Like the Noah of old, he took an unprecedented leap, one bound to yield amazing results and save millions of Africans from doom, ignorance and confusion.
An African of mixed descent, with a love for science and scholarship, and a savvy business perspicacity in emerging technologies, Samara has founded a company that will bring a wealth of satellite radio broadcasting to the poorest and most underdeveloped areas of the world.
He saw the need to bring an end to illiteracy which has stood as a major obstacle in keeping citizens politically and culturally aware and to create access to reliable health information in a land plagued by lack of infrastructure and epidemics.
Noah Samara is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the internationally known Worldspace, the world’s first to launch Satellite radio system. He has been an advisor to numerous global telecommunications and broadcasting organizations over the years, on a wide range of business and regulatory issues. He has also published articles in the fields of satellite communications and broadcasting.
Before the foundation of WorldSpace, Samara was involved in the development of both Geostationary and low earth orbit (LEO) satellite systems since the mid-1980s. His early career was in satellite telecommunications, first with Geostar Corporation and later with the Washington law firm of Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti.
Born in 1956 in Ethiopia to a Sudanese father and an Ethiopian mother, he spent most of his growing years in the capital city of Addis Ababa before he was sent to a town in England to seek a better education. His father was a former teacher who became a financial attaché with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) shortly after samara’s birth in 1956. He was later sent to the Tanzanian capital of Dar-es- Salaam for the pan-African, anti-colonial coalition.
In England, young Samara struggled with the feeling of being unwanted and tolerated, which propelled him to seek solace in books.
“I was the only foreigner there; I plunged into literature as a means of coping with my loneliness.”
He decided to read books written by all the authors he knew were winners of the Nobel Prizes. His favorite from these years was Fyodor Dosteoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, a novel centered on faith and hope, and the lack of either or both. “I cannot describe the impact this book had on me,” he recalled in the interview with Versi. “I felt as if I had known it even before it had been written. I thought it described my background perfectly.”
After his secondary education, Samara moved to the United States for college, he received a Bachelor’s degree in English from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvanian in 1978, a Master’s degree in international business from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a Doctor of jurisprudence from Georgetown University Law School. He also earned a doctorate in Renaissance studies at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Armed with such advanced degrees, Samara entered the communications industry. In a short time, he became an expert on regulatory issues, specializing in the satellite and cellular communications industry for developing countries. For a time he worked for the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union, serving as a consultant on mobile communications technologies.
In the late 1980s, he launched AfriSpace, which would provide digital audio broadcasting (DAB) to the African continent. AfriSpace made it possible for owners of digital radio to receive dozens of channels with clear reception. The radios would be offered at an affordable price, and, by signing major news and entertainment giants on as content providers, listeners may be able to receive a wide range of services and programmes.
With his mind set on possibilities, Samara turned AfriSpace into a subsidiary of WorldSpace, Inc., which he launched in 1990. For him, that was a major leap as he had to quit his job to focus better on the very thing that meant so much to him. In that same spirit, he was able to secure the first licenses and funding for his project. And that was all the push he needed to do exploits.
At a commencement ceremony at the East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, he told his story: “The mid-1980s, I read something that changed my life. It was an article in the Washington Post about AIDS in Africa and how it was spreading because millions of people had no information or the wrong information. It became clear to me that people weren’t simply dying of disease; they were dying of ignorance. Something had to be done. I came up with the idea of launching a satellite over Africa that would broadcast digital radio across the continent to inexpensive portable receivers. In 1990, I quit my job and devoted my body, mind and spirit to a quest that required securing international regulatory approval from 127 countries, designing a new communications system, building and launching satellites, establishing a corporation, hiring staff and raising capital to pay for it all. We needed around $1.5 billion to make it happen.”
With his amazing innovations, Samara has made an undeniable impact in Africa and also opened the door to several other investors. A role model indeed!
Samara’s words on marble……….. “At the end of the day, life is somewhat digital. You have either done something, or you have not.”