Covering sub-Saharan Africa can seem like being an extra in one long disaster movie. Last week Nairobi bureau chief Simon Robinson set forth once again to report on yet another gruesome tale, the mass murder of a Christian religious sect in Kanungu, Uganda. In the year since he moved to Kenya for TIME, Robinson has had more than his share of such assignments. But like the superb journalist he is, he refuses to let the misery overwhelm him. "Of course Africa has its wars and coups and disasters," says Robinson. "But it is also full of people making a difference, businesses opening up new opportunities, societies growing stronger despite the odds. It's important that we tell those stories too."
Africa has a rich mix of news to report, good and bad. In his first year Robinson has written stories on Nigeria's return to democracy after 15 years of military rule, the struggle for women's rights in Kenya and the growth of Christianity in Africa. Simon's ability to find positive news amid Africa's woes was rewarded earlier this year at the second annual Business Journalist of the Year ceremony, held at London's Guildhall, where TIME journalists were shortlisted in four of the 14 categories. Simon took first prize in the Mining and Metals category for his July 12, 1999 story, "An African Gold Rush," on the development of gold mining in Tanzania.
Not bad for a former film major who got his start in journalism writing for Who Weekly, one of our sister publications in Australia. There, he produced profiles on a famous Australian footballer, cricketers, actors and writers. In 1995 he joined the staff of the Australian edition of TIME, based in Auckland as its New Zealand correspondent. We were lucky enough to lure him to TIME's Atlantic edition in February 1999.
Even before last week's tragedy in Uganda, Africa had so far this year witnessed a military coup in the Ivory Coast, accelerating ethnic violence in Nigeria, continued civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a massively destructive flood in Mozambique. But Simon believes Africa faces a larger challenge. "With technology transforming the rest of the world, Africa is going to have to move twice as fast or it will simply be left behind," says Robinson. Our man in Nairobi will, of course, continue to cover Africa's human tragedies. But he will also keep us posted on how well Africa's people are doing in the global economic race.
Business Editor, TIME Atlantic