Three women who did Africa proud with their BBC world news Komla Dumor Awards
‘I Want To Focus More On A Positive Outlook For Africa’
Amina Yugada is the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award winner for 2017. Amina Yuguda is a well-grounded journalist working and operating in Yola (Northern Nigeria) and reporting on stories from Northern Nigeria. Before she won the prestigious award in the month of September 2017, it is safe to say that the quiet journalist was not a household name. But not anymore. She is a Northern lady defying the stereotypes about Northern women.
Tell readers a bit about your background?
I am Amina Yuguda. I am a journalist and I have been working with Gotel Television in Yola; Adamawa State in North East Nigeria since 2012, as a news presenter on TV and also a producer. I have a mini-documentary series called The Real Africa, which I produce.
What prompted you into journalism and the media space?
I think I have always been very creative. For me, writing is a way to purge my emotions. When I am feeling overwhelmed for instance, the natural instinct is to pick up a pen and write. It could be a poem or a short story. I just write. In 2012, a friend of mine told me about a radio station in Yola that was hiring journalists. I was lucky and I was hired. I got in and I have not looked back ever since.
What has been your drive cum motivation?
My drive is that I like to unravel the mysteries of life. Also, I try to help people who are facing some kind of difficulty. And that usually has something to do with issues of the society. If there is a problem somewhere, I like to draw attention to it in the hope that the right people and the right authorities can come and help them.
For instance, my documentary series focuses on ordinary people. It is not about high profile, high-society people but normal people living normal lives everyday. I try to draw attention to issues like healthcare, poverty, girl-child education (the challenges that people face everyday.)
What has been your most interesting project till date?
Well, I think the most interesting has been the story I did on Koma.
Koma is a small community in Northern Adamawa and I believe, as I would have imagined pre-colonial African communities existed. Many of them still wear leaves (they don’t wear clothes). It is a community existing unchanged by modernity. So I was fascinated to try and understand how they live, what their aspirations and motivations are. And so my crew and I went there, filmed and interviewed them. It was an eye-opener for me.
When did this project take place?
It was filmed in 2015.
What was the experience like for you personally?
Well, because I am naturally very inquisitive and curious, it was exciting and very uncomfortable. I was tested, my limit was tested. Koma is far away. Even when we arrived at the village, we had to do a lot of walking to actually get to where the people live. They live on top of hills. And we had to walk up the hills for six hours trying to get to the top of the hills. Remember that this is Adamawa, which is a very hot and sunny state. It was quite challenging (we did not have a proper place to sleep.) It was one of the trips that tested my endurance as a journalist.
Presently, you are the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award Winner, how has the experience been? Are you still the same Amina Yuguda in terms of experience and exposure, or it is a totally different thing altogether?
It is entirely different. I have gotten so many opportunities and more are still coming because of the exposure and because of the award. I get approached by schools, universities, people who want to hear me speak and talk about my experiences. For instance, in London, I was invited by the Royal African Society to chair their annual lecture. I am sure I would not have gotten that invitation as an ordinary journalist working in Nigeria. For me, it has been a very wonderful opportunity and I have had lots of offers. And I have also learnt so much. Working as a journalist in Nigeria is one thing, then getting to meet and learn from other journalists who are international and have been to so many parts of the world; interviewed the biggest names in global politics. It is an experience you can never get in a school or classroom. It is something you have to live through. I have learnt so much and that for me is the biggest win – learning from people who have more experience than I do.
With your newly found exposure, which is priceless, what do you think about Africans and Africa telling African stories?
That is the only way. How else can you honestly recount your own experience? No one can tell your story for you. You have to be the one in charge of the narrative. One of my favourite sayings is “the narrative would always glorify the hunter until the lion learns how to write.” by Chinua Achebe. You cannot expect someone else to tell your story and present you in best possible light. You have to be the one telling your own story. We complain a lot about the negativity coming out of Africa and the bad stories coming out of Nigeria. If we really dig deep, it is not Nigerians telling these stories, people telling these stories don’t have experiences of what it is to be Nigerian. So, I do think it is the best way for African stories to be told; that Africans tell African stories.
That is why I am so happy with what the BBC is doing with the Komla Dumor Award. It is developing African journalism and helping African journalists tell their own stories. It is not bringing in a foreigner to tell African stories but trying to develop what we have here already and make it better. I think that is the perfect way.
With the training you received at the BBC and the training you’ve always received in Nigeria, obviously, you have seen loopholes etc. In what areas do you believe we need to brush up in the media sector?
Interestingly, before I went to the BBC, I think the training I got here in Nigeria was superb because I was not daunted. These were and are the things I know already in Nigeria. I think what needs to be done is for African journalists to invest more in their art because journalism is an art. It is not about doing the same repetitive stories (talking about politics etc.) There are so many sides to our country that people need to explore more. I do think that journalists first have to invest in themselves; cultivate a really good reading culture because you speak the way you write, or you write the way you speak (either way it works.)
Also, pertaining to technology, you should invest in technology. I think the edge the Western world has over us (Africa); is that they are changing with the times. They are using social media, re-designing the way social media works. There is digital revolution going on all over the world and we seem to be taking our time to get there. I believe we should focus more of our energies on adopting new technologies.
What is the title of the book you are currently reading?
Well, I am a big fan of Chinua Achebe and African Classics. I keep going back and I am reading several books at the same time. But right now on my bookshelf is an obvious choice. It is Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I like the Classics, so I go back to them over and over again.
‘It’s So Important For Us To Tell Our Own Stories. No One Can Tell Your Story Better Than You’
Didi Akinyelure is an award winning Nigerian journalist. She is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham. Didi was Didi Akinyelure is an award-winning Nigerian journalist. She is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham. Didi was the face of CNBC Africa’s live morning show Open Exchange, West Africa. Before her voyage into journalism, she worked at Barclays Wealth in London. Didi Akinyelure works as a journalist in Lagos for the BBC. She has presented, produced and edited television, radio and digital content for the BBC on several platforms and programmes: BBC News at 10, BBC World News, BBC Focus on Africa, BBC’s Business Daily, BBC’s Newsday, BBC Radio 4 to mention just a few.
As moderator, she has presented the BBC Africa Debate on Fake News in Malawi and the BBC Women in Digital Journalism panel at Social Media Week in Lagos. Also, she chaired the Africa Construction Week in Munich, Germany, and moderated the Ministerial panel at the Africa Oil Week in Cape Town. She also hosted the University of Nottingham’s Africa Summit.
Recently, in September 2017, Didi was invited by the United Nations to interview delegates at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Ordos, China.
Do tell readers a bit about your background?
I am Didi Akinyelure and I am a journalist. I am the 2016 winner of the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award. I have worked as a journalist for over five years. At the moment, I am working for the BBC, based in Lagos. Before that, I worked for CNBC Africa for four years, specifically business and finance. That is financial journalism. Before then, I used to be a banker and that was a different life.
What made you switch careers?
It was in 2008-2009 during the credit crunch (we all know what happened here in Nigeria.) I used to work for an investment bank (an investment bank arm of a retail bank) here in Lagos and the company packed up. We were very much involved in margin loans, giving out margin loans to customers, who used their loans to buy stocks. And we all know what happened to the market. And so, things changed. Once we closed up, I decided it was an opportunity for me to do something different with my life. And I never took a step towards journalism, it did not cross my mind at all. But then, what I was passionate about was real estate investments (just as a person since it was something I loved doing since I was young.) So, I decided to do a programme on the real estate sector. I decided to pitch that to Channels TV. It was then that I received an offer from CNBC Africa.
As the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award winner 2016, how was the experience and how has the experience impacted your career?
It was a fantastic three months that I spent. I spent it going from team to team. Working with different teams across the BBC. From BBC News at 10 team, the Africa team, business team, online team, digital team. And also, there was a very good training at the start as well. Now, for someone who has never really trained as a journalist (since I came from the banking sector), it was really key for me. So, I really enjoyed the experience. I had worked in the United Kingdom for a couple of years, so that was not new being in the United Kingdom. But then, being a journalist in the United Kingdom was completely new and interesting. And also, the way I tell stories has changed.
In what ways?
I think I am a little more balanced in my journalism. Maybe because I was coming from a business background and business news is very different from traditional news. And it is a lot more commercial and positive. Now, I see the stories better. Understand the stories better and it has just made me a better journalist. I have done a lot of interesting things. It has been a year since I won the award and I have done many things (travelling round the world, moderated events, in different parts of the world. I have worked for different parts of the BBC.)A few months ago, I was in China doing a report for the BBC. So, things I would never have had the experience of doing, I have been able to do. And it has opened a lot of doors as well.
What role do you see the media playing on the African continent and how necessary is it for Africa to tell her own stories?
I would begin with the second half of the question. It is so important for us to tell our own stories. We always talk about changing the narrative. First and foremost, when you think of Africa as a whole, we are kind of generalised as one. And yet, we are so different: West Africa is completely different from the East, North and South. A lot of us have not even been to West Africa or other parts of Africa. A lot don’t understand their cultures and traditions. And yet, we are all generalised and put in one little bracket. First of all, we are very different and so we have to tell the world we are very different. We have different things and we bring different things to the table.
Also, no one can tell your story better than you. No one can understand your country better than you on the issues in your country. It is one thing to have international media (for example, the BBC tends to cover Africa very well. We are good at the coverage of Africa.) But then, it is about perception. If you as an African is telling African stories; you can find stories that people have not told the world yet a lot easier than say a foreigner would do.
To the first half of your question; I think we have done a good job. We do have local channels with good coverage and we have come a long way. And now, obviously, we are transitioning into a more digital space and you can see what everyone is doing on social media and it is impressive and we are telling our stories and the world is listening to us. At the same time, we need better training for our journalists, so that they understand what it means to tell a free and fair and balanced story. Also, they know how to survive and do journalism that is not biased in anyway. Literally, I usually say this, as media organisations, we are powerful. Not only that, we are the voice. We can change the perception of the entire population just by telling one story. Look at what is happening in Libya; that just came from one international media’s report and everyone is talking about it. We are powerful beings and we need to understand that we are powerful in the media on the African Continent and play our part in telling the story.
What is the title of the book you are currently reading?
The Moral Case Of Fossil Fuels. I was working on a panel discussion that I hosted and it was looking at the issues of the energy sector. The Moral Case of Fossil Fuels is a book by the American energy theorist Alex Epstein. And he is saying that everything we know about fossil fuel is wrong. That the media portrays it to look as if we are all going to extinct and things would go wrong from climate change. But he is saying that things are not as bad as they appear.
‘We Cannot Wait For People To Give Us Opportunities. We Have To Take Them; We Have To Create Things For Ourselves. And I See Many Young Women Doing That’
Nancy Kacungira was the first BBC World News Komla Dumor Award winner in 2015. She won the inaugural award commemorating the work of the late veteran BBC Ghanaian journalist, Komla Dumor, who was a household name on the African continent and on the world stage.
According to the Tanzanian-born Ugandan biography’s website; she began her media career as a radio presenter while still in the university, working her way up from intern to Deputy Programme Director by the time she received her first class degree. Nancy thereafter earned her Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies from the University of Leeds, where she graduated with distinction.
During her three-month tenure at the BBC in London as part of the award, Nancy made important contributions to a conversation she is entirely passionate about: narratives about Africa. These included a three-part TV and radio series on migration to Africa that was broadcast to the BBC’s 308 million viewers across the world, a web article on “Telling the African Story” that was shared millions of times on social media, and a well-received TED talk at TEDxEuston on changing the narrative on Africa into a dialogue. Nancy was also selected as a speaker at the 2015 Emerge conference at Oxford University where she contributed to discussions around leveraging mobile technology in Africa.
Since the BBC World News Komla Dumor award in 2015, amongst other achievements, Nancy Kacungira has moderated several global summits and panels’ discussions including but not limited to The African Voices panel during Financial Times Live October 9, 2017; Africa CEO Forum (Industry Outlook Electricity) March 2017; World Economic Forum Africa in Kigali, Rwanda 2016; UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) April 2017 (panelists included Jack Ma) in Switzerland; and moderator for Uganda’s first-ever presidential debate in January 2016.
She granted DOLAPO AINA an interview. Excerpts:
Who is Nancy Kacungira? Kindly inform readers about yourself.
I am Nancy Kacungira and I am a presenter and reporter at BBC News. At the moment, I present two programmes: BBC Focus on Africa and BBC World Business Report. My background is an entrepreneur actually. I started my own business about seven years ago in 2010. I left that to go full time into journalism. I began my career in Uganda, before I moved to Kenya. While in Kenya, I applied for the BBC Komla Dumor Award, which I was the first winner of in 2015 and I went on to join the BBC as a reporter and now I am a presenter there.
From Uganda to Kenya and now in London, how has your experience been career-wise?
I think it is interesting because you get on a bigger stage, a bigger platform. But I think the core remains the same. What gives you the edge or expertise is actually where you come from. I think that is really important. We often think that when we get to certain places, we need to change but I find that the beautiful thing is in remaining the same. So, it is because I was born in a small town in Tanzania that my perspective is different from people who come from other places. And because I have seen what life is like in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya; I have lived there, gone to school there, started a business there; my perspective is very local but at the same time very global because of the exposure I have been able to have. So, I find that where I come from is very important in terms of who I am as a journalist and what I do.
People who watch you on BCC World News and BBC Focus on Africa must be thinking how easy or difficult is it for an African telling an African story on a non-African platform? Do you have pressures or is it quite easy for you?
I think the fact that I am at the BBC is a sign that they believe that Africans should be the ones telling African stories. That is the big thing that the Komla Dumor Award is set up to achieve. The truth is that our perspective is always going to be different in the sense of where we are coming from. Having said that, an African would not tell a better story just because they are African…
(cut in) Why?
This is because it is about more than just being from somewhere. It is about understanding the nuances; it is about understanding the context. It is about being able to analyse it. So, there are a lot of African journalists who may just be mimicking what western journalists write but that does not mean they are better just because they are African. So, I think what makes the difference; whatever kind of journalist you are (especially in this world full of fake news and misinformation); is trying to understand what the context and analysis are. And being sensitive to different parts of the world and representing the people from those parts of the world. And I don’t think that is something uniquely African. What is different is that we as Africans have to champion the narratives of ourselves that we want to see. And that is why you find that it is important to have African journalists representing Africa.
What has been motivating you from Uganda, Kenya to the BBC in London?
When I started my business, I decided to hire young people because it was a digital business and we needed young people. And I realised that one of the things that seemed to be lacking is just a certain amount of confidence and believing that we can do things. In believing that we can invent, innovate and create. And part of that comes from representation. If you have never seen someone like you achieve something, it is very difficult to imagine yourself doing that. And we should not underestimate the power of imagery and representation. When a child grows up and never sees anyone who looks like them; being the first to go somewhere; being the first to invest something; being esteemed as a creator or innovator; it would be very difficult for them to imagine doing the same.
So my passion is, I want to broaden the representation of Africa. We should not just be the poster child for famine, poverty, hunger and disease. There is so much else and the more we see of these images; it is important for us, as people, as a continent. If we are going to progress, we must have more of those images to reinforce the younger generation. And so, that is where my passion comes from. Because I want the next generation to hire and find young people confident in themselves, who know who they are and who are determined and motivated to change the continent.
What is your most interesting project till date?
My favourite project is the one about the American woman who moved to Ghana. She lived all her life in America. At the age of 50, the African-American woman moved to Ghana. It is one of my favourite stories because at that time the entire world was talking about the problem of migration. And it looked like the whole of Africa was moving and yet there were many other people going the other way, saying, we want to re-discover our roots. We want to go back to a place that is peaceful. And so, I like that it was changing the narrative and broadening it.
As a young African, do you think the African media space is encouraging enough for African ladies to blossom?
No, I don’t think it is encouraging enough.
Nice to know you are honest…
I think a lot more needs to be done. At the same time, we cannot wait for people to give us opportunities. We have to take them; we have to step out; we have to create things for ourselves. And I see many young women doing that and that is what would make the difference (we stepping up and making the difference.)
What is the title of the book you are currently reading?
I read more than one book at a time. But at the moment, I am reading Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall. It is a great book about geo-politics.