Mobile devices are fast transforming storytelling in Africa, and journalists are now incorporating this into their trade. Presshub Africa met a group of young storytellers in Nairobi, Kenya, who founded one of the continent’s most significant mobile journalism projects. Here’s our one-on-one with Emmanuel Yegon, co-founder of mobile journalism Africa.
You run a media organization without professional cameras, just smartphones? How possible?
(Laughter) Behold the future of storytelling! In everyone’s pocket, there is a moving studio. It is one of the most convenient media of communication. We are teaching people to tell their own stories using mobile phones. This means that you can tell a story wherever you’re at whatever time. Journalism has evolved, and this is what the future looks like.
“Our stories are best told by us” That is your tagline. Tell me more.
You must have heard by now that people outside the continent see Africa as a country, not a continent. Way off base, right? And for ages, this has continued to inform stories from Africa. This is the notion we are challenging. We are changing this narrative by allowing our people to tell their stories from their perspectives.
Sounds more like solutions journalism?
Precisely, this is the heart of our storytelling. This is also what others call constructive journalism. At Mobile Journalism Africa, we made a deliberate and conscious decision to allow people to file stories on our platform. We receive videos and text pieces from people who want their stories published. We are keener on stories that show how systems work in societies-solutions journalism.
Please take me to where it all started.
The idea was born in late 2017. Marvin Gakunyi, Eddy Ashioya, and I represented Moi University at the Top Story competition. In collaboration with the Top Story team, Njeri Kihang’ a, who runs a mentorship program “MentorMe”, organized a mobile journalism training held at the Kenya National Theatre. We got to interact with the technology, and when we returned to campus for our final year, Marvin Gakunyi and I decided to set up a mobile journalism organization. We put together a team we had worked together at the Moi University’s press club, “The 3rd Eye”. In January 2018, we launched officially.
You started as a student, so where did you get resources to set up your website?
Honestly, we didn’t have enough money to start anything; all we had were the skills. We brought on board a colleague who was good at web designing. He made the website, and all that remained was to source content. It was tough at the beginning, but things eventually fell into place!
What would you say has been the biggest impact yet for your organization?
The training we have held so far! We have had hundreds of trainees from Kenya, Rwanda, and Ghana. In 2018 we hosted our first-ever mobile journalism conference on the continent. Mobile journalism has so far received massive interest!
Where do you see mobile journalism in the next few years?
On top of the world! Our mission is to empower African storytellers and show them the power they carry in their pockets! We are getting partnerships from as far as Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria, and many, many other parts of Africa.
On a different tangent, tell me something about your upbringing.
I am the fourth born in a family of seven, born and brought up in Kitale town. I was always an average student, and the dream to become a journalist started way back in high school. I went to Saos High School and St. Pauls Sinoko Kitale for my O-levels. I studied Public Relations at Moi University.
If someone gave you a time machine today, would you go back in time or into the future?
I’d implore this person to allow me to go both directions. I’d love to go back in time to correct my mistakes and see the wildest possibilities in the future. I’m curious to explore how 5G technology will shape our lives.
Are journalists born or made?
What’s the best advice someone has ever given you?
No matter what, follow your dreams with brutal consistency! I was told this by a prominent businessman George Tafaria Waititu.
Who do you admire most in the trade?
Journalist Mehdi Hassan, Ghana’s investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Kenya’s news anchor Yvonne Okwara.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as a man who changed how Africa is viewed globally through storytelling!