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The last week has been an interesting week for me. I have spent the last two years working on this project and finally seeing it come together … well to be honest, I didn’t appreciate it until the last minute. You spend so much time working on something, being one of the people behind the scenes, putting out fires, trying to get your point across, accommodating views that you don’t really agree with, it is in essence a thankless job. But I wouldn’t have traded it for the job that would have had my name in the headlines, because I do what I do because I love it, and I’m good at it. Maybe I’m also not really the person who likes being the center of attention. Sometimes I do get frustrated that people have no idea who I am, or what I do, and treat me like some insignificant person. Then I realise that it’s always more important to focus on the positive and knowing my end-goal.

Even when I worked at MTV, I was never the one to be at the parties, trying to meet the celebrities, I was in the office trying to get to the next level on my career trajectory. And maybe it’s my age and experience, but I was from the school that only you can be responsible for your own opportunities, no one was going to do it for you, but hard-work, luck and your social networks could take you wherever you wanted to go. Doing the opposite could also have the opposite effect, but only you can make that decision for yourself. This last week showed me that not everyone feels that way.

This last week I have met some people who have had the most wonderful opportunity, it wasn’t all roses, there were some unforseen thorns in this opportunity, but rather than turning the lemons into lemonade, they focussed on the lemons in their hands, without a clue of what to do with them. I found myself getting mad at first, and then offering my words of wisdom, but hold on, who am I? Their fairy Godmother?

I do find myself often in this situation giving people advice – probably because of my beliefs (stated above) and also the fact that I do think we should be helping bring each other up – the pie is big enough for all of us, no need to have crabs in a barrel syndrome. However, at some point I did get a bit irritated, because these people had come to me with some disrespect (in my opinion), yet I swallowed it and was the bigger person. In my mind, I’ve made up my mind about those people, and while I won’t share it, I know where I stand with it. Never underestimate the power of your social capital.

But on a good note, I made some great connections. Again, I focused on where I want to see my career and the things I believe in, and I met some really talented amazing people. We talked and we share similar beliefs for the future of creatives in Africa. I’m looking forward to finally working with them on some of my Zambia projects. Watch this space!

The last couple of weeks have been in crazy. First I took more or less a 24 hour journey to Seattle to attend a one and a half day meeting and now I’m wide awake at 5am in a Nairobi hotel (though I’ve been awake since 2am willing myself to go to asleep, alas at 4.30am I gave up on that).

In between I’ve been working like crazy at my own company, about to launch a new TV show that I’m really excited about, while also managing new aspects of the Shuga project in Kenya. Crazy, stressed and hectic is how my life has been recently. Needless to say I’m exhausted. But my brain won’t quit, probably the reason I’m wide awake now, as I think about the multitude of things that need to be done – rolling out the media buy for the Brothers for Life campaign in Zambia, developing the new timeline for Shuga’s new components, writing reports to clients, casting for our show, oh and did I mention we’re about to sign on two new clients in Zambia – one to be the biggest that we’ve ever had. Not to mention when I find time in my spare time, I co-manage (marketing only) one of Zambia’s hottest artists. It’s exciting stuff but not for the lazy that’s for sure.

Last weekend we were doing our first open auditions for presenters we were looking for, for a new young and hip show we’re doing. I was less than happy with the results. It made me question what is going on with ‘our youth’ of today. I remember when I was 17 I had already launched an organisation with my sister and we were planning our first edition of Trendsetters. I researched everything I needed to do before going down that path – knowing that print journalism wasn’t something I knew about, but I read magazines to find a style that worked for me and for what we were looking for for the magazine. This seemed to be a foreign concept to the people that came to the auditions.

But I don’t entirely blame them, as my friend wrote in his blog, mediocrity has long been accepted as a way of life in Zambia. While I agreed with his post, I also thought it was a cop out. As an individual you can choice not to fall into that category and certainly not to accept it – which is what I strive to do in my life. These kids that came to audition should not have looked at our national broadcasting channel and thought that was all there was to presenting. Knowing that this is a show for young people, and that we were looking for young, dynamic, full of energy type of people, they should have looked for references to imitate. At one point in the interviews, the judges, including myself, got fed up and literally told people to leave if they were going to come in with low energy and no confidence. Yeah I know that’s mean considering I can be low energy, but hey, I wasn’t auditioning!

The truth that a lot of them spoke about was the lack of opportunities for them, opportunities to nurture their talent, and while presenting might not have been their strong point, some of them could kill it with their singing! But we weren’t doing Zambia’s Got Talent. Though some did have access to DSTV to see international shows like Oprah and Tyra (not really the style we were looking for), the majority of them watch local shows, which frankly, are still in the 80s. This was their only reference point. This was a clear indication that the media in Zambia needs to switch it up, provide new ideas and inspiration to young people. Not to toot our own horns, but nothing is around to do this the way Trendsetters did.

In Kenya, I met a group of young people taking part in our Shuga Rising Stars mentorship programme. They basically get the opportunity to work with the some of the core people across the Shuga initiative from the award-winning director, to the marketing people, through to the public health partners. As I’m a strong believer in mentorships, myself being mentored by Aaqil Ahmed and having my own mentee, I thought this was an amazing opportunity for anyone on this project to be a part of. In a hard to break into industry like the media/creative field, this was an opportunity these young people couldn’t pay to be a part of it.

But after sitting with them, and I did think they were lovely, I just didn’t get the sense they understood the magnitude of what they were a part of. Sure, they recognized they got some great contacts and learnt some new skills, but I wasn’t sure if they could see how it could fit into the big picture of where they were trying to go. OK, me and my I’ll give you my advice even if you didn’t ask for it self did share my thoughts on how they could really own this opportunity and make it work for them. Though, after our one hour talk and I asked them if they had any questions – again, not to be more than who I am, but I’ve also been in the game awhile, not everyone has access to my knowledge (did that really come out as conceited as I think? Insert smiley face) – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have any questions. I’m not one to give up on young people who are determined to make it in their careers, so shared my contacts for them to reach out to me whenever they wanted to. I don’t see why everyone has to go through the hard work unnecessarily, if someone can help you out, that’s why I believe in giving back, each generation has to do better than the one before right? I do believe that, but I’m not getting much hope of that with the young people I’ve met in my six odd months in Africa so far.

I won’t give up on them, without seeing what role I can play – like everyone else – to continue to develop Africa and nurture great talent coming out of the continent. I hope the work I do in Kenya and Zambia will impact them and see new directors, writers, marketers and more coming out of the continent, along with our more traditional career options of educators, doctors, lawyers etc.

I’ve been up for more hours than I’d like to think of and my alarm just went off, so I may as well get up, hit the gym and watch the sun rise over the city of Nairobi.

Until next time.