His name is Arnold Segawa, a new name on Ugandan TV but relatively older on the media circuit as a whole.
“I worked on Sanyu FM, then, my on air alias was Lionell, I did the Evening Drive with Crystal Newman for two years,” he says.
It was at a time the station was managing some sort of a crisis, years earlier they had lost Jimmy Jones to Capital FM and in a short time, they had also lost Crystal’s co-host on the Evening Drive, Val Oketcho to the same station.
The station held an audition where different people had applied Segawa was one of them and he got the job, co-hosting the Evening Drive.
But before radio, he had been contributing to the media industry in different capacities; for instance, he had voiced a number of adverts both for brands, radios and TVs.
In fact, many that knew him prior to his NTV anchoring stint were familiar with the voicing gigs, some had never anticipated he would get into the ‘so serious’ journalism he is into.
“I still do voicing, I move with my studio on me, a microphone and laptop, and if there is need, I will just cover myself in a blanket and record,” he says.
Segawa is what local tabloids would refer to as a media journeyman. In a short time, he has worked at Sanyu FM, programmed a radio in Rwanda and worked with CNBC in South Africa. On the contrary, he doesn’t look at himself as such, in fact, he says he only considers himself as a person that loves challenging himself and thus, taking on new tasks.
“I don’t think it’s good to be in a comfort zone, you can’t tell yourself that you have done it all, it is always good to challenge yourself.”
He says in all the places he has worked, he did not know a person prior to joining them but still tried his luck, sometimes even in fields he had no experience. For example, when someone asked him if he could programme a radio station in Kigali, he dully accepted and before it was too late, he was already reading books about programming, adding that his interest in a variety of music genres helped a lot.
But programming for Royal FM, the radio station in Kigali was never a walk in the park.
“It was challenging, considering the fact that they speak a different language and I have never stayed there before”, he says.
He also had to contemplate the fact that the media industry there was slower than that of Uganda, with a few players.
“What I noticed on their radio is that they tend to have longer links, they can talk for 30 minutes before taking a break.”
Bumping into TV
While in Kigali, Segawa applied for a job with CNBC Africa at the bureau there. Initially, he says he had applied for the position of producer; “but when my contract was sent from South Africa, it read ‘producer/presenter’.” And just like that, he had landed on TV as CNBC presenter for East Africa and fortunately or unfortunately, they were not willing to listen to his pleas.
“I still remember when we went for filming, we did over 20 takes, and they said if I had been on radio, TV was going to be easier.”
He says in the past 10 years, he has applied for more than 100 scholarships and it wasn’t surprising that it was through a scholarship that he ended up in South Africa. He had applied for the Konrad Adenaer Stiftung (KAS) journalism scholarship in 2018 and he got it.
The scholarship was to see him leave Kigali for South Africa where he would attend the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg for one year. Since he had been working for CNBC in Kigali, leaving for South Africa meant he could continue working with the channel, since their African headquarters are in the same country.
“They asked me to continue working while studying,” he says.
Of course, South Africa was a different market to what he had been used to in EastAfrica, “It is very different altogether, you needed to understand their politics and economy.”
Working in a xenophobic society
But that wasn’t all, South Africa gets toxic at times; many of these times locals tend to attack those they believe are taking opportunities they believe belong to them – the foreigners. Segawa says South Africa is a country of two extremes; the bad and good, “I remember the time someone asked me where I was from and I said Uganda and they asked me if Uganda was in the Eastern Cape.”
But he says that the country still has very good people that will ensure nothing bad happens to you.
“I was lucky to meet and work with the good people,” he says, adding that most of the times, the angry people are those that have been deprived.
“There are times my mother calls me asking if I’m fine and then she tells me of an incident she has read about and I later find out it happened in another province.”
But even when Segawa has not been a victim of xenophobia, he in many ways has been a victim of tribal discrimination that is common in different African countries. For instance, the first time a poster advertising the new NTV news anchors was posted online, someone in the comment section was quick to point out that all the new people, him inclusive were from the same district.
And the day he made his screen debut, he caused a social media stir but not for all the fun reasons, some people claimed he was from a specific tribe because of the moustache.
So did the tribal profiling get to him? “Luckily am not on Facebook or Instagram, but I can’t say I don’t see what people say about me, I receive the screenshots,” he says.
But he says when he saw all the tribal comparisons, especially about his moustache: “I asked myself, when we got here? When did a nose belong to a certain tribe? As far as I remember, we are all Ugandans,” he says.
Of course, as an anchor, Segawa always does more than just read the teleprompter, he follows some of the stories he reads and thus was disappointed that on his debut, Total had suspended the pipeline deal and there was a threat of people losing jobs; “but guess what? People are talking about the moustache”.
Working on TV
Segawa had worked with NTV in different capacities; he reveals for example that he voiced many of Spark TV’s first jingles.
He says he came back to Uganda when he figured there was something he could do at home. Since he is waiting to start his PHD next year, he says NTV became the ideal destination since it has been a safe bet for him for information for the years he was away. And much as he is always on the move, he says that he will stay even when he resumes studies.
So how does Segawa prepare for a live broadcast?
He says doing live shows has different demands all the time. He gives an example of his show on CNBC in Johannesburg where he would interview a person in London, while listening to the producers in the ear and following what people are saying online at the same time.
He says every anchor has their own way of preparing before the cameras eventually roll, “Some shut everything out,” he says adding that regardless of the time one had done it, something definitely changes when the director starts the countdown.
Segawa has completed 13 postgraduate courses in numerous fields from Climate Change, Oil and Gas Management, Political philosophy to Digital Media and Human Rights Awareness.
He’s an IMF journalism fellow after being chosen as the youngest participant in East Africa for the fellowship. He has also taken Reuters and IMF economics programme. Segawa has contributed for CNBC website and Forbes Africa, among others.
What others say
Daniel Ecwalu - News producer at NTV
“I remember the first time he came into the studio. He was new and had not been introduced to me, so I just saw a gentleman in a suit and an ipad walk into the studio and I chased him away. But then he was introduced, I learned he was the new anchor.
What surprised me was the fact that he was so humble and he really listens and is always willing to learn new things. I have worked with people that have attitudes because they believe their CVs are so big, yet this is someone from CNBC but he’s not throwing it in your face.”