Q: Salim, if you were to describe yourself in 150 words, what would you say?
A: I would say I am a peoples-person, relaxed and easy-going yet driven by my passion to tell the story of Africa and to be able to leave behind a legacy of good journalism and of changing the perception of this amazing Continent that is so misunderstood. I love the media space, I love the access it gives to interesting people, and I love being able to share their stories.
Q: What were the main challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
A: The first challenge I had was coping with my father’s untimely death when I was only 25 years old. I had to learn about the whole business from scratch and made many mistakes along the way. There were also a lot of people trying to take advantage of my situation at that time.
After a while, the challenge became getting people to not think of me as just my father’s son! Trying to operate outside of his huge shadow was difficult but I eventually figured out a way to work using his great legacy and embracing the path that he blazed.
On the business side, I had to continually re-invent Camerapix and myself to cope with the changes in technology and media; the consumption of information; and new platforms. That challenge still continues for me!
I started experimenting with new things myself… I presented documentaries then went on to start my own Talk Show, The Scoop, and now am looking at teaching and training and consulting. All new things in the same field but these keep me up to date with all the new innovations in media.
Q: How did you get where you are today, and did anyone (or something) help you along the way?
A: The first people that helped me get to where I am are my parents. My father was my hero and idol and he inspired, and continues to inspire, me every day! My mother is just an amazing human being that sacrificed so much to bring me up. Then my incredible wife, Farzana, who has stood by me through all the challenges I have gone through, the incredibly difficult times, and has been not just an amazing wife, but amazing mother to our two daughters, Saher and Saaniye. And they are exceptional girls that I am constantly learning from and being constantly surprised by their talent, love and personalities!
I am blessed with an amazing extended family that has guided me through the loss of my father, so many of them playing a pivotal role in keeping the company going, in advising me on new ventures, in keeping me grounded, in helping me with finances.
"Africa's biggest challenge is the lack of solid leadership"
Q: Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career!
A: There are a couple – firstly the launch of the Mohamed Amin Foundation, a training school for young African journalists to bring them up to international standards of TV journalism; the making of “MO & ME” the documentary on my father that was a 3-year journey of exploration for me.
Q: What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
A: It is the mindset that many men in Africa have on their perceived role of women. They still do not believe women can be in leadership positions because of centuries-old prejudices. These are being challenged now by some strong women leaders across Africa in the political scene but there are not nearly enough in the professional sectors.
Q: How would you qualify the progress made to date with regards to how women are being perceived as an authoritative figure?
A: As I said above, these perceptions are slowly being changed by leaders like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Joyce Banda, Winnie Mandela, Graca Machel – strong, influential women that have held the most important posts in their countries. But we have still got a long way to go especially in the corporate world. There is still a lot of inequality and gender imbalance in most sectors. Surprisingly the media is one sector where there seems to have been some progress made to address the gender equality, with many women journalists overtaking their male counterparts in both editorial and management positions.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
A: My life comprises of strong women who have had such influence on me. The 4 major influencers in my life are my mother, my wife and my two daughters and we have lived in the same house for over 20 years! So I can’t get away from having women impact my life every single day!
Q: What is one major challenge that Africa has to deal with currently?
A: The Continent has many, many challenges but the biggest one has to be leadership… we will talk later about the Continent being labelled as “one country” which is a huge mistake as each country has its own unique challenges… but the lack of solid leadership is one of the biggest and most uniform challenges facing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
We have nepotism, flawed and stolen elections, corrupt leaders, dictators – a whole host of flawed leaders that have been around for decades and have driven their countries into ruin. A new generation does not seem to be emerging, or being given a chance, or are even disinterested in taking up political roles of leadership and this is a major problem.
Q: What are Africa's strengths and competitive advantages?
A: We have the largest and youngest labour force in the world; we have all the minerals and agricultural land that any continent could ever want; we still have an incredible climate in most countries; we have opportunities that exist that are unavailable in most other parts of the world and a growing middle class that is primed to take advantage of these
Q: Can you remember a success story or a case study from Africa that has impressed you?
A: Again there are so many in every field but I have to say that one thing that has had the most visible impact over the last decade is the development of mobile money… MPesa by Safaricom in Kenya to be more specific. This technology changed the lives of countless millions, empowered them to a huge degree and gave them access to markets and opportunities that simply were unavailable because they were part of the “informal” sector.
MPesa has been replicated all over the world and has truly revolutionized access to financial services.
Q: When we talk about Africa, why is it important not to generalise (not one recipe for all Africa, each country has its own challenges and potential too)?
A: As I said above, we are a continent of 54 countries each with a unique history, language, culture, challenges etc. I do believe that solutions to a problem in one African country can be used and applied to similar problems in other African countries, and mistakes that are made in one country can be learnt from and avoided in another.
But each country is unique and needs to be treated that way. As Africans, we need to find more commonality between ourselves and try and work closer together to highlight those common bonds. We need to turn the differences we have into advantages and create strong unions that will make us a bigger player on the international stage, a bigger contributor. Africa can feed the world, we can power the world, we can populate the world… but we need to work hard to get our own houses in order first and then go out with a united message.
We lack in self-belief and always are looking for others to come and help us find solutions to problems when the solutions are right here at home.
Salim Amin is Chairman of Camerapix, founder and Chairman of The Mohamed Amin Foundation and co-founder and Chairman of A24 Media.
As Executive Producer and Presenter, Salim finished a documentary chronicling his father’s life in March 2006 entitled “MO & ME” which has to date won ten Awards for Best Documentary in the United States, Canada, India and on the African Continent, including the Grand Jury Award at the New York International Film Festival. The documentary achieved a successful theatrical release in Kenya and was screened at the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), as well as the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. In December 2005, Salim began work on the launch of the first 24-hour pan-African News and Current Affairs Channel. Africa 24 Media, a precursor to the Channel and Africa’s first online Agency for video and stills content, launched in September 2008 (www.a24media.com). In January 2007 Salim was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos. He is a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. In 2010 Salim was one of only 150 people around the world invited by President Obama to the Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit in Washington, DC.
In October 2014, Salim launched his weekly Talk Show “The Scoop”, speaking to great African personalities around the Continent, and reaching a global audience of over 300 million people on television, radio and online.