Samuel Gebre, Bloomberg
Samuel Gebre, News Reporter for Bloomberg shares his story of how he got into journalism after working as a mechanical engineer, to deciding to take a five-month travel break to re-evaluate his aspirations..
Read the full interview with Samuel below as he emphasises the importance of Africa not being an isolated market from the rest of the world and being a part of a global financial system.
What led you into journalism, and what would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist?
My background is in engineering. I worked for two years as a mechanical engineer at a manufacturing plant, improving processes. Over time, I realised that I enjoyed working more with different types of people and I was keen on having a variety of experiences and learning new things. So I decided to quit my engineering job and spend about four or five months traveling to figure out what I wanted to do.
I kept coming back to the extracurricular projects I used to do when I was at university, attending and speaking at youth conferences on climate change, development and global warming. So I wanted to find a way to incorporate everything I wanted and looked for a job that would give me that opportunity. My engineering background and being adjacent to the tech ecosystem that was in Nairobi at the time helped me understand that niche
So I landed into journalism by chance. I saw a job in Bloomberg and reached out to the chief and met up with him. We had a nice long conversation about the commodity market in Africa. He asked me if I had experience in writing and I told him that I used to run a blog which funnily enough was also on economy. I sent this over to him and he gave me the opportunity to write.
This was in 2014. To the present day, I have expanded into report writing, politics and tech in Kenya and West Africa, Cote D’Ivoire, London and now just about to embark on a new adventure in New Delhi from August
African business tries to solve real problems. There is an unlimited opportunity of problems to solve on the continent. So the impact you receive from solving them is more rewarding and evident
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?
You would have to pick a sector or topic in general and find out what makes me personally curious about that sector. As I talk to people and do further research, I find things that are very unique in it. I usually just keep going back to the curiosity aspect of the topic. Some things that should be obvious, but are not in the public domain. Where would the impact be if the audience was aware of this information? Depending on how they tell their own stories from that information.
Also, this is not necessarily a tech trend, but an economic trend that I keep seeing. Especially since Covid 19 and the Ukraine-Russia war have affected a lot of the essential services that we use, most especially in Africa. There is a big shift from governments toward being food secure. There are a lot of variables and we are beginning to see a lot of countries either trying to get investment or investing. So the emerging trend that I am seeing is the anti-globalisation of more or less the world. We are already seeing this with microchip manufacturing in the West and Asia. Particularly in Africa because there is a very prevalent food security issue. The other key theme for Africa is debt, which will hinder governments’ ability to invest in healthcare, education and infrastructure.
Why is African business so unique and what makes it so exciting to report on?
African business tries to solve real problems. There is an unlimited opportunity of problems to solve on the continent. So the impact you receive from solving them is more rewarding and evident.
For example, if you have a business that addresses financial inclusion as a challenge in all areas or a business that tries to connect farmers to markets. These are the real-impact businesses that I enjoy seeing and reporting on. Unlike in the West, where there is more of an extra layer. Solutions in the West are more of a pleasure or a luxury and don’t solve an essential human need that most African countries are trying to solve. In Africa, these solutions are not for convenience alone, but for a deep challenge that these companies are addressing.
Every business or individual is now a brand of themselves who either has a story to tell or a platform they choose to tell their stories on.
Which sectors or industries do you like to cover most and why?
There are two that I tend to gravitate to. One is the tech space because there is a lot of innovation and solutions coming out of Africa, bridging gaps that are being left out by what the Governments do not have the capacity to do.
The second one is Agriculture because food security is very important. The more we address how food security is solved, it is the basis of our livelihood, the more we are also addressing more or less the actual security of the continent.
Why is it important that people around the world get to hear about young, growing companies on the continent?
I firmly believe in one world. Africa is not isolated from the rest of the world – it needs the rest of the world to become its market. Also, knowing that Africa itself is a market, it needs not to isolate itself in any way and be part of a global financial system.
How can we encourage more people to join the writing community and dedicate their energy to telling stories about African tech and business?
Social media democratised the ability for people to tell stories. Every business or individual is now a brand of themselves who either has a story to tell or a platform they choose to tell their stories on.
It also makes business sense to know what you are doing and how you are doing it. Opening up the minds of the rest of the world and also encouraging your peers. Someone in Tanzania, telling us how to solve food security issues would be valuable information to someone in Zimbabwe doing the same thing. Creating a butterfly effect in Africa and also with the rest of the world, which creates less risk averseness for us. So, I am for democratisation of writing to everyone who has something to write.
Anything else you would like to share?
As a journalist, you will face a lot of highs and lows, as well as a lot of pressure. You would really need to be able to adapt, be curious and enjoy the process of speaking to different people, getting different stories as well as the privilege and responsibility of telling those stories. And don’t forget to take care of yourself too.