About the Editor
Soumanou Salifou, a former award-winning reporter at the Washington-based Voice of America (the U.S. Government radio station that broadcasts to the rest of the world), made history by founding The African, the premier African magazine published in the United States which hit newsstands across the U.S. and Canada in October 1994. A Beninese-born foreign student who came to the United States in 1983 to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Relations at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., Salifou founded this pioneering, upscale magazine to fill the vacuum of unbiased news reporting about Africa in the United States.
Salifou’s efforts to raise the initial capital for his dream magazine met the reluctance of American investors unwilling to risk their money on a publication about Africa, the continent, in those dark days, with the worst image in the United States with its history of AIDS, famine, civil wars and the resulting flood of refugees. (Little did the potential investors know that the first issue of The African will turn up more than $60,000 profit.) This compelled a resilient Salifou to work with a modest initial capital – a combination of a bank loan and advertisement sales – and to play multiple roles in the early life of the magazine acting as publisher, C.E.O., editor, secretary, advertising agent, driver, and more, with the living room of his townhouse in Springfield, Virginia serving as his office.
Before his fulfilling eight-year career at the Voice of America (1985-1993), Salifou previously served as Senior Program Assistant at the U.S. Embassies in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire (1976-1983), and in Cotonou, Benin, (1974-1976). His responsibilities included assisting the Cultural Affairs Officer and the Public Affairs Officer in the development and implementation of the embassies’ educational and cultural programs; identifying and interviewing the host country’s candidates for exchange programs; serving as escort-interpreter for U.S. officials and cultural icons visiting the host country.
Prior to joining the Johns Hopkins University, he earned a Master’s Degree in African Studies from the National University of Cote d’Ivoire (1982) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature from the National University of Benin (1974).
Awards and Recognitions
Salifou is the recipient of several awards, including a V.O.A.-wide award in February 1987 “For outstanding performance that has resulted in greatly expanded placement of V.O.A. materials on radio stations throughout Africa,” and an Africa Division-wide award for his interview with then-U.S. Congressman James Obestar in March 1989 as part of his extensive programs designed to inform and “educate” Africans about America. In a letter to Salifou dated May 22, 2002 U.S. President George W. Bush, upon receiving the magazine, wrote: “I welcome information from Americans across the country, and I value your input.”