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Upfront Touches Young Lives Through Its Co-host Who Aspires to Inspire

Jackson Mvunganyi, co-host of VOA’s Up Front program broadcasts to Africa from the headquarters in Washington, DC.

It’s a normal day for Jackson Mvunganyi, co-host of VOA’s Up Front radio program, as he tweets and broadcasts across the ocean to Africa, speaking on a range of issues, from youth innovation, technology and politics to pop culture. Mvunganyi is a force on Twitter, with more than 18,000 followers, including President Obama. His story was also featured in The Africa Report, a popular magazine in Africa.

Under the heading Day in the Life: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People the article reveals that the popular radio host started his life in a refugee camp in western Uganda. His family, originally from Rwanda, moved to Uganda to escape the genocide. “We rarely had enough to eat, but I was with my family. That was enough”, he recalls.

All of his life, he heard about Rwanda, his parents’ homeland, as the place of “milk and honey”, the place of dreams. He returned to Rwanda, to attend University when he was 18, right after the genocide. It was not the same place his parents had described, but the country was slowly recovering and he could see opportunities.

Mvunganyi had always been attracted to radio. He began listening to VOA at a very young age. “VOA was often the only source of information, and my father listened to it all the time”, he says.

His career at VOA started after graduate school. In 2007 VOA’s English to Africa service launched a youth-oriented talk show, and Jackson co-hosted it from Washington with Nadia Samie, a South African student based in Capetown. It became the first cross continental radio show reaching millions of students and young professionals around Africa.

“I know I am lucky” says Mvunganyi, “but I understand that the opportunity to tell the African story is bigger than me. Most importantly I hope that my story can inspire many young people on the continent who aspire and struggle each day to do better—often under difficult circumstances. No dream is out of reach.”