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Africa speaks

Black Women Are Leading the Charge for Equity and Inclusion 

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Black woman- Pic: Shutterstock

A manager once told me that my peers didn’t respect me because I self-identified as “Black” first, and a “Woman” second. I know… I know, it sounds ignorant and crazy, but it really happened. It’s just one of the many micro-aggressions that I and many women of color experience in the workplace.

My response was that of a samurai warrior! My tone was even but stern, and my tongue was slick and cut like a knife, to the point that tears began to roll down the face of the person attempting to demean and degrade me. The one thing that person underestimated was my lifetime of experience as a Black woman, which inevitably gave me the strength to combat this divisive and racist behavior.

I am proud to be part of the esteemed group of Black women who are unapologetically bold about who they were born to be. This doesn’t mean that we are not accepting of other cultures and races, it simply means we are proud of our heritage and ethnicity.

During the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of the power that lies within Black women leading the charge to drive diversity, equity and inclusion in their respective industries and communities. I had the pleasure of attending the Harlem Fashion Row’s (HFR) Fashion Show and Style Awards founded by Memphis native Brandice Daniel, a creative and passionate force for change within the fashion industry. Brandice made a call to action asking the attendees to wear “everything black”, meaning wardrobe curated by Black designers.

HFR provides a platform and support for black designers who are underrepresented in the fashion industry. Brandice founded the company in 2007 and has made great strides in advancing black designers and their work. Most notable is the collaboration with Nike and Lebron James to design James’ first women’s sneaker, the HFR x LeBron 16 and the recent announcement of HFR’s new “In the Black” e-commerce site. It’s an online boutique introducing curated merchandise from select designers of color. Make sure you check it out!

I left that event, which was held at the top of the World Trade Center Observatory, feeling so proud of Brandice and all that she has accomplished to ensure that black designers receive their fair share of equity in the fashion industry. She has overcome obstacles that would cause many to give up, but she kept, and keeps going. A true warrior in the fight for inclusion and equity!

I also attended the 2019 ADCOLOR Conference and Awards, founded by a Black woman trailblazer in the advertising industry, Tiffany R. Warren.  What I love and admire about Tiffany is that she drives strategy by focusing on the intersectionality of diversity, and all of the different aspects we should consider when championing for true equality beyond race and gender.  It was my second time attending the conference and awards of the premier organization that celebrates and advocates diversity in the creative and technology industries. I first attended in 2016. Not only was I was blown away by the growth of the conference over the years, I was equally impressed by the content, speakers, and the work that Tiffany and the ADCOLOR team had done to #TakeAStand for more equity and inclusion in the advertising industry.

My greatest take away from my ADCOLOR experience was that diversity is a given. It’s time we move beyond counting people and checking the box on quotas. We must ensure that women and people of color not only have a seat, but a valued voice at the table. One of many memorable quotes from the conference was, “Our activism can’t just be on Twitter; it has to match who we are in the workplace. Your character at home needs to align with your character at work” – Angela Rye. If we are fired up about injustice and inequality at home, we need to bring that fight to all aspects of our lives. We shouldn’t be required to silence our values when we step inside the workplace.

This leads me to the next event I had the pleasure of attending, Diversity Honors. Created by another dynamic Black woman Dee C. Marshall, CEO of Diverse and Engaged in collaboration with Full Color Future, a think tank and advocacy organization committed to changing the narrative about people of color in media, tech, and innovation. Dee is a force all by herself. She’s been known to be a policy influencer, and female members of Congress call on Dee to co-convene women’s initiatives, strategic planning on mobilization of women,  and gathering local women leaders whenever they need a young fresh perspective on connecting with women.

The event was designed to recognize diversity leaders, game-changers, and corporate leaders across industries and sectors, as well as community representatives who have moved the needle and made bold moves to advance marginalized and underrepresented people in workplaces and common spaces. The theme for the event was “Diversity is Multidimensional; People of Color cannot be Forgotten.”

The theme speaks to the fact that many companies are attempting to make women their area of focus for their diversity and inclusion efforts, counting the advancement of white women as their big accomplishment. If they only propel white women in the organization, it does little to nothing to build a culture of inclusion in the workplace.

Minda Harts addresses this in her new book “The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table.” A recent Harvard Business Review article Minda stated, “Many senior leaders are not comfortable talking about race and they are doing their talent a disservice by ignoring racial equity in the workplace.” I wholeheartedly agree. I am baffled by senior leaders who state that they are committed to diversity and inclusion yet are unwilling to discuss the role of race in driving inequity in the workplace.

By the way, if you haven’t read Minda’s book, please do, it’s a must read for anyone looking for validation or a better understanding of the experience for women of color in the workplace. You may want to buy a few copies to gift to a few of the managers in your workplace who would benefit. I’m just saying, with my side eye, you know who they are!

Last but certainly not least, I attended the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in addition to the Black Women’s Agenda annual town hall and luncheon in Washington DC. The content focused on issues that are preventing black progress in this country, and most importantly those issues most concerning to black women.

The fifth annual “Power of the Sister Vote” survey of African American women published by Essence magazine in conjunction with the Black Women’s Roundtable revealed the top issues that are of concern to Black women in this country.

  • Criminal justice and policing reform.
  •  Affordable healthcare.
  • Rise in hate crimes/racism
  • Equal rights and equal pay.
  • Gun Violence and Gun Safety.

I left DC with the affirmation of what I already knew; Black Women are fired up, convening, and planning to lead change. So, to my old manager and anyone else who questions why I affirm my blackness or my womanhood… you can have several seats!!! I am proud to be black, a strong woman, and part of the Black Women Leadership Tribe! A huge THANK YOU and much gratitude to Brandice Daniel, Tiffany R. Warren, Dee C . Marshall, Minda Harts, and to all of the countless Black Women leading the charge!

Also Read viSHEbility: Releasing Aspiration And Shaping Narratives One Story At A Time – Mary Mosope Adeyemi

Most importantly, I commit to doing my part towards advancing progress. I know that I was in those rooms for a reason and I don’t take that privilege for granted. As a woman of faith, I know that to whom much is given, much is required.

By: Dorinda Walker, Founder and CEO of Cultural Solutions Group

 

Africa speaks

Tapping into African Diaspora

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By: Nchimunya Muvwende (Photo: ADN)

In a famous quote, an author penned down the words “No matter where you go, always remember the road that will lead you home.” There are many Africans that left their countries in search of green pastures in the diaspora but it seems that they have become so comfortable with developing the already advanced countries and do not seem to remember their roots. While foreign investors are rushing to invest in the opportunities present in Africa, very few foreign based Africans do the same but rather focus on helping family members through remittances that have no sustainable impact. This status quo is not helpful and there is a need to harness a working relationship between nations and their people that live abroad in order to have inclusive development.

Harnessing diaspora resources

Many African countries are highly indebted and much of this debt arises from the ambitious development projects that governments are undertaking to improve the livelihoods of their people. Most projects cost more money than countries can manage to mobilize domestically and so, the countries are forced to depend on external aid and loans that are sometimes tied to adverse conditions.

On the flip side, there are many diaspora based Africans who have raised enough resources which when invested back in their countries, the rising debt crises could be mitigated. To do this, there is a need to provide specific incentives for the foreign based Africans so as to attract their resources to be invested in their home countries. Doing so will come with many benefits such as reduced dependency on borrowing, money remaining within countries hence stabilizing exchange rates, employment creation, economic growth and basically improved wellbeing of the people. It should be noted that no one will prioritise the development of Africa except its people regardless of where they are based and so, measures need to be taken to engage the children of the African soil.

Nations need to appeal to their people to remember those they left back home and think of ways of improving their livelihoods. It goes without saying that it is important to look strategically, systematically and critically at the diaspora’s role in the African development matrix and engage the huge reservoir of human and financial capital found in the large African diaspora.

Investment not remittances

When you give a child fish, they would still come back for more but if you build them a fish pond, teach them how to earn an income, the dependence syndrome reduces. There are many Africans that are in the diaspora that earn decent incomes and have to always remit funds to their families back home. However, this has created a continued financial dependence that has not necessarily improved livelihoods as it is not a sustainable source of income for the people back home.

The World Bank statistics show that remittances from the diaspora are estimated at about $87 billion annually and these amounts actually exceed official development assistance to Africa. Why always beg for help when Africans in the diaspora have more resources? It is time that the many Africans domiciled across the world begin to think of how they can reinvest their incomes into building businesses that will benefit not only their families but their countries as a whole. When critically analyzing cost factors, it would be cheaper to set up a business in an African country than in western countries.

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This is because the cost of labor, availability of ready market and investment incentives are more pronounced in many African jurisdictions. It should be a source of concern that foreigners find it easier to invest in Africa than it is for the Africans who left the continent for greener pastures to think of taking back the resources to their roots. Imagine if every diaspora based African thought establishing at least one business in their home countries using mobilized resources and using the skills and knowledge gained, the development of Africa will be more pronounced. It is time to convert remittances into Foreign Direct Investments in order to grow African economies and deal with pressing challenges.

Diaspora Network

Most of the western countries have advanced skills and knowledge and attract the best minds around the world, inclusive of the many diaspora based Africans. There is a need to create effective diaspora networks that can help replicate, transfer and build the knowledge to actualize Africa’s potential. There is a need for building capacity in the management of businesses. Financial prudency, sourcing financing among other skills in the people in Africa and this is a role the African diaspora could take up when effectively engaged. In addition, they can help create opportunities for Africans to acquire skills and knowledge from the best schools and experts and use this to develop Africa. The networks could help create market linkages for the many products produced in their home countries.

The abundance of natural resources and wildlife make Africa a good and attractive tourist destination but the lack of effective advertisement and expensive costs have hindered reaping benefits. The African diaspora needs to be engaged more in marketing their home countries, and this could come at almost no cost because word of mouth advertisement is rated the best.

African Governments should not look at the African diaspora as deserters of their continent but rather as ambassadors that could be instrumental in dealing with the many challenges faced in their home countries. This calls for effective engagement with the African diaspora. In the same vein, the African diaspora should be reminded to remember the road that leads to their roots and that if they do not take part in uplifting the lives of their people, financial burdens will keep falling on them. Therefore, working on a win-win situation will be the best way to achieve a prosperous African continent.

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Africa speaks

Presidential Candidates Nigerians should not consider voting for in 2023 – Adaku Efuribe

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Nigerians would be going to the polls in 2023 to elect a new president. I have written a lot of articles in the past regarding qualities of a great leader, but going by the understanding of most Nigerians, it would be more sensible to discuss the character of candidates not suitable for the job to enable us to separate the goat from the sheep so to say.

In solving mathematical equations, we sometimes use elimination methods to arrive at the correct answer. if we all know who we shouldn’t vote for, perhaps we could pinpoint who the possible suitable candidates are.

If we want to improve our economy and place Nigeria in its rightful place in world affairs then we must make conscious effort to ensure people with certain character flaws do not come anywhere close to the office of the president

Nigerians must not consider voting for candidates with the following character flaws/history.

Liars

Some of the candidates who have declared interest have been known to tell false tales to Nigerians in the past. A good example is a notorious fella who once made Nigerians doubt their cognitive ability. A few thought they actually suffered from short term amnesia. I wouldn’t tell you who to vote for but do not vote for liars, especially the one that woke up one morning shouting enough is enough! he went ahead to say he would be staging a protest against the present Government, he talked about a dream he had in which God revealed to him what he must do…Then the next day ..he said he wasn’t referring to this Government.

Treasury Looters

Anyone who has been involved in advance free fraud, misappropriation of public funds or lack of accountability must not be voted for if we want to move forward in this country. A leopard cannot change its spots. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

People with unaccountable wealth

Any candidate who cannot explain the source of their wealth is not to be trusted. Some people just spring up from nowhere to tell us God made them rich and no one can comprehend their source of wealth. We have had public servants who could not give account of the budget of their former office or keep an open book on how they spent public funds, such people will only continue to loot the treasury if given the opportunity.

Aspirants who do not believe in cutting down the cost of Governance

The GDP in Nigeria has depreciated over the last 8 years and part of the reason why we cannot come out of economic hardship is the cost of Governance. We spend a lot of money on the welfare of elected Government officials and legislators, more than most developed countries. There is definitely something wrong somewhere. Any candidate who does not believe in cutting down the cost of governance will only do one thing i.e.- continue to use public funds to fund their lavish lifestyle while the masses die of hunger and economic hardship.

Aspirants with no proven track record of effective leadership

Anyone who does not have any proven track record of leadership should not dream of becoming Nigeria’s next president. This country has sunk really low and we don’t have to operate anymore experiments. We don’t need the usual ‘I can do’ attitude. It’s either the proven experience is there or not.

Once again, the power would be placed in your hands to redecide the trajectory of our beloved country Nigeria. I intend to vote and my vote must count this time around. I know exactly who I will be voting for as I do not operate with sentiments. For us to see our country rise up again from the dunghill, I enjoin you all to have an open mind and consider the future of this country with any decision you make.

Article by Adaku Efuribe, Health Promotion Ambassador/Political analyst.

 

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Africa speaks

World War 3? Africa’s opportunity

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It has often been said that when elephants are fighting, the grass is the one that suffers the most. And this statement is highly applicable to Africa in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Whereas the European countries are fighting a physical war, Africa’s fight against economic challenges such as poverty, unemployment, trade deficit and starvation is worsened by the conflict. Barely a fortnight into the conflict, global commodity prices have been on the rise and had adverse effects on import dependent countries. What lessons can African nations pick from the conflict and what low hanging opportunities can be explored? 

Agricultural market

Both Russia and Ukraine are important players in agricultural production, supplying about 30 percent of the world wheat and barley. In 2020 alone, African countries imported agricultural products worth about $6.9 billion from the two countries. However, the conflict has caused a disruption in the global supply chain of agricultural products. Essentially drying up exports as evidenced by the supply ban imposed by Ukraine, resulting in higher prices and stockpiles reducing. The global citizen report estimates that over 500 million people would be forced into hunger because of the food crisis arising from the conflict. There is a supply gap created which will lead to importers to seek alternatives markets. And therein lies the opportunity for African countries to stand out as global suppliers of these agricultural products and fill the gap.

Historically, Africans are farmers who have survived on agricultural production mostly at a micro level. Africa is blessed with arable land and good climatic conditions that support the growth of various products but productivity has remained low over the years. To take advantage of this situation calls for deliberate efforts to direct resources into growing the agricultural products in large quantities and benefit from the sales. To boost productivity faster, farmers could be incentivised through the use of outgrower schemes. Which are systems that link networks of unorganized smallholder farmers with domestic and international buyers. The identified agricultural market requires that both farmers and countries expand their capacities by investing in equipment and modernisation for higher output. The after effects of the crisis are projected to last for extended periods of time but for those countries that will emerge as gap fillers stand to benefit for a long time. 

Trade reorganisation 

While it can be argued that globalisation and trade have been a key driver for growth and economic expansion for many nations, the gains have not been fairly distributed especially in Africa. Intra-Africa trade when compared to external trade accounts for a smaller percentage and hence the observed vulnerability of African trade to external factors. Imagine, while Africa is neither physically involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict nor imposing any sanctions on these countries. The effects of these two factors in derailing economic progress is worse in most African countries. Oil is a key input in various sectors of economies and the affordability and access to it has an impact on economic growth.

The crude oil prices are daily breaking record prices and for the many oil importing countries especially in Africa are at the receiving end of the spillover effects. Such as high cost of doing business and rising inflation which is detrimental to their economies. It defeats economic logic that African countries import oil from outside the continent, spending huge funds on transportation despite having neighbouring oil producing countries. The oil producing African countries should consider prioritising African nations for their exports to ensure that the continent is oil secure and the economies are thriving. Where possible, a differentiated preferential price which should be lower than the global price should be considered to ensure affordability and support to African nations. 

The implementation of the Africa Continental free trade area, which has been envisioned as a game changer in African trade, has stalled with frequent postponements to actualisation. The current European conflict should be viewed as a catalyst for trade reorganisation in Africa and ACFTA implementation. This is because the crisis has indeed created a gap in trade and there is no guarantee that African nations could be prioritised in importing from the European countries that also have pressing needs. Self-sustenance in intra-Africa trade should be the target because, decades after independence, Africans cannot forever be dependants. Who are vulnerable to external factors which do not directly concern them.

Strategizing opportunity

While the conflict has devastating effects on some countries, it actually creates an opportunity for others. The identification of the comparative advantage that nations have in either current production or potential production is what should preoccupy those not participating in the physical fight. The current capacity in most African countries to manufacture products may not be able to compete with developed countries that have advanced technology. But in terms of primary produce, African nations have huge unexploited potentials. 

Each country should introspect, organise its people and resources in targeting the global market. This is a matter of expanding what is already being produced and organising smaller businesses in bundling their produce. Working out strategies that will see individual countries to be a solution to a looming global crisis and benefit their nations in the process. If the opportunity is well taken and African nations stand out as solution providers, it could be a turning point for them to recover from indebtedness and economic challenges they have perpetually faced.   

The looming crisis could just be a test to examine the capability of developing countries to switch from being dependents to being solution providers. The focus should not be on the current investment costs to be incurred. But rather the benefits that have potential to erase economic challenges when potential is exploited and opportunities seized. 

By: Nchimunya Muvwende, Economist

 

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