Galvanising Younger Africans into Action
I believe a lot in being inspired and galvanised into action by somebody, as this happened to me. I was meant to be a boring, conventional academic, but I abandoned academia and became a campaigner/ educator for African communities after hearing the late Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem speak on a BBC Radio 4 programme –Any Questions?
I was electrified when I listened to him. I had the weird impression that he was expressing everything I had been craving to say about Africa, African communities and the relationships between Africa and African communities with the West and the world for years. But he was doing it with so much vivacity, confidence and directness that I realised that he was so powerful because he was free. He was working for a think tank –Justice Africa- that gave him the freedom to speak up his mind, instead of restricting him as most academic institutions do.
I believe a lot in being inspired and galvanised into action by somebody, as this happened to me. I was meant to be a boring, conventional academic, but I abandoned academia and became a campaigner for African communities after hearing the late Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem speak on a BBC Radio 4 programme – Any Questions?
So I was humbled and delighted when a young member of the UK African Diaspora contacted me last week to tell me that she was so inspired after listening to my speech at the UK Parliament on 21st March 2012 that she had been galvanised into action. She was eager to start working towards the realisation of her ambition –securing investment for African communities-, instead of waiting for bigger financial means as she had been doing for some time.
She was asking for advice as to how to proceed to fulfil her vision. I was eager to help her within the remit of my modest means and knowledge. I wrote back to her very quickly, and gave her my advice in the form of seven main points. Then it occurred to me that there are millions of young Africans like her out there, seeking for guidance. This is why I decided to write this article, and share my thoughts, in the hope that others could read them, and be inspired and galvanised into action too.
So my advice to anybody seeking to realise their vision is as follows:
- There is no manual as to how you can fulfil your ambition, as each person’s background, experience and skills are different. The key is to know what you feel passionate about and want to achieve, and start working towards it immediately.
- You will make many mistakes and experience countless setbacks -the latter often triggered by people you thought you could trust-, but remember that just as success is not final, failure is not fatal. You just have to try to learn from your mistakes and start again.
- Know what your starting assets are, and build on them to fulfil your ambition. When I created African Peoples Advocacy (APA) in the UK in 2008, mine were the contacts I had made while working for a leading organisation, and the respect I enjoyed thanks to my reputation as a trustworthy and hard-working person. I knew that even if APA was new and had no money, these people would respect my organisation because I was involved in it, and they trusted me.
- Linked to point 3 is the need to know your weaknesses, so that you can seek how to compensate for them. As someone who wants to reach out to all African communities in the UK, I know that I am not yet connected to the grassroots of African communities because I have dealt mainly with policy and decision-makers so far, but not with groups that are really connected to the grassroots of UK African communities: churches.
- Networking is the key to everything. You need to be active in terms of attending events that the type of people who could help you are attending as well. It would be of no use if I were to give you the contact details of major philanthropists, funders and investors because (a) if it was only that, I would have all the money I need for my organisation, instead of operating from my home as I do right now; and (b) if I know about them, so do thousands and even millions of people. You calling or e-mailing them just because you have their contact details would only make you part of the thousands of people who beg them for money daily, and whose demands are routinely ignored or binned.But if you meet someone at a workshop, conference, reception etc, and impress them with your ideas, you stand out, and they themselves will contact you, or they will recommend you to somebody who can help you.
- Be prepared to invest in your dream, and give anything you can to get your idea started. If you yourself are not prepared to risk your money, time and other things to realise your dream, how can you expect other people to do that?
- And last but not least, grab any available opportunity to realise your ambition. I am sure there are plenty of opportunities out there.
Written in April 2012.