Komla Dumor: Respected and admired radio and television presenter who played a leading role in transforming the coverage of Africa
Wednesday 22 January 2014
The presenter Komla Dumor, who has died of a heart attack at 41, was hugely popular with radio and television audiences across Africa, especially in his homeland of Ghana, where he was nicknamed "The Boss Player". Last year New African magazine named him one of the top 100 globally influential Africans, citing one of his favourite observations: "There's so much more to tell about Africa than the usual stories about war, famine and disease."
According to James Harding, the BBC's Director of News and Current Affairs, Dumor had a "singular role in transforming the coverage of Africa" and "brought a depth of understanding, a great deal of courage, a joyous charm and boundless charisma to his work." At the time of his death he was the only West African presenter on BBC World News.
Dumor was born in Accra in 1972. His father, Ernest Dumor, was a professor of sociology while his mother, Cecelia Dumor, had a Masters in Mass Communication. His grandfather, the musician Philip Gbeho, wrote the Ghanaian national anthem. Dumor had no training as a journalist; in 1988 he enrolled at the University of Jos in Nigeria to study medicine but dropped out to read sociology and psychology in Ghana. He later gained a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard.
In 1998, during strikes which affected his studies at the University of Ghana, he saw an advert for a part-time job at the local Joy FM radio station as a roving reporter. In this role he would ride around the city on his bike, call into the station with news about the capital's traffic jams and then rush into the university to attend his lectures.
Dumor's friendly yet professional style endeared him to radio audiences. Within two years he had his own slot as a presenter on Joy FM's Super Morning Show and in 2003 was named Journalist of the Year, by the Ghana Journalist Association. The current president of the association, Dr Affail Monney, described his passing as "...one of the saddest days in Ghanaian journalism, the day we lost one of our purest gems at all times." The station's team dedicated its morning programme to him on Monday this week. His former colleague, Tommy Annan-Forson, said as part of the tributes that day: "He had a style that could attract you to TV, to watch him, that could virtually get you marooned... His stories were so unique, the way he handled them..."
In 2007 Dumor joined the BBC, hosting Network Africa for the World Service on radio, going on to present the World Today programme. Africa Business Report, which he anchored from 2009 to 2012, provided pioneering coverage of commercial affairs on the continent; in this role he interviewed guests including the Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. More recently, in Focus on Africa, the first BBC daily news programme for African audiences in English, he presented features from across the continent.
The BBC's Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet spoke of the three Fs central to his life: faith, family and football. A dedicated follower of the Ghanaian national team, he was always keen to comment on their progress. In his last article on the BBC News website he listed some of his highlights from 2013, including, with pride: "Ghana, my team, qualified for the football World Cup."
He also noted, with characteristic perspicacity, "I could not help but see the irony watching the French President François Hollande welcomed as a hero and liberator in Mali in the same year the African Union marked 50 years of its existence."
He provided coverage following the recent death of Nelson Mandela, saying later: "Covering the funeral for me will always be a special moment. I will look back on it with a sense of sadness. But also with gratitude. I feel lucky to have been a witness to that part of the Mandela story." Makaziwe, Mandela's daughter, said of him, "Here was truly a shining star of Africa who came into our lounges, our bedrooms, every day 7:30 South African time... Komla was Africa in every essence." Asked about his visit following her father's death, she continued, "That's the type of person, of professional journalist, that he was... There are those people who have the charisma, the presence, that make you happy, even if you are sad, who give you that warm feeling inside."
The Director of BBC Global News, Peter Horrocks, said in tribute: "Komla's many friends and colleagues across Africa and the world will be as devastated as we are by this shocking news. Komla was a leading light of African journalism – committed to telling the story of Africa as it really is. Africa's energy and enthusiasm seemed to shine through every story Komla told."
Komla Afeke Dumor, broadcaster: born Accra, Ghana 3 October 1972; married 2001 Kwansema (two daughters, one son); died London 18 January 2014.
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