Abraham Augustine, TechCabal
This week we feature Abraham Augustine, Senior Writer at TechCabal. Abe speaks about his journey into journalism which began with his love of writing poetry and fiction, before landing his first opportunity in tech and development journalism.
What led you into journalism, and what would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist?
Interesting first question! Ready for a long story?
The short of it is that I came into journalism by accident. But even so, I remember wanting to be a journalist when I was nine or ten years old. I enjoyed watching CNN then and I think this was around the Second Intifada or Lebanon-Israeli war—I’m not sure. But I distinctly remember watching the CNN guy walking around the rubble and talking to the camera while fatigue-clad figures walked about. It was dangerous, and exciting even at that age.
Around that time, I got my hands on an old copy of a Reader’s Digest my dad had lying around. I’m not sure what edition it was, but it was the edition that had Sam Donaldson’s Hold on Mr. President in it. Of course, Sam’s colourful narrative had me hooked and added fuel to the fire. It was also my introduction to the modern American political system.
I still have the book—or what remains of it.
So as a child I wanted to be a journalist and a bunch of other things at the time—I got interested in satellite technology, but that was because I knew that watching CNN in my uncle’s house was possible because he had a satellite dish and we didn’t even have a functioning TV at home. Playing pretend for me, was setting up my “satellite system” and pretending to broadcast live to the world.
Fast forward a few years down the line and journalism was only at the edge of the picture, the picture itself being murky with law being the only thing that stood out for me. I always loved to write however—I used to write down my answers before raising my hands in primary and even secondary school— and continued to write poetry and fiction until I drifted into freelance tech and development journalism in 2019, thanks to Chioma Ezenwafor. From there it was another zig-zag route through content marketing to a SubStack newsletter and now TechCabal.
If I was not a journalist, I would most likely be doing growth or content marketing and plotting how to recharge and grow my now rusty coding skills.
The story of business possibilities in Africa is still a revelation—even for Africa.
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 consider myself a curious person, so it’s easy to be attracted to stories. But I’ll resort to just reading about it for my personal knowledge if I’m only mildly interested. However, stories that are unusual either because of the implications in a wider (tech in this case) context, or stories that prompt me to ask what the counterfactual or intervention is are stories that inspire me to put pen to paper.
That means listening a lot to conversations and being the silent one–mostly. But you can’t rely on this as a journalist, at least not all the time. So I look out for stories that have an element of what I’ve just described and probe deeper to build a story from it.
Why is African business so unique and what makes it so exciting to report on?
It’s all very new in many respects. Strictly speaking of course, business is probably as old as Africa. But as narrative, the story of business possibilities in Africa is still a revelation—even for Africa. Throw in shiny Silicon Valley-type technology businesses into the mix and you have an interesting environment to cover.
It’s challenging though, because you have to balance building the overall narrative, while pointing out that what may look benign can in fact, be cancer.
Africa becomes a functioning part of how the world works-especially when companies are building global solutions and getting investment and giving returns to investors from all over the world.
Which sectors or industries do you like to cover most and why?
When I joined TechCabal, I shared my “thesis”. It basically says that I’m interested in what is happening in commerce, trade and logistics because this is what economies are built on. Data and human-interest stories also interest me and there is the ever-present fintech–not the technology, the impact on commerce, trade and logistics and human behaviour.
Why is it important that people around the world get to hear about young, growing companies on the continent?
I had to pause to answer this one.
Stories like this are important because they help give context to what it means to live in the 21st century. In the global village of today, reporting on businesses that are doing well or not in Africa helps build a better frame for how Africa is perceived. Instead of being a giant Safari resort and malaria wasteland, Africa becomes a functioning part of how the world works–especially when companies are building global solutions and getting investment and giving returns to investors from all over the world.
It’s also a way of showing what is possible when human beings respect each other and work to answer questions and build solutions.
How can we encourage more people to join the writing community and dedicate their energy to telling stories about African tech and business?
By doing a great job of it ourselves. If we do a good job and it gets rewarded, talented storytellers and wordsmiths will come.