As the BBG’s Regional Marketing Director for Southern and East Africa, Joyce Ngoh negotiates contracts with foreign governments for FM licenses, carries out promotion and advertising campaigns to promote VOA programs, arranges journalism workshops for BBG affiliates, and serves as a liaison with BBG headquarters, the U.S. State Department, embassies, foreign governments and broadcast partners in the region. Based at the U.S. consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, she handles a critical role as the BBG seeks to strengthen its presence in sub-Saharan Africa.
“I studied radio and TV production at the undergraduate level, mass communication at the Master’s level and organizational communication at the doctorate level. My studies have definitely applied to my work at the BBG. My radio and TV studies have come in handy several times as I go around looking at broadcast stations and deciding which stations to partner with.”
How did you end up at the BBG after being an assistant professor at Marist College?
“My sister used to work for the federal government (FDA), and she encouraged me to get a job with the federal government. One day, I was looking at the USAJOBS website and saw a Marketing Specialist position advertised by IBB/VOA. I was very excited because I used to listen to VOA every now and then when I was in Cameroon. When I saw the position, I immediately sent in my application and after several months I was called for an interview. A month after the interview, I was offered the job.”
What prepared you for your current position and what convinced you that the BBG was the right path?
“My education, my teaching experiences and the fact that I used to listen to VOA programs prepared me to work here. My interest in VOA programs convinced me that this was the right path for me.”
In your career with the BBG, you’ve worked with the Office of Technology, Services & Innovation (TSI) to set up 24-7 FM radio stations in a number of cities in sub-Saharan Africa, as part of the BBG’s efforts to increase its FM presence in major markets in that region. Tell me more about your efforts to work on these FM license applications.
“When I joined the West Africa marketing office as the Regional Marketing Director in 2007, we had 3 FMs in the region, including in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. A few years before I joined, there had been a push for BBG-owned FM stations. Work had already started in this direction, but setting up an FM station is a slow and tedious process. From the application process to when the station is up and running can take about 6 to 18 months. Applying for an FM license takes several steps. VOA and IBB discuss FM priorities and keep outlining the priorities. The RMO takes the lead in approaching various foreign governments to apply for FM licenses. When technical details are needed as part of the application process, the RMO then works with TSI to obtain the technical information needed. Once the application is submitted and TSI is informed, TSI arranges for an engineer to travel for a site survey. When the RMO is notified that the license has been awarded, she then notifies the agency, and TSI decides the in-country site where BBG equipment will be located and begins negotiating a hosting contract with the site that hosts BBG equipment. Once both parties (the BBG and the host) agree on the financial and equipment details, the engineer drafts the agreement and sends it to the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Contracts for review and approval. Once the contract is ready, I present it to the host and negotiate the contract mostly in person and sometimes by telephone. In West Africa, since most of the countries where the BBG has FMs are French-speaking nations, the agreement had to be translated from English to French and French to English several times during the negotiation process. Once the contract is signed, TSI works on buying, shipping and installing the equipment. Again, I was the liaison between TSI and the embassies to which BBG equipment was shipped. Once it is installed, and the programs go on the air, we usually launched the FM station through various activities and an ad campaign. I also ensure there are people on the ground monitoring the station, so they can report back whenever the signal goes off. When I left Accra, Ghana in February 2016, we had added 7 BBG FMS: Bangui, Bamako, Dakar, Freetown, Gao, Ndjamena and Timbuktu. There is also an FM station in Monrovia, although the license is not owned by the BBG. I am currently working to obtain FM licenses in Lome and Lusaka.”
Prior to your current role, you worked for nine years in the BBG’s Office of Strategy and Development in Accra, Ghana, covering West Africa and parts of Central Africa. Previously, you served as Regional Marketing Director for the BBG’s East Asia Pacific Marketing office in Bangkok, Thailand, where you were responsible for marketing and placement activities.
You set up the BBG marketing office in Bangkok from the ground up. What was your key takeaway from that experience?
“Setting up an office is a slow, tedious process that takes time and requires creativity and concentration.”
Describe the experience you’ve had in your 18 years at the BBG. Has it been professionally and personally fulfilling?
“I have had a variety of experiences in my 18 years with the BBG, including setting up an office from the ground up, hiring employees, managing a budget, negotiating and marketing in South East Asia, South Asia (India, Bangladesh), West and Central Africa, and Southern and East Africa, and running an ad campaign. It has definitely been professionally and personally fulfilling. Not only did I learn to exercise a lot of patience, even though I have always thought of myself as a patient person. I also learned that “yes” doesn’t always mean yes.”
What are your major career accomplishments?
- Audience growth: significantly increased the number of affiliates in West Africa.
- Tripled the number of FM stations in West Africa.
- Signed an agreement with Aaj Tak in India for a half-hour weekly co-production. Aaj Tak used to be the top-rated news station in India.
- Signed an agreement with Channels TV for daily interactive news, something that had not been done in past years.
Give me three adjectives that best describe the BBG.
One of the reasons people join the BBG is because of the agency’s ability to engage with audiences around the world. Give me some examples of that from your time with the BBG.
- Interactive programming such as co-productions or Q&As
What drives you?
Give me three things you love to do outside of work.
“Travel, read and watch movies”