New catchy phrases in the likes of ‘Africa rising‘ ‘Africa is the future‘ have been trending for quite a while now. To many of us, they sound like sweet music. However, many parts of Africa are still struggling with high levels of unemployment and an average lifespan of about 50. Africa has a population of about 1.1 billion people (worldpopulationreview.com, 2013) with roughly 42.7% living below the poverty line. Africa has the highest concentration of young people in the world- about 300 million aged between 10 and 24. More than 50% of the youth in Africa are illiterate (that’s roughly 150 million young people). I am not crunching these numbers to scare you, rather I am emphasising them so that you can start churning out solutions. Yes, you, the millennial African!
So, as I ponder and think about the future of Africa, I figured that putting together a handy guide for the millennials is a great way to be able to carry motherland to new heights. Maybe someone will be inspired to unearth their potential to spring ahead after reading this.
Afro-millennial handy tip #1: Embrace failure
Many of us fear failing and for that matter are scared of venturing out to try new things. But, more than ever, Africa needs the millennials to embrace failure. The truth is failure is necessary for success. For example, the millennial Ugandan (70% of Uganda’s population is below 25– click to learn more about Uganda) is an elder according to statistics; so, go ahead and start that business you have always wanted to start regardless of the outcome. Failure leads to growth, enhances knowledge, increases empathy, gives you experience and lays the platform for self evaluation. These are all excellent ingredients for success and for the ‘Africa Rising Era.’ Henry Ford is known for his revolution to the automobile industry but many people do not know that he failed twice to the point of bankruptcy before success. One of my favourite quotes is ‘Failure is a good thing’ by Hakeem Belo-Osagie (net worth: $550m).
Afro-millennial handy tip #2: Maximise your potential; Stretch yourself
It’s unfortunate that the culture that is prevalent in many parts of Africa breeds a certain sort of comfort with doing the ‘least’. This in itself is what is keeping us behind. The millennial African should be ready to maximize his or her potential, should stretch oneself to heights unknown, venture into the unknown, be the next inventor, or writer or motivational speaker or app developer. You don’t have to follow the path your ancestors followed… the path of safety. BrEaK OUT! My new favourite saying is by Mark Zuckerberg, one of USA’s most effective CEO at the age of 31; ‘Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.’
Afro-millennial handy tip #3: Build confidence in your abilities
You have the potential to make a difference in your community as you are! Enrich your knowledge by reading & more reading, talk to like minded people and do something about your problems. Unfortunately, many Africans lack confidence in their abilities-me inclusive. I do remember my boss having more confidence in me being a member of the Senior Management Team than I did. I never turned down the opportunity and I must say, I learnt a lot from that experience. In fact, having a young population, in my opinion, is something that can be harnessed to the advantage of African nations especially in a time when there is a huge revolution in technology and knowledge distribution. Many might not know Nick D’Aloisio who created an app (Summly) which was sold to yahoo at 30 billion USD. He developed the app to solve a problem he had while doing some homework and was cold emailed by an investor from Hong Kong who did not even know he was only 15 years at that time. Long story short, the investor was excited about his age because that meant he was an internet kid who would know the ropes and corners of internet. African millennial, rise up and run! You have what it takes to win; you are not too young (click)!
Afro-millennial handy tip #4: Kick out the boring predictable lifestyle
We have been conditioned to go to school, probably get married and to look for a job because it is what everyone does. Very predictable and almost boring! According to the statistics, that’s obviously not working. Take an example of Uganda’s unemployment rate at 80% with a population of roughly 39,000,000 people; nerve wracking! And I’ll let that sick in for a moment! The opportunities for job creation in Africa are endless and you don’t even need to have gone to school to tap into that opportunity. Disclaimer: I am not encouraging anyone not to go to school! All I am saying is aspire to be the next Bill Gates from Africa! Go against the norm, do new things, find new solutions to existing problems! Why look for a job… create one!
Afro-millennial handy tip #5: Realise that the pressure will not kill you
Every entrepreneur will tell you that the fear or the uncertainty never goes away but they will also tell you the benefits of a successful venture outweigh the pressures that come with that. Many Africans love ‘peace, and ‘comfort’ which in itself is not a bad thing but sometimes I wonder if it plays against us in relation to the potential we have. I do remember being described as a risk taker by some family members and friends but it never held any meaning for me. Looking back, I would probably accrue that to the fact that people in my family like to play it safe so consequently I tend to stand out for doing things differently. Strive Masiyiwa (net-worth: $1.4B), among Africa’s wealthiest, has lived a life full of pressure and he is still alive. At one point, he went into a lawsuit against his country’s government; talk about pressure!
Afro-millennial handy tip #6: You don’t have to be just like everyone else
As a millennial African, it is important to strive to stand out. You don’t have to follow a career path that you feel is safe because you want to drive a certain car etc. Do something that you feel is way bigger than you which will benefit a great number of people. I am an effective educator with experience teaching in varied education systems so I do know a lot about the conditioning that we teachers sometimes pass down. Strive to stand out millennial African! I am greatly inspired by the Ghanaian lady, Bernice Daapah, who is making bicycles out of bamboo. In doing that, she has created jobs for fellow africans as well as created a ‘green’ way of manufacturing bicycles.
Afro-millennial handy tip #7: Embrace the attitude of working hard
The plain truth is that nothing comes easy and behind many success stories are tales of hard work and sleepless nights. Working hard simply means going the extra mile, it means work of high standard, it means working intelligently and it means never giving up until your goals are met. I once read somewhere that working hard is the single greatest competitive advantage. Strive Masiyiwa puts this across eloquently, A vision on its own is not enough. Hard work & dedication is required to make that vision a reality.
Afro-millennial handy tip #8: Understand what courage is
Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the strength in the face of fear and uncertainty. It is about choosing to stand up for what is right(click to listen), choosing to follow your heart and persevering in the face of difficulties. Being an entrepreneur in Africa is not an easy journey but neither is it impossible. True courage is being able to rise up and do what you have been called to do. True courage is understanding that the onus to change the narrative in Africa lies with you. Reginald Mengi (net-worth $550m) had this to tweet; “Born into extreme poverty, saw poverty as a challenge not a problem, my eyes saw opportunities & I made money during what others called bad times.” Have courage Africa!
“In today’s world, paradoxically, it is the boldest action that is often the safest. Remaining where you are in a world that is changing so rapidly is in fact the most dangerous of all places to be in.” – Hakeem Belo- Osagie
Afro-millennial handy tip #9: Learn all you can about money
We fail because we do not understand money and its importance. Money practically controls every transaction on planet earth and not knowing how it works means that you might not be able to control it or even make it grow once given to you. As the millennial africans, we need to understand what it means to save, how to track earnings and expenses and what percentage to give to charity. Take time to understand things like compound interest etc. as well as to build your financial knowledge. ‘Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff. It’s learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can’t win until you do this.’ –Dave Ramsey
Afro-millennial handy tip #10: Take calculated risks
Risks are important but many a time we take risks without proper information or facts. Leonard C. Green says that the difference between risk takers and calculated risk takers is the difference between failure and success. Learn all about the territory you are going into. Is it as an activist or a business person or an entrepreneur or a writer or a leader? Ask yourself questions like what is the worst case scenario should this fail? What will happen if this is successful? Who will need my services or my products? What are the habits of these people? What is important to them? Crunch the numbers…look for statistics and data in your field…do some research! Always be armed to the teeth; learn to take calculated risks!
Afro-millennial handy tip #11: Look to you for solutions
‘The beggar mentality’ is Africa’s greatest enemy. It is very sad to see a continent blessed with natural resources, a huge population of youthful people still looking to others for salvation. ‘NEWS FLASH: We have the capability to solve our own problems without intervention or even hand-outs from others.’ Until, we as a nation rise up and start to churn out our own solutions to our own problems… we are doomed to only singing the ‘Africa rising’ song without it ever coming to fruition. Where are the leaders with the interests of the people at heart? Where are the leaders who sacrifice everything to do the right thing? Where are the Patrice Lumumba’s or Nkwamwe Nkurumah’s or the Gaddaffi’s of today? Oh yes, they are you and I! We, as a nation, need to stop focussing on the victim story. We have brains that can think; we have visions for the future; we have scientists, doctors, artisans, agriculturalists, writers, bloggers, architects, activists, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, speakers to name a few. AFRICA’S FUTURE LIES WITH YOU AND I. Let’s hold one another’s hand and move forward, let’s use our diversity as a strength and not a divisor. No one and I repeat no one has Africa’s best interests at heart but you the millennial African!
Afro-millennial handy tip #12: Have faith in your maker
Have faith in your maker. Make time to feed your soul on a daily basis. People have coined all kinds of words for this; meditation, spirituality, religion, higher power etc. This cannot be stressed enough. Pray and pray…walk the talk. I have come across a lot of rhetoric on how superstitious Africans are or on how religion was used to plunder the continent into abyss. The truth is, some of the most successful African leaders and entrepreneurs lead faith based lives!
Please feel free to add more anecdotes of wisdom to this handy guide in your comments!