Ghanaian anchors on BBC

By Peterking Quaye with support from Bft – Komla Dumor’s is a Ghanaian making waves in UK for the BBC, since his ascendance to the position many sees it spectacular rise in broadcast journalism and well documented. Currently seen as the only West African presenter on the BBC World News.

Starting off at Joy FM as a traffic watch reporter, Komla got on the back of a scooter riding through Accra telling listeners areas where there was traffic congestion. His command over the English language and apt description of traffic situation won him many admirers- including the management at Joy FM who “decided to give me the opportunity to do regular programmes,” Komla remarked in a recent interview.

After a decade at JOY FM where he was also the Operations Manager, Komla joined the BBC African Service in 2006 where he was a presenter on the Network Africa and Focus on Africa programmes. His performance at the African service caught the eye of the top hierarchy of the World Service who whisked him off to the department. Komla started off presenting the World Today’s programme, reaching out to over 100million audience across the world.

It was, however, on the JOY FM’s morning show that Komla made his mark. After the departure of Tommy Annan-Forson, Komla became a befitting replacement. He branded the show his own way and within a short time the Super Morning Show had become the reference point for “discerning listeners.”

Not only did he create the space for the elite in the society but ordinary people who had a story to tell. Especially traders, fishermen, fishmongers, taxi drivers and boxers were given equal platform to tell their own stories. Ghanaian boxer Briamah Kamoko aka Bukom Banku was one of the boxers who had his time on the show. Again, he also confronted the perceived controversial issues most presenters were too scared to talk about on their shows.

His hardwork was recognized when the Ghana Journalists Association conferred on him the Journalist of the Year award in 2003.That award was however without controversy; his credential as a journalist was questioned by other journalists who claimed he did spend time in the four walls of a journalism school.

Eight years after the controversy, Komla-now presenter of news and current affairs on the BBC World Service, is in contention for the best Speech Broadcaster of the Year at this year’s Sony Radio Academy Awards to be held next month. The Sony Radio Academy awards celebrate journalists who work in the United Kingdom for their work the previous year.

The Speech and Broadcaster of the Year nomination falls under the People Awards category which recognizes the contributions of broadcasters in speech-based programmes. The Sony Radio Academy Awards has been running for 30 years. There are 35 categories in all and the “judges are looking for evidence of outstanding presentation and content that engages its target audience.”

The World Today programme covers broad range of political, economic and social issues around the Middle East, South America and North America and Europe. Komla bonded well with the audience and his tough and precise questioning often unsettled interviewees especially government spokespersons who had to respond to questions about lapses in their country’s governance style.

In August 2009 following the launch of the BBC World News Africa Business Report, the mantle to present the programme fell on Komla. The monthly show examined the benefits and challenges of doing business on the African continent. Komla traveled to some selected African countries including Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana, speaking to entrepreneurs, economists and other business leaders on the cost of doing business on the continent.

Reacting to his appointment at that time Komla said:”It’s a privilege to present Africa Business Report during a time in which the continent is developing its economic growth and business future. I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world but it’s in Africa where I feel a real energy emerging from a generation of young entrepreneurs who are determined to compete on a global scale.”

The first segment of the show came from South Africa. Komla covered stories about the country’s construction growth, and how businesses in the country were positioning themselves to make money from the then 2010 World Cup. Among the leading personalities who were interviewed by Komla included Francois Diedrechsen, the Financial and Commercial Director of Raubex Construction (Pty), Ltd and Chris Hart, a revered South African economist.

Komla again was back in South Africa during the World Cup anchoring the BBC’s special programme around the tournament with other BBC presenters. In November last year, Komla co-anchored the BBCs coverage of the US mid-term elections which the Tea Party of the Republican Party made serious gains. He interviewed US political pundits, ordinary Americans and immigrants about life in Obama’s America.

Following the departure of Jonathan Charles from the prime time morning show on the BBC television, the log fell on Komla, to take up the position in addition to his role on the World Today programme. The show targets audience in both the United Kingdom and beyond. He said his continual rise in broadcasting is based on hardwork, determination and commitment to work.

“I come in to work at 09:00 pm; that’s when most folks are closing or have closed for the day…I’m not going to be on air until 03:00 am. So I have up to six hours of reading and preparation and studying the briefs that have been prepared by what we call ‘the day team.” Despite the many successes he continues to achieve in his field, Komla’s glittering career did not come on a silver platter. His said the initial stages at JOY FM were not without challenges.

“People know my story but they only know a small part of the story. They don’t know the beginnings and how humble those beginnings are [such as] walking the streets of Adabraka-Odawna without any sense of plan or guidance.” “There was a time myself and Bernard Gbagbey fell in a gutter at Achimota and when I got out of the gutter I said to myself, what kind of job is this. And at the moment we fell into the gutter, some of the Volta girls (Volta Hall, University of Ghana) were passing by and were laughing, I mean they were really, really laughing.”

He holds a BSc in Sociology and Psychology (University of Ghana) and an MA in Public Administration (Harvard University). Initially, Komla Dumor studied medicine for four years but opted out to the disappointment of his professor who told him:”You’re not supposed to fail, man! You’re a Ghanaian!”

He is married to Kwansema Dumor and the couple is blessed with two children. He enjoys walking the dogs or driving on empty road; thinking, meditating, planning.