AN AFRICAN EDITOR IN LONDON


BY TIKUM MBAH AZONGA

The magazine, WEST AFRICA, which was founded in London just before 1910 was for decades the flagship of African news reported from London. So impactful was the magazine that during the reign of Cameroon`s first ruler, Ahmadou Ahidjo (1958-1982) WEST AFRICA was one of two international news magazines on which Cameroonians at home relied to know what was going on in their own country. The other publication was the French language JEUNE AFRIQUE, published in Paris.

I had the privilege of being recruited as a staff journalist at the London headquarters of WEST AFRICA in 1985. That was after I had spent a year training “on the job” at AFRICA magazine, a pan African magazine, owned and run in London (Kirkman House, Tottenham Court Road) by Nigerian-born British man Chief Raph Uwechue. At WEST AFRICA, I succeeded the legendary Mark Doyle. So I was the de facto Francophone Editor, covering the French-speaking, Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa. That stint enabled me to travel widely on the African continent as I went on mission after mission.

When I joined WEST AFRICA, it was located in Holborn Viaduct, in Central London. Later, we moved the offices to Euston Road, near Euston Underground Station, in East Central London and a few minutes’ walk from the University of London. Subsequently, the magazine relocated to Coldharbour Lane in South London.

Mark Doyle was a British journalist who knew Cameroon well because he had been here several times. In fact, when Paul Biya`s CPDM party was born in Bamenda in 1985, Marke Doyle was right there to cover the event for WEST AFRICA. I remember one of the articles he sent from Bamenda started with the phrase: “President Paul Biya can smile!”
However, this account is really not about me or Mark Doyle. It is about a British-Ghanaian journalist called Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng who later in the 1980s became editor of WEST AFRICA. Unless I am mistaken, Kwasi succeeded Adobe O`be as editor of the magazine. Nonetheless, at the time Kwasi became editor, I had left the magazine, worked as Press and Public Relations Officer for London Barnet Council and was a teacher of French and Spanish at the John Loughborough School in Haringey, North London. However, I still contributed articles to the magazine. Kwasi was a very good editor in terms of subject matter mastery, delivery and human relations.

One day, I decided to take some of my students who were interested in journalism to see first-hand what working on the print media was all about. I was a accompanied by a white British colleague. When he heard Kwasi address the students, he was highly impressed, especially when Kwasi used the expression, “the Diaspora”, to refer to those students whose parents had come from somewhere else, notably Africa and the Caribbean and settled in Britain. My colleague confessed tat this was the first time he had heard someone carefully selecting his words and using them so well. He called Kwasi a master of the English language. For several years before I left Britain for Cameroon, each time I met with my colleague, he would still recall Kwasi and the word, “Diaspora”.

Kwasi later left the magazine and started his own, called AFRICAN TOPICS, to which I also contributed. He is today back in his native Ghana as a consultant. Recently, during an international workshop organized by Mwalimu George Ngwane and AFRICAPHONIE in Buea, Kwasi and I met face-to-face again after so many years! He had been invited to the event as a resource person.

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2 thoughts on “AN AFRICAN EDITOR IN LONDON

  1. This is interesting history. I read the paper more when I recognized your name as being from Cameroon. Similar reason for my addiction to Jeune Afrique and later JA Economique – Talla Blaise-Pascal being the Cameroonian in both papers. I was at your lovely House in Luton, England and at Talla’s Mansion in Bandjoun. Tell me if West Africa is still on the market? It is just interesting that few in Africa still recognize the crucial importance of information and news to both politics and business. Thank God you still seek to have us all properly informed. In the Bamenda Congress Biya pulled the rug quite literally, completely from the CNU of Ahidjo to be his own man in the CPDM Party. I was an enthusiastic witness. Be blessed brother.

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