Background image: Unsplash, Image: Dina Aboughazala
The founder of an Egypt-based startup, which helps local journalists in the Middle East and Africa sell stories to editors of regional and international outlets, is the first name on the shortlist for the XCity Award.
Dina Aboughazala, a 2019 graduate of the MA Interactive Journalism programme and former BBC journalist, has been recognised for her work to promote original and trustworthy local journalism.
Her company, Egab, focuses on solutions journalism – or “SoJo”. It is a type of reporting that explores how people are responding to social problems in their communities. Ms Aboughazala said: “As a Middle Eastern journalist, we have always reported about terrorism, wars, conflicts, human rights violations. It’s the way the media portrays that part of the world. And it’s not that these things do not exist, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.”
Egab helps journalists refine their pitches about interesting initiatives and local leaders, and puts them in contact with editors. The editors, in turn, benefit from high-quality coverage of undiscovered stories from on-the-ground journalists, who don’t need to be dispatched, housed, or accompanied by a translator. “I’ve always been frustrated with parachute reporting, where people who don’t speak the language and don’t understand the culture report on very complicated issues in very simplistic terms,” Ms Aboughazala added.
“I wouldn’t have been able to take this step of leaving my job and going on this crazy journey of launching a startup if I hadn’t had that mini-training on how to get out of my comfort zone”
Ms Aboughazala started Egab in 2020, but the seed of the idea was planted a long time ago. She first came up with it as part of her Chevening Scholarship application – a scheme for international students with leadership potential – which covered her tuition fees at City. The project became clearer after she attended Professor Jane Singer’s journalism innovation course, and started to take shape when she earned a fellowship at the non-profit organisation Solutions Journalism Network in 2019. She then joined the startup accelerator Founder Institute, which helped her turn her idea into a viable business.
Finally, last August, Egab was launched. Since then, the company has sold 10 SoJo stories to outlets across the globe. The first one was a piece for the UAE’s National News about how “Palestinian refugees were instrumental in finding and saving the first survivors from the Beirut blast” – which helped challenge negative stereotypes about refugees in Lebanon.
Ms Aboughazala started her journalism career with the BBC in late 2006, working in Cairo, Addis Ababa, and London. In 2017, she had a mid-career crisis that prompted her to do a masters, leading to where she is now. She said: “What City showed me is that I’m not limited. I wouldn’t have been able to take this step of leaving my job and going on this crazy journey of launching a startup if I hadn’t had that mini-training on how to get out of my comfort zone.”