By Charles Mgbolu
African entertainers are expected bear the continent’s torch proud and high at this year’s Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards.
This year’s event is scheduled to take place at the Microsoft Theater in the US city of Los Angeles on Sunday with nine African acts vying for awards in six music categories.
It is an annual American show established by the Black Entertainment Television network in 2001 to celebrate black entertainers and other minorities in music, film, sports, and philanthropy.
Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tems, Ayra Starr, and Asake, all from Nigeria, along with Ntokozo Mdluli K.O. and Pabi Cooper from South Africa, Camidoh from Ghana, Libianca from Cameroon, and Uncle Waffles from Etswatini have been nominated in different categories.
Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, also known as Burna Boy, however, leads the pack with nominations in four categories: Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, Best International Act, Viewers' Choice, and Video Director of the Year.
‘’It’s good to see Africans really taking the centre stage at international entertainment awards of this calibre. These acts deserve it because they have worked very hard to get here,’’ Chuks Nwanne, editor of Nigeria's The Guardian newspaper, told TRT Afrika.
African artists have consistently been nominated for international entertainment awards and on many occasions clinched the prizes.
In the Best Male R&B/Pop Artist category, Burna Boy, 31, will be up against heavyweight entertainers such as Chris Brown, Drake, The Weeknd, Usher, Blxstm, and Brent Faiyaz.
Burna had won the BET Awards for Best International Act for three years in a row (2019, 2020, and 2021).
But this year could be more challenging for him as he has moved up to the more competitive Best Male Artist category which has never been won by an African artist.
Nigerian singer and songwriter Temilade Openiyi (Tems), 28, is also in a prestigious award category - Best Female R&B/Pop Artist.
However, she also must swim against some ginormous entertainers like Beyoncé, whom many regard as a music goddess.
Beyoncé has had a blistering music year topping off with an ongoing world tour, which has been criticised by many fans in Africa because she snubbed the continent in her schedule.
But Tems is also a force to reckon with as she has made inroads into the ‘Gen Z’ music generation (Gen Z for new millennials), with her fans globally reaching their hundreds of millions, capable of tipping the hands of the Academy Awards voting panel for this category.
The Viewers’ Choice Award is where the battle will be slugged out among fan votes. The all-time record winner in this category is Lil Wayne with four wins. Drake is the most nominated artist with twenty nominations.
Burna Boy’s ‘’Last Last’’ and Tem’s Collaboration with Future's ‘Wait for You’ are also in the contest here.
South African rapper Ntokozo Mdluli, known professionally as K.O. has been nominated in this year's Best International Act category alongside Lungelihle Zwane (Uncle Waffles) from Eswatini.
They will go up against each other and other African superstars, including Ayra Starr, Burna Boy, UK artists Stormzy, Ella Mai, Central Cee, and L7nnon from Brazil, and Tiakola from France.
Tems from Nigeria, who clinched the Viewers’ Choice award last year, is not in the race this year.
There is also the BET Award for Best New International Act, a first for the awards show. The fans determine this award, like the other Viewers’ Choice Awards.
In this category are Ahmed Ololade (Asake) from Nigeria, who has sold out shows across the globe, and Ghanaian Afropop performer Raphael Kofi Attachie (Camidoh).
Others are Afrobeats singer Libianca from Cameroon, known for her breakout single ''People," and dancer and producer Pabi Cooper from South Africa.