My task is to help AMI transform the media landscape in Africa – new chair, Aboderin interview


My task is to help AMI transform the media landscape in Africa – new chair, Aboderin


Who is Mr. Wale Aboderin?

My name is Wale Aboderin, a Nigerian businessman and chairman of PUNCH, Nigeria’s leading newspaper. We publish three print newspapers and two digital newspapers. We also run four major print presses in Nigeria. We have very strong pro-public credentials because of our support for democracy, during the fight against military rule and afterwards, and our campaigns for social justice.

I trained as a commercial pilot at the Burnside-Ott Flying School, Florida, United States. I was appointed chairman of the company’s board of directors in 2012. But I have been involved in the newspaper business for decades. PUNCH was co-founded by my father and he introduced me to the business early. And this experience has helped in fashioning a vision that led to some great changes in the editorial quality, management and its fortunes.

I am also involved in music and sports. I am the founder and owner of Dolphins Basketball Club, a leading African female basketball club, with local and continental honours. I used to be the former chairman of the Lagos State Basketball Association and I am a former member of the Nigerian Handball Federation.

How do you feel about your election as the new chair of the African Media Initiative?

I feel humbled and pleased with this new responsibility, although it comes with the challenges of promoting the vision of a fantastic organization whose potential should not be abridged by limited resources. Thank you for inviting me to join the battle for a strengthened media landscape in Africa.  I have always succeeded in my ventures. I am here to ensure AMI does not fail its mission of transforming the media landscape in Africa.

What is your vision for the organization?

I have always believed that the biggest resource in any organization is human capital and the biggest investment is human development. My people perish for lack of knowledge, says the Good Book. Since I joined AMI board, I have never regretted being part of this beautiful project. The more I stayed, the more I like the organization’s mandate. It is important that we invest in human capital. Punch has already become too big in Nigeria and little by little we have been looking for an opportunity to go regional and AMI is empowering me to go around these countries and push for the initiatives developed by AMI. These trips will help me to rediscover Africa and see the opportunities on the continent.

My vision, to start with, is to focus on making AMI a better and greater organization. If you have a fine dress, everybody will see the missing button. So, I don’t want to see AMI staff as the missing button. I want you people to be engaged and know that there is something great to be done. The other part of the vision is to partner with others to develop the capacity of journalists and media companies across Africa. PUNCH is celebrated for its integrity and had I not seen the same integrity in the leadership and vision of AMI, I wouldn’t have accepted to be part of the project.

I insist that print publishers can still survive but we can’t just sit back and wait for new readers to emerge. It’s time to ‘reinvent the wheel’. 

What do you see as the greatest challenges for African media in the 21st century and what are your thoughts on the future of print media?

Ah! The greatest challenge in this century is digital disruption. The lack of true press freedom is also a big challenge in several places in Africa. But I expect this to become less of a problem as we move forward and the ideals of democracy spread on the continent. For example in Nigeria, PUNCH and other newspapers campaigned against military rule. With democracy, the press is freer although things are not perfect.

The use of mobile phones and other digital devices are growing across Africa. People, especially our teeming population of youth, prefer to get their news from the Internet and social media. My daughters, for example, get their news from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which are also quite popular in Nigeria.

But the future of print in Africa is not as bleak as painted. I always tell my team that a form of growth is still possible. However, as publishers, we would need to moderate our returns on investment expectations. Print publishers shouldn’t expect to be as profitable as they once were. In PUNCH we are exploring cross-media opportunities in a way that would help us to use the newly found strengths of our digital initiatives to help the weaknesses of print. So, African media need to constantly reinvent in order to stay in business and relevant.

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Mr. Wale Aboderin 

new AMI chair