It’s not everyday you meet a woman who just makes you want to become a better you. Even if you knew you were a hustler, there are people in your life that will just push you, by essentially being rock stars, to become a better and excellent version of yourself.
One of these people is Sophia Bekele. The CEO of the one and only DotConnectAfrica spoke at the 2014 CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium on October 11. The minute you meet her, you find that is rather hard to not be impressed with a woman who is so comfortable in her own skin that she freely extends this magnificence to others. Unlike many of our “social media made” Young African Leaders, Ms. Bekele seems to make sure that she makes a genuine connection with everyone she meets. So don’t be surprised if she asks you questions such as “where do you see yourself in 5 years?- when you do have the honor of meeting her. If you are lucky, you will get to hear just how much she is working to change the way Africa connects to the rest of the world.
What truly got earned her this nomination was her Keynote Address at the Symposium. It was her clear vision, her insistence on renewed leadership in Africa and pushing the envelope for change. Here is a recap thanks to the folks at DotConnectAfrica:
Speaking at the Symposium, Bekele conversed with the students behind what she says are of priority to Africa. Her rallying call “The operative word for what would move Africa is CHANGE. So we all need to PUSH the envelop – (Persist, Until Something Happens)”
Bekele said that “Our generation has the power to promote freedom of ideas, innovate and be accountable, ethical and transparent, to forge leadership that is keen on every small detail. It is really in building lasting foundations that we can prepare for a better future. It is your chance to chart a new path, without reinventing the wheel so that future generations can appreciate your input”.
She recalled “Our great Pan-African Leaders like Mandela, Mwalimu Nyerere, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta saw a future in creating opportunities though self governance, economic development through education to drive a change. As we sit now and analyze their visions we have a great chance to stand on the shoulders of these giants and in retrospect stop and look at their achievements and the challenges that they faced in their quest to make Africa and the World a development platform”.
She reminded that we can also learn from our modern-day Giants that were close to us, our own fathers, mothers, uncles and village Chieftains. “My Giant is my own Father” she said and
noted his staying power under three varying government regimes with successful business undertakings. She also named such leading African business figures as Tony Elumelu, calling him “her modern-day Giant“. His advocacy for private sector leadership in economic development and PanAfican vision under his coined term AfriCapitalism mirrors mine, she said.
Bekele also sited her first “Nation building systems integration project” in Africa that her company successfully commissioned, saying it was “disruptive” business model. Since, we had many ventures my various star-ups have accomplished, and pioneered in Africa and the US, in the field of ICT, internet, social media and Corporate Governance, including our very successful and famous Pan-African effort on .africa domain name.
At a country level, she cited Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia as one to use successful and disruptive models models to advance their economies.
She urged the students to develop a “staying power” saying, I was educated in America like yourself, so I can’t help but also learn from some of the Giants right here in the US, and quoted US President Theodore Roosevelt on “staying in the Arena”.
Given what we were enduring at our organization at DCA, I was inspired to write an entire commentary from his single quote for our Company’s 2014 New Year’s Newsletter and titled it “The ARENA Issue”, she said.
We need to learn to stay in the course like our celebrated Giants did, but what would help us move into our journey to the future is to continuously PUSH the envelop – (Persist, Until Something Happens)
Adding that Africa must renew its leadership, “We must invest in training leaders from a very young age, the best leaders of our time have been given a chance to drive change in their own levels such as the one you are doing now”
She used the Biblical citation “Parable of the Talent” to give examples on hard work, success, and wealth creation. She quoted diverse Giants: Aristotle on, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others”. Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya on renewed leadership, “Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.”, and Bob Marley, singer and freedom fighter on good governance, “You can fool some people sometimes but you ant fool all people all the time”.
Bekele encouraged the students saying “What does not kill you makes you stronger, and It does not mean you are lonely when you are alone.
Not forgetting women in the equation, she said the following – Women represent over 50% of the African continent and they have many gifts and talent and not utilizing them is also missing over 50% of the population’s talent. Without examining the contributions made by African women throughout the ages, the full story of the African experience and struggle cannot be told. So for those women in this room, have hope and use your talents and when the going gets tough and or the men want to treat you like you should only be seen and not heard, pin your ears to these two songs – a must have in your play list – “Can’t hold US down” – by Christina Aguilera and “Girls Run the World ” – by Beyonce: These two ladies have your back.
In her concluding remarks Bekele stressed “Consistent with your mission and vision at The Council of Young African Leaders, which is to inspire the next generation of African leaders to cultivate awareness and action, and call to lead the continent of Africa to its greatest era yet”, I call upon you to do just that ” You are the next generation Leaders, Game Changers, and Change Agents – go and do something for Africa“.
“There were so many ways to have answered the questions you posed for today’s symposium, but I spoke to you on what is of priority for Africa – use your talents, do it the right way, practice good governance, no short cuts, stay the course, use the power of hindsight, and PUSH -Persist Until Something Happens. Otherwise, your leadership will also suffer and you will be “Swinging from the Chandelier” and I let you search whose song is that.
She concluded by acknowledging the victims of Ebola, saying let us keep them in our prayers. It is a huge tragedy. Our Continent’s future is online.
This is a simplified recap off course but we say YES to this:
“We must invest in training leaders from a very young age, the best leaders of our time have been given a chance to drive change in their own levels such as the one you are doing now”