Opportunity Knocks

Mama Shujaa
Posted February 16, 2009 from Kenya

I work at a national law firm, and in the single ugliest day for the legal industry since the economic downturn began, eight major firms announced a total of 748 layoffs last Thursday February 12th. Read more at http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/02/13/making-sense-of-black-thursday-and-a....

The gloomy announcements in our office began early in the day, just moments after the switchboard opened, and folks had logged in and settled down with their first cup of tea or coffee.

One by one, my coworkers and friends were summoned, issued the bad news, provided with boxes to pack up their personal belongings and where necessary, escorted off the premises. As the morning wore on and the scythe continued to fly, the office grapevine seethed with suppositions. No one was safe!

It was almost the end of the business day when the survivors were advised of the final number of those who had lost their jobs.

I know all of them well, most are women, heads of households, with small children, with health concerns, now without medical insurance. What are they all going to do?

Over the weekend, I checked on some of them. A few plan to file for unemployment insurance benefits which will provide some support in the short run, while next steps are mulled over.

The trouble is the worst is not over, there are going to be more job cuts. Just yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "I don't think there's any doubt that we've seen this economy has gotten worse just in the last few months. The acceleration in job loss probably means that this economy is going to get worse before it gets better," he said.

And then there is the bigger problem for states and their competing priorities of figuring out how to spend the billions in infrastructure funds they will receive as part of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan.

If there ever was a good time to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing, it is now. Tap into your god given gifts. Don’t leave all your eggs in one basket, allowing your 9-5 define who you are, stifle your creativity. Relying on that rat race has proven to be fruitless for all but obscenely greedy corporate giants; and witness all the out-of-work folk looking for government jobs.

Last May, I was a presenter in a panel of seven delegates at ATA’s 33rd Annual Congress in Arusha, Tanzania, entitled Bringing The World To Africa and Africa to the World: Africa's Competitive Edge In Tourism. It was such an exciting occasion for me, especially because I was able to return home, and spend time with my cousin and her family during the five-day event. I accepted the invitation to participate and about a week before the congress, I learned the names of the other panelists, thankfully - I am a really shy person, certifiable.

How absolutely stimulating and thrilling to learn that I was to present alongside achievers such as Professor Pius Z. Yanda, Joint Recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore; Dr. Alhaji Dantata, Director of Nigeria’s National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism; Dr. Chika Onyeani, CEO of African Telecom; Mr. Fred Nelson, Consultant on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development, Mr. Darol Kubacz, Founder of Freedom For Life, a paraplegic who lost use of his legs while he was in the U.S. Army in 1992; and Mr. Eliseo Neuman, Executive Director of the Africa Institute.

The Congress was formally opened by His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania who highlighted the important role tourism plays in promoting socio-economic development across the continent. You can view the complete program in pdf format here.

Day two of the Congress was dedicated to fleshing out Africa’s Competitive Edge in Tourism, and our session titled Trends In Africa Tourism was chaired and moderated by Ambassador Daudi N. Mwakawago, former Tanzanian Ambassador to the United Nations. As the only woman panelist, I felt that I was at an advantage considering the subject matter of my speech.

My dynamic seven-minute speech on the Essentials and Benefits of Sports Marketing and How It Compliments Tourism in Africa; the Emergence of Sport Tourism was extremely well-received.

I captured the attention of all the attendees, Ministers of Tourism, delegates, who were present; to the extent that quite a few cornered me for a word or two during the coffee and lunch breaks.

I raised points of discussion/questions such as:

  • in a changing world where boundaries are being broken it is imperative to be different to stay ahead;
  • the difference between the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro, Maasai Mara
  • Are the lions in Tanzania more ferocious?
  • Are the elephants in Kenya more weight conscious?

Day four was Host Country Day sponsored by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Delegates were treated to a Safari to the Ngorongoro Crater. Here, a Ngorongoro style "Karibu!" [welcome] at the gates. (sorry, had trouble uploading photos)

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where a animals coexist naturally with the Maasai. Our tour guides tried their best and we were treated to the Big Five; we saw three lions, a leopard, buffalo, elephants and the black rhino. We were very lucky. And I did my best with a borrowed camera...

A delicious lunch was at Serena Lodge: wish I had a shot from the window of the lodge, an amazing view of the huge caldera (collapsed volcano) that is 600 metres deep and hosts over 20,000 animals.

As the economic downturn continues it is imperative that each one of us look for ways in which to ameliorate our personal lives; and here I come with the old clichés: Who’s got your back, if you don’t? Have a back-up plan, believe in you. Do not let the shoe drop before you start looking.

As my buddies in the hood would say, if you work for The Man, have a back-up plan. Take courage [ushujaa]


Mama Shujaa

Comments 2

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  • Philo Ikonya
    Feb 16, 2009
    Feb 16, 2009

    Hey Mama Shujaa,

    This made an interesting read. Yes, what the world has come to!!! You know today I was reading G.K. Chesterton's "The Outline of Sanity" ( I Know he has no apologies for his Catholic soul) and oh my, it is just this kind of world that the man had foreseen. I wonder, and I will find out about his women contemporaries.... and what they thought? You and GK are on the same wavelength... believe in your own productions.. and obviously employment is just this thing that we decided to all get behind and sometimes it hides our talents and who we are.. so, I know it is inconceivable for those who live in its comfort and discomforts but it is what you say that is so true all over the world. As all the time i listen to the world crisis of what is going on.. I just wonder how the brilliant minds of the GKs and you of today will help all to deal with this?! I keep asking myself, might the internet not be part of the solution since it is our recent revolution...There are many questions on how we can back up but we must back up.. we have no option.

    I liked that... the differences.. our originality... etc.. and that funny one" Are the lions in TZ more ferocious?" and that other one " the elephants in Kenya more weight conscious..."

    Go! Go! GO! there you were in this huge prestigious conference... keep going. By the way, I am very inspired by your president out there.. you are lucky... I hope he succeeds in all plans in spite of the problems... Obama! and you of course!

    best, Philo

  • Mama Shujaa
    Feb 16, 2009
    Feb 16, 2009


    Thank you for your comment and your encouragement. I have not yet read that one, The Outline of Sanity, sounds interesting, however I'm not sure about the likening...

    I too believe in the power of the citizens of the internet, creating communities, conducting discourse, inspiring one another, changing lives.

    Pole pole tu. Mama Shujaa