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BIG BROTHER AFRICA (article first published : 2003-05-17)

The search is over and on May 25 when M-Net on DStv launches Big Brother Africa, 12 of the continent’s most dynamic personalities will be unveiled. Until then, their names and faces are cloaked in secrecy.

Now the team behind-the-show reveals that it was an all encompassing search to find their final 12 from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Angola, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

According to Director of M-Net Local Productions Carl Fischer, the selection phase for Big Brother Africa proved both challenging and satisfying.

“As the first time worldwide that a broadcaster has combined a continentally diverse group of individuals for a reality TV show, this was quite a task. However I believe we’ve found a group of housemates that will give us great viewing and a unique perspective on the continent.”

His sentiments are echoed by Marie Rosholt Big Brother Africa Executive Producer who says, “We were spoilt for choice in terms of selecting housemates. Most of the applicants were extremely knowledgeable, strong characters that are cosmopolitan, well-traveled and very interesting. And having Professor Kole Omotoso involved in the selection as Cultural Advisor added an invaluable insight to the process.”

Both M-Net and DStv’s Channel 37 kicked off the Big Brother Africa housemate search in February with the hour long “Call to Entry” program. Just over three weeks and 2000 entries later, the show’s selection panel began the rigorous first phase job of processing application forms to find possible housemates.

From this first phase 450 possible housemates were short-listed and 2 selection teams traveled to each country for audition sessions with them. In these auditions, the 450 short-listed candidates worked at group activities such as Musical Statues (a game to evaluate candidates inhibitions and interaction skills), Creative Exercises (where candidates used props to build a scene while selectors profiled personality types) and Free Speech (where candidates spoke on random topics showing their verbal and communication skills).

They also underwent initial psychometric testing using internationally utilized tests such as the Baron EQ test (an emotional intelligence indicator) and the Neo-Pi test (a personality inventory).

Then the third phase began. For five days, taped sessions of the 450 candidates, filmed with the candidate’s permission, were examined and considered. From these just 80 candidates were short-listed. Two psychological teams then traveled again complete 90-minute sessions and standard MCMI Tests with each of the 80 candidates in their home countries. Thereafter the psychological teams reported in and the 80 short-listed candidates were cut to 36, with approximately three choices in each country.

Then a final selection team traveled to meet these 36 candidates for Final Interview sessions in three selected interview centers – Nairobi in Kenya; Johannesburg in South Africa and Windhoek in Namibia. During the one-hour long Final Interview, the selection panel looked for the X factor – that indefinable but undeniable presence that marks unique and interesting personalities. Along with the X-factor, the selection team considered if the candidate could last 106 days in the house and if s/he would stand out. After the Final Interviews, the 36 possible housemates were reviewed for the last time and 12 were confirmed as housemates - one housemate from each participating country.

Now with their task finalized the selection team continues to work, cross-checking each housemate with Interpol to uncover any hidden criminal record or activity. Meanwhile the 12 housemates are being medically tested by their own doctors to confirm that they are physically up to the challenge of Big Brother Africa.




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