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Bisila Bokoko and MacDella Cooper to Deliver Keynote Addresses at the 5th Annual Young African Leadership Symposium in NYC

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Bisila Bokoko

The Council Of Young African Leaders will host the 5th annual CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium (YALS) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, New York. This year’s theme Transforming Africa Through Partnerships will focus on the importance of public and private partnerships, within the African community and abroad. The Young African Leadership Symposium gathers students, leading businesses, professionals, influencers and entrepreneurs to discuss many topics affecting Africa and its various countries. This year’s program will feature keynote addresses by Ms. MacDella Cooper, CEO of MacDella Cooper Foundation and Ms. Bisila Bokoko, Businesswoman, Entrepreneur, Speaker, and Philanthropist among other high profile speakers and panelists.

MacDella_Cooper

MacDella Cooper

 According to the African Development Bank, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) have emerged over the last decade as one of the best ways to foster development. Similar to a Town hall Debate, the symposium is designed to be engaging, encouraging speakers, panelists, and the audience to discuss the most pressing African issues and how they can be solved through partnerships. Discussion will feature:

  • African Diaspora’s Assimilation vs Acculturation 
  • Social Enterprise; Funding an African-Driven Development
  • Ebola Lesson Learned from a Deadly Epidemic
  • ICT and African Development 
  • How to successfully implement PPPs in Africa and the Role of the Youth and Women

“This symposium is a unique opportunity for African students and young professionals to get involved in the pressing African issues,” says Loukman Lamany, Director of Programs and YALS Chairman. “In order to accelerate Africa’s development, collaboration between all the stakeholders, the public and private sectors, Africans on the continent and in the diaspora are needed for a greater collective impact.” Due to the steady rise of youth participation in both the private and public sectors, Africa’s youth are proving to be crucial players in social, political, and economic changes on the continent.

The CYAL is proud to partner with the CUNY University Student Senate on this symposium to provide a platform for African youth to lead the way in formulating Africa’s solutions.

Registration and program Open: http://www.yals.info

#YOUTHLEADAFRICA

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Filed under Africa, Africa ICT, African Diaspora, African Media, African Technology, African Women, African Youth, DIASPORA YOUTH ENGAGEMENT, THE COUNCIL OF YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS

Why Sophia Bekele Should be Forbes “Most Inspirational Young African Leader”

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 Bekelehustler, 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.  

 
Sophia Bekele

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”

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When 96% of Africa Became Insignificant…or the Means to being Awarded

It has been months. Yes- Months since there was a blog written. But to be fair, a lot was going on.  I have made some transitions in both my personal and professional lives. I am seating on my new desk, in my new home office, and thinking of all the things that could be packed in this one blog.

But first things first…. I am so excited for what can only be termed as ingenuity-yes the word is OVERUSED.  I am currently listening to a song by Zambian Artist JK- his new single is out, and I can’t get over it. In one song, his producer, a young Ghanaian Genius, has been able to produce beats that are what I can only term as “afropolitan”- yes, that word that is slowly being used by every Tom Dick and Harry who thinks they have become experts on Africa.  Anyways, I love these collaborations! Ghana and Zambia, Congo and Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Somalia…. yes, it’s finally happening.  We just might find that as Africans, we don’t have to tell the one story that is trending.

As I see budding stories of collaborations among Africans across the continent,  I can finally put away my anger about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s words at this past Harvard Africa Business Conference where she had the audacity to say that “If you are not in Nigeria, you are not in Africa”.  Off course, the rest of us non-Nigerians who were in the room sank in our seats a bit more trying to figure out just how offended we were-but let that be a story for another time.

This past Sunday, I sat in a cafe and I did the one thing that was overdue- go to brunch with a book in hand and completely ignore the rest of the world while I inhaled pancakes and eggs, with loads of tea.  At that moment, I felt I was back- and to that was the accompanied sadness in what I was reading- AMERICANAH.  What a disappointment! I had thought that maybe for the first time, we had a female literary figure who could really capture people’s imagination without falling to simplicity- but alas there goes the “danger of a single story”.

This single story is being told, the only catch is that – now its about Africa’s glass being half full instead of being half-empty. Meanwhile, while some mighty people are playing with Africa’s coffers, the Diasporan Africans are happy to seat and accumulate awards, speaking engagements, world travels, and having what can only be simply termed as meaningless conversations. – Don’t worry, I am guilty of this also.  It seems, that those of us who do not end up returning home to become a problem, or a solution , have become masters of how to claim Africa, without really trying. We have become do-gooders, we have mastered the art of celebrating ourselves, patting ourselves in the back on all the good work we do. We have even developed some sort of recipe on how to appropriately talk about Africa as the new “it” thing without realizing that this New Africa is shiny glossy representation of a minority. I am all for being hopefully, but COME ON! We are now perpetuating that “single” story, where Africa is hopeful, and instead of the glass being half empty, we think that saying that Africa’s glass is half full justifies our false presentation of Africa, and the people who are living with the everyday realities of the continent.

We have forgotten that maybe Africa is a continent- not a country. We have forgotten the basics- Collaboration, process over outcome, and in its simplicity, liking ourselves as Africans. Because really, at the end of the day, we really don’t like each other.  At the end of the day, those of us who are in the Diaspora have decided to ignore the fact that the there is a very large percent of those who reside in Africa that still live in pure, terrifying poverty.  So we forgot about them, but we are happy to seat and think of all the wonderful things we are doing for Africa, happy to collect the awards, and feel really good that we are the “new Africa”- the Saviors of Africa.

As I said, I am guilty too. For the last couple of days, I have wondered though-, how can we change the conversation.  OR even, better, does the conversation on Africa, and African countries specifically, need to change? It might be that we are comfortable with where we are in which case, I’m just a frustrated African woman who just needs a good reason to vent.

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So You Are: A proud African, Crazy about Africa…GOOD FOR YOU!

(Pat yourself in the back, and if you can’t get a friend to do it for you). I mean these days, all it takes is for one “brilliant” individual to come up with a cliche that leaves the rest of us in a frenzy….

Let’s Get some things out of the way:

  1. front-page-african-photoThere is an economic growth in SOME African countries. This has been the case for several years now, so let’s not act like its new thing, or start singing Kumbayah as if there is some messianic revival in Africa.  In other words, stop telling people that Africa is rising, or the new frontier or that it is emerging- let’s be honest that this is another circular clichéd fad that circles itself around every so often. They say history is the best teacher- but we seem to have kicked this particular teacher out of the room and decided to try and sound like we have made a new discovery. Like Really?
  2. There is technology BOOM in Africa. So get over it and stop042711-National-Cell-Phones-News1
    trying to find metaphors to describe the elation of many Africans. Can we all agree that Africa is moved beyond this whole “heart of darkness” bit? Also, pointing out this “boom” every ten seconds makes one seem like there is nothing else to talk about-which is so far from the truth. The truth of the matter, unless you are in Africa and have heard the cry of jubilee- then you are just guessing as to how people in Africa feel. We will not deny that Africans have progressed in terms of technological advancements, but that’s not just the only front of growth- so can we move on to some other African Innovations please….
  3. africaaidThis whole “Africa cannot be dependent on aid” mantra is not new! Read transcripts of leaders past and present, you will find that all these “innovative” ideas on progressing Africa forward is not new. (maybe repackaged, in new sexy colors, but nevertheless old mantra).  African renaissance, Africa the New frontier, Africa Rising, Africa the Final Frontier (what does this really mean?), oh and now…AFRICA EMERGING for the west. Sooooooo….Africa is emerging from? Basically, lets agree that these concepts are not new, and they will probably come back in another couple of years. So do yourself a favor and read Frantz Fanon, Mohammed Bagayogo, V.Y Mudimbe, Henry Oruka, Samir Amin etc….(maybe we can all learn something)images
  4. Africa is not a pretty package and that is reality- so stop making it into your personal brand.  This is particularly for the African diaspora. There are some harsh realities in Africa- and unless you have stepped on the ground and did some research and interacted with the people, stop making Africa (which is huge by the way) into your pet project.  You find young (and old) Africans who could not handle the playground, bullying or being called names have  now decided that it is their mission in life to make Africa palatable or pleasant. They  now want to make Africa appear more appealing to the world so that they don’t have to be ashamed of wearing their African print, or saying their name outloud= Good for you! But now back to reality. Africa is Africa, and instead of trying to fit it into your mode- look again at the reality- find away to tell the story of Africa without all this fluffy material.  In other words, grow a pair and get real.

These are going to be reccurring themes this year with a dose of “Get real”. But in have a reality check, and stop thinking of Africa as a pet project. We are so afraid of what is going in Africa that we have painted a picture of Africa not meeting the reality. Africa is complicated and there is a lot of beauty, and a lot of ugliness, a lot of happiness and a lot of pain. there is a lot of good, and a lot of bad. We need to reconcile with this. Understandably, Africa is en vogue but lets not forget that there are real people who are being affected positively and negatively by how each one of us chooses to engage with Africa.

MzAwMTUwbm9TY3JlZW4tc2hvdC0yMDEyLTA2LTA4LWF0LTExLjE2LjUzLUFN  Cut your hair if you must. Go natural if its your thing. Wear the kinte cloth by all means- Infact, wear as many colors as possible (I mean Joseph wore a 12-colored coat non?), Shout your “African” name from the top of your lungs (and insist that others correctly pronounce your name) if that makes you feel more African and proud, start chanting “I am Africa/I am African” if wearing a shirt makes you more African than the kid in Soweto slums barely holding to his own shirt. All these fluffy things that we adopt to make ourselves feel better= Do it all! But lets not delude ourselves thinking that this makes you more African and does good for Africa

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