As we sat in front of our flat screen televisions watching the NFL games on Sunday we had something deep and dark on our minds. We were all wondering what will happen next with the Ebola Virus. We knew that Ebola had reached the United States. Some of us had images of Robert Neville (Will Smith) riding around a deserted Times Square in “I Am Legend”, while others thought of Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff in “Contagion.”
We are told that the first person to bring the virus to the United States without telling anyone had “lied” during his exit interview from Liberia. The citizens of this country have already decided that he was exposed to Ebola and he did not tell airport authorities in Monrovia that he had that exposure. He then traveled to Brussels on his way to the America. Americans are angry at this man because they “know” that the only reason he traveled to the United States was to obtain superior medical care, something he could not receive in his native Liberia. Interestingly enough, he is not receiving any magical serums or the so called miracle cure- Z-Mapp. His medical status seems to go up and down - one day he is listed in serious condition and the next day he is listed as critical.
We are told he now faces legal entanglements on both sides of the ocean and he can face prosecution for his behavior. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, appeared in an interview on Friday in which she stated that she was angry and incensed about this man’s behavior. Shortly thereafter, Texas prosecutors began an investigation to determine the relevance of applying a law used against those infected with HIV/ AIDS who demonstrate reckless behavior. Sadly, at this point this man known as “Patient – Zero” may not survive the next few days.
When he arrived in Dallas, Texas Patient Zero went to the apartment of his longtime partner and stayed with her. At first he showed no signs of the virus and then when he began to exhibit symptoms, he went to a local hospital and his partner told the medical staff that he had traveled from Liberia. For all of that he was sent home with antibiotics and as days passed his condition worsened. He was in a home with the woman, her children and her cousin. He was very sick by the time he was taken back to the hospital.
This Liberian man we are now being told, came here to marry his longtime partner. Perhaps he was sensing the feelings of helplessness and mortality we all feel at some point. Maybe he wanted to be with his partner if something were to occur, so he did not go through this trauma alone or maybe he was worried about this woman and her children.
When local authorities finally decided to quarantine the woman and her family, they seemed to stumble all over themselves. The family was left in an apartment with infected clothing and bedding. They had no food save for a few sandwiches provided by the locals. Neither the county nor the city were able to find a team to clean the apartment or remove the infected items. “The individuals, it’s up to them … to care for the household,” Erikka Neroes of Dallas County health and human services told the Guardian Newspaper of the United Kingdom. “Our science tells us, according to CDC, that Ebola virus germs can be killed with soap and water … Dallas County has not been involved in a disinfection process.” We were left to wonder how that could be accomplished since the family was not permitted to leave the apartment.
I listen to the panic in the voices of my family and friends and I await the inevitable jokes made as flu season approaches. I learn every day of the heartbreak of this disease – lack of beds in hospitals on the continent lead to fully symptomatic individuals being turned away to return home to die, thereby infecting everyone nearby. Containers of medical supplies sitting on piers in port cities because local customs authorities have not “cleared” these shipments. I watched with such a sense of desperation as a man stood by as his wife was driven away to a field hospital for treatment for Ebola and he could not hug or kiss her because she was ill. She had taken care of his mother as she died from the disease. Later, he was taken to the same hospital leaving their three boys without parents. The woman recovered but shortly thereafter he died. The intensity and the randomness of this disease really makes me sit up and stay aware.
With all of this overwhelming sadness I see hope and resiliency. On Sunday I traveled to Staten Island. This was not a rally for or against NYPD or a news conference to explain why a local mosque was bullied into removing a picture of an airplane during Eid al - Adha.
The Liberian community living on Staten Island, one of the largest concentrations of Liberians outside of their country, had organized a gospel concert to raise funds to fight this scourge. This example of Liberians helping their own was refreshing and very motivating. During a spirited church service, parishioners walked up to baskets again and again to drop some money into collection baskets. It did not matter if it was a single dollar as every donation counted. Many people in the church had suffered a personal loss due to Ebola.
Sitting here in Manhattan in my home, I find it hard to imagine such perseverance or strength on the part of a people but it is there. After years of debilitating civil war and the terrible losses that the conflict had brought to Liberia they were now faced with Ebola Virus. Yet they demonstrated to me the ability to endure and push on. When this epidemic is finally brought under control, I will remember that Sunday evening in that church on Staten Island as one of the victories in this war. I will also remember how privileged I felt to travel with them on this mission. I am even more proud to call them my friends.
Young professionals at the outset of their careers have often found that their goals are difficult to achieve because of obstacles placed in their way. These impediments are both structural as well as by design, in some cases to test the mettle of the younger individual. Often these obstacles can lead to disenchantment and retreat from a selected career. Understanding as well as overcoming impediments in the work environment can go a long way to ensure that talented and motivated individuals are available to innovate and advance the goals of an organization.
With the current decade reaching its midpoint and with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals reaching their endpoint it is important to keep in mind a few facts:
There are 200 million people between the ages of 15 to 24 in Africa; the continent, therefore,has the youngest population in the world and it is expected to double by the midpoint of this century
120 Million Young people in Africa are unemployed.
It is essential that mechanisms to train, mentor and direct the reservoir of young talent be found to help advance the continent to a better and brighter future.
US – Africa Synergy has been in the vanguard since 2010 in guiding educated young men and women of the Diaspora. Through the organization, these professionals are provided with the important introductions, the most current information and the training needed to overcome obstacles. In essence, US – Africa Synergy is the vehicle to support these young people in sharing their gifts with the world.
The organization has a number of notable programs:
AWLEAD, a program for young women of the Diaspora that is a comprehensive effort to offer networking with decision makers, training and support for career development and the support need to reach individual goals
Immersion Series, an annual event that brings together both the young members of US – Africa Synergy and decision makers responsible for the future of the continent.
This year’s immersion meeting took place in Washington, DC at the headquarters of the World Bank. The young professionals of US – Africa Synergy were guests of the Young Africa Society of the World Bank. The Young Africa Society is a new initiative of the established World Bank Group – IMF Africa Society , an organization that ensures that Africa is not only well represented but also remains relevant in the direction and goals of the World Bank and the IMF. The two organizations are attempting to provide the necessary open doors for the entrepreneurs, and future leaders of Africa.
The first goal of the day’s program was to develop a relationship between the Young Africa Society and US – Africa Synergy. This relationship will provide young people with access to the decision makers of the bank as well as open a new and fresh source for ideas for those involved in assisting the progress of the continent. The sharing of this knowledge will, hopefully, create a platform for career development.
The second part of the meeting provided an introduction for the US – Africa Synergy’s members to Makhtar Diop, the Vice president for the Africa Region of the World Bank Group. Mr. Diop’s remarks were not only motivating but practical. He provided the future leaders with some important understanding of reaching success.
The first lesson is to always word hard as possible toward your goal. It becomes harder and harder as you advance to find sufficient time to research and study your future options and paths towards success, so the initial effort put into planning is very valuable and as such the beginning of your journey should be filled with as much time for learning and gaining knowledge.
Second, benchmarks and goals are essential for success. These include both short term and long range goals. In addition, one should be very clear about the adherence to the benchmarks; in order to be successful one must not accept lower standards or compromising goals. Do not fall victim to the compliments of others that might lead to falling short of the benchmarks.
Third, become very motivated about being the best that you can. The individual must be the best in a field or a career, not the best from a specific geographic region. This relates to conventional acceptance of lower standards for individuals from specific parts of the world. People should see you as a representative of a part of the world that demonstrates creativity, ingenuity, motivation and self – direction as excellent as can be found in the world.
Fourth, demonstrate confidence and strong effort but do not fall victim to arrogance. The latter can cause people to see you as weak as well as attach labels to you as a result of your regional background.
Fifth, showing humility is important because as prepared as you are there will always be someone who is more knowledgeable than you. One can learn from others as well.
Last, a successful individual is always altruistic. A leader who is altruistic well be more able to achieve goals because the people served will see this leader as receptive to their needs and will be more willing to accept direction from this leader.
With these goals in mind, Mr. Diop believes that Africans, especially young motivated Africans can be progenitors for change. He stated that Africans belong to individual countries with goals and directions that are not the same across the continent. He cautions the future leaders that it is essential to remember this in order to be successful because there are no continent wide solutions for success but individual solutions that account for each countries cultural values as well as the business climate in each country as well.
In terms of other issues needed to be considered on the road to success, Africa can and will reach its potential when the following are part of the formula for success:
Development of new approaches to primary education must occur; these initiatives must them be applied to all education programs especially secondary education. There needs to be a more approach to providing education for all.
Development of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs (STEM) should be given an important role in the education of young people.
There needs to be a concerted effort to develop sustainable, green energy programs to reduce the effects of climate change.
There must be social protection programs for the neediest members of society.
Health services must be made more accessible for all.
The final session of the meeting consisted of a presentation by two members of the World Bank – IMF Africa Society about the best practices to begin a career with an international organization (World Bank, IMF, and United Nations). The session was led by Beldina Auma, Communications Officer for the World Bank’s Africa Region and Chair of its Africa Society and by Geremie Sawadogo, Senior Human Resources Officer.
The most important lesson for the young professionals is that the bank is seeking a diverse staff and that includes candidates from Sub – Saharan Africa. Mr. Sawadogo graciously offered to mentor those individuals seeking to apply for a position at the organization. He indicated that the path to advancement at the World Bank was not a straight trajectory and depending on how you enter the bank’s corps of employees will largely determine your career. This includes your educational background, your selected field and your future goals.
The development of a diverse set of contacts is also essential in making career moves; attending events and professional meetings is the best way to develop these contacts. The value of networking can never be discounted.
The relationship with your immediate superior is extremely important to ensuring a transition to advancement. Your manager knows where you stand and what are your positives and negatives in terms of your current position. As such, the strong and positive relationship with your manager is essential. If during the course of working in a particular unit or team, one finds that a manger does not have a good view of the employee, a change to another team or section might be in order. Coping skills are essential in times of friction and younger employees would do well to find a sponsor or mentor with whom they can discuss issues that might occur.
Finally, potential recruits to the bank were told that hard work is essential while finding a position that has some strength and continuity in the organization will ensure that the hard work leads to some rewards.
The conference definitely provided all of its participants both young and old, experienced or newly graduated from university with excellent lessons to apply to their professional careers. The promise of closer contact between the World Bank – IMF Young Africa Society and US – Africa Synergy is a positive outcome for the future. The best lesson of the day can be summarized in a quote by Mr. Sawadogo:” Nothing good comes easy.”
By: Robert Bernstein (adapted from an article that I wrote for “Applause Africa Magazine”)
We just observed a first in the USA – a summit of African leaders over a three day period that took place in Washington, DC and that attempted to produce some positive results for the Continent. Interestingly enough as the comings and goings of the summit were reported, they were often followed by the latest bad news about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This situation coupled with the still unsolved abduction of 200 plus schoolgirls from Chibok seemed to keep things in perspective or at least keep the status quo in the mind of mainstream media.
As the world ruminates about these issues, some quarters of the mass media seems to utilize these situations to reinforce and reiterate the tired depiction of Africa. The continent with civil strife, mass criminal activity, pandemics and governments at war with their people.
There is the other side of Africa. That view emphasizes educated and motivated Africans who are contemplating and executing plans for projects to benefit both themselves as well as their home lands. The businesses and organizations range from major technology start- ups to locally based NGO’s that are designed to work where larger entities have failed.
It is through media coverage like this, that there will be change in the narrative that is Africa. The effort to locate and report these stories is crucial if the image of Africa is to change.
It has been nearly sixty years since independence for most countries on the continent and in that time the first post-colonial leaders have come and gone. These men were basically vetted before independence took place to ensure their continued attention to the colonial power. In these cases this meant business as usual in the relationship between country and the former colonial power. As elections take place, these older leaders are being voted out or in some cases pushed out for a new generation of leaders.
In this generational change there is the possibility for a fresh, new look to governance as well as development.
The younger generation understands that there are two important factors if Africa is to reach its full potential for its citizens. First, the economies have to be re-directed and guided to serve the nation and not some foreign entity. Secondly, there is a large population of young people with a huge reservoir of energy. Somehow and someway these younger Africans must be integrated into the plans for success so that they believe in the future of their homelands. It is crucial that they are part of the resurgence. If these young people do not see their place in a vibrant recharged Africa they will use that energy to demonstrate their displeasure.
Africans have been resilient as well as innovative in their solutions to local problems. As Dayo Olapade stated in her recent book, “The Bright Continent”, “If necessity is the mother of invention, Africa’s adversities are the mother of necessity”.
We have seen some successful and wonderful efforts on the part of the young entrepreneurs and project directors as we put this issue together. And yet, this is not the end of the narrative. In future issues we will bring you more positive profiles on these innovators. All we ask is that you join us on this journey and imagine the beauty of the continent standing tall and proud.
The situation in Missouri is completely and totally intolerable. The militarization of police in America has risen since the involvement of the USA in Southwest Asia. To observe local police in camo uniforms standing in military lines with combat vehicles lined up with snipers atop them in the USA is disturbing. Likewise the complete and total use of tactics that trample civil rights is unacceptable. These scenes are reminiscent of Rab’a Square in Cairo.
Arresting local political leaders and the media does not calm any situation. Preventing people to peacefully protest is also unacceptable. Since the beginning of this incident, the police reaction has been totally over the top. I understand due process and I understand an investigation has to be completed to determine what occurred on Saturday. That said, I am not clear as to why witnesses with possible credible accounts have been turned away and information has not been released. By the way- why was that young man’s body left out in the open for so many hours on Saturday? From the first day, when K-9 dog units were deployed to “control” protesters to the use of these “nonlethal weapons” such as rubber bullets, tear gas, smoke grenades the authorities are not attempting to defuse this crisis and work with the community; it seems that they are retreating inward and becoming more reactionary. The image of these law enforcement agencies brings back direct and strong memories of the time in the 60’s when the fight was on for civil rights or of the disturbances outside the ‘68 Chicago DNC Convention. By the way- what is a “beanbag” non lethal weapon? If that thing hits you in certain places you can still be seriously injured. The governor of Missouri needs to take charge and deploy State Police of National Guard units to take over this incident and calm things down. If that does not work then it is time for the USDOJ to deploy Federal Marshals.
As Washington, DC became the center of the African Universe last week for the US - Africa Summit, the world was still watching and waiting for some positive developments regarding the kidnapped schoolgirls.