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Spotlight on YALI Fellow Khanyi Magubane

For six weeks of summer 2014, the Farley Center—along with Northwestern’s Program of African Studies and the Center for Leadership—hosted 25 professionals of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The fellows, who come from all over the African continent with diverse professional backgrounds, traveled to Northwestern University to study business and entrepreneurship and receive training for their own business ventures. We sat down with Khanyi Magubane, a journalist and documentary filmmaker from South Africa, who shared key lessons from her YALI experience.

Khanyi Magubane, journalist and documentary filmmaker from South Africa

"Feel the fear and do it anyway."


Khanyi Magubane is a journalist with more than 14 years of experience in a range of media outlets, including radio broadcasting, online media, film and TV production and magazine feature writing.  In her current work, she is producing a four-part documentary series, “Making Cents,” which examines South Africa’s economic inequality and its root causes. She also hosts two radio news shows. In 2013, she was named one of the Top 200 Young South Africans in the media and film by Mail & Guardian.

So what brings the accomplished journalist to a business and entrepreneurship program in the U.S.? Magubane wants to transition from media maker to media mogul.

“Where I’m ultimately going is building my own media enterprise,” Magubane said.  “That’s where all of this comes together. I do have a company. It’s registered. I haven’t done a lot of work because I’m constantly being commissioned to do other work for other people. I think this for me was a great opportunity to come and focus my energy and my thoughts on building a developing my business.”

Magubane didn’t know what to expect when she arrived with her cohort at Northwestern in June, but says the experience has been worth time away from her work and home.

“What we’ve received, as little as it may be because it was six weeks, it is powerful and potent in terms of helping us to go back home and build better businesses.”  

“Of all the skills and lessons that we learned, the biggest thing for me was ‘feel the fear and do it anyway,'” Magubane said.

Some of the well accomplished business people who came in as guest speakers lessened her anxiety about creating her own media startup.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, I have to be good at everything to build my business,’ she said. “It tired me even just thinking about it. That’s why I felt a great sense of affirmation when very well achieved business people who made millions can say to you ‘No, you don’t have to know it all. I don’t know it all.’ You get to learn more with time, but nobody ever reaches a point where they know it all.’”

Instead of learning everything it takes to run a business on herself, Magubane realized that she should build a team with people whose strengths are her weaknesses.  

In her words: “The best thing that you can do as an entrepreneur is assemble a group together who you know are likeminded but differently skilled.”  

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