Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Killer of dreams? Killer of dreams

It was when I read about the woman clutching her baby that was dragged from the wreckage of the Dana crash that I finally burst into tears. What do you say to the man who might have been waiting for his wife and baby at home?

There have been so many write-ups about the June 3 Dana Airlines crash; none can console the bereaved or bring back the dead. Even though the initial uproar is gone, may the families somehow remain comforted and given peace. More than that, the strength to make their own lives count.

I read an article on Bella Naija the day after the crash about a young man, Olu Onemola who received several prizes at City University of New York upon his graduation. As usual, vocal Nigerians had many comments to make but two in particular stood out to me and I've shared them below:

Anon.. June 4, 2012 at 8:52 PM
Story! Please dont come back home, they will kill your morale…Stay back. God bless America!

Princess June 4, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Pls stay in the States where ur academic excellence wud serve a greatand better purpose. Come to 9ja and the same cant be promised. You might end up dying an untimely death due to negligence. If u showed zu h intelligence in nigeria, u wudnt be recognised and the older cargos in high positions wud make sure u dnt grow so they can maintain their positions and probably pass it on to their uneducated siblings or family member. Im sure ur wise enough to know that Nigeria can kill a dream. The country dont care for its citizens, ask corpers who hv finished serving their so called country and are left unemployed with no govt support…!! Sad Much

I have no doubts that the majority of those who follow Bella Naija are young men and women so it made me very sad that we view our country as a killer of dreams. I don't blame for one second those who share this opinion, anyone that has gone through hardship because of a poor and non-supportive system would be the first to agree. It's difficult focusing on the positives when there are so many negative aspects to life in Nigeria, but the more I learn the more I realise there is nothing else one can do. Find the positive, set your goals and work, work, work. I'm a firm believer in all hard work bringing a profit, if not now, then sooner or later. Without that faith what's the point of trying? Where's the hope that things can change? I'll be back in Nigeria in 2 months, then the real test begins, God help a sister!

One of my favourite quotes by Zig Ziglar, it makes me laugh EVERY TIME because it's so true:

“People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.”

I'm fighting to stay motivated, surrounding myself with people who are smarter than me and aspiring for greater things, enjoying every bit of goodness I get (be it sunshine in the midst of rain, a baby's smile or the taste of ice cream). 

May we find our dreams and work to keep them alive.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To African Entrepreneurs: What you do Matters!!

I wrote this article last week for my column in Ventures Africa and I felt it would be important to share it here as well because I cared very much when I wrote it...it echoed many of my sentiments about the current view of Africa and what it could and should be. I strongly believe that Africa does not need help...not in a prideful egoistic way but simply because we have enough talent, experience and money to make our land great. What we need are people who will do their best with integrity and choose to paint a different picture than today's broken, failing Africa - one thing I hope to do. Enjoy.

While searching for a theme and personality for this week’s Ventures Woman column, I came across a provoking article by seasoned journalist and Editor of New African Woman, Regina Jere-Malanda.

Regina is a London-based Zambian who is keen on representing African interests in the diaspora. Her passions are women’s health issues, education, rights and empowerment, particularly for the female child, and she has written widely on a range of issues from beauty and fashion to politics and media freedom/free speech. She has also worked extensively as an international correspondent and her work has been published in many publications and books including “The Mission: Journalism, Ethics and the World”, a text used in the journalism school curriculum for a US university. With someone so experienced in the art of telling a good story, it was astonishing to see a piece of work as simple, deeply honest and reflective as her 2004 article “Confessions of a foreign correspondent”.

Reading through the article feels like reading through the innermost thoughts of one who betrayed her love and is seeking to return. I don’t know how many can relate with her experiences, but I daresay many Africans, at home and in the diaspora, will connect deeply with her words.

As a foreign correspondent for a Western media company in South Africa, Regina competed with other foreign correspondents to find the ‘stories’ that would sell in the West. In her own words, “I now realise that I was not only paid for writing stories that would sell on the Western media market, but for stories that would fit in and be accepted by fellow ‘foreign correspondents’”. A story in itself is neutral, neither good nor bad, but stories that promoted the picture “of a desperate and hopeless Africa” were the stories that sold.

A recent writing competition in a UK newspaper asked journalists to answer the question ‘Why does it take images of starving children for the world to act?’ Perhaps it is because fundraising works in much the same way as foreign correspondence, “good news does not sell”. Regina found that African journalists working for foreign agencies were encouraged to ignore positive developments in African countries in search for ‘real stories’, stories that sadly, reinforced wrong perceptions of Africa as violent, unpredictable and corrupt. In fact, a story’s newsworthiness depended on its ability to reinforce the image that “Africa is a huge, tragic basket case”.

Regina recalls complaining along with other foreign correspondents several years before, about Zimbabwe being one of the ‘driest’ places in terms of “African news”. Yet this was during a time of relative political and economic stability in the country. With so little ‘news’ to feed their foreign agencies, Regina writes “we would go into rural areas to scrounge for stories on witchcraft! We were looking for something dispiriting!” In later years, as the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated, foreign correspondents descended on the country, ready to report.

Regina’s confessions in 2004 were not about blacklisting foreign media or selling out African foreign correspondents. For her, this reflection was a call to action:

“There is another side of Africa that is just as newsworthy as all the depressing accounts of Africa in Western media. African journalists have a duty to rise up and address this wrong. It is not too late to be born again. We can do it.”

Regina Jere-Malanda is one of many thousands, even millions, of Africans who are retelling the African story, not simply with words. Using the powerful tools of entrepreneurship and innovation, education and mentorship, integrity and empowerment, everyone has a chance to retell Africa’s story.

Regina asks, “what is the point of a steady stream overzealously amplified reports of war, famine and disaster?” If indeed the power to change things lies in our hands, what are we waiting for? This is a word of encouragement to all African entrepreneurs and change-makers, whatever your industry: what you do matters! Keep doing what you do well and we will tell your story to the world.

*If you know any great African entrepreneurs working hard to retell Africa’s story, please share with us; we want to know! Do leave your thoughts and comments at the bottom.