Africa has its problems and challenges. We know.
But what really bothers me is how the image and narrative concerning Africa are often skewed in foreign mainstream media. Does this bother you too?
In my opinion, the biggest reason Africa’s story isn’t being told the ‘right’ way, especially on the global stage, is because not many Africans are actually telling our stories. While we throw our arms in the air, complain and blame other people for misrepresenting the realities of Africa and distorting its narrative, what exactly have you done to reverse the ugly situation?
In this article, we meet a young, ambitious and visionary entrepreneur whose passion for Africa has led him to change the world’s perspective on the continent. His inspiring journey from refugee camps in Congo into the publishing business is absolutely remarkable and stands as proof that it’s always possible to change your future, no matter how unfavourable your situation may be.
Let’s meet him…
Tell us about yourself. How did you end up in the publishing business?
My name is Moses Mutabaruka. I was born in Rwanda but grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, before immigrating to Canada. I’m also the founder and editor of The African Perspective (TAP) Magazine.
My entrepreneurial journey started from a young age. As a little 8-year-old boy living in refugee camps in the forests of Congo, I would buy a pack of cigarette in the market and return to sell each of the cigarettes to people I knew. In less than two years, I grew this small venture to the point where I could buy a full box of cigarettes, and was able to rent a stand down the corner from our tent and added other items such as sugarcanes and candies for the kids. And then, I would give the money to my mother to support the family.
It is this passion for entrepreneurship, self-reliance and for Africa, and my mother’s diverse and inspiring stories, that would later lead me into publishing an African-focused magazine.
What exactly is TAP, and what inspired you to come up with the name?
The African Perspective (TAP) Magazine is an online and print publication I founded soon after completing my university in Canada. The idea came to me from the frustration I felt from how Africa and Africans were often portrayed in the western media and the lack of a major publication or media outlet with an African voice as its core mandate.
My vision was to create a voice loud enough to counter the one-dimensional way Africa is portrayed in global media. The magazine aims to expand the scope, focus and narrative with which the lives, ambitions and accomplishments of African people are depicted.
TAP Magazine helps to present one of the world’s most vibrant, dynamic and historically complex regions in a way that preserves its nuance, humanity and global significance. At the core, TAP aims to inform, challenge and inspire the next generation of Africans.
How did you move from ‘idea’ to ‘action’ with TAP Magazine?
After years of complaining about how Western media portrayed us, my problem-solving instincts kicked in and I looked around and figured that even though I wasn’t a trained journalist, I enjoyed writing, poetry and plays. I also figured since I already had access to a laptop and internet, I’d rather stop complaining and bashing others, and tell the stories I felt weren’t being told, and re-tell the ones they were already telling in a proper way.
I was certainly tired of only seeing images of starving Africans and children with flies in their mouths. I had lived in the worst refugee camps and slums on the continent and even I knew there were better stories to tell.
With this in mind, I started writing weekly Facebook notes. The notes quickly caught “fire” and people started demanding I post more regularly as they could relate. Seeing this potential in me, a friend of mine in IT built me a blog as a gift and TAP was born from this humble beginning, from my frustration and mostly from my passion for Africa.
How did you know the market would be receptive to another magazine, when hundreds already exist?
Since we started out as a pure blog, it gave me a few years to analyze and study the market. I found that although there were other magazines on or about Africa, many were owned or run by non-Africans who were piloting the stories they told from Paris, New York and London with minimal presence on the ground.
There are other magazines that have existed for decades that are no longer relatable. There are others too that focus their editorial strictly on politics or business. Most of them are just print magazines with minimal online presence.
Having had the blog for over 2 years, we had solid analytics and a strong and returning readership over that span, so we knew that our content was rich and unique and that if we packed it well, more people would consume it. Since all this happened without any marketing and or advertisement, I knew if we brought it all together we would have something special.
And it worked!
Besides convincing those around me that I was capable of starting and publishing a magazine, one of the main challenges I encountered was I didn’t anticipate how much time would go into putting the magazine together.
Another challenge was recruiting and keeping competent people without having any remuneration to offer. Good competent people are hard to come by and are very expensive to keep. I also didn’t have any capital and the hardest thing of all I had to do was turn down money from people who I felt weren’t the right partners (some wanted control over the magazine’s editorial). This was very tempting, especially when I knew we needed capital to bring people on board, scale and take the publication to the next level.
What’s kind of feedback have you received so far? Why do your readers love TAP magazine?
So far, the feedback has been unbelievable.
To give you an example, I was at an event recently and this Haitian lady walked over to me and said that her community, which has thousands of people in Montreal/Ottawa (Canada), was using TAP as a benchmark to build their own community magazine/newspaper so they can own and tell their own stories and experiences in a nuanced way.
When I started TAP, I never imagined this. I’ve also distributed the magazines during events at Harvard and people are always enthralled by its content and the layout.
People like TAP because it’s authentic and has a pure and modern pan-African feel. They also love it because of its rich and premium content. TAP represents African life and potential in ways that inform, challenge, empower and celebrate the current generation of the continent’s thinkers, doers and cultural leaders.
People also love to read TAP magazine because it presents one of the world’s most vibrant, dynamic and historically complex regions in a way that preserves its nuance, humanity and global significance. It does this in a balanced, unbiased and uncensored manner and I believe that this is why many people gravitate toward it.
How exactly does TAP Magazine make money?
TAP has 12 “cash cow” modules. Currently, we are only focused on one. That said, like all magazines, we generate revenue through advertisement — both in the magazines, and on our website as well as through our partnerships with premium brands who would like to reach our readership.
Where do you see TAP Magazine in the next 5, 10 and 20 years?
In the next 5 years, we want to have reached 100% of our target audience. In 20 years, we want to be the benchmark African storyteller. To paint a vivid picture, we want to have a bigger and better footprint than the BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera in Africa.
Our print magazines are also found in Uber partner cars in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania) as well as in select hotels and corporate offices. You can also find the magazines in many African embassies in North America. We also ship the magazines across the world, all you have to do is make an order by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s common belief that entrepreneurs are restless people. Tell us about the next big idea you have in the pipeline.
Yes, we are restless people. I’m currently working on a project with a partner that we hope to launch next summer. It will involve utilizing our experiences and contacts in Canada and across the world to build a “guarantee fund” for African youths on the continent who are looking to build impactful small and medium sized businesses in their communities.
We want to provide capital and business expertise to 18-30 year old youths on the continent who have no securities and who would otherwise not qualify for a loan from banks and other creditors.
What’s your single most important advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business?
Start today! It is the only way you can test your idea and build your business knowledge. Put your big idea on paper; break it down into different parts. Then connect the dots, figure out what you can do today to reach your big goal. But beyond planning, you just have to take action, no matter how small. Taking bold and consistent action on your dream is the only way to make it a reality.
Want to reach out to Moses Mutabaruka? You can connect with him on Twitter @RasMutabaruka, or via email at email@example.com