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James Makawa wants Africa to be seen by the rest of the world in the best possible light.
That’s why the broadcaster and co-founder of The African Channel aims to create the first high-definition programs from Africa for global consumption.
But while the 49-year-old Zimbabwean works out that project, it is The Africa Channel that he hopes will continue to draw attention to the best of the continent’s culture and diversity.
“[Until The Africa Channel] nobody had the audacity to basically say, ‘I am going to grab a hold of this continent, put a nice bow around it and change the perception of this beloved continent in a classy, classy way,'” Makawa told CNN.
Since 2005, The Africa Channel has been bringing positive stories from the continent to millions of channel subscribers in the U.S., the UK and Caribbean. Makawa is no longer in charge of the channel but remains an active shareholder.
Born in Zimbabwe in 1960 when it was under British rule as Rhodesia, he left to study in America when he was 17-years-old as the country was being torn apart by civil war.
While leaving his parents and home was a difficult experience, his world was turned upside down when studying broadcast journalism.
“The idea that I could even be on radio or TV and impart information and tell a story. My goodness, talk about Pandora’s Box just opening up! “
Makawa went on to work as a journalist in the U.S. for NBC and later was involved in distributing American TV shows to Africa. It was during this time that he discovered the diversity of stories in Africa that were not being told.
The plan for The Africa Channel was thrashed out in 2002 over coffee with two colleagues. Fueled by enthusiasm for their idea they were able to attract investment and spread their optimism. One of the first backers was Congolese basketball player Dikembe Mutombo.
“For me it was something that I believed in, and I was proud. To see a channel carrying the name of my continent and people wonder why you love Africa so much. I say this is where I was born and raised. My roots are in Africa. That’s where I developed. My personality that I carry today came from home,” Mutombo told CNN.
The Africa Channel showcases English-language programs from across the continent, but Makawa appeared on the channel himself, most notably in 2007 interviewing Robert Mugabe.
“One thing I learned from the process was this is one man who has been on one hell of a journey. He’s smart. A true intellectual. But I just felt after speaking with him that one time that so much had changed in not just the world but the continent and the country itself,” said Makawa.
From world leaders to the lifestyles and culture of the continent, Makawa is committed to promoting the continent as much as possible.
“We all know Africa is the cradle of mankind. This is a vibrant, vibrant place. It has its problems, it has its challenges just like any other place on the planet. Some more complex. But this is a place that is just so rich, vibrant, promising.”