It Takes A Village To Raise A Child.

Sharing from my first ever op-Ed :-). https://www.newtimes.co.rw/opinions/it-takes-village-raise-child.

In 2007, I met a force of a woman who rejected my job application and instead chose to help change the course of my life.

This was after a few difficult years of trying to find my purpose, after years of doing work I didn’t enjoy, in a country I did not want to be in. I felt stuck in a vicious cycle of working to live and living to work.

You see, I applied to be her executive assistant because she was dynamic and known as a person to work for. So here I was ready to take on the challenge.

After weeks of engaging with her, she rejected my application and outlined her reasons why, especially because I was settling for something less than what I am capable of.

Instead she chose to help me get on the journey to today, promising to connect me to her friends at the World Bank, where she thought I belonged, when I returned to Rwanda for my first vacation since I left in 1998.

This was hope rekindled, for me, to achieve a dream to spending the rest of my days making a difference, away from behind a computer.

While in Rwanda, I was filled with all kinds of emotions, because I found a country far changed from the one I left, one I had vowed never return to.

With a front row seat, I witnessed the impact of the work my mum and aunt were doing in their social enterprise, Gahaya Links, transforming the lives of thousands of women and households in Rwanda, all the while building unity and reconciliation among Genocide widows and women whose husbands were in jail for killing their former’s husbands and children.

This experience further fueled my desire to do something that would also impact lives in Rwanda, with sights set on the greater platform, our Africa.

I couldn’t wait to return to the US, to share this experience with my new-found mentor and get started with those World Bank connections to get me back home quickly.

To my surprise, she withdrew her promise to give me connections, because as far as she was concerned, it was the easy way out. She urged me to go back to school and that Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School would be a perfect fit as I belonged in the Public Policy arena.

Of course, I thought this was crazy talk because, firstly, Ivy League for me, no – impossible? Secondly, where would I get the money from?

She told me, getting in was the hardest part, all will fall in place once I achieved that. By then, I had been out of school for some time and needed to do the GRE, which meant needing a crash course to get this done.

A dear cousin agreed to sponsor me for a 6-week GRE class and the ball was now rolling for the beginning of the rest of my life. I spent time between work reading about public policy, refreshing my math and memorising vocabulary.

For the first time in my life, I had people believe in what I was capable of and putting their time and money to help me achieve my dreams.

This community of a few good women and men made me believe that anything I dreamed of was possible.  They restored my faith in humanity after what seemed like a lifetime of haplessness.

I ended up at the best public policy analysis school in the world, Harvard Kennedy School, and the community continued to carry me through, making sure I had everything I needed to focus on school only, for two whole years.

During this experience, I encountered a great group of people who were classmates, teachers, and visitors to the school, all in pursuit of what they can do for their communities, countries and the world.

It was here that I met a great professor who played a critical role in helping me shape my thinking of how I could turn my love for technology, and desire to make a difference, into a career.

He graciously guided me through two years of school. It was my thesis, for which he was my advisor, which led me to my first job, a job that introduced me to development work.

It was there that the #CashlessRwanda fire became ignited and led me to my next job, which also introduced me to the #CashlessAfrica work. These were all beyond what I could have dreamed.

It was a community of a few that shaped and helped me build the capacity to make a difference today. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child. That is why when opportunities to pay it forward come, I jump at them.

When Awel Uwihanganye approached me to join the LéO Africa Institute, an initiative that trains  the next generation of values-based leaders in Africa, there was no hesitation.

Looking at our continent, starting with the “top” nations, it is easy to see a dearth of leadership; one which has failed to deliver for our people because of selfishness, greed, nepotism, entitlement, all wrapped up in corruption.

I particularly love and appreciate LéO Africa’s Young and Emerging Leaders Project (YELP), one of the few fellowships on the continent nurturing new leadership.

These inspiring young people (YELPees as they call themselves) who come from all walks of life, are already working on exciting initiatives and businesses or are in the process of discovering what their purpose is.

One thing is for sure; they ALL want to see a better Africa and are ready to work to make sure we live to see the Africa we want.

This makes the work of initiatives like the LéO Africa Institute ever more important and exciting because we have an opportunity to play a small part in shaping the future of Africa’s youth today, who I am sure will lead their families, communities, nations, and our continent to greatness.

https://www.newtimes.co.rw/opinions/it-takes-village-raise-child.

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Nigeria, a lesson in experience being the best teacher.

There are many opinions about Nigeria and her people, which unfortunately affect our perception of Africa’s largest economy and boy are we misinformed! I’ve learned through experience to not believe all you hear instead take time to learn more for yourself.

This #CashlessAfrica journey affords me the a great opportunity to visit 33 countries advocating for digital payments for financial inclusion, and Nigeria is where I’ve gone most for obvious reasons. I’ve had the privilege of visiting six times this year going to the vibrant Lagos, organized and laid back Abuja, chaotic Port Harcourt and the world famous (at least it must be) Aba. In spite the sometimes difficult immigration process, which varies depending on which airport you enter through, ALL the immigration officers have been welcoming. It is my hope the Government of Nigeria makes the visa process painless and all officers well informed of changes to ensure visitors have a good welcome. I say this because on numerous occasions I entered through Lagos with approval letter once, only to get to Abuja and be almost denied entry because I didn’t have an approval letter. Happy to offer a free consultation as a frequent visitor:-).

My first visit to Lagos last November was overwhelming, and I must admit it was mostly so because of all the stories I have heard. I was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming immigration, especially since I’d gone through the trouble of getting a visa approval letter before arrival, only to be told I didn’t need it. Everyone was friendly and my Rwandan passport made for good conversation.

Nigerians keep it real and it is what I appreciate most. In many a spirited conversation it is done with no hard feelings, we have a good laugh and in the end we go out and enjoy a good time. I don’t know many places where this is the case.

Nigeria gets a bad rap and many think it is a dangerous place to be. I certainly was guilty of thinking like this and was always looking over my shoulder. Now I’m not claiming it is all good, but my experience has been great! In fact on several occasions saw runners near and after midnight. Tested this my self on a happy Friday night and it was great to experience a calm Lagos. The night life is super exciting, something you should endeavor to experience when you visit.

This picture was taken at Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge way after midnight 😆.

Last but certainly NOT least, there’s Aba in Abia State, a place every African business owner in Fashion and Accessories, and really ANYTHING, should know about. You can get a FANTASTIC custom suit made in a matter of hours. Aba deserves it’s own write-up but needless to say I believe that when Africa Continent Free Trade Agreement is all said and done, most will be flying to Aba instead of outside Africa to buy consumer goods.

Be sure to put #VisitNigeria on your list of places to go soon, like me, you may be pleasantly surprised in many ways. Hope to meet you there or hear of your experience one of these days.

#CashlessAfrica “obsession remains until, well…

Last weekend someone passed a comment in a group discussion saying, “Lucy is obsessed with this cashless thing and I just don’t know why!” Someone else added,, “she sure is and I can’t understand why she won’t let it go, now 7 years and counting – Lucy, Rwanda heard you, you can stop now!” Amusing, right? I recall someone advising me to find another calling/brand as this “cashless thing” has run its course.

As usual, I smile through it because I can’t understand how people who pay easily most places they go, with their card, don’t get that I simply want the same for ALL our people, everywhere. Rwanda was only warm up for this marathon, which I intend to run to the finish line.

Here’s what I think when some of you make snarky comments, roll your eyes, put fingers in your ears and go blah blah blah, or whatever, when I utter cashless.

First, thank you for fueling the obsession :-).

Second, You have two options, GET USED to this OR Ignore.

Last but not least, one thing is sure, I shall never give until it is easy, safe and convenient for Africans everywhere to pay and be paid, just as it is for you and I.

Many of our people put in long days away from family, to earn a living and many go great lengths to keep it safe. For most of Africa, it is difficult to keep their monies safe. When they choose to keep it safe in the bank, where they can also compound with some interest, they have EVERY RIGHT to access it when and where they want it. They shouldn’t have to travel anywhere to look for a branch, agent, ATM to access their monies. And since they are getting money to pay someone – somewhere, why not get that person or place to accept digital payments to make it easy all around, you know, go cashless?

I’ll say this again. When cash is king in circulation, no one wins, except those who don’t like transparency and accountability a.k.a corruption. As Africa become cashless, there’s greater accuracy in measuring our economy instead of the guesstimates we have today, which make people think we are poor. We shall also have more money in our treasury reserves to fund development projects, be it for individuals, corporates or governments, at affordable rates, which will show Africans DO have a savings culture!

Wouldn’t you like your mortgage at under 10%, I know I would!

Wouldn’t you want to see less international loans/aid thanks to availability of funds locally saving us and generations to come from paying these for a long time? God knows I look forward to this day, and it can’t happen for a cash economy!

Therefore I say, get on this cashless train and use your voice/influence to make it happen OR get out the way. When digital payments are a way of life for many Africans, I’ll see myself out to a classroom somewhere, trust :-).

Thank you :-).

“Be Committed to Investing In YOURSELF and Playing Your Part!”

Another excerpt from one of my favorite moments with President Kagame. Rings true everyday and a principle we must maintain each day. especially you our youth!

“They called us a small failed state. But we refused to fail. We refused to be small. We are not small. Choosing not to be small has a price. You will have to spend sleepless nights; work hard and nobody will thank you for that. I am asking you to make one clear choice… being big is where we belong…”

“The moment you believe that you are better off being taught who you should be, you have lost your worth and your dignity. We want to see you strive to learn, to contribute (and) to play your part in this country because it belongs to you. You must be committed to investing in yourself and to playing your part.”

President Paul Kagame June 27th, 2017.

When you invest in yourself, you’ll do whatever it takes that is right, to be all you need to be. Success comes to those who are living for a purpose, and persistently working toward it. When you achieve success, playing your part is a natural progression, you need no reminders.

Here’s to you doing and BEING ALL you can be to achieve success.

…No one can teach us about the importance of human rights….#TBW

“Our democracy, our quest for transformation provides us with the desire, the energy to give ourselves that dignity. When we give our citizens access to health, education, food security, tools of communications…there is no basis for any accusations. No one can teach us about the importance of human rights…we know it more than anyone.”

President Kagame

If only each home owner paved their half of the street.

Africa would be far ahead in giving our children a great place to grow up.

Last weekend I was driving through a neighborhood in Accra, with BIG new houses, with expensive cars to match. However, the roads were so bad that my friend kept saying, don’t use this one, use the other many times, saying government has disappointed on the roads and drainage! I found myself telling him something I’d heard weeks back. “If only each home owner paved their half of the street.”

Weeks back, I had the pleasure of having breakfast with one of the passionate people I’ve encountered, who always challenges me at each encounter. He has the most interesting stories, which I’m not sure he knows, but always leave me thinking , don’t sit around waiting for others Lucy, you DO IT. And do it, he has on many occasions stepping up to leadership because someone has to. I use every opportunity I get to spend time with him and always leave inspired to stop complaining and continue the fight to BE the solution.

You see, years back his young son asked him about the “boreholes” on the street he encountered on his way from school. Perplexed, he realized his young son meant pot holes, which on rainy days appeared as though a borehole sent up some water, imagine that! He decided to DO something about it. That evening, he typed up and delivered a notice to all houses on the neighborhood asking them to each fill up the potholes outside around their cars with gravel stones. The following day, he was first to deliver and at the end of day, all houses had done just that. It took him by surprise, and inspired him to go a step further. He then went to the council chairman to request that he provide tar (which only government could provide) to smooth out the road. Council man didn’t mind him (like they say in these parts ☺️). What he did next was the exactly those who say, I didn’t choose to be in leadership, I needed to.

He went home and wrote to his neighbors asking them to spare an hour that week to go see the council man and boy did they turn out BIG. When they arrived at the council man’s office, his secretary tried to fend them off saying council man was busy and could not see them. As you can imagine my mentor couldn’t let that happen. He went in to call the council man and told him look outside the window to his constituents, and that they’d not leave without seeing him. Needless to say, they had tar delivered and properly leveled. The boreholes became a tarmac road in a matter of days, thanks to a CAN DO leadership mindset to mobilize and show the POWER of the people! The councilman went on to win re-election, later becoming a senator and my mentor is to thank for that.

Years later, he found himself in a similar situation, now in a new neighborhood and once again stepped up. Realizing how horrible the condition of his street was, moreover the houses had beautiful paved parking big enough to fit 10 or so cars, with the expensive cars to match, he knew exactly what to do. With the help of his son, delivered a notice to the neighborhood, asking them to pave half the road along their fence. The following day, pavers were on the road doing just that. In no time, the entire street was fully paved and soon other streets around did the same, now Lekki has the most paved streets in Lagos! Talk about inspiring leadership.

Reminded me of our Umuganda, which brings communities together once a month to tackle issues such as homes for the most vulnerable among us, neighborhood watch equipped with pick-trucks/uniforms/flashlights; street cleaners equipped bicycles to help them get around; roads; schools; malnutrition and so much more, which have been a cornerstone of Rwanda’s transformation.

Now imagine how great our Africa can be if we banded together to pave our part of the street so to speak! Our communities would have healthy children NOT suffering with malnutrition; living in under proper roofs NOT grass thatch; enjoy quality education in good schools; have great healthcare; live in safe neighborhoods and most importantly self reliant, NEVER waiting for “rescue” hand-outs in foreign aid!

There’s nothing stopping us from living our best lives! WE THE PEOPLE, not government or any authority can fix our issues or give anything until we step up to do the needful to better our lives. We have, WITHIN US, what it takes.

Will you be the one to mobilize your community to pave their part of the road? I challenge you to BE THE CHANGE, LEAD!

Money will never be enough!

Life is a beautiful journey, filled with many a bad time but even more great moments/memories. When those great moments are met with purpose, there are no words to explain how powerful and exciting life can be.

Many of us wake up each day to go work for something. My hope is that it will be to work for a purpose NOT money. Working for many, i.e chasing money, is an endless race that never end because money will NEVER be enough.

Working for and toward something bigger than yourself i.e. purpose, those hard days and especially great moments along the way, will bring meaning to your life and A LOT of satisfaction.

Live purposefully, take in every moment good or bad, all will bring great lessons or great memories. LIVE IT UP☺️

Life and Times of A #CashlessGal about Africa – Senegal 🇸🇳

Last week I had the unforgettable pleasure of visiting Dakar for the very first time on this #CashlessAfrica tour. Dakar is one of the most beautiful and promising cities I’ve visited so far, certainly the most welcoming and friendly. The welcome from the plane, down to immigration – luggage and the hotel, I experienced unmatched welcome that was truly a great example of what it means to be PAN AFRICAN.

Right off the plane I was wowing! Throw in a touch of Rwanda with my lovely RwandAir to make me home sick for a moment, and Ecobank Mobile App, the best on the continent for Payments, remittances and more, to remind me why I’m here☺️.

There she is, our dream RwandAir, flying away from to Kigali without me.

Newly minted terminal welcomes you.

How is this for a cashless welcome☺️. Get you the Ecobank Mobile App and enjoy a cashless existence including the ability to send and receive money from 33 African countries in the palm of your hands☺️, which only Ecobank, THE Pan African Bank can do for you.

Immigration was a breeze and I walked away with only a stamp, no Visa hassle whatsoever🙌🏾. Luggage took all of 5 minutes or so, and off I was out of this beautiful airport built in the desert, bringing with it development of a metropolis now sprouting with impeccable roads with tolls in place to maintain them and pay off that investment. Dakar definitely shows Africa is rising.

The food in Senegal is super flavorful with my favorite being chep, the best rice you’ll ever eat. Thanks to this mouth watering treat, I forgot to take a pic. And by the time I remembered to take a pic of my baobab juice, glass was near bottom.

Baobab is the most important tree in Senegal and this giant is rightly the national tree, you can’t cut one down lest you face the law.

After a hearty meal of the best rice and other veggy goodness they manage to make flavorful, you must have Senegalese tea to help digest everything. I believe it’s a green tea beautiful spices that you can easily miss that bitter after taste.

As you drive to King Fahad Hotel, there’s lots to take in. What I loved most were the beach front gyms along the road☺️. Any body weight machine is there! You enjoy the breeze and take in the gorgeous sunset.

Many getting a work out in.

This monument of a runner, I think, put a smile on my face.

How beautiful is the sunset!

There’s no question I fell in love with Dakar and can’t wait to see what #CashlessSenegal will achieve for this beautiful country.

On my last day in Dakar, I visited Goree Island, what a harrowing experience. As I walked through the dungeons our people where held, my heart sunk as my eyes welled up in anger! This UNESCO Heritage site, is the last place our strongest saw before being stolen and sold off! I will write about this in the future after processing it all.

Dare to BE. Happy Tuesday☺️

This excerpt is a gem, one of the best and most inspiring I’ve read. Thought I’d share – hope are as encouraged as I am and share🙏🏾.

“Dare to Be

When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.

When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.

When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.

When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.

When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.

When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.

When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.

When times are tough, dare to be tougher.

When love hurts you, dare to love again.

When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.

When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.

When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.

When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.

When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.

When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.

Dare to be the best you can –

At all times, Dare to be!

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

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