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Freelance Journalist Focus with Simon Griffiths

Africa investor regular Simon Griffiths is a speaker and consultant as well as a writer on business, finance and infrastructure in Africa. In this Focus he talks about how children’s books, the Tour de France and press conferences fit in to his work.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I write primarily about business, finance and infrastructure in Africa. I also speak at events and conferences related to those subjects. I’d like to write more on some of the other things that interest me – sport or parenting for example – but struggle to find time to pursue opportunities in those areas. I also occasionally do consultancy assignments which invariably result in report writing.

Where are we likely to see your work?
In Africa investor magazine, on Ai’s website ( or you can see samples on my website ( If you go to an Ai event you may hear my work: I write voice-overs for video presentations and ghost-write speeches.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
As a writer, probably the first feature I had published. It was a piece on water supplies in Africa and the pros and cons of involving the private sector in water services delivery. Not only did writing this piece open a number of doors for me by demonstrating I could write and be paid for it, it was on a subject close to my heart as I once worked in Africa as an engineer building water supply systems.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to publish a thriller for teenagers that I am currently rewriting. It was short-listed in a competition earlier this year and this gave me access to some very constructive feedback, hence the re-write. I plan to start sending it out to agents shortly.

For non-fiction, I’d like to do feature on road safety in Africa. Perhaps a million people a year die on Africa’s roads. No one seems to know the exact number and not many people seem to care. It’s not a case of not having the chance to write a feature on the subject, it’s finding somewhere to publish it where it might make a difference and save some lives. The other problem is that it is another African horror story and I like to write about the positive things happening in Africa, which a lot of people overlook. I think it’s important to show that Africa is not just a continent of doom and gloom.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Usually from contacts in relevant industries in Africa. I also keep an eye on what other people are writing about Africa and on the press releases from the development finance institutions, banks, law firms and other companies operating in Africa.

How can PRs be useful to you?
I am always keen to talk to senior people working in business, finance or infrastructure in Africa and to receive announcements of significant deals and events.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Email works best, any time.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
It depends when and where they are and on what subject. As I work freelance, I like to be fairly confident I can write something I will be paid for if I give up time to attend an event.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I like PRs that act as a conduit rather than a barrier to the people I need to talk to. Happily most are helpful, but a few do act as if it is their job to keep you away.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Is that, how would I like to pay the bills or how would I have to pay the bills? I’ve previously worked as an engineer and a banker, so I could possibly return to something related to either of those if I had to. I would like to pay the bills – at least some of them – through publishing fiction.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
It would disappear without trace into the black hole that is our building project. Could you make it £10,000?

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I am currently reading ‘Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Underneath that I have quite a stack as I seem to accumulate books quicker than I can read them. I just finished ‘Washington Square’ by Henry James, which I enjoyed a lot more than I though I was going to, and I have a pile of children’s books. I try to read a wide range. I keep a copy of The Economist in the kitchen to read whenever I’m eating alone and I have Africa investor next to my computer. I don’t tend to read blogs, although I’ve been following ‘Blazin’ Saddles’ account of the Tour de France.

[lnk||_blank|Simon Griffiths on the Freelance Journalist Directory]
[lnk||_self|Africa investor on FeaturesExec]
[img|jpg|Simon Griffiths]