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Juliana Olayinka: The Trauma of Racism

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Juliana Olayinka, Broadcast Journalist

I can’t recall ever experiencing a bout of post-traumatic stress disorder until very recently.

After a week of seeing the outrage trend on social media I decided to watch the video footage showing the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Unfortunately, the sad tale of Arbery’s untimely death is a familiar one. He was a young black male killed while out jogging in his neighbourhood in Georgia, after being hunted down by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael. The incident took place on February 23rd. 3 months later the pair were arrested and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. An indictment that may not have occurred if not for the relentless outpouring of disbelief and horror expressed by the black community and beyond.

For at least 30 minutes after watching the video, I sat frozen at my desk. I could not erase the image of Arbery attempting to fight off the killers out of my mind. What would he have been feeling and thinking at that precise moment? What were his killers thinking? Why did they do this? How can any human being loathe another so deeply purely because of the colour of their skin? I was traumatised.

It’s because of this experience that I have refused to watch the full clip of George Floyd’s murder. I’ve seen the haunting image – it’s unavoidable – but I’m afraid of what that footage will deposit within me. I’m even more afraid of what these depictions of black men and women being slaughtered will do to the younger generations who are consuming this heightened narrative with no pause button.

At times I’ve felt drained and helpless over the past couple of weeks and the global lockdown hasn’t helped to calm the anxiety.Black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die with coronavirus as white people in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.

As a Black British born woman of Nigerian descent, I’ve often wondered if my opinion matters to the Black Lives Matter Movement whose origins are very much entrenched in the injustice felt by African Americans in the States?

Throughout most of the 15 years that I’ve worked in media- calling out racism has been morphed into having a chip on your shoulder as an ‘angry black woman’. How can I compare losing out on promotions (time and time again) to my less qualified white peers to the brutal murder of an unarmed black man in police custody? These past couple of weeks have taught me that I don’t have to compare the outcome as the intent is all part of the same problem.

Do I believe insidious and institutionalised racism exists in Britain Absolutely I do. The inequalities felt by ethnic minorities in the UK may not manifest itself as overtly as what is being witnessed in America, but the disease of oppression still exists. It exists across the world.

The Historian and Broadcaster David Olusoga summarised this sentiment perfectly in a recent article published in The Observer;

“When black Britons draw parallels between their experiences and those of African Americans, they are not suggesting that those experiences are identical. Few people would deny that in many respects’ life is better for non-white people in the UK than in the US. The problem is that it is not as “better” as some like to believe. Black men are stopped and searched at nine times the rate of white men. Black people make up 3% of the population of England and Wales but account for 12% of the prison population and not since 1971 have British police officers been prosecuted for the killing of a black man, and even then they were charged with the lesser crime of manslaughter and that charge was later dropped.”

Also Read: Black Founders: Here are some fundraising and networking opportunities

Just a few weeks ago my social media feed was flooded with images of lynching, today it’s flooded with images of unity. Of tens of thousands of people from across the world marching together in solidarity for change. The anxiety I used to feel anytime a Black Lives Matter incident trended on social media, has been replaced with hope. The hope that this period may be a defining moment in our quest for equality.

Article by: Juliana Olayinka, a Broadcast Journalist

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Africa speaks

Africa Rising: Why Project Managers Are Critical to Africa’s Future

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Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

With a rapidly growing population and economy, Africa is poised to take on massive infrastructure upgrades, and they’ll need talented project managers to lead the charge.

If you want to see the future of project management, look to Africa. The world’s second largest continent by both land mass and population is home to the world’s largest free-trade zone and is experiencing significant population growth and urbanization. These trends, in turn, are driving massive investments in infrastructure, but they’re also giving rise to flourishing film and music industries and attracting significant technology investment dollars.

What’s especially exciting about the future of Africa is the coming “youthquake” poised to drive change across the region. Fully 75 percent of the population is under 25! This means that the people who stand to benefit the most from all these developments are the young. It also means that responsibility for managing many of these projects will be shouldered by a new generation of project managers. 

 

These young managers have a natural affinity for the growing African film, music and technology industries: 

  • Nigeria is home to “Nollywood” – the second largest movie industry in the world after Bollywood in terms of output. It produces 2,500 films a year. 
  • The African music industry is also thriving. New African streaming platforms like Boomplay, uduX and Simfy have emerged in recent years, attracting investments from music industry stalwarts like Universal and Warner. And consumers are flocking to hot new music festivals like AfroChella and Afro Nation. 
  • Africa is also pulling in investment dollars from technology and fintech firms. According to African Tech Startups Funding Report, 311 African tech startups raised $491.6 million last year alone. And a report from Briter Bridges and GSMA indicates the number of active tech hubs in Africa has almost doubled to 618 over the last three years.

In addition to these industry hot spots, infrastructure remains a high priority across the continent. Despite recent economic development, only 38 percent of the African population has access to electricity. Three-quarters of all roads are unpaved. And 416 million Africans still live in extreme poverty. These numbers spell out why infrastructure development remains such an urgent priority. 

Also Read: L’Oréal Appoints Hlengiwe Mathenjwa As Director

In 2018, for the first time, Africa’s commitments to infrastructure projects exceeded US$ 100 billion, according to the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA). These mega projects included: 

  • Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Estimated to cost US$ 80 billion, Grand Inga is the world’s largest hydropower project in the world (and expected to be twice as large as the Three Gorges Dam in China). 
  • Bagamonyo Port in Tanzania – A joint venture of Tanzania, China and Oman will be the largest port in East/Central Africa. 
  • Konzo Technology City in Kenya – Called Africa’s Silicon Savanna after Silicon Valley in the U.S., this smart city project is part of Kenya’s Vision 2030 plan and is expected to generate 17,000 high-value jobs and 68,000 indirect jobs.

As noted, both population growth and urbanization are powering this development. Already home to 1.2 billion people, Africa has the highest rate of population growth in the world. The United Nations projects that more than half of all global population growth will occur in Africa, and the population of sub-Sahara Africa alone is expected to double by 2050.  

Africa is also increasingly urban. The world’s fastest-growing cities are now in sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the World Bank, 472 million people live in cities. They expect that number to more than double to 1 billion by 2040, due to high birth rates and migration from rural areas. (That’s the fastest rate of urbanization in the world.)  

All these developments are creating enormous demands for project managers who can deal not only with technical complexity but with the transnational nature of many of the projects. An 832-kilometer electrical transmission project in West Africa, for example, crosses four countries: Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. The LAPSSET megaproject in East Africa involves a port and oil refinery in Kenya, a railway line and two pipelines between southern Sudan and Ethiopia, and three airports, among other projects. 

The pace of development is just as rapid within individual countries. In Zambia, where the population has doubled to 17 million since 1993, infrastructure projects include four international airports, the US$ 4 billion Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power station, and Link 8000, a 10-year, US$ 31 billion project to rehab and construct 2,000 kilometers of roads.   

The need and opportunity for young project managers are clearly immense – but so are the challenges. Some of these challenges are economic. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Africa’s economy is expected to contract between 2.1 and 5.1 percent in 2020 – the region’s first recession in 25 years.  

Large-scale projects can ensure long-term growth, but they also require sophisticated project management skill sets. Young project managers will need training and mentorship to lead Africa’s development efforts. At PMI, we’re supporting their needs through our training and certification programs and through the guidance and encouragement that comes with participating in local chapter activities.

The next generation of project managers in Africa will play a critical role in transforming their continent, and, in doing so, will inevitably reshape the world of project management. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s next! 

Author: Otema Yirenkyi, VP Global Engagement, Sub-Saharan Africa

PMI

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Africa speaks

Systemic Racism- A Case of Elon Musk

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Humankind artwork by @tristaneaton flew with the Dragon spacecraft this past Saturday.

Please note: This article is not about Elon Musk and his family being racist or direct supporters of any form of oppression. (Article by: Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi)

“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great- and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”- Elon Musk

For me and my 10 year old son, our biggest news for the past few days has been SpaceX’ Falcon 9 historic launch. Stuck in two different continents due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, it didn’t stop us from livestreaming and witnessing two astronauts embarking on Crew Dragon’s second demonstration (Demo-2) mission, launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA) to the International Space Station. #launchamerica was a great moment of inspiration and turning point for Elon Musk’sexploration mission to the Moon, Mars and Beyond.

Humankind artwork by @tristaneaton flew with the Dragon spacecraft this past Saturday.

In parallel to #launchamerica this week, another big news has been protests in United States and around the world following George Floyd’s death. Masses of people have been expressing their outrage against police brutality and racial profiling. More frustration is directed towards systemic racism that allows a flawed criminal justice system to thrive; one recent example being lack of action for two months after Ahmaud Arbery’s murder by a white ex cop.

What would have been Elon Musk’s future if he was born black in South Africa?

Elon Musk was born in South Africa eighteen years after apartheid was established. Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. It was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap (or white supremacy), which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation’s minority white population. (Source: Wikipedia)

Race was a deciding factor for the quality of education, housing, healthcare, voting, public services, employment, business or property ownership and marital or sexual relationships. Over the years, racial separation and oppression resulted to not only peaceful protests but also violent resistance, thousands of deaths, mass incarceration, detention and extreme use of police force.

Despite remarkable efforts and strong opposition within South Africa and globally Apartheid remained in effect for more than 48 years.

An image illustrating segregation in South Africa (Image credit: Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi)

“ The native [referring to an African] must not be subject to a school system which draws him away from his own community, and misleads him by showing him the green pastures of European society in which he is not allowed to graze”- Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd “Minister of Native Affairs” (1950–1958).

If Elon Musk was born black in South Africa he would have been subjected to attend Bantu schools, a separate education system that was designed to prepare blacks to lead their lives as a laboring class. This, along with many other hurdles would have made it difficult or even impossible for him to build a future that is currently transforming and creating new possibilities for humankind. If Elon Musk was born black in South Africa, his skin color would have been a deciding factor for his intellect, existence and future.

To the privileged ones……

From time to time, people based on their skin colour find themselves in a lesser or superior side of the playing field. Elon Musk and many white South africans were just born in an unequal society, they neither asked for it nor had much of a say on how oppressive structures were run by the state. Systemic oppression is not individualistic and white privilege doesn’t mean that your life is not difficult, it plainly means that the color of your skin isn’t one of the things contributing to your life difficulties.

In this era, we can collectively take action against structures of oppression and institutionalized racism. If you are white, examine your privilege and educate yourself, become an ally, voice your opinion, join people of color in protesting peacefully, build resistances and support movements easing racial disparities and injustices.

Here is a poem by my white friend Joel Moskowitz.

I too am familiar with hatred as I am a Jew, but in today’s America my problems are relatively few,

For the brown, red, yellow or blacks; equality, fairness and rights is what America lacks,

Protection, justice, enfranchisement and equal opportunity are held back from some, seemingly in perpetuity.

I have never felt the blow from a policeman’s baton nor the tightness of handcuffs ever put on,

I have never unfairly been locked in a cell nor feared routine traffic stops as if facing hell,

I’ve never been needlessly separated from my mother or brother nor rendered uncomfortable by basic interaction as if I was the “other”

I was taught to judge my fellow man by the content of his character only to receive advantage of which I am an all too willing inheritor,

I’ve been told that the arc of morality always points towards justice yet we give no reason for people of color to trust us,

It helps no one if I say I am color blind, if to institutional racism I pay no mind,

If by my silence I perpetuate this evil creed then I am just as guilty for this pernicious deed.

I will conclude with a quote by a human rights activist and Nobel prize winner Desmond Tutu

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Photo by Xena Goldman

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

Article by: Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi– Humanist with loud thoughts and Founder, Mobile afya| Digital health | technology and innovations

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Africa speaks

My Bout with Racism in Corporate America- A personal Story

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This is how racism operates – a personal story…

I’ve been relatively private about my life and I enjoy things that way so most of you probably didn’t know this, but in 2013 I moved to Detroit during its bankruptcy to work with multi-billionaire Dan Gilbert, Chairman of Quicken Loans, Owner of Cavs, and overall really great guy on various special projects; it was a dream (truly a prayer) come true!

After about a year of working closely with Dan, we co-founded a tech startup together. I’m forever grateful to him for investing in me like that and in other ways. I led this company as CEO for a little over a year before I was suddenly ousted. It all happened within a week. September 15th, 2015 I was told that we had a problem, but not to worry. “We would figure it out.” I wasn’t told what the problem was at that time, but the very next week on September 22nd, 2015 I was escorted out of the building by security. I don’t know why they felt the need to have me escorted out by security, but such is life and some things you may never understand

To say this experience was traumatic for me would be an understatement, because on top of being rushed out of a company I co-founded and suddenly finding myself unemployed, I also was 3 days away from moving to/closing on a house that I had newly constructed which was less than a mile from my office and I was getting a dream come true deal on that house (through a $75k hud grant, a $20k live downtown incentive, and $20k reduced from the house via negotiation…

I was getting this house that appraised for just shy of $300k for $175k, that house last I checked now goes for just shy of $500k), I would have still closed on the house, but the day I was suddenly let go, they advised I pull my mortgage application (I was getting my mortgage w/ Quicken Loans…I’d later find out that I could have still closed, but it all happened so fast and I didn’t know it at the time). 

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Image credit: Kwaku Osei

I also learned the painful lesson that people I thought were my friends, were not really my friends. My offense? Being a young black male with a vision that worked hard to stick to it and execute on it. Of course that’s not the “official” reason lol – but let me try to briefly explain what happened. 

When Dan and I started the company, I was still doing work for him. Sooner or later I told him if we’re really going to do this thing I needed to be able to focus on it exclusively. He agreed and I carved out some office space on another floor to create some distance. The early days of the company were tough; I now better understand why corporate entrepreneurship is so hard to pull off. There was so much bureaucracy that I had to cut through – so many internal processes built for Quicken that were forced onto us – and anyone that has done a startup knows that the only thing that gives a startup a fighting chance is its ability to be agile and nimble. I wasn’t afforded that capacity as CEO early on, but I diligently fought to cut the red tape. These fights would take months and several meetings – time that I really wish I would have been able to put towards my team and the startup. But I didn’t complain – at least not much lol. This was still by far a dream come true!

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Image credit: Kwaku Osei

Fast forward and we’re making some real deal progress. Dan also has stepped up his commitment towards the venture; we land on him investing ~$2.1M into the thing to give us a real go! I’m excited as anything as you might imagine. Well, sooner than later that situation slightly changed. One of Dan’s advisors says something to the effect of “you’ve been burned before Dan, why don’t you give them some money and let’s set up some milestones and if they hit those then they get the rest of the money.” This made sense to me so I came up with the milestones and the target date, which they agreed to. Under the new agreement we would now get $900k with $1.2M guaranteed as long as we hit our marks

So far so good, but here’s where things get tricky for me. As part of this new agreement Dan also suggests an advisory board is put together; it would be a temporary one but so he could be fed updates along the way. This also made sense to me. The issue was the group of individuals who comprised the board were managers across the Rock Ventures Family of Companies. Only 1 person on the board, Jake Cohen, had any experience with startups. He was a gem, but was unfortunately outnumbered. Nothing against the rest of the board (with an exception of 1 person lol). They were good at their jobs, but managing a corporation and running a startup are 2 wildly different things….

As a young black male – I KNEW I had to show I was coachable. So when they provided a good amount of ill-advised guidance, I still took and implemented some of it — against my own desires. The advice I didn’t take? No one outright said it, but they treated me as if I was being stubborn or acting like I thought I was some major visionary and who’s vision they couldn’t see. In truth I just felt that I was the one working 70+ hours weekly on this business, talking to our users and prospective customers so I better understood the pain points we were solving for them and what excited them about what we were building – but what do I know lol. 

I lined up 5 major pilot partners for our product (Xerox, VCU, CCS, Triad Retail Media, and DCA). They’re excited and I’m excited. Up until then we had only been piloting within QL, but due to a series of false starts and the product not being truly useful for a good portion of us, testing within QL it wasn’t the best sandbox for us. That being said, that summer a good portion of interns expressed real excitement for what we were doing and them being fresh to the org and thus to the product made me confident…well we are getting close to finally piloting outside of QL but I’m butting heads with the board increasingly frequently, I only had 1 ally on the board, Jake Cohen, the VC guy who deals with startups for a living – go figure…  

Suddenly on September 15th – the overly arrogant perfect picture of white privilege “chair of our board” says hey Kwaku we’ve got a problem, but don’t worry we’ll figure it out…I’m like okay…?!? Days go by and the writing is on the wall some major changes are coming…despite this I try my best to focus on the company and still hit our upcoming milestone…it wouldn’t matter, Sept 22 I was escorted out by security, it was embarrassing as hell, in fact it was indecent the way that was handled but ok fine…

To this day most of the people within Rock Ventures and QL don’t know this story. 5 years later I still run into folks that say “hey, so what happened to you?” I could talk about the reason they told me I was being fired, but it wasn’t the real reason…now let me be clear and honest…was I perfect in this position, no not at all, I made plenty of mistakes, did some things that were foolish, and I was 25 at the time so I was still growing, but I will tell you despite the multi-faceted challenges I was put up against – to this day I’m proud of how I lead and how I evolved as CEO over time…

I give myself a B (an A easily for effort) and anyone that knows me knows I’m a tough grader…did I deserve this opportunity, I didn’t deserve/expect it to happen and in all honesty I probably didn’t deserve it but I thank God it was afforded to me, but I will tell you what I know for certain, I didn’t deserve being ousted in the way I was…especially because the official reason they gave me for my firing I had witnessed done in the organization several times by others without nearly the same consequence (thanks Milton Fletcher, my executive coach, for advising me to share the lesson here: As a black male, I don’t have the license to do what others might be able to…)

So let’s talk racism here

I was replaced by a nice guy (a white guy 1 year older than me I think that started at Rock Ventures same time as me) he was paid about $30k/year more than I was when he replaced me, he occupied the CEO role up until a few months ago…the company since he took it over for 4 years thereafter didn’t do a fraction of what I accomplished with the company within about 6 months with less resources etc…it looks like they are finally about to do something meaningful almost 5 years later…

Also Read: Cornerstone Partners focused on black and diverse businesses invest £170,000 in Coordinate Sport

My replacement CEO is no longer CEO, but is supposedly still with the company where he now makes clean into the 6 figures (btw if you read this please take no offense, I’m not discounting you and I think you have proven throughout your life that you are highly intelligent and highly capable and in fact I respect you) the other black leader at this company is being severely underpaid compared to the others, it’s crazy to me that this is happening given the tremendous amount of value he brings to that team…let me close on this thought – racism is when a billionaire supports me in the multiple ways he did but somehow despite that the organization still plucks me out

BTW: I am not the only person that Dan Gilbert has supported in this way, so what’s interesting to me is when I look at what others have been given the space to do vs. what my situation was it startles me – more leeway, support, and other leaders that did things that were FAR worse than my official reason for being ousted, some of them are still with the company today, those that aren’t left on their own terms (as far as I can tell anyway)

Am I complaining? 

Are you kidding me…I co-founded a company with a billionaire when I was 24! That experience gave me tremendous exposure and validation because I was doing things that people could only dream of, I was living my dream and it showed me that all of my dreams and prayers can become reality, I’ve carried that knowledge with me ever since…and I’m extremely thankful to Dan Gilbert and several leaders of Rock Ventures, too many to name but in short Angel Price, Betsy Stone, Karen, Matt Cullen, Jim Ketai, Jake Cohen, Todd Lunsford, Richard Mandell, David Carroll, Steve Ogden, Matt Rizik, Bruce Schwartz, Doug Seabolt, Matt Roling, Victor You, Sam Vida, Ross Sanders, Maria LaLonde, Leslie Andrews, Tony Nuckolls, Todd Albery, Howard Luckoff and truly countless others

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Image credit: Kwaku Osei

Final note

These days I’m thankful that I was pushed out, I may still be within that organization to this day otherwise… I had a great time there, but God works in mysterious ways, see now I’ve started businesses and I’ve failed and suffered tremendous setbacks so it’s taken a while, but in the last couple months my newest ventures have been growing INCREDIBLY. It’s truly remarkable and at times I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming (or is this a bug in the Matrix?!? Lol jk)…I am now the founder vs. co-founder and now I’m finally in control and in a position to show the world what Dan saw in me when he decided to take a bet on this young black male…

Wriiten By: Kwaku Osei, CEO at Cooperative Capital

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