Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our women have left home...

What does it really mean? I mean, what does it mean for women to have it all? I don't know why there is a debate around this at all. But I do know that we need a balance between what is and what ought to be. Women empowerment must not leave a backlash on our society. Trying to fill a gap must not create a vacuum on another end. But yes, empowering girls and women is very important. So is empowering boys and men. And yes, I'm not a feminist :-)

I recently stumbled on this poem (below)- it was one of the collections published in "In Days to Come" in 2004. I still remember telling a friend many years ago that I wrote the poem, apologizing in advance because I know I'm one of those women who would leave home :-) But those were just gibberish of a teenage girl, excited about the adventure of youth and adulthood. Looking forward I ask, do I really want to have it all? Can we really have it all? What does it mean to have it all?

Enjoy the poem! Don't bite me!!

Our Women Have Left Home (Inspired by JP Clark's The wives' revolt)
The regular rhythm of pestle
cease to echo in our neighbourhood
the salivating aroma of home-made soup
is now being replaced by imported tin.

There is a reduced rate of new-borns
and the older ones only satisfy themselves
with the warmth the old nannies can offer.

So many changes have taken place
in this little county we call home
Mothers have long been called out
to fight for political seat among our fathers.

Here is the cry from Africa,
our women are leaving home for politics.
They are now seen in old political boots
roaming and parading the streets
and showing off their woman-ego and political ambition

Let politics feel the woman
Let the wold take a new turn
for the woman is about to rule the world
in her motherly nature and gift.
Hurray to womanhood!

Hear the children and fathers cry
our women have left home for politics
who will take care of the woman's role
in their individually appointed home?

Do not fear when you begin to see
men with babies tied behind their backs
and basket laid unceremoniously on their head
walking around the market place
purchasing foodstuff with a rehearsed effort.

Voices are raised...
arguing voices are raised in every home-
you can't trade your motherly duty
for some bag of political rubbish!

Culled from "In Days to Come," page 5-6 (c) Jennifer Ehdiamem 2004.

How attractive is Ethiopia to young professionals?

Either by choice or circumstance, people find themselves relocating from one country to another. So often, we hear jaw-dropping statistics of xyz millions of Africans living and working in North America, with no faces to these stories. But beyond crossing the Atlantic Ocean for greener pasture, how is the situation with Africans crossing borders within the same region or continent, to set up or take-up new business opportunities?

In March last year, I started this interesting series of "Relocating to Another African Country for Work". The first article featured two young African professionals, Kathleen and Nicolas-Patience, who relocated to Nigeria and South Africa, respectively, for work.

In this new feature, 
Ethiopia is the center of focus :-) ! With news of how the once poverty ridden country is growing fast to becomeAfrica's lion economy, many people are adjusting their business lens to focus on the country. As BBC Africa once reported,modernity might have brought with it some interesting new job opportunities to Africa's fastest growing non-oil economy. 

BUT, how attractive is this country to young professionals from other African countries? I'm excited to chat with Gamu and Chernor, who relocated from two distinct countries to work in Addis Ababa. 

The goalof this interview is to share first-hand experience of what it means to work out of another African country. Hopefully, this will inspire more young professionals to seek opportunities within borders :-) and explore the rich work experiences that might exist within the continent. Yup, lets make the trend of relocating to another African country for work more attractive!

Chat with Gamu Tagwireyi, Zimbabwean
What do you do for a living?
Gamu: Child Protection Specialist. I support programs on Law Reform on Child Rights in Africa. 

What is your country of origin? 
Gamu: The Republic of Zimbabwe 

How long have you lived in your present country? And why did you move here?
Gamu: I have lived here for 8 months. I moved to Ethiopia for career development strategy because this is home to the African Union, and other major UN agencies. The country is safe, and cost of living it generally reasonable.  

What do you like most about this country?
Gamu: The terrain, the rich culture and heritage. The diversity of its people. The cosmopolitan features of the caipital city Addis Ababa. The food, security and economic development.  

How will you describe the business and leisure environment? 
Gamu: The business and leisure environment has grown considerably in the past five years. Many locals now own current and innovative businesses that serve the Ethiopian people.  

Does $1 USD have more value here or in your country of origin? Give an example of what it can buy in both countries.
Gamu: Coming from Zimbabwe where  the dollarisation process has led to the  distorted values of the US dollar, the US dollar has more  value in Ethiopia. In Zimbabwe one USD  will buy candy for a child, maybe half a loaf of bread. In Ethiopia it can buy basic breakfast ingredients. bread, milk and 3 eggs. 

What are you not so impressed about in this country?
Gamu: The way foreigners and expartriates can be treated. Prices are not regulated and so prices escalate because you are a forgeigner. A foreigner is most likely to be charged double sometimes tripple the price than a  local. The high taxes are prohibitive to the development of the people. While I assert that the governments need  some form of revenue, the tax rates in this country tend to be inimical to development. The health sector needs a lot of developing to meet international and regional standards. A lot still need to be done in that area too. 

What are the shared values you see between here and your country?
Gamu: The  value of family, career and safety of the people.  

What other African country do you think you will like to live in near future and why?
Gamu: I would love  to stay in Mauritius, The Gambia or Sierra Le one  All countries are rich in culture and strategically important for my career too.  

Name two of your favorite public spots here? On non-work days, where is someone most likely to find you aside your house?
Gamu: I love any Kaldis, gives me a good joll of coffee, hot chocolate and food. I would visit the Entoto once again, it was so captivating. I am have a plan to go out of Addis and experience the country side in the next weeks to come.   

Will you recommend that other young professionals seek out opportunities here? Why?
Gamu: Of course. Addis Ababa is the political, social and economic capital of Africa. There is great opportunities to learn, expand, network here. Many  development agencies and international organisations are setting up offices in Addis. It has a diverse culutre, or non profit experts, economists, diplmomats, politicians. Theres a lot to learn from this country. It is definitely a place that can make you develop and make a head start to your career.

Say something in the local language (and share what it means)
Gamu: "Shanda nesimba kuti ubudirire"  a Shona saying meaning work hard so you can be successful. 

Chat with Chernor Bah, Sierra Leonean 
What do you do for a living?
Chernor: I work for Nike Foundation as a brand manager. 

What is your country of origin?
Chernor: Sierra Leone

How long have you lived in Ethiopia? And why did you move here?
Chernor: Eleven months. For work…to start a project.

What do you like most about Addis?
Chernor: The organized chaos and the fact that there is an active night life. And the people are generally meek and nice.

How will you describe the business and leisure environment? 
Chernor: One of the things about ET is the gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is very evident in the night life, and the leisure life. I kind of think sometimes that I inhabit the intersection of that. I’m interested in seeing where the poor people hangout, which is a lot of fun. The country has a lot of diversity; there is always something going on here. You can always have fun if you want.
But the business environment is  very closed. It is still a very command economy, so there is not a lot of entrepreneurship. There are opportunities that I see on a daily basis but nobody is actually taking advantage of them. It is just overwhelming.

Does $1 USD have more value here or in your country of origin? Give an example of what it can buy in both countries.
Chernor: A dollar probably has more value in my country than here. In Ethiopia, a dollar can buy you bread. It can buy you coke, depending on where you are. It can also buy you a cup of tea/coffee, which is huge here. In Sierra Leone, one dollar is 4,000 leone. It is a lot of money. A family can cook on that. 

What are you not so impressed about in Ethiopia?
Chernor: Conformity. Ethiopians are slow. They follow too many rules. It is a closed society. I’m disappointed by mostly young people who are smart but who see Ethiopia as the world and whose perspective are mostly in a cocoon. 

What are the shared values you see between here and your country?
Chernor: Family! There is respect for family, there is respect for food, and there is respect for communion- eating together in one plate. It is a very conservative society as well in terms of relationship. There is a shared value of marriage. 

What other African country do you think you will like to live in near future and why?
Chernor: I’m fascinated by Botswana because of parallel between them and a small country like Sierra Leone. I do like Ghana. I’ll love to spend some time there. I have never been to South Africa. It remains an enigma. It has a unique history… I’ll love to experience the progress or lack of in its relations.

Name two of your favorite public spots here? On non-work days, where is someone most likely to find you aside your house?
Chernor: Bole Rock... and Radison Blu

Will you recommend that other young professionals seek out opportunities here? Why?
Chernor: Ethiopia is a very diverse country. It is an interesting experiment between a government that is progressive economically but politically questionably so. Ethiopians are beautiful people, very dignified, with a history that they a very proud of. It is also one of the few countries in the world where the perceptions of outsiders are so different from the perception of the people themselves of themselves. Life is good here. It is safe.

Say something in the local language, Amharic (and share what it means)
Chernor: Betam amesegenallo, meaning thank you very much.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Suffering False Attractions

»»» You have just started working in your current organization. While applying for the job, you had indicated that you have made enough career changes and now want to settle down. At the interview, you went to great lengths to establish why this was the job and the kind of organization that you were really looking for.

You got the job. Three months into it a headhunter calls you. There is a new multinational in town and they are looking for someone with the same profile as yours. The job pays 50 percent more than what you currently make and according to the man at the other end of the line, it has great professional challenge.

That night you have trouble falling asleep. A lady named temptation visits you.

She whispers into your ear all the things wrong with your current assignment. She reminds you of noncooperation by your new colleagues. She eggs you on by reminding you that you have suggested pathbreaking ideas in short time you have been there, but no one really listens to you in this new organization. She brings up the fact that you felt shafted when, after joining, you found out that some of your colleagues were earning more than you for doing the same job. Why then do you feel this false sense of virtue- as if you owe the organization something for hiring you?

It is not the false virtue, but the false attraction of which one must beware.

The fact of the matter is that you have not paid back your organization for taking a risk in hiring you just three months ago. The fact is that you did not anticipate the amount of effort you would need to make before being accepted by peers and subordinates. The fact is that, to the headhunter, you are just another head to hunt, to make his cut and bonus.

Flirting with false attractions makes us lose affection for what is on hand. If you do not have a serious need for the offered job or assignment, do the professional thing and resist the temptress.«««

Culled from "The Professional," by Subroto Bagchi...Chapter 18.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Okay is 25 percent

While recommending a friend for a job once, I was asked how he is... "He is okay," I responded. It was more like an automated response, which was not intended to undermine the skill-set he was bringing to the team.

"He is okay?" the director asked. She was clearly annoyed. "I don't want someone who is okay," she said, emphatically. I was confuse.

She went on to explain why "okay" is never good enough. "Okay is 25%" It is like saying something is just there. It is never a good term to use when describing someone's ability. Especially if it is something or someone of distinct value. It is unacceptable. Okay is offensive. Unprofessional... It is a very weak term. Okay is not good enough.

I thought deeply about her words and consciously tried to explain how my friend was really more than an okay person. Till date I'm still thinking about the kind woman's views even though this event took place some six years ago.

The core lesson I took from that experience is to think deeply about every question before responding. No matter how casual the setting is or how simple the question is in itself. I mean, so often we use vague words like "okay" "nice" "awesome" "fine" etc. to describe people, experience and things without even noticing that these blanket terms have become meaningless... I know, I probably typed up or said one of those words in response earlier today. Automated responses and our minds... :-/ We'll get better sha...

Sunday, November 11, 2012


The youth bulge has become a major concern across the world with youth population rising significantly in several countries. Statistics reveal that approximately half of the population of African countries is made up of youth. With a youth population of 43.9%1, Nigeria has the 17th highest youth population out of 229 countries in the world. These figures pose interesting discussions for world leaders and international communities on how the energy, creativity and vitality of this huge human resource can be channeled to strengthen economies and positively transform their countries. As observed in Africa, youth have increased participation in national issues and are adding values to lives through social development projects. Likewise in Nigeria, there are determined young people leading change efforts and positively transforming and improving the lives of people in their communities despite its daunting challenges.

Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP) Africa a nonprofit organization that is committed to developing dynamic, innovative and principled African leaders, launched the Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards in 2004.  The Annual Awards is LEAP's attempt to reward the commitment and passion of these innovative and dynamic young people and also inspire other youth to aspire and serve as change agents in their local communities.

Since inception, the Awards has celebrated and supported 65 young innovative Nigerians aged 18-30 years who are improving the livelihood of several ordinary citizens through community development initiatives.

At the 9th Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards, LEAP will recognize efforts of the beneficiaries of its Leadership, Ethics and Civics (LEC) Programme. The LEC programme has equipped 14, 000 students in select public schools in five states with the skills and tools that they require to cope with life challenges and serve as change agents in their local communities. Community development projects are diverse and relevant to the socio-economic needs of a particular local government or their immediate environment.

From providing safe portable water serving many neighborhoods to creating awareness and working to achieve some of the United Nations millennium development goals, the students utilize their newly acquired knowledge and skills from the LEC Programme. In 2012, 50 social change projects were implemented by the LEC students in Anambra, Lagos and Ogun States benefitting thousands of individuals.

This year, LEAP will celebrate outstanding secondary schools and social change projects in Anambra, Lagos, Ogun States and Annual Awards recipient.

The 9th Annual Awards will be more than an event to celebrate the youth, it will feature LEAP's impact through its work in Nigeria and Africa. In May 2012, LEAP marked a decade of its leadership development and would specially celebrate its 10th Anniversary at this event.

Details of the events are as follows:

Theme:  Youth Bulge: Ride the Tide.
Date:      Thursday the 15th of November, 2012
Venue:   The Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan Lagos
Time:  4pm prompt

The Awards is funded by several indigenous organizations and typically attracts a thousand guests from public, private and development sectors. An Award winning Nigerian recording artiste will be performing at the event.

Note: This is a Press Release issued by LEAP Africa

Friday, November 02, 2012

In Nigeria, Fighting Corruption Should Start with Self!

Will Nigeria ever win the fight against corruption? Most times when the issue of corruption in Nigeria is raised, we are quick to point fingers at our government leaders. "If only our leaders are not so corrupt…," is a common statement most of us make. The underdeveloped state in the country is blamed on the corrupt politicians- from the federal government to the local government chairman. As a result, the fight against corruption is fashioned as us against them (politicians). They were once us.

When President Goodluck Jonathan, during his 52nd independence anniversary speech, said, "In its latest report, Transparency International (TI) noted that Nigeria is the second most improved country in the effort to curb corruption," he was criticized by a lot of activists and groups. This statement was described as false. Nigeria still holds an embarrassing "prominent" 143th position out of the 183 countries in Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perception Index. The recent dust trailing the leaked report by Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force led by Malam Nuhu Ribadu, the former head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has left some shocked at the audacity of corruption flowing in the oil and gas sector. Perhaps this will re-establish the fact that where wiping out corruption from Nigeria is concern, we are still far behind. This is no child's play.

However, the fight against corruption is not a fight to be left to President Goodluck alone. If we are serious about winning the war and liberating our country and resources from the shackles of fraud and greed in all sectors then we must all stand up to the responsibility and start fighting corruption from the very level that we are. I know, this sounds like a broken record. But the reality is that nothing will change if we do not change anything.

For example, if you drive through the red light and you are stopped by a traffic warden who gives you the option of tipping him or paying xxx amount as a fine for breaking traffic law, instead of bending to the temptation of giving that bribe, why not take the high road? Do things right by paying the fine? It is by refusing to pay bribe that we are able to reduce the gluttony among some public officials. We can apply this common culture at other levels.

In the fight against corruption, we are not as powerless as we think. A lot of innovative tools have been launched to empower individuals take initiative and expose all forms of corruption around them. The advent of technology makes the efforts even sexier.

The Executive Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, speaking through his Chief of Staff, Dr Jimmy Imo once stated that "the battle against corruption has become so sophisticated with the advent of modern technology …" How are we as Nigerians taking initiative to leverage on this tool?

The recent launch of AntiCorruption Internet Database (ACID), a multifunctional web repository for all corruption related issues in Nigeria is a first step to ensuring that we are able to rate ourselves as well as our leaders on corruption related issues. How does the website work? The portal http://www.antigraft.org has different strategic tools that everyone can use to report corruption or feel the pulse of corruption in the country. Below are some of the tools you and I can use:

ACID Wiki: A source of information concerning definitions, laws, treaties and strategies concerning corruption.

Asset Declaration: A list of Nigerian politicians and government officials that have declared their assets. The "Report Asset tool" helps user report known asset of political actors and also upload supporting documents.

Bribe Reports: A tool to report corruption cases either from public or government agencies.  Also allows for user to upload supporting documents. (Multi-media and textual).

Budget: Monitor Public Projects yourself
View and share Budgetary Infographics
Download budget resources such as actual budget documents and budget monitoring toolkits

WANGONeT's Corruption Calculator:
An application which computes the opportunity cost of acts of corruption. It provides contextual comparisons into the actual cost of stolen and misappropriated funds.

Corruption Profile: A list of individuals who have been involved in corruption allegations, cases, and convictions.

National Applaud Ranking:
Applauding outstanding individuals who work hard despite the temptation of corruption. Users can nominate and vote for ANY individual they believe is worthy of applaud.

If we, if we all take responsibility and become our own corruption watch by reporting cases from grassroots like our lives depend on it, then maybe, just maybe, corruption will indeed become history, its culture wiped out from every sector in Nigeria.