Conversation with the Publisher
I joined the group at an interesting time. I believe it was around that time that Thabo Mbeki once again popularised the term African Renaissance. We all know how the continent between 2001 and 2011 has gone from being the hopeless continent as described by one of our journalistic peers to becoming the rising one.
The group was founded by my father, Afif Ben Yedder, and we were brought up surrounded by books, magazines and newspapers, although we never felt any pressure to join the group or to work for the family business. Although I had always envisaged to join the family business once I had gained some life, professional and management experience elsewhere.
My upbringing was typically multicultural, and I would consider my values a mix of Tunisian (and consequently African) values and British ones. At home the whole environment was very Tunisian and we were continuously exposed to Tunisian and African culture. We speak Arabic and French at home and every school holiday we were sent packing to Tunisia to spend time with our relatives. Our early education was French and living in London we were inevitably exposed to British culture, which in the early 80s was a lot less international than it is today. As such I was exposed to both ‘an emerging market’ thinking and mindset (or 3rd world as we were called then) and that of a developed nation (albeit one going through its own existential crisis). This juxtaposition of cultures from an early age and our strong Tunisian roots helped me appreciate different approaches to analysing issues. I could see first hand the misleading perceptions the West had in relation to developing nations and quickly understood the importance of overcoming certain stereotypes that are naturally inherent in western reporting of affairs, which was often conducted with sincerity and good intentions.
I was fortunate to also be exposed to the best of British, the free media and open debate, and put in an environment where I was allowed to compete with some of the best in the game. From a very young age we were taught to expect the best and to actively aspire to be the best. These are aspirations which I also recognise in my African peers - this generation of highly ambitious, bright, talented and very impatient (and sometimes angry) young Africans across the continent.
The fate of our media group has followed the fate of Africa and the Arab world over the last forty years, and the last 8 have been truly exhilarating. On my frequent travels I bump into people from different walks of life and living throughout the world, and am reminded of the important role our magazines play and continue to play in Africa. The continent is underreported and often misreported, and at best reported with largely outdated and preconceived ideas. Within IC Publications we understand the media and communications landscape in Africa. We feel that unless we improve the quality of our own media and that we Africans provide our own analysis and viewpoints, we would be doing a disservice to the continent. In that respect we never take our job and our responsibilities in any way for granted. The power of communication cannot be underestimated. We are also acutely aware that in an era of mass communication, communication relating to Africa is poor, both in terms of how events are covered and reported, and also how we (Africans) communicate to the outside world, both from a political and institutional perspective.
Our group has a passion for Africa and the benchmarks we are trying to establish within the group are to report Africa with professional excellence and deep historical as well as cultural insight; and to present a balanced analytical foresight of its future. We aim to do our best consistently and also to be the best in what we do. These are possibly the two major philosophical attributes which we try and instill within the group. By this process, we end up showing that what comes out of Africa - and from African minds - can match the world’s best.
The Group’s principal activities when I joined was the publication of three monthly magazines. Today we publish 8 magazines, organise a number of events (in-house and bespoke) and offer advice and active consultancy.
The role of our magazines themselves has changed over the years from providing news of what was happening in Africa to what we do today which is the provision of insight, analysis and debate. With a proliferation of media on numerous platforms, we are bombarded with what can be quanlified as an excess of information. It’s the role of outlets such as ours to decipher all this information and make some sense of it, in a way which is informative, relevant and accessible.
The aim of the group is to be the most authoritative voice on African affairs and to contribute towards shaping the African agenda. We also aim to be a provider of invaluable information to aid decision making and effect positive change in the continent, be it political analysis or discrete business and financial information. In this respect we aim to provide up to date, accurate, thoroughly researched, well presented information and analysis written with clarity and precision - as well as challenging the status quo. Communication platforms will inevitably vary and evolve, although today our focus will be primarily on print and digital media.
Because ultimately it is people who do and change things, we launched in 2007 an events department. Its primary objective was to use our extensive networks and our insider knowledge to connect people to enable them to discuss and develop solutions to the challenges and also take advantage of the opportunities which our continent holds, in whatever area that may be.
Our business is all about attracting the best minds to provide the insight which our clients are looking for. We strongly believe that for this you need a mix of youth with wisdom and experience. The latter plays an important role especially in our industry. More than reporting, our role is to contextualise and analyse, and you cannot do so without a clear understanding of your past, of historical events and the impact of decisions. Those who forget the mistakes of history are bound to repeat them, so the saying goes. Experience therefore becomes key if we are to help shape the agenda and participate pro-actively in the debate.
Given the group's truly pan-African reach, the continent truly knows how to keep us busy to achieve this!
Omar Ben Yedder