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I spend a lot of time reflecting – it’s in my nature – but probably also because I’m always agonizing over my future, my past, and my present.  Trying to figure out how to be better, how to be bigger, how to be smaller (in weight) and what it is I want out of my life.  Sometimes it disturbs me that at my age (30 something) I still question my life goals.

‘Be still’, a friend told me.  If you know me, you’d know that’s the worst thing anyone could say to me – I am that girl who is always on the move.  Be still?  What does that mean?  If I’m still, I’m asleep – I fall asleep in yoga!

Nah, being still wasn’t for me.  But I thought I’d take a break, go visit some friends and get energized.  I couldn’t afford the trip to New York (where I usually go for energy), neither financially nor time wise.  Lagos it was!  People thought I was crazy – why on earth would you go to Lagos on holiday?  Clearly they hadn’t heard Banky W’s anthem, ‘ain’t no party like a Lagos party…’

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My girlfriend and I hopped on an ET flight via Addis to Lagos.  By the way, why does it cost so much to fly inter-continental?  My airfare to London is cheaper!  Anyway, off to Lagos we went.  In my inability to Be Still, I added a couple of business related meetings into the trip.

I was in Lagos for a week, I partied, I drank, I ate, I lounged, but I never felt I was inspired.

I came back to Lusaka, feeling rested, but restless (who knew you could feel both at the same time?).  Contracts for new work weren’t signed, relationship drama, it was just making me stressed again.

Be Still, my friend said.  I had no choice at this point.  I had issues to resolve and without being still I couldn’t hear through the noise – the noise included social media, people’s perceptions, my childhood beliefs, and more.

So I sat alone, in my room, unable to sleep, as sometimes happens when I have too much going on, too much stress, too much uncertainty.  And I was still.  In my stillness I first realized I had a great time in Lagos, and I was inspired.  I met up with a woman I greatly admired – Biola Alabi, whom I first met when we were at DISCOP in Ghana together like 7 or 8 years ago.  Her candor and knowledge about her work, about the industry we both work in was so inspiring me – and she’s absolutely beautiful.  She reminded me what a strong, successful, happy black woman looks like – the kind of woman I want to be.

I thought about my friends out there – hanging out with them, having new experiences that spoke to me, made me acknowledge that there are people out there that enjoy spending time with you, sharing with you, and just staying connected.   I met new people, working in diverse industries – like oil and gas – learning about their focus, their growth, their success and how they chose to live their lives, being happy, and social with friends.

I met up with old friends – people I worked with at MTV in London years ago, and still shared a connection with – plotting how we can work together again.  Learning about their journeys post MTV, and feeding off their energy and drive.  On the flip side there were also some people that showed me they didn’t have the time of day for me – it’s interesting to see how people perceive or treat you when they can’t see what they can tangibly get from you, especially since I’m no longer at MTV.  It was an aha moment, but I wasn’t bothered for too long.  The entertainment industry is fickle – I get that, understanding where the longevity lies, where the real power is was way more interesting for me.

In that moment, I realized that Lagos inspired me more than I thought.  Not only inspired me, but taught me a lot.  Lessons were compounded a few days after I arrived back in Lusaka, while having dinner with girlfriends – a bunch of successful, strong, beautiful women.  Though I had maybe one bottle of champagne too many (champagne hangovers are the worst, think I’ll stick to wine or vodka now), I enjoyed every minute of being around like minded people who allowed you to just be you.  We weren’t worried about taking the best selfies to post on IG, or tweeting our night out.

I went back to think on the last week and the ups and downs I’d had from before going to Lagos, to Lagos, to being back in Lusaka.  My phone camera being broken definitely allowed me to be present, but during my moment of being still, I realized that my best moments, not to mention my worst, have never been lived out on social media (at least not in the last few years).  Yes, we can look at some amazing photos on Instagram that make us envious of people’s lives, but we don’t know the real story behind the photos.

When we are still, it’s easier to remember who you are as a person, what you value, what grounds you, and even the clarity of what we want in life starts to appear.  I haven’t completely figured it out yet but definitely will be still more often now, and be grateful for all I have, for the people in my life, and for the experiences I’ve been blessed to have.  So my advice to you all, be still every once in a while – life demands it.

So this has been long coming!  Each year I try to sum up my year with some reflections, and thoughts for the new year.  This year I thought I’d do that while I was laying on the beach in Koh Samet, Thailand, sipping on a cocktail, counting my blessings.  Alas I was busy still doing work – but on the beach in Koh Samet, so I can’t be too mad!

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2016 was an interesting year for me – perhaps a year I entered into a different cycle of my life.  I ended the year completely burnt out but definitely worth it.  While 2016 was a ‘surviving’ year for most, it was a challenging year for me.

At the beginning of 2016, if you recall I blogged about this, I decided it was time to believe in myself more and push myself to do things that scared me.  At that point I had already been toying with the idea of launching a female led talkshow.   I wanted to give women a voice, I wanted to actively engage in dialogue that contributed to the development of the country and our lives, and I wanted to show that women can and do support each other.

There were many times in that process of developing the show that I wanted to quit – it was scary, not easy, not to mention costly.  But I told people about it, knowing they would hold me accountable to ensure it happened.  And it did!

The show was quoted in the Daily Mail, and now it’s airing on Zambezi Magic – across the region.  My heart literally stopped as I thought about that – people outside of Zambia are seeing my face and listening to what I have to say… it is surreal.

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But that was just the beginning of the year!

Loads of work in the middle of the year, and then my most challenging work fell squarely on my lap – Our Perfect Wedding Zambia.  The project that gave me sleepless nights and exhausted me (and had me looking like a homeless person).  Adapt the hugely popular South African show, how hard could it be?!

Hmmm.  Let me back track a bit.  The set-up of our company is usually myself and Mary write the proposal, secure the deals and client manage.  Tasha does the research and insights.  Freddy is the creative lead – he directs and produces.  We still work on the creative side inputting in character development, script, wardrobe, art direction etc.  But in a very basic way that’s the make-up.

So after writing the proposal, doing the pitch, we win the bid!  Great.  Just one small problem; Freddy is unable to direct or produce the show.  Probably the obvious decision would have been to hire someone to direct.

I like to think of myself as a business person, I looked at the numbers and realized it would be pointless for us to do this show if we hire a director.  I’d just produced and semi-directed (ha!) a talk show, how hard could a 4-day reality shoot be?

Famous last words.

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I like to surround myself with people who are good at what they do but also people I can work with.  There were a lot of people in the industry who I thought had bad attitudes and who I just couldn’t imagine doing a 52-day shoot with.  So I chose a crew I thought I could work with, mainly young up-and coming and hungry.

No one had shot a reality show before, or one of this nature.  In fact client expectations were to exceed even what the South Africa’s were doing, the pressure was immense.

I’m pretty sure I spent a lot of time crying and wishing I could quit!  But quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit.

When I wasn’t shooting, I was in editing mode.  It was non-stop.  And pleasing the client was even harder.  Some of our seasoned editors were also suffering, getting the format right was hard on everyone.

The season is coming to an end and while I can definitely agree there were some bad episodes, there were also some amazing stories and great couples – it almost made me believe in love again! LOL.

I did learn though that maybe hunger wasn’t enough, on certain projects you have no choice but to put personal differences aside and bring in the best people for the job, at least close enough to the best (though not sure they would have done it for the budget).   However, because of the attitude of some of the crew, I know I will be working with them for time to come, because at the end of the day, attitude is so important in getting ahead and moving past mediocrity.  The ones who chose to be unprofessional, well those are their career choices.

I was then fortunate to get away for 10 days to experience the sights and sounds of Thailand.  It was exactly what I needed.  I didn’t get to consciously do the reflections I needed but I think the downtime, the rest and recovery allowed my mind to settle, clear out the noise and focus.

There were things I wanted to do last year that I never got to do, my experience last year proved that anything is possible, so this year I plan on soaring, trusting in myself – in God – and taking that next step to greatness.  We can all achieve it if we believe!

Have a great 2017!  (I won’t even promise to blog more because… well life gets in the way, and I’m busy on my grind and living my life!)

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So I did it!  I ran straight into the fear and launched my online talkshow!  Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I’ve been hinting at doing something ‘big’ since January, and this is it.

But, boy, how many times I came close to scraping the entire project – even after I had already shot the episodes! LOL.  The fear of failure can be so powerful that it can stop you in your tracks.

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Add to that, that I have been so vocal on bad quality works and the mediocrity that is rampant in Zambia, and I just never thought the episodes were good enough.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, drama and conflict behind the scenes made me want to pack it all it, it was just too hard!

But I had committed to it.  I talked it through with my life coach, who couldn’t understand my hesitation, and so I closed my eyes and jumped!

Even when it went live, I held my breath, waiting for the trolls to come, my friend in Nigeria telling me not to worry – ‘even Oprah has haters’ he said.  Hmmm yes but Oprah can then jump in her private jet and go to some fabulous destination, drink mojitos, have massages on the beach and not let any of that negativity get to her.

The number of people watching the first episode kept growing, within a week over 1,000 people had watched it.  1,000 people!  Ok, I wish I could say there were 10s of thousands, but you have to start somewhere.  And that start was encouraging.

Friends shared it, friends called me to give me their positive feedback, but still I held my breath.

Three episodes in, and I haven’t had any trolls, had some great constructive feedback, and generally people believing there was a need for what what I was trying to do – foster a community to shape not only the country we live in, but also the positive female community we don’t always talk about.

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My father watched the third episode the other day – he was surprised that I could speak on any issue that I wanted lol – but he was impressed and supportive as well.  My father is not an easy person to impress.

As the episodes unfold, as I still cringe at the imperfectness of it, I am excited about where it could go.  Hard for it to go much further right now, because it was self-financed by Media 365 (like us on Facebook!) and we only have a finite amount of resources to put into passion projects, but the scope is huge.

My focus was on Zambia, spurned by the elections and the governance challenges I was concerned with, but it’s more than that now, there are so many issues that women (not only in Zambia) have challenges with, issues that I could be lending a voice to, giving a platform to, making it a much rounded show.

Sponsorship is hard to come by in Zambia, I find the marketing people in most large corporates have a very parastatal way of thinking – i.e. let’s not do anything original or creative, let’s see what works in the market then jump on it.  It’s exactly what happened with Love Games.  Sponsors wanted to come in at the end, when it was too late.

But knowing this, and because it is an owned property, I’m trying to ensure the numbers stay up so that someone  will want to sponsor it and keep it going.  I only have about 6 more episodes in the bank (6 more weeks of content, yay!), so I really do need people to keep watching, sharing and discussing it, hoping that will lead to sponsorship of season 2.

I have learnt so many lessons on this journey though.  Some about friendships – man have I seen the ride or die’s in my life – and they’re global, UK, South Africa, Nigeria, and of course Zambia.  I’ve learnt that even if it’s not perfect, and the intention is honest, people will appreciate it.  And of course, that the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

There is so much in this process I don’t control, and I have to trust others – that’s also taught me lessons, there are people you can trust to be professional, and to make it work, and there are people who just want to get paid.  Be very wary of those just trying to get paid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad about the people wanting to get paid (we all want to get paid!), I just can’t afford them on my team right now, I need people I can trust me to want to make it the best possible project, to give me their all, at cost, for a bigger reward in future.

But that can never overshadow the gratitude I feel about the people who have been there, the ones who simply watched, gave feedback, let me vent, let me talk out my crazy ideas, turned out graphics in hours, not days, and just helped bring this project to life.

There is still a long way for us to go in Zambia in raising the creative standard, but sitting around complaining about it won’t help.  Same with shaping our country, being armchair critics is easy.  But it is time for action (cue Redman lol).

This is a new chapter in my life – I never ever saw myself in front of the camera – still don’t – but I also want to be involved, want to be awake, and be part of the change I want to see.

Thank you for all those of you who have already watched HerStory, if you haven’t watched it, check it out and share with all your friends and family!  Help me get the 10s of thousands views!

Thank you in advance! xoxo (yes an ode to an old favourite! lol)

At the end of 2015 I decided I was going to live life to its fullest potential and start really following my dreams, because up until then, I realized I’d spent a lot of my time pleasing people. My work was not what I considered my best because I was constantly compromising and conforming to meet what the client wanted. I had become all about ‘if they pay, they say’ and stopped arguing with them over ‘ugly’ products. Though don’t get me wrong, if they pay, they still say, I’m just more wary of which clients I take on – if they’re not ready to excel, or innovative, I’m not about that life.

But before I made that decision, it ate at me. I looked at some of my past work and remembered the high I got from being true to my inner spirit – the spirit that some times runs wild but appreciates nice looking things!

2016 was going to be about me, and doing things that I wanted to do, throwing caution to the wind! Or so I thought.

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January 2016 I decided to embark on a passion project. Before I could even get started, we suddenly had more work than expected – Q1 is usually very slow, with things only really picking up around April/May.

While I was counting our blessings, I was also wondering what would happen to my passion project, pushing it to the back of my mind, ‘we’re too busy’, I told myself.

And then a friend of mine said ‘you’re scared.’ I was going to protest, instead I walked away annoyed by the comment – do I look like I get scared?! But deep down, I knew she was right.

I had minor panic attacks worrying about whether it would work or not, I reached out to several friends and people I knew in the industry who I felt had more experience than me for advise. Some came back, most didn’t. I focused on that. If I couldn’t get the help from these people, how on earth did I expect to make this work, what would I do?

But I also had so many supportive people in my corner – people I didn’t even know where there, including some incredible women who I am beginning to believe God brought us together for a reason.

Yet there was still a lot of back and forth on my part. First I was scared it would be lame – I’m not about mediocre. That thought was spoken by someone in my inner circle – ‘you are not the type of person to allow mediocrity, why would it be now?’

Of course I could point to many a times I thought I was involved in mediocrity, though it wasn’t of my doing so, fair point.

I had a1001 excuses not to do it. After awhile I realized that my fear was not of just being mediocre but actually of doing a good job. It seems weird to have such a fear but there is just a much pressure with being good and maintaining or exceeding!

And on my mum’s birthday I decided to bite the bullet and just do it! It seemed fitting to do it on her birthday – she is an extraordinary woman to me, so good time to ‘jump’.

It was a great experience! Ok it was running late – another story. But when it was done, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t freaked out, only messed up my lines once. It was awesome.

I might not use it – despite me appreciating I don’t have to be fantastic all the time, it can be better so why not do better?

The important thing for me was to let go of the fear and listen to my truth, and follow that truth – good things await those who are true to themselves!

It may not be the dream exactly, but it’s a step closer, without doing this, I would have been so much further from all I imagine for my life. And that’s what’s the most important thing.

Coming soon…

after the show

Recently I was asked to share my experience of TEDxEuston, it wasn’t hard to do.  It was a great experience.  Nonetheless, here is my testimonial of #myTEDxEustonStory (think you can find other stories with that hashtag on FB and Twitter).

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I share my experiences, my lessons learnt, from rising up the corporate ranks to trying to grow a business in Africa because I believe we all find lessons in everyone’s experiences. But when TEDxEuston asked me to speak on their stage, I was beyond ecstatic, if not a little afraid.

TEDxEuston is all about Africa. The Africa we wish the world would see. The Africa that isn’t about the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, because we know that narrative is yet again a single narrative, but about the many facets of Africa, good and bad. But discussed among like-minded people who share a passion for the continent makes it more of a conversation than a single truth to be believed, no questions asked.

I was humbled. I didn’t know anyone was watching the work I was doing, the work we were doing here in little old Zambia. When you’re trying to be a game-changer, you get lost in the trenches working your butt off that you don’t know that other people have noticed your efforts.

I hope to do work that not only contributes to growing the creative industry in Zambia, but to help make us a better people to develop our country, to lift our people out of poverty. Ultimately, we are the ones who will drive our countries forward, not the government, as we have seen already.

Being able to not only speak to, but engage with, people who share a similar passion and desire for Africa was one of the best experiences of my life. I knew I was not wrong in my thinking, if other people felt the same, understood my truths, then I had to be on the right path.

Having that experience not only encourages you, but gives you the necessary motivation to keep striving to achieve your goals, sometimes pursuing something bigger than yourself is hard, and can be demotivating. The energy in that room, on that one day, is electrifying. It’s a room where different stories, different narratives, many untold, are being shared by us, for us.

Before speaking at TEDxEuston I was inspired by many TED talks (still am), I thought about how many exceptional people there are in the world (still do). I also never realized or thought, how difficult it is to step on that stage and share one thought and explain it in 18 minutes!

While I still feel that I didn’t quite get my point across, I still have people, years later, who have seen the video say it made sense to them and they shared my opinion. That still encourages me.  (The truth of the matter even in conversation I can’t stick to one thought – it evolves!  Sometimes I even forget what my point was…)

The fact that those ideas can happen on one stage and then be shared across the globe through online spaces, that is extremely powerful. It creates discussion, understanding and shared values and beliefs about the potential of Africa – an Africa that can truly rise. TEDxEuston does this in a way that hasn’t been done before – as far as I know. The focus on Africa only is the power of TEDxEuston. Who else has that singular focus and discipline? What else can be more special and important. Yes, that wasn’t a question.

My journey to my goals hasn’t ended, far from it, but speaking at TEDxEuston was a phenomenal step in cementing my future dreams and ambitions. And I met some great people that I still keep in touch with!

In fact the way the TEDxEuston was organized and the way the team connected with me, and mentored me through the process of getting ready to step on the stage, helped me when it came to me helping to organize a business conference here in Lusaka.

So the lessons from TEDxEuston were not just about sharing and connecting my vision with others, but were also so many lessons I learnt, from the other speakers (many of who I continue to follow their work online), to the organisation, to the people in the audience who I had the pleasure to speak to and learn about the great stuff they were doing too. TEDxEuston was so much more than just being a platform for the speakers, but the connections you make as an attendee too!

This is #myTEDxEustonstory.

Watch my TEDxEuston talk below:

 

 

Sometimes we forget our blessings. It’s easy to do when we live in a world that is obsessed with consumerism and self-, and instant-gratification. Looking at our friends lives on Facebook we can get caught up with envy and focusing on what we don’t have in our lives. It’s easy. But yet we need to be reminded of our blessings.

I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Juba, South Sudan on a project I’m working on about using participatory theatre for peace-building and conflict resolution/transformation.

Before I got to South Sudan, I had people not only ask me ‘why on earth’ I was going to South Sudan, but also caution on safety as it’s a country still at war. I can’t lie, I was a little fearful. But I felt I needed something to do, and getting out of the country to go to a country I’d never been to before seemed like an opportunity not to be passed up.

My first encounter was the process of getting an entry permit. As we don’t have a South Sudan embassy in Zambia, UNICEF in South Sudan had to facilitate getting an entry permit that we needed to have before arriving in Juba. I literally got mine enroute to the airport. But at the airport they needed a print out before they could allow me on the plane. Have you seen a business centre at KK International? Thankfully my grown grandson (it’s a cultural thing) was there to help and convinced a lovely lady at the courier office to help me get a print out – thanks Sekani and Bwalya!

My journey to South Sudan took me via a night’s stay in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and arriving in Juba lunch-time of the following day. As I waited in the old terminal (Terminal 1) at Addis International Airport, I feel somewhat at ease that so many people were flying to Juba. Then I noticed that most of them had light blue passports – the UN passport. Still, it was better than being on an empty flight to the unknown.

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I arrived at Juba International Airport about an hour and a half later. A colleague from UNICEF Zambia had already given me a heads up about the airport but no one could truly prepare me for the chaos.

The international airport was tiny. It reminded me of the Solwezi airport (and Solwezi is our economic hub too, or was, so maybe that’s not saying much!). On arrival, as I queued to get my visa (not really sure the point of the entry permit to be honest), the first thing that hit me was the overwhelming stench of urine. This was after I already almost passed out by the extraordinary heat that hit me when I stepped off the plane! South Sudan is close to the equator after all.

There didn’t seem to be order in the way things were done but I patiently went to the section that said visa on arrival. In front of me was a white woman from the UK who was kind of flirting with the security officers/immigration officers but in a condescending kind of way. It is a thing that I notice even elite black people do – treat the ‘poor, unfortunate people’ with a friendly but condescending tone (i.e. I really believe you’re an idiot but I’ll use the simplest of English for you to understand and I’ll smile at you and treat you like a happy baby with my cooing and aaahing). I shook my head and rolled my eyes.

I finally got my passport stamped and out I went to collect my bag. There was no luggage carousel so I could easily identify my bag, have security rummage through it and put a sticker on it, verifying it had been checked, and good to go.

This was my first thought of being grateful. We spend so much time in Zambia complaining about our poor infrastructure and inefficiency but it’s miles ahead of the Juba airport! I was suddenly grateful for, or at least appreciative of what Zambia has.

I walked out of the hall, and I still hadn’t seen my pick up. I remembered the Welcome and Security Pack I had been sent that clearly said, ‘don’t get a cab, go to the other UN drivers and ask them to radio a UNICEF driver for you’. Which is exactly what I did!

The driver in that UN car was extremely helpful and offered to drop me off at my hotel that was literally round the corner. As we’re driving away we see the UNICEF driver. But the UN driver won’t let me exit the car until the UNICEF car was parked directly behind us and the UNICEF driver was out of the car – the robberies are real he said.

I was slightly startled by that – was my family and friend’s fear justified if I couldn’t just get out of the car?!

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I was three days late to getting to the workshop, and as my UNICEF colleague drove me from the hotel to the workshop venue, I looked around the city.  The first thing you notice is the amount of UN cars on the road, including UN hummers!  There was some presence of the military, not heavy, but considering the city was supposed to be demilitarized, there was a clear presence of them. I saw land cruiser pick up with army in there, and what was clearly a dead body. I hoped this was just the body of their own colleague and not some poor person killed – I decided it was best not to ask questions you might not want the answer to.

It was great getting to know the workshop participants, 17 of them representing 9 of the 10 states of South Sudan. All super friendly and ready to engage and participate. They got the methodology of the two methods of participatory theatre we were testing out, and quick to see how it could be applied to their own communities and situations. Brilliant!

As I was starting to praise these activists who all stated how much they wanted peace in their country, who felt deeply hurt by the injustices and violence inflicted on their people, that affected all of them, there was also something I noticed was similar to the Zambian participants, as we’d done the same workshop a week earlier in Lusaka; their addiction to their cellphones.

It was constant! Some at least had the decency to answer the phone out of the room, while others had no qualm answering it in the workshop room during the exercises or the facilitator explaining something. It wasn’t a big room, so all sound carried!

At first I thought, ‘how rude!’. I personally get offended when people take a phone call in the middle of a dinner or learning opportunity, just think it’s rude. I don’t know why people are obsessed with their phones. I’m not chained to my phone, I don’t stress about missed calls, people can text me, call me back or I can call them back! It’s not that serious. Hence the reason it’s called a ‘Cell-phone’ you get imprisoned by it! (I saw that on Facebook!)

Zambia was a similar thing; mainly their cellphones, but generally an inability to focus. And it led me to an overall problem we have: Indiscipline

Discipline gets a bad rap at times, probably because somehow our mind goes to the military when we think of discipline. But really discipline is about focus and self-control.

These are key areas we need to grow and develop generally. How are we going to develop or succeed if we’re indisciplined?

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To lose sight of your goal, or what you’re trying to achieve because you’re easily distracted is a bad thing, a sign of weakness. It takes strong will, determination, and lazer focus to stay on your course. You see examples of it all the time, the people who succeed have like a singular focus and drive; determination and discipline.

But generally, I see most people don’t have the focus or discipline to achieve the success we’re destined for. In fact, I think we’re getting distracted by tools and systems to stop us from achieving success – because of the power you hold when you have reached your full potential. So many people and organisations try to stop us from achieving this potential and we fall for it by not being disciplined.

Even in my own life, I realized that I wasn’t living up to my own potential because I was getting distracted by little things (and some pretty addictive TV). So when I saw the behavior of the people in both Zambia and South Sudan and thought, how can we achieve economic freedom or peace in our country if we can’t be disciplined? If we can’t focus on what we want, how on earth will we ever get it?

I believe in doing a lot of self-reflection, you can only control yourself and your actions, and becoming the best version of yourself requires constant reflection, away from external perceptions and distractions. So as I was getting disheartened by these displays of indiscipline and lack of focus, every time I went back to my hotel room, I would reflect on the day – the words I heard people say, and then think to my own life. What blessings has my lack of focus or discipline stopped? How many times do I say I want something and then struggle to pursue it, or stop midway through to pick up something that doesn’t take me further on my path to achieving what I desire?   Too many times to answer.

I’m back in Zambia now, grateful for my blessings, for my family and friends and their prayers. I’m also more focused on making 2016 the year of my making by leaving distractions and indiscipline in 2015!

Hope you’ll join me for the ride

(PS taking photos in Juba is illegal, but I took these photos before I knew that – for real!)

Happy New Year!  It’s almost the end of January but I feel we can still celebrate the new year.

Red-Roses

I had made a conscious decision to blog more this year, and then struggled to decide what to blog about.  I find blogging is cathartic for me.  But I also want it to be useful for people who take the time to read it and not find it just being about me, me, me.  I also want it to be meaningful.  There is no point of complaining and doing nothing about what gripes you.

The struggle of what to write ended when I listened into a radio interview with opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (last week now).  HH, as he is popularly known as, did overwhelmingly well in the just ended presidential by-election, but he is going hard on how he was cheated by ‘known’ people at the electoral commission.

I don’t think that it’s impossible that there was election misconduct, but I think we choose what we need to focus on.  I think for the allegations to hold any water, HH needs to take this case through the courts of law – though they might be corrupt too right?  The point is don’t complain without doing anything about it.

But more than that for me was really a concern of how bitter he sounded about losing – and he lost by 2%!  How can he not be proud or grateful of that considering that it was the same electoral roll as 2011 and that only 37% of people voted!

It made me think of the mindset of a lot of Zambians I have encountered over the last 4 years.  Generally speaking they come across as negative people, the ones who see the glass as half empty ALL the time.  And they are anything but supportive, especially of other’s success.

It makes me think of the role that our leaders play, especially our political leaders and how that influences our way of thinking and behaviour.

When I speak to my friends and other enlightened people we all speak in amazement of how well HH did in this campaign.  The reality is when you count all the numbers there were more people who wanted PF out than wanted them in.  BUT there are some fundamental issues that HH has to overcome, but let me not get side tracked, that’s not my point here.

HH can’t seem to appreciate the success he gained, and I think he should be focusing on how well they ran the race, and that there is still work to be done and that that’s what we need to focus on.  Don’t be a sore loser.  Show what true character and leadership is about, you don’t stop to complain and moan, we roll with the punches and keep moving.  Roll up your sleeves and get back to work.

We’ve all been there, feel like something is unfair, and we want to cry about it – and we do, just in the privacy of our homes, but to the world we put a strong confident front.  I would have respected him more if he’d done that – and if he’d shown up at the inauguration.  It shows strength of character, maturity and integrity.

So if a person who is standing to run this nation is bitter and negative, how will I, the person on the street know to be any different?

I’m not negating our own responsibility, or that of parents to teach us to have a positive, appreciative, supportive outlook on life, I’m just saying it’s hard to fight against the grain.  Having leaders that perpetrate the negative cycle is a problem for me.

Leadership is not only limited to politicians, or people with power, money etc, it’s within all of us to be a leader;   A leader in your community, in your school, in your household.  Character building is so important for that leadership role.

I try not to steep down to the negativity, but sometimes you do get caught up in it, I try really hard not to surround myself with negativity – and what I define as negativity is complaining, lazy, can’t do attitude, unsupportive and the world owes me a favour types.  I find it draining and all consuming, almost to the point of inaction to progress.

As a type A person I don’t deal with failure very well – my personal failure that is, and as a type A overachiever, I have very high standards for myself.  But I always remember my sister saying to me – ‘Don’t forget to smell the roses’.  At the time I thought it was such random advice – of all things she could have told me as my older, wiser sister!  But it has been among the best advise I have ever received.

When you smell the roses you are grateful, you are happy, and you are at peace.  In that state, you can achieve pretty much anything you want – or at least find the strength to deal with the tough times.  You learn that to fail is to learn.  It builds character and resilience (“What is resilience: Once you have been through hardships, grievances and disappointments, only then will you understand what is resilience.” – Jack Ma).

End of last year (and beginning of 2015 too) I felt so out of control, so many emotions as a result of not feeling that I’d met half my goals, and slightly (if I have to be honest) envious of my amazing sister-friends and their achievements.  I felt my life was not how I’d envisioned it.  I wasn’t smelling the roses.  I got down on my knees, prayed for guidance and I let go of the negative feelings to focus more on the roses and the blank page 2015 provided.  I now feel happier, have some clarity, and I’m excited for what the year has in store.

I think all of us need to take up our personal leadership role (while still holding our political leaders accountable) and question the characters we want to surround ourselves with, as well as those of our leaders.

And smell the roses every day!

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It’s so easy to get caught up in the glamour – everyone speaks about being an entrepreneur like it’s sexy and so cool. But it’s not easy (yep I said easy three times!).

Even when you read or hear about times when entrepreneurs fail (usually the ones who are now super successful), you think, it can’t have been that bad because, well look at them now. Their definition of failure must be that they had to drink sparkling wine rather than Veuve Clicquot.

But failure is a part of the journey of being an entrepreneur and the definition of failure is different for everyone. Sometimes it’s the feeling of personal failure.

This feeling is what prompted my hiatus this month. Failure might be too strong a word, maybe dissatisfaction is what it was. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, the company wasn’t where I wanted it to be right now. But these were my personal ambitions so it’s easier to beat yourself up.

africa transformation

Either way my close friend’s wedding was a good excuse to travel and do some internal house keeping. Not quite a yoga holiday, but I envisioned lots of soul searching, reflecting and exercising.

What I did not expect was to attend a conference.

I believe pretty much all my time is valuable and it should be spent enriching myself – even if that is lying on the couch watching a movie to still my mind. But I also thought being in a city as vibrant as London, I should find ways to stimulate my brain. Reaching out to my contacts to go into their companies and find out new innovative technologies they are using, new approaches, just something that would re-energise me.

My sister asked me to visit her in Oxford – see her new apartment – ok it was more than that, she wanted me to visit – her dose of home to keep her sane. Honestly I wanted to stay in London – mope if I didn’t have anything else to do (which I didn’t). But I knew my father would never leave me alone if he knew I never went to check in on his baby girl.

She had arranged for me to go with her and her friend to this conference on Africa put together by the Said Business School and the Oxford African Society. iROKOtv were going to be present and I’m truly fascinated by them as a business. They really are proving that there is a demand for African content and online is a platform to feed this need. So I figured going wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

The conference started shortly after lunch with a keynote speech from Kennedy Bungane CEO of Barclays Africa (i.e. heads up all Barclays outside of South Africa). Mr Bungane did speak a lot of sense – actually his response to questions were better than his speech – but I have real issues with the lack of creativity and risk taking of the banking sector in Africa so I was a bit hostile to that talk. It’s great for banks to talk about supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs but it really is just talk, they need to put their money where their mouth is! My question – that I only thought about after his talk – was why can’t relationship managers have more of a function of helping to develop SME’s – helping them getting their ducks in order so that they can remain in business and therefore be more profitable for the bank? He did challenge those in the disapora to help local entrepreneurs by providing them with non-financial support, such as processes to operationalise their businesses etc – but why can’t the bank do that? That bank would add more value to their clients and might even take the lead with the number of banks they have to compete with in market – I’d pay more to have those services too.

african-internet2456-620x354

The next session we attended was on how technology was helping businesses transform. This session surprised me as it really focussed on the internet – which I didn’t expect – I thought it would be all about mobile phones, as that’s usually what is talked about when referring to digital technology and Africa. John Mathwasa CEO and founder of SEACOM really blew me away in his talk. It’s so amazing to listen to African’s working on the ground, succeeding and challenging the way we think about things. His big idea was about the skies above us, the fact that are orbital space is already owned by foreign entities with their satellites, but how else will we connect the rural masses if not with satellites?

He talked about the disruptive entrepreneurs who find an opportunity in chaos. For Africa this is particularly important because let’s face it, we live in a chaotic society. It reminded me of a talk I attended at Bongo Hive with Irene Banda from FSDZ talked about how as entrepreneurs we should be looking to address a problem (not, as Bob Collymore put it find a solution and then look for the problem to apply it to!).

But John didn’t stop there, he talked about the challenges of start up capital and how we could all become Angel investors, even if it means investing in your young nephew. It’s kind of that idea again of bringing people up as we come up – isn’t that just another definition of Ubuntu which we inherently believe in? We just need to act on it more.

This is something I’m also passionate about – seeing that the financial sector isn’t really working for us (to an extent), we do need to see a new way to support each other’s businesses and get businesses lending to one another, bringing each other up.

After the short coffee break, we went onto the Thinking Digital, Delivering Entertainment – the one I was really looking forward to – the iROKOtv panel. It was an interesting panel. There was Jessica Hope Head of Global Comms iROKOtv, Arthur Bastings EVP for Millicom and Audu Maikori CEO Chocolate City Group. Three different and interesting perspectives.

Audu Maikori CEO Chocolate City

iROKOtv are seeing huge traction especially with Africans in the diaspora, but the reality is that again, so many people on the continent are yet to access their services because of the challenges of the internet. Audu’s answer – for Africa, we still need a hybrid offering. We also talked about training. At the end of the day, the capabilities of the internet and other mobile technologies are a great platform, but we need the content for the platform, and the reality is that, a lot of people simply don’t have the formal training to produce the high quality exportable content (actually the moderator asked what we needed to do to make the content exportable, i was thinking, lady where have you been, it’s been exportable for ages! we just didn’t have the platform or the believed interest to sell it!). Audu agreed and spoke of his conversation with Nigerian officials to look into developing more centres of excellence for the arts.

I left the conference making new connections and feeling totally inspired. We can’t forget the numerous challenges that Africa still faces, but the reality is the opportunities are even greater! As entrepreneurs we need to be focusing on how to find those opportunities that also bring others out of poverty – either through job and wealth creation, or by creating opportunities for better qualities of life and that the African transformation is now. We need to take hold of it, or allow others (i.e. those not of the soil) to do it and make money off us, our rich resources, our creativity and everything else Africa has going for it.

I’ll have to write a part two of this blog as I have to run now – people waiting for me! For now, I’m inspired, and everyone should attend the Oxford Africa Conference at least once if they can!

Happy Africa (Freedom) Day (well weekend now).