Contents 5 | Holiday Gala 16 | AfriPRO Houston 16 17 20
Founder’s Word President’s Message 2009 At a Glance
24 | Feature 24 25
An Assessment of Social Progress in Africa Lighting Up Nigeria: Challenges & Opportunities
29 | Business & Economics 29
Costly Financial Mistakes: 5 Insurance & Financial Mistakes That Can Cost You Dearly
Spotlight Rwanda: Cautious Promise
32 | Socio-Political
ELCOME to the Maiden edition of The African Professional – Houston. The purpose of the Journal is to build upon the mission and vision of AfriPRO Houston and to continue to build a new positive image of and appreciation for Africa and Africans by informing, educating, empowering, and celebrating Africa and Africans through editorial pieces and special highlights. This stated purpose will be showcased through writings, art, and pictures that educate, empower, and celebrate Africa and people of African descent. We sincerely thank everyone who has submitted a piece for the maiden edition. Sharing original work is often personal and sensitive but these individuals have done it with ﬁnesse. This edition’s feature is “Africa’s Report Card: Successes and Challenges” and our aim is to show areas where Africans, nations in Africa, and Africa as a continent have worked to eﬀect positive change and what successes and challenges have resulted. Additionally, the Journal has ﬁve other sections that will be present in every issue: AfriPRO Houston, Business & Economics, Socio-Political, Arts & Leisure, and Editorial. Each section features original works submitted by readers, members, and our contributing editorial staﬀ. Lastly, I would like to thank each member of our editorial staﬀ for their contributions. Without their writing talents, attention to detail, and creativity, The African Professional – Houston, would not have been successfully launched. I sincerely thank you all. Modinat “Abby” Kotun Editor-in-Chief, The African Professional – Houston
Fire on the Niger Delta Mountain Community Non-Profit Organizations
38 | Arts & Leisure 38 39 39 41 42 44
One on One with Lola Ogunnaike Tomorrow Arise O’ Compatriots Life Interrupted Somi: In Her Own Words The Perfect Picture: A Breath of Fresh Air
46 | Editorial
Africans in America: Trends in Post-Secondary Education Solicitations Managing Editor Abiola Afolayan Submission Managing Editor Fisayo Fadelu Articles Managing Editor Abdul Ibrahim Articles Editor Barile Karanwi Layout Editor Yvonne Pearse
The entire Editorial Committee, the Editorin-Chief, and I are pleased to bring you the inaugural (Gala) edition of The African Professional – Houston. It is our hope that, with this Journal, we are able to appeal to a wide readership, while presenting interesting, apposite, and informative articles. AfriPRO Houston has been very active this year – we have included some pictures and narrative of our programs and activities inside this Gala edition of the Journal. On behalf of the Editorial Committee, I would like to join the Editor-in-Chief in thanking all those who contributed articles to this Gala edition; you made the publication possible. I encourage AfriPRO Houston members and non-members to contribute articles to upcoming editions of the Journal. Thank you. Folake Ayoola Executive Editor, The African Professional – Houston The African Professional – Houston (ISSN 2152-0593) is a biannual publication by AfriPRO Houston. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in part or whole for any use whatsoever without the permission of the publisher. For reprint information, email email@example.com. Opinions expressed in The African Professional – Houston do not necessarily express those of The African Professional – Houston or AfriPRO Houston. No information in this journal shall be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The publication of any advertisement, advertorial, or article by The African Professional – Houston does not constitute an endorsement of that product, service, or position. The African Professional – Houston reserves the right to refuse any article, advertisement, or advertorial. Only the publication of an article or advertisement shall constitute final acceptance.
Graphics Contributor Emeka Nwogu Graphic Design/Layout Timi Owobowale Print Production Nestto Graphics
December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
Kuumba House, Inc. (Kuumba House) was founded in 1982 and incorporated as a Texas non-profit, taxexempt organization in 1984. Kuumba House Dance Theatre (KHDT) is a community-based performing arts organization whose mission is to produce, preserve, present, create and teach African-centered art forms of dance, theater, music, visual arts and other creative expression. Through its programming, KHDT is committed to educating children and adults about the value of cultural arts and promoting cultural diversity.
Call for the information below:
- College Show booking information
(office and dance studio)
- High School Show booking information
Houston Texas 77004
- Kuumba House Residency Activities
Tel: 713 -524-1079 Fax: 713 -524-9170
- Children dance class and life skill program - Adult dance Class - Kwanzaa concert
email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.kuumbahousedancetheatre.org
Order of Events Cocktail Hour Introduction of Host, Ebbe Bassey Invocation Pastor P. T. Ngwolo
Dinner Served | Silent Auction Entertainment Kuumba House Dance Theatre
Opening Remarks Folake Ayoola, Esq., AfriPRO Houston Founder
The Endeavor for Hope Foundation Ada Echetebu, The Endeavor for Hope Foundation Founder
Chioma Nwogu Holiday Gala Committee Chair
Desola Adesina Ugonna Anosike Henrietta Ayewoh
Scholarship Presentation Okechukwu Ofili, Professional Development Officer
Entertainment Driven Under the Influence
Presentation of Awards Community Hero Award – Charles Duze Chioma Nwogu, Holiday Gala Committee Chair
Image Award – Stephanie Okereke
Kingsley Ewetuya, Networking Officer
Modinat “Abby” Kotun
Chioma Nwogu, Holiday Gala Committee Chair
Community Hero Award – Uche Baker Merit Award – Dr. Kase Lawal Kingsley Ewetuya, Networking Officer
Chigozie Obichuku Bisi Odunbaku Okechukwu Ofili
Distinguished Professional Award – Kenneth Yellowe Kingsley Ewetuya, Networking Officer
Member of the Year Award – Humphrey Nnadiotu Uchenna Udobi, Vice President
Officer of the Year Award – Okechukwu Ofili
Uchenna Udobi, Vice President Abby Kotun, President
Special Guest Speaker Chimamanda N. Adichie
Donations | Silent Auction Results | Raffle Drawing Fashion Show Estella Couture
Vote of Thanks Decemberr 20099 The African Professional – Houston
HSF HOPESHARE FOUNDATION, INC. Sustaining our future through education and healthcare! www.hopesharefoundation.org
A non-profit organization with a focus on serving the community, HopeShare Foundation, Inc. identifies and cultivates resources that help restore hope and meaning to the lives of individuals and groups that lack access to functional education and medical opportunities in Nigeria. Through these initiatives, we seek to build capacity by engaging the community, especially the youths as stakeholders in community development. We encourage active participation through esprit de corps, to serve our whole community in building the knowledge base necessary to acquire new skills and build human capacity for an improved and sustainable quality of life. HopeShare Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit Organization established and registered in the State of Georgia, in 2004.
Louis Ebodaghe President (404) 343-9776
AfriPRO Houston Merit Award Honoree,
Dr. Kase Lawal The Merit Award is AfriPRO Houston’s most prestigious award and is reserved for a person with accomplishments on a national and international scale; someone who has made public statements; and has had a positive impact in the African community generally. This year, AfriPRO Houston is honored to present the award to Dr. Kase Lawal for his remarkable career and outstanding achievements in the energy industry. His concern for fellow Africans as reflected in his measured and invaluable interventions regarding the social and economic conditions on the African continent, particularly in Nigeria, are inspirational.
Dr. Kase L. Lawal is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CAMAC International Corporation, a global energy corporation withinterests in oil and gas exploration and production, engineering services and crude oil and refined products trading for markets in Africa, Europe, South America and North America. He is also the Chairman of Allied Energy Corporation and the Vice Chairman of the Unity National Bank Board of Directors, the only licensed and federally insured African-American owned bank in Texas. He is a major shareholder in the bank. CAMAC has consistently ranked on the Forbes Magazine list of the 400 largest privately-owned corporations in the United States and on the Black Enterprise Magazine list as the second largest African-American owned company in the United States. In 2006, CAMAC was named the Company of the Year by Black Enterprise Magazine and in 2008 was named the ninth largest privately owned companies by the Houston Chronicle. CAMAC has affiliate offices located in Bogotá, Colombia; London, England; Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, Nigeria; and Johannesburg, South Africa. The corporate headquarters is located in Houston, Texas. CAMAC’s annual revenues in 2008 were $2.43 billion. Committed to community service, Dr. Lawal provides key leadership on several boards and commissions, including as a Commissioner on the Port of Houston Authority Board, where he served as the first-ever African Vice Chairman of the largest Seaport in foreign tonnage in the United States with over $92 billion dollars in cargo value. He is also the Vice Chairman of the Houston Airport System Development Corporation (HASDC), the fourth largest airport system in the United States, a member of the Board of Directors for
the Port of Houston Authority International Corporation and the Greater Houston Partnership Board of Directors. In addition, Dr. Lawal serves as a member of the National Urban League Board of Directors, a member of the Board of Trustees for Fisk University, a director with the Cullen Engineering Research Foundation and a trustee for The Kinkaid School, a leading national preparatory school. He also co-chairs Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS, a $300 million dollar UNICEF campaign with his wife Eileen Lawal. He has been very active in developing international trade relations with Africa. He was an appointee to the United States Council on the Business Development Committee of the United States-South Africa Bi-national Commission and the United States Trade Advisory Committee on Africa; served on the Board of Directors of the Corporate Council on Africa; and participated in trade missions to Africa on behalf of the President of the United Sates and the United States Secretary of Commerce. Dr. Lawal funded a one million dollar endowment, the largest single contribution for an alumnus of Texas Southern University, to establish the Lawal Center for Global Trade in the Jesse H. Jones School of Business. He also established a petroleum engineering endowment at the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering for petroleum engineering students. He is a graduate of Texas Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and Prairie View A&M University with a master’s degree in business administration, finance and marketing. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in Philosophy from Fort Valley State University and a Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from Texas Southern University. December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
Holiday Gala Speacial Guest Speaker
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an acclaimed Nigerian writer. She comes from Abba in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria. Chimamanda is a 2008 MacArthur Fellow. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published in 2003 and won the Best First Book award in the 2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/ Wright Legacy Award. It was also short-listed for the Orange Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and long-listed for the Booker Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in Granta, Prospect, and The Iowa Review among other literary journals. She received an O. Henry Prize in 2003. Chimamanda’s second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, named after the flag of the short-lived Biafran nation, which will soon be made into an Hollywood movie, is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in 2006 and was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction. The novel was well received by critics; it was noted in The New York Times “100 Most Notable Books of the Year.” In a review for The Seattle Times, Mary Brennan highlights the book as “A sweeping story that provides both a harrowing history lesson and an engagingly human narrative”. The Guardian’s Kate Kellaway said “An immense achievement, Half of a Yellow Sun has a ramshackle freedom and exuberant ambition,” after reviewing the war based book. Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe reviewed the book, saying “We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers” about the young aspiring writer. He also says: “She is fearless, or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria’s civil war.” Her third book is a collection of short stories titled The Thing Around Your Neck was published in April 2009 and has gotten great reviews from critics.
December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
AfriPRO Houston Distinguished Professional Award Honoree, The Distinguished Professional Award is the newest award with which we recognize distinguished Houstonians who have excelled in their fields and made indelible contributions to the development of their communities. This year, AfriPRO Houston is honored to present the award to Kenneth Yellowe. He is a well-known international entrepreneur and among the most dynamic businessmen currently operating on the African continent. He has founded and led successful companies over the years, including those founded in his homeland of Nigeria to those in the United States. Mr. Yellowe served as Partner for a hydrocarbon trading company in the Republic of Nigeria before relocating to Houston, Texas in the early 80’s for studies. In 1987, Mr. Yellowe joined Credit Systems International, Inc (CSI) as Partner and Vice President and later served as President and CEO of Best Marketing, Inc. In 1997, Mr. Yellowe founded Global Energy USA Inc., where he currently serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Yellowe is also founder of Abuja Global Gas Company and
Kenneth Yellowe Global Gas & Refining Ltd, which is operationally headquartered out of the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, an area internationally recognized as one of the most prolific petroleum producing regions in the world. As founder and owner of Abuja Global Gas Company and Global Gas & Refining Ltd, Mr. Yellowe’s companies represent the largest and only independent, indigenously owned, gas processors and LPG producers in Nigeria. In addition to Mr. Yellowe’s active role as Chairman of various international energy companies, he avidly pursues his life-long dream of empowering the less fortunate in the local populations in which he operates: Houston and Nigeria. Mr. Yellowe, the Philanthropist, actively shares and promotes his commitment to be socially responsible through educational, cultural, environmental and healthcare development programs. He serves on numerous boards, civic and community organizations, advisory councils and foundations. He is regularly invited by national and international organizations to speak on business and social issues. He has been written about and quoted in several local and international publications including the Houston Business Journal, Wall Street Journal, Vanguard, ThisDay and US Africa.
AfriPRO Houston Image Award Honoree,
Stephanie Okereke The Image Award recognizes a person who is building a new positive image of and appreciation for Africa and Africans. This year, AfriPRO Houston is honored to present the award to Stephanie Okereke. Stephanie Okereke, the A-list actress with an infectious personality, is the sixth child of eight children. She has always entertained her family but now she entertains the world. In 1997, she featured in two films titled Compromise 2 and Waterloo. A year later she took a break from acting, pursued and received her degree in English and literary studies from the University of Calabar, Nigeria. Not long after, she got a call from Nollywood to act in Teco Benson’s movie Terror. The rest as they say is history. In 2002, Stephanie won 2nd place in The Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria beauty pageant, putting her on the map. The next year, she won the Reel Awards Best Actress English and Reel Awards Best Actress of the Year. Stephanie’s’ features include Private Sin, Eye of the Gods, Reloaded, and Adora which was shot in South Africa. Stephanie made her mark with the movie
Emotional Crack which premiered at the African Film Festival (New York) in April 2004. With over 90 films to her name, Stephanie continues to build her brand in the movie industry. A recent graduate of the New York Film Academy, she has expanded her title to include Director, Producer and Writer with the introduction of her latest movie, Through the Glass which premiered on October 18, 2008 at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood, California. Stephanie received a Recognition Award from the California State Legislature and the city of Carson for the movie Through the Glass. In April 2009, she received a Jewel Award at the 6th Annual African Goodwill Awards for her positive representation of African women through her charity work and her evolving movie career. Legendary singer Chaka Khan, actor Isaiah Washington, comedian & actress M’onique, and iconic soloist Hope Foye attended the event. Stephanie’s passion for community service continues to inspire her dedication to bringing awareness to many issues that need focus in Africa and around the world. Stephanie is also the CEO of Next Page Productions (www.nextpageproductions.com) and currently an executive of DEL YORK International, a media and marketing communications company. Del-York international will be bringing the New York Film Academy to Nigeria, for a onemonth intensive workshop to help inspire the next generation of filmmakers. For more information, please visit www.delyorkinternational.com. December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
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Cultural Entertainment by Actress DRIVEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (DUI) is an ensemble group of singers, musicians and dancers from Africa and the African Diaspora, who bring a refreshing word of encouragement through songs performed primarily in African languages. We believe that words don’t get lost in translation when we sing in our mother tongue: they stir the soul and take you to a primordial place. A place of true vulnerability.
ESTELLA COUTURE’s designs are unique, trendy and exotic. Her designs bring a breathe of fresh attitude on all runways. Estella’s styles & fabric creativity are standout designs and engaging fashion dynamics. She uses African fabrics/textiles to create awesome designs. Estella Couture launched with a bang in 2005, and within a very short period became well known for her elegant, versatile and sculpted evening gowns and traditional pieces. Unmistakably classic, yet fresh, Estella Couture designs offer creative fashion options to the young sophisticated, fashionforward woman who dares to express an uncommon style. Her designs rendered in unusual fabric blends are imbibed with cultural earthy tones and textures. Her elegant red carpet ready ensembles range from vibrantly colored silks to African prints. With designs inspired by the ethnic and exotic found in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe, Estella Couture has mastered the creative afro-centric design worn for all occasions.
Host Ebbe Bassey was born in the Bronx but raised across the Atlantic in the city of Calabar, Nigeria, West Africa. She attended the William Esper Studio and under the tutelage of the estimable Maggie Flanigan, honed her craft as a method actor. Ms. Bassey went on to be a cofounding member of the Tupu Kweli Theatre Company through which she explored socially conscious works such as the award nominated Reality, TRAPPED, Guilty But Mentally Ill, One and Wish. She has worked with esteemed companies such as the Classical Theatre of Harlem (Medea), Manhattan Theatre Source (Swift Encounter), and 29th Street Rep/PACT (Issues). Ms. Bassey has been profiled in magazines and newspapers such as the Nigerian Sunday Guardian, Daily Independence’s Positive People, Momentum MV magazine, LadyBrille Blogspot and Obaasema magazine. She is currently working on pre-production for her second short film, “Saving Father” that will explore the theme of HIV/AIDS amongst senior citizens.
December 20099 The African Professio onal – Houston
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AfriPRO Houston Community Heroes,
Uche Baker & Charles Duze
The Community Hero recognition is reserved d ffor people l who h h have served d in the h community with h their h time and d energy and whose efforts benefit the African community. This year, AfriPRO Houston is honored to recognize Uche Baker and Charles Duze as its community heroes.
Uche Baker has worked as an assistant for Houston Surgical Group for the past 23 years in Houston. She has also been dedicated to the “Save the Children” program for over 20 years, the first ten years of her involvement being sporadic and spent as a hobby. After her 1998 diagnosis with Stage 4 breast cancer, “Save the Children” became her life endeavor. She prayed and said, “God if you help me survive this I will dedicate my life to saving children.” After being declared cancer free in 1999, Uche Baker did just that and has provided thousands toys to and meals for poor children in Obosi, Anambra State, Nigeria. Also, her charity recruited a team of plastic surgeons to donate over $100,000 plastic surgery services to a Nigerian girl born with a severe facial defect that threatened her life and emotional well being. For her eﬀorts, Uche was honored as a Hollywood’s MGM Studios “Heroes Among Us.” Uche Baker also received an award from the Obosi Development Union International acknowledging her, not only in the U.S., but also in the European and West African chapters.
Charles Duze grew up in Nigeria, where he developed a real understanding and passion for the plight of orphans. One of the defining moments of Charles’ childhood occurred when he saw children going through the garbage behind his high school cafeteria in search of food. He planned on starting a nonprofit to help the needy once he made his fortune, but later determined he could help without immense wealth. In addition to his full time position as a software engineer at Microsoft, Charles started LittleDrops Orphanage Fund in 2005 with the idea that every child should have the best chance at a successful future. LittleDrops, through generous donations and incredible volunteers, provides orphans and vulnerable children with support in their formative years. The orphans are provided food, clothing, and education, which would in turn improve their chances of a bright future. From the time it was founded, LittleDrops has gone from supporting 6 orphanage homes to 26 throughout Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda) and has helped over 2,000 children.
AfriPRO Houston Officer & Member of the Year,
Humphrey Nnadiotu & Okechukwu Ofili Humphrey Nnadiotu grew up in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria where he pursued his passion of football (soccer) while struggling through school. Raised in a lower middle class family, he missed the comforts some of his wealthier friends enjoyed but he was also blessed with the ability to count his blessings and to appreciate the little things. Living next to him were other less privileged kids who had to hawk oranges, mangos, or whatever fruit was in season to be able to pay their own school fees. To them, he was rich and his friendship, his kind words, and his smile were priceless. He came to learn that as much as he missed the comforts that wealth could provide, he was very fulfilled by the positive impact he could make on the lives of others. He has since dedicated himself to finding small ways to create that positive impact on the lives of others by being a friend and doing volunteer work. For Humphrey fulfillment is always greater than the effort. Humphrey has been an invaluable part of the AfriPRO Houston membership. He has served on the Houston African Business Expo committee, the Holiday Gala committee, and has always been willing to lend a hand when needed. Humphrey holds the United States Soccer Federation national”D”, “C” and “B” coaching licenses and has coached and inspired youth across the state and internationally. He also holds a BBA Accounting degree from the University of Houston. Humphrey currently runs his own travel business The Diotu Group (TDG) Travel.
Okechukwu Ofili is AfriPRO Houston’s Professional Development Officer. He is a design engineer in the Manifolds Group of FMC Technologies. He graduated from the University of Houston in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Outside of work Ofili spends his time giving back to the community through his website www.ofilispeaks.com which he created to assist students to get through college. Ofili is an avid writer and speaker, he enjoys reading and playing soccer. Ofili is well deserving of the Officer of the Year title. He has planned and executed numerous Professional Development events including Financial Empowerment Series 2.0 and Getting Heard at Work. He has also gone above and beyond the call of duty by chairing the Houston African Business Expo and the Scholarship committee. Without his invaluable contributions, our success this year would not have been possible. December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
AfriPRO Houston 2009 BOARD OF DIRECTORS Obiamaka Anyaegbu Director
Folasayo “Babs” Ayoola Director
Temitope Ayoola Director
Abayomi “Qudus” Majiyagbe Director
Oluwaseun Oyeniran Director
Modinat “Abby” Kotun Director
MEMBERS ON BOARD COMMITTEES:
Nkem Oji Fundraising/Marketing/Membership
Temilolu Ayoola Journal & Mentoring
Henry Nwabuzor Gala/Awards
Humphrey Nnadiotu Professional Development
Perry Mason Website
n behalf of AfriPRO Houston (AH), I am delighted to welcome you to our 3rd Annual Holiday Gala. Thank you for supporting us with your presence as we celebrate AH’s continued progress in advancing its mission and objectives, recognize the achievements of our award recipients, and raise funds for The Endeavor for Hope Foundation. We are honored that our guests this evening include public oﬃcials, philanthropists, corporate executives and leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals, volunteers, family and friends, and are delighted that our Special Guest Speaker is the internationally acclaimed writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At diﬀerent points in our lives, we all have been called to sacriﬁce that which is so precious – our time and resources – for causes in which we believe and for the common good of others in our communities. Some ﬁnd it easy to take on such responsibilities, while others ﬁnd it a deep challenge. Whichever is the case for each of us, I want to appreciate and congratulate AH’s Leadership for stepping up to the task in 2009. It has been an incredible year. In 2008, AH Board approved, and at our 2nd Annual Holiday Gala I promised that we would launch our Mentoring Program, Scholarship Program, and Journal. Under the direction of our exceptional president, Abby Kotun, and with the hard work of members of all committees, particularly the Executive Committee, we launched the said programs and were able to achieve all we set out to achieve. With the navigation of the Board and the tireless eﬀorts of the Executives, we exceeded all our expectations for 2009, including becoming a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-proﬁt organization. With our 6th year in sight, we are deeply focused on expanding our membership base and we will continue to pursue the advancement of our mission with greater vigor. We will strengthen our established programs and will continue to honor our commitment by organizing business and professional networking events as well as community focused programming. This year, the Board created a new award category – Distinguished Professional – and today, we continue with our tradition of honoring the eﬀorts of remarkable individuals and begin the tradition of awarding outstanding high school seniors and college students with the AH Scholarship Award. Congratulations to all our well deserving 2009 award recipients. This year has been such a paradox of experiences. On the one hand we have been able to accomplish so much, while on the other hand, we were faced with the grim reality of the economic downturn which has signiﬁcantly impacted fundraising for most non-proﬁt organizations. It is on this note that I would like to thank all our sponsors, as well as all other individuals and organizations who have stood with us and supported our activities, and those who have contributed to the success of this event. We greatly appreciate your support and goodwill, and thank you for identifying with the ideals of our association. I thank AH members–particularly those who powered AH Committees, who attended our events (or contributed to our programming) and those of you here tonight – for your continued support. I appreciate the relentless eﬀorts of the Holiday Gala Committee in organizing this wonderful event. I am profoundly grateful to the Board for your service and to the Executives for your hard work and dedication. This year could not have been the success it was without you. Thank you! As we proceed with the task set before us, we go with the trust and conﬁdence you have placed in us to lead AH. We are mindful of the challenges that lie ahead but are incredibly attentive to the numerous opportunities available to be harnessed for the organization. We humbly ask that you continue to support us with your time, eﬀorts, and resources. I wish you all a splendid evening, a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in advance. Enjoy AH’s hospitality.
Folake Ayoola, Esq. Founder & Chair of the Board of Directors President (2005 – 2007)
16 6 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston Fisayo Fadelu Scholarship Fund
2009 EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Uchenna Udobi Vice President
2009 HAS BEEN A WHIRLWIND YEAR for AfriPRO Houston: cultural belly dancing at Betz Gallery; learning to save “ﬁves��� at the Financial Empowerment Series 2.0; hearing about African relationships ﬁrst hand from experienced couples and individuals; the ﬁrst ever Houston African Business Expo; hosting Nigeria’s Speaker of the House at the Vegas Nigerian Dialogs, an SAT book drive; and now, honoring seven deserving individuals tonight and hearing from renowned author Chimamanda Adichie. We also received our 501(c)(3) non-proﬁt charity status enabling our members and the community to make tax-deductible donations toward our ﬁrst scholarships, and other programs that fulﬁll our mission. December 2009 marks the second year of my two-year term. All I can say is THANK YOU! Thank You God for never leaving us. Thank you Executive Committee for your ideas, your follow through, and your patience. Thank you Madame Founder, Folake Ayoola, for your tireless eﬀorts even from several states away and for your long-term vision for the organization. Thank you Board of Directors for taking care of the longer-term so that the Oﬃcers could take care of the shorter-term; it worked out well. Thank you volunteers on the various committees—you brought a fresh perspective and helped us keep up the momentum. Thank you donors, sponsors, and vendors – your ﬁnancial support enables us to fulﬁll our mission and without it, our successes this year would be impossible. Thank you Chioma Nwogu, Gala Committee Chair, for making the collective dream for this year’s gala a reality. Last but not least, thank you MEMBERS— AfriPRO Houston is not a network of African professionals without you. I thank you for having a stake in the game by paying your membership dues. I thank you for heeding the calls to action and participating. And I thank you for building a new positive image of and appreciation for Africa and Africans. It is to you, fellow AfriPRO Houston members (past, present, and future), that I pose this question and challenge:
Ugonwanne Onwudiegwu Treasurer
Joyce Olewe Secretary
Okechukwu Ofili Professional DevelopmentOﬃcer
Kingsley Ewetuya Networking Oﬃcer
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? AfriPRO Houston is uniquely poised to use the power of our African community to positively aﬀect Houston, the United States, Africa, and the world. My challenge to you is to dream big for AfriPRO Houston and to get deeply involved. Run for an oﬃce. Join a committee. Propose ideas. Grow the network. Use your network. Do what you would if you knew you couldn’t fail.
Susan Osude Public Relations Oﬃcer
Thank you, Modinat “Abby” Kotun 2008-2009 President, AfriPRO Houston
Joyce Olewe Humphrey Nnadiotu Marvin Mbamalu MENTORING PROGRAM COMMITTEE
Uchenna Udobi, Mentoring Program Chair
Ifeyinwa “Ify” Igboanugo
December 200099 The African Professional – Houston
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December 20099 The African Professional â€“ Houston
friPRO Houston was founded in 2005 as a chapter of the Global African Professionals Network (AfriPRO). Experiencing steady growth since inception, our programming now reaches hundreds of professionals in the Greater Houston area and beyond. Our membership consists of attorneys, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, nurses, accountants, IT specialists, and entrepreneurs, to mention but a few.
Our 2009 Programming Community Outreach & Service AfriPRO Houston seeks to support and promote in African professionals a sense of responsibility toward their communities and provide them with opportunities to engage in charitable activities and community based programming. Below are some examples of our programming: • The AfriPRO Houston Mentoring Program is a structured program designed to give our members the platform to support the development of one another and others who are less experienced. In this program, we matched mentors with mentees to support speciﬁc goals including leadership development and career path selection and provided group opportunities for mentoring to take place.
aimed to educate our members and the community atlarge about how to “Survive the Global Recession”. This year’s topics included Financial Planning, Keeping Your Job, Taxes, and Real Estate Investment during a recession. • Our second workshop of the year, Getting Heard at Work, enabled members to improve their public speaking by giving attendees the opportunity to practice their speech skills in the company of experts and having those skills constructively critiqued.
Professional Networking AfriPRO Houston hosts monthly professional networking events to foster and promote in African professionals, among other things, a sense of responsibility toward their communities. The year 2009 has been ﬁlled with many activities designed to cater to the diverse tastes of our members. Some of the activities: • March - “Culture, Cocktails and Conversation” – Members viewed and purchased the ﬁne works of art displayed, enjoyed wine with scrumptious hors d’oeuvres, and participated in a cultural lesson in bellydancing. • June – “Before You Get Married” - A moderated panel that included newlyweds, a long married couple, and divorcees were on hand to share their views and experiences and everyone left illuminated.
• We volunteered multiple times at the Beacon helping with client intake, preparing lunch, and laundry for homeless individuals in Houston.
• October – “Spotlight Karaoke” – Brave AfriPRO Houston members participated in this team-building-like networking event.
• Earlier in the year, we partnered with another organization to assist with SAT tutoring and also provided 39 SAT study books for the students.
Professional Development & Educational Workshops We seek to foster a stimulating and interactive environment for African professionals to grow in their local community and we encourage professional excellence in the workplace by fostering individual development. In addition, we help facilitate increased communication, interaction, and the exchange of ideals among African professionals, enabling them to learn new skills and acquire knowledge from each other. Below are some examples of our programming: • The 2009 Financial Empowerment Series (FES) was
This year, AfriPRO Houston collaborated with the Nigerian Reunion Corporation to host “Nigerian Dialogs: Resourcing and Rebranding.” The program’s educational seminars focused on educating and empowering the attendees to consider professional, developmental, marketing and business opportunities in and for the continent of Africa. It also served as a community forum to explore issues that aﬀect Nigerians in the Diaspora. Panelists of the event included members of the ﬁeld of business, nonproﬁt and government, including Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Honorable Demiji Bankole and Chair of the House Sub-Committee on the Diaspora Abike Dabiri. The event contd. on pg. 23 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
AfriPRO Houston was well attended gathering a rousing crowd from college youths to veteran professionals with keen ideas for Nigeria. The end product was a communiqué delivered to Chairwoman Dabiri to help shape future decisions by the Nigerian House. Thank you to the following Nigerian Dialogs Committee Members: Ngozi Otum, Chair; Nekpen Osuan; and Abby Kotun.
HABE The purpose of the Houston African Business Expo (HABE) is to showcase African owned businesses to the Houston community and to provide business development expertise to current and future business owners. On August 22, 2009, AfriPRO Houston, in conjunction with the African Business Council, hosted the event at the International Trade Center in Houston. The event drew over 150 attendees and 30 businesses in the exhibition hall. From Graphic Artists and Event Planners to Financial Advisors and Oil and Gas Servicing Companies, Houstonians were able to see the diverse services Africans oﬀer in the metropolitan area. The HABE also featured a series of seminars and workshops designed to equip businesses for success particularly in light of the recent economic downturn. Attendees were able to interact with speakers and address particular matters germane to their businesses or careers. The event was a smashing success and AfriPRO Houston looks forward to an even more successful event next year. AfriPRO Houston expresses its most profound thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Edebor of the African Business Council and to the members of the University of Houston Chapter of the Nigerian Students Association for their unwavering support. Thank you to the following HABE Committee Members: Okechukwu Oﬁli, Chair; Nkem Oji, Co-Chair; Abby Kotun; Eghosa Edebor; Tina Edebor; Kingsley Ewetuya; Ozzie Ilaboya; Humphrey Nnadiotu; Afolabi Ogunnaike; and Nene Otum.
Scholarship Program We launched our Scholarship Program in 2009 to alleviate the rising costs of college education by awarding scholarships to graduating high school seniors entering accredited colleges and universities, and students who are already enrolled in accredited colleges. We are proud to honor our 2009 recipients at our 3rd Annual Holiday Gala. We would like to thank everyone who donated to this year’s Scholarship Fund. Silver Donors: Folake Ayoola, Okechukwu Oﬁli; Bronze Donors: Abby Kotun, Jude Nwoko, Ehis Otoikhine; Community Donors: Abiola Afolayan, Temi Ofuya, Afolabi Ogunnaike, David Soneye.
2009 Scholarship Recipients: AfriPRO Houston Gold Scholar
Lotanna IKEOTUONYE is currently a senior at Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions. In the near future, she would like to become a Pediatrician with ambitions to open her own free clinics in Nigeria and the United States.
AfriPRO Houston Silver Scholars
Kasie IFESINACHUKWU is currently a senior at Westlake High School. In collaboration with her church, she started an educational foundation that sends basic supplies to schools in Nigeria.
Mbere MONJOK is an Economics and International Relations student at the University of Texas at Austin. She hopes to work for the United Nations and help governments of third-world countries.
Chinedu I. ANYAEJI is a Biomedical Engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin. Outside of class, he participates in scientiﬁc research and loves to read, write, and draw.
December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
An Assessment of
SOCIAL PROGRESS IN
AFRICA ABDUL IBRAHIM
he deplorable conditions in many of the nations that make up the African continent make it diﬃcult to gauge signiﬁcant progress in the lives of inhabitants in those nations. Outdated and unproductive beliefs touted by leaders – such as Moamar Gaddaﬁ’s recent claim of swine ﬂu being a military weapon – hinder any real progress from being made toward alleviating the social ills aﬄicting the African continent, including epidemics, poverty, human rights and illiteracy. In the absence of signiﬁcant improvements, the only yardstick that can be used as an indicator of social advancement is the collective eﬀorts of some African governments and foreign organizations to better the lives of Africans victimized by the sometimes devastating state of aﬀairs. In connection with these collective eﬀorts, the few signs of commitment to social progress displayed in certain African nations and regions have been encouraging. They include: • As noted on its website, the Clinton Foundation along with other organizations, partnered with the Rwandan government to renovate an abandoned hospital into a fully functioning hospital that now serves 265,000 people. • Statistics from the United Nations indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, enrollment in primary education has increased by 15% from 2000 to 2007. The AIDS epidemic, while still of foremost concern in on the continent, is being tackled headon by certain global and regional initiatives. Certain regions are beginning to see some stability, and in some countries like Uganda, even a reduction in the incidence and prevalence of the AIDS epidemic. • Some regions are also witnessing an improvement in human rights. The recent power-sharing political ar24 4 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
rangement in Zimbabwe has been deemed somewhat successful, with supporters pointing to a reduction in human rights violations against the media and political opposition. • Also, the movement for female empowerment got a major boost from the election of Africa’s ﬁrst female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. Sadly, such signs of improvement have not been translated into social successes in other African nations. Too many reminders remain of Africa’s inability to move past the hurdles aﬀecting its many communities. UNICEF reports that 21 African nations have adult literacy rates below 50 percent and, in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, about 45 million children remain uneducated. The continent continues to lose lives – at an alarming rate – in civil unrests motivated by tribalism and poverty. Governments undermine the legitimacy of their judicial systems by routinely ignoring due process, as seen recently in the Nigerian Boko Hiram crisis. Since it can be argued that the eﬀorts of these African governments and foreign organizations have yielded little or no results, there is no way the continent can be graded above a D – poor, with signiﬁcant room for improvement. While the steady stream of support is promising, there is still daily evidence of the continent’s blatant disregard for human life, lack of attention to poverty, and an unacceptable level of illiteracy. Africa remains mired in poverty and while witnesses to this stagnation wonder if it will ever change; victims know that their lives and those of their unborn generations depend on it.
NIGERIA: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES
he importance of electricity to the quality of life manifests itself in its impact on productivity and economic growth. Nigerians have found ways to cope with the challenges of unstable electricity supply for over 35 years. The visible eﬀorts of successive government to address these challenges have been well publicized and very costly. Unfortunately, these have failed to make a positive impact on the problem. The cost to public enterprises, private enterprises, and consumers is tremendous and has yielded no economic return. More devastating is the impact of having hundreds of thousands of standby diesel generators on the environment and on the health of the people. The current government, like other governments in the past, has adopted a development slogan: 20-20-20. That is, the nation will be one of the 20 major economies in the world by the year 2020. For Nigeria to reach this goal, the importance of electricity to economic growth and social development must be understood. The state of the electricity sector in Nigeria is not surprising when its operating facilities are compared with those of other African countries. South Africa, with a population of 49 million, has installed capacity of 40,000 MW with a dynamic capacity growth plan. Its electric utility, Eskom, will spend $53 billion to build additional facilities over the next four years. Ghana, with a population of approximately 22 million, has installed capacity of 1,800 MW. Nigeria, with a population of 140 million, has
I3M Power Systems Limited, Victoria Island, Lagos
an installed capacity of 5,958 MW of which only 2,800 MW is currently available for distribution. The Nigerian system is obviously stressed and has no provisions for emergency or peak demands. Even if electricity is generated at the level of the current installed capacity, the supply will fall far short of the estimated demand of just under 40,000MW, while demand will increase by at least 4% per annum. It is noted that the oﬃcial Nigerian position is that demand is only about 10,000 MW. The capital cost for generation, transmission and distribution projects to increase capacity from 5,958 MW to 40,000 MW could top $100 billion. This has far reaching economic implications if we wish to achieve the 2020 objective. The general dissatisfaction with the current situation led the Federal Government to deregulate power generation by encouraging private sector participation. There are two models of private sector participation. One is the joint venture between the public sector and private independent power producers to generate electricity to the national grid. The other is the production of electricity by private enterprises as independent power producers (IPP) under licenses issued by the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission. To provide the legal basis for these models, the Electric Power Reform Act of 2005 was signed into law on March 11, 2005 by President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Act provides for the establishment of companies to take over the functions, assets, liabilities, and staﬀ of the National Electric Power Authority; to develop competitive electricity markets; to establish the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission; to provide for the licensing and regulation of the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity; to enforce such matters as performance standards, consumer rights and obligations; and to determine tariﬀs. Since the enactment of this law, the government has entered into four NIPP agreements while NNPC has entered into joint ventures, such as the 960 MW NNPC-Agip power station in Delta State for electricity generation. The government’s goal of 6000 MW by the end of 2009 is based on the completion of these projects. More on page 27
Decemb m ere ember mber 2009 200 2009 2The h 9 African Af can Afric a Professional Pro rofes f sional fessio a – Houston Housto on
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In the last 3 years, 31 licenses have been granted to private enterprises to generate electricity for on grid and oﬀ grid transmission. While licenses have been granted for the establishment of independent power plants, none of these licensees have produced electricity. There is great enthusiasm on the part of the independent power companies in view of the opportunity to contribute to the resolution of this long standing problem and the projected attractive proﬁtability of the proposed plants. However, there are challenges that they must deal with before achieving their goal of producing and selling electricity. The opportunities arising from these challenges are attractive areas of investment. An independent power plant project is comprised of a number of building blocks which will determine the project’s economics and its access to funding. Most important of these are: 1. Technology: the type of plant, availability of fuel, ﬂexibility in operation, proven performance and Operations and Maintenance experience are key issues. 2. Land: generally available; however, for eﬃcient fuel supply, should be in reasonable proximity to the existing gas lines and to the uploading stations of the national electricity transmission grid. 3. Fuel: while gas is the preferred choice, the issues of pricing and security of supply remain unresolved. Even though Nigeria has the 7th largest proven gas reserves in the world, production and distribution of gas require substantial additional investment and the market is naturally oligopolistic. Other options for ﬁring turbines are diesel, fuel oil, and coal. In the case of coal, while Nigeria has large reserves, additional investment will be required in some of the coal clusters due to the low heat value of the coal and environment considerations in coal ﬁred plants. 4. The market: The Power Sector Reform Act distinguishes the businesses of electricity generation and distribution. In the medium term, any electricity generation project will be able to sell all of its output. The challenge is in the distribution. Investments in distribution projects in the private sector will further facilitate the setting up and operation of IPPs by providing a system for bankable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). It is currently estimated that the current active demand is about 10,000 MW. However, if the target of generation of 6,000 MW is achieved by the end of this year, though doubtful, the crisis will be greatly eased. The estimate of demand for competitive levels of productivity and quality of life is around 40,000 MW. 5. Funding: the local ﬁnancial system is inadequate to meet the funding requirements of electricity generation and transmission projects in terms of structure, volume, and maturities. However, provided the critical building blocks of a power project are put in place, there will be a competitive interest in this sector locally and internationally. The challenges of fuel supply and power purchase agreements in
power projects are areas of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Fuel is a challenge because of inadequate supply and distribution of gas. Power plants may need to use heavy fuel with the attendant supply logistics. The fuel segment of a project is, therefore, a candidate for outsourcing. The need for additional production of gas and transportation pipelines is also a prospective business opportunity. The second area of opportunity is distribution. While a power plant may organize itself to supply electricity directly to large private oﬀ takers, the supply to consumers requires bulk purchasers who would handle the retail distribution. The existing distribution sector is mainly in the hands of the public sector. Securing PPAs with the public sector remains a major challenge due to the need for security of cash ﬂow. Private sector investment in distribution will facilitate the sale of electricity to consumers. Electricity supply in Nigeria should not continue to be the intractable problem it has been for many years. The management of the sector by successive governments has been wasteful and has not produced good results. The critical importance of sector development, industry competitiveness, and quality of life requires that the government commit resources to facilitating the participation of private enterprise through policy and ﬁnancial commitments thereby moving Nigeria towards its 20-20-20 development goal. Dec ecembber 200 0 9 The e Afric riccan a Pro P fes essio onal n l – Hou Housto ston
Business & Economics
veryone wants ﬁnancial success for themselves and their families. The dreams that we spend long hours working toward— whether it is a ﬁrst home, a college education for the children, or a retirement home somewhere warm —are all goals on the path to ﬁnancial security. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to stumble on the way to your destination. Below is a list of the most common errors people make in achieving their insurance and ﬁnancial goals. They are all potentially costly and they could mean the diﬀerence between ﬁnancial success and failure.
and number of dependents. It is best to sit down with an insurance professional to go over your needs and look at the available options. 4. Inadequate Disability Income Insurance: Your earning power is the generator that keeps the wheels of your household running smoothly. But what if that generator breaks down? The risk of disability, as well as its potential cost, is simply too great to ignore. Once again, a company-
Costly Financial Mistakes: 5 Insurance & Financial Mistakes That Can Cost You Dearly ... 1. Failure to Plan: An old saying goes, “Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.” This is particularly true when it comes to insurance and ﬁnances. If any planning is done, it is on a piecemeal basis but that’s just not enough. To have a shot at accomplishing what we want, we must ﬁrst set our goals, analyze what it will take to achieve those goals, and then implement a plan. The plan should include everything from savings and checking accounts, to longer-term vehicles like annuities, CDs, and IRAs, and the protection provided by life, health, and disability income insurance. 2. Insufficient Diversification: Another old adage still rings true: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Diversiﬁcation is generally considered a key to reducing risk and enhancing potential return. Some people believe that because they have CDs in three diﬀerent banks they are properly diversiﬁed. True diversiﬁcation cuts across product types, lengths of maturity, and asset categories. With a well-diversiﬁed portfolio, you are never too dependent on how well one product performs. 3. Insufficient Life Insurance: We are quick to insure our cars and our homes but too often we overlook our most important asset — ourselves. With mortgages, tuition, and bills to be paid, it’s important to have proper coverage on all income earners. Some people may have group term life insurance through their employers but this alone may not be suﬃcient. Be careful not to be overly dependent on group term, for these plans can be inﬂexible, may not be portable, and may not be available when you need it most — after age 65. Look into purchasing individual coverage to suit your particular needs. How much life insurance is enough? That depends on a number of personal factors including income
Ose T. Okojie New York Life Insurance Company
sponsored plan may be too limited for your needs. Typically, disability income insurance plans will cover 50 – 60% of your annual income for a pre-determined period of time. You will want to study the policy carefully to understand all of the provisions, including the deﬁnition of disability, the waiting period following disability before you can collect, and the length of the payment period. 5. No Estate Plan: Some people have the impression that estate planning is just for the rich. Unfortunately, that view can be costly to their heirs. Your estate includes such items as your home, cash, investments, personal property, and other assets you and your spouse may own jointly or as community property. These may add up to a lot more than you thought you were worth. Federal estate taxes apply to estates valued at more than $2 million in 2007 and 2008*, and can climb to over a 45% tax rate for large estates. Add in state death taxes and ﬁnal expenses and your death can be quite costly to your loved ones. You owe it to your family to have an estate plan in place. An eﬀective will, a trust arrangement, and adequate life insurance are some of the options available to you to help your heirs get what they deserve. “To err is human” is yet another pearl of wisdom. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but all of the ones outlined above can be avoided. With proper insurance products and ﬁnancial strategies you can steer past those costly blunders and be on the road to ﬁnancial success. For more information about insurance and other ﬁnancial products, contact Ose T. Okojie, Agent, New York Life Insurance Company, at 713-963-4287. New York Life and its agents do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult with your professional advisors regarding your particular situation. *This amount increases to $3,500,000 by 2009. In 2010, the estate tax is repealed for one year only. It resumes in 2011 at $1 million.
December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
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Business & Economics
his issue’s Business Spotlight is cast on the nation of Rwanda - to applaud its recent international recognition as a trailblazer in business reform eﬀorts on the African continent, as well as, to highlight commendable areas of progress and discuss opportunities for improvement.
The Gains According to the World Bank’s 2010 Doing Business Report, Rwanda is the world’s leading business reformer. Overall, Rwanda introduced reforms in 7 out of 10 categories, rising from 143rd to 67th place on the ease of doing business rankings. (Source: http://www.doingbusiness.org) The World Bank reports that Rwanda’s US$4.5 billion economy grew by approximately 7.9 percent in 2007 and 11.2 percent in 2008. The novelty of industrialization to this largely agriculture-based economy aﬀords entrepreneurs lucrative avenues to start businesses in uncultivated sectors of the economy and to beneﬁt from ﬁrst-to-market advantages. Furthermore, the combination of steady demand from local and neighboring countries, fairly mild competition, lower labor costs, and government reform, continues to make Rwanda a haven suitable for growth, expansion, and quick gains with relatively little eﬀort. Rwanda has in the past year introduced a new law that has simpliﬁed business start-up and strengthened minority shareholder protections. Entrepreneurs can now start a business in two procedures and three days. Rwanda has also enacted new laws to improve regulations and ease access to credit which while beneﬁcial to local businesses will also elevate Rwanda’s stature on the continent and give the nation a competitive edge in the bid for foreign investment.
A key impediment to growth in several African countries, including Rwanda, is the dearth of building, energy, technology, and intellectual infrastructure. With regard to business in Rwanda, the import and export sectors are particularly adversely impacted. The average cost of standard imports to and exports from Rwanda in 2009 is approximately twice that of the average Sub-Saharan African nation and almost ﬁve times that of the average developed nation, as reported by the World Bank’s 2010 Doing Business Report. Ineﬃciencies due to poor infrastructure are costly and often discourage entrepreneurship. (Source: http://www. doingbusiness.org) In conclusion, as we celebrate the triumphs of many accomplishments, one must admit that much more is yet to be done. The progress of Rwanda, though fragile, is a refreshing change that lights a spark of hope for a region of the world that is too often considered irrelevant. December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
FIRE ON THE
NIGER DELTA MOUNTAIN Onimi K. Erekosima
Saro-Wiwa may be proving prescient after all. In his address to a military-appointed tribunal before he was executed, he warned that while Shell had “indeed, ducked this particular trial…its day will surely come” whereupon the “ecological war” waged in the Niger Delta by the company would be duly called into question. In June 2009, Shell was compelled to pay $15.5 million—after 13 years in court— to representatives of the Ogoni community in Nigeria. This is certainly a paltry sum considering that Royal Dutch Shell earned revenues of over $458 billion in 2008 in spite of global recessional conditions and an energy crisis, and also, considering the level of environmental hazard attributed to Shell operations in Nigeria. Legal publication The Am Law Daily noted that the company likely paid more to Wall Street ﬁrm Cravath, Swaine & Moore who handled its case than it settled for. Still, the settlement represented a tacit admission of responsibility for many of the problems in the area and, thus, a measure of victory by the Ogoni. Saro-Wiwa perhaps saved his most ominous lament for the Nigerian nation and its government. He pondered whether the denouement of the Niger Delta riddle would be borne of the non-violent ﬁght he had espoused, casting the Nigerian government as sole arbiter of any eventual outcome. The implicit challenge to the government was whether it would embrace his platform as a means to solving the problems of the Niger Delta or risk the carnage he feared would ensue otherwise. The government chose the blue pill favoring a state of disconnect and disengagement. Carnage has ensued.
THE DILEMMA Foregoing Optimal Gains
For the balance of its history, Nigeria’s crude oil, which trades at a premium because it is light and sweet and easily processed into 32 2 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
gasoline, has kept it at the frontier of energy politics. It is estimated that oil and gas exports constitute 95 percent of Nigeria’s export revenue. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Nigeria has an estimated 36.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, placing it among the ten highest nations in reserve capacity. Oil industry supply-side dynamics are changing and Nigeria stands to gain. The U.S. is looking away from autocratic Middle East regimes to Nigeria. Industrializing economies such as China seek to meet massive and increasing energy needs from Africa. Russia is reportedly seeking to consolidate its hold over European Union gas supply by entering energy deals with Nigeria. Basically, as Johnnie Carson, the new U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, declared this summer, “Nigeria is the most important country in Africa, bar none”. But Nigeria stands to forego all of these gains and lose just as spectacularly if it does not address the crisis in the Niger Delta. Parallel Tracks of Destruction In the shadow of these interlocking geopolitical interests involving Nigeria is the Niger Delta and its predominantly Ijaw citizens. This community numbers about 14-15 million in several states and comprises Nigeria’s fourth largest ethnic group. Oil exploration is centered precisely in this region of Nigeria and it has been the victim of severe consequences. Oil exploration has unleashed parallel tracks of economic and environmental devastation. Their waters are today ﬁlled with oil sludge endangering both economy and subsistence. The environment is not spared either. Gas ﬂares emit toxic gases into the air putting
the community at risk for respiratory illness and cancer. The ecosystem, which boasts the fourth largest mangrove forests in the world, has suﬀered irreparable damage. In far too many areas, oil exploration has left a near-apocalyptic landscape in its wake, leading to cries of “ecological genocide” by indigenous activists. Historical Fissures and Uprising For many citizens of the Niger Delta, their shadow is obscure no longer and they seek their reckoning. The reality is that a lot of the problems in the Niger Delta are decades in the making. In 1957, the Willink Commission sought to allay fears of the Ijaw that the political structure set in place by the British would
Socio-Political leave them underrepresented and ultimately disenfranchised, by declaring the Niger Delta a “Special Area” to be monitored and developed. Isaac Adaka Boro would later commence what was called the “12 Day Revolution” to attain political autonomy for the Niger Delta region. In subsequent decades, as Nigeria suﬀered a rash of coups and erratic military leadership, the Niger Delta would suﬀer from even more neglect. All of these events have culminated in a Niger Delta turmoil that harkens to Saro-Wiwa’s warning. It is a very muddled picture. Young men have taken to kidnapping oil workers and destroying oil facilities and have been declared renegade insurgents. Notably, their rhetoric captures the idealism of Saro-Wiwa and similar Niger Delta activists and they have generally sworn against deliberate attacks on life. Ultimately, everyone, including prominent Nigerians like Wole Soyinka and Gani Fawehinmi, has agreed the circumstances in the Niger Delta are unconscionable and innocent people are caught in the crosshairs, victims of inﬂuences outside their control.
SOLUTIONS The inaction by Nigeria to swiftly cure the issues in the Niger Delta has created a de facto stalemate in the current Presidential amnesty dialogue. The government’s request for cessation of insurgent activity as a precursor to further discussion on Niger Delta issues is met, by both insurgent leaders and community leaders, with scorn as they quickly call out an abysmal record of failed promises. Good faith suggests that the government acknowledge that for all the action of the insurgents, the current crisis is wholly a direct result of its inertia, which has rendered energetic youth unemployed and hopeless. Discontent does not progress to revolt in any society where even a modicum of economic and liberty interests are protected. Prudence suggests the government must, at once, aggressively deal with the issues that underlie the conﬂict, which will have the eﬀect of pacifying the citizenry, and ﬁlter idealists from opportunists among the insurgents. Home-Derived Action The Nigerian government can best seize this moment of political and cultural arousal and make it a transformational one for the country. Rather than attempt to squash dissent, it can forge a deliberative climate of discourse, illustrating its maturity as a republic by solving a complicated social issue. The federal government should make any necessary legal reform and embark on substantive institutional remedial measures to resolve deep systemic deﬁciencies. It cannot abdicate responsibility for Niger Delta welfare by emphasizing mismanagement of funds at the state level. Rather, it must creatively establish checks that ensure accountability on the state and local government area (LGA) levels. The government can also enlist select Non-State Actors (NSAs), or NGOs, to facilitate administration of speciﬁc developmental projects. There is precedent for a collaborative relationship with NSAs, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative is an example. If the government under President Yar’ Adua is successful, it would go a long way towards building a true national identity—both redeeming and rewarding—in which all have stakes irrespective of ancestry, culture or religion.
Going Forward Policy recommendations have poured in from all corners. In December 2006, a commission comprised of 65 Nobel Prize Laureates (the “Commission”) considered the Niger Delta situation. In their resulting report, they suggested that oil companies adopt remedial measures aimed at infrastructure building and environmental clean up through a “Community Investment Fund” that would funnel a percentage of revenue directly to local organizations working in health, education, micro-credit, and infrastructure development. The fund would also support environmental conservation and restoration. The eﬀorts of the oil companies can be tracked by following the audit reports of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The federal government must then implement, if the recommendations of the Commission is to work. The NEITI audit published in July 2009 highlights the inadequacy of Nigeria’s ﬁnancial reporting and record keeping systems nothing that it was diﬃcult to account for some federal disbursements. Other proposed solutions address current despair as well as wounds of disenfranchisement. Dr. Orikaye G. Brown-West, a professor of mathematics in the U.S., has devised a “numbers” model illustrating how the creation of more states will beneﬁt the Niger Delta population. He posits that a disproportionate percentage of national revenue trickles down to the Niger Delta communities most aﬀected by oil exploration. The Ijaw community received just 0.56% of federal revenue allocation in 2008 despite comprising 10% of the Nigerian population. He further notes that the Ijaws have the least number of LGAs as compared to the Ibibio/Eﬁk/Annang community who make up 3.5% of the Nigerian population but have more than double the number of LGAs, and the other major ethnic groups each of whom have at least four times the number of LGAs. In the Nigerian federal revenue allocation system, disbursements are primarily contingent upon the aggregate number of LGAs in a community and Niger Delta citizens ﬁnd themselves systematically disenfranchised by the current zoning standards. The worst agenda the federal government can pursue is an escalation of military attacks. This would widen existing schisms and the resulting upheaval could be disastrous culturally and economically. The October 4, 2009 deadline to conclude Presidential amnesty discussions looms ahead. Again, the Nigerian federal government ﬁnds itself in the role of ultimate arbiter. Which way this time around? Sources: 1 http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2009/06/a-win-for-wiwa-a-win-forshell-a-win-for-corporate-human-rights.html 2 http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Nigeria/Full.html 3 http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/country_energy_data.cfm?ﬁps=NI 4 Green, Matthew, “Gazprom’s $2.5bn gas deal with Nigeria raises European concerns” (June 26, 2009) Financial Times 5 Joseph, R. (2009, August 11). As Clinton Arrives, New Partnership with U.S. Beckons. All Africa.com. Retrieved from http://allafrica.com 6 R. T. Akinyele, “States Creation in Nigeria: The Willink Report in Retrospect”, African Studies Review, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Sep., 1996), pp. 71-94 7 http://www.sweetcrudemovie.com/pdf/Nobel_Laureate_Report.pdf 10 Brown-West, Orikaye, “The Mathematics of the Demand for More Ijaw States in the Federal Republic of Nigeria: Quod Erat Demonstrandum” (May 30, 2009) December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
MODChic COUTURE – “A NEW WORLD OF LADIES FASHION. IT’S CLASSIC, CONTEMPORARY CUTTING EDGE. IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU! MAKE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE STATEMENT.”
TELL EVERYTHING … SAY
Kunak Foundation Founder, Gideon Nyan
UNAK FOUNDATION, INC. (KFI), a non-profit organization and 501(c)(3) public charity, was established in 2005 with the aim of improving health by providing medical supplies, equipment, and water resources to hospitals and communities in Africa. Inspired by the plight of the people of the African continent, KFI is determined to partner with philanthropic organizations and hospitals to collect medications, medical equipment, and usable medical supplies for distribution to communities in need. KFI has several cost saving measures to reduce administrative cost so that a large percentage of funds donated will reach the people who the donors wish to help. Other measures include dealing directly with local communities and getting them involved in all phases of the project, including the development and maintenance of the website. For more information, visit their website: www.kunakfoundation.org.
SUCCESS STORIES When Shehu Mohammed arrived at Zonkwa General Hospital, he had been suffering with a fever, diarrhea, and a rash on his trunk for more than two weeks. 20 year old
Shehu was so lethargic that he had not been able to farm or perform any of his normal chores. In fact, he had to be physically carried to the hospital. He was diagnosed with typhoid (infectious disease from contaminated food and drink) and enteric perforations (holes in the intestine). Enteric perforations have a high rate of morbidity and mortality and require surgical repair is required. Thanks to the recently donated supplies from Kunak Foundation, doctors had the needed surgical supplies and equipment necessary to perform the operation. The surgery was a success and Shehu will make a full recovery. Yau Ibrahim is a 6 year old with an umbilical hernia (outward bulging of the abdominal lining through the navel). His mother said that Yau would cry all day due to the immense pain which was worse when he stood upright. To lessen this pain, he began to lie on his back throughout the day. He stopped going to school, and stopped playing which was sad for Yau and worrisome for his mother. Because the hospital had received much needed supplies from Kunak Foundation, they were able to repair Yau’s hernia at minimal cost and relieve his pain. He’s back in school and playing again!
Technology in Africa Technology in Africa, Inc. (TIA) is a nonprofit/NGO corporation that strives to buildup the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure for economic development throughout Africa. By way of technical institutes, research and development of ICT 36 6 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
along with providing information and communications technology services to local schools and businesses in urban and rural communities. The purpose of Technology in Africa, Inc. is to educate and transmit the latest Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to rural and urban communities and areas throughout Ghana, West Africa. The vision that Technology in Africa, Inc. (TIA) has for its institutions is to provide a significant Information and Communications Technology (ICT) structure that will promote education in the various regions
A SOCIA L ENTERPRISE IN ACTION Founded in November 2006 by Matthew and Thomas Mitro, Indego Africa, a 501(c) (3) non-proﬁt organization, is an innovative award-winning non-proﬁt organization that is using a social enterprise approach to empower hundreds of Rwandan women and help them lift themselves out of poverty. Indego Africa is a member of the Fair Trade Federation and was the 2008 winner of the Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Competition. Indego Africa’s model is simple, yet powerful: a) partner with cooperatives of world-class artisans in Rwanda, made up entirely of women; b) sell their masterful fair trade handicrafts – from stylish yoga bags to vibrant wine coasters to exquisitely hand-crafted baskets – at high-end retailers across the U.S. and on Indego Africa’s WebStore;
of Ghana. Technology in Africa primary focus is education; with the intent to take part in the research and development of Ghana’s information and communications technology infrastructure. Technology in Africa’s ICT institutions will assist Ghana in becoming the first African nation with a solid ICT infrastructure, by becoming instrumental in propelling the economic development in this global technological revolution. To learn more about this organization or to get involved, please visit www.technologyinafrica.org.
c) pay the women a fair wage, including 50% in advance of production; d) return 100% of the proﬁts to its Hand Up program for culturally-tailored training programs in Financial Management, Entrepreneurship & Microﬁnance, Literacy, Computers, & Global Commerce; and e) harness local talent to conduct the training programs through a ground-breaking internship program with Orphans of Rwanda International (ORI), a nonproﬁt that provides university scholarships to high-achieving orphans.
SOCIAL ENTERPRISE INNOVATIONS Indego Africa sets itself apart from both commercial handicraft exporters, which provide only income, and traditional non-proﬁts, which focus only on skills or hand-outs, by oﬀering an innovative hybrid approach. This business model helps the women in our partner cooperatives to take care of their immediate needs, diversify their income-generating and entrepreneurial skills, and cultivate self-worth and conﬁdence. Indego Africa’s social enterprise model is also replicable and transparent – institutional values that promote both sustainability and growth.
POPULATION SERVED Indego Africa partners with more than 250 remarkable women in Rwanda, many of whom cope with HIV/AIDS; suﬀer from psychological trauma; have little formal education; care for several children, including orphans from the Genocide in 1994; and are the sole providers for their households. For more information on Indego Africa, please visit, http://www.indegoafrica.org. December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
Arts & Leisure
Lola Ogunnaike, the talented and personable journalist, has interviewed personalities from all walks of life, including actors, musicians, and politicians. Her work in high proﬁle media organizations such as USA Today, Vibe, and CNN has informed and entertained the world. She is truly a Nigerian treasure. The Executive Editor of The African Professional – Houston, Folake Ayoola, had a rare opportunity to interview Lola Ogunnaike, the former CNN Entertainment Correspondent. Lola shares the secret of her success as well as insights about her life. Can you describe your career trajectory?
How do you stay competitive?
I began writing for the New York Times and Vibe magazine while earning my masters degree in journalism at NYU. Upon graduating, I landed a job as an editorial assistant at the Daily News. I eventually became a features reporter, writing about trends and pop culture. After three years at the Daily News, I joined the New York Times where I worked for ﬁve years as a feature writer for the Arts and Leisure and Style sections. During this period, I began appearing on television oﬀering pop culture commentary on the Today Show, MTV, VH1, BET, and CNN. I left the Times for CNN nearly three years ago.
I am a voracious reader. Books, magazines, newspapers, various websites. I can’t get enough. If I could read in the shower, I would. A well-read person is more fulﬁlled and ultimately more engaging. I always try to cultivate relationships.
What skills are necessary to be a good journalist? What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your current engagement?
The best journalists have a boundless curiosity, a need to know and understand why. The best part of being a journalist is that you are paid to learn.
What advice would you give those who one day hope to become journalists?
Acquire as many skills as possible. These days, journalists have to be multiplatform experts. Print reporters must be web savvy. Television reporters should know how to shoot and edit their own video. Did you have mentors who helped you during the earlier stages of your career? How did you seek them out? What did you learn from them, and how did they help you?
I have had several mentors throughout my career. Professors, co-workers, accomplished friends. Flattery will get you far, but only if it’s sincere. No one likes a kiss up but don’t be afraid to tell someone why you admire their work. Be speciﬁc. It shows you’ve done your homework. Over the years, my mentors have taught me about everything from writing features to reading the teleprompter.
What would you and others say are three of your personality pluses?
How do you spend your time outside of work, including hobbies, interests, sports, family, and volunteer activities?
I’m curious, funny, and personable. People have always liked telling me stories and I’ve always liked hearing them. More people should learn to talk less and listen more. It can be very rewarding.
My husband and I have very demanding careers, so whenever we have a free moment we try and spend it together. I also enjoy kickboxing and spinning. Sweating helps relieve stress.
38 8 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
Arts & Leisure
If earth is truly a sphere Then ‘Origin’ must be the start and end as well If the sun sets in the west Tomorrow, the east will see her first If labor hails the advent of life Perhaps some gain may tag along her pain If the sun does smile a constant ray Beyond this night is certainly a brighter day If life is a play with acts and scenes The irony of this stage too shall pass, indeed If crisis has the ‘powers’ on its marks Then could her time be now to shine? If the world truly does turn The reign of Africa will surely return Someday, tomorrow…
Arise O’ Compatriots Oloruntoyin Olorogun
IGERIA’S ﬁlm industry, also so hird known as Nollywood, ranks third Holhighest in gross revenue only behind lywood and Bollywood, respectively. y. It has also had some signiﬁcant exports with leading ing actors performing Native Niin works produced in neighboringg markets. ot doing so badly either. gerians performing overseas are not Agbaje who starred as Actors like Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje “Heavy Duty” in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) and Sophie Okonedo who starred in The Secret Life of Bees (2008) have garnered measurable attention for their outstanding performances and received several accolades honoring their work. Especially impressive is the general consensus that they seem to be holding their own as great thespians in Hollywood, recognized worldwide as the ultimate powerhouse in the global ﬁlm industry. Nigeria, over the years, has also had her fair share of musicians with success in overseas markets. Nigerian legends such as the great singer King Sunny Ade and the late Afro-beat musical sensation Fela Kuti, have thrilled audiences worldwide and put Nigeria on the map musically with rhythms that reﬂect their African roots. Other talented acts such as Sade Adu and Seal have made Nigerians proud with their ability to entertain global audiences; their soulful styles inﬂuenced more by the Western genres of R&B and Jazz. Unfortunately, while the success of local Nigerian musical acts is undeniable, as evidenced by the throng of fans that attend the numerous concerts oﬀered, the current generation has yet to make a huge impact on the global stage. There is some hope, though, in performers such as Wale (Olubowale Victor Folarin), the Washington D.C. born rap artist and protégé of the conscious rapper Nas (often mistaken for being a native Nigerian but who actually just bears the Nigerian name given to him by a Yoruba priest, Oludara), who has been getting a lot of praise for his thought provoking lyrics. Although millions of Nigerians are thrilled about the contributions Nigerians have made in the entertainment arena worldwide, there is still great room for improvement. History has shown that Nigerians have the ability to compete for a global audience and win the hearts of fans worldwide. There is certainly more opportunity now than ever before for aspiring acts to realize their potential in the international entertainment arena. December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
Professor Banji Ayoola, MD FACP CEO HEAL Medical Group, Eden Hill Medical Center Dover, DE Founder and President of AFRINAM Forum - USA &
Mrs. Victoria Ayoola, RN SCM proudly support
AfriPRO Houston And their daughter
Folake Ayoola, Esq. Founder & Chair of Board of Directors and congratulate
2009 AfriPRO Houston Merit Award Recipient
Dr. Kase Lawal 2009 AfriPRO Houston Distinguished Professional
Kenneth Yellowe 2009 AfriPRO Houston Image Award Recipient
Stephanie Okereke 2009 AfriPRO Houston Community Heroes
Uche Baker & Charles Duze 2009 AfriPRO Houston Officer and Member of the Year
Okechukwu Ofili & Humphrey Nnadiotu
Arts & Leisure
INTERRUPTED Barile Karanwi
y family and I arrived in the U.S. from Africa on September 19, 1996. Our long and arduous journey to the United States began almost a year earlier in November 1995. As a nine-year-old, I didn’t really understand why we had to leave everything and everyone we loved in our native country of Nigeria and travel to a new place. Neither did my sevenyear-old sister and ﬁve-year-old brother, I imagine. However, we would soon learn that it was a life and death matter. As it happens, my family left Nigeria for political reasons. President Abacha had ordered many human rights activists, including my father, to be imprisoned because they were trying to stop the government from drilling for oil in the Niger Delta region. My father and others were ﬁghting to end the violence and destruction in their native villages that came with the oil drilling. Unfortunately, their eﬀorts often resulted in imprisonment and even death. After my father had been jailed for the second time, my parents made the diﬃcult decision to leave the country. Just a few months earlier, my dad’s friend and fellow activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, had been executed by the government. My parents feared that the same fate awaited my dad and, therefore, had no choice but to move us out of the country. I still remember our last night in Nigeria as though it were yesterday. My siblings and I had just ﬁnished eating dinner and it was about 9 pm. We were excited because there was a trip to an amusement park planned for the next day. At about 10
pm, two Nigerian soldiers knocked on our door and asked to speak to my dad. I later found out that they told him he would be arrested the next day. After the soldiers left, my parents calmly told us that we were going on a trip and should start packing immediately. Everything we packed ﬁt into three large suitcases and three backpacks. Early the next morning, I went next door to my best friend’s house to tell her goodbye. Because my parents had warned me not to tell anyone the real reason we were leaving, I just told her we had to go. I’m sure my friend must have thought it was a little strange to take a trip at the beginning of the school year. Two hours later, we loaded our belongings into my dad’s Jeep and left our house in the city to begin the long journey to America and, ultimately, freedom. After we left Nigeria, we traveled through Benin and Togo by bus and ﬁnally arrived in Ghana in early December. Over the next nine months, we lived in three diﬀerent places: two hotels and a two-bedroom house that we shared with seven other people. Finally, on September 17, 1996, my family and I got the news we had been awaiting for almost a year. We were going to America! December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
Arts & Leisure
n a bright Fall Saturday afternoon, TAPH Executive Editor, Folake Ayoola, caught up with Somi before the release of her latest album. Somi’s music mirrors the different seasons of the year and the flavorful cultures of Africa. Before moving to Illinois, USA, Somi lived with her family in Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania—a true child of Africa. Her third album, If The Rains Come First (ObliqSound), is a refreshing and stunning collection of self-penned story-based songs. Somi’s music evokes the transcendence of the rains of life full of all the challenges and blessings they promise. As her career has taken off, Somi’s talents have been called upon for collaborations and live performances with such greats as John Legend, Casandra Wilson, Mos Def and Paul Simon. During the interview, Folake learned about Somi’s career, successes and challenges as a promising artist. Executive Editor: Can you describe your career trajectory? How did you get your current position?
SOMI: I began my career as a musician when I moved to New York 10 years ago. At the time, I had no idea what the journey of making a living as a professional musician would be like, but over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from both countless opportunities and the generosity of other industry professionals. I started out primarily as a singer/songwriter. Soon, I began to perform regularly with my band in the New York City area and then national and regional touring opportunities came up. In 2008, I began to do more theater work – debuting a multimedia piece that I wrote at The Apollo Theater. I also have begun producing more cultural events to give platform to other contemporary African artists under a non-profit organization that I founded called New Africa Live. Executive Editor: What career successes are you most proud of having accomplished? SOMI: Having had the opportunity to share my music in places all over the world—from South America to Siberia and everywhere in between. I am also very proud of the work I’ve been able to do with my organization New Africa Live and challenging homogenized notions of contemporary African cultural production while giving a space of cultural belonging to progressive African artists in the literary, visual, and performing arts. I am also honored to have had the chance to recording with the legendary Hugh Masekela on my third album. The most rewarding aspect of my career is being able to engage with and inspire the human spirit. Executive Editor: What advice would you give those who one day hope to become performers/entertainers/musicians? SOMI: Practice, practice, practice… and listen to your heart. The
most important aspect of being a performer is “preparedness.” You never know when your “break” will come, so it’s important to keep challenging yourself to take more risks and grow while always staying true to your artistic voice and integrity. No matter the color of your skin, remain true to yourself and never be afraid of celebrating who you are through your creative work and performance. I made a lot of mistakes in my financial management when I was starting out that most young artists make. At the time, I did not keep my personal and business finances separate and over time (and the busier you get), the two became very “sticky.” I incorporated a small business about 6 years ago after years of mismanagement. Learning how to actually run a business is definitely not something most artists anticipate ever having to do, but it is so important that we know that this is, indeed, a business and our work is the commodity. Proper financial planning and management of your creative work only makes your work as an artist more valuable, your standard of living more sustainable, and your career development opportunities more tangible. Executive Editor: What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways—member, board, treasurer, etc.? SOMI: I am a songwriting and publishing member of American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. I also serve as the Artistic & Executive Director of New Africa Live. Lastly, I am a special consultant to the board of Sauti Yetu: Center for African Women and Girls. Executive Editor: The theme of our inaugural journal is “Africa’s Report Card: Successes and Challenges.” In your opinion, what successes would you say Africa has had and what challenges remain? SOMI: Well, that list is probably very long, but what I can say as an arts professional is that while it is incredibly refreshing to see all of the young artists coming on the continent who are actually being celebrated in their home countries and making a good living at it now, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of intellectual property rights, arts education, and creating more resources to place Africa’s brightest talent on a global cultural stage. Deceember 20099 The Af Dec Afric rican an Pro rofessiion nal – Hou uston
Arts & Leisure
The Perfect Picture: A Breath of Fresh Air
Watching an African movie is almost like playing Russian roulette in reverse. For most people, the chance of actually getting a good movie is just not worth taking the time to seek it out. That is why The Perfect Picture is a breath of fresh air. It goes against the norm with most movies produced in Africa in that it aims to tell a simple story in a poignant manner. It does not assume Africans are too unsophisticated to understand the art of storytelling or ﬁlmmaking. It is certainly a must see. The Perfect Picture begins with a bride sharing her wedding day with loved ones including her two best friends. Being a newlywed is exciting for her except for one thing: she and her new husband can’t seem to make the magic happen in the bedroom. From that point on, the story begins to explore the response an African woman is predisposed to have in such circumstances. The movie also makes commentary on the themes of friendship and romance. How far will a friend go for another, and when are the lines crossed? Are we looking for the right qualities in a mate, or do we leave it to society to determine who our best match is? Shirley Frimpong-Manso, the director, also manages to make the movie a visual and audio success. The audience does not
Abdul Ibrahim have to tolerate the poor sound quality, which is the staple of most African movies, because The Perfect Picture delivers clear sound and an appropriate selection of background music. The scenes appear well lit and the settings are appropriate. All the technical elements that are essential in any decent production are seamlessly woven together to create a thrilling movie that is up to par with Western titles. The Perfect Picture encourages fans of African movies to look forward to productions of much higher quality in the near future. Frimpong-Manso, a Ghanaian native, has made Africans proud with her creativity and commitment to delivering an excellent movie. Filmmakers in competing African markets, especially Nigeria, who desire to be distinguished as authentic artists should look up to her movie as the standard to emulate. Excerpt; For most people, the chance of actually getting a good movie is just not worth taking the time to seek it out. That is why The Perfect Picture is a breath of fresh air.
DIAGNOSTICS IMAGING ADV
44 4 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
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o many people, education is the key to success in any number of ventures. Whether a person aims to be a music producer or a neurosurgeon, some knowledge must be acquired in order for him to achieve his goals. Such knowledge is often obtained through a college education. In today’s world, one’s level of education typically correlates with the degree of success and income-earning potential: the more educated you are, the better your chances of securing a “good” job. A “good” job is usually deﬁned as one that pays very well, utilizes a person’s educational background, and provides potential for growth in that career path. As a college student, I noticed several trends in the education and career paths of my fellow Africans. First, the majority – probably about 90% - were engineering or science majors. T he engineering majors typically chose the petroleum and electrical ﬁelds while the science majors overwhelmingly chose biology, health, or chemistry. The few outliers, like me, chose the less traveled path with majors in business and liberal arts such as political science, English, and economics. A trend within this trend was that the engineering majors were mostly males and the science majors were mostly females. The outliers were split down the middle with essentially equal numbers of males and females. Another important trend evident among my African peers was that most, if not all of them, planned to further their education beyond the baccalaureate level. The engineering majors intended to pursue Master’s degrees and PhDs, the science majors were looking towards Master’s or medical degrees, and the business and liberal arts majors had plans to obtain Juris Doctorates, Master’s degrees, or MBAs. Only one or two people felt that they would be able to accomplish all their long-term goals with a Bachelor’s degree. 46 6 December 20099 The African Professional – Houston
in America: There are many reasons why these trends in education exist among African students - several of which I will highlight. The most prevalent one is the desire for that “good job” as well as job security. People want to have ﬁnancial stability that will in turn enable them to live comfortably and provide for their families. Consequently, they pursue advanced degrees to aid them in reaching their highest potential. My peers understand that having an advanced degree would make them more competitive in the workforce and perhaps also lessen the prejudices that minority populations in the United States sometimes face in the workplace and other aspects of life. They also know that, ceteris paribus, someone with a PhD would have more job security than a peer with a Bachelor’s degree. Another explanation for the trends in the education of Africans in America is that some of these students plan to return to Africa upon completion of their studies. Typically, an American degree - particularly an advanced one - in the arsenal of an African has signiﬁcant implications to employers in Africa. The degree gives its owner a distinct competitive edge in the job market and can exponentially increase his or her earning potential. It is very common for U.S.educated Africans to earn substantially more money working in Africa than they would in the U.S. Returning home to work is an encouraging trend because it helps to ease the brain drain that many African nations face. In conclusion, the reasons why Africans pursue advanced college degrees are numerous and diverse. However, we all have a common goal in mind: to live a fulﬁlled and stable life while making an impact on the world around us. Whether we are engineers, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, or professors, we should all strive to use the many avenues available to us to live the best life possible while aﬀecting our communities for the better.
TRENDS IN POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION