WCW: Nancy Kacungira – A re-proof of ‘The sky is not the limit’
Written by Derrick Asaba on December 8, 2021
Speaking of Ugandan Journalists that have journeyed all through to the top, her name will be present. Amidst tall names like Shaka Ssali and Alan Kasujja, so is hers ― Nancy Kacungira.
Her biography is a source of inspiration to those women and young girls who aspire to work for international media powerhouses. She is one of the few African women who have had the golden opportunity to work for BBC world news.
In 2016, Kacungira was one of the two moderators at the Ugandan presidential debate with another Ugandan BBC presenter Allan Kasujja.
After a stint presenting World News Today in August 2018, she became the main presenter at 7 pm weekdays and 9 pm weekends from September 2019. She has presented In Business Africa since January 2019. She also is a relief presenter for The Briefing at 05:00GMT on BBC One, BBC News Channel and BBC World News.
At the beginning of June 2020, she began presenting most of the evening output two in three weekends, on both BBC News Channel and BBC World News including the second half of BBC News at Ten on Friday and Saturday, alternative Sundays.
Early days of Radio and TV
Nancy started out as a radio presenter while still in University, working her way up from intern to Deputy Program Director by the time she received her first class degree. She then earned her Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies from the University of Leeds, where she graduated with distinction.
Nancy started her media career as a radio presenter at Power FM, a Christian radio station in Kampala, Uganda. Her way into radio was a bit funny like she says.
“I was asked to voice an advert. I think someone got my phone number from someone else, maybe they assumed this is Seanice’s sister and has a decent voice as well. I remember it was Monitor and Joseph Beyanga was recording an advert. After that, he told me ‘you know you don’t have a bad voice’. You should go to Power FM,” Nancy narrates.
Beyanga helped her to record the demo and she took it to Power FM. She was given a job over the weekend and she did a two-hour show on Saturdays.
“TV was one of those random incidents. The HR Manager at the time at NTV just called me and said I got your number from someone; we would like to find out if you can come in and do a screen test. And I had never thought about doing TV. Because I thought TV is for perfect-looking people and I had never thought of myself in terms of looks. After the first screen test, nothing came of it. Shortly afterwards, I went to the UK to pursue my master’s degree in International Communications,” Nancy narrates.
After the Master’s, Nancy went back to Power FM. She started to do the morning show with Pablo. But then again NTV called her and they picked up the conversation. She was told that she would do some training.
“I think I had to do two screen tests and I was supposed to start training and then read the lunchtime news, but that never happened. They called me and said, ‘This evening you are doing the primetime news at Kololo, for independence.’ I couldn’t believe it but later took it up,” she explains.
She thus worked with NTV Uganda as a newsreader for hardly a year after which she moved to Kenya to work for KTN News Kenya as a social media editor in late 2013.
While still at KTN News Kenya in 2015, Nancy applied for the Komla Dumor Award, which she won and went to the BBC for three months’ training.
She then returned to KTN News Kenya but was later hired by the BBC where she presents Focus on Africa (Mondays) and World News Today or The Briefing (Fridays-Saturday; alternate Sundays).
When the steps of recognition are heard
A champion of diversity, balance and nuance in narratives about Africa, Nancy won the inaugural BBC World News Komla Dumor Award in 2015, and the Women For Africa International Award in 2016 for her work in challenging stereotypes and misconceptions.
She applied for the Komla Dumor Award on the night of the deadline because she had been putting it off. She passed the first two steps till the third step where she was declared winner. She was in New York at the time and was asked to keep quiet for about two weeks.
Before she went for the fellowship at BBC, she had a priority list but remaining there wasn’t on. She loved living in Uganda but it was amazing that when she went there, so many opportunities opened up.
She wrote an article dubbed, ‘Why I cannot tell the African story’. In this, Nancy sought to highlight the fact that even though she is an African journalist, she doesn’t know what is happening in the rest of the African countries.
She argued that Africa can’t be portrayed as rising yet some of the parts are not. Because of this, she was invited to a number of things like a conference at Oxford.
“…that we don’t need narratives, we need dialogue. Africa needs to define for itself what it needs because for so long, we have been defined by external forces,” she noted.
Recognised as one of Uganda’s most influential women of 2017, Nancy has presented on some of the world’s biggest platforms including TedX, the World Economic Forum and her country’s first ever Presidential Debate.
Nancy was born on October 11, 1986, in Tanzania. Both her parents are Ugandan. Her father is Clifford Kacungira from the western district of Ibanda in Uganda. He worked as a pilot with a charter airline in Dodoma. She has an elder sister whose name is Seanice Kacungira. Her mother succumbed to cancer in 2012.
Nancy had a little brother who unfortunately passed away. She suffered yet another setback as her parents separated when she was still a child. Nancy spent most of her early childhood years in Dodoma, Tanzania, where her father worked, and only relocated to Uganda for her ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels.
While in Tanzania, Nancy says that spoke mostly English and Kiswahili because her mother was from Soroti and didn’t speak their father’s language. “I think we were the only African children who spoke English in the surroundings,” she said.
With her family, they came back to Uganda when they started Senior One. There was no school that would admit them because they would be subjected to interviews and they hadn’t done PLE. She and her sister, Seanice enrolled at Namasagali boarding school
When they were younger, Nancy remembers that they used to hate eating. As a result, they would hide food in potted plants, in the sink. But when she came to a boarding school, she learnt to value food as a precious commodity. At one time, they fried grasshoppers on a flat iron.
She never knew what she would become in future while at Namasagali. Her aim was to return home with a good report. She was involved in a number of extracurricular activities like acting, ballet, played football, hockey, swimming and tried rugby but couldn’t go back after being crushed.
Still at Namasagali, she participated in politics. “I was the lady high constable; people who took others for punishment. I was the police chief of sorts,” she said.
When she was about to join Senior Three, she received a dance scholarship to a dance school in London. On hearing this, her dad pulled her out of Namasagali to Taibah High School. She was at Taibah for a few years of her O’ level education and joined Kibuli for A’ level.
“A friend and I were thinking about making choices. I really knew I was going to go to St Lawrence. It seemed flexible; it was the school. I really didn’t think my government choices were important. So, we dared each other to put our first choices to a school we would never go to. That was ridiculous! She put Kawempe and I put Kibuli,” that’s how she ended up studying at Kibuli.
She did HEL/Art. What she thought was a disaster (studying at Kibuli) ended up to be some of the best years of her life. She became Head Girl in S.6. On the other hand, she was very fortunate and got a government sponsorship to join Makerere University.
Nancy joined Makerere University in 2003 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Design and Visual Communications. She graduated in 2005 with a First Class Honours. After graduating from the university, she enrolled at the University of Leeds to pursue a Master of Arts in Communication and Media Studies, where she graduated with distinction.
Together with her older sister Seanice Kacungira, they co-founded Blu Flamingo ― a digital media management company in 2010.
Nancy’s marital status is such a mystery in front of the public eye. Asked about her relationship plans on Capital FM, Nancy replied, “It’s like Chinua Achebe said: ‘You don’t plant this tree, it chooses where to grow’. And I think it is like that with things like relationships. Sometimes if you say you have a five-year plan, I think sometimes you end up forcing things to fit. So, I am a believer in letting things flow naturally and if it happens, great! If it doesn’t, it’s really not the end of the world.”
Years back, her fans were shocked when Nancy wedding rumours circulated in public. She was rumoured to have wedded an undisclosed tycoon in a secret wedding ceremony. She came out to dispel the rumours and said that she was not married yet.
Her favourite dish is Groundnut sauce with rice. She also loves kalo. She doesn’t drink Alcohol but loves tea.