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Africa Month: Shaping Africa with Sheer Self Determination

These people are proof that even under such harsh conditions, despite a lack of human rights and a call for action for them to return home, I could feel that #HopeLivesHere.

Catherine Constantinides

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As we celebrate Africa month and honour a continent that has nurtured us, we embrace the rich diversity, culture and heritage that we share as a people of Africa. It is our responsibility to know our continent and understand her people.

Our calling is to strive to maintain a liberated, united and prosperous Africa. In my quest to achieve these objectives I have had the privilege of learning about a people, a land and a forgotten story of our very own continent.

Everyday life happens, we go about our daily routine, and then as if from nowhere a story finds you, you don’t see it, you don’t expect it, but it’s there and it reshapes your perspective. A paradigm shift takes place and your view point is changed forever.

Related: EY launches Entrepreneurial Winning Women Class of 2015

Six months ago I had no idea that a nation known as the Saharawi, and a country called the Western Sahara even existed, no less than on our own continent, Africa. I had no idea that there were human atrocities happening in North West Africa that in South Africa we know nothing of, it is not spoken of, and knowledge of this is very difficult to acquire.

The Saharawi peopleAfrica-Day_flag-waving

The Western Sahara; commonly referred to as the last frontier of Africa, has been under the illegal occupation of Morocco, in accordance to international law. In 1963 the Western Sahara was added to the United Nations list of non-self governing territories and it was only in 1975 that the Western Sahara saw the departure of their coloniser Spain. The Spanish left and Madrid ceded control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania.

Both countries claiming sovereignty over the territory this triggered an armed conflict with the Polisario Front, the liberation movement; that the UN considers as the legitimate representation of the Saharawi people. This conflict marked the beginning of a refugee crisis that has become an ongoing and forgotten conflict. Africa can never, ever be free until those across our continent have their basic human rights, self determination and an opportunity to live freely!

Four decades have passed since the Saharawi refugee crisis began; today these people are still living in exile, while their families are back home, in the occupied territory, those that stayed behind are subjected to inhumane conditions. 40 years on, how do a people keep hope alive?

This is a subject that is tabled and included on the agenda of the UN Security Council each year, this is as a result of the groundwork done by the African Union; yet generations later children are being born in a refugee camp, with no idea as to the world outside of the camps.

In 1975 the Saharawi were forced to flee their land and found refuge in south-west Algeria, with the expectation that one day they would return to their home. Traditionally a nomadic people, they have been forced to settle in an arid desert environment with no opportunity to be self-sufficient or productive. A camp set up in the midst of the desert, exposed to extreme heat that reaches 55’celcius, harsh sandstorms, constant drought and infrequent but hostile torrential rains.

Standing up for those who cannot

These are a people that have been denied their home, their independence and their human rights! I know all of this now, because I had the opportunity to visit, learn and engage with these forgotten people. I was invited by the Saharawi Women Organisation to join them at a refugee camp just outside Tindouf in Algeria, in a camp called Smara. There was much debate and discussion before my decision was made to embark on this journey.

A journey, that would take me to a far corner of the African continent and would see me live with refugees, in refugee conditions. For seven days I committed to living with the exiled Saharawi, an urban being in the desert, with no running water, no electricity, no arable land, no food, no basics; I would get to come home after my time in the camp, but the families there would not go home, and they would not have something different tomorrow, they live day to day.

They survive only on the basket of dried goods that is air-dropped every month by the World Food Programme (WFP). These people do not get to go home: this is the only home that they now know…

When this story found me, I was faced by many questions, where was this, what were the logistics involved, what were the security challenges, what were the health risks, the ultimate question, “Could people on our continent be living without the right of self governance, and self determination?” I was challenged to step from the known into the unknown, so as to see, hear and know what truth lay behind this story. I was compelled to seek information and to create an awareness of the human rights issue of the #SaharawiPeople.

I stand in solidarity with a people who have fought for 40 years to be independent and have the right to self determination and decolonisation. I now ask the question, “Are the Saharawi a forgotten people of the world, or is it just easier to turn a blind eye to an illegal occupation?” The total population of the Saharawi is approximately one million people.

The Western Sahara is a land rich in mineral resources, oil, gold, the world’s largest deposits of phosphates and a rich fishing coastline to name but a few of the natural resources, these resources should be the right of the Saharawi people, this should be what they could have built their economy on, and yet they can-not go home and they live a meagre existence in a refugee camp.

Travelling to the forgotten people

It was 23h30, I had been travelling for 18 hours; the last flight had been by military plane into an army base two hours away from the refugee camps. No business class, no luggage conveyor, a cold, war like structure. A seasoned traveller, this was somewhat different; used to gliding through snow white clouds and blue skies.

The military aircraft ploughed through the sky, with much noise and movement, there was a feeling of displacement in the air, my journey was happening. On arrival at the camps the darkness was intriguing. It was as if a thick blanket concealed the story I would uncover in the days ahead. My eyes began to adjust I could see these little tents peering through, dwellings scattered across a vastness of nothing, this was the desert. No markings or indication as to where we were, or where we were going.

Some of the tents and small structures had a gentle shine which I was told was the only light source which was emitted from a solar powered battery, candle light or a rechargeable lamp.

The shadow of light carried an ambiance of hope and comfort. Bumedian, my new friend and expert desert driver, explained to me, “It is easier to drive at night as your bearings lie in the stars and constellations.” I was mesmerised by the light of the moon and the soft glow that fell across the camp that allowed me a glimpse of what I would see when day arrived.

The warm embrace of Shabba and Miriam, two sisters from the family that I stayed with, was overwhelming and emotional. Language was a huge barrier, as no English is spoken by the majority of Saharawi people, who all speak a dialect of Arabic, and a small group also speak French. We made our way into the family tent, where we were asked to leave our shoes outside. Mutha, an English student and the protocol officer, stayed with me.

As day broke, the tender sound of the Muazzin was heard across the camp, and the women of the family I stayed with started their first prayers for the day. Breakfast was a humble helping of dry bread, jam and milk coffee, there is no running water, long life milk is all that is available, and it is considered a luxury for those that do have it. I quickly learnt that water is very scarce and used for washing before prayers and refreshing rinses at the hottest times of the day.

The basic routine of bathing in the morning, washing your teeth and other ‘daily rituals’ were somewhat of a luxury. This family had no toiletry bag filled with the items we take for granted, toothpaste and toothbrushes were not available.woman-washing-bucket_Africa

I stepped out of the family tent, and was struck by the bright light and the vast naked desert. As far as my eye could see, in every direction, tiny dwellings and tents covered the landscape. I paused to get my bearings, as reality and shock started to become reality. Slowly the gentle laughter of children filled the crisp morning air and started to permeate the harsh reality that I could see around me.

These children do not know anything other than this camp; they are playful, happy and content. The desert sand is their playground; nothing grows here, not a shrub, not a blade of grass and not a tree to be found, there is no vegetation of any kind. I quickly realised that there is no oasis in this desert. A ‘lilo’ like plastic is placed alongside each tent, which is filled with rationed water for each family; the water truck comes every few weeks.

My family were insistent that I use as much water as I needed, but I humbly acknowledged that I would get to go home and I would leave these beautiful people here in the Sahara, still with no running water or electricity.

Waiting to go home

As I lay my head on the floor that night, I closed my eyes and I knew that tomorrow would never be the same, I would never be the same; I was a different person… I thought that poverty was what we had to fight, but this surpassed poverty, here there was nothing.

I knew that I could not mistake the soft light, the amazing heavens, the smiles the children shared, their willingness to share love with me, did not mean that all was well. These are people that, 40 years on, still have a packed bag in their tent, so that when they are called, they will be ready to go home.

I ask that people support my call; support their call, to bring about international action, in order to bring about the change that the Saharawi people have been waiting for; they must be given their rights as a people.

A refugee camp is a place of loneliness and nothingness, yet one could easily be mistaken that the bright and colourful material worn by the women of the Western Sahara is what brings light and colour to this bare landscape. However, you would be sorely mistaken as the light in the camp comes from the power of the human spirit within these people.

These people are proof that even under such harsh conditions, despite a lack of human rights and a call for action for them to return home, I could feel that #HopeLivesHere.

We need to stand against the existence of such; we need to demand the right of self determination, self governance and human rights for all people. It saddens my very fibre that people must wait for a monthly food basket composed of nine dry commodities; that never change, there is no variation, it always remains the same, and it is all that there is.

There is a will power, a strength of mind and a community built by the determination and strength of women who play the most crucial role in pushing this movement forward! The human spirit LIVES, it lives in these camps, in those tents and in the heart of all who pass through that place!

Catherine Constantinides; Lead SALead SA Executive, Director of Miss Earth South Africa, International Climate Activist and Humanitarian. Constantinides is an Archbishop Tutu African Oxford Fellow and serves as a Social Cohesion Advocate for the Department of Arts and Culture.

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How Kiran Rai Became A Global Brand Ambassador With Over 10.5 Million Facebook Followers At The Age Of 26

Kiran Rai has been featured in 600 international newspapers worldwide and has hosted 80 major events including 50 entertainment events and 23 major sport events. Find out how one of Britain’s most influential young people has made it to the top.

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Now, Kiran Rai is a global brand ambassador traveling the world promoting Social Box. He was also recently appointed as sponsorship director of the Cake Bake and Sweet Show currently running in Australia. But his life wasn’t always global travel and fancy titles, at 23 he stood outside Waterloo station for a month holding a sign saying, “please support me.” He managed to raise £15 000, which allowed him to follow his dreams and catapult himself into the entertainment industry. Find out how he did it:

Getting started

Kiran Rai started out very young, he realised early on in life that if he didn’t take his dream and himself seriously, nobody else would. His mindset developed out of what he learnt from his school life and his family, he also developed a thick skin from watching his mom and his aunt.

“The strategy I used was phoning people constantly and making sure that people heard me, it was a gruelling process.” He says that there were even times when he would bang on directors and casting agents’ doors and send them numerous emails and letters.

He exhausted every option in trying to achieve his dream. “I would do open mics late at the night hoping that maybe someone would spot me,” he says.

Related: Making Money From Your Baking Hobby

Lessons learnt

Kiran Rai learnt quickly the importance of standing on his own two feet. “I just want to keep proving to myself that I am good at what I do, and I kept pushing whether I succeeded or not,” says Rai.

He is constantly on the move and learning new things, he feels that being versatile and gaining experience will help him achieve his dream. “I have a very fierce mentality when it comes to learning that once I complete something I need to move on to something else straight away,” he says.

“I’ve also learnt to be humble – it’s the most important thing. Yes, there are times when you need to be confident to show people that you know what you’re doing but being arrogant puts people off,” says Kai. “I’ve learnt to keep pushing despite people telling me no, I’ve had so much rejection and I still get rejected, I just learn to handle it.”

Putting in the time and effort

“I’ve produced my own work for years, and I’ve put in the time and effort. I’ve learnt my craft and travelled across the world to make my dream happen. I am very grateful to everyone who helped me and for how far I’ve come,” he says.

“Working with Cake Bake has really improved my business mindset and thanks to Ralph and Binu Pillai and Aka Samara who have made this happen for me. I have great mentors around me, who motivate me to try harder.

There have been times when I’ve become demoralised as it’s difficult to see where my career is headed, but I just keep reminding myself that it will take time to realise my dream and improve myself.

Related: How To Start A Bakery Guide

What he’s up to now

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“I’m just a 26-year-old having fun, travelling the world and being able to achieve my dreams and work with great brands including Social Box, 3LT and of course being the sponsorship director of Cake Bake and Sweet Show in Australia,” says Rai.

“Currently, I’m leading a team of 8 and it’s incredible to work with a great company. I will be presenting on stage at the Cake and Bake Show happening in Sydney and Melbourne and I’m excited about it.”

Plans for the future

“My plans are to head to Mumbai and Los Angeles. I am targeting both cities as my dream is to become an established actor. I am also learning Hindi right now to improve my chances when auditioning for Bollywood projects. But I’ll also continue to keep pushing and never settle,” he says.

“The Cake Bake and Sweet Show is a great opportunity to learn. I’m learning how to work with people and work in a team, whereas previously I was very much on my own hustling every day and I haven’t worked closely with people for numerous of years,” says Rai. 

A word of advice

To the youth looking to follow their dreams he says: “Do whatever you can, don’t be scared and make your voice heard. Never let others keep you down.”

He continues to say that you should remember to focus on your education. “I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s important, and that I should haven listened to my parents and followed their advice.”

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Entrepreneur Today

South Africa Joins Global Impact Investing Body

South Africa will take another step toward meeting its development challenges this week when it becomes the first African country to join the Global Steering Group (GSG) for Impact Investing.

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A global body promoting investments that not only generate a financial return, but deliver positive environmental and social outcomes as well, the GSG currently comprises 21 countries, plus the European Union.

South Africa will be represented on this important global body by the National Task Force for Impact Investing – that was established recently to grow local support for the impact investment sector. The Task Force is made up of representatives from government, private capital and research institutions. The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) is acting as the secretariat for this new initiative.

“This is an amazing development, as it signifies South Africa’s leadership role in the area of impact investing,” says Elias Masilela, Executive Chairman of DNA Economics and Chair of the Impact Investing National Task Force. “South Africa’s entry into the GSG will usher in a new perspective in thinking about investing.”

According to the Global Impact Investing Network, the amount of money committed to impact investing around the world has doubled in the last year. From $114 billion in mid-2017, there is now $230 billion in funds targeting investments that not only generate a financial return, but deliver positive environmental and social outcomes as well.

This rapid growth has been largely due to a greater awareness of how private investment can contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. Yet there is still a long way to go. It is estimated that the world needs $2.5 trillion per year to hit the UN’s targets.

Meeting these goals is crucial in South Africa, where poverty and inequality remain significant challenges. Attracting more private capital to support projects in fields such as education, housing and water is imperative.

Related: Investment Support For Black Business

According to Susan de Witt, Innovative Finance Lead at the Bertha Centre and head of the Impact Investing National Task Force Secretariat, being part of the GSG will give the movement in South Africa international credibility and allow the country to learn from the experiences of other countries.

“One of the major advantages of joining the GSG is that local representatives from the mainstream capital markets will be exposed to the global shifts in asset allocation,” says de Witt. “They will also be able to develop the appropriate contextual vehicles and tools to do this effectively spurred on by the efforts of major players such as Blackrock, Credit Suisse and UBS.

Giving Africa a voice in this forum is a crucial development, says Masilela. “With the strategic role that the country holds on the continent, as well as its representative voice on BRICS and other global fora, it is imperative that South Africa continues to drum up the need for this consciousness towards investment.”

Not only will the country benefit enormously from the learning opportunities, but it will be able to make a meaningful contribution to discussions as well. As many international impact investing projects are focused on Africa, there is a need for local insights to guide international investment allocations.

“Having sat in a number of these meetings, there a noticeable lack of African opinion,” says de Witt. “Working groups with an international strategy often focus on Africa, but there is rarely an African in the room.”

As a member of the GSG, South Africa will be a fully-fledged member of the global impact investing movement. This will unlock meaningful opportunities for the country.

“There is no better time than now,” Masilela says. “Done right, it will reverse many of the domestic and global imbalances we face. It is particularly important, with South Africa’s economy struggling to record a much needed turnaround.”

Along with South Africa, similar Advisory Boards in New Zealand and Bangladesh will also be admitted to the CSG this month.

“The impact revolution is a truly global movement, and its expansion to Bangladesh, New Zealand, and South Africa underscores that the pivot to risk, return, and impact is spreading to all corners of our world,” said Sir Ronald Cohen, founder and chair of the GSG.

The GSG’s Board of Trustees approved the new member countries amid preparations for the annual Impact Summit on 8-9 October in New Delhi, India. The Board also approved sites for its next two Impact Summits: Santiago, Chile on 7-8 November 2019, and Johannesburg, South Africa in 2020.

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Entrepreneur Today

FNB Announces The 7th Franchise Leadership Summit

FNB is hosting the 7th Franchise Leadership Summit at Montecasino on Tuesday, 13 November 2018. The summit is a well-attended industry discussion amongst high calibre franchisors and industry stakeholders.

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The Summit is aptly themed “Equipping you to future proof your franchise”. The discussions will include exploring the impact of technology on the franchising industry.

To this end, Morne Cronje, Head of Franchising at FNB Business explains that “the rise in online applications in franchising means we need to find innovative ways on how to continue to grow and improve this new dimension to this already robust industry.”

The South African Fast Food Landscape Report of 2018 backs the position that Cronje speaks to as it revealed that a growing number of consumers are opting for the convenience of online delivery services when purchasing fast food, this has a far reaching impact that the Summit will begin to talk to in this year’s leg.

Related: Don’t Tread On Toes – Why Investing In A HIQ Franchise Will Offer You More Opportunities

The speaker line-up includes:

  • Mike Vacy-Lyle, CEO of FNB Business; Marcel Klaassen, Executive Head at FNB Business: Opening address
  • Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya, Chief Economist at FNB: She will talk about the state of the economy and what it means for entrepreneurs.
  • Morne Cronje – Head of Franchising at FNB Business; Eric Parker – Franchising Consultant at Franchising Plus; Stephen Walters – GIS Specialist and Co-Founder at Fernridge Consulting & Tony da Fonseca – MD at OBC Chicken: Panel discussion on future proofing franchise.
  • Richard Mulholland – founder: Beware of the Fox, a look at the actual impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on business
  • Andy Higgins, Founder of Bidorbuy and Managing Director of uAfrica.com: Will E-commerce replace traditional retail? – How to adapt your business model.
  • Dion Chang – Trends Analyst: Pivoting your skills for the second wave of disruption.
  • Dr. Sarah Britten – Independent shopper marketing and social media strategist: Check ins and check outs – how franchises can use social media to build their businesses.
  • Dr. Rosy Ndhlovu – Founder: Social Franchising – Is this the future for Healthcare?

Cronje says the great line-up of industry experts will go beyond the digital discussion and the subsequent challenges it presents, each speaker will offer workable solutions on how to improve and navigate the move to the 4th Industrial Revolution as a business.

“Franchising is a healthy and resilient industry in South Africa. However, we need to continuously improve it and keep adapting to the ever-changing landscape. Therefore, unpacking online applications and trends in franchising is at the centre of this summit amongst other things,” concludes Cronje.

Buy tickets or find out more information on the Summit here: www.franchisesummit.co.za

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