The weekly newspaper The EastAfrican, published in Kenya by the Nation Media Group is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
The newspaper which is circulated in Kenya and the other countries of the African Great Lakes region, including Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, contains in-depth analysis and stories from each country in the region.
The newspaper identified a market and satisfied its need in a way that nobody else has been able to replicate. The EastAfrican has made its name as the premium business and issue based regional publication targeting the high-end market. It is a newspaper that makes sense to a business analyst, an investor, a diplomat or an ordinary citizen seeking to understand the region. Their sophisticate market demands quality and they get quality.
The EastAfrican through its 20 years of publication has undergone the leadership of seven highly talented editors, each with their own leadership style that has propelled the newspaper to its glory. The editors have managed to make the paper competitive against the daily publications while remaining true to its values and market.
The story of the EastAfrican starts almost 30 years since NMG developed a new product. About 22 years ago, Wangethi Mwangi who was the group managing editor at that time made a phone call to one, Gerry Loughran. Mwangi would the commission Loughran to investigate the merits and demerits of setting up the regional newspaper.
Loughran identified there was a need for serious business and financial news and people were interested in the doings of their regional neighbours and these wishes were not being met by the media then available.
Having established the need for the regional newspaper, it focused on how often it would be coming out, what size it would be and what it would look like. It was clear that a daily publication would require a huge commitment of resources and there were doubts whether a market existed for the regional news on a quotidian basis. A magazine did not seem the right vehicle for this type of project, nor did an insert or special section in the daily or Sunday, and so the decision was taken to go for a separate, upmarket, weekly tabloid.
The making of The EastAfrican to what it is now was not as easy as it may seem due to NMG resources and market share. “For all its pluses, the new product establishing its niche in the market was not easy and its reputation and approval rating far exceeded its circulation,” Gerry Loughran notes. In fact, we could be celebrating more than 20 years today if the founders did not encounter any challenge.
The East Africa community was not as cohesive as it is today back then. Dictators were looming in Uganda while ties between Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam remained strained. Border closures, trade sanctions and the collapse of common institutions did not make it easy to bring these three together.
However, with time, tensions cooled and the platform was set for The EastAfrican to be launched. The market was there. However uncertainties were still there in terms of the title to use and the design. Questions were asked on the title to use between ‘The East African’ or ‘The East African Nation’, with the later dropped since it was not appealing to the region.
Most wanted The EastAfrican to adopt the highly successful Nation design but at the end Joseph Odindo, its founding editor, got his way with his format which is now synonymous with the paper.
The EastAfrican launch was befittingly set to coincide with the revival of the East Africa Community. This was monumental as the paper was supposed to be the mouthpiece of the region. Just like the EAC, The EastAfrican has not looked back. The publication has since gone to cover ground breaking news and events in the region.
The publication covered the ground breaking investigative on CEOs pay in Kenya, battles between new money and oil money in the region, the bold coverage Richmond scandal in Tanzania and Uganda presidential elections that earned the then editor, Nick Wachira, a rap from Yoweri Museveni who was not amused. The EastAfrican was also at the forefront in the reconstruction of Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.
The business community in the region has found TEA very useful as it gives them business news coverage of the region and also provides an insight for high finance. Investors too look up to the newspaper for information about the market.
One of the pioneers, Gerry Loughran, notes that “The pioneers provide the paper with the soundest of sound foundations, “and we couldn’t put it in a better way. The EastAfrican pioneers did a great job and as the paper enter its third decade; its success proves him right.
“After International Press Institute said The EastAfrican was one of the best regional newspaper in sub-Saharan Africa by providing readers with sober, incisive news of issues and events, The EastAfrican is a proof that commerce, travel, the environments and culture tie the region together logically.” Gerry Loughran.
As The EastAfrican founding editor Joseph Odindo quipped, Twenty years can pass so fast. They sure can. One thing remains consistent throughout these 20 years; The East African continues to be the authority over East African community issues.