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COVID-19 and what it means for African Millennials: The concept of the 7th Generation

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Kevin Mutiso

My grandmother passed away during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was Easter Sunday. She was our matriarch. If it were normal times, we would have had a huge function in her honor. But these were not normal times and she had to be buried within two days and only 15 people could attend. The silver lining, however, was that this small function necessitated the most intimate and important memories of my life and family.

During our meal, my father and uncles, her sons- she only had boys, began to reminisce. They shared some emotional stories and some hilarious ones, some so funny that for a brief moment we forgot we had come to bury our matriarch. One story, however, captured my imagination. It was the story of how my grandmother made decisions after her husband, my grandfather had passed away in 1969. She was not as educated as he was, and she was a woman with five young sons. Her vision was to ensure that her children would go to university and prosper in their adulthood. She, therefore, made very critical decisions about her children and they lived in one of the strictest households that have ever been described to me.

She was also the sole breadwinner and had to feed all five mouths and a worker who would look after these five sons when she worked during the day. She was everything from a prison warder, a bar owner, farm owner, and eventually a small-scale commodities trader, as she would consolidate maize harvests in the village and hire a truck to sell to clients in arid areas in Kenya. She was industrious, hardworking, and very strategic. On this sad afternoon, I understood the concept of the 7th Generation.

The 7th generation is a concept from a Native American tribe known as the Iroquois (pronounced i – ruh – kwoy). When the Iroquois council of elders had to make a difficult and critical decision, they would invoke the concept of the 7th generation. This concept states that the current members of the council would represent an imagined member of their family seven generations into the future and would make decisions based on how it would impact that imagined member of the family.

My grandmother’s decisions freed me from poverty and gave me the privilege of pursuing entrepreneurship and in FinTech. Her decisions allowed me to travel the world in pursuit of knowledge and capital. She would laugh about my exploits and she would always give glory to God even when, like now, we are struggling as the economic impacts of the COVID 19 Pandemic make our economic endeavors uncertain.

I started to think about my own critical decisions – who my imagined family member, seven generations, from me would look like and what would the world be like? Seven generations from me are 90 years into the future. The year is 2110 and Independent Kenya is 147 years old. I started to think about all the data that was out there about me, what would they say about me and my generation, would we be the like the Lost Generation who, according to Wikipedia, are described as the social generation cohort that came of age during World War I. “Lost” in this context refers to the “disoriented, wandering, directionless” spirit of the many war’s survivors in the early post-war period. Or would we be like the baby boomers who are considered the most successful generation of all time?

The COVID 19 Pandemic has changed the world forever and anyone who claims to be able to predict what will happen in the future is lying. However, we know some things now as fact. Some of the jobs and businesses that had to shut down will never come back and at the same time many businesses will thrive. We also know that there is an opportunity to shape our future in ways that were until this point unimaginable.

I would like to make a case for the Kenyan and African millennials to consider a name change. The African millennial is similar to their counterparts in western countries in many ways, but their context is extremely unique.

This generation grew up in a New Africa. An Africa that was now run by a second or third cohort of African leaders. The independence struggle was something they read in history books and were taught in class. In this Africa, indigenous Africans were getting wealthy. Many who had moved from the village to the city, became wealthy and could now afford cars, nice houses, and other fancy things. What seemed to be the sure route to this kind of success, was education. A university degree in many African families is a sign of prestige. As a result, many African families aspired to take their children to university and the number of Kenyan university degree holders moved from a few hundred in the 1960s to over 500,000 today.

In addition to this, a cultural change was happening as a result of advances in technology. Radios became almost ubiquitous in urban households by the late 1980s and TVs by the mid-2000s. This African millennial was being exposed to urban western culture through musical genres like hip hop, sitcoms, magazines, and western sports culture. As a result, this African millennial shares several cultural touchpoints with their western counterpart and a good example of this is the cult-like following of Premier League teams like Manchester United and Chelsea here in Kenya.

This generation has networks of relatives across the world due to the huge “brain drain” that happened in the 1980s and 1990s as a result of the massive emigration of educated Africans to different parts of the world seeking a better life for their families. This generation was raised by the post-colonial generation. The post-colonial generation were children of the pre-independence generation who fought for our freedom.

So what name should we give ourselves? By invoking the 7th generation concept, and as a representative of an imagined member of my family 90 years from today, I would like to propose the name Generation Hope.

Generation Hope because we should be remembered in history for being the generation that was optimistic about the future and did not let major setbacks like COVID-19 knock them out, but instead spurred them to think outside the box to ensure that the next normal was a better place for everyone.

The concept of the 7th generation makes decision making slightly more difficult because some of the solutions will be some of the toughest to implement, and some initiatives will take sacrifices just like my grandmother had to make for me and my family.

In addition to proposing a name, I would like to propose a goal for Generation Hope within my context. We should have many goals, but I am an entrepreneur and I want to represent the entrepreneur in my family 90 years from today. For them to be successful they will need a more efficient market for them to trade their goods or services. An efficient market has two characteristics; stability, and fairness. The rules should not be skewed to one player, and one should be able to plan their business far into the future.

In that regard, I would like to propose three simple metrics to gauge our progress. Economists use GDP per capita to compare the living standards of a person in a country and the Gini coefficient that measures the wage gap between the richest and the poorest earners in a country. The Gini coefficient is a number always between 0 and 1. If the number is 0, then everyone in the country earns the same amount of money and is known as perfect equality and if the number is 1, only one person earns everything and is known as perfect inequality.

Kenya’s GDP per capita as of 2019 was KES 170,000 (USD 1,700), which technically means that the average Kenyan has a standard of living equivalent to KES 14,166 (USD 141) per month and Kenya’s Gini coefficient is 0.42. For comparison’s sake, The USA’s GDP per capita is slightly over KES 6 million (USD 60,000) and the average American has a living standard of about KES 540,000 (USD 5,400) per month and USA’s Gini coefficient is 0.39. Kenya’s Gini co-efficient is ok but could be better and we should aspire to be closer to Sweden’s which is 0.27.

However, our GDP per capita is too low. We need to move it up to at least KES 1.2 million (USD 12,000) so that the average standard of living is KES 100,000 (USD 1,000) per month. China’s GDP per capita was KES 100,000 (USD 1,000) in the year 2000. Today it is over KES 1 million (USD 10,000). So this is not a monumental task, it has been done before.

We need a third metric. Unfortunately, I have not found a third metric that takes into consideration what the other two fail to capture; emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing. If you have ideas, let us start sharing them. This metric should help us re-imagine our society for the better forever. This metric shall be part of Generation Hope’s legacy.

Also Read: These two Africans are helping businesses and individuals spend less time doing expenses with Xpensi

As Generation Hope enters its most economically productive years and as we move into higher levels within our areas of expertise, may we do our part and ensure that by 2040 we improve our GDP per capita to over 1.2 million shillings (USD 12,000) and improve our Gini coefficient to 0.25. May we set the example for future generations and teach them how to invoke the concept of the 7th generation when making the critical and important decisions of their time.

The last conversation I had with my grandmother was in late February this year when she had come for a check-up with her doctors. She was staying with my parents. My daughter and I went to pay them a visit. It was a warm day, so she was basking in the sun. I joined her. I said hello and she acknowledged my presence. She did not ask how I did or ask me when I was going to get married as she usually did. This time she said, “Kevin, vumilia!” Which translated from Swahili means, “Kevin, persevere.” She then added how hard it had been for her when my grandfather had passed, she said, “Imagine being a single mother of 5 boys, one few months old in those days?” “Vumilia, itakuwasawa!” “Persevere, it shall be alright!”

It shall not be easy, but if you are between the age of 25 and 40 in 2020, you are part of Generation Hope. As you make those critical decisions about your life and those of your children, invoke the concept of the 7th generation and make the best decision for that imagined member of your family and remember that whatever you do, it will move the average standard of living of your fellow Kenyan to KES 100,000 (USD 1,000) a month. It will be difficult but as my grandmother proved: “We gon be alright!”

If you are part of Generation Hope, I urge you to do two things; firstly share this article with someone in a leadership position and let them know that you are willing to help solve some of the challenges because you will be a leader soon.

Secondly, stand up and be proud to be part of Generation Hope; The generation that came out of COVID 19 stronger and made their world a better place than they found it.

Written by Kevin Mutiso: African, Kenyan, Father, Friend, Entrepreneur.

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Africa speaks

Take Responsibility of Your Life – Henry Ukazu

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Henry Ukazu

Being responsible is one of the attributes of a reasonable rational being. Nobody wants to associate with an irresponsible man or lady. In fact, once you are perceived as an irresponsible person, you’ll lose not only credibility but also opportunities. It is instructive to note that you are the architect of your life. According to the Book of life, your joy is your joy, your sorrow is your sorrow, no one can share it with you.

Taking responsibility for your life is understanding that you are fully in charge of your own destiny through your own decisions. Taking responsibility for your life means that you acknowledge that no one has the power to determine how your life turns out – not your friends, not your parents, not even your spouse.

In the journey of life, we are always instructed to take care of our life. As a student, you are advised to take your academics very serious, as a man business man or woman, you are expected to make prudent decisions, as a Christian or Muslim, you are expected to be of sound moral character in order to not derail from the teachings of Christ or Allah.

When you take responsibility for your life, you are simply taking ownership of whatever concerns you. You don’t wait for anyone to create an opportunity for you, rather you create the opportunity yourself. Whether you fail or succeed, it’s up to you. Most of the time, we blame other people for the misfortune that comes our way. As much as you may reach out to cerebral minds to advise or suggest their kind opinions to you, it’s imperative to you know that the buck stops with you.

If you really want to get any work done, you’ll create the pathway. Isn’t it true that the whole world sets apart for the man who knows where he’s going? You may be experiencing many challenges in your personal life, marriage, professional work, academic, or business. In order to reset the button, you must take charge.

Let’s share some practical ways of how you can take responsibility for your life.

Marriage

Marriage is a sacred institution for mature minds. In law, before you go into marriage, you must be of age and capacity. Capacity here means maturity. If you are not fully prepared for marriage, you are bound to experience challenges when you get married, Therefore, it is highly advisable for you to take care of your financial life by having a stable source of income nor matter how little it is, in that way, it will help in planning. You’ll only enjoy your marriage when you decide the buck stops

Another area you need to fix is emotional life and this has to do with your mental state of mind. When you are not mentally rich upstairs, you can make a little problem a big problem, but if you can mentally strong you can make a big problem little the way you handle it.

Finance

One of the best ways to study a human being is to see how he or she spends his or her money. Just like you can use time to decipher the interest of someone, in the same way, you can use money to know what someone likes. The true test of financial maturity is being able to control your appetite and buying only what you need as opposed to what you want. If you don’t take care of your finances it will control you like a slave. No one is responsible for your money or lack of it. No one can make you broke if you don’t give them permission. Have you ever wondered why some people are able to build wealth from humble beginnings, while others remain stuck in the same place despite having better incomes? To build wealth from your current income, you might need to spend money on a strict budget.

Professional work

To succeed in work, you must be ahead of your game. If you need a promotion, you must be proactive and detailed. No one is responsible for your performance or lack of it. So long as you believe your boss is against you, you’ll never grow in your career. You’ll grow in your career when you realize you’re responsible for your professional growth. You’ll never be fired from any job when you know you’re responsible for keeping your job.

You Start Achieving Your Goals

This is one of the greatest benefits of taking responsibility for your life. Here’s the thing about success – it is never accidental. If you want to become a star athlete, you have to sacrifice your morning sleep so that you can train more. If you want to build a successful business, you have to sacrifice the weekly night out with your group of friends so that you can work on your business.

Quit the blame game

One of the hallmarks of someone who has not taken full responsibility for their life is the propensity to blame others for everything wrong in their life. Whatever kind of life you want to live, not one will give it to you or take it away from you.

Stop Complaining

Just like finding someone to blame, complaining about your situation or circumstances puts you in the position of a victim who has no control over their life. The reality is that the world is not an ideal place, and therefore, things will not always go your way. If things don’t go as expected, or if something happens to put you in a position of disadvantage, instead of complaining about the situation, focus on what you can learn from the situation and think of what you can do to get in order to get yourself from the situation.

Take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

To take responsibility for your life is to take responsibility for your powers of thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting, because this is the structure of all human experience. You create your life with your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. You take responsibility when you accept that the thoughts you have, are your thoughts coming from your mind. How you feel happens in your body and is a result of your thoughts. The words you speak come from your mouth and voice. The actions you take are taken by you.

What this means is that nobody can make you think, feel, say or do anything. Nobody can push your buttons, because you are the button maker!

Make yourself happy

Taking responsibility for your happiness is liberating. Firstly, to realize that happiness does not come from outside of you. It is not the job of your partner, parent, friend, child, to make you happy.

To be happy is a decision and the gateway to happiness is gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal and you will find lots to be happy about. Also, do things that make you feel happy. Listen to your favorite music, surround yourself with beauty, express your creativity, do acts of kindness, etc. According to Miya Yamanouchi, “Don’t let society fool you into believing that if you don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend then you’re destined for a life of misery. The Dalai Lama has been single for the last 80 years and he is one of the happiest people on earth. Stop searching for happiness in places outside of yourself and start finding it where it has always been: within you.”

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

Live in the present moment

Life is now. There is only one moment, now. The past is history, the future is a mystery, so there is only now, this moment. Take responsibility for this moment and make the best of it to redeem the past and create the future you want.

It’s easier to blame your partner. It’s easier to blame your boss. It’s easier to blame a father who was never there for you. It’s easier to blame the economy. It’s easier to blame an errant boyfriend. It’s easier to blame a controlling woman. It’s easier to blame a misfortune in your past. While losers blame others, winners take responsibility for their lives.

Therefore, the first step to taking control over your life is to quit the blame game and acknowledge that everything boils down to you. Once you do this, several positive things will happen in your life.

You will start achieving more of your goals, your health and finances will improve, you will enjoy better relationships with others, you will become more courageous, your decision-making will improve, and your life, in general, will become better.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a self-discovery expert and works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. 

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Africa speaks

Exploring a new model for cooperation between business and society- Nonny Ugboma

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Nonny Ugboma is the Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation (Image source: Nonny Ugboma)

The hand-me-down capitalism models Africa inherited from her colonial masters have failed to yield a prosperous continent despite its vast resources. Therefore, Africa is in desperate need of something different that takes into consideration its unique history, qualities, and context.

Experts have mostly seen the interdependence of businesses and society as transactional, with the society needing business for products and services, for jobs, for government taxes revenues. In turn, business needs the society for the market, sales and profits and public infrastructure, security and the rule of law! According to Amaeshi (2019) businesses, though sympathetic to societal challenges, are reluctant to act positively through their companies as they sometimes see such requests as irrelevant to their objectives.

However, due to the interdependency and interconnectedness of business and society, companies must work collaboratively with the government for a common purpose. That purpose is to build local resources.

There have been calls for western economies to rethink their capitalism model (Jacobs & Mazzucato, 2016). There have also been calls for Africa to develop its model of capitalism, with theorists and entrepreneurs exploring ideas like Africapitalism (Amaeshi, 2015). Africapitalism, coined by Nigerian entrepreneur Tony Elumelu, focuses on the role of business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs on the continent’s development to create economic prosperity and social wealth. It rests on the following four pillars: a sense of progress and prosperity; the sense of parity and inclusion; a sense of peace and harmony; and a sense of place and belongingness.

Africa does need its model. However, I would argue that this model should be spearheaded by the state in collaboration with willing stakeholders in the private sector and third sector, unlike Africapitalism. A government-led push is especially relevant now that a few 21st century economists are reassessing and rethinking capitalism in its present form. One of such critics is UCL’s Mazzucato (2018) The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths who debunks the mainstream neo-classical narrative that the private sector alone drives innovation but takes the position that the state is the driver of innovation.

Mission-Oriented Innovation Approach (MOIA) could help address some of the identified gaps to ensure state and business work jointly to solve grand challenges, to co-create public value and co-shape a robust and sustainable society that it can bequeath to future generations.

There is, therefore, a need for an alternative model of collaboration for business, society and government. A suggested way forward for Nigeria, and indeed Africa, is to embrace a mission-oriented innovation approach. The concept of the mission-oriented approach that involves government co-creating and co-shaping the market with the private and third sectors has enormous potential for Africa. The four pillars of ROAR, developed by Mariana Mazzucato (2016), is a useful tool-set to anchor MOIA in Africa:

1. Routes and directions– Government and Public institutions and agencies to set
missions. Also, private sector leaders can nudge government agencies to agree to
work collaboratively on national priority areas.

2. Organisational Capacity– Building of dynamic Capabilities within the Public sector through advocacy, capacity building, conferences and training.

3. Assessment and evaluation– Agencies, academia and organisations to determine new
dynamic tools to assess public policies to create new models and markets.

4. Risks and rewards– Government and private organisations need to engage on the
best risks and rewards sharing formats from initiatives to ensure smart, inclusive and
sustainable growth.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

In conclusion, as Western Economies are reviewing and rethinking capitalism and their operating models, Africa must ensure she does the same. The reason is that the future of the development of the continent depends on the economic model that it chooses to adopt, in the future, especially with the growing youthful population.

Aurthor: Nonny Ugboma is the Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation and has recently returned from one-year Sabbatical studying for a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of London Institute for innovation and Public Purpose.

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The Education Of Our Youth is the Key to Nation Building – Matthew Odu

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Matthew Odu (Image credit: Matthew Odu)

Like all of us I was shocked and outraged to learn that unarmed youths were confronted by live bullets on Tuesday evening (20.10.2020) at the Lekki Toll Gate Lagos, Nigeria after almost 2 weeks of a peaceful, relatively successful protest.

Initialy I had observed the start of the #EndSars demonstrations with admiration for the cause. The lamentations of the youth are genuine and difficult to argue against. If we haven’t personally been affected by an encounter with a callous police officer then I am sure we know somebody that has. Calling out police brutality and demanding an end to the extra judicial killing of predominantly young Nigerian males is a moral duty. It is clear that the vast majority of Nigerians had some empathy for the social movement.

Unfortunately what soon transpired in Lagos and across the nation was a display of anger that was about so much more than police brutality. The open agitation exposed a frustration with the system. What we have witnessed over the past week is an extreme manifestation of decades of youth segregation from governance and opportunity which has left millions of Nigeria’s youths unemployed, under employed and absolutely desperate for a way out of poverty and despair.

According to Nairametrics, data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1% indicating that about 21.7 million Nigerians remain unemployed. The highest unemployment rate was recorded for youths between 15 – 24 years at 40.8%. This is followed by ages 25 – 34 years at 30.7%. To put things into context, Nigeria’s unemployed youth of 13.1 million is more than the population of Rwanda and several other African countries. Youth Population is also about 64% of total unemployed Nigerians suggesting that the most agile working-class population in the country remains unemployed.

I am a firm believer in the economic future of Nigeria and the catalyst to this future is our young people. Youth engagement and youth inclusion in governing arrangements is paramount if Nigeria wishes to succeed. As 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific recently acknowledged:

“Young entrepreneurs have been a source of innovation and economic dynamism, creating jobs and providing livelihoods to millions. To achieve and accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we urgently need their expertise and voices on creating solutions to social and environmental challenges, as well as economic opportunities. First, we need to ensure that the next generation of business leaders think about social purpose as well as profit. To achieve this, education will be critical. Governments play a key role.”

Alisjahbana is right to call out the government’s role in ensuring their youth are sufficiently educated, however private investment is also needed to solve the problems that the education sector is currently facing in Nigeria.

A lack of access to quality education and the sluggishness in adopting new methods of learning has immediate and long-term effects. The immediate effects have been playing out on the streets of Nigeria over the past few days. The long-term consequences are almost
unthinkable.

HESED Learning is an initiative and my own personal contribution to providing quality education to Nigerians, as a borderless structure with an unrestricted curriculum. The e-learning platform compliments the current school system by using a national curriculum with the option of studying an international syllabus.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

It is time for our youth to become more competitive. Not a select, fortunate few but the vast majority. Increasingly in the sectors where our children do excel – in medicine, science and finance – they sadly leave the country for better prospects abroad. Who can blame them?

Education is the key to nation building. A quality education propels industry. In countries where the children are educated the likelihood of civil unrest is reduced.

We cannot afford to under educate our youth.

Aurthor: Matthew Odu, A Fellow of the Chartered Accountant of Nigeria

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