Tourism: Zarinah Hassan is a big deal and hate her or love her, she commands a big following on and off social media. When she was named Tourism ambassador, y’all grumbled. Tony Mushoborozi writes why she was the perfect choice.
Zari is one of the most powerful women in Africa… if the number of Instagram followers is anything to go by. With more than 4.4 million followers, the boss lady is close to Nigeria’s music sensation Tiwa Savage with 5.4 million followers.
That Zari can be placed in the same sentence with a star of Tiwa’s calibre is incredible. While the latter is famous for her popular music, the former is only famous for being famous. You could say, at the risk of being lynched by her fans, that Zari is only famous for her selfies. For selfies to make you that famous, they have to be truly magical. That will not be such an unbelievable fact when you visit her Instagram page.
Nonetheless, the fact that all Zari has are selfies to show for her fame is probably why many people took to social media to protest her appointment as Ugandan ambassador. Though the news was not shared widely, the conversation that took place on Facebook over the matter showed some disapproval.
“What does she know about tourism? Where have you ever heard [of] her in [the] tourism fraternity?”
“So what again will she be doing besides slaying in the name of Uganda? It still doesn’t make sense to me.”
“How can a slayer compete with a BET winner (Eddie Kenzo) who represents Kenya.. banange batulekemu….”
These were of the reactions following Uganda Tourism Board’s announcement. Some even made fun of the socialite.
“I would like to see her slaying with our Gorillas. Since they are the biggest source of income. Gorillas will pull off her extensions, especially the females. And remember, no one takes over their territory. You cannot slay in Bwindi. It is not a joke.”
To the above comment, came a response that held so much essence: “Hehehehe She will make gorillas look too damn cute… I will be paying twice to go see them.”
Only a handful loved the idea. “This is an absolutely brilliant piece of marketing.”
Appointing Zari as a tourism ambassador for Uganda is indeed, a big plus. People follow Zari on social media like an important project. When she coughs, millions catch a cold.
Her typical posts on Instagram rake in an average of 100,000 likes each, with some hovering in the regions of 200,000. Her Instagram videos get an average viewership of more than 300,000 people. Now if that is not influence, you tell me what is.
Zarinah Hassan has lived in Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa, and has notable influence in the three countries. Her relationship with Tanzanian pop star Diamond Platnumz increased her already huge visibility across the continent. Before then, she was married to deceased Ugandan socialite and South African businessman Ivan Ssemwanga.
Hate her or love her, this woman is a phenomenon. Her radiance melts men’s hearts and several women read her like a magazine for fashion and beauty tips. Her annual All White parties have been some of the most anticipated events of the year in Uganda, until this year when she reported that she would not do them anymore. Those parties enjoyed an even bigger fame in Tanzania until they were banned by President Magufuli in 2016. They were known for ultimate glamour and flamboyance.
Her innate sense of class and fashion are closely followed as her relationship status. Her beauty tends to be in the eyes of all beholders, men and woman alike.
When Zari broke up with Platnumz early this year, all social media sites were flooded with posts congratulating her for leaving an unfaithful man.
Yet some think her followers are not the type that will spend money on tourism. One social media user wondered, after reading the news about her appointment: “Zari’s crowd is not the type that can travel my dear.” Maybe this person has a right to be cynical, but like they say, even bad publicity is good.
“Her moral standing might not be the best, but who cares? She is not boss of Uganda Tourism Board. She is an influencer. She has ability to steer a conversation of this nature on a continental scale. She has fans across the continent, and that is what influence looks like,” says Spacey Kawa Oreste, one of the top officials at Marasa Africa Ltd. Marasa runs luxury lodges in Uganda, including Para Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park.
Zari has mastered street smartness and she knows how to use her magnetism to rake in the bucks. Only a handful of affluent Africans can afford to live her kind of lifestyle. And that is very attractive to social media users.
How much has she banked?
Nothing. Sate Minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda says Zari is doing this as a social responsibility service. She is providing her selfies pro bono.
“This year we are working towards a digital migration in tourism, especially on social media. Zari has the biggest following on social media and we estimate that about 10 to 15 million people follow and share news about her. So we approached her to help do some endorsements and she agreed to do it for free,” the minister says.
Zari’s work will commence early November with a special programme where she will visit all national parks and do what she does best – take selfies – and post them for the sole purpose of making her fans see glamour in tourism. She wants to do it for the love of country.
Zari’s announcement to this effect was made on Instagram last Wednesday when she posted a selfie with the minister, saying: “Minister asked If I was not doing that thing, ‘selfie’, I replied: ‘Certainly I am, it’s my tradition Sir’ #Tourism#GottaLoveUganda.”
The picture had 51,000 likes and 500 comments in 48 hours. This was not a typical Zari post. It was taken in a lackluster office environment, devoid of pomp that is Zari’s trademark. The comments from her fans were congratulatory. They were continentally crosscutting. An earlier post announcing her plans to meet the minister had garnered close to 70,000 likes and more than 700 comments.