They say third time is a charm, we say 13 is our charm. This year marks exactly 13 years since the founding of Africa 24 Media, on 13 May, 2008. We launched with pomp and flair in the presence of international press and content creators in a Nairobi hotel. The promise was to make sure the narrative of Africa was changed through stories told by Africans.
That resolve has carried us for a decade, taking us to 45+ African countries, and telling beautiful stories about the changing face of Africa. All the content we have documented has most probably passed your eyes at some point, and if you are totally new to us, yebo.live is the place to familiarize yourself with how great Africa is. On this day, however, I would like to take time and honour the man whose dream and passion has driven us through murky waters and winning days. An astute business person, an investor, a forward thinker, and an incredible family man—allow me to tell you the story of Asif Sheikh.
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Born a decade after Kenya gained her independence, Asif Sheikh would think little about the media world but more about stories. Today he leads Africa’s most innovative, forward-thinking media company with the aim of constantly riding the first wave in changing the narrative of Africa. He has run companies in the education, financial, and marketing sectors and currently sits on different boards of other African forward-thinking companies. He was born in Nairobi to an Asian family that has settled in Kenya for four generations.
Growing up, his hard-working parents valued good education so much that they strived to take Asif and his brother to good private schools in Nairobi. But Asif at the time was not a media guy, he was not even a journalist, so he would carry his heavy heart to Canada, run very successful businesses as a turnaround specialist, shift to branding, and over an 18 year period he built very successful businesses. In the late 2000s, he came back home and this time got a chance to invest in a treasure trove of African history.
Seeing the history archive sparked that passion that had been buried in his heart for years. He knew it was time to do something—a media company. But he didn’t want to just start any other media company; he wanted his media company to represent Africa, to tell the African story and the story of African success. Although Kenya had gained her independence and despite the fact that many Pan-African leaders frequently visited Kenya at the time, some of the schools in the country did not teach African history. This bothered a young and inquisitive Asif, as he progressed with education; he kept wondering why they would not study about other countries in Africa or the heritage of this continent.
That was the start of a long quest to see the African story told in its totality and authentically. After finishing his ‘A’ levels, Asif got a scholarship to study in America. Cold weather was not the only thing that got under his skin in the global north; the wrong perception of Africa left him very unsettled too. It was contrary to the realities he was being exposed to every time he came home for holidays. He tells of instances where students on campus would ask him if his home had power, or if they lived in trees. While to him it was hilarious, their ignorance would disturb him because every time he came home for holidays he saw more development.
There was growth. There was a beautiful story that needed to be told so that investors would feel free to come and invest more in this continent. Yet the media would not cover this story. In 2008 with an old schoolmate, he started Africa 24 Media as a content aggregation company. Naively getting into media had its challenges; time and resources went like sand in the hourglass but also honed Asif’s skills as a business leader. He led the company through its first transition from content aggregation to a production company that attracted Reuters News Agency to commission it to do the continent’s most popular magazine show, Africa Journal.
Through such collaboration, Asif’s quest led him to seek even more opportunities to expand and get A24 Media’s representation throughout the continent with one of the most robust stringer networks of any media company at the time. As a leader with an eye for good business moves and investment, this expansion would help A24 Media be commissioned by every major global media network to help produce content in Africa. Over the years, Africa 24 Media has been the producer of CGTN’s Faces of Africa series of documentaries, DW’s contributors for their environment show, Bloomberg TV’s contributor for their business program, CNN’s contributors for the African Voices and Market Place Africa TV Shows.
But ever the forward-thinker, Asif has been leading A24 Media in being media fit for the 4th industrial revolution. A24 Media has made significant investments in media-tech, ensuring to future-proof itself by launching Africa’s first factual Video on Demand Platform yebo.live he strongly believes as the continent continues to get younger in population, media owners need to think tech smart in how they tell stories. And that’s not all. Today Asif is on a journey to ensure he builds the first independent African Media conglomerate from East Africa that will go public in the world’s biggest stock exchanges. That journey is to bring his long vision to full circle—that Africans need to tell, own, and benefit from their own stories.
When not busy with business meetings or running a media organization Asif loves to take some valuable family time, or catch a game of tennis, which he played as a professional representing Kenya in his earlier years.
This is a milestone not just for Asif but for the many lives impacted by A24 Media. As we get to 13, we are officially teenagers, so do expect more energy and good vibes from us this year. One thing I assure you, this will be a good ride and we will have a good time.
George Mutero is Head of Strategy, A24 Media