‘If we stay focused as Africans, we have everything it takes to become world power’
The concept of African Renaissance suggests that African people and nations shall overcome the current challenges confronting them and achieve cultural, scientific, and economic renewal. And with the level of collaborations and work being done across Africa today, especially among young people, it seems that much-touted renaissance is gradually coming true.
If not for anything, young Africans of today seem to have learned that the only way for the black continent to move forward is to ensure good governance, with special attention to the way we manage our economy, our social life, our legal structures and institutions. In fact, the current reality is that the black continent can no longer rely entirely on the west to feed the poor or treat the sick. For Africa to be great, Africans must take the lead and champion the course.
Across the continent and even beyond, different groups and organisations have taken up the challenge of leading movements geared towards ensuring Africa takes it rightful place in the global reckoning; the movement is fast gathering momentum. One of such platforms is the African Economic Merit Awards (AEMA) founded by Nigeria’s McEva Tomofe, the CEO of Purple Hundred Company.
With presence in 17 African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Benin Republic, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’voire, Egypt and Gambia), the initiative is aimed at showcasing Africa by awarding successful entrepreneurs, celebrating and rewarding groups that have contributed immensely to the development of communities through humanitarian and empowerment initiatives.
Beyond the awards, the organisation is also focused on boosting economic growth in African communities by uniting the successful business entrepreneurs with the latent talents, enriching the soil and giving hope to Africans with agricultural, educational, technology and business initiatives. Most importantly, AEMA is working towards giving hope to Africans, who have given up the creative ideas and business skills, to power ideas of craftsmanship into a successful future.
For sometime now, Temofe has been on our radar, but for distance and his busy schedule that sees him travel across African countries to coordinate the organisation’s activities, getting him to sit for an interview wasn’t easy. So, when he eventually announced his arrival in Lagos ahead formal unveiling of the AEMA award plaque, which will set the tone for the main event in Rwanda later in the year, The Guardian didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity.
In company of a young chap, who happens to be his personal assistant, Temofe was set for the session, as his luggage and other items were already packed for his return to Abuja. On the centre table was a file containing documents about AEMA; he had assembled them ahead of the interview.“This is a pan-African organisation that is beyond giving out awards to successful African entrepreneurs and NGO, who have impacted so much in their communities across Africa,” he said as the interview took off on a lighter mood. He explained further, “We cover 17 African countries with Country Directors and structured Executive Team. For the award process, we have our executive members, as well as our Advisory Committee Board; these are the people that look through and see if whoever we are awarding deserve to be awarded.”
The AEMA jury is composed of individuals of high moral stature with commitment to the ideals of African Business. Having excelled in their individual careers, they function as an independent body and are responsible for the selection of the winner(s) for each award cycle. On the other hand is the advisory committee that supports their work, as well as the secretariat that provides guidance.
“The main function of the Advisory Committee is to support the jury in making an informed decision on the winner of the award. The committee will oversee the nomination and selection process, including establishing procedures, defining eligibility-based on a pre-determined evaluation criteria – and conducting background checks on the nominees. They will work to secure stakeholder buy-in of the award and disseminate information to a wide audience using their communication channels and networks,” he said.
As much as the initiative is open to all Africans, AEMA seems to be focusing more on young people with creative and innovative ideas on how to move the continent forward.“We are pioneering something very energetic for the youth and also tapping into what the elders have already planted. No matter what the youth do, we cannot do without our elders. They have done their best and they have given us the platform to ride on; it’s for us to now make it better,” he said.To Temofe, making Africa great starts with African youths believing in themselves and genuinely working together in the interest of the continent.
“African youths need to start supporting each other; there’s this bickering among the youth when they see another person progressing. Sometimes, they feel all youths are actually making it illegally; it’s an incorrect notion that must change. There are youths making it legitimately; there are youths trying to drive things through politics and make it work very well. There’s this mental slavery we have; it depends on the aspect you are enslaving yourself. Now, you have to work on that and get yourself off it. So, for us to make it work, there must be a vision.”
Though the founder and his team are championing a new course for Africa through the initiative, he will never put down both past and present African leaders, who he said have made their own contributions.“We must give praise to our elders for developing Africa to where it is today. Now, the youth of Africa have realised that they have to take power; they have to take responsibility of making Africa a global power. It’s not an overnight journey; we are getting there gradually,” he said.
Aside from the awards, AEMA is also involved in other developmental projects for young people, especially in the area of agriculture, education, health and technology, by creating platforms for latent talents to be able to express themselves and achieve their goals.
“We link them up with successful entrepreneurs to be able to help them reach their goals very quick. So, I will say again, we are getting there in Africa. However, we are soliciting for help from the international partners; there’s no way we can stay isolated as Africa. Just the way the western world needs some things from Africa, that’s just the way we need some things from them. There are white people, who come to Africa to seek for greener pastures; it’s just that the equation is imbalance. Now, it’s the way the media has actually made it look, ‘that more Africans are trooping out there because things are not working out in Africa.’ But if we stay focused as Africans, if we keep believing in what we have, we have everything it takes to become world power,” he said.
As a strong believer in the mantra that success is accomplished through the articulation of a mission that is backed up with a vision, Temofe urged Africans to set their own realistic standards by creating values that people must respect.“Those values are your foundations and you have to help yourself by creating your own principles within yourself. When you set a goal, you might not get there actually. For instance, I say, ‘I want to become the president of America,’ but I’m a Nigeria; that’s unrealistic. Now, I say, ‘I want to become the president of Nigeria,’ I might be, I might not be, but the truth of the matter is there’s a mission. I personally will sit down and create my vision; if I don’t become a president, I might end up becoming a minister or governor.”
He continued: “However, becoming a minister, governor or president doesn’t mean that you are going there to embezzle money because there won’t be any legacy left for you after doing so. You have to work to empower the people; they are the ones to speak for you. Your work is like a language that after you leave, people will speak about it,” he charged.
Though not totally averse to young Africans seeking political offices, Temofe stressed the need for the youth to also lead in other facets of the economy. “With the enactment of the Not Too Young To Run Act in Nigeria, a lot of young people are actually running for political positions; some even said they want to become the president. The truth is that you don’t need to be the president or governor to make impact; you can make much impact than the president if you are in the business world. If I ask you now, who is making more impact between President Trump and Bill Gate? If you let your vision misguide you, you will end up becoming nothing in life; that’s just the truth. So, running for political position and you do not actually have the vision, you will end up becoming nothing; you will end up becoming a political nuisance in the society. After your reign, nobody hears from you again.”
He continued: “As a youth, wherever you find yourself, support each other, encourage each other as much as you can; when you come together with one voice, you go far. So, I urge African youths to create something for themselves and not just running for political positions. Very soon, politics in Africa will become a very strong institution whereby you won’t be able to embezzle money.”
If there’s one sector where Africa has showed strong presence in recent times, it is the creative industry. With little or no support from government, the practitioners have continued to excel in the entertainment, arts and fashion. However, Temofe sees a future for Africa in ICT and agriculture if properly funded.
“Look at what is happening in the ICT industry; Africans are stepping up. In fact, there’s something my company Purple Hundred is doing with ICT development; we train people at the grassroots and we get partners to help us reach out to the people down there. Now, there’s a huge awareness in the agricultural sector as well, but fund is actually keeping a lot of people down. If you look at the entertainment industry, most of the time, you do not need massive capital to do what you have to do to create job and awareness. But if you look at ICT, agriculture, health and other industries, you see that these are capital-intensive projects,” he noted.
While decrying lack of sponsorship for African initiatives, he said, “This is what we are still battling with in Africa. Just like AEMA, this is a capital-intensive project that has to come into existence. Now, how do you get sponsors to come in? A lot of organisations would rather sponsor an entertainment project than to sponsor education. What we are having now is a rapid change, but it’s coming gradually; a lot of people are becoming aware of this,” he hinted.He praised the aspiration of young Africans blazing the trail in the ICT.
“Now, you can actually see a child tell you, ‘I want to learn how to code.’ When we go out on outreach, I hear this in schools and I hear this among young pupils, ‘I want to learn how to be a software developer.’ I’m happy that we are actually pushing forward this awareness of how to get involved and create your own industry.”Ahead of the main award ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda, AEMA will be holding a special unveiling ceremony in Lagos on October 26 at a yet to be announced venue.
“On that day, we will be unveiling AEMA plaque and the nominees; our advisory board has selected them. These nominees cut across Africa; the lists are yet to be sent in from Kenya through our head of advisory committee. As soon as it comes in, that’s what will be unveiled on that day. The plaque has not been seen by anybody, except the executive team. So, this is more of a treasured project that whoever that is holding AEMA Award, knows that they are holding a credible and dignified award; not an award that we are giving them just to hold.”
Though designed to celebrate the distinguished Africans, who have made impact in their fields of endeavour, winning the AEMAs actually comes with responsibilities.“It’s an award that also helps them to go to their communities and work alongside our country directors to help NGOs at the grassroots, who are unable to meet their need or the people’s need. So, this award is a responsibility; it’s not a plague that you keep at home. It’s a responsibility for you to help your community to develop depending on your area of interest. If it’s education, you go back to your community as a winner of a particular category of the award and we link you up with our country director to select NGO of your own interest to work hand in hand with them,” he said.
On the choice of Kigali for the main award ceremony, Temofe explained, “Kigali has been chosen because, we all know how Rwanda was years back; it was a war torn country. We thought about celebrating Africa, celebrating something unique; look at what Kagame has done over the years. I was in the USA early this year, I met a Rwandan and we spoke; his skill of entrepreneurship was very high. He spoke so well about the ICT industry and how he intends going back; I believe he should be back in Rwanda by now. The development going on in Rwanda is rapid, so, we have decided to actually celebrate such an occasion in such a country to also showcase to other African countries, the likes of Liberia, Congo, Zimbabwe and others,
what leadership should be like. I think there are one or two things we need to learn from Rwanda.”He said, “though the country has its own challenges, for them to actually breakout from the war torn country in such a period of time is commendable; it’s a kudos to the country and we are proud to take this project to Rwanda,” he said.While many would hinge Africa’s woes on leadership, Temofe believes there are more to it.
“I stand to be corrected, but I think Africa lacks beyond just leadership; Africa lacks unity. By the time we get united, we will be able to raise a good leader and when we raise a good leader, we will build a strong economic platform for the world to emulate from. So, by the time Africa is united, we do not see ourselves that this one is from south, this one is from the north, this one is from the east. By the time the South Africans are not seeing that these are Nigerians, by the time Nigerians are not seeing that these are South Africans, we will raise a strong leader, a leader with one voice; we are almost there,” he declared.
On the argument that current African leaders have failed or deviated from the dreams of the founding fathers like Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkruma, Thomas Sankara, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kenneth Kaunda and others, he said, “those were the generations that created a platform that these new leaders are enjoying. Now, you as a youth, what are you meant to do, be a Nelson Mandela, be a Thomas Sankara. Because our leaders have failed, doesn’t mean they have totally failed; for them to keep the countries running is not an easy task. As the new generation, let’s not condemn them. We need not to make them feel like they have failed, otherwise, we will live in anger. Mandela never led his people in anger; he forgave the white and he led in love. So, I urge this generation to overlook what the leaders are doing, but learn from them and learn from former ones. Merge it together and we will create the strongest continent ever,” he concluded.
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