When word leaked out that Anver Versi was leaving IC Publications – his ‘work, life and home’ for 30 years as he put it – many people he has worked with over the years sent us their tributes to him. We thought we would share these with our readers.
An exceptional talent
Anver is one of the most talented writers, journalists and editors of his generation. More than that he has been a great asset to IC Publications, a great friend and a confidant.
Anver over his career has contributed greatly to our organisation, working across our flagship magazines and launching a few on the way. His contribution to African journalism as a whole cannot be overstated.
He has contributed to a number of initiatives over the years to raise the quality of African journalism as well as having mentored and guided some of the best journalists covering the continent today.
He loves the African continent dearly, having always defended the interests of our beloved Africa with articulate, impassioned arguments and sharp insights. He will be irreplaceable in so many ways.
Anver has been loyal to the core to the group, working selflessly and literally for the love of his work. IC Publications was privileged to have him and we are deeply indebted to his services.
I am glad to say that Anver will still play a role within IC as a close adviser and, I hope, a contributor to our news organisation.
The organisation will have lost two great editors in a very short space of time, the other one being Baffour Ankomah. Baffour and Anver are two exceptional talents who have shaped African discourse, who have influenced African thinking and who have fought incessantly to challenge the simplistic and one sided African story dominated by Western media.
Content is king and both Baffour and Anver have ensured content has been key to our success. We shall be investing in the editorial departments which we value very highly and which we will keep on strengthening.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Anver and Baffour for their service. Thankfully, it is not an ‘Adieu’ but an ‘Au revoir’ as I intend on working closely with both Anver and Baffour. I shall be seeking their counsel and guidance as we continue our endeavours to play an active role in shaping the African narrative and the African agenda.
Omar Ben Yedder. Group Publisher, IC Publications
Anver is a genius!
In my whole career, I have never met anyone who writes faster and better than Anver Versi. His copy, which he systematically gave me to read and check, was always perfect. I could not remember ever feeling the need to make alterations to his first draft. And I have the reputation of being extremely severe in judging the articles submitted by our journalists.
Anver is a great writer who has a passion for Africa. I could say he has a mission. He has always been proud to be the editor of Africa’s two great magazines: African Business and African Banker. He has won over and over again many outstanding awards as the best African journalist and the editor of the best African magazine. For me, Anver is a genius. During the good years and the bad years in Africa, he was always serving the interests of the continent, promoting its cause and defending its reputation.
As an excellent conference speaker, Anver was frequently invited to speak about Africa all over the world. He was also behind the success of the African Business Awards and the Africa Banker Awards organised by IC Events.
Afif Ben Yedder, Founder and Publisher IC Publications
Batting for Africa
This world is a stage indeed. Shakespeare says you come, you play your part, and you leave the stage. How else can we explain that Anver Versi, one of the real pros of our profession, is leaving the stage – the African Business stage where he has been so dominant since his first appearance there in 1994.
I have known Anver since August 1987 before I became a full-time member of the New African team in July 1988. Anver was then deputy editor of New African. Having freshly arrived from Ghana where you don’t call grown-ups by their first names, I used to call him Mr Versi. He gently asked me to drop the “Mister” nonsense and smell the coffee, which I dutifully proceeded to do from thence.
He is the only man in the world who made me play cricket when I did not know what a bat was – or maybe the only bats I knew hung upside down in old barns and in trees, caves and crevices, and they ate sand and small insects.
Anver doubled as the manager and captain of the IC PUBS annual cricket team which he selected at random. This annual team played only one game each year, and that was against Headley Brothers, our printers at Ashford.
It must have been the 1989 annual game in Ashford. One of the members of Anver’s impromptu team let him down by not turning up. Being short of one man, he turned to me and asked that I fill the gap.
Not even my fervent protestations that I did not know the rules of the game, had not held a cricket ball or a bat before, did not know what an “over” was, or even a “fielding”, Anver insisted I was going to be the substitute for the lost man.
Well, what a fool I made of myself that day! And what a great laugh everybody at Ashford had on my behalf!
Comrade Anver, I will miss you. You batted for Africa so elegantly during your career, and more so when you were at New African and African Business. Your shoes will be difficult to fill – definitely! Mother Africa and all her children thank you for your great effort. I wish you success in your next endeavours.
Baffour Ankomah, Editor, New African
A charismatic presence
I knew Anver Versi for more than 20 years. He was a charismatic presence never lost for words, ideas, opinions. He took over the editing of African Business from me when I went to New African.
I was the journeyman editor who took a whole month grinding out the magazine, putting everything together line by line and getting it all ready for production. Anver, on the other hand, was the near genius, who would come into the office the night before the deadline and put together a bumper edition overnight. He produced the whole thing like magic out of a hat!
Of course there were dozens of writers, correspondents and contacts who had produced the raw material. But Anver was the magician who made a magazine of it in a single night when the rest of us thought he could not possibly do it because he had left everything too late. Time after time he surprised us!
He was also flexible and adaptable. He embraced the continual changes to lay out, design and printing technology long before the rest of us understood what technological changes were overwhelming our magazine world.
But he was more than a brilliant editor. He was full of ideas, projects, deals. He was a journalistic entrepreneur that would take on any challenge, any unlikely scheme. When some preposterous idea came up in the pub the rest of us would jokingly suggest that we put it to Anver. And sure enough he would have an opinion.
That charismatic figure with his deep voice and inscrutable manner never shirked a challenge. He would have an answer to everything even if he had only made it up on the spur of the moment. Even his most outrageous ideas had a grain of truth and practicality in them.
I suspect that Anver’s departure from African Business to take up the grand-sounding job where he is now headed, must have been an example of the flexible, imaginative approach he had to life in general and journalism in particular.
I am sure the girls and boys on African Business today will really miss him when he’s gone.
African Business is going to miss Anver Versi.
Alan Rake, former editor, African Business
A cool dude!
I first met Anver the day I came to the IC offices in Great Queen Street, London, for an interview to join the team. Pat Lancaster, (editor of The Middle East magazine) a close friend of my family, recommended me for the position of editorial assistant. I got the job, and right from the start we hit it off. We have had some very good times over the umpteen years! 27 to be precise!
Anver has always and remains the perfect gentleman.
We have worked really well together for all those years. He’s always well mannered, and has an amazing wit to boot. I can’t think of any time he hasn’t made me laugh about all kinds of incidents he’s encountered at IC and especially on his travels to Africa, which he is passionate about, apart from cricket!
Not forgetting the most important part of Anver, his beautiful family, Assia, Jamila and Yasmin, whom he is tremendously proud of and has shared many happy stories about them with me.
He is one cool dudeJ, never lets on if he’s stressed, he stays calm, and I’ve personally witnessed him dissolving a few heated situations with his gentle voice, manner and words of wisdom.
It’s with heavy heart I bid Anver farewell, my dear work colleague. But it’s not goodbye, it’s just au revoir to my friend.
Carole Lambert, editorial assistant, IC Publications
Coming full circle
Anver never knew this – though if he’s reading this, he does now – but he was responsible for starting my career as a journalist. I first met him in 1990, after I’d written a formal letter to an unknown-to-me Mr Versi, editor of New African Life, asking if IC would sponsor an African music concert I was promoting. Of course, the answer was no!
But when I later sent him an article on spec, to my surprise he published it and, after that, journalism snowballed for me. And now – a mere 24 years later – life has come full circle and I’m working with Anver as his assistant editor at IC.
Over those years, Anver has matured from a rather dashing Omar Sharif-moustachioed young(ish!) editor busy making a name for himself in a new country to the Thabo Mbeki-bearded elder statesman of African journalism with an international reputation that he is now, rubbing shoulders with the great and the good at high-level conferences worldwide.
Anver is spreading his wings to be an actor on a broader world stage, based in yet another new country, though he’ll still be closely involved with IC. So now it’s my turn to send my good wishes to this (rather mature) “newbie” about to start his new career.
Alexa Dalby, Assistant Editor, African Business
Raconteur par excellence
I first met with our departing editor, Anver Versi, on a press tour of Cameroon. He proved to be a remarkably entertaining and supportive team member, an imaginative on the long bus journeys and even longer evenings– as well as always ready to point out sights of interest for me to photograph.
“Quick, there are some giraffes over there,” would be typical of the advice he would offer, and I was delighted to sell the magazine some photos to accompany the editorial he penned.
It was not until about a year later that I began to regularly contribute to African Business, and he asked me to write regular book reviews. Later, that blossomed into a music column too, as well as occasional articles.
Some time later, Anver told me he needed an assistant and invited me to join him on a freelance basis. This was an interesting time, my duties for a large part revolving around picture searching. To paraphrase: “he may not have known much about photography, but he knew what he liked”, and as any picture researcher will tell you, that was half the battle.
Anver might have taken the editor’s chair by default with the surprise departure of the previous editor, but ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. He quickly resolved to take control of and, by dint of finding great writers, guide it into becoming simply the best African business magazine in the world. Numerous awards and honours followed. He’ll be sorely missed, and difficult to replace.
Stephen Williams, New African
An outstanding leader
I had a great admiration towards Anver during the years I was privileged to work with him. He was always so courteous and patient in all his dealings, and my association with him became closer when he invited me to contribute an article to be published in one of the banking supplements of African Business.
I undertook this with some trepidation, and after some rather thoughtful editing on his part, a much improved piece appeared, much to my relief. All this was carried out in a most understanding and understated manner by Anver.
There was a custom at IC Publications for us to be entertained to an annual cricket match by our printers, Headley Brothers at Ashford in Kent, where we had been consistently well beaten.
Anver decided that enough was enough, and regrouped his somewhat discordant office team, and duly arranged for a net practice to take place, at of all places, Lord’s Cricket Ground; only the best of venues, of course!
This must have done some good, as with this and some inspired captaincy by Anver the next game was well and truly won, much to the delight of Afif, that at last IC Publications had prevailed on the opposition
As ever, Anver’s contributions professionally and as a leader were outstanding. I wish him well in the furtherance of his career, may it prove to be a joyous adventure.
Alan Seaward, former Chief Accountant, IC Publications
A great travel companion
Anver is a very resourceful journalist that knows Africa inside out and a great storyteller when it comes to true stories and what Africa really has to offer. He is a great travel companion and I enjoyed every bit of his stories through his countless trips to Africa.
Saliba Manneh, VP Development, IC Publications
Sung to the tune of My Old Dutch: a Cockney song
I’ve got a pal,
A reg’lar good ol’ chappy
’E’s a dear ol’ pal
’E’d do anything to make yer ’appy
It’s many years since fust we met
’is ’air was then as black as jet
It’s greyer now, but ’e don’t fret
Not my old pal
We’ve been together now for 20 years
And it don’t seem a day too long
There ain’t an editor in the land
Who more deserves this song
Go well into that darkest land
And show them how it’s done
We’re proud of you
African Business’ favourite son
I’ve enjoyed the past two decades, Anver. Keep in touch.
Tom Nevin, South African correspondent
Finger on the pulse
The fact that I have written for African Business for almost 15 years pays testimony to the great working relationship that I have with Anver. Right from the start, he has been encouraging and enthusiastic, giving me free rein to examine the African continent at a time of such exciting change.
Always a pleasure to write for, he is an editor who welcomes a wide range of writing styles and opinions, an approach that has helped to transform the magazine beyond recognition during his time at the helm.
Possibly the most travelled person that I’ve ever met, he has his finger on the pulse of global trends, aided by the roots that he has in such disparate countries as Kenya, India, the UK, Denmark and Germany. Anver will be much missed by his many loyal readers. Impossible to replace, I hope that you will join us in wishing him all the best for the future.
Neil Ford, UK
This is our man
It was about 10 years ago that I first met Anver when he was in Mauritius to attend a conference. I don’t remember which one but I do remember that there were plenty of African Heads of States and political leaders in attendance.
I had already been writing for African Business for quite a number of years. Yes, it was in the lobby of the Swami Vivekananda International Conference Centre in Port-Louis that he was with a friend when he saw me and waved to me. As I approached, I heard him tell his friend: “This is our man. How do you do, Nasseem?”.
I was surprised, telling myself: “Here is a man, the editor of an international publication of such great reputation, greeting a journalist from a small island like Mauritius as a friend, very down to earth”, when he added, still addressing his friend: “You know, we in London would never know what’s happening in this part of the world without Nasseem.”
I was consumed by emotion. I never told you that, Anver, till this day. This was the greatest moment of my career working with several editors from around the world. I really felt I was somebody’s man, more so for an international publication like African Business. From that day on, whenever I talked to anybody, local or foreigner, the first publication I mention to them was always African Business. This made me feel very proud.
I’ll miss you Anver, but you too will miss my stories that gave you some additional work to do. Like you said, 10 years back: “How will you keep yourself informed about this part of the world if I was not here?” By all means, I am still your man in Mauritius and you, Anver, you are our man in Africa, as I understand you’ll still be around for African Business. Best and sincere wishes for the future.
Nasseem Ackbarally, Mauritius
When I first met Anver, we were aboard a Boeing 767 flying from London to Dar es Salaam to report on the launch of fastjet, the pan-African low-cost carrier. As a rookie journalist with a rival publication, I tried my best to talk up my credentials;
Anver did quite the opposite, haplessly exuding as much knowledge about aviation (my purported expertise) as the African continent (his undeniable one).
In the two years that followed, I have been privileged to contribute the occasional aviation article to African Business – Anver tidying, polishing and bedding down my prose in a contextual foundation that befits the magazine’s broad-sweeping gaze.
Journalists always resent having their words edited; but never more so than when, in the clear light of day, it becomes apparent that your editor has vastly improved your self-assured words. Anver is one such infuriating editor.
I have no doubt that Anver will be equally dogged and determined – and ultimately still more successful – in his new role at the Africa Centre for Economic Transformation. Thank you, Anver, for the opportunity to work with African Business, and to learn from your extensive, modest, amiable insight.
Martin Rivers, UK
Source of motivation
Since I started working as a freelancer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I’ve found one of the biggest challenges to be convincing editors to run Ethiopia-focused stories. All too often I’ve sent what I thought were sure-fire pitches only to see them swatted down by editorial diktat.
In Anver Versi, however, I found an editor eager for stories about Ethiopia and the great changes it is currently experiencing. His willingness to get behind and publish such stories has been a source of motivation and encouragement – both for morale and the bank balance!
It is always a pleasure and a privilege to see a story of mine about Ethiopia appear in a quality magazine such as African Business. Almost all my work appears online these days, but you can’t beat having in your hands the crisp presentation and layout achieved in the magazine by the team with Anver Versi at the helm. I’m sorry to see him go, am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with him, and wish him all the best in his next endeavour.
James Jeffrey, Ethiopia
As a journalist in the early stages of my career, the direction and assistance Anver has given me thus far is invaluable. Each and every story idea that I sent was considered fairly and he always had the time to give useful feedback on my views. Anver would regularly email me with thoughts on my latest article, often helping me see topics in a different light, which I would have otherwise missed.
Anver is undoubtedly a highly skilled and talented writer, journalist and editor who has consistently been at the forefront of creating a balanced dialogue around African issues. He has truly been a tireless advocate for quality in African journalism, which I am sure he will continue to be in the future.
Finbarr Toesland, UK
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again.
Best of luck in Washington and Accra and it was a pleasure to write for you, if only for a very short time, on African Business and Banker.
Leslie Gordon Goffe, USA
Getting over my fear
He might have left IC Publications but Anver Versi will forever stay in my memories of my journalism career for teaching and mentoring me on business reporting, the field of journalism I had feared to tread.
It wasn’t until 2007 when I read few articles from a copy of African Business that I realised that business stories can be written with minimal stats and with day-to-day language that makes sense. I pitched right away and, to my joy, my story was published. I have been a regular contributor since then.
With mentorship from him, in 2009, I managed to scoop the first prize in the inaugural business reporting competition with my story ‘Boom Time for Tobacco Sales?’ published in the August edition of 2008.
Kudos to Anver!!
Lameck Masina, Malawi
Anver is a phenomenon
Anver is fine storyteller and versatile writer. With Anver, you always learn something new. His column is always insightful. He is more than just an editor: he is a veteran photojournalist, a best-selling author and an award-winning journalist.
He is a stickler for detail, but he does not fail to compliment his correspondents for a job well done. It is always inspiring to read his kind commendations, every now and then.
Having been born in Nairobi, Kenya, where he received his early education, it is hardly surprising that he has always defended Africa’s interests passionately, with the only weapon he knows how to use best – his pen. He has also helped shape the emerging African narrative, in his capacity as a speaker and moderator, at countless high-level international fora.
Frederick Mordi, Nigeria
Anver Versi gave me my first big break in journalism, writing for this fine magazine as I have done for the past seven years. For this opportunity, I will be forever grateful. His friendliness and charm are legendary as are his loyalty to staff and contributors.
In spite of his considerable authority and expertise he would always listen generously to my views – before gently correcting the naivety of my youth. I can remember trying to sell the concept of clean coal to him once – I believe he only stopped laughing quite recently!
MJ Morgan, UK
The journalist with ‘bright feathers’
It was in the ’80s that I first read an article by Anver Versi. At the time he was the deputy editor of New African, roving around the continent reporting from conflict hotspots for its pullout New African Life. Not only was his writing distinctive but in Anver’s articles you could feel the grace of the African catwalk, smell the canvas of the continent’s artists, feel the spectators’ cheers and grasp the irony of an impatient politician harping on ‘United Africa’. The Anver of the ’80s spotted a bushy moustache with a peerless and dashing ‘boogie-cum-highlife’ look.
Sounds unbelievable but that’s the image I had of the man who would become my editor three decades after I first read his pieces. Our personal and professional relationship began in 2010 when I decided to write business stories.
We finally met in flesh in Nairobi, at the Stanley Hotel right at the centre of the Kenyan capital in 2011. Anver was accompanied by my other mentor and New African editor Baffour Ankomah. Our relationship with Baffour went back in time with a dateline of 1999. For the entire week they stayed in Nairobi we would meet after assignments and discuss Africa. It still remains one of my most memorable moments of all time.
So when I heard that he was leaving I simply had to pull out my treasured Shawshank Redemption movie to listen, for the umpteenth time, to ‘Red’ (Morgan Freeman) speak of his prison pal ‘Andy Dufresne’ (Tim Robbins). “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice….”
I guess I can say the same for Anver. Am sure his new nesting will benefit from “his bright feathers”.
Wanjohi Kabukuru, Kenya
Never felt alone
For many years, I had paralleled being a writer to being a long distance runner – both require long hours of preparation followed by a solitary final stretch until it all comes together when one crosses the line (be it the finishing line or the submission deadline).
That view changed when I started to write for African Business and African Banker.
Despite the geographical distance between Nairobi (where I am based) and London, with Anver as an Editor, I never felt alone. He considered all my proposals with an open mind, provided honest feedback on my work and maintained the integrity of my articles.
It has been a pleasure to work with him. I wish him all the best in future and look forward to continuing our professional relationship.
Aamera Jivaji, Kenya
I enjoyed Anver’s editorials and his deep knowledge of the African market. More than anything else, I appreciated his positive outlook and constructive approach to African issues. He was willing to question and to advocate if he considered it necessary. We talked about collaborating on a book.
Recently, he asked me to write a piece on the future of banking in Africa. In retrospect, I think it was his way of saying to me his goodbye from IC Publications. All the best, Anver.
Arnold Ekpe, former Ecobank CEO
Clear focus on Africa
What a talented storyteller! Absolutely in his groove in his role as a journalist all these years, Anver gained very well deserved stature and responsibility in his profession. Anver is insightful as a journalist and a talented editor, he brought clear focus to Africa and whatever matters for Africa.
Ranveer Chauhan, Managing Director, Palm & Rubber, Olam International
Avoiding mine fields!
I first met Anver through my former boss at Drum Magazine, Jim Bailey. In his usual happy-go-lucky manner, Bailey asked me over the telephone whether I had met Anver Versi, now working for African Business in London but who, he said, had worked for Drum in Nairobi.
I knew that Jim Bailey had discovered many very good journalists in Africa, and so I took Anver seriously. I am glad I did so. Financial and business journalism is one of the most difficult areas of practice in the journalistic profession. This is because whatever one writes affects the fortunes of companies, big and small.
No one who has put money into a business wants to see its reputation jeopardised by the careless or ignorant word of a journalist. So the territory is littered with landmines composed of ultra-sensitivity, the occasional backbiting and sometimes, sheer corruption.
It is not easy for every business journalist to steer his way around such a minefield, and it is therefore a great credit to Anver that he has, for so many decades, been at the editorial helm of the business publications of ICP, without having succumbed to the considerable risks involved in maintaining such a position with integrity.
I have admired the perceptive manner in which he has approached the job of editor, and have also found him to be open-minded and very generous. Sad as I am that he is leaving ICP, I am glad that his departure has given me the opportunity to state publicly, these views that I have clutched to my chest privately for so long.
Au revoir, Anver. I am sure that our paths will definitely cross in your new environment!
Cameron Duodu, writer, UK
Big man with a soft heart
I have known and had the pleasure over many years of interacting with Anver. My first impression of a special kind of journalist was confirmed and expanded over time as I got to know even better the one I came to consider a friend and professional soulmate: a big man with a soft heart; a journalist with a fine mind; a perceptive professional with an insightful talent; a consummate writer with a deeply pan-Africanist flair.
I always paid attention to his choice of words, turn of phrase, and the thrust of his editorial messages, and always came away enriched and wondering if he would repeat the feat in his next editorial. He would, time after time.
IC Publications has some big shoes to fill and I pray it does so quickly to ensure that the ‘house’ that Anver helped build will continue to be that beacon of excellence that its various publications have become.
I am delighted my friend will be joining me on the continent, along with others of Africa’s homebound professional diaspora. This is where the action is and where the knowledge and experience gathered in African Business will find strong resonance and value. Godspeed, Anver!
Eric Chinje, CEO, Africa Media Initiative
When I learnt that Anver Versi would be stepping down from the ‘hot seat’ at African Business magazine at the end of January 2015, my initial reaction was one of sadness and disbelief.
Being an avid reader of African magazines with a strong focus on socio-economic and business affairs, I became acquainted with Anver’s work long before I met him in person.
Reading his authoritative and insightful articles in various IC publications over the years not only educated me, but also instilled in me the belief that my continent was changing for the better.
After I had set up Brand Communications and formed a close working relationship with African Business, the editorial team’s support was invaluable in realising my agency’s vision of enhancing the integrity and professionalism of African brands.
We will always be grateful for Anver’s support and for his readiness to share his encyclopaedic knowledge of issues that embrace the entire African political and business spectrum.
No doubt, readers of African Business will lament Anver’s departure and miss his inimitable writing style and the acuity of his analysis.
However, I’m equally confident that Anver’s knowledge of Africa, his communication skills and generosity of spirit will continue to make their mark in whichever path he chooses to follow in the future.
Terhas Asefaw Berhe, CEO, Brand Communications