The likes of Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black, Sumner Redstone and Ted Turner are media moguls who have become households names across the world, but quietly Africa has produced some media tycoons who have amassed great power and wealth on the continent. The founders and CEOs of some of the biggest African media conglomerates have the power to shape opinion across the continent through the mediums of print, television and radio. Tom Jackson takes a look at the ten most powerful media moguls currently operating in Africa.
The 59-year-old Bekker is CEO of $12 billion media conglomerate Naspers and easily Africa’s most powerful mogul. He is also the largest individual shareholder. He controls 23 magazines, including YOU, DRUM and True Love, seven newspapers, Brazilian publisher Abril and pay-tv giant DSTV. He believes the future of the media is online, and has spent hundreds of millions buying large stakes in some of the highest-valued internet companies in the world, including a 30 per cent stake in Russian internet giant Mail.ru. Naspers has also bought stakes in Mxit Lifestyle, 24.com and QQ. He led the founding team of M-Net in 1985, which resulted in pay TV operations today spanning 48 countries in Africa. In the early 1990’s MTN was launched together with partners. Koos served as CEO of the MIH group until 1997, when he took over at Naspers.
Tanzanian Mengi, the founder and CEO of the IPP Group, has become one of Africa’s most revered media moguls and one of the most powerful men in the East African nation. The group he founded in the mid 1980s now owns ten national newspapers, including Financial Times, ThisDay, and The Guardian, as well as two of the region’s most popular television stations, EATV and ITV. IPP also owns ten radio stations. The IPP Group is also one of the largest industrial groups in East Africa, and includes a Financial Consulting firm (IPP Consulting), a soft drink bottling company in a joint venture with Coca-Cola (Coca-Cola Kwanza, Bonite Bottlers and Kilimanjaro Spring Water) and Tanzania’s leading manufacturer of soaps, detergents, and toothpaste (IPP Bodycare Ltd).
The Aga Khan
‘His Highness’ the Aga Khan founded Nation Media Group (NMG) in 1960 in order to provide independent news in the years building up to Kenya’s independence through the Taifa and Nation newspapers. Now majority-owned by public shareholders, though the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development remains the largest shareholder, it is the biggest media house in East Africa, having expanded operations into Uganda and Tanzania. Along with its two original publications it also publishes the regional weekly East African as well as running NTV, QTV, QFM and Easy FM radio in Kenya, and NTV and KFM radio in Uganda. It is also one of the largest companies on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). The Aga Khan became Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims in 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather.
56-year-old Murray-Bruce started Silverbird Productions in Nigeria in 1980 with only six staff and two business activities, pageant and programme syndication. Today, with hundreds of staff, the company has become a conglomerate, owning three radio stations, Silverbird television, the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Silverbird Cinema, Silverbird Entertainment and Silverbird Galleria. His entry into the pageantry business came at a time when the Miss Nigeria franchise was beginning to lose its glamour, the interest of Nigerians and its sponsor. His brainchild, Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant eventually took over the market leadership from the Miss Nigeria, owned and operated by the Daily Times of Nigeria. Bruce is also credited for rejuvenating Nigeria’s cinema culture with the launch of Silverbird Cinemas. This year Murray-Bruce was appointed as a honourary special adviser in the cabinet of newly sworn in Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson.
Kirubi is the owner of Capital FM, popular among the upper and middle classes of Kenyan society. The station is an urban music station, which plays a mixture of hip-hop, RnB, rock, neo-soul, new jack swing, jazz, techno, dance and Kenyan music. Kirubi bought the station in 1998. Owning north of 40 commercial and residential properties in Kenyan capital valued at $200 million and other assets worth $100 million, he occupies 31st place on the maiden Forbes’ list of Africa’s 40 richest people. He first started in business by buying decayed properties in Nairobi, renovating the buildings, and then re-selling them for a profit. He currently owns various residential and commercial buildings in Nairobi.
Gitahi heads up Nation Media Group, the $350 million media conglomerate that owns seven newspapers, three television stations and three radio stations, as well as mobile valued added services and internet companies across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Gitahi graduated with an MBA from the United States International University in Kenya and joined NMG after a long career as a senior executive with Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in East and West Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Desai is the former CEO of Avusa, the South African media conglomerate that owns 16 newspapers (including Business Day and Sunday Times), 9 magazines, cinemas (NuMetro), a record label (Gallo) and numerous retail outlets. Prakash, who was appointed chief executive in 2006 and left his post at the end of last year, serves as a board member of the World Association of Newspapers and is president of trade association Print Media South Africa. He left Avusa with a settlement believed to be in the region of R28 million ($3.4 million).
Royal Media Services, which Macharia owns and chairs, has emerged as a popular media conglomerate in Kenya, owning the country’s dominant TV Station, Citizen TV, as well as 11 radio stations. Citizen TV was forced to stop transmitting regularly during the presidency of Daniel arap Moi, but Macharia turned the station around by poaching talent from competitors. The company has also carved a niche in vernacular programming with the group now owning nine local language radio stations. In competing with Nation Media Group and the Standard Group Macharia has targeted the common man – the low income masses in rural areas. This has paid off, giving Royal Media Services massive popularity countrywide.
Dokpesi pioneered the first private television network in Nigeria – Africa Independent Television (AIT) – after military government allowed private broadcasting in the country in 1996. It was also Africa’s first satellite television station. Today Dokpesi is regarded as the media guru of Nigeria, referred to as the country’s Ted Turner. He also set up the first privately owned radio station in Nigeria in 1994. AIT has gained much coverage. In 2003 it launched in the United States, and is now received in Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe-wide on the Hotbird satellite as well as countries within Africa.
Ghanaian Quarcoo is the co-founder and CEO of the Radio Africa Group, which owns six Kenyan radio stations: Kiss 100, Classic 105, Radio Jambo, X FM, East FM and Relax FM. The group also began broadcasting TV station Kiss Television this year, gaining popularity countrywide by airing Premier League matches as well as local and Nigerian movies. The group also owns The Star, the third largest newspaper in Kenya and arguably the most independent, which launched in July 2007 as the Nairobi Star but changed its name after it expanded distribution across the country. Though radio had been a successful venture for the group, the launch of The Star took it to a new level. Quarcoo was previously a journalist reporting for the likes BBC World Service.