In July 2008, I travelled to Kenya to spend eight months at the Daily Nation, the Nation Media Group’s flagship newspaper. Not long before my departure, I had graduated from Columbia University’s journalism programme and received a “Young Professionals in Media” fellowship from Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency. This meant that my first job out of school would be as a news reporter on the streets of Nairobi, a thrilling — but nonetheless daunting — prospect.
Professionally, it seemed like a good challenge. Journalists are often placed in unfamiliar situations and told by their editors to write about new topics at short notice. Good journalists learn quickly and can assemble a bird’s-eye view of complex issues and disciplines. In my case, I had never been to Kenya before, and I saw this as an opportunity to study the country’s current affairs. I also hoped to understand the reasons why it endured dramatic and bloody unrest following a disputed presidential contest in December 2007.
On a personal level, I hoped to explore the part of the world where my parents came from. My father grew up in Zanzibar; in 1969, he received a scholarship to attend college in the United States. My mother lived in Kampala, Uganda, and left the country with her family under Idi Amin. I also looked forward to learning more about how the Aga Khan Development Network and its portfolio of companies — especially the Nation Media Group — were contributing to East Africa’s economic progress.
Learning and working
On my first day at the Nation Centre, an iconic building in downtown Nairobi with two cylindrical towers and horizontal gray stripes, I toured the entire Nation Media Group. The company started small but now offers a variety of products besides the Daily Nation and Taifa Leo, its Kiswahili-language counterpart. These include the East African, a weekly round-up of regional news; Business Daily, a paper focused on business and finance; NTV, a television channel; and two radio stations, EasyFM and QFM. The firm also has distribution and courier divisions, as well as sister companies in Tanzania and Uganda.
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