With Channel O awards gone, artistes that invest millions in music videos now have the MTV MAMAs – which can only accommodate a few African acts – the BET awards and MTV EMAs which have all carried a sole slot for Best International Act, Africa.

On Sunday, the BET awards celebrated artistes, and Eddy Kenzo was the lucky winner of the newly-developed category of the International Viewer’s Choice New Artiste, which was announced almost two weeks to the gala night. Voting for the winner was easy; all one had to do was follow BET Africa on Instagram and then hashtag #IPickEddy.

Kenzo took the gong – a first for any East African – beating South Africa’s Casper Nyovest, Mz Vee from Ghana, George the Poet, a Ugandan based in the UK, Novelist and Mic Lowry from UK. Kenzo was widely voted by East and West Africans; his only serious competition could have been Casper, but he [Casper] faced a bigger blow when some southern Africans opted to vote for the Ugandan.

Kenzo’s success is because of his monster Sitya Loss hit, which has two videos uploaded on YouTube – one with the ghetto kids dancing and another one as the official video. Both uploads enjoy at least ten million views, the first Ugandan videos to enjoy such a feat on the platform.

When the song was released last year, many Ugandans appreciated it as a normal Eddy Kenzo single – few words, more dance – but when its video dropped with the slum children dancing like pros, the song took on a whole new life.

“Before I say anything let me dedicate this award to all Ugandans wherever you are in the world. It has been a long journey; it’s the first of its kind on East Africa,” Kenzo, still in Los Angeles after the awards, posted on his Facebook wall. “This is for Uganda… God is the greatest.”

The artiste who has done many menial jobs including fruit vending and has been the brunt of many jokes before with some infamously saying he cannot speak English, took a swipe at the haters with: “Awangale Ssabasajja. Oluganda luntusizza walaaaaaa nyoooooo banange. (Long live the kabaka. Luganda has taken me really far) God is everything,” an ecstatic Kenzo posted, with pictures of him on the red carpet.

Kenzo has pleasantly surprised his fans and haters alike with his big strides in a young career that exploded with his 2010 release of Stamina. He has since had follow-up hits in addition to dropping personal projects such as a beautiful storied house and multiple awards.

The BET award comes at a time when East Africans have been snubbed for four years in the Best International Act Africa category, which started four years ago. Diamond Platinumz, Radio and Weasel, Camp Mula and Sauti Sol have all been nominated, but none has been lucky, which makes Kenzo’s win sweeter.

Nigeria and Ghana have dominated the category, and this year was no different as Ghana’s Stonebwoy won it. Since the BET awards first screened in 2001, they have been making progress especially when it comes to diversity. There was a time it was an all-black award show but the previous years have been different.

In 2010, Justin Bieber was a nominee for Best New Artiste. Since then, Iggy Azalea, Robin Thicke, Fergie, Maclamore and Ryan Lewis, among others, have been nominated. This made Sam Smith’s win for Best New Artiste less surprising but, unfortunately, he was nowhere to pick it.

“Sam Smith isn’t here tonight because he’s white and he didn’t think he would win at the BET awards,” said the show host Anthony Anderson.

The show this year faced even bigger criticism after UK-based Ghanaian artiste Fuse ODG reawakened an old debate when he turned down his invitation because African acts are given backstage treatment as if they don’t matter.

All African winners of the night were awarded close to three hours before the main show debuted.

Winners

Best International Act Africa: Stonebwoy (Ghana)

International Viewers’ Choice: Eddy Kenzo

Best Collaboration: Glory (John Legend & Common)

Best Female Hip Hop: Nicki Minaj

Best Male Hip Hop: Kendrick Lamar

Best Female RnB/Pop: Beyoncé


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