Video Fails to Kill The Radio Star: How to Build A Media Empire, Malawian Style

Gospel

“[Radio] is a very powerful tool that can change people’s lives. It’s a voice, loaded with information. It’s a voice with content that can be used effectively to change how people think, to change [the] attitudes of the people, to change so many things.”

Gospel Kazako knows that sometimes it’s best to follow the light.

The eldest of eight children, the Malawian entrepreneur had a typical upbringing in the southern town of Zomba. One night, sitting out on his parents’ veranda, he spotted a mysterious light flashing atop nearby Mount Mpigi. He asked someone about it, who told him it was a radio transmitter. “I got very fascinated,” Kazako recalls. A lifetime obsession was instantly born, setting the young boy on a path that would see him transmitting to millions of people every day and eventually becoming a major media mogul.

High school and a diploma in journalism later and Kazako found employment at Malawian state radio MBC. There, he produced a variety of shows but after seven years he left to set up his own company, and later on he successfully expanded into television.

Perseverance is key. Denied a radio license three times, he eventually set up what would become the biggest private radio station in Malawi.
Perseverance is key. Denied a radio license three times, he eventually set up what would become the biggest private radio station in Malawi.

Below is an excerpt from his recent interview with CNN.

Start small but always think big. “We started very, very simple, with very, very simple gadgets,” Kazako explains. “When people [came to] the studios they were fascinated. ‘Are you broadcasting to the whole country using these simple gadgets?’ I said yes.”

“We continued, struggling, expanding. We started with five transmitting sites… now we have I think over 34-35 transmitting sites across the country.”

After nine years in radio Kazako wanted a new challenge and decided to expand into television.

“Realizing the dream of running or owning a television station [was] a very, very difficult journey,” he says. “The day we switched on the television… expecting that every moment, any second, we’re going to see a Zodiak signal… I don’t know how to describe it… it was a very, very emotional moment.”

Businesses should be ethical. Gospel says Kodiak’s mission was always clear. “From the onset we told ourselves that we are going to be a radio station that should be fair, balanced, ethical, professional and non-partisan. A station that was going to be one that everyone must trust.”

“I feel I have a personal responsibility as a broadcaster, as a journalist, to ensure that people are well informed. So they can make decisions about their future; decisions about their lives.”

Giving back. Gospel is now using his station to help others. In 2007 he introduced the Zodiak Girl Awards, recognizing the best female students in high schools. “I have always been a very strong believer that for us to move forward everybody must be included. And when I say everybody, this includes women. You cannot talk about human rights without women rights.” “For us to develop as a country we need to make sure that we are not leaving our women behind,” Gospel argues, “empowering our girls through education.”

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Humble beginnings should not restrict you. “I didn’t grow up with a lot of resources around me,” Kazako explains. “I know the pains of sleeping with an empty stomach… I know the pains of sleeping on a railway line without a blanket… I know the pains of almost having nothing.”

Speaking of the media empire he has built, Kazako is self-deprecating.

“Anybody can do this. I’m like you… Wherever you are in [your] corner of the world, you can become someone. In the very small corner that you are, take off fear and believe in your idea. Believe in your idea, work very hard, and make sure [it] is going to happen… Sometimes it can be very frustrating, sometimes you feel you are bashing a dry hard wall, sometimes people look at you like a crazy fellow, but just believe and keep on walking.”

(Courtesy of Thomas Page and Marc Hoeferlein: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/06/africa/gospel-kazako-zodiak-malawi/index.html)

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