Devex expands presence in East Africa

Sara Jerving reports from Grand Bassa County, Liberia. Photo by: Ashoka Mukpo

Here at Devex, we’re continuing to expand our network of experienced journalists with our first full-time hire in East Africa, Sara Jerving. With Devex reporters already on the ground in key development hubs — such as London, New York, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Canberra and Abidjan, as well as in our offices in Washington, D.C., Manila and Barcelona — this latest strategic placement is set to mean more in-depth coverage and insight for our readers in the region and around the world.

Besides our global full-time staff of 125 professionals, Devex has and will continue to make use of part-time correspondents and freelance writers to cover global development news happening all around the world. Recent coverage from our extensive correspondent network includes the ongoing famine across the Sahel, where some 20 million people face starvation, increased access to online education in Kenya and tensions in South Sudan. But having a full-time reporter based in Nairobi covering the region for aid workers and development professionals everywhere has long been seen as an important priority.

 “Right now much of the attention in the aid community in East Africa is focused on South Sudan and Somalia, but I think we also need to focus not only on when there are crises in this region, but also on the aftermath and how these societies will rebuild and recover.”

— Sara Jerving, East Africa correspondent, Devex

Devex’s President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar highlighted that Devex’s news coverage needed to reflect the key role Nairobi plays as a global development hub and the importance of East Africa as a developing region, and said the team is excited to be dedicating more resources to the area.

“There are a lot of important stories to cover in East Africa for our global development audience, whether it's what's happening in South Sudan in terms of humanitarian crises, or the Kenyan elections and what they’ll mean for the country’s development prospects, or the tremendous opportunities in financial innovation that are happening in places such as Uganda and Tanzania,” he said.

In keeping with the Devex mandate of producing both solutions-driven and accountability reporting, and offering practical advice to those working in all sorts of development and aid organizations, Sara Jerving — a journalist formerly working for VICE News, The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and Bloomberg — will cover East Africa with a focus on under-reported, complex issues that can help drive the narrative around development in the region. Previously reporting from Kenya and Tanzania, Jerving has experience covering global health, agriculture and economic issues and her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and The Nation magazine, among others. It’s this vast experience that Kumar said makes her a good fit for the new Nairobi-based position.

“Sara is an ideal fit because she's got real experience reporting from the ground, from East Africa and elsewhere,” Kumar said. “She also has experience reporting for some major global publications and she really knows multimedia. So she's bringing together several of the key threads that we think are important.”

Jerving also believes that when it comes to reporting, especially in regions where there are many ongoing challenges, it’s important to look beyond the crises to the aftermath and consider tech innovations in development, efforts to improve farming productivity, and barriers to providing aid to people in the region.

“Right now much of the attention in the aid community in East Africa is focused on South Sudan and Somalia, but I think we also need to focus not only on when there are crises in this region, but also on the aftermath and how these societies will rebuild and recover,” said Jerving, adding that tensions in Burundi and the negative impact of climate change are other stories that require more attention.

Paul Harris, head of news at Devex, pointed out that the way in which people are dealing with various issues in East Africa provides lessons for others to learn from, but agreed that when it comes to East Africa, not all of the region’s coverage has to be based around conflict, famine and poverty.

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“There are also lots of bright spots in East Africa,” said Harris. “Kenya has a powerful and strong emerging middle class, which is really important in terms of the development story and it’s good to look at how that impacts development organizations and the work they do. There’s a tech and social enterprise boom in Nairobi, which is also really interesting and with that there are lots of implications for the development community.”

With our recent hire of Reporter Christin Roby in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and the move of Associate Editor Kelli Rogers to Bangkok, Thailand, Devex is continuing its global push to increase the scope and vision of its reporting.

“We're growing and reporting from places where other people are perhaps retreating from,” said Harris. “Devex wants to serve its audience by matching the global nature of development, so we’re hiring in many places across the world, and East Africa is one of the pieces in that puzzle.”

Devex’s Kumar said that when it comes to hiring journalists, Devex continues to look for reporters who have both experience at major publications and have reported on the ground. While this can be difficult when looking to hire globally, Devex continues to work with an extensive network of freelance and part-time correspondents who operate locally in various regions. These talented journalists provide coverage and in-depth analysis for our global development audience, as well as helping to supplement the news gathering of full-time reporters in development hubs with further local analysis.

Speaking of this latest role, Kumar said that having someone with expertise based in East Africa will make a real difference. “We expect our readers will see more coverage and better coverage of the region going forward.”

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About the author

  • Rebecca Root

    Rebecca Root is a Reporter and Editorial Associate at Devex producing news stories, video, and podcasts as well as partnership content. She has a background in finance, travel, and global development journalism and has written for a variety of publications while living and working in New York, London, and Barcelona.