Lehlé Baldé, Businessday Weekender Nigeria
This week we feature Lehlé Baldé , Editor of BusinessDay Weekender which is the weekend publication for BusinessDay – a daily business newspaper based in Lagos. It has both daily and weekend titles circulating in Nigeria and Ghana. She tells us about her amazing journey into the world of media and why there’s a need to start changing the narrative on Africa through African business and storytelling.
What led you into the journalism world and what would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist?
I studied speech communication at the University of Waterloo. I played the piano and sang when I was younger, I also did ballet and ran track, but those activities didn’t quite follow me into adulthood. In order to not fully discourage me, my parents suggested that I study communications because “singing is a form a communication” and I could figure out the singing part later. Thanks to my parents I was always a vocal child and unafraid to speak my mind. Whenever we had gatherings at the house there was no such thing as the kiddies table, regardless of who the guests were. I believe this is why I am comfortable moderating high level conversations today.
My father told us the best bedtime stories. My maternal grandmother Marguerite ‘Guita’ Sophie Sadji was a journalist, she was press secretary during Leopold Sedar Senghor’s administration, the first woman to hold that post. Her father, Abdoulaye Sadji was one of Senegal’s most revered authors. Some say it’s in the blood. If I wasn’t an editor/ journalist, I would probably be a health practitioner, professor or restaurateur.
My first exposure to professional storytelling was as a communications intern at UNICEF. I also had an opportunity to intern at a radio station during my summer breaks and also interned at a TV station and with the development agency of Canada. I have always been curious and inquisitive about the world and people. We moved countries every 4 years so it was important for me to find my voice at an early age. I always worked in communication for development and when I started at BusinessDay, I actually worked away from the newsroom, in digital transformation, then strategy innovation and partnerships. I was opportuned and encouraged by my supervisors to conduct interviews using multimedia and write while occupying non newsroom roles within the organisation. I always admired the journalists in the newsroom and learned from them anyway I could. I remember when I Interviewed President Macky Sall in Abuja in 2019, that was a pretty special moment.
The opportunity to take on the challenge as the editor of the Weekender happened in 2020, 3 years after I joined BusinessDay.
I take pride in telling African business stories, because stories have the potential to truly transform the way in which we see ourselves as Africans and also the way the world sees us.
When you’re hunting for stories, what are the particular elements that catch your attention more than others?
I think every story is important. Every story deserves to be told. On a personal level, I like stories that are able to teach and inspire. I find myself focusing on financial inclusion and impact investing on radio because radio has the most reach and it’s important for the general public to be financially literate. From an editorial perspective, I would say I am more people and issue focused. I take pride in telling African business stories, because stories have the potential to truly transform the way in which we see ourselves as Africans and also the way the world sees us. My favourite story I have written is actually not a business story. It’s “Who invented the chapman?” Mainly because before the story was told, many people believed the Chapman drink was invented by a British man called Mr Chapman when it was actually invented by a Nigerian hotelier named Mr. Sam Alamutu who was later to become known as Apostle Samuel Alamutu of Ogun State. It meant a lot to his family to have the story told and their father’s legacy documented and it made my heart smile. I think I even shed a tear or two 🙂 My favourite editions of the Weekender are still our #endsars editions because nobody expected us to go there, as a weekend publication. Boy did we go there and will continue to touch on social issues as we see fit.
Young Africans are literally changing the continent as we once knew it, and it is important that these milestones and successes are documented, celebrated and normalised.
Why is African business so unique and what makes it so exciting to report on?
If you can build a successful business on the continent of Africa, I believe one can build a business anywhere. The African business environment is unique because the regulatory environments and infrastructure can be peculiar, yet thousands of African businesses manage to thrive against the odds. I dislike how Western media portrays the African continent, as a place where only negative things happen. Do we need Western validation ? Some might argue that we do. What I do know for a fact is that we need African stories told by Africans. There’s a different insight that Africans have about our continent that we need to leverage for story telling. We need African businesses built by Africans for Africans. Yes, negative things happen on the continent, but the truth is negative things happen on every continent. A single story is extremely dangerous. Young Africans are literally changing the continent as we once knew it, and it is important that these milestones and successes are documented, celebrated and normalised.
In order to work in writing, communication or journalism, you must have a passion for it. Similarly to how not everyone can be a doctor, not everyone can be a journalist.
And do you have any particular love for any sectors or industries?
I don’t have a favourite sector, but I’m really enjoying watching the tech ecosystem grow on the continent. I follow the fintech industry quite closely and I’m excited to see how fintech is allowing more Africans to transact and build wealth. It’s really quite exciting to see how tech is an enabler for innovation. The creative sector is also one to watch. Media, Entertainment, Beauty and Lifestyle, Visual Arts, Tourism, and Hospitality which make up the creative sector are positioned to create 2.7million additional jobs by 2025 contributing 5 Trillion Naira to the country’s GDP. I love impact investing and what that means for intentional investments across sectors. Obviously, agriculture is a sector to watch, in terms of value chain exploration and the potential for the continent to essentially feed itself. Agriculture has the potential to lessen imports, increase exports and enhance local consumption and production.
How can we encourage more people to join the writing community and dedicate their energy to telling stories about African tech and business?
In order to work in writing, communication or journalism, you must have a passion for it. Similarly to how not everyone can be a doctor, not everyone can be a journalist. Granted the discipline may not be as popular as engineering, accounting and law, but I believe that is rapidly changing. If you think about it, many things we do in life require the ability to communicate and express oneself. We need to start changing the African narrative by showcasing successful writers, journalists and media practitioners from Africa, just kind of like what you are doing with this series. I can think of so many inspiring examples. The work is not glitz and glam. It requires discipline, very long hours and perseverance. I can’t remember the last time I went on leave without working, it’s both time and soul consuming, but it’s worth it if passion is what drives you. We have to continuously raise the standard.