Thursday, April 11, 2024


By Hope Nabalayo

Tuesday the 9th of April 2024 was a revolutionary day at the University of Nairobi, as it hosted the BBC World Service team at the Chandaria Hall for Performing Arts. The topic of discussion was on the future of journalism in Africa, with the BBC Director General, Tim Davie, being the key speaker. The event was moderated by celebrated journalist and lead senior presenter at the BBC Focus on Africa, Waihiga Mwaura and emceed by the renowned broadcast journalist and lead senior presenter at the BBC Swahili Dira ya Dunia, Roncliffe Odit. Other BBC staff present were Juliet Njeri, the Senior News Editor at the BBC bureau in Nairobi, Maggie, the floor manager who was more than happy to be at her Alma Mater, Grace, the event organizer and other supporting team members.

After a courtesy call with the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Kiama, Tim Davie made his way to the venue being warmly welcomed by a fully packed audience. In attendance were students and lecturers from the department of journalism and mass communication at the University of Nairobi, journalism and media students from other institutions including Daystar University, Multimedia University, Kenya Methodist University, Maasai Mara University, Kenyatta University and Tangaza University among others. The audience also boasted of other industry stakeholders with professionals from accredited media stations like KBC and KTN present. Moreover, the event attracted quite the online audience thanks to UNC TV which live streamed the entire session.

Waihiga Mwaura engaged Tim Davie in a revelatory conversation delving into his life journey and expansive career experience up to where his is as the BBC Director General. Through it all, Tim has always strived to put himself in work environments that enable him to contribute to causes he values. With the BBC, he appreciates that he is part of its pioneering efforts in telling stories, both local and international, and bringing people together for civil dialogue.

When asked about his dressing, having rocked a pair of white sneakers, he lightly compared himself to millionaires in Los Angeles who he saw wearing the same shoes and thought it would be worthy to copy them. He explained that throughout his life he has intentionally copied people he looked up to aiming to learn their success tips and implement them in his own path. He truly believes that as a journalist, it is important to do the same with successful people in the industry, being constantly but healthily dissatisfied while improving areas in one’s career. As per Tim, a great journalist is one who is curious and always ready to learn, they believe in their potential and have the courage to create, and they study what other great journalists do. Even when great, he encourages journalists to remain humble and never be arrogant.

The floor was open for questions from the audience which was boldly initiated by Kairu Karega, a journalism student from the University of Nairobi having recently completed his studies, who asked what everyone in the room was budding to get a response. HOW DO YOU GET INTO THE BBC? Tim was frank in his response stating that it is not the easiest goal to score, but that that does not make it impossible. He emphasized on the importance of building one’s skills as a journalist and going out of your way to build your portfolio. He encouraged the audience to look out for internship opportunities by the BBC in African countries, including Kenya that would roll out in the next few months for students, highlighting the already existing apprenticeship program that runs in London. Working in the BBC is not just about being in front of the camera, as is often assumed in journalism. There are various opportunities which require one’s efforts to research on how best their skillset fits in the media space, which would create a clearer and more achievable end-goal.

Tim Davie poses for a group photo with the students after the public lecture 

As more questions were put forward, Tim addressed the plight of AI (artificial intelligence) looking at both the pros and cons being that on one hand, AI can be used to improve journalism for instance by translating stories to different languages or going through piles of recorded research work. On the other hand, it can also be detrimental to journalistic values especially when it comes to misinformation and inaccuracy in news. To add to that, Tim gave his insight on the emergence of social media and which he agrees is a great turning point in the traditional media space, hence the constant move towards digital journalism by the BBC. He acknowledges the contribution and importance of citizen journalism to the media space as they serve as ground sources to breaking stories. He did however mention that the implementation of the BBC Verify has played a big role in mitigating the inaccuracies that may arise from not only citizen journalism, but also any other sources.

To Tim Davie, the future of journalism looks promising despite the possible threats facing the industry. He has a strong conviction that people would always turn back to stories they trust, told by authentic storytellers.

This segued into a more intimate session with Waihaga Mwaura and Roncliffe Odit where the audience had a one-on-one interaction with them. The two shared their own personal journeys into the BBC which were quite remarkable. This sparked a flow of questions ranging from online branding as a journalist, employability of journalists who have gone through journalism training in school, and the optimization of resumes for job applications and career options in the journalism space, just to mention a few. Both Waihiga and Roncliffe concurred that despite doing things you don’t want to do sometimes, life has a way of placing you at the right place at the right time, to do exactly what you have always desired to do.  Bottom line is, when an opportunity comes knocking at your door, grab it and run with it!

The event gracefully came to a close with a vote of thanks in English and Swahili by Mahak Dagar and Cleophas Owuor respectively.

watch the conversation here