Small business starts as a dream. Every small business owner begins with an idea. Bakary Kante had an idea of starting a university solely dedicated to the study of journalism and communications. The idea to start this university in one of the poorest counties in the world was met with derision and laughter by many critics who felt there were far greater needs for the poor in Africa than to start a journalism and communications university; nevertheless Kante forged ahead with this dream.
Mali was founded in 1232 and was once a rich nation. The history of Mali as told by historian John Hope Franklin in From Slavery to Freedom bears little resemblance to the starving nation that lost half a million people to famine in 1972. Kante survived the drought that killed many of his fellow Malians. Moreover, even though he was educated and spoke fluent French and English he chose not to abandon his country.
In the early 80’s he worked as a communications consultant with the Canadian Embassy in Mali and he used his knowledge and resources to help his family in Mali. As the nation moved closer to democracy he saw the possibilities for his nation. He also came to realize that communications and journalism were vital for a free democratic society. When Mali overthrew Moussa Traore in 1991 and a former Ecole Normale Superieure Professor became president of the country in 1992, Kante saw an opportunity to establish a private communications and journalism university in the new democracy.
“The changing of regime in 1991 in our country, Mali, in West Africa, stimulated by the new breath of democracy, has resulted in the press freedom. Now more than 100 newspapers and an important number of radio stations have been created. This situation justifies our country as the richest in terms of press freedom in West Africa. But this print media as well as radio and television news faces many problems due to the lack of training,” Kante said.
Kante believed that a university that specialized in journalism and communications was needed because he felt that a free press was essential to maintaining a democracy. “Our experience in communications has led us to the creation of the communications subject in the University of Mali,” he said. The idea of a university dedicated solely to journalism and communications was presented to the president and the government of Mali based on what Kante saw as a critical need. “The bad background in journalism and communications in Mali is justified by a low academic standard. In fact, most of the press agents are graduated from high schools, but they do not have any basic training in journalism and communications,” he said.
The government of Mali accepted Kante’s argument and on August 21, 2000, the Minister of Education, Moustapha Dicko, authorized the creation and establishment of a private university for the study of journalism and communications. The six year course of study leading to the master’s degree in communication was a dream that Kante had nourished for two decades. Bakary Kante died in Bamako last week. He was the founder of the first private journalism and communications university in the history of Mali.
May he rest in peace.