silent again for another two years until 2012 when we heard about them. The founder, Ernest Adjovi, has been involved in a number of controversies and this has not helped the Kora Awards. In 2011, he was detained by the Nigerian Police Force on allegations that he defrauded three Nigerian bodies. In 2008, he was alleged to have accepted US$2.5 million for the 2008 Awards to be hosted by the Cross River State Government. He later allegedly struck an agreement with the Lagos State Government for US$7.5 million but the awards were not staged until 2010 in Burkina Faso. At those awards, brothers P-Square were named Artiste-of-the-Year and were awarded a cash prize of US$1 million but the prize was not forthcoming. The 2015 awards were to be held on December 13 in Namibia and a launch event was held in that country in May 2015. They were postponed to March 2016 and Adjovi was paid N$23.5 million. The awards did not take place and the whereabouts of Adjovi are unknown. Namibia is trying to recover the money. According to The Namibian of September 2, 2021, the case was settled in court as follows:“The judgement in a case in which the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) is suing African music awards promoter Ernest Adjovi’s company Mundial Telecom SARL for N$23 million, following a botched plan to stage the 2016 All-Africa Kora Music Awards in Namibia, is due to be delivered in the Windhoek High Court in December. “The hearing of the case was concluded before Judge Herman Oosthuizen, when the judge heard closing arguments in the matter from the tourism board’s legal counsel Thabang Phatela and fellow lawyer James Diedericks, representing Mundial Telecom. “Oosthuizen said at the end of the hearing he would hand down his judgment on 9 December, but if his decision is ready earlier it would be delivered before then. “Before reserving his judgment, Oosthuizen commented that he found it disturbing that there appeared to have been a lack of seriousness in the handling of public funds when money was paid to Mundial Telecom without the company having been required to provide any security first. “The NTB is suing Adjovi’s company for US$1.5 million in connection with payments then totalling N$23.5 million which the NTB made to Mundial Telecom in December 2015, January 2016 and February 2016, before the company was due to stage the All-Africa Kora Music Awards in Namibia in March 2016. “In terms of an agreement concluded between the NTB and Mundial Telecom on 4 December 2015, the company undertook to promote Namibia as a tourism destination through television clips which were to be shown in African countries participating in the Kora Music Awards. “The agreement also had a clause stating that Mundial Telecom was to repay the US$1.5 million it was to receive from the NTB for the Namibian tourism promotional campaign within 60 days if the awards ceremony did not take place in Namibia. “The NTB is claiming that after the awards show was not staged as touted by Adjovi and Mundial Telecom, the company failed to repay the money and used the funds it had received from the NTB for purposes other than those intended and agreed to by the company and the tourism board. “Phatela remarked during his address to the court that the case ‘concerns one of the most far-reaching abuses of a Namibian public entity by a foreign company in its quest to gain access to public funds’. “He noted that, since Adjovi did not testify during the hearing of the case and no other witnesses gave evidence on behalf of his company, the only version before the court is that of the NTB, whose chief executive officer, Digu Naobeb, testified. “Phatela argued that, according to Naobeb’s testimony, Adjovi at all times gave assurances that the awards ceremony was going to take place. “There were no lawful grounds for Mundial Telecom to cancel its agreement with the NTB, and the company must refund the money it received from the tourism parastatal, Phatela argued. “Diedericks argued that Mundial Telecom’s obligation to stage the Kora Music Awards in Namibia in March 2016 was owed to the government, and not to the NTB. Without any obligation to the NTB, there could not be a breach of an obligation by the company either, he added. “Diedericks argued further that in fact the NTB breached its agreement with Mundial Telecom, since it did not pay US$1.5 million for a tourism promotional package to the company by 10 December 2015 as agreed, but made the payments after that deadline. “With the payment deadline not met, Mundial Telecom was relieved of the obligation to host the awards event in Namibia, he said. “’The NTB is 100 percent responsible for where it is’, Diedericks remarked.” At the time of writing this article I have no record of the final judgment on the matter. With the 10-year absence and the frequent legal troubles of the founder of the Kora Awards, Ernest Adjovi, will they ever be held again? Send your comments to email@example.com