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Larry Madowo: How Kenya’s Most Successful Journalist Did It

Madowo is currently a CNN International Correspondent based in Atlanta

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Right before the eyes of many Kenyans who have watched his journey for years, Larry Madowo has scaled the heights in his journalism career. His talent, versatility and drive helped him overcome numerous challenges to make a name for himself in Kenyan media, before continental and now global success followed.

Madowo is currently a CNN International Correspondent based in Atlanta. He also anchors shows including Connect the World on January 18. Madowo shared after the show aired: “When CNN’s Connect the World launched in 2009, I was a young reporter starting out in Kenya. I never dreamt that one day I would anchor the show. But here we are.”

A large number of Kenyans remember him as the cat-video loving host of NTV’s The Trend, which was started by James Smart but became the most watched Friday night show on TV with Madowo at the helm. Themed around social media, it was a fun, engaging show. Critics considered it cheap.

Social media has notably been among the contributors to his rise. With media consumption trends evolving, the world’s biggest media companies are churning out star journalists with incredible reach. With 4.4 million followers across platforms, Larry fits the bill. But his journey started way before The Trend, which to date runs on NTV hosted by Amina Mohammed.

He once revealed that his first job after high school sold mandazi and tea at Gikomba after high school. He wanted to become a Catholic priest and even enrolled at the Saint Gabriel’s Seminary in Kisumu where he undertook his O-Level Education.

He, however, found himself leaning towards the newsroom. In 2006, he enrolled for a Communications degree at Daystar University. His first job in media was an internship at Bahasha FM.

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He chose to leave college in 2008 kickstarting his career as a budding young journalist in the KTN newsroom. He worked at KTN for three years as a Business Reporter.

After three years at KTN, he left for rivals Nation Media Group (NMG) as a Business Anchor and Reporter. CNBC Africa then came calling and Madowo joined the South Africa-based business station in May 2012.

Six months later, he returned to NTV as an anchor and Technology Editor. At NMG, his versatility shone through as he anchored news bulletins, hosted a weekly TV show, wrote a column and even hosted a radio show.

His online following grew exponentially in Kenya, and he became accustomed to dealing with trolls. Madowo went back to Daystar and in June 2014 graduated with a Bachelors degree in Communications.

During his second stint at NTV he also worked  freelance for news outlets including BBC, the Public Radio International, France 24 English and CNN International helping build his profile.

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In 2018, following the disputed Presidential election of 2017, the Daily Nation declined to publish his column criticizing the government shutdown of four private TV stations over the airing of the mock swearing in of Raila Odinga as ‘People’s President’. The column was eventually published elsewhere with Larry becoming a Contributing Columnist for the Washington Post’s global opinions page.

On April 11, 2018, Larry was announced to be joining BBC News Africa as the Business Editor. He took a sabbatical from BBC in July 2019 to pursue his Masters in Business and Economics Journalism from Columbia University in New York.

This came as he was one of the beneficiaries of the 44th Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Business and Economics.

He graduated from Colombia in 2020 and was in the same year named the winner of the Philip Greer Award for Financial Writing at the Columbia University (Journalism School) in New York for his thesis on Jumia.

Madowo returned to the BBC and was appointed as the network’s North America Correspondent in Washington, D.C. This role saw him cover major stories including the 2020 Presidential election in the US.

In July 2021, CNN announced that Madowo was leaving the BBC to take up a new position as the network’s Nairobi-based correspondent. He rose the ranks and is now anchoring bulletins and shows from CNN’s Atlanta HQ.

In the process, he has earned countless accolades and remains an inspiration for many Kenyans.

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