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My Story of Discovery: Part 1 of 2

My story is one of great failure. It is the kind that sticks with you; etched in your mind and persistent with each turn of life. In this piece, I am going to share some aspects of concern, thought and passion on issues relating to being a part of the LGBT community and serving as an activist. When I first learned about activism in Botswana, it seemed a profession solely based on one being a part of the LGBT community. Growing up in an environment where you have to be educated to earn a living and subsequently create a family wasn’t a choice but it was a mandate as a son. I had lived with a lie as many others have done, refusing to rid myself of the mental, financial and physical security I had. Little did I know that the closet I was in was as transparent as the wine glass I’d often fill to drown out my sorrows. My life had been filled with wanting to please people, the need for belonging and losing the academic stealth I once had. My awakening in understanding who I was had turned my life around in the worst of ways a 16 year old in varsity could experience.

 

I was quite confused when I first heard of a Motswana man engaging tribal platforms to raise awareness on LGBT issues. This opened me to the injustices I had experienced but could never describe. This man was an activist and I found myself, wanting to assist in his cause. Before I knew it, I had started my finance career in a Big 4 audit firm and began volunteering for an LGBT organisation I would later be elected to Chair. Had I known the challenging journey I would take in the three years leading to now, I am not sure if I would be able to take the multiple challenges and more often than not, disappointment. Last year, I found myself having compromised my leadership learning curve and struggling to find my way again in this complex journey. This was a result of pressure and trying to figure out the influence culture within organisational structures had on the outcomes of an organisation such as that which I led. Little did I know this would become a subject to explore in Masters dissertation. This served as a critical point in my growth as a leader, creating a new definition of how I understood failure, confusion and challenge.

 

In a recent trip to Kampala, Uganda as a participant in a UN Special Rapporteur regional consultation, I found myself in the heat of a debate I unconsciously initiated. I was in a country known of being hostile to persons like myself, acting, behaving and talking in the normal flamboyant manner I would back home. Little did I know that this could have compromised my safety at that of my accomplices. My concern came from the reaction I received from a fellow activist, who I felt impeded my right to expression and how I identify myself with the world. The lesson of that experience for me was that there are the environments that enable, and those that do not, different kinds of activism. There are those who are quite radical or flamboyant in their approach, as in my case; being educated in post-apartheid South Africa and a citizen in a country considered an esteemed democracy. Likewise, there are those who prefer to carry out their work under the radar, in contexts where one’s future may be uncertain due to security forces, state administrative power or society itself.

 

The dynamic lessons one learns when engaging with others and discovering new contexts is mind blowing. In especially for a young mind trying to find its voice in a world of many others fighting the forces of stigma, discrimination, legislative constraints and inadequate health provisions. I connected this to a similar situation back home, where I as an advocate can easily express my views on public platforms with no concern or worry of my family, state or friends’ persecution/rejection. I never thought that my actions could result in other young people in remote areas being subject to hate crimes. The representative of gay or lesbian in those remote areas was not me, but the boy with an extra sway to his hips or the girl dressed in a masculine manner. This is the responsibility my story turned to, where one’s work can have an impact on others’ lives in an unimaginable manner. Likewise where a father has to ‘come out of the closet’ as many times as you do whenever his colleagues mention your work.


Treasures of Knowledge

Martyn Davies, Managing Director Deloitte Frontier Markets spoke of China’s convergence in the last few decades, how its shift in policy made an unprecedented impact in the world as we know in from trade, consumerism, innovation, industrialization and economic growth. This disruption post-2008 global recession was presented against the impact resources have made in African nations such as Nigeria, Angola, DRC and Botswana, the diversification of South East Asian nations and the stark difference efficiency and management in the state can redefine a country’s future.

With all the statistics, economic jargon and evidence of how Sub-Saharan Africa still has a long way to go, one thing struck me hardest that is often not spoken about; People. He positioned industrialization as a critical turning point for the wealth, employment and well being of a nation, despite the many other economic theories that exist. This well learned man managed to convince a room full of some of the most powerful names in financial, political and business sectors in Botswana that the difference one man can make is all that is needed to move a country forward. His most notable example was that of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos from their hometown to Seattle, this literally changed the landscape of Seattle to a global tech hub with the best talent and corporations around.

The diversification drives made by South-East Asian nations from commodity and labour driven industries to software, motor vehicle and electronic diversifications, amongst many other exports, show what efficiency and management can create. In contrast to economic growth and development, the rise in demand for commodities only made Africa more dependent on its resources. Countries report between 70 and 97% of GDP being solely from natural resources such as oil, diamonds and nickel. This has left a significant exposure for Africa in Chinese decision making. Proof of this was in the correlation between China and Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP trends post-2008. The solution to this challenge, in addition to those of power shortages, water cuts and proper governance mechanisms nationally and regionally; People.

People are a critical factor and differentiator in all aspects of the economy, social construct and policy making, yet often this is neglected in the context of development priorities, profit making and at times, civil society. I found myself in this engagement , thinking about how I could contribute towards making the kind of difference Martyn Davies spoke about. There is always a start to something and in the least, I and a lot of other young people, are a work in progress to make this happen. The key however, is in the treasure of knowledge. How we take the information we consume and put it to good use. The best treasures are never in classrooms, the workplace or in literature, but in the people we meet by change and opportunities we stumble on without expectation. Embrace the world as it is and redefine this landscape, it sounds simple – but I know, it takes a great deal of effort and time to make unimaginable things happen. God speed.


I am an African child.

‎Sometimes I feel like I am in over my head.
That I take on too much.
Then I remember;
I am young and in waiting,
that I am intelligent and a work in progress,
that I am gorgeous and creating a new me.
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I find myself questioning my actions for taking on more than I can chew,
that I jump into the deep end with all the joy in the world.
I am not the most wise, nor the cutest,
but I remember that I’m a survivor.
I remember that I never give up.
I remember that what I couldn’t do, now I can.

I remember that the little I’ve achieved, increases day by day.
That I can grow weary and tired,
broke and lost, but I remember who I am.
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I remember the strength I have;
the audacity to dare and the might to cry,
the love for life to continue and the pains I’ve managed to survive.
I am not special or extraordinary,
I am not privileged or specially empowered.
I am an African child.

Destined and ready to conquer.
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I am an African child.
Do not weep or gasp at where I’m from,
do not pity or shun my reality,
I am proud and kind, understanding and giving,
I am a story amongst many, gifted and willed.
Of the terrains that have defined spectacular,
of the rivers that quenched thirsts,
Of the sun that bakes the wilderness, of the lion that roars against fear,
Of the ubuntu I act on, of the culture I’m born of,
Of the perseverance of generations and the prospects of emerging economies.
One with the springs that nurture the greens,
One with the consciousness of greatness in the world.
I am an African child.

AUDIO


today, now.

There is something intriguing about an opportunity or offer that comes about at moments of transition, be it personal, professional or in your surroundings. These are the times when the choices you make define the path that could change the lives of many, provide emancipation for oneself or possibly be a breakthrough for success. As any other young person, I have come across a few of these both in moments of stability and transition. It is in these moments that we ultimately determine how far in risk we’re willing to invest (psychologically, in effort or financially) and possibly even learn. In view of the most recent opportunity presented to me, I unexpectedly found myself reviewing the kind of life I have lead, the kind in which I would like to lead and who I would like to become. This, I had never done before and as a result of being outside the context of my normal day to day activities at a later stage of the process, I found myself with clarity in the person I would like to become – albeit having reservations like any normal professional in moments that can change life as I know it. I explored all possibilities, the scenarios played out in my mind whilst juggling the concepts of loyalty, change and development. This was an entirely new approach to my journey, highlighting the disposition of confidence in skill, consciousness of needs and acknowledgement of the value my gifts and talent possess in various capacities. This was a moment in which I was no longer the fresh graduate with many interests, but a learned leader with great ambition.

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As is the case with one’s happiness or perception of life; so is the case of the power to determine the paths in which we’d like to take. In retrospect, I have observed the following lessons with regards to becoming one’s true self:

1) No one can determine the way your dreams are shaped, formed or lived out other than yourself

2) You may fall down all the time; but if you can always look up, you can always get up and if you can always get up, you can never give up

3) Love, is the ultimate sacrifice in which we grant service; doing the kind of work that is gratifying to one’s passion and building of others, the kind of work that is of social good and the kind of work that is of justice to your story – be it family, culture, friends, beneficiaries or your community

4) You can always learn to love what you might not have had the chance to. As a virtue of being human, this is a natural disposition that cannot be taught such as that of Hate or adopted such as that of Procrastination. This is a reflection of understanding the bigger picture and acknowledging that there is always something greater than you.

5) Invest in your future, be it through work, studies or financial instruments. These are some of the most tangible and easy of investments you can make and no opportunity or offer should limit/impede this aspect of development to safeguard your future.

Although you might prepare for the kinds of opportunities that are far and few between, it does not mean all of them are in your best interests. The relationship between you and any other third party should be beneficial in a manner that is ethical, of sound judgement and at minimum, within economic or market factors such as; demand/supply, problems/solutions or provision/need. This is the ultimate equilibrium too few people are said to achieve, where there is no compromise to live the kind of life you were meant to live. This will require saying “No”.

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In the end, the only thing you will have to answer to are the gifts, talents and dreams you might have postponed decades into your life, or ignored throughout. These are the only some of the things you’d be reflecting on towards the end of your journey. Ultimately, you are the only one that can use these to an undetermined extent. These are the keys to which a fully lived life is made of. These are a part of the key components to the life you’re to create today, now.

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Ask yourself, what kind of life are you creating? today, now.


Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063

The dreams of past generations saw the need to emancipate their nations from the conditions colonial powers subjected Africans to. The dream of voting, participating in the economy as a decision maker or engaging in national development processes as the voice of a community. This dream was realised nation by nation, from Uganda to Botswana and South Africa. This is the evolution Africans have seen for themselves. Now in 2015, Independence celebrations are abundant, a sign of the journeys African nations have taken amidst the violence, oppression and lack of support they experienced. The strengths of a nation have been proved through national investment arms, rolling out of decade-long development plans and state-driven institutions to drive policy implementation. As a result of this, Africa now has three middle-income countries: South Africa, Botswana and Kenya. The same nations enjoy the benefits of having the only Stock Exchanges with electronic transacting capabilities. Promising are other nations such as Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania and Nigeria. This is the emerging Africa I have seen as a young man; where I can learn from the leaders who have shifted the paradigm of challenge to one of opportunity.

 

In further retrospect, the drivers of opportunity have been built off of working systems. Having established national bodies, the consciousness of African nations evolved to that of regional effort. The regional bodies such as the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been complemented by key economic drivers such as the African Development Bank and Southern African Customs Union arrangements. The increase in opportunities for any African has never been experienced before, where one can change professions within a lifetime, build a new life in a neighbouring country or influence change for fellow Africans through technology. All these continent-wide achievements have been the pillar of hope to do better, as African diaspora and future leaders; more and more young people are fighting for the new Africa we want. This however is not possible without the consideration of a vital component of any livelihood or future; the inclusion, engagement and empowerment of women.

 

The journey of development in any society has often forgone the aspect of women as a key driver for change. Largely undocumented, the contributions of women have often been seen as a supporting role in driving development. Factors that have contributed to the negligence accorded to women include; cultural ideology, discrimination and social practice. Progress has been made through strategic instruments such as the SADC Gender Protocol, the African Union Commission (AUC)’s Maputo Plan of Action, where regional efforts are made to keep nations accountable to the change they promise to make for the betterment of their people. In addition, parliaments and board rooms have seen the rise in diversity by including women in decision making, this has resulted in nations such as Liberia and Malawi having the first female presidents Africa has seen. Despite this, many women across the continent are yet to engage in the economy, civil society and state activity. Leaving a largely untapped resource for economic and national development for all African nations; Anglophone, Francophone, Islamic and Sub-Saharan alike.

 

As history repeats itself for women, there is a difference to the circumstances in which they are subject to. That it is no longer the colonial power that rules or determines their level of success or engagement, but it is their fellow fathers and brothers whom have been enabled or even suppress the kinds of successes abovementioned. It is still a common tale for a young girl to be denied education as a result of poverty or the need for someone to care for an orphaned family. It is still a common tale for a young girl to be subject to arranged marriage, sexual abuse or denied formal employment. It is this Africa that the youth of today face; where the limited potential is largely denied to women as a result of the circumstances in which they are subject to. The global effort towards empowering women continues to gain momentum and development institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and United Nations (UN) have consciously driven female-friendly programmes in African nations to better facilitate the change of national policies and instruments to favour women. As effective as it has been, the current context of gender based violence and decision making statistics in any sector (Business, Government, Civil Society) has proved that more needs to be done to both include and encourage women in these sectors to prosper.

 

Power is often defined by the office, budget or number of people in which an individual can exert influence on. On the basis of this framework, it is seen in the everyday lives of ordinary women. Be it in a household in Luanda, Angola where a mother manages all affairs to facilitate the realisation of her children’s potential, or the business woman in Dakar, Senegal that understands the metrics of leadership as a virtue of her nurturing capabilities, or the young girl in Accra, Ghana that has seen the strength of studying all she has learned in class with her peers. The opportunities Africa sees today are triggered and embedded in young women. Of all the skills, natural resources and education abundant, a woman’s efforts are needed for the success of future generations; be it in their household, the classroom and/or platforms for dialogue.

The increasing participation of youth, a population that accounts for 60% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population, in policy making shall guarantee the sustainability of the continent at large. Initiatives such as the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA), European Union collaborative Public Private Partnership initiatives with national governments, regional agreements and multiple preferential trade agreements with developed nations, provide a learning experience for professionals and policy makers alike. It is in these instruments that young women can be integrated. Women have been placed strategically as a barometer for determining success. This is the role women have played in liberation struggles, board room changes and touching the lives of society. The results of the active engagement of women in policy making, changing society are unimaginable. This is the hope in which the youth of today experience on a day to day basis. Highlighted below are three specific, achievable and measurable provisions in which policy makers could build a framework for women empowerment. The efforts of both regional bodies and national governments would be required.

 

The following measures are proposed as strategic building points for policy development:

  • Primary school life-skills curricula based on gender equality/mainstreaming, lessons from gender based violence and affirmative encouragement of dialogue between girls and boys on principles (respect, honesty, courtesy and social good).

 

  • State-driven teen leadership camps for high performing girls. These can occur during high school holidays with integrated provisions for peer-to-peer exchange, female-led mentoring and skills building for young girls.

 

  • Industry demand driven scholarships and regional post-graduate fellowships for women. This can be aimed at maritime (biological sciences), infrastructure (engineering), ICT (IT) and development (humanitarian, disaster management) needs to fulfill the demands for Agenda 2063.

The aforementioned measures would not only complement the national, regional and continental policy instruments developed to address the multidimensional challenges youth and women face, but also encourage a new culture of thinking. Education as a tool for change, has been used for scientific breakthroughs, the arts and informing policy makers. It is the starting point of linking a woman’s heart, purpose of life and knowledge towards the consciousness of possibilities. The investment in women is encouraged from an early age, for both boys and girls. Furthermore, the years to follow integrate the up skill of emotional intelligence, leadership and decision-making to compliment the vital stage of youth development. This would lead to building expertise that is based on the needs of the continent. As embedded in the African Youth Charter, the rapid development of foreign direct investment, technology and migration open the African child to unknown opportunities. The above three measures are a commitment to repositioning women in the scope of development. The girl child would be empowered from an early age through knowledge sharing with peers, learning from achieved women leaders and established relationships with others from diverse backgrounds. This new generation would understand what it means to be equal in opportunity, learning and contributing to society. The robust investment in a young girl’s life would have immense influence for generations to come; transcending through future decision making, mentoring and nurturing of younger people who would contribute beyond 2063.