“Some people say Africa is a sleeping giant. Others say it is an awakening lion. I say, Africa is a lion on the move!”
These were the words of John Mwangi’s words, a fellow TGSS scholar from Kenya, as he sat beside me in a panel discussion on skills and employability in Sub-Saharan Africa, at the House of Lords, London in the United Kingdom.
It has been said that Africa is a dark nation. That we are enemies of ourselves. This has been engrained in our minds and we all tend to agree. We put it to heart. Hope is lost and pessimism replaces it. And yes, we believe it, we give up the fight and indeed become a dark nation.
The situation in our countries does not help. Poverty continues to ravage the continent as curable communicable diseases continue to kill our under five year-olds. This is a continent where epidemics such as Ebola threated to wipe out an entire population. Famines and droughts hit the continent to extents that run beyond our control. Those in leadership continue to ‘eat’ of the ‘national cake.’ The ‘cake’ that should be shared by all citizens ends into the stomachs of the few as corruption continues to cripple our nations. With all these, who wants to be an African? Who wants to be a Ugandan, Ethiopian, Mauritanian or Ghanaian?
Of course me. I just don’t want to be but I am a proud Kenyan.
Drawing from John Mwangi’s statement, I am a hopeful daughter of Africa. I am optimistic. Optimistic because the discussion at the House of Lords opened the possibilities that have always been there and we refuse to see them. Optimism that is drawn from Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Founder, Orange Culture’s words that “Africa is a brand.” A brand with different facets and dimensions. Within our diverse nationalities are hundreds of different tribes with a wealth of cultural heritage that gives us a sense of belonging. That allows us diverse options in artistic innovations. Do you want to blend African traditional clothing with modern international fashion trends? Ask Adebayo of Orange Culture; it is not only possible but a reality.
I am optimistic that we can better ourselves. We can market and sell ourselves. We can control what our media says about us. We can tell our own stories. Real stories. True stories. Good stories. Our media houses can stand up to the challenge to report the reality that is Africa.That we are people who, despite our problems,lead normal lives with aspirations and hope for a better Africa. We can build our research and development centres. In these centres innovation and inventions can be birthed. These centres should be built on research. Research done by Africans, in Africa and for Africa.
“We need to do our own research” says Mwangi, an MSc Logistics and Supply Chain student at the University of Portsmouth.
We can do our own research.
In order to do our own research, we need to bridge the skills development gap by training the workforce for the 21st century work place.
We need to build capabilities.
One organizations that is well versed in building capability across Sub-Saharan Africa, is the British Council. By teaming up with Tullow Oil to run the Tullow Group Scholarship managed by the British Council, these organizations are opened up opportunities for capacity development to many, like me.
The Tullow Group Scholarship has given wings to my dreams and light to a future that seemed so obscure a year ago. It has given me capabilities and endowed me with degrees of freedom.
When I go back to Kenya, I have the freedom to choose: between working for the government or for the private sector, start my own consultancy firm or work with a charity organisation like the British Council.
Because that is what building capabilities does when the right skills and knowledge are given to the potentially innovative young people from Africa. It gives them the freedom to choose what to do with their capabilities.
While in the final interview for the award of this scholarship, the British Council Kenya director Tony Reilly asked me this question, “What will your business card be reading in the next five years?” I might have forgotten the answer I gave him, because I was obviously nervous. But this question does not leave my mind.
As I continue on my MSc. Corporate Environmental Management at the University of Surrey, I continue to be inspired to contribute to the development of my country by starting up my dream project: A Youth Development Centre to bridge the gap in leadership and Entrepreneurship skills by giving information to young people about the vast majority of careers that exists. To enhance education, to build capabilities and promote research and development.
I don’t know how long it will take, may be five years or ten years. But I am optimistic that it will be sooner than later.
About the Author
Nancy Lubale is a TGSS Scholar from Kenya. She is currently studying MSc. Corporate Environmental Management at the University of Surrey.