This is the hardest column I have ever had to write in 36 years of journalism. I knew this column would come one day – I just didn’t want to think about it.
For the last six-and-a-half years FORBES AFRICA has been my life, my working week and my Sunday rest. Ever since that cold and dark winter morning, back in May 2011, when I began my first day as editor with little more than an empty screen before my eyes, this magazine has been my life; a fulfilling one at that. It allowed me to pursue my craft at a high level, inspire a talented bunch of young journalists to glory.
I confess, my eyes moistened when Ancillar Mangena and Jay Caboz picked up two CNN awards in front of the entire African journalism fraternity; merely two of a string of awards scooped by our magazine including a six-month scholarship for one of our journalists to FORBES in the United States.
The support from our management and shareholders also helped give birth to my first book: Africa’s Billionaires, published by Penguin, that is in its second reprint thanks to thousands of our readers.
What a privileged place to be at the leading edge of business in Africa; a masterclass on how to make money on this continent with insight into the shrewd minds of the wealth creators.
You leave few footprints in this life. I am proud to leave a living, vibrant magazine that is the best- selling business publication on the continent.
What is closer to my heart are the scores of entrepreneurs who came up to me, shook my hand and told me that a story in our magazine had changed the course of their lives towards making money in business. It always made me proud; if our hard work at FORBES AFRICA created jobs on this continent it was worth every drop of sweat. It was a job like no other, it was never dull.
One day, I was dodging flying bricks and tear gas among angry students at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, the next I was running a debate on mining with many of the most powerful entrepreneurs in the city. I shall miss editing a rattling good story early on a Monday morning; you can’t beat it.
We always tried to tell the African story like it is without fear, nor favor. I never allowed any of my journalists to be dictated to or bullied by outsiders. Consequently, they were never afraid to ask the tough questions when it came to the stories on the other side of the money making entrepreneur story. Therefore we reported on the seamy side of African business, the scandals, the corruption, uprisings, elections, the times when entrepreneurs lost money or were cheated out of it. On this I hang our morality and integrity – we looked for the best in the continent, but rarely could you have accused us of mere sunshine journalism.
It was the best job in the world that took to me to the world. I was proud to represent FORBES AFRICA in Washington, New York, Brussels, London, Kigali, Lagos, Nairobi, Gaborone and Lusaka.
It left indelible images in my mind. The night in Lagos when we handed our prestigious Person of the Year award to millionaire James Mwangi and feared that giving a Kenyan an award before Nigerians may not go down well. At the moment I read out the winner there was a mighty roar from the Lagos crowd along with the explosion of fireworks, that I didn’t know about, a few feet behind me. I almost jumped out of my skin.
“We are proud to be pan-Africans!” was the cry from every Nigerian who shook my hand that night. We drank champagne until dawn.
It wasn’t a fluke. In 2014, we gave the Person the Year award to a Nigerian in Kenya and got the same tumultuous response – Africa unite! I can still hear, in my head, the songs of supporters of the winner of the then agriculture minister Akinwumi Adesina who had brought his staff along from Abuja.
“It is ours, we are taking it home!” the supporters said as they took down the life-sized FORBES AFRICA cover of Adesina and rolled it up ready for the flight back to Abuja. We all laughed.
There was the launch with billionaire Patrice Motsepe, back in 2011; interviewing Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, in the scramble and sweat of the Nigerian Stock Exchange; shooting the breeze with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in his office in Entebbe. Big names aside, I always enjoyed most telling the stories of the foot soldiers of business in Africa in their often long struggle against the odds.
To cap it all, I was there in New York on the night FORBES celebrated its 100th birthday; an honor and a story to tell my grandchildren.
So I am off, not too far, to head up our sister business news outfit CNBC Africa; a return to one of my happy hunting grounds, television, where I have spent nearly a quarter of a century and feels like home.
You could still see the odd Chris Bishop story in future editions, but from now on I am like all of you holding this magazine – a reader and a fan.
I am leaving FORBES AFRICA, but FORBES AFRICA will never leave me. Adieu.