Olumuyiwa Olowogboyega, TechCabal
This week, we shine our spotlight on Olumuyiwa Olowogboyega, Newsroom Editor for TechCabal and the writer of his own substack publication Notadeepdive. Muyiwa shared that growing up in a household environment obsessed with consuming news had a big part to play in building his career in storytelling. He also comments on the growth of the Nigeria tech sector to its becoming one of the biggest ecosystems in Africa.
What led you into journalism, and what would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist?
I grew up in a household that was obsessed with newspapers. My father read Tell Magazine a lot and kept every single newspaper in a guest room; we had newspapers dating back almost five years. As a teenager, there were always newspapers in the house and I read Reuben Abati on Fridays and Sundays. I read Sonala Olumhese and even Tunde Fagbenle. I read Alade Odunewu’s collection of some of his favorite articles. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was building a taste profile for stories and good storytelling.
In hindsight, getting into journalism seemed inevitable. Right out of the University, I read Chinua Achebe’s “There was a country, a personal history of Biafra,” and found it riveting. As the book wasn’t yet widely available, I wrote a two-part on some of my thoughts and I was hooked–writing had me. Journalism is an extension of that.
If I wasn’t a journalist, I’d be doing something related to writing. I’ve tried my hand at marketing communications and I quite liked it. Maybe in another life, I’d own a restaurant because I love food.
Stories are about people and how the audience can use information. It means my framework for stories is less about clicks and more about checking that we’re sharing new information, untangling a knotty issue, or explaining how something affects the audience.
When you’re researching stories, what compels you to work on sharing a particular story with your audience? Any hot trends we should look out for in the coming months?
I’ve refined my theory on why stories are important to an audience over the years. Sometimes you’re sharing information that helps people make decisions, other times stories help the audience understand an issue clearly. Other times, you’re beaming the searchlight on things that affect people. At all times, stories are about people and how the audience can use information. It means my framework for stories is less about clicks and more about checking that we’re sharing new information, untangling a knotty issue, or explaining how something affects the audience.
I’m not the greatest at spotting trends. I like to think of writing like the quote from that Drake song–only the good stuff will last, there’s a lot of other stuff that’s here today and gone tomorrow.
Why is African business so unique and what makes it so exciting to report on?
African businesses are unique because this is one of the most difficult continents to do business in. So the innovators you find here often have a lot of conviction. They’re not doing it because this is the easiest way to make money; for them, this is an obsession. They live and breathe the business.
It’s infectious to do reporting around that energy. A decade or so ago, Nigeria’s tech sector was a cluster in Yaba, Lagos. Today, it’s one of the biggest ecosystems in Africa. To be on the frontlines reporting on those businesses, the things they create and how they affect our daily lives is like a drug. It’s exciting.
Which sectors or industries do you like to cover most and why?
I’ve loved digital banking for a long time because Africa’s big banks have gotten a little lazy. They’ve grown big doing some of the right things and sometimes, when you grow really successful, you’re not as motivated to take those risks that make you exciting. But digital banks are at that place where they’re small enough that they don’t overthink it.
They’re doing interesting and innovating things in a market that’s tough. Everyone counted them out and boom, the cash crunch happened and they were the only ones positioned to take advantage. That to me, is super cool.
Sometimes people hearing about those companies can be the difference between success and failure. Other times, people hearing about those businesses can also be inspiring.
Why is it important that people around the world get to hear about young, growing companies on the continent?
I heard Iyin Aboyeji share the story of Andela’s humble beginnings. It was just a couple of ambitious entrepreneurs in someone’s garage or apartment building. Today, Andela is one of the continent’s biggest businesses. When people hear about interesting new things, they can try them and those customers are the lifeblood of new companies.
Sometimes people hearing about those companies can be the difference between success and failure. Other times, people hearing about those businesses can also be inspiring. It can make a journalist like me say, “you know what, I’m off to start a business.” I’m kidding, but you get my drift.
How can we encourage more people to join the writing community and dedicate their energy to telling stories about African tech and business?
One of the best things I’ve ever heard is that there’s no special thing about being a journalist; if you can find the facts, arrange them and make them readable, you’re more than halfway there. A lot of people overthink writing and never get around to it.
Some people want to figure out their audiences and be assured that there’s a ton of people waiting on their every word to write. I think more people should start small. Write a newsletter from your small corner of the world, share your conviction, work like hell to make it good. There’s not a lot of things more satisfying than writing about people building stuff and some of the wild thinking and doing that goes on in making these things come alive.