What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Nelson Mandela
I like Akon. I don’t know his latest music but remember his 2004 worldwide hit “Lonely” because that was my Mum’s ring tone a few years ago.
He is a HUGE celebrity, however, who was born in Senegal and moved to the USA at the age of seven years.
Did you know that 600 million Africans don’t have access to electricity today?
In February 2014, Akon, Thione Niang and entrepreneur Samba Bathily founded Akon Lighting Africa an initiative whose aim was to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that would provide African villages with access to a clean and affordable source of electricity.
In less than one year, thanks to a private-public partnership model and a well-established network of partners, a wide range of quality solar solutions, including street lamps, domestic and individual kits, were installed in 14 African countries.
As a result, a number of households, villages, community houses, schools and health centres located in rural areas were connected to electricity for the first time ever. Local jobs, primarily for young people, were also created in these communities, whether for installation of equipment’s or for maintenance.
I’ve been listening to Lisa Nichols a lot recently. She says that reaching your highest potential has less to do with you, but more to do with other people who will cross your path.
Akon is a very good example of this. His singing career was about providing power to a poor African family so the kids could complete their homework, was about allowing a mother to charge her mobile phone at home and not have to walk for a long distance and charge it for a fee and creating a job for a previously unemployed young Senegalese man.
I was born in Kenya and left the country when I was 23.
Now the reason Africa is in a state of shambles and many people there face severe hardships like hunger, chronic unemployment and so on is everyone is scrambling for whatever resources they can get for themselves and their family. The usual story is someone grows up in poverty, they find a way to work in the government, accrue all the wealth they can, help themselves and their immediate family and the cycle is repeated.
I think the biggest shock to a visitor is the extreme levels of social inequality in a country like Kenya. On one side are establishments for the very wealthy, and on the other side are homeless children who are born and die on the streets, who battle hunger daily. Or millions of people in Nairobi live in slums. A home in a slum does not protect you from the cold and rain and you do not have a toilet to use.
The thing is when you live in Kenya, seeing street kids begging for food is a common sight. A sight that does not evoke any empathy from you. It is like looking at furniture in a room.
It is something you are used to.
If you live in a nice house, have servants and take your kids to a good private school you do not really give a second thought to homeless kids. It’s just the way things are.
I grew up in an upper middle class family. The sight of homeless kids never disturbed me for even one minute.
That changed when I came to Sweden in late 2012. I was almost homeless several times during my first year. I was never actually homeless but just the thought of being homeless filled me with a terror I had never experienced.
For the first time in my life I also experienced hunger.
“So that’s what hunger feels like.”
A gnawing pain in your stomach that does not go away. A fire that will make you focus on nothing else until it is extinguished.
Immediately my thought went to the thousands of homeless children in Kenya. Now I knew what they went through and even worse, they faced 100000 more horrors than I ever did. My heart broke in two.
I have a funny relationship with Sweden. It has been the source of the hardest challenges in my life but I also found my purpose here. I started writing in early 2014, opened one blog, now I’m on to the next one and will publish a few books. I will also start speaking soon.
The greatest thing that happened with my writing has been someone from a big Kenyan blog telling me my 2 articles that I wrote for them as guest posts were the most widely shared in the history of their blog.
But I have these visions of my platform blowing up one day. Call it delusions of grandeur. Martha Beck called them WIGS in 2002. Wildly Improbable Goals. I have those all the time.
I decided that when my delusions become reality, (hopefully in this lifetime…..poor me) I will use my platform to help homeless kids in Kenya.
I thought of the many Africans who have had monetary success with their gifts. The African system is totally broken, however. I believe that your gift should not just help you, your family and your pet. It should change many people’s lives. People you do not know.
I love Akon. He gave an interview in Dubai and said when he first got famous he bought Lamborghinis and had earrings worth 50000 USD. That changed after creating his Foundation and visiting poor villages in Senegal where the people had literally no resources. He felt ashamed to be wearing such expensive earrings. So he sold most things. In fact in that interview he was only wearing a watch that someone gave him.
If you were born in Africa, you can’t behave like the Kardashians. You have a different set of responsibilities and priorities.
It is not about buying a Range Rover and covering the inside in velvet or buying a 15 carat diamond ring every year for your wife.
When people in Kenya make it financially, they will not help anyone join their club or help anyone poor in the country. It’s like, ”Look at me now. I can buy 5 cars and have my bride picked up in a helicopter.”
Really, Kenyans, really?
Material things offer a temporary fix; eventually you get tired of your new toy and have to get the next one for your fix. This is the truth; all the smartest marketers know human beings think they will be happy when they buy A or B. It’s a lie. That’s why Apple will produce iPhone 50 and people will still sleep in a tent outside an Apple store to be the first customer.
Anyway, I have created a manifesto for myself when I hit the big time.
I’m not saying if your career offers financial perks, you have to live in abject poverty; buy a house or two. I want to buy houses in Kenya, Australia, Sweden and the USA. But I will have a cap on how much is reasonable to spend. Like I can buy a Land Rover but I will never buy a Rolls Royce or Lamborghini.
I will not buy a dress that costs over 1000 USD. I love fashion but there are good stores that can feed your fashion fix. I don’t want any designers to make clothes and send them to me. If I wear something so expensive may, I break out in hives.
Actually I just want a kitten, access to a natural stylist, a good makeup artist, gym membership, reasonably priced homes in a few countries with lots of closet space, hire someone to take all my videos, manage me and Nyla’s (my kitten) Instagram feeds and handle all tech issues, money to publish my books, money for a website designer and maybe a few electronics. Treatments to fix my face. Home décor from cheap stores. That’s the gist of it.
After that I want to build shelters in Kenya for homeless kids and come up with activities that will provide employment and opportunities to go to school for them. So that when I die a whole bunch of people in Kenya will say, “Because of her, I had a warm bed to sleep in every night, never went hungry, I went to school, got a job and had a better ending in life.”
I will also help other young Kenyans doing something to change their lives by offering them the connections they need and collaborating with them. This does not happen in Kenya. No one wants you to join their successful club because they think your success depends on them helping you breaking through.
I will not focus on what someone else is doing while trying to break out. My breakout is uniquely mine. Being jealous about someone else’s success or even trying to sabotage it just means me expending less energy on my journey.
I will focus on my own grass and be happy when someone else breaks through. I will cheer on others so they too can achieve success. I will not be a hater.
We all need to be uncomfortable with one person having so much excess because to be honest you using your God given gift and hitting the big time does not make you soooo special. Everyone has an innate talent.
But especially so if you were born in Africa. You have a duty to give back and change this continent. What is your manifesto?