The EastAfrican newspaper started out as an idea which later grew into a paper selling over 30,000 copies. The inspiration for the paper came from the expectation that the East African community would be revived and the thinking was that the new therein would be a good opportunity for a cross border media, starting with a newspaper. This bet by the Nation Media Group (NMG) management finally paid off as the East African Community (EAC) integration is on course.
A lot of work went into coming up with the paper, the founding editor Joseph Odindo had this to say;
â€œBut at any rate, preparations were intensive. There was a lot of preliminary work in the trying to understand the market.â€
He went to explain that it was more so due to the fact that NMG had not launched a new product in 30 years.
When it was finally launched the paper was slightly different from what the planners had envisioned. This was due to the fact that before launch research was done by talking to the market and trying to understand what it actually needed. The founders actually had to make road trips across the region in order to better understand the countries they would be operating in. It was through this market research by talking to the potential readers such as permanent secretaries, political leaders, captains of the industry, university lecturers among others which led to the realization one, the gap lay in the business oriented, publication; two, it was not a mass readers newspapers; three, it had to offer something that was existing newspapers did not carry and that is intelligent information covering areas were neglected, offering analysis and perspective. This is essentially what made it differ from the original idea and what also made it stand out when it was finally launched.
The launch of the paper like and new product in a competitive market also had itâ€™s own share of drama. This happened when the competition being The standard got wind of the idea and they decide to come up with their own paper called â€˜East African Chronicleâ€™. The then advertising director for the Standard Group Mutahi Kagwe (current Nyeri county senator) got wind of the project, saw a business opportunity and launched a rival with the help of a US organization that brought him talent in terms of retired journalists. Kagwe went ahead to launch the paper before the Nation team which almost threw the whole project in disarray as everyone was in panic mode, however calmer heads prevailed and a decision to push ahead was reached given the amount of work that had been put into it. The rival paper triumph was short lived in the sense that they had underestimated the amount of resources required to run such a paper and with time it folded due to lack of appropriate content from the region.
The newspaper has had itâ€™s fair share of run-ins with the various governments in the EAC block, In the words of the founding editor.
â€œA newspaper without conflict with the government is a newspaper that is not doing something right. There are many instances, but in Kenya, the one that I remember most was the story we broke on the construction of the bullet factory in Eldoret. You know in the Moi era everything was treated with suspicion, even things that were legitimate. At the time, it was seen as a wasteful project and some felt that there were ulterior motives on the part of the government. We had so much detail that the authorities reached out to us to our sources.â€
Other instances when the paper rubbed authorities the wrong way include the bold coverage of the Uganda presidential election that saw President Yoweri Museveni travel personally to Nairobi to tell Nick Wachira. The reporting on Richmond Scandal in Tanzania, equivalent to Kenyaâ€™s Goldenberg led to some grief for the writer from influential businessmen. The most recent being itâ€™s ban from circulation by authorities in Tanzania for allegedly operating in the country without being properly registered 20 years after it was launched.
Even with the ups and downs the paper has managed to grow in leaps and bounds, in the words of Joseph Odindo;
â€œI know we started with an idea and ended up with a paper that is selling 30,000 copies, a paper that at least even (former US president) Bill Clinton was proud to announce that he reads regularly.â€