IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON FEMALE BUSINESS OWNERS IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
The pandemic has caused a lot of setbacks on people’s lives and livelihoods, and in The Gambia, the entertainment industry is no exemption, as female nightclub and dance company owners also experienced significant downturns in their businesses.
These ladies have been sharing their views, experiences, anxieties, and psychological torment the pandemic has caused them for 15 months.
Haddijatou Mbowe, CEO of Ice Lounge, a nightclub located at Senegambia, shared her experience and ways the pandemic has affected her business.
“The pandemic has affected my business in so many ways. First of all, we went on lockdown for seven months, causing anxiety with no idea on when it’s going to end. And that was more than half of the business year without knowledge on when we are resuming work,” she said.
When the restrictions were announced, Mbowe’s nightclub was only three months in operation, a rather unfortunate start for her business.
“Financially, it was devastating because we didn’t receive any financial support to assist ourselves and families and also health wise, like how it could affect people. So we just had to stay back home and listen to the authorities because Covid is something that has never happened before,” Mbowe added.
“And for my staff, it affected them just like it did to me because at that point in time, no one was willing to risk their lives in finding a new job, so we all just sat at home and hoped for the best.”
She lamented that there have not been any plans of recovery in her business, as the government didn’t provide them with support.
“The little money I saved from the club I managed to set up a beauty salon which was my source of income during the pandemic,” she revealed.
Ndey Fatou Jabang, owner of Flexfuzion entertainment which is a dance company, was in a similar predicament as Mbowe. She too didn’t mince her words in narrating how devastating the pandemic was on her business.
“It put a halt to our rehearsals. We tried to connect through online platforms but even with that, it was challenging as a result of poor internet connection. As we are aware in The Gambia, the cost for internet data is expensive, and some of the dancers couldn’t afford it. The issue of electricity to charge our gadgets to conduct training sessions virtually was also a challenge for the business,” she said.
She said musicians not coming to get dancers was also a loss since the two work together.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, very few artistes approached to hire dancers for their music videos. It was until after six months of the pandemic when we started receiving contracts from them. But the first months of the pandemic was a pause.”
The recovery plan for them, she said, is basically “the number of shows we lined up; we have number of live shows that we are currently working on.”
Asked if the government has provided them with any financial support, she replied: “Realistically, they haven’t. We know about the relief package from the government but how it was distributed not everyone in the industry gained from it. My company was among those that benefitted but I could say it wasn’t sufficient because the groups received D10,000 and individuals received D5,000. Now if you look at the group of 15 to 20 people or more and divide the D10,000 among them, you end up getting nothing.”
Speaking to a female artiste, Miss Jobiz, who said five of her music videos were not allowed to be shot due to restrictions. She said that was so disappointing but “to keep myself and those around me safe from Covid was a priority”.
“It also affected my live band performance at restaurants and hotels which I used to do every day. I play like three times a day but with Covid, I had to sit at home and do less.
So, what I did was try connecting with my fans through Instagram live, where I do entertain them with my music.
“And financially, it was stressful because I was just spending and nothing was coming in during that period.”
Miss Jobiz, Haddijatou and Ndey Fatou are among dozens of female business owners in the entertainment industry devastated by the pandemic. And as things stand, the recovery process is as painful as the pandemic itself.
Speaking to the Director for National Centre of Arts and Culture, Mr Hassoum Ceesay who explained that the government has provided financial aids to those in the entertainment industry, also adding that the NCAC has also independently given money to these people whom he disclosed that most were female.
He further said of recent they signed a project with the music union called Unesco-Ecowas common cultural response to Covid-19.
“The project aims to support arts and cultural creators in the production and dissemination of relevant information to fight the virus and the vaccine hesitancy,” Ceesay said.
“This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through its Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with Mai-Media and (Standard)”
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Jizzle’s manager, Abou Busso, wrote on his Facebook page about the event: “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal…”
He continued: “Let’s do it together on June 26th with fire and hundred percent sign! Jizzle and Viviane live in QCity!”
The duo has done a collabo and it will be shared with people on stage for the first time at the launch concert.
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The Gambian actress also reacted to her husband’s ex-wife, Tonto Dikeh’s social media post where she wrote “Going back to your ex is like going back to your vomit”.
Rosy has taken to her Instagram story to share a post that reads: “We dey recycle ourselves. Only few be tear rubber, I chop your own, you chop another. Live.”
Reacting to Rosy’s obvious shade to Tonto Dikeh, Nollywood actress Goldie advised her to give the “the childish game” a rest and focus on her husband and son.
Goldie wrote: “I swear if I just got married and was happy you would not see my brake lights for a long time