I love stories. I seek to tell them too. Stories of people and their culture, their ups and their downs, stories about life, love, patriotism, solidarity and just about anything. Therefore when I received an invite to attend the #YouthConnektAfrica Summit, the first thought that came to mind was the opportunity to tell new stories. I was going to a new country and while there, I would come face to face with diversity.
Therefore I sought a camera… I needed to document these stories. And a camera I got.
I arrived in Rwanda Wednesday morning, I experimented with the camera about what settings it had and what shades were better when—(I am no photographer neither have I taken lessons for it..It is something that I love to do for leisure–however I am now considering getting lessons in this field).
By Thursday, the camera and I were well acquainted, charged and ready to collect stories to tell back home. I entered the red-carpeted pathway leading into the complex. I was taking random pictures, of people walking up the stairs and rumps, others taking a look at the exhibition area, capturing emotion and excitement, capturing activity and motion too. When my Spirit said those were enough for the time being, seeing that we had an entire day ahead and yet it was just 9:15am. I shut the camera and let it hang around my neck.
A few meters into the auditorium, a lady smiled at me. She stopped me;
- Her: “Excuse me,
- Me: Yes?
- Her: Good-morning
- Me: Good-morning to you
- Her: Ummh.. Are you the lady photographer I am waiting for? I just spoke to you a while ago. She says this gesturing to her phone.
- Me: No it isn’t I. (I shake my head negatively)..
- Her: Oh.. Okay.. I will just wait on a little longer.
- Me: Okay then.. Have a great day.
We exchange smiles as I walk away. I head right into the fully packed auditorium. There are people everywhere. Some seated, others standing, some speaking into the phone, others talking to their immediate neighbors. There are people everywhere. I walk in and take a seat next to a man that later introduces himself as Robert, he is from Tanzania—He owns an ICT firm there. I introduce myself too and request him to watch my bags for me. He says it is okay.
The stage/podium looks set. There are five empty white seats. The Emcee was up the stage a while back asking people to maintain order as the conference shall commence soon. I walk to the place where there are a plenty of more media persons with cameras and audio mics. I stand there.. At this moment, I am angling the camera, taking shots… Shooting away, some pictures come out too zoomed in, others too bad, others professionally raw.
While at this, a feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn to see who it is, it is the lady I spoke to earlier.
- Her: Excuse me once again
- Me: Yes?
- Her: My name is Clari.
- Me: Okay. My name is Cynthia
- Her: I was waiting for a lady photographer that is supposed to take pictures of my boss but she unfortunately can not make it. Do you mind taking pictures of my boss?
- Me: Ummhh.. Okay.. Who is your boss?
- Her: He is one of the panelists. Tony Elumelu.
- Me: Okay. (But I don’t know who Tony Elumelu is)
- Her: Please get a few clips, pictures of him and what he says. Here is my card. How will I locate you?
- Me: I will be here. And as you can see, I am the only one here dressed in a green dress…
We laugh about it. She thanks me for taking on the assignment.
I start taking pictures of who I thought was “Tony Elumelu”. Sadly, I later found out that who I thought was Mr. Elumelu was instead Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa.… as he gave the opening remarks (haha)
When Tony Elumelu was introduced by the moderator of the plenary,…. I froze… I then searched for the card the lady had handed me. She is the head of Brands, communications and marketing at Heirs Holdings!! Wooowww, how did this blessing locate me?
So I gave my assignment my best energy, and I am glad the pictures came out stunning.
Later she asks how it went, and I tell her it all went amazing. She asks me to send her an email so we can chat more about the matter….
Here are a few take-aways from Tony Elumelu while at #YouthConnektAfrica
Tony Elumelu in company of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina(President of the African Development Bank), Vera Songwe(Executive Secretary on the Economic Commission on Africa) and Diane Karusisi(CEO, Bank Of Kigali) answered to the question – How do we get to 50 million jobs by 2020?
The soft spoken entrepreneur said that if we hope to get 50 million jobs by 2020, then we need to work together to create more entrepreneurs especially from among the youths. “The Tony Elumelu foundation realizes the importance of Youths to Africa. Therefore we identify, create and also mentor youths to become successful entrepreneurs to benefit Africa.” he stated.
“Africa needs to offer an enabling environment. There must be access to electricity, proper law structures and cross-border policies to enable free movement of goods among Africans. The goals we have set to have youths employed by 2020 require an integrated approach.” Tony Elumelu continued.
The young generation needs a lot of inspiration from their leaders. We cannot continue to fail our youth each day yet hope for a transformation of our continent. Young people are entering the job market, if we do not cater for them now, there is going to be insecurity not only in Africa but everywhere else in the world. Therefore as entrepreneurs, we need to support other budding entrepreneurs. This success is not only for an individual and his family but for Africa entirely.— Tony Elumelu
Mr. Elumelu further pointed out that if promoted, entrepreneurship and innovation among the youth can be an engine of social and economic transformation of Africa.
“I encourage young people in Africa to work hard and turn their entrepreneurial dreams into working businesses. African economies should create a conducive environment, and fix challenges like lack of access to finance, market and electricity, in order to enable the youth to exploit their talents,” he said.
He ended with this>> If we are serious about creating jobs in Africa, let’s come to the rescue of young African entrepreneurs. Tony Elumelu committed to mentoring young African entrepreneurs for the social economic transformation of Africa.
Tony Elumelu is a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. According to Wikipedia, he is worth US$700 Million. In 2010, Tony Elumelu launched the Tony Elumelu Foundation to spur Africa’s development through entrepreneurship and competitiveness.
In his words, he says– “As an entrepreneur myself, I understand what it feels like to yearn for a lifeline, to hope for a ‘big break’, to look forward to enjoying some luck. As a matter of fact, part of my own success is owed to someone that believed in me, and was prepared to invest in my talents and take a bet on my future. It is for this reason that I developed the economic philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions Africa’s private sector and most importantly entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the continent. Based on this guiding philosophy, we have launched successful programmes and forged meaningful partnerships with stakeholders across the globe.”
“In 2015, I heralded the ‘Decade of the African Entrepreneur’ by committing $100 million, to the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme – the first of its kind and scale in Africa. Since then, our alumni – across all 54 African countries – have begun growing businesses and improving lives, contributing to our goal of empowering 10,000 entrepreneurs who will collectively create one million jobs and generate $10 billion in revenue.
We are committed to giving from the perspective of empowering the recipient, rather than making them dependent on us, because prosperity is assured only when ALL Africans are financially independent. My vision for the Foundation is to unlock the obstacles that Africa’s entrepreneurs face, so that they, rather than aid agencies or governments will spur the continent’s transformation.
At the end of our 10-year commitment, thousands of businesses will grow and flourish, driving sustainable prosperity across Africa. This is my vision. I invite you ALL to learn about what the Foundation does, what we hope to do and to discover what we can do together. In doing so, I am confident that we will achieve sustainable development in Africa.”— This is Tony Elumelu’s story, What are you doing to have more than 50 million Africans employed to enable a sustainable and self-sustaining continent??
Meanwhile, Clari mentioned that if I had trouble recognizing who he would be among the panelists, I should look out for “A red tie and Red Socks”.. Must be his signature dress-cord.
Red Socks, Red Tie
P.S– I am honored to have been official photographer of Tony Elumelu on behalf of his team at the summit. He is a phenomenal man… Hand-claps for his life-changing works to the African continent.
Advice: Always carry a camera if you can, you never know who may need your help!!