Afif Ben Yedder to receive 2024 AMLS Lifetime Achievement Award

The 2024 AllAfrica Media Leaders’ Summit (AMLS) will present Afif Ben Yedder, the founder and Emeritus Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of IC Publications with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the meeting in Nairobi in May.


Afif Ben Yedder, the recipient of this year’s AMLS Lifetime Achievement Award, remains a pioneering giant in the world of Pan-African publishing. With his friend and colleague Béchir Ben Yahmed, he took the then extraordinary decision to establish a Pan-African periodical at a time, circa 1960s, when the dawn of independence was just rising for most African countries.

The stable of publications that emerged broke new ground in world publishing and over the decades has set the template of a host of other Africa-centred publications and media outlets that have followed.

“We wanted to produce very high quality international publications in French and English, choosing the example of the best in the world, to tell the African story from the African perspective,” he recalls.

In 1974, Ben Yedder entered the Anglophone market when he established IC Publications, an international publishing company based in London and Paris. Its flagship titles New African, African Business and later African Banker set a very high bar in the quality of its journalism. “We were very fortunate to have so many outstanding journalists and editors working for us,” he says.

The depth and breadth of the Group’s political, economic and social analysis, the range of activities covered and the penetrating interviews with a host of personalities shaping the new Africa made the publications must-reads not only across Africa but within global decision making circles and academia.

Afif Ben Yedder was born and raised in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. He attended what was acknowledged the best school in the country, College Sadiki where a truly bi-lingual (Arabic and French) environment thrived.

Having obtained his baccalaureate at the age of 19, he went to Paris to study at HEC, France’s renowned business school. Later, in 1969, he completed his academic ambitions when he attended the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School. 

While studying at HEC Paris, he was already committed to Pan-Africanism and after graduating in 1963, he opened the Paris offices of the pioneering Jeune Afrique magazine founded by his colleague Béchir Ben Yahmed. He was the Managing Director of the magazine until 1971 when he moved to London to launch Africa magazine, a sister publication to Jeune Afrique in English.

Over the decades, the Group has diversified its activities. It has an events division and a media relations department. It also advises institutions on strategic communication issues in Africa and internationally. IC Events organises Pan African conferences, workshops and ceremonies including the prestigious annual African Banker Awards.

The overriding editorial content and thrust of the Group has been on the upward evolution of the continent in all spheres, actively seeking out and championing the best while not pulling its punches when constructive criticism is called for.   

“We also work to provide the people of Africa with a platform to voice their opinions and shape an African agenda. We also set out to amplify the voice of a continent that was often marginalised, as well as showcasing and celebrating the diversity and vibrant cultures of the African continent,” he says.

Ben Yedder has always given his staff full reign to express themselves and think creatively. However, he is also remembered for running a tight-ship, insisting on deadline and accuracy discipline as well as financial responsibility. “My guiding principles are authenticity, integrity, and placing Africa’s interests at the centre of all our work.”

Anver Versi who has been with the Group since the early 1980s as editor of each of the titles at one time or the other and currently the editor of African Banker, sums up Afif Ben Yedder in his role as publisher.

“Afif took his role as publisher very seriously – it was never a vanity project for him. He always emphasised that we were a business and that the reader came first. No readers, no advertisers, no publication. We had to provide value for money. The readers had to enjoy, as well as be informed by the content. The writing and design had to first class – every time. He was always the hardest working person in the office and you got an instant response and decision no matter what time you called him with your problem.”

Afif Ben Yedder has also been celebrated for his exceptional business acumen in a field that is considered one of the most difficult and complex to succeed in. “My advice to African media houses is to focus on sustainability. Over the course of my lifetime, I have seen many media brands launch and fail because of a lack of focus on sustainability. This is an important message to drum home to aspiring media owners”.

Growing up in post-independence Africa and acutely aware of the challenges as well as the potential of the continent, the pan-African ideals of the likes of Kwame Nkrumah and Habib Bourguiba deeply influenced Afif’s worldview and continue to drive him on to this day.

He has always been a committed supporter of the African genius and has fought against the negative stereotype of Africa still unfortunately abroad in some quarters.

On one occasion, listening from the floor while a celebrated African author made a mockery of African leadership and drew laughter, he stood up and made an impassioned speech of how faced with similar challenges, few world leaders would have been able to tackle the problems the continent faced as many of our leaders have been doing. He was given a standing ovation.

Over his career, Afif had met practically all African political and economic leaders and the continent’s great artists. He has always had the happy knack of making instant friends of all of them – he explained his at one time by saying it was easy since “I’m always very interested in them and its always a pleasure to meet anyone working for the betterment of the continent.

Through his publications, he has profoundly influenced the intellectual course of the continent and has a positive impact on many lives on the continent and beyond. His success as a publisher, battling though some incredibly hard times with incredible grit and determination is itself an example that if the dream is strong enough, it will come to pass.

Setbacks have never fazed him. His watchwords have been persistence, resilience and boldness and these are traits he endeavours to instil in those around him and within the African community. “We should strive for the best and not be held back by the tyranny of low expectations. Africa is rich and resourceful and we must fight both against external and internal forces hindering progress” he says.

Having travelled the world, as he reflects back on his career, arguably the most rewarding aspect of working in Africa is seeing and living the unparalleled humanity and inner beauty of our wonderful continent.

He marked 60 adventurous and tempestuous and sometimes exhilarating years in business last year. He threatened to retire over a decade ago, but the printers ink in his veins as well as a sense that a great deal more needs to be done has not really allowed him to step away from the twin loves of his life – publishing and Africa.

Having travelled the world, he says he has come to appreciate the inner beauty of the continent and its people even more.

Afif’s dream has always been a resurgent Africa, living at peace with itself and others and step by step whittling away all the inherited challenges to emerge as a major force for good in our troubled world. He has never deviated from this dream and year by year, must derive satisfaction that the fact that the continent is getting closer and closer to ‘the Africa we want’.