Kobina Ackon, popularly known as Wode Maya, is Ghana’s first YouTuber to hit over a million subscribers. His channel creating positive African content has won him followers and a fortune.
AT JUST 23 YEARS OLD, AMERICAN YOUTUBE megastar Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast, has reportedly amassed over 10 billion views on his YouTube channel, and taken home a staggering $54 million in 2021 by posting hilarious and philanthropic content.
In 2019, CNBC reported that a survey done by Danish toy-maker Lego found that about a third of children aged between eight and 12 dream of becoming vloggers or YouTubers; the survey polled kids in the United States, China and the United Kingdom.
But that trend has now slowly also made its way into Africa. And young content creators on the continent are glued to their monitors and screens to catch up on all the social media action and monetize it, just like their global counterparts.
Kobina Ackon, popularly known by the moniker Wode Maya, is one such African sensation – he is Ghana’s first YouTuber to hit over a million subscribers.
But Ackon never aspired to be a digital star. He had wanted to become an aeronautical engineer.
He and his family had humble beginnings in the Western Region of Ghana, where they lived five siblings to one room and used rice bags as school bags. Ackon was taught from an early age the value of humility.
After completing his secondary school education in Ghana, Ackon relocated to China to further his studies as an aeronautical engineer.
But contrary to what most people believe, success on YouTube did not come overnight for him. In fact, it was a slow and steady rise filled with trial and error tracking analytics that would guide him to the right blend of content to identify a niche that would give him six-figure success.
That said, the genesis of his YouTube channel was quite an by accident.
“I never wanted to be a YouTuber. During vacation, I couldn’t travel because I didn’t have money to go back to Ghana and so we spent our time in our dorms. So, a friend came to me and said ‘let’s go out and shoot a video’. I was the main character in that video.
“Afterwards, they gave me the video and I realized I didn’t have a pen drive or anywhere to save this video so I decided to save it on the internet and that is when I saved it on YouTube,” recalls Ackon.
That video became a sensation amongst his friends and based on the positive feedback, Ackon decided to do another video detailing how he met his Chinese girlfriend. He got a 1,000 followers but unfortunately his subsequent efforts didn’t fare too well.
“I did more comedic videos and people said you are not funny and they stopped watching them. But I had a passion for it so I kept doing it and started doing more research on the platform. That is when I started consuming a lot of content on YouTube and realized I can actually be a millionaire on YouTube.”
But his Eureka moment would come after convincing his father to let him try content creation rather than engineering.
“So, I kept on pushing for two years and trying to make it work until my dad found one of my videos and got extremely mad at me and that is when my mum came in and said I can do whatever I want and she will take care of my dad. Two weeks later, my dad gave me his blessing and told me one thing that changed the game for me. He said you speak Chinese, so why don’t you use the Chinese language to bridge the gap between Africans and Chinese people and that was my breakthrough,” avers Ackon.
He took his father’s advice and his channel grew to 8,000 subscribers. Ackon had found his niche and things began to slowly take off. He began making videos to help the Chinese better understand Africa and Africans and before long, he had peaked at about 100,000 subscribers.
But even then, something wasn’t adding up for Ackon.
“I felt like the videos I was doing was attracting Africans to China but China was not my country and I am trying to change the narrative of Africans living in China but it was still not working. So, I said to myself ‘let me come to Africa and preach about Africa to Chinese people’.”
That’s when he discovered that even Africans didn’t know much about other countries on the continent. In 2018, he made the decision to start profiling the continent of Africa to not only the Chinese but to Africans both at home and in the diaspora. He received a loan from a Chinese friend who booked him on a pan-African tour of five countries.
“When I did that, within a month, I had 50,000 people following my channel. And it had taken me four years to get to 100,000 people. It showed me that a lot of people were yearning for African content,” says Ackon.
Today, with over 1.1 million subscribers, Ackonsays he is raking in anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 a month from his YouTube channel. Most of his revenue comes from YouTube advertisements as well as from charging up to $10,000 a pop to profile Africa’s brightest entrepreneurs.Along the way, he has also picked up some invaluable pearls of wisdom from them.
“The youth of Africa don’t really have mentors and during Covid is when I had the chance to spend time with African entrepreneurs and they changed my life in the way of investment and I actually started investing in 2021. I had money but it was sitting in a bank and I didn’t know what to do with it because our parents taught us that if you have money, keep it in the bank, get married buy a house and buy a car and that is what I was doing. Until I met entrepreneurs and that is when I decided to invest in land, buy real estate and hired a team of about 10 people who work for me to expand the brand,” says Ackon.
His next milestone is to interview Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, on how he built his wealth. He also wants his channel to only push out positive African narratives to the world.For now, he certainly has the world’s attention.