BBC World journalist Komla Dumor was one of Africa’s broadcasting stars whose sudden death extinguished his light, says chairwoman of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
“Komla was evidently one of Africa’s finest broadcast journalists, who rose from being a legendary radio broadcaster in Ghana to world class. He criss-crossed the continent connecting and bringing the world to Focus on Africa, as is entitled one of the programmes he brilliantly and eloquently anchored. Whether with Focus on Africa, or Africa Business Report, he treated burning continental issues with a light-hearted flair, and yet a critical approach that incarnated a true spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. Komla is truly one of Africa’s brightest stars that just got extinguished. He will greatly be missed.” Dlamini Zuma said in a statement.
The death of the Ghanaian born journalist, at the age of 41, shocked the global journalism community and the audience who watched Dumor’s shows on the BBC. Dumor died at his home in London of a suspected heart attack.
“Our nation has lost one of its finest ambassadors. @BBCkomladumor (Dumor’s Twitter handle) was a broadcaster of exceptional quality and Ghana’s gift to the world,” tweeted Ghana’s president, John Dramani Mahama.
“Komla was a friend, a brother and a patriot, who cared very deeply about Ghana and Africa and also about global leadership that serves people and improve lives. His brilliant broadcast work during the recent passing of South Africa’s global icon, Nelson Mandela, was hailed by many around the world,” Mahama said in a statement.
“Komla Dumor brought huge energy and humour to the BBC’s reporting from Africa. He had such character and enthusiasm. I just can’t believe it. I didn’t know him well. But we chatted at a party last night and he seemed entirely fine. Stunned,” said Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News international editor.
Komla Dumor was born on 3 October 1972 in Accra, Ghana. His grandfather, Philip Gbeho, composed the Ghanaian national anthem. Although he started studying medicine, Dumor changed course and graduated from the University of Ghana with a BSc in Sociology and Psychology and later received a Masters in public administration from Harvard University.
He started his career in journalism at Joy FM radio in Accra, winning the 2003 winner of Journalist of the Year award given by the Ghana Journalist Association.
Dumor joined the BBC African Service in 2006 as host of the radio programme Network Africa. He went on to present The World Today on the BBC World Service. In 2011 Dumor began presenting the World News and Africa Business Report on BBC World News television. When the latter was relaunched in 2013, fellow BBC correspondent, Lerato Mbele was chosen as host.
“Rest in Peace Komla. Your purpose was to break glass ceilings so the rest of us can enter. A race well run. Blessings always,” Mbele wrote on Twitter when learning of his death.
Dumor took on the role of presenter of the BBC’s Focus on Africa. At the time, he told The Media Online while Africa had many stories to tell, he was not setting the news agenda. “My role is to provide the connection between what our correspondents are delivering and what the viewers will be watching, so, you know, I’m not here to set any kind of agenda. What I’m interested in doing is to ensure that the material we provide is accurate, balanced and presents a full view of the continent – the challenges as well as the triumphs,” he said.
“You know I’ve been reporting to the BBC for many years now and I do have a strong interest in political issues, business issues – presenting Africa Business Report for many years. But I often find that the most powerful stories are those of human interest. I will be presenting from London but will have responsibilities that will require me to travel to the continent and my presence there (in London) is as involved as it would be if I was presenting on location somewhere in Africa,” he said.
Dumor believed Africa was emerging from its reputation as the “dark continent”. “I have travelled to almost 20 countries in the past two years reporting exclusively on business and opportunities; clearly the Africa of 10 to 15 years ago is not the Africa of today. That being said, Africa still has enormous challenges, and there are difficulties that need to be surmounted by policy makers and by African people. My job is to report on that entire process, to share that story with the rest of the world,” he told The Media Online.
The BBC said Dumor’s “many friends and colleagues across Africa and the world will be as devastated as we are by this shocking news”. Director of BBC Global News, Peter Horrocks, said Dumor 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. He will be deeply missed,” Horrocks said.
BBC director of news, James Harding, said Dumor “played a singular role in transforming the coverage of Africa, not only for the BBC but across broadcasting. And he brought a depth of understanding, a great deal of courage, a joyous charm and boundless charisma to his work”.
Dumor last month covered the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. He said Mandela’s death was Dumor was “one of the moments that will stay with me”.
“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.”