Benedicte Kalombo is a Congolese-born international multimedia journalist, producer, and media entrepreneur with extensive knowledge of digital audiences. Through Pin Africa and Pinned Media, Kalombo elevates and showcases the voices and stories of Africa and its diaspora, as well as empowering the next generation of African journalists via Acquire by Pin Africa. Among her other credits, Benedicte has worked with various reputable media outlets such as the BBC, ITN/ITV News, Deutsche Welle Africa, and The Independent. She has also contributed to many narratives around women’s empowerment during her five-year tenure as digital editor at the New African Woman magazine.

Up until February 2020, the mother of two worked as an editorial digital strategist at the BBC. Her role allowed her to develop digital strategies and content engagement solutions for BBC News, Sport, and the World Service online. In 2020, Benedicte produced a new website and magazine profiling young Africans battling Covid-19 through innovation. The website and magazine were commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Africa, and they were launched on September 22, 2020, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. In 2021, Benedicte produced a series of short films for FIFA in five African countries through her media production company, Pinned Media, in the promotion of the last World Cup tournament in 2022.

Pin Africa, is a social enterprise and global media platform where authentic African stories and voices live. The mission at Pin Africa is to leverage the power of storytelling and content creation to change the narratives of Africa across the world, while also providing African storytellers and journalists with the tools and resources necessary to tell their own stories, through the journalism training platform, Acquire by Pin Africa.

Image: Pin Africa Team

1. What was the idea behind Pin Africa?

The idea behind Pin Africa is to contribute to the changing narrative of Africa and tell our stories that are authentic with nuance and agency. I have had many conversations with journalists, media makers and audiences who have complained about how Africa is portrayed by international media. Whilst working in media, I saw the lack of care and integrity in reporting on African stories and with the availability of resources and as someone with a background in tech, I saw an opportunity to be able to serve an audience and to better represent them using technology.

2. Pin Africa’s goal or mission is to change the face of journalism and storytelling in Africa and the diaspora, how are you going to achieve this?

When we first started, we were using social digital videos to tell stories because we knew that was the best way to reach audiences and we did short video stories on Facebook that were also posted on their platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. We were able to join an incubator with Facebook, pushing our content with a better format and we received a lot of attention. The reception was good and we grew especially through Facebook because that is the biggest community for African audiences. We know that we are serving our audiences based on the positive feedback we have received through the comments and direct messages from the African diaspora such as African Americans and Afro-Brazilians who have said that they have learned new details and history about the continent that they were not aware of, which bridges the gap between communities. At Pin Africa, our aim is to ensure that we continue to grow and that is why we have Acquired Pin Africa, which provides storytellers with the tools and resources they need so we can keep up this momentum and continue to contribute to the shift of our narratives.

3. How is or will your approach be different compared to other similar publications?

What I have observed with new publications is that they are siloed. When you look at international news platforms such as DW Africa, CGN Africa, BBC Africa and CNN Africa, these publications have taken a pan-African approach and are reporting across the continent, however, they are not African. When you have Africans they are serving a specific audience either in a region or in a country. Those are one of the differences, we want to be as pan-African as we can, but also bridge the gap with the diaspora with the use of technology such as interactive journalism and other various forms of journalism such as mobile. It’s about making the most use of technology in the media while telling the story, whereas a lot of media outlets will tend to focus on one format, especially articles.

4. Building a business can be challenging, what are the necessary steps that one needs to take to ensure that their business is successful?

Can be is not the word, it is.

It is challenging and it’s scary because you’re seeing these giants that are falling and when you’re looking around you and everything is sort of crumbling, I ask myself how do I stay up? But it is about staying true to our mission. It is challenging to stay true to our mission. The main challenge is funding and with the emergence of social media and people being able to advertise directly on these platforms and create their audiences, you can’t sell much. Our relevance is being authentic to ourselves and continuing to tell stories that have an impact, that are relatable and that Africans can say no matter what, this is how I want to be represented.

You can’t beat authenticity and being able to create content that resonates with the audience is what sustains us. Lately being able to grow our audience and forge partnerships with those whose values align with ours keeps us going.

5. As a media founder what are some of the challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?

Leadership is one of the skills I had to learn over time because you work with so many people with different personalities and different approaches to work and also learning how to forge relationships within the industry and with other organisations. This experience has also shaped my personality. From when I started, my approach and outlook were very different but it shaped me in a way where it has given me thicker skin. I’m more motivated than I was when I started. When you face challenges it teaches you to push and continue because these are barriers you need to break. It sort of teaches you more about why you should push and continue because these are barriers. Being black and female, I face double the challenges. When I do face challenges, I am not sure that I am fighting the female side of the challenges or the African side, or just the media. But all the challenges have helped develop me professionally and personally, especially with leadership.

6. How do you measure success?

To me, success is measured by the impact we can make such as receiving positive reviews from readers from different parts of the world. We are not just a profit business but we are a social enterprise. We want to be able to make a profit but also be able to give back as much as we can through the opportunities we offer such as resources and training and seeing the narrative shift and seeing more people contribute to this shift, for us that means success.

7. What advice would you give media entrepreneurs?

Just because you have a creative background and you’re a good storyteller and a journalist who understands the craft does not make you a business person. There is a huge difference between running a media organisation and being a media professional. You may even have to do an MBA and it has nothing to do with media and you can merge it back together. You need a good sense of running a business and if it means stepping away from your creative and journalistic side for a moment, then it needs to be done because they are not the same thing.

8. What is next for Pin Africa?

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