Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Women on Top: Vera Daisy Kwakofi

Title: Meet Vera Daisy Kwakofi head of Current Affairs for BBC Africa

Her mum told her that while growing up, she had always talked about wanting to be a journalist and though she does not really remember much of that she felt she would inevitably end up in broadcasting.

 She recalls that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and radio was a constant presence in her home while she was growing up.

“I remember every morning sitting at the breakfast table listening to GBC’s Everyday English programme religiously before school, I knew who all the GBC and BBC newsreaders were. I loved news and current affairs, reading and sports so I think it was a perfect mix really. All my interests converged on journalism and media so that’s the path I took and I haven’t looked back since,” she says.

That is true — since joining the BBC World Service in 2002, Vera Daisy Kwakofi has risen through the ranks and is now the head of Current Affairs for BBC Africa since December last year. She is in charge of 35 producers and journalists in London, as well as at least 10 correspondents across Africa.

Her primary task is to help the team transition from a primarily

radio operation to a multimedia team. This includes restructuring the team, retraining and reskilling to enable them to operate across radio, television and the new media.

Although she is not the first black person to act as an editor of the African current affairs output (Ben Malor, Elizabeth Ohene and Joseph Warungu were editors of Focus on Africa), she is the first African to lead the team that provides all of the BBC’s news and current affairs programming for Africa in English.

These are the teams who make the prestigious Focus on Africa radio programme — a daily radio news and analysis programme; African Perspective documentaries, African Sport/bbcafrican football website; The Africa Debate and two television programmes—Africa Beats and African Dream.

“I am incredibly proud and humbled to have been given the responsibility of leading the BBC’s news and current affairs coverage for Africa. I grew up in Ghana listening to the BBC as a young child and in choosing to become a journalist, the BBC was always my benchmark for journalistic excellence and what I’m passionate about; public service broadcasting with a purpose of delivering information, as well as impact,” Vera says.

The African Service delivers about a quarter of the BBC World Service’s global weekly audiences and that’s a huge coup for the team.

“I wake up every morning very aware of the importance of this responsibility, not only to maintaining the BBC’s editorial and brand credibility but also to serving our African audiences well,” she said.

Life at BBC over the years

Over the years, Vera’s positions at the BBC has been wide and varied.

She once produced and presented a wide range of BBC World Service’s English-language output for Africa.

She also was Project Manager for BBC Africa Radio Awards, Editorial Co-ordinator for BBC World Service’s coverage of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Regional Planning Co-ordinator for Africa and the Middle East. She was also a director of the BBC’s radio drama for Africa.

Vera has also served as Editorial Advisor to the Head of the BBC’s Global News Division (it comprises BBC World Service, BBC World News television, BBC Monitoring and BBC Media Action) with responsibility for overseeing editorial compliance and complaints management across the division as well as the delivery of editorial strategy.

Going back memory lane on how she joined the BBC, Vera recalled that she had been working in Ghana at Vibe FM straight out of school and had risen to become News Editor at the station.

She felt she needed to grow and possibly change careers so she applied to do a politics degree with an international relations specialism in the UK.

“When I arrived to study, I contacted Focus on Africa Editor, Robin White, if I could do some work experience during my time abroad. It’s every journalist’s dream to spend some time at the BBC, I think.”

“I remember the first day I walked into Bush House. My meeting with Robin included being asked to write an article and reading for him in a studio. He agreed I could do some work experience initially for two weeks and during holidays.”

“Ten years later, here I am. I’ve had some of the best mentors and guides at the BBC who believed in me and even more importantly my potential. They gave me responsibilities at times I didn’t even think I was ready for but I was prepared to learn and give things a try that stretched my abilities. I will forever be grateful for their trust and confidence,” she reminisced


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