Ups and downs

Before heading to the airport I had a most inspiring coffee chat with an Ethiopian (woman) friend I worked with 7 years ago. At the time she worked with a government institution mandated to train senior government officials. What we proposed somehow unnerved them as it was out of the ordinary. We had hoped we could partner but they didn’t bite. The meeting with them was mostly memorable because of the excellent macchiato they served during our meeting; imagine that, at a government agency. But then again, this was Ethiopia.

My friend is busy teaching life skills to young Ethiopians and empowering women of any age. I learned about the Digital Opportunities Trust, a social enterprise that focuses on young people all over Africa. Her stories were both inspiring and sobering. She has moved away from senior leadership training because of the unwillingness of those at the top to examine their own behavior. This sounded familiar.

And as if to emphasize this point I learned that Robert Mugabe was elected to be the new Chairman of the African Union. My friend and colleague PT in Lesotho wrote in response to this news, “[I] am so disappointed. Something is terribly wrong with African leaders, their decisions and choices. Unfortunately no one will save us but ourselves. They know he will promote and protect corruption, and promote culture of impunity. It will take ages for Africa to be emancipated politically and economically. The continent is desperately in need of fresh ideas in order to progress at a desired pace.”

Further illustrations of the big egos and bellies of African officialdom accompanied me on the plane from Addis to Nairobi (in front of course). They kept their AU delegate badges around their necks even though the conference is over.  I looked at their big bellies and watched the young female handler – carrying the boss’ hand luggage which was a large carry-on which she carefully repacked with the many boxes of tax free whiskies,  champagnes and Dunhill cigarettes. They were treated to a special van and a security person who took them to the transit lounge. Once there they had to mix with the likes me.

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