Regardless of our faith, culture, economic status, ethnicity or nationality, we all came from somewhere. Whether our home is a city alight with activity, or a faraway remote village in the deepest part of Africa, we all came from somewhere. Whether our childhood was pleasant, somewhat average or a bitter experience, fact still remains, we all came from somewhere.
Recently, an acquaintance asked me if it was fair for parents or guardians to make demands on us when we start working even if they offered no support in seeing our dreams come true. Maybe they discouraged us and crushed our spirits because of the career path we took. Maybe they despised the way we went about pursuing our dreams? Maybe they simply didn’t care and left us to our own devices. Whatever the case may be, we still came from somewhere.
Whether we are raised by the most supportive of families, or neglected as children, let us never take for granted the fact that we are still here, alive and well. They gave us life no matter how good or bad it has been to this point. That alone is reason enough to honour our parents, our guardians and those who play a part in shaping the people we become.
My challenge to you is to take time to say thank you, to those who gave you life. If they are no longer living, turn to the guardian who gave you a hand up no matter how good a bad you feel about it. If you haven’t been speaking for years, I challenge you to pick up the phone, or pay them a visit when you can.
If you have taken this challenge or need someone to chat to before you do, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and our care team will gladly stand with you.
In an attempt to understand why our continent remains poor and why we seem not to progress in spite of the many natural resources we boast of, I discovered a heart-breaking reality that the majority of us still live in abject poverty in comparison to the rest of the world.
One thing that also infuriated me is the belief that Africans cannot think for themselves and have no willpower to change their own fate. While this is unfair on the part of the millions of Africans who desire to see change in their own personal lives and the communities they live in, I began to wonder what it is that holds us back from progressing. The following 5 things that hinder progress are listed specifically within the context of the African experience but really apply to all areas of life.
1) Lack of Vision
We have all heard that “where there is a lack of vision the people perish”. The word ‘vision’ defined means “the faculty or state of being able to see”. While the word may also suggest seeing something in a dream or trance-like state, it’s not enough to dream. Dreams come when one is in a state of slumber, dreams are often forgotten, while on the other hand a true vision is given to one that is conscious, one that is then able to relay a vision, perhaps even write it down so that it can be acted upon. When Martin Luther or Patrice Lumumba said “I have a dream…” , his dream was not some fuzzy-feel-good imagination that occurred while they slept one night, but it was a mental picture of the hope they had. It was a mental conviction of the future they desired and believed should and would happen. The question you and I should ask ourselves is, what is the vision we have for our own personal lives and for our continent. What do you see yourself becoming and does that picture of the future remain despite what you are currently going through? Are you convinced that what your mind’s eye sees has the potential to become reality?
2) Lack of planning
Simply knowing where you want to go without knowing how you will get there is futile. Samora Machel had a vision of a free Mozambique. When he gave his famous “A luta continua” speech, he not only envisioned a Mozambique full of educated self-sufficient people, but he knew the price that had to be paid in order to reach that end. In the wake of independence, after years of a bloody liberation war, he knew the struggle was not over simply because a simple declaration of independence had been made on paper in 1975. He knew schools still needed to be built, mind-sets had to change, support had to be rallied for businesses to invest in Mozambique. So again, ask yourself, what are your plans to see your vision become a reality? What are the steps you need to take to get there? What sort of help do you need to achieve the set goals outlined in your vision?
3) Lack of wisdom
Having a great plan is all well but without wisdom, executing the plan may prove futile. How many businesses, governments and families talk about how they will do this and that by next year, next week, next month and fail to deliver? How many individuals have a vision to fly to the moon without bothering to study the concept of gravity? It is also said, people perish because they lack knowledge. First Lady of Kwara State in Nigeria, Toyin Saraki reiterated this in her delivery at TEDex Euston. Many Nigerians (and Africans in general) have died in hospitals due to lack of information on basic healthcare principles. Many text books and journals on healthcare often have information that is irrelevant to Africa. While having information is critical to changing the African continent, being able to apply knowledge is equally important. After all, there are many books, articles and a great deal of information that could easily be the recipe for success. Take for example, how many copies of Rich Dad Poor Dad have been sold worldwide, yet how many millionaires have we seen emerge as a result of reading the book? So ask yourself, have I put myself in a position to learn either from those who have gone before me or by simply venturing into uncharted territory? Am I applying what I learn with consistency and being wise while I am at it?
4) Lack of the 3 Ps
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison
Patience – remember Rome was not built in one day, neither did it take wishful thinking to see the pyramids of Giza take their form. If you have outlined your vision and you believe in it, then wait patiently to you see it come to fruition. Things may not fall into place today, tomorrow or next year but do not throw in the towel at the first sign of hardship. Imagine if Muhammadu Buhari had given up all hope of ever becoming president the third time he lost the presidential race back in 2011?
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
Perseverance – Being patient and perseverance go hand in hand. When delays occur, do not just sit by and wait for things to happen. When failure knocks, do not simply concede defeat and give up. Keep moving, learn from your mistakes and keep pressing forward. When people began questioning inventor Thomas Edison on whether or not it was worthwhile to continue with his attempt to get the first commercial light bulb to work, his response was not one of defeat.
“Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.” Thomas Edison
Practice – while it makes perfect, the reality is, in this life, reaching a state of perfection is next to impossible. Therefore, put what you know into practice, exercise your mind and your skills so that you can grow in all areas of life. If your vision is to become a pastor, practice the role of a pastor. If your dream is to be a farmer, hairdresser, CEO or whatever your heart desires to do, do your best to live as such now. In practicing, you get to discover your strengths and weaknesses and, should you need to revise your vision, you can do so through having established what you need to work on. It’s no use dreaming about being a soccer player and having a plan on how to become a soccer player and yet, never once setting your foot on a football field to test your skills. How would a talent scout spot you if you never put yourself in a position to be noticed? How would a potential investor know your idea works if you have not made any attempt to try and get your invention to work?
5) Lack of faith
A visionary does not wait to live or work like a CEO of a successful company till the day he or she is appointed CEO. If you are dissatisfied with your current state of affairs and have envisioned the future you desire, begin to live like the man or woman you see in your vision. While the here and now may look bleak and hopeless, remember that it is not the end but only the beginning. Try to imagine young Robert Mugabe, perhaps a young man who was nothing to write home about, no friends but his books to keep him company, determined to pursue formal education at a time when his peers felt their destiny was to herd cattle and goats in the dusty fields of then Rhodesia. While there is nothing wrong with herding cattle and goats if that is your dream, would he have been better prepared for ascension to power if he hadn’t applied himself to learn and live like a leader? If he had failed to see the potential he possessed and the ability to lead, would it have been at all possible to come from classroom to political activist? Without faith in ourselves, in Africa and the future, our decisions today will not lead to greatness.
This is the first image that comes to my recollection whenever the name Cecil John Rhodes is mentioned. While the imposing figure of a somewhat sinister looking Rhodes may have died a decorated man to whom the British empire sung praises for his great African exploits, he was not always the grand figure the modern world knows of today. As a sickly and asthmatic boy, Rhodes had to receive the remainder of his education under the watchful eye of his father as attending the local grammar school proved to unbearable for the ailing youngster. A turn of fortune occurred when his father determined to send him abroad to try the effect of a sea voyage and a better climate. And a better climate he found, along with it, great fortune and influence. Some may have called him a power hungry individual with illusions of grandeur in pursuit of the respite he was deprived as a child, while many I am sure stand in salute or a hero who sped up the civilization of the forgotten world, the dark continent of Africa.
In light of recent developments at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, one then wonders if historical monuments such as the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that was subject of debate, should be a matter of concern. Rhodes bequeathed the land on which the university was built, but he also slaughtered Africans by the thousands in colonial conquest and helped lay the foundations of apartheid in South Africa. Some protesters believe it makes people feel uncomfortable and that it’s the biggest symbol of the institutionalization of racism. In all fairness, Rhodes was no saint and his hatred for non-whites was apparent.
In his last will and testament, Rhodes said of the British, “I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence, look again at the extra employment a new country added to our dominions gives.”
That said, one must ask the question again, why must the statue of a man who is dead and gone, buried in the far away Matobo Hills of Zimbabwe, be a matter of concern here and now? Many Africans may be able to relate to similar scenarios, why should buildings and roads still hold names of individuals who stood by and watched while Africans were being slaughtered like sheep? Why should we have heroes in the eyes of a few be imposed on the majority who still suffer the consequences of their very actions?
Many questions linger on my mind. As the statue of Cecil John Rhodes is being taken down from it’s place of prestige at the University of Cape Town, the strongholds that hinder Africans from success still remain intact, threatening the future of our continent. The student who has been waiting for years to gain university entrance is still at home as I write. The one who was turned away for failing to pay fees still remains that, a drop out for financial reasons. The statue may be gone and generations to come may never know who Rhodes is but they will still ask, “why are we poor?”, “why can’t we get an education or employment?”
The institution of imperialism was not set up by simply setting up a building or statue, it took ingraining ideologies and beliefs into the minds of both oppressor and the oppressed. Telling the privileged that they have every right to milk and honey while the downtrodden were made to believe it was their God-given destiny to be subservient. So I ask again, is taking down the statue a victory or pacifier that detracts from the real issues that hold us back as individuals, countries and as a continent?
Sometimes being humble means being bent out of shape, beyond what one feels they can handle. What do you do when life deals you a harsh hand, when you try everything you can but there is just no breakthrough?
What do you do when you have a brilliant idea but the banks, relatives or businesses with the money to help you just don’t see how your idea will work?
There is an African proverb that says, there is no straight trail to the mountain top. In order to get to the top, you have to negotiate your way round the mountain side. Such is life, in order to get to the top whether it be in business, studies, sport or any field, you have to negotiate your way round the mountain of obstacles we face. If one way doesn’t work, don’t give up, try another.
After listening to this talk by Trevor Ncube, be encouraged; for where you are now does not determined where you will be in a year, five years or ten years’ time. Remember this, it doesn’t cost you much to dream but to live life without hope, without desires, without a vision for a tomorrow that is different from today, is the worst thing you can ever do. Trevor Ncube is one of many Africans who shows us, that no matter where you come from, you can make it to the summit.
Trevor’s life’s story is similar to that of many Africans, growing up in rural Africa with very little. Not the brightest of students, Trevor failed dismally during his early years in school because of dyslexia and malapropism, yet today stands as one of Africa’s most accomplished journalists, editors and business people.
The key lessons to take away from his life’s story are:
-Never despise the day of small beginnings
-Never let your present circumstances determine your future
-Embrace life’s challenges and use them as stepping stones to higher ground
-Do not dwell on your weaknesses and use them as excuses but rather augment your strengths and go for gold
Above all, the opinions of others may help shape who you become but always remember that your life is yours. Success or failure comes from the choices you make to either accept defeat or get up and try again with every failure. One of the the biggest choices one has to make at some point is to chose who you will follow. Whose wisdom will guide you in life? Have a little faith in yourself and seek guidance from someone who builds rather than crashes your dreams before they take off.
Do you have dreams that seem impossible and need some guidance or encouragement? We believe that there is no way of truly living out a life of hope and greatness without a connection to the one from whom all hope flows. Want to know more about what we’re talking about? Click on the banner below and find out. We’d love to hear from you.
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” William Shakespeare
For many an African, being born great is a reality far out of reach, and having greatness thrust upon oneself in a continent where pulling each other down is a norm is a dream only a few dare to dream. This leaves the only way to greatness, being that long winding road laden with thorns and thistles where one purposes in their heart, to achieve greatness. The challenge many young Africans face today is finding resources that enable them to escape from the vicious cycle of poverty. Many have great ideas but lack the resources and information that leads to turning ideas into reality. Many had big dreams but the dreams are quashed by naysayers who see no hope in the earth we walk laden with treasures untold.
While working towards achieving my own dreams, I have faced many challenges, funding for higher education, capital to start a small business and lack of faith in my ideas by those I shared my dreams with. Listening to this teaching by a man who understands what coming from a humble background means, I realise that in order to overcome the challenges we face as a continent, we need to cultivate a culture of supporting one another and sharing information at every turn.
Success for many an African comes through blood, sweat and tears, one thing we need to understand is that success served on a silver platter often comes at a high price which we will pay sooner or later.
Listening to the talk by Dr Mensa Otabil, a well-known Christian speaker and pastor from Accra, Ghana in West Africa, I realize again that if we are to succeed as a continent, we need to learn the culture of sharing and depending on one another. He highlights 3 important people we need in our lives in order to see our dreams become a reality:
1) burden sharer – someone who shares the same passion as you do, someone who is able to relate to what you are going through and who has only best interests at heart.
2) dream maker – someone who ushers you into your destiny, who sees the special gifts in you and guides you on the path to achieving those dreams.
3) way maker – someone who prepares the way for you and makes you realize that indeed your dreams are possible.
You may be wondering how do I identify a burden share, a dream maker or a way maker or even feel like you have none of those people in your life, do not despair. True and lasting greatness begins at the point of understanding and embracing one’s purpose. Having said that, embracing purpose can be extremely challenging – if not impossible – without acknowledging the one who created you for a reason. If you would like to know more about the one who is at the centre of all purpose and want to explore a relationship with him, click on the banner below and watch the video that follows.
If you want to talk more to us about any questions you have about greatness, please get in touch by commenting in the space below or writing to us on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!
Cobhams Asuquo was born blind, a condition that could not be attributed to family history or genetics. The first impulse upon first seeing a blind man or woman is to feel pity and imagine how dull life must be without the gift of sight. The same pity overcomes us when we behold an individual in a wheelchair, walking with the aid of crutches or with a limb missing. We slowly shake our heads and perhaps under our breath mutter, “God help that poor soul…”; for we perceive any form of disability as a curse. However, it is only when we get to know someone who lives with some form of “abnormality” as labelled by society, that we understand that we are all abnormal in some way and that the conditions we perceive as disabilities may be advantages after all.
Cobhams Asuquo is far from a man who uses his blindness as an excuse for not pursuing his dreams, neither does he accept blindness as a curse but counts it a blessing.
Listening to Cobhams Asuquo’s delivery at TEDxEuston, one realises that blindness or disability of any form, is not an excuse for failure. Whether our disability manifests in a physical form like Cobhams’ blindness, or a missing limb or in many cases the “financial disability”, we have no excuse to accept failure. Whatever challenge you face in life, learn to say no to your current circumstances and dare to dream beyond your limitations.
Based on Cobhams’ delivery, remember this Africa:
-Lack of money is not an excuse for not starting that business you have always dreamed of owning.
-Coming from a family of individuals who have not completed school does not mean you should stop fighting tooth and nail, to pursue your studies as far as you desire.
-Coming from a broken family is not an excuse for not leading a healthy family life as a husband or wife.
-Coming from a colonial past is no excuse for accepting Africa’s current state of affairs and conceding to the underdevelopment of our continent.
The list could go on and on but whatever “disability” or challenge you are facing, nothing is impossible and FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!
Are you facing a challenge and don’t know where to begin or how to overcome? Please click on the banner below or contact our care team on email@example.com so they can walk with you as you take this journey to fulfilling your dreams and purpose.
Being a stickler for all things African, I often find myself at a loss of words at the ingenuity of my fellow African brothers and sisters. When it comes to artistic expression, Africans are as fluid on the dance floor as German cars are on the road. While I take pride in the fluidity of dancers from the motherland, I for one cannot get my limbs to co-operate rhythmically hence I contentedly appreciate the art of dance from the side-lines.
While appreciating African music and dance, I happened to stumble upon a video which left me at a loss of words. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or clap in applause yet, in my mind there was need to do something…
The dancer reminded me of an old tree…swaying in the wind, shivering in the rain, standing dead still on a sunny summer day, yet in all seasons it dances. Whether fast-paced-limb-jolting Rhumba in torrents and thunderstorms, or a slower Dhaanto as one sheds life’s sorrows or perhaps the more playful Alkayida or Azonto, dance says volumes and sheds untold burdens. Whether you’re king or queen of the dance floor, or disjointed like some of us, let your spirit run free and dance to the tune that beckons from above. Whether the tune calls you to mourn, weep, rejoice or to leap for joy, get lost in the music and dance all the same…
Now that you’re nodding your head to this African beat, here is the original video of the song Alkayida by Guru, to which the dancer in the video above is swaying.
Africa is home and home is where the heart is. I have also heard that the way to a man’s heart and I would like to believe a woman’s heart as well, is through her stomach. Who among us can say they do not enjoy having their taste buds tantalised by well prepared meals? Who among us can deny the aroma of food that tickles the senses to a point of rendering one dysfunctional if the demands of the stomach are not met?
Men and women have gone to war over food and I would like to think that the whole reason why mothers and daughters in law don’t really get along is because one thinks their food preparation skills are better than the other. So as mothers and daughters in law ogle each other and skirt around the kitchen over the festive season, it is my hope that all differences laid aside, we can all agree on one thing, that African Christmas meals are the best (hides).
Before any of you reach through cyber space to knock me on the head for advocating for eating ugali, fufu or garri on Christmas day, please do consider all the health benefits, the costs and just think…what would Jesus want to eat on his birthday?
Thus said, here are my top 5 dishes:
1) Mealie-pap/Sadza/Nshima/fufu/Ugali served with green vegetables and free range chicken stew
2) Mealie-pap/Sadza/Nshima/fufu/Ugali served with dried beef/mushrooms in peanut butter sauce
3) Mealie-pap/Sadza/Nshima/fufu/Ugali served barbequed/braiied meat and green vegetables
4) Mealie-pap/Sadza/Nshima/fufu/Ugali served with dried fish, cassava leaves, peanut and chilli sauce
5) Peanuts, served with peanuts and more peanuts
For desert, just good old mangoes would suffice…fresh from the tree.
Keep the spirit of Christmas in Africa live by sharing your top 5 dishes below and after you’ve shared here, make sure you leave a portion of whatever you have for Christmas, for someone in need.
More often than not, victims of abuse feel they deserve every bit of pain and humiliation they have suffered at the hands of their abusers. At first glance, abuse wreaks of some form of physical violation and we often forget that the wounds run deeper than the eye can see. Abuse often leads a victim to withdraw further and further within his/herself, into a place where he/she feels safe. The psychological withdrawal then translates to physical withdrawal in a bid to hide the signs and having to explain why “my eye is black” or why “I didn’t get the work done”.
Many times the victim feels, “No one will understand my pain”, “How embarrassing it would be if anyone found out” or “No one would ever believe me”. After all, the world has its own fair share of problems and why would they bother listening? You may be a victim of abuse or perhaps you know someone who has been or who is being abused. Know this, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So do not let guilt, shame or fear hold you back from reaching out for help, that you may find your freedom. Despite what has happened in the past, you can pick up the pieces and live again. If you need more resources to help a victim of abuse, please drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
One cannot speak of African music without mentioning the Nigerian Afro beat sensation, Femi Kuti. Femi Kuti is the son of the legendary founding father of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti. Born in London in 1962, Femi Kuti is a singer-songwriter who has mastered a number of instruments including the saxophone, trumpet and keyboard. With a career spanning over 4 decades, Femi has released over 14 albums and has been nominated for the Grammy Award 4 times. Among his greatest hits are songs such as “Beng Beng”, “97”, “Stop AIDS” and “No place for my dreams” just to mention a few. Femi has done a number of collaborations with artistes across genres and among them, Wizkid, Ms Def, Macy Gray and D’Angelo.
I had a privilege of chatting to the man himself and this is what he had to say:
Ed: Who is Femi Kuti?
Femi: Femi Kuti is a musician who loves simplicity, who loves to play music, who loves his family and peace.
Ed: Back in the 70s, music to a great extent was regarded as a career for loafers, how did the rest of your family react when you mentioned that you wanted to pursue a career in music apart from the fact that you were the son of the legendary Fela?
Femi: Everybody knew I wanted to be a musician. In fact my father urged me to drop out of school and said it was a waste of time. My mother and uncles wanted me to study further even if it was to study music and so there was conflict in the family. They wouldn’t understand why my father who was a university graduate wanted me to drop out of school to pursue a career without prospects such as music. So most of my friends ended up being doctors, lawyers and I ended up a musician.
Ed: Your career has spanned over 40 years and you are still going strong. What keeps your music relevant and how have you evolved to remain relevant to your audience?
Femi: I think an artiste has to be true to himself. Music is like studying to become a doctor or lawyer and so you have to keep studying. I study always, I practice my music at least 6 hours every day and try to teach myself all the instruments so I know how they feel. So it’s important for the artiste to understand how important music is in our lives and to perfect my art at every stage.
Ed: What are some of the challenges you have faced as a musician?
Fela: Being my father’s son was my greatest challenge especially in Nigeria where people always compared me to my father Fela Kuti. They would say things like “You will never be as good as your father. Then there was a time when the media went into a frenzy and spread negative stories about me and the shrine. They said Femi Kuti has gone mad but I kept my head down.
Ed: We have many challenges in Africa, where do you think we are getting it wrong as a continent?
Femi: I think we Africans don’t love our own continent. You go to America or Europe, you can drive from one place to another on good roads but there is no way you can get to see Africa by road. The dream of Kwame Nkrumah was to see Africa unite and love their land so we have the best education, health services etc. Individually some Africans excel but together we are failing. Politicians squandering public money and so we find ourselves in a predicament.
Ed: You are very vocal and some people would consider you something of a rebel, what do you have to say?
Femi: When they say things like that I just start giggling. The media has said in the past that I am mad and so people believe that and when they meet me, and see me fully dressed, they wonder why I am not acting like a mad man. But I never let that bother me because it will stop me from being who I am. So I just ignore those comments and don’t give it the time of day.
Ed: You seem to value family greatly, what is the significance of family to you as an individual.
Femi: I think family is the most important part of my life. They have been with me from the beginning, even when other people betrayed me, they have always been there and have stuck by me. I am thankful for my mother and I cherish my kids.
Ed: How many kids do you have and are they also musical?
Femi: I have 6 kids, 3 boys and 3 girls and I have adopted four, so 10 kids in total. The eldest is studying classical music in England and I think for the younger ones, it’s still too early to say. But they do tow the line and are troublesome like me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow in my footsteps.
Ed: What legacy would you like to leave for your kids and for the African continent as a whole?
Femi: NONE! I don’t think about that, I just live my life and do what I have to do. The most important thing that I think of now is to play the best music, to take care of myself and my family, anything else will be secondary. (giggles) And I will be dead so whatever anyone says about me then won’t really matter.
Ed: And your final words to Africa?
Femi: I love Africa and Africa must love herself!
If you had the privilege of speaking to Femi Kuti, what would you say to him?