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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

Africa speaks

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

Africans Opportunities In Africa Matter

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Micheline Ntiru

When I worked for international NGOs in Africa about 15 years ago, most senior people were non Africans. Their salary packages were sometimes 10 times (I am not exaggerating) that of their local peers who were often twice their age and multiple times more experienced. This hasn’t changed significantly today – a few are tweaking things here and there but I am not satisfied with the progress.

Later in development finance, I would hear quite a few white American and European senior employees elevate their only 3 months’ part- time work in as if it were a decade of deep, in-country or specific sector experience! They would splash this over their cvs in a jaw -dropping exaggeration of their ‘local context’ knowledge that would catapult them from junior employees to senior directors in no time. All the while extraordinarily knowledgeable ‘local’ staff had the less senior jobs.

I have worked with twenty -something year old foreigners with degrees from US or European schools and only one or two years experience; they use complicated -sounding English jargon and pretty powerpoints as they claim to be solving Africa’s greatest problems in education, healthcare etc. Again many senior Africans with actual sector expertise were passed over for these positions.

A well -known NGO in agriculture and food security in Africa talks about millions of farmers reached and food security being addressed, but didn’t have any African senior managers or directors that I knew of (in the period 2012–2016) and still has very few. A few years ago, I saw an apology from the founder – he said he hired from his networks and accepted that this strategy is flawed as his network is, well, white mostly. I still don’t see significant progress with this NGO.

In an international setting, a well- meaning Caucasian (I presumed he was well-meaning) asked me, after confirming that I am east African, what dialects I speak. I said, ” I don’t know about dialects but I speak the rich language of Swahili.” (Why should African languages be considered dialects I wonder?) “Oh”, I continued, “I also speak French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, some Luganda and a whole bunch more. What dialects do you speak!”

When I saw him at annual management meetings, he would repeatedly ask me to remind me what dialects or languages I speak! I realized after a few of these conversations that he just couldn’t compute that as an African, I had the right foreign (white) languages for the international job. Some of my current work involves venture capital funding.

Recently, a team and I were looking at a score of startups in Africa to make some investment decisions about where to channel very limited funding. I found, to my dismay, that a handful are not owned by Africans. My rough math is that less than 10 percent of international VC funding for startups goes to black Africans in east Africa. This is documented more rigorously elsewhere, with even more depressing findings (see article by Larry Madowo in the Guardian, 17 July 2020). This blatant bias continues to befuddle me.

Also Read: Meseret Haileyesus – The Ethiopian Canadian Women Leader Creating Impact

We just can’t let these biases happen without interrogating them at minimum. I am past the stage of interrogation, so I need to act. International development should not be a place where foreigners from the West get to have the cushy jobs as they purport to solve poverty. After all, the “poverty” problems persist so we know that the foreigner-designed approaches and answers have not been working.

Africa’s supremely talented entrepreneurs build significant businesses against all odds- should we not give them a chance at real success? A chance to really contribute to our economic progress?

  • Let’s hire talented people ensuring diversity in all spaces, particularly in Africa’s international development quagmire. Policies should be put in place that insist that NGOs, UN Agencies and the like have to use local skills, at all levels. If really these skills don’t exist, then governments can force these organizations build them among their nationals. (Few African countries mandate this).
  • Let’s not create neocolonial bubbles that lead to resentment. Rather we should always look out for logic and equity and build real meritocracies in places of work. All foundations and philanthropic organizations in Africa should build respectful structures and human resources that show off the strengths of our continent.
  • Let’s create regional- and continental- funds that fund home-grown businesses while also working with policy makers to insist that foreign capital is channeled to local businesses.
  • Let us work on our own mindsets that sometimes are to blame.
  • Let’s vehemently disagree with the myth that talent is so hard to find in Africa. All I see is hungry, shining talent.
  • Let us say something and do something, to paraphrase the late John Lewis.

Author: Micheline Ntiru – Global pan-African. Catalyst of business + impact in Africa + Latin America. Constant Scribbler. Short Stories. Polyglot. Accent-curious. Wellness-minded.

BAO Magazine

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Africa speaks

Adaku Efuribe: The Power of Positive Energy

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Adaku Efuribe is a Clinical Pharmacist

When you start thinking the right way, your life starts getting the right way. To experience a feeling, you must first entertain the thought that produces that feeling.

It is not rocket science that we are responsible for our own happiness. What are you thinking about today, what energy are you producing in your ‘emotional factory’-positive energy or negative energy?

Believe me; your thought pattern is vital to your emotional well-being and general health.

Thoughts are very powerful and to live a healthy normal life, we have to become masters of our own thoughts. We have to think positive thoughts. When you look at a glass of water, do you believe it’s half empty or half full?

The best time to be positive is first thing in the morning and last thing at night. In Nigerian local markets, traders have this belief that what happens very early in the morning, or the attitude of the first customer you serve would determine how the rest of the day would go. If your first customer was not rude and happily paid for your goods without long bargains, it is generally believed business would be good for the rest of the day.

What you do immediately you wake up from bed would definitely affect how you feel throughout the day. There is no such thing as waking up from the wrong side of the bed. When I wake up in the morning, I thank God for the blessing of staying alive; I say a little prayer and commit the rest of the day to the Lord. In that way my mood is elevated and I trust that I would be having a good day. At the end of the day, I reflect on how the day went, I tend to count my blessings, I do not focus on the day’s disappointments, rather I think about my achievements for the day; this helps me to re-fuel my positive energy for the next day.

Also Read: Irene Mbari- Kirika- inABLE.org, Career and Impact

Going through the pandemic period, losing a job, losing a loved one or facing economic hardship is all energy draining. But your survival greatly depends on how you manage your emotions. The way you see things or respond would determine whether you go into full blown depression or anxiety.

Some thoughts could spoil your day and drain your energy; other thoughts could energise you and give you hope. When you think positive thoughts you refuel your happiness, you refuel your ambition, your increase your patience level and you manage your emotions better.

So, start today to think the right way, and watch your life change for the better, it may take some time to feel and respond to things differently. Keep working at it, practice makes perfect.

Author: Adaku Efuribe is a Clinical Pharmacist

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