An old and very valuable African tradition we unintentionally lost, which we are currently heavily paying the price for is youth mentorship. See! In the African traditional custom, the family which normally went beyond the parents and children, and included aunties and uncles, would gather outside and sit around a fire to share stories.
The women would normally sit around the fire in the kitchen with their grandmothers, while the elders sat outside, mentoring the young men. The African Three-legged stool is where as young African women, we were taugh how to sit properly with our legs closed together. My maternal grandmother used to tell me that the fire would put ugly marks, which she called “Mbala” on my inner thigh. Truth be told, the only marks I ever got, were here painful pinches whenever I forgot to sit properly with my legs put together. To date am very careful how I sit.
The entertainment mainly through the television and social media with all its benefit, has replaced mentorship in many homes. Mentorship has completely been removed from many homes, especially today for the young person who is not really involved in church programs, youth clubs, or professional clubs. Today many young people are clueless on the many life skills that used to be passed on around a fire in many African homes. In this series of African Youth in Agribusiness, I hope to share my stories to inspire young people as an African Mother, wife, trader, especially as a woman in technology to cause Africa to think differently especially about Africa’s Agricultural markets and trade.
Hi, my name is Fostina Mani, am the Global Trade Engagement Director at Betta Grains www.bettagrains.com and Founder of a private marketplace Mothers of Africa Mobile Soko www.mothersofafricamobilesoko.com. Am a recognized sector leader in Africa’s Agriculture, and a credible, reputable and much sort after global trade engagement facilitator by many development partners, non-profit organization, and foreign government commercial attaches seeking partnerships and distribution opportunities for trade in Africa’s mass markets especially the bottom of the pyramid. As a woman of the Christian Faith, am serving God by championing for an agricultural markets revolution that favours Africa, as my contribution towards #Agenda2063 – The Africa We Want. I am using my social media platforms #Legacy2063byFostinaMani to serve farmers, traders, women in agribusiness, and youthful (young, mature, retired) professionals to create the “Africa We Want”.
My heart breaks every time I see African youth idling wasting time because they simply do not know what to do with themselves. Yes, unemployment may be high, and even those able to find jobs, the money is not all that. There are those who know they do not want to work for anyone, but the question is what businesses do they start. What pains me the most is Africa’s rural youth, who have so much land within their reach and yet cannot think of any projects they can come up with. Land is God’s best gift for Africa today. Yet! Africa has youth who cannot wait to get out of the rural areas to the urban cities.
So where does a young person begin. Well! You go back to your maker, God Almighty. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I sanctified you. I ordained you a prophet to the nations”. This one verse helped shape my life, at 21 years. I was headed to a foreign land, I did not know what the future held for me, but that bible verse, is what I held on to. That is how, I started journaling which is simply writing down my conversations with God. How do you speak to God? The same way you speak to another person. How do you hear God? God created you, it is up to him to figure out how to talk to you. And trust me when he does you will know. Long before I was the ovary the sperm collided with; God knew me. That means, God knew me, and decided exactly where I was going to be born. The second thing God did for me, is that he sanctified me, Sanctified means “Separated” for a very specific assignment. So, what I do, is very specific to my assignment. I am very original, that is why God gave me a unique DNA, and fingerprint. Everything about me is wired for that very specific assignment. Then God ordained (appointed) me a prophet (ambassador, or spokesman) to the nations. That is why my assignment cannot be confined to Kenya along. It is to the nations, and the more I have spoken to God the more I realized it is to the Africa continent.
My conversations with God is how I have found what I am supposed to do. My conversations with God, is where I find my clarity. And my conversations with God, is where I find my creativity and innovations for the work I do. I began writing down my conversations with God way back in 1987. I was heading to the United States, I was not certain what the future held. In my six hours layover in Amsterdam, Netherlands, I walked over to a shop and bought a notebook and began writing my letters to God. Thirty-Seven years later am still writing my letters to God.
Why did I decide to write. Well, something strange happened to me. As I was boarding the plane to Amsterdam, with one foot on the plane, and the other still on the ramp. I remember promising myself, that I would one day come back to Kenya. I did not know what the future held, but I knew I would come back to Africa. And that became, a major factor in every decision I made, including the selection of a spouse. I knew that promise was not just a thought but a divine download that would change my life forever. That is why I started journaling. I wrote my thoughts down. Another thought later that year was, one day I would set up a business school in Machakos, Kenya. Journaling has worked for me, because I am able to track promises that come true, because I have learnt that I have to grow to a certain level, to be able to walk in that which God has promised me. Transformation is a process, which is necessary to achieve and deliver on your assignment.
It sounds very simple but one of the most difficult things to do, is to quiet your mind and speak to God. That is hard. Enoch’s relationship with God is one I really admire. Enoch and God, were like that buddy of yours you enjoy intimate conversations with. You know the one, you escort to their house, then the conversation is so sweet, you decide your friend should now escort you back to your house, and before you know it you have spent so much time in sweet conversation between both your houses, that you decide one of you should probably just do a sleep over. Well! God decided Enoch should do a sleep over at God’s place, and that is how Enoch never died. I have always wanted that sort of relationship with God. That is why my conversations with God have always been effortless and lacking in format. I figured out a long time ago, that God knows everything about me, so am simply honest, and am very sincere, when sad, depressed, sinful, bitter, angry, and just plain mean. I simply tell him. I simply let God know and ask the Holy Spirit to help me walk aright. I am very human and honest with God.
If you are a young person or even adult if you are not journaling, you need to start. Imagine if Moses had never journaled would we have the old testament in the bible. Imagine if David had never journaled would we have the Psalms. One of the things I admire most about the nation of Israel is they know, where they come from. The begotten we like to skip about in the bible is one thing I wish Africa had. The African communities used to teach their begotten to their children through songs, which many of us stopped. If you have older relatives, please take the time to speak to them and let them narrate your individual begotten so you can write it down, and pass it on to your future generations. Africa needs to record much of its history as it possibly can.
If you are an African youth, and you have some idea on what you want to do, you need to find mentors. There are mentors all around you, the only problem is with today’s lifestyle is our focus is strictly on our nuclear family, we have lost the richness of learning from our elders. Your approach to your mentor should be that of an African child, where you sit at their feet and learn. You may not necessarily agree with everything they say but keep quiet and learn. Then when you are alone think about it, also let it be part of your conversation with God.
What most people don’t know about me, is that the prospects of me studying in the United States where never on my parents’ agenda. It was never me, but another sister. My father’s brother the Late Prof Samson Munywoki had just moved back to Kenya from the US and was staying with us. I just loved hanging around him. He was fascinating to me, he was tall, and extremely unapologetic about his big afro and expensive chains (bling). As any African daughter, I loved serving him food, and just sitting down and listening and learning from him. So, whenever Uncle Sam needed to go somewhere, he tagged me along.
On one visit with Uncle Sam, to a young couple who were his friends, the lady mentioned that she had started a Christian Organization that was offering exchange programs for African youth. When she saw me, she asked if I was interested and that is how I ended up on an International Christian Exchange Program, it was a one-year volunteer program, with a very small stipend working with the World Affairs Council, Seattle Washington. I finished my exchange program, moved to another state, and started my bachelor’s degree.
Today’s Africa youth are surrounded by such amazing opportunities, if only they will take their time to seek out, sit down, and learn. Do you have an aunty or uncle who is doing amazing staff, or one whom you really admire like I did with my uncle? Seek him out, offer to buy them coffee. Do not always be on the receiving end. Ask to do something for them, then when given a chance, do not ask for money. Ask for an opportunity to learn from their experiences.
I get a lot of requests for jobs and advice on careers, and normally the first thing I ask is to look at their CV. When I make recommendations on what to change. Or advice they hire someone to help them with their CV, if they lack the expertise. Many young people get very offended, and insist their CV is just fine. Well! clearly it is not, because it is not working for you. A relative once got very offended and refused to speak to me again, but after the dust had settled, they came back, and I was able to quickly point to him what was wrong. He apologized, and when I showed him what he needed to do, the outcome was not a job, because I did not know of one, but I was able to show him, how to use his skills to market himself. He has done well for himself.
African youth, learn to seek out your elders and sit at their feet and quietly learn. For in doing so, there you will find amazing wisdom for business opportunities, networks, jobs, referrals, and other wonderful things. God does not drop prayers from heaven into your lap. God uses men to answer your prayers. Like many Africans we tend to judge a person by the way they look, dress, or what they drive. No!! Don’t do that. Be respective, listen, and learn. You have no idea who is delivering your opportunity. TD Jakes says “Opportunity will often come dressed in a coat of oppositions, never in a three piece suit with opportunity written all over it”. More often than not, opportunity comes as a problem and can be highly offensive.
Prayerfully seek wisdom from God, including reaching out to your elders, listen, learn, and ask God to reveal who is carrying the answer to your prayers. African Youth my hope is simply to inspire you out of hopelessness, I have seen in many African Youth. Reach out and let’s join hands, as we create “The Africa We Want” our Agenda2063
Thank you and God bless you.