A Conversation with Benedicte Kalombo
Who is Benedicte Kalombo?
I am Benedicte Kalombo and I'm a journalist. I have been working in African media for a number of years. In 2017, I founded Pin Africa because I felt that African stories where not being told enough in the format that we use, which is video.
The African agenda is about always being emotionally and intellectually connected to the continent. So, regardless of what field you're in it's all about contributing.
I am driven by the African Agenda — I don't know if everyone is aware of what that is. But the goal of the African Agenda is to always be emotionally and intellectually connected to the continent. So, regardless of what field you're in it's all about contributing. My expertise is in social media and storytelling so this is my way of contributing to the African Agenda.Within my friendship groups and social circles, we are all trying to individually contribute where we can.
How did Pin Africa come about?
Nearly three years ago, I was working as the Digital Editor for the New Africa Woman magazine. Every three weeks we would be in production; editing scripts, doing interviews, and transcribing them into print. So as part of my role I was managing the social media accounts, the website and everything which fell under the umbrella of digital. During this time, I developed an interest in video and how to use it as storytelling format. The reception and engagement that we got just pushed me even more towards video.
Whilst working part-time at the magazine, I suddenly realised that I have these tools in my hands and I've always wanted to tell African stories. So I thought why don't I try to do something. Pin Africa was born from that thought.
When I started I had to ask myself the most important question which was; why Africa and why our stories? Why do I need to be another one to tell the African story? It all came down to this; we [as Africans] have a reputation which precedes us because of our history. A lot of people say we need to read more. But, I say we also need to create more. We can read as much as we want but we need to be aware that often we are reading someone else's narrative. We are the subject of the conversation but we are not contributing to the conversation. We can't just be readers. We have to be writers of our own story too — we can't just consume, we must also contribute and play both parts in the story.
We [as Africans] have a reputation which precedes us because of our history. A lot of people say we need to read more. But, I say we also need to create more.
Why the name Pin Africa?
The name was simply inspired by an era in the not too distant past, where people used paper maps and pinned their destination. So we're putting Africa on the map — we are pinning it. Africa is always the destination, whether it is through magazines, books or video. Africa will always be on our global radar.
What have some of the milestones in your three-year journey?
First of all, getting Pin Africa up and running was hard and it is still hard three years later. I have faced many challenges. The first milestone for me will be accountability. When I have worked with people there have been many times when things have gone wrong. The natural instinct is to blame the person who hasn't done what they were supposed to do but I also have to take some responsibility. The Pin Africa journey has taught me how to manage and interact with people while looking at myself closely.
The second milestone, was when we started getting daily views, comments and private messages. On one particular occasion, we made a video about a girl called Esther Grace with a medical condition which changed her eye colour and made her partially blind. In the video we had used the phrase "deaf and mute". This phrase caused outrage because our terminology was wrong and outdated. Although, this was a negative response but it showed that people were paying attention to us and that we had a responsibility to get it right. We released a statement and republished the video with corrections. In doing this, we showed our audience that we respected them, were willing to learn from them and most importantly we were here to serve them. We [at Pin Africa] take the responsibility of storytelling seriously. We have a platform of influence in shaping the minds and views. I think that was key to being approached with for a partnership with Facebook last year.
What is the one thing that pushes you?
The thing that pushes me is the comments left behind by people. We did a video on King Njoya of modern day Cameroon. He created a writing system for the Kingdom of Bamun. However, during colonialism when the French arrived they imposed their way of writing because they couldn't understand it. So we need to eradicate this single story that Africans were always orators because we were writers too. We aim to give our audience a different perspective of themselves. They are not this primitive narrative that they have been told for centuries. This is all to say, that looking back helps you move forward. I truly believe that you have a bigger backbone and stand taller if you know who you are. If your future is about rediscovering yourself and learning; you will not be as confident in yourself and your potential.
I truly believe that you have a bigger backbone and stand taller if you know who you are. If your future is about rediscovering yourself and learning; you will not be as confident in yourself and your potential.
What does the future look like for Pin Africa?
With Pin Africa and anything that is African-owned — and this is not to disrespect anyone who is contributing to our narrative, but we need to own our narrative so that what we put out there is framed is nuanced and framed in the right context. These are two things which are currently lacking in the conversation about Africa. Our vision is to continue creating a voice for ourselves and in turn to have full ownership. A voice for Africa by Africans. We need to reiterate our stories over and over again. Ultimately, our goal is to expand nowhere else but the continent, with voices directly from the continent and as well the diaspora.
We need to own our narrative so that what we put out there is framed is nuanced and framed in the right context.
What are three words to describe the Africa you want to see?
My three words are innovative, creative and stability. Firstly, innovation is key because when something is created by you and for you — there is power in that. Africans know what Africans need more than anyone, so Africans need to innovate. I believe Africans are the most creative people in the world because look at how much we have accomplished with our arts, music and culture while facing so many struggles. So imagine what we could accomplish with the right resources, financing and infrastructure. And finally, stability simply because it's necessary for us to flourish.
My three words are innovative, creative and stability. Firstly, innovation because when something is created by you and for you — there is power in that. Africans know what Africans need more than anyone, so Africans need to innovate.