Editor’s note — this is a guest post by Leya Kawamba of MyZambia MyAfrica.
When we established MyZambia MyAfrica, it was pretty obvious from the company name where our focus lay.
Mama Zambia calls to one half of our partnership because as the company’s co-founder, I have Zambia in my DNA — MyZambia!
With Joel O’Loughlin by my side, no dream is too audacious. With hindsight, I have been seeking a dance partner since 2007, without any lasting success. I was looking for a Zambian woman. So, the last thing I expected was a man born on the small Eastern Caribbean island of Nevis, to alter his plans late in life. Joel responded to my drum beat calling out to Zambians to join me in my quest to modestly brand my beloved Zambia, the place where I was born. Through a very good friend of mine, I unexpectedly found myself in Nevis, in 2007. Like many people, I had never heard of Nevis until then.
MyZambia MyAfrica* *was established to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of Zambians, and to create a platform for people of African descent to own our narrative. It was founded by Joel and I in 2017. It has taken me 10 years to arrive at this moment.
For me, Joel O’Loughlin, the prospect of restoring the broken link to a Continent from where my ancestors were forcibly taken, is kismet. I would never deny my Caribbean culture or make agbada my regular daywear. Neither am I one of those in the scattering who feels it necessary to manifest my African identity by shucking off the garments and affectations of all of the places that have shaped me. I simply accept that my animating force is essentially African — MyAfrica!
Heritage is strangely powerful, imposing a magnetic influence over our response to what life throws us. The farther away we move from our ancestral centre, the lighter the magnetic field. But the force has a way of finding us no matter where we drift. I remember bumping into a group of Africans on arrival at University of East Anglia (UK). They had been brought to Norwich City by the British Council to undertake Development Studies in preparation for the country’s transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.
We had instant rapport, no doubt assisted by copious amounts of lager. For the next 3 years the pull of Africa transformed my diet to a staple of stewed lamb neck and sadza. My guys voted me in as the President of the African society, and we added our voices to the clamour calling for an end to apartheid. This story may be familiar to those of you in the diaspora, because you may have also been moved by the same invisible hand to clutch at a place you have never set foot upon.
As we begin the New Year, these reflections on where we came from, and what moves us, has caused us to refocus. We began with the end — of branding Zambia as a G8teway into Southern Africa. This remains our paramount goal.
But like with so many ventures, opportunities intrude. A powerful presentation from an official passionate about preventing the annual waste of fruit in Zambia, launched us into the business of processing mangoes. We needed a pied de terre in Zambia, and Tikondane Community Centre in Katete, Eastern Zambia, presented itself as the ideal thriving community to locate our fruit processing operation.
Seed Tiko: Fight poverty in Katete, 3 minute film
Processing is reliant on power and of course our ethical principles led us to explore renewable energy. In attempting to acquire insight into the available energy solutions, we organised a breakfast seminar hosted by Clyde & Co a global law firm. The success of the seminar brought us partners with such a wealth of knowledge that we found ourselves with the capability of developing renewable power projects. This rapid concatenation risks losing sight of the original end in mind.
Keenly aware of the dangers of mission-creep at the vantage point of a New Year, we have risen to the challenge of settling upon unifying themes that brings together the divergent strands of our growing business. The rhythm of our business inspires a metaphorical dance, which like most dances, proceeds better with partners familiar with the steps. We commend our refreshed mission to all of you who may be encouraged to join us on the dance floor in 2018.
MyZambia MyAfrica seeks to embolden brand Africa from the vantage point of G8teway Zambia. Globally, we floodlight the stories and achievements of the African diaspora. On the African continent, we endeavour to make a profound impact upon the welfare of populations through the introduction of agri-tech innovation.
The beat goes on — it is simply patriotism, philanthropy and place.
*Content supplied by **Leya Kawamba **(MyZambia) &** Joel O’Loughlin **(MyAfrica),** *MyZambia MyAfrica Co-Founders