Thursday, June 25, 2015

On Branding Our Cities... MWF Chronicles II

Dear Reader

I realize that the writing is not up to par. I apologize but I feel the need to curate this experience, not only for myself and for those that know me but for everyone. I feel learning must be shared and especially for those that applied for this program and did not get the chance to come. It is the very least I should do. So here goes;

On Tuesday, we met the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed and I was impressed beyond belief. Everyone here keeps referring to him and how incredible of a man he is and I finally found out why. He is a man of excellence. We had a Q and A session with him. This for me was a new experience because back home, sessions with leaders are not for you to ask them questions but for you to listen to their agenda and what they are presumably doing for you. *rolls eyes* Mayor Reed is an excellent orator. He spoke with passion and conviction about his work and it was easy to tell that he loves his city.

Prior to that we had met the CEO and staff of Invest Atlanta (It is the equivalent of the Uganda Investment Authority if Uganda were Atlanta)and been taken on a tour of the city of Atlanta. It is an impressive city by all means but what struck me most is that for every development, every company, the tour guide let us know how many jobs had been created as a result of it. Do we take this into account when "investors" move into our towns, our cities and our countries? How many jobs has MTN created, Stanbic, Standard Charted, EABL, CNOCC, BAT et al? Is it relative to the amount that they spend in the country? Is it relative to the amount that they repatriate back to their home countries? What is the FDI? Does Kampala as the capital city even have an office in charge of investments in the city? What are they doing? How are they attracting investment? I have questions!

We went to the Atlanta Business League and to the World Council for Young Leaders in Atlanta and it continues to strike me that even though this country is developed, they are extremely serious about enhancing that development. They are doing everything to position this city as a hub for commerce and growth. From social services, welfare amenities and infrastructure. As the mayor said, capital follows fixed infrastructure (now it makes sense why the Ugandan infrastructure budget this year was crazy. I see the purpose). They have spent millions of dollars on a street car that stops at all the major sights of the city, refurbished their airport and are building a stadium worth 1.4 BILLION dollars and all for what?  To attract more investment. Porsche just moved it's head quarters here and created 6000 jobs and they are looking for more of that. This is a city that is already developed! We are far faaar faaaaarrrr removed from that and yet we are complacent. We fight legislature to improve our cities yet we stand to gain the most from it.

The attitude of servitude and excellence is real. The city wants to be and takes pride in doing things right. All of the council people we met at the mayors office were exemplary. They would introduce themselves , express why they were elected and what they've done since. Even if they were politicking, it was a good show. I'm sure if I tasked many people in Uganda's government to explain what contribution they've made since they were elected, they would draw a blank. Even just for show.

And that is not to say that we were not taken to the bad parts of the city. We were. And then we were told the plans to rehabilitate and revitalize those parts. So yes, not all is well but atleast they can be seen to be actively trying to improve. And I realize all this is branding and marketing.We must brand our cities better. We must highlight them as states of progress and find ways to collaborate with our local councils to make this happen. It won't start with our leaders. It has to start with us. We need to find a middle ground with leadership because that's the only way permanent positive change can happen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

On Job Appreciation... MWF Chronicles I

I have been on campus at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta for 4 days now and it has been nothing short of an amazing experience so far. It is one of the foremost Historically Black Colleges and I feel lucky because it is a deep cultural experience for me especially given all the racial tensions going on in America right now. I feel I will have a deeper understanding of this nation's history when I leave due to the wealth of knowledge that I will be exposed to. Clark is situated in the Atlanta University Center District. This sprawling 6-campus university boasts of four institutions prominent in the civil rights movement including Morehouse where Dr.Luther went for his undergraduate degree. An all male college (Who knew!)

Today, we had our orientation and something happened that will stay with me and hopefully, I can implement my learning when I get back home. We were introduced formally to everyone who will support this program for the duration of it's entirety. The President of the college, faculty, librarians and teaching assistants. It is truly inspiring to know how much they are all vested in this program. The energy and effort that went into putting it together is unbelievable. But what stayed with me was; the chefs and the security personnel. I have been lucky to have attended several institutions and never in my life have I been introduced formally to the people in charge of food and personal safety yet ideally these are the most important facets of life. And the pride and honor with which they were introduced was amazing. You could tell that they take pride in their work not only because they do a good job (which they do) but because even the people that they serve take immense pride in their jobs as well.

And then when I think about it, everyone I have met so far is extremely proud of their jobs here and it shows. And by everyone, I mean EVERYONE. From the president of the college to the waitress at the local bar.
The customer service is much much different as a result. I have been around some and this is the best customer service I have experienced to date. I was so moved in a shoe store after having the lovely sales lady follow me around for almost an hour and being so generous about it that I gave her a bracelet I'd carried from home. I was and still am in awe.
I must do better and so should we all. Whatever we are doing, even if it's not something we like. We must take pride in it and it must show.

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Forward thinking like MLK.

Mandela Washington Fellowship....

I was selected to be a Mandela Washington Fellow for the year 2015.  The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and embodies President Obama’s commitment to invest in the future of Africa. The fellows undertake six weeks of intensive executive leadership training, networking, and skills building, followed by a Presidential Summit in Washington, D.C. Through this initiative, young African leaders gain the skills and connections they need to accelerate their own career trajectories and contribute more robustly to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Price of Success?

"Imagine a four burner stove. One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health and the fourth is your work. In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful, you have to cut off two. How far are you willing to go for success?" -extract from Greg Mckeown's book: Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile but the words have yet to come to me. Today they have via that quote. When Peace and I started Zimba, we never envisioned the massive amount of work it would require. We just decided to start to build a company from scratch to hopefully a great body of work. Just as we did not envision the work, we did not envision the toll that work would take on us. Last week, as I lay in bed, incapable of moving because of a fever that had racked my entire body, she texted me that she was in hospital, admitted for skyrocketing blood pressure. She's had a baby and her pressure didn't even go up as high as it went. Another dear friend of mine, building an amazing company as well has had her health ravaged for the past year, being in and out of hospital constantly. We are not halfway of the year yet and my doctor who rarely saw me a few years back is now suddenly back on my speed dial. Our health is going..gone? 

I'm afraid of what will go next. A couple of friends have already began complaining about how rarely they see me. I am trying but short of cutting myself into bits, I can't really see them. Is this the price we must pay?!

Monday, June 8, 2015

On Abortions....

"What is on my mind?" Facebook just asked. Well, I just read an article in the daily monitor. (Here) about how the government of Uganda has issued new guidelines for abortion. It is still illegal BUT you can now have access to post-abortion care. In other words, go to a shoddy doctor to carry out the procedure but run quickly to professional medical worker in a competent health facility so that your life/ uterus might be saved. See 1500 women lose their lives daily as a result of unsafe abortions. One thousand five hundred women! Let your mind ruminate on that number. Alarming, isn't it?!

This article reminds me of a time when I was pregnant, doing my daily walk to the taxi park when I was accosted by a young, pregnant and evidently highly confused young girl. She was wondering what she was going to do with her baby. My advice was inept of course, I didn't have the maturity I have now then. But now, I wonder what led her to pick me. Was it because I looked like her? Young and inexperienced. Was it because of the joy that evidently emanated from how I carried my bump in-spite of my circumstances(no wedding ring); loud and proud. I will never know. I hope to this day that she kept her baby.

And like a friend of my recently said; carry that baby like you are carrying the world's most precious diamond. Because you are. And never know who might be watching and which precious baby you just might save. That is what is on my mind.

Very preggo and very happy with self.