Hot Spot : Freelancing in Africa

Videojournalist Ruud Elmendorp moved to Africa from Netherlands 15 years ago. He understood that there was a deeper world behind this so-called poverty that needed to be explored. Currently he is reporting on the Kenyan presidential elections. What keeps him working there and what it’s like to do stories in Africa? Ruud shared his thoughts with HackPack’s Spotlight project

So after hesitating and contemplating in 2001 I quit my job at the regional channel TV Rijnmond in Rotterdam in good faith and continued freelance eyeing international opportunities. That brought me to wartime South Sudan as an NGO correspondent filing on the demobilisation of child soldiers.

This was a short-term contract and after I returned to the Netherlands after 8 months. Quite soon after being happy to be back I suddenly found my home country boring after stayed in war zone. So again after a while I packed my bags and went to Nairobi where I had some friends from the time in South Sudan. Arriving at the Nairobi airport there was only my luggage and an open road before me. Now after 15 years I am still around having reported from across the continent and still wanting to see more.

What charmed me first was the unpolished nature of sensations and relations. Friendship is deep, hatred is deep, love is deep, anger goes deep and forgiveness goes deep. If you eat a tomato it has taste, if you see a fly it’s big. If the suns shines it burns you and if it rains it’s torrential.

The stories I like to do are on conflict and development. Conflict because wars and turmoil bring out the worst of people but also the best. So these stories are always interesting and meaningful. It’s great that no matter how the situation is people will choose for survival and make the best of it. And these are very powerful stories also for humanity.

And there is this incredible ability to think in solutions. For example some years ago the arrivals terminal of Kenya’s main airport got destroyed in a fire. That a fire can break out in such a high profile location is surely African, but it’s also African that within a few days they got the airport operational again by improvising. That’s amazing and shows the power.

And also I have to add that concerning media things are changing. International news reporting is expensive and many newsrooms have cut back on their foreign desks.

Leaving the channels with the obvious news about poverty and conflict in Africa they pull from the networks. But on social media there is a stream of channels emerging that have the time and resources to go deeper about news in Africa. That is encouraging since these channels are many. Also because of their low overhead cost they have budget to go beyond the obvious and the expected.

How’s it work

How many languages do you use during your work? Mainly English, and my broken Swahili.

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