Bridging The Gap: Telling Africa's Infrastructure Story

Photo: Jay Caboz
Award-winning South African photojournalist Jay Caboz.
2 December 2016
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GE Africa (Lagos)

At 29 years of age, South African Jay Caboz, has the attributes of an old-fashioned journalist who believes in being out in the field to unearth stories. This curiosity is what led him to the story about the resurgence of a port in Mozambique for which he recently won the prestigious GE Energy & Infrastructure Award at the CNN  Multichoice African Journalist Awards 2016.

Caboz, a photojournalist for magazine Forbes Africa, received the accolade for a story titled “40 years of  Mozambique – The Dead Port That Rose Again”, which was chosen among entries spanning 38 African countries. Speaking about Caboz’s submission, the judging panel said: “This is a beautifully written piece about the main port in Mozambique that had all but died, being brought back to life 40 years later. The writer expertly weaves together events that took place in Mozambique over that period to bring us to where we are today; a vibrant port. It is indeed a great story straight out of Africa.”

GE has been sponsoring the Energy &  Infrastructure Award at the CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards since 2014. “As a leading energy and infrastructure company in Africa, we recognise  the huge impact energy and infrastructure can play in Africa’s development and will continue to support all efforts that bring these critical issues to the fore,” said Patricia Obozuwa, GE Africa Director of Communications. In 2014, Joy Summers and Susan Comrie of Carte Blanche won the award for their investigative piece titled “Game of Geysers Part 1 and 2” and last year, Paul Kalemba of The Standard won the award for his infographic piece “Sorting out  Nairobi Transport”.

Behind the lens

Caboz grew up in Johannesburg and it was while he was studying fine arts at Wits University that he began to fall in  love with the art of photography. However, he knew that if he wanted to be a successful journalist, he would have to be a skilled writer as well as a creative photographer. Working at Forbes Africa from 2012, he quickly established himself as an essential part of the team. “I was initially interested in photography and photo documentaries, but I got tired of pitching stories only to have someone else write them, so I decided to be a photographer who writes. I embraced the idea of a multitalented ‘new-media journalist’ who’s able to do the job of about three people,” said Caboz.

With a deep belief in narrating stories that speak to readers on an emotive level, Caboz soon convinced Forbes Africa Managing Editor, Chris Bishop, of the importance of photojournalism. This led to him working on major stories such as the #feesmustfall protests and anti-rhino poaching.

First port of call

Interestingly, the story for which he won  the CNN Multichoice award was not the original story that he had travelled to Maputo to cover. He had planned to write about Mozambique’s 40 years of independence and had therefore lined up a few interviews to fit in with this theme, but all those leads fell through. “I ended up walking along all the streets in Maputo, trying to find something to write about and during that time, I was waiting for some people to get back to me about stories, one of which was about the port. Chris [Bishop], who has travelled quite a bit in Africa, told me to visit the port as he heard that there was some activity around the area. When I arrived at the location, I found out that a massive billion-dollar investment had been made in an attempt to get the port up and running again,” said Caboz.

Caboz spoke to Ricardo Roberts, the port’s Commercial Manager who was able to tell the story of Mozambique’s independence, having worked at the port for 40 years. This gave a seemingly straight forward infrastructure piece a much-needed human interest angle; an aspect that award judges commended. “We were able to tell Mozambique’s story through the eyes of Roberts and that is what made this article so meaningful.”

Caboz was grateful to GE for sponsoring such an important category. “This provides a platform for African journalists to tell extraordinary stories. I look forward to writing many more articles about infrastructure development on the continent; a vital driver of ongoing sustainability and GDP growth.”

This article first appeared on GE Africa Reports.

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