With the intention of informing the masses, and inspiring a few others along the way, one year ago today I decided to act on an idea.
There were no plan for a roll out with spectacular fanfare. Nor was there an intention to become the next “big thing.” There was simply an idea. All that I aimed to do was highlight many of the innovative and reality-altering developments that were occurring across Sub-Saharan Africa.
With only an idea, on June 16, 2014 The Foresight Initiative was formally established. 365 days later, I can proudly say that my decision to act on that idea was the best decision I have ever made.
Today, Foresight has a following on four continents, we have reached thousands of people, and most importantly we have never strayed from our mission.
I created this platform to “inform, inspire, and connect” individuals across that globe dedicated, in one way or another, to the ongoing development processes taking place across the African continent. I wanted to ensure that information regarding these events were presented in a simple, concise, and direct manner. Above all, I was determined to topple the intellectual and social barriers that have constantly prevented the initiation of a comprehensive dialogue among the international community concerning the Africa continent’s development.
With the help of three contributors, thousands of supporters, and an endless flow of material coming from the continent this was all possible.
It is my sincere hope that you have experienced our dedication to the field of African development while perusing our weekly articles, featured posts, and our insightfully-minded “Insight” series.
While noting all that has occurred over the past year is necessary, we at Foresight are looking ahead to the months and years to come where we will continue to provide the thought-provoking, creative, and inspiring material that you have grown to love.
We are in the business of the highlighting African innovation. It is my hope that you will continue to appreciate our work as we continue to act on what was once simply an idea.
By: Deonta D. Wortham
For the past decade the African content has seen an unprecedented period of economic growth. Forged by a select group of economies, the ongoing economic cycle has been propelled by economic momentum that has not been seen since the rise of the infamous “Asian Tigers” in the last quarter of the previous century.
Though, as the continent has witnessed this unprecedented period of economic virility, persistent inequalities have prevented nearly one billion Africans from reaping the benefits of this so called “ boom.”
Today, with nearly 18 million young Africans entering the labor force annually, rising female labor force participating rates, and the continent’s increasingly prominent role on the international economic stage, continued inaction in the realm of public policy will only undermine economic strides seen across the continent.
As Donald Kaberuka, former President of the African Development Bank (ADB) has stated, “[The continent] has had strong economic growth, now we must turn it into economic transformation.”
The ADB has noted it is time to “reduce inequalities and promote inclusion,” ensuring that the possibility of acquiring “decent [employment], a living wage, access to basic governments, and [participating in functioning democracies]” is available to every African.
As the popular adage goes, “You can't eat GDP growth.”
Now is the time to ensure that the economic strides that are seen across the continent are met with sound fiscal economic policies that benefit the majority of Africa’s citizens. Ignoring this fact will only increase the various inequities currently seen across the continent.
At last week's World Economic Forum on Africa, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, a small panel involving various international actors discussed this very topic. In a lively thirty minute “briefing” Winnie Byanyima, Phuzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Jennifer Blanke, and Edward Ndopu addressed how private and public actors can work together to ensure that Africa’s continued economic rise benefits individuals across the continent.
Without further ado, here is a thoroughly thought provoking discussion on the importance of economic inclusivity brought to you by the World Economic Forum.
By: Deonta D. Wortham
Across the African continent issues concerning accessibility to medical, educational, and financial resources are rampant. Nearly everywhere you look there are pressing concerns that need to be addressed through the acquisition, or use, of a life-changing product.
The only question is: "Who actually develops these life-altering novelties?” Increasingly across the continent, we are finding that innovative, sustainable products capable of reaching the masses are coming from an unlikely group of individuals.
They are driven by a form of entrepreneurship that hinges primarily on positive societal impact. They are willing to utilize and create new technological instruments to fix age-old problems. They are committed to the social, economic, and political transformation of Africa’s various societies. They are Africa’s rising "Innovative Class."
In western societies, these individuals might the granted the clichéd title of “start-up founder.” These individuals are building companies that are creating entirely new markets or fundamentally changing old ones. They are actively reaching a consumer base that has remained untapped for decades. They are unafraid of crossing long-held boundaries of “containment” that have persistently prevented socio-economic growth across the continent. Thereby, commencing a new era of economic growth, spurred by innovation, that is transforming the lives of millions of Africans.
Then there is the fact that the Africa's “Innovative Class" is not doing this for the sake of profit returns, or to be featured on the cover of Forbes Africa, but for the greater good of the African people. They are the real deal.
Take Ismail Ahmed a Somali businessman that is transforming the way that remittances are sent and received across the continent. Noting the important role of remittances in the economy of nearly every African nation, Ahmed founded WorldRemit a “mobile money” transfer company that places a virtual banking institution in the hands of Africans in cities centers and rural villages across the continent. Mind you, this is all taking place on a cell phone. In a recent interview with Ventures Africa Ahmed stated, “At WorldRemit, we see ourselves as paving the way for seamlessly connecting Africans around the world with friends and family back home. . . [w]e are embracing mobile money as new technology that is set to revolutioni[z]e banking from the ground up and make money transfers more convenient for everyone.” WorldRemit is bringing comfort to families separated by oceans, seas, mountains, and customs procedures through the form of a secure digital transfer mechanism that ensures needed funds are sent and received in a timely and safe manner.
Then there’s Katherine Lucey, founder of the Nigerian-based company Solar Sister a clean energy technology firm that empowers women through employment opportunities and pathways toward financial security. Working in three countries – Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania – Solar Sister is empowering women to invest in themselves and their communities. To date, the organization has worked with over 300,000 individuals across the continent and has employed just over 1,000 Solar Sister Entrepreneurs.
Finally, there's Nisha Ligon of Ubongo an "edutainment" company based in Tanzania. Noting the lack of education resources to millions of Tanzania’s children, Ligon developed an “edutainment” firm that brings quality taught educational programming directly to them. Every Saturday morning, thousands of young children gather around their televisions and interact with lively programming that aims to equip them with basic literacy and numeric skills. The positive effect that the Ubongo has had on Tanzania’s youth has led the program to expand across East Africa, unquestionably ensuring that millions of children experience the work of inspiring work of this innovative firm.
These entrepreneurs are serving a swath of the world’s population that has persistently been overlooked. They are examining the various issues that plague their continent and are presenting African solutions for Africa’s problems.
As Sally Osberg, President & CEO of The Skoll Foundation, has stated, "Social [innovative] entrepreneurs see possibility where others see problems. They are unapologetically ambitious, setting their sights not just on incremental improvements but on systems-level transformation. And to achieve their audacious ends, social entrepreneurs enroll those most vested in that transformation — people oppressed, marginalised, or constrained by an existing reality."
There are thousands of individuals across the continent that belong to Africa's rising "Innovative Class." In establishing innovative firms across the continent that are altering the very nature of African life, these individuals are laying the foundation for a new, transformed Africa. They are the continent's greatest resource.
By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
On May 29, 2015, esteemed author, activist, and speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addressed Wellesley College's graduating class. Her inspiring address explored the importance of self-worth, the power of determination, and the awe-inspiring role of tenacity that connects every human.
I wasn’t very interested in makeup until I was in my twenties, which is when I began to wear makeup. Because of a man. A loud, unpleasant man. He was one of the guests at a friend’s dinner party. I was also a guest. I was about 23, but people often told me I looked 12. The conversation at dinner was about traditional Igbo culture, about the custom that allows only men to break the kola nut, and the kola nut is a deeply symbolic part of Igbo cosmology.
I argued that it would be better if that honor were based on achievement rather than gender, and he looked at me and said, dismissively, “You don’t know what you are talking about, you’re a small girl.”
I wanted him to disagree with the substance of my argument, but by looking at me, young and female, it was easy for him to dismiss what I said. So I decided to try to look older.
So I thought lipstick might help. And eyeliner.
And I am grateful to that man because I have since come to love makeup, and its wonderful possibilities for temporary transformation.
So, I have not told you this anecdote as a way to illustrate my discovery of gender injustice. If anything, it’s really just an ode to makeup.
It’s really just to say that this: your graduation is a good time to buy some lipsticks—if makeup is your sort of thing—because a good shade of lipstick can always put you in a slightly better mood on dark days.
It’s not about my discovering gender injustice because of course I had discovered years before then. From childhood. From watching the world.
I already knew that the world does not extend to women the many small courtesies that it extends to men.
I also knew that victimhood is not a virtue. That being discriminated against does not make you somehow morally better.
And I knew that men were not inherently bad or evil. They were merely privileged. And I knew that privilege blinds because it is the nature of privilege to blind.
I knew from this personal experience, from the class privilege I had of growing up in an educated family, that it sometimes blinded me, that I was not always as alert to the nuances of people who were different from me
Victimhood is not a virtue. We can not always bend the world into the shapes we want but we can try, we can make a concerted and real and true effort. And you are privileged that, because of your education here, you have already been given many of the tools that you will need to try. Always just try. Because you never know.
And so as you graduate, as you deal with your excitement and your doubts today, I urge you to try and create the world you want to live in.
Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way.
Wellesley will open doors for you. Walk through those doors and make your strides long and firm and sure.
Write television shows in which female strength is not depicted as remarkable but merely normal.
Teach your students to see that vulnerability is a HUMAN rather than a FEMALE trait.
Commission magazine articles that teach men HOW TO KEEP A WOMAN HAPPY. Because there are already too many articles that tell women how to keep a man happy. And in media interviews make sure fathers are asked how they balance family and work. In this age of ‘parenting as guilt,’ please spread the guilt equally. Make fathers feel as bad as mothers. Make fathers share in the glory of guilt.
Campaign and agitate for paid paternity leave everywhere in America.
Hire more women where there are few. But remember that a woman you hire doesn’t have to be exceptionally good. Like a majority of the men who get hired, she just needs to be good enough.
All over the world, girls are raised to make themselves likeable, to twist themselves into shapes that suit other people.
Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like that twisted shape, and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you, as you are.
I am lucky that my writing has given me a platform that I choose to use to talk about things that I care about, and
The only acceptable way of wasting your time on earth is online shopping. I have said a few things that have not been so popular with a number of people. I have been told to shut up about certain things – such as my position on the equal rights of gay people on the continent of Africa, such as my deeply held belief that men and women are completely equal. I don’t speak to provoke. I speak because I think our time on earth is short and each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we do not mean because we imagine that is what somebody wants us to say, then we are wasting our time on earth.
I don’t mean to sound precious but please don’t waste your time on earth, but there is one exception. The only acceptable way of wasting your time on earth is online shopping.
Okay, one last thing about my mother. My mother and I do not agree on many things regarding gender. There are certain things my mother believes a person should do, for the simple reason that said person ‘is a woman.’ Such as nod occasionally and smile even when smiling is the last thing one wants to do. Such as strategically give in to certain arguments, especially when arguing with a non-female. Such as get married and have children. I can think of fairly good reasons for doing any of these. But ‘because you are a woman’ is not one of them. And so, Class of 2015, never ever accept ‘Because You Are A Woman’ as a reason for doing anything.
Finally I would like to end with a final note on the most important thing in the world: love.
Now girls are often raised to see love only as giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give AND to take.
Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence.
Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.
By: Deonta D. Wortham
Tomorrow, members of academia, business leaders, and countless civil servants will converge upon Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa to discuss a plethora of economic issues that face the African continent at the 25th World Economic Forum on Africa.
This year's forum, given the theme "Then and Now: Reimagining Africa’s Future," will have three central ‘pillars’: Enabling Markets, Marshalling Resources, and Inspiring Creativity. Focusing on these three area's the forum aims to improve, engage, and lastly inspire actors capable of optimizing the continent’s economic prospects.
Above all, this esteemed group of individuals is meeting to display an unprecedented commitment to the role that collaboration between private and public sectors will have on the African continent’s evolving development process in the coming decades.
Since the inaugural World Economic Forum on Africa in 1990, the continent has witnessed countless economic and societal advances. Across the continent, annual growth rates of 8% are the “new norm.” New economic opportunities are arising in the region’s bustling urban centers. Human capital development across the continent is increasingly seen as a priority by regional and national authorities. Lastly, a growing cohort of international actors are increasing investing in Africa’s burgeoning economies. In short, the past twenty-five years have produced a 'new' Africa.
However, countless issues still plague the continent.
Today, only 19% of Africa’s highways are paved. Nearly two-thirds of Africa’s burgeoning youth population have failed to acquire ‘equitable’ skills needed to enter the labor market. Numerous travel restrictions prevent African goods, and people, from crossing national borders in an efficient manner. Finally, fears of political instability and market fragility have limited the flow of foreign capital into many African markets.
These are longstanding issues that have existed for decades, it is up to the individuals attending this year’s World Economic Forum to collaboratively address concerns that are actively suppressing the African economy's development. Though not every development related issue will be solved over the course of three days, inclusive conversations and proactive discussions can certainly prompt exchanges on how to address these issues in the coming years.
The World Economic Forum serves an incubator for sustainable and transformative solutions. Here’s to a worthwhile conference, that will hopefully initiate transformative collaboration across the continent!