There is an African proverb that people are fond of putting at the bottom of their emails these days: “Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”
The context of this is clear – that Africans have been onlookers in their own story. I agree with the sense of the proverb, but also point out that with each day it is becoming more and more outdated. I think, especially in the light of the growth of the internet, young Africans are picking up the pen everywhere to write the stories of this continent with verve and passion. I always say to young journalists: forget about mouthing proverbs, get up and claim your own stories by pouring your hard work and tenacity into telling the world what is happening in Africa. Roar the place down; in the context of the proverb. Write until you are sick and then get back to your desk and write some more. Nothing of value comes from passivity in this business.
Furthermore, a heck of a lot more happens in this continent than is ever written about and it is your duty, as a journalist of this continent, to sift, analyse and write.
This is the ethos at the heart of Forbes Africa that I believe makes the magazine an authentic success. One of those young African journalists, who took me at my word, is Ancillar Mangena, of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She made it two years running that Forbes Africa has won a young journalist of the year award. It was well earned and an encouraging sign of a mighty roar in the future from this young African journalist. The pieces she won the award for were well researched and the product of months of dedication; all I had to do was shepherd her through and write a catchy headline.
The way Ancillar came to us speaks of one of those existential moments that can change lives. We had been looking in vain for weeks for a hard working reporter. We had legions of people for interviews telling us how they were passionate hard news reporters; none impressed. One weary night I saw the free weekly newspaper lying forlorn on my driveway – normally I don’t even bother to pick it up. On this day, for no particular reason, I did. The next day I flicked through it and saw Ancillar’s name several times. If this woman can write as prolifically for a neighbourhood newspaper, thought I, imagine what he could do for the continent’s sparkling business magazine?
I telephoned Ancillar that day and told her to be early for the interview and in possession of a Forbes Africa that she had read. She didn’t disappoint; hiring her was as sure fire as day following night.
With an award in hand, Ancillar has only just begun. She could roar the place down – and then some.