Abaas Mpindi has joined the growing list of young Ugandans that are coming up to transform and shape Uganda’s journalism through diligently engaging university students in initiatives that are based on building a one-person-army journalist to compete better in the market place.
Mpindi, the CEO of the Media Challenge Initiative (MCI), an accelerator programme that creates space to equip young people with skills that most never acquire despite having gone through university. This initiative has gone on to foster Uganda’s best and brightest in journalism.
Owing to his passion and love for transforming lives of youth, especially those interested in journalism and mass communication, Mpindi is fostering change for the “misrepresentation and the rampant stereotypical media narratives about Africa,” as former US president Barack Obama put it while delivering a speech during the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“People like Abaas Mpindi are doing the real hard work to bring change in their communities. His Media Challenge Initiative is helping young people get the training they need to tell the stories that the world needs to know,” Obama hailed Mpindi for championing transformation in Uganda.
Mpindi was also nominated this year in the young achievers awards.
Mpindi’s dream of being a catalyst of transformation started seven years ago with his classmates Simon Peter Ssenyondo, Antonio Kisembo and Ivan Kimuli Kigozi while at UMCAT as journalism students after going through a lot of hardships getting internship placement in the media houses.
“I went to ask for internship at some TV station but was stopped at the reception because I lacked a recommendation letter. On my way to school, I wondered how many people out there are going through this situation,” recalls Mpindi.
That frustration prompted him and his colleagues to start MCI whose first inter-university media challenge was held in 2012. They have since then laid a foundation for young journalism students cannot access the media houses and media personnel
“It is very hard to link up with these media houses when you’re a student, but Abaas has linked us with big journalists through the mentorship programme which has helped us a lot. Because of that, I now work with NBS,” Paul Kayongo, NBS news reporter, a 2017 MCI fellow, shares.
During the start of MCI, Mpindi did not have any job, so he and his colleagues had to look for money to be able to pull it off. They had a plan of Shs99m but could only raise Shs300,000. He moved from office to office in search for support for the initiative but all was in vain as people could not understand his dream for young journalism students.
“2012, was a hard year for us. We met at Antonio’s restaurant to plan although we could not afford rent. Each of us had to pull up money and all my savings were drained,” he reminisces.
Mpindi also shares how he survived being beaten up by the university students during their first ever media challenge competitions.
“I survived being beaten up by university students. Our services were poor because we did not have money; a student would be anchoring and electricity goes off, then students would approach me asking me what is happening, thinking it was intentional.” Mpindi recalls.
Mpindi says that the first person who believed in his vision was the legendary journalist, Bbale Francis (RIP) who gave them a voice. To date, the MCI has an award named after him: BBALE FRANCIS BEST MALE NEWS ANCHOR AWARD.
Achievements of MCI
MCI comprises the media challenge academy, mobile journalism newsroom, media challenge awards, media challenge expo and inter- university media challenge competitions that have empowered students to be the next journalists who offer solutions and engineer change in Africa.
Annually, around November, Mpindi, through his initiative visits more than 12 universities around Uganda doing the mobile newsroom that equips students with different skills in broadcast, print, photography and online news. Later on, students converge for a media expo that comprises workshops, discussions, mentorships, career fair and competitions.
This year’s media challenge expo had 18 universities with more than 1,000 students participating and 50 exhibitors from different companies in attendance. For six years now, MCI has mentored and empowered over 2,000 students.
Some of the journalists that have been part of the media challenge include NTV news reporters Walter Mwesigye, John Cliff Wamala and Sandra Kahumuza, NBS news reporter Kayongo Paul, KFM news anchor Ritah Kemigisa, NTV The Beat presenter Tracy Kababiito, and Record TV news anchor and reporter Julius Bukyana.