Dr Tererai Trent, a Zimbabwean scholar and philanthropist is the only African to be selected amongst a list of 10 women who will be honoured for inspiring the world. She will have a life-size statue of herself unveiled in New York for her work championing gender equality and education.
She is in good company receiving the ‘Statue of Equality’, with other statues being dedicated to Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood star Nicole Kidman and Olympic gymnast, Gabby Douglas.
“Statues of Equality is set to launch in #NYC this summer. I am incredibly honored to be standing among the World’s Top 10 Most Inspiring Women ‘Sculpted for Equal Rights’! Come August 26 and celebrate the empowerment of women and big dreams! #StatuesForEquality” she announced on her Twitter account.
She further went on to tweet:
Trent was born in Matau village, in Mashonaland West’s Karoi District. Due to cultural norms at the time and limited resources, her family had to choose which sibling to send to school. “As a cattle-herding tomboy, I was bound to follow in the footsteps of generations of women before me: early marriage, illiteracy, and poverty,” she said.
Her family chose to send her brother to school because he was a boy. This piqued her curiosity for education as she began teaching herself how to read from her brother’s schoolbooks, and often did his homework for him.
Her father later submitted to her passion to learn and allowed her to go to school, but after two terms she was forced to drop out when she was married off at the age of 11.
At the age of 20, a conversation with her mother ignited a desire in her to dream about her future. Her mother asked her to write her dreams down on a piece of paper and bury it.
Her dreams included traveling, attaining educational qualifications up to Doctorate level, and most importantly impacting her community. “Your dreams will have greater meaning if they are connected to your community”, were the words her mother told her when she was encouraging her to have something to believe in.
Her determination and perseverance were critical to her success, even after enduring abuse at the hands of her first husband once they had relocated to the US. Trent remained focused and steadfast in pursuing her dreams, and kept her home Zimbabwe at the centre of her vision.
“A cattle herder who married young, and by age 18 had three children and no high school diploma. But I defied the odds, got an education and came back to build a school.”
After accomplishing each of her goals, she would return home to her village to unearth her list and tick off each accomplishment one by one. Finally, an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show led to Oprah donating $1.5 million towards assisting Trent towards her dream of developing educational facilities in her village, Matau.
Her efforts and commitment to ploughing her exposure back into her home, has resulted in tangible change. “Matau parents and villagers are seeing the value of educating girls. Girls can become leaders of our communities and our African nations. Many parents bring their daughters to me and ask: “Can she be just like you?” says Trent.
Whereas Dr Trent’s statue may stand in New York as of August, her impact and her legacy will resonate in Zimbabwe and beyond for generations to come. The President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa voiced the opinions of many when he tweeted;
“Congratulations @TereraiTrent who has been honoured as one of the 10 most inspiring women in the world, part of the ‘Sculpted for Equal Rights’ initiative. All the people of Zimbabwe are deeply proud of you and your work promoting equality and empowerment for girls and women”.
Iddris Sandu, the 21-year-old expert behind Instagram, Snapchat and Uber
At the age of 10, Sandu began to learn the ropes of Programming independently at a public Library
During his days in high school, 16-year-old Iddris Sandu created a mobile software that caught the attention of the U.S Former President Barack Obama. This got him an invitation to the White House where the honorary Presidential scholar award was bestowed upon him. The 21-year-old talented guru who is currently based in Los Angeles has completed many phenomenal feats, one of which includes building algorithms for Uber, Instagram and Snapchat which has given them the repute they have today.
At the age of 10, Sandu began to learn the ropes of Programming independently at a public Library for a period of two years. It was there he got an internship offer from a designer who worked at Google at the company’s headquarters. He had his first encounter with programming at the age of 13, alongside the first-ever Google Blogger, Google Plus and a host of others. Sandu was still determined to affect the world around him positively and at age 15, he built an app that students at his high school used to get directions to their classrooms.
He considers himself a cultural architect and aims to create a level playing ground between Silicon Valley and the younger generation of colour. He was given birth to and raised in Harbor City, California by his Ghanaian parents. He recalls an unforgettable and mortifying experience he had at the age of 8, while on a trip to Ghana with his dad during an interview with Oxford University’s Music and Style Magazine.
He revealed that on the fourth day of the trip, he abandoned him in a village, took his passport and came back to the States. He further added how he was abandoned and was only able to get in contact with an NGO after almost nine months, it was with the help of this NGO that he was able to travel back home. It was on his return to the U.S that the first-ever iPhone was unveiled and this propelled his journey into the world of technology.
According to him, he was greatly inspired and thought – this device is going to change the world. The iPhone was so highly regarded because for the first-time regular consumers developed for other consumers. He explained that in earlier times, you had to have work experience for a few years at a tech company for your offer or input to tech or creation of an app to be regarded at all. Apple conquered that problem and he knew that was the future.
Sandu gained recognition far and wide inadvertently from this. It led to him being invited to a meeting with former President Obama. During this period, he wrote an algorithm that he sold to Instagram and later became a consultant to Snapchat and Uber respectively. He created for Uber, an Autonomous Collision Detection Interface software for self-driving cars. He left big companies in the tech industry with the purpose of bridging the gap between the ignorant and knowledgeable. He further went on to the need for invention and creativity among youngsters like himself.
Sandu believes that information is one of the various things that keep people divided. You must think on a more advanced level in order to become a creator rather than a consumer. He posits that people of colour, in particular, are more likely to be consumers than creators; he further went on to say it is hard to make a difference in the society when you are a consumer rather than a creator.
Sandu says he has been trying to change the narrative and he has experienced some success doing this. Upon meeting the late rapper Nipsey Hussle at a local Starbucks in 2017, Sandu and Nipsey were able to transform an abandoned store into the Marathon Clothing Store. All these happened while Sandu encouraged the study of STEM subjects in schools and at higher levels. According to The New York Times, the smart store offers exclusive music and other content to customers who have downloaded an app. The store drew its overall makeup from Nipsey’s cultural influences and Sandu’s solid background of tech and design. It attracted many big cultural icons such as Russell Westbrook, Vegas Jones of Roc Nation, among others along with many journalists.
In an interview with CNBC, Sandu said the store has helped him bridge the gap between culture and technology, and would love others to do the same. During the interview, Sandu expressed that we are in the digital age and we are constantly exposed to content instantaneously. He also said that more focus and attention should be placed on the more pressing issues affecting society and capitalize on that.
CNBC gathered the information that the genius is set to partner with Kanye West and Jaden Smith on some future businesses, clothing lines and disaster relief projects in 2019. Sandu has also partnered with Kanye West after he succeeded at creating his own music album whose sonics and instrumentals were created in just 3 days. Sandu is also working on a book that will discuss innovators such as Kanye West; Robi Reed, a casting director; and Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue.
Sandu is undoubtedly on his way to becoming a leader for the next generation of influencers and entrepreneurs; considering his passion to use all his connections to empower young people in America and to make a positive impact on the community around him.
Ethiopian youths “pimp out” jalopy Beetles to revive auto culture
Beetles became a common sight in Addis Ababa under former Emperor, Haile Selassie
When Robel Wolde bought a beat-up 1967 Volkswagen Beetle from a friend for 50,000 Br Ethiopian, it marked the start of an extensive restoration he’d plotted for years.
The 25-year-old Ethiopian painter quickly went to work.
He installed new grey leather seats, applied black stripes and decals along the orange-and-blue exterior and hired a metalworker to fit oversized headlights to the front bumper.
Two months and an additional $1,000 later, Robel’s vision was complete.
And with that, he joined the growing number of young Ethiopian drivers giving the Beetle — which has long occupied a hallowed position in the nation’s car culture — a 21st-century upgrade.
Some of this restoration work is inspired by shows like the old MTV hit “Pimp My Ride” — “pimped out”, American slang for customised vehicles, has been adopted in Addis Ababa.
But love for the Beetle in Ethiopia goes back decades and is rooted in both economics and nostalgia.
Volkswagen is hoping to capitalise on this goodwill. In January, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ethiopian government to set up a domestic auto industry, including an assembly plant.
Regardless of what comes of this project, Robel says the Beetle’s popularity will endure.
“Most of the time, Beetles are driven by old people,” he said, leaning on the bonnet of his car near one of Addis’ busier roundabouts.
“But when they are custom and pimped like this, they are a fashion statement for young people.”
The ‘car for everyone’ –
Initially developed in Nazi Germany as an instrument of propaganda, the origins of the Volkswagen Beetle “people’s car” date back to 1938.
Beetles became a common sight in Addis Ababa under former Emperor, Haile Selassie, who ruled for more than four decades beginning in 1930.
In 1974, when the communist Derg regime removed him from power, Haile Selassie was famously forced to duck into a Beetle before being escorted away from his palace.
Decades later, Beetles remain ubiquitous, in part because exorbitant taxes make buying new cars impossible for many.
Yet, it’s clear that the cars also have sentimental value.
When the Ethiopian-American novelist Maaza Mengiste sees one, she says she is reminded of the pale blue Beetle her grandfather drove — the same car that took her to the airport when she left the country as a young girl not long after the Derg came to power.
“I associate that car with Ethiopia, with growing up there and all the happy memories I have,” she told reporters.
Last year, Mengiste started posting pictures of Beetles on Twitter, using the hashtag #BeetleEthiopia.
Ever since, Ethiopians from a range of backgrounds have been posting photos of their own, sometimes offering equally personal memories.
“There was something about a Volkswagen that cut through social lines,” Mengiste said.
“It was a car for everyone. You could be looking for some form of stability, and you would manage to buy a Volkswagen and that was your step into an upwardly mobile but not extravagant social class.”
‘I pimp all of it’ –
Like Mengiste, Kaleb Teshome, a 29-year-old mechanic, has been riding in Beetles all his life.
For decades, his family has owned a garage that specialises in fixing up the cars.
Now, Kaleb works alongside his father at the garage, where more than a dozen Beetles compete for space on a tiny dirt lot, with others lining the nearby road.
Many of the Beetles have been brought in for standard tune-ups.
But every few months, Kaleb is asked to do the kind of custom work worthy of “Pimp My Ride,” a show he still watches online even though it was cancelled more than a decade ago.
“I’ve known the cars since my childhood. I know what they need,” he said.
“It could be paintwork. It could be big tyres. It could be a sound system. I pimp all of it.”
One recent morning, he showed reporters his own “pimped-out” Beetle, a shiny green-and-black 1972 model with massive tyres that would look more at home on a truck.
“When I drive it on the street,” he said, “even people who drive luxurious cars say ‘Wow.'”
‘Part of history’ –
Whether “pimped-out” or not, the Beetles of Addis Ababa seem destined to become collectors’ items.
In July, Volkswagen marked the end of the Beetle’s around eight-decade run by launching a limited, 65-unit “Beetle Final Edition” at its factory in Puebla, Mexico.
For Robel, the painter, the news was further validation of the investment he’d made in his own car.
“If production of the Beetles has stopped, that means we have a treasure,” he said.
“They will become part of history. That is their fate, so I think I am lucky. Even if I get a really good offer, I don’t think I will sell.”
“Okada” Wars: How Nigeria’s Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes
First to launch was Gokada in 2018, pioneering an Uber-style system for two-wheeled transport
Banker Yemi Adegbola used to leave his home in Lagos before 4 am each day, but would still arrive late to work because of the notorious traffic in Nigeria’s biggest city.
Now, he says he has “dumped his car” for one of a raft of new motorbike ride-hailing apps that developers hope can speed up journeys for the roughly 20 million residents of the economic capital.
For years, the jams — known locally as “go-slows” — have been a nightmare for Lagosians.
Potholed roads, reckless driving and too many cars have helped turn the daily commute into an ordeal that often lasts for hours.
People miss appointments and business suffers as one of Africa’s largest markets grinds to a standstill.
Sensing an opportunity, a growing number of ride-hailing services have stepped into the chaos — bringing order to the “okada” motorbike taxis that have long whizzed perilously around Lagos.
First to launch was Gokada in 2018, pioneering an Uber-style system for two-wheeled transport that had already been successfully rolled out by firms elsewhere.
It has since been followed by other operators like Maxokada and ORide — and the competitors are looking to overtake each other with better technology, lower prices and more services.
‘Open market’ –
Before these startups, Lagosians in a hurry had to put their faith in the army of unregulated “okada” riders weaving hazardously through the traffic.
Often untrained and unfamiliar with the city, they were seen as dangerous and blamed by the police for a rise in petty crime.
The authorities clamped down and in 2012 banned the 100cc bikes from 475 roads and highways around the city.
This year, some 3,000 motorcycles were impounded and destroyed for violating the restrictions, police said.
The ride-hailing apps provide a striking difference.
Their drivers are decked out in bibs and helmets in company colours, carry safety kits with them and have more powerful bikes that can make longer trips.
Passengers are charged an Uber-style tariff, and no longer have to resort to haggling each time they hail a ride.
A traditional “okada” ride can cost between ₦50 and several hundred naira — depending on the distance, area and the mood of the driver.
New entrant, ORide kick-started its services in May and is looking to tap into the abundant opportunities with 3,000 trained drivers.
The firm — part of the OPay online payment service — is looking to expand operations as part of a $50 million push and already works in six other cities in Nigeria.
“It’s an open market in which everybody has something to offer. There’s so much to cover in Nigeria,” Iniabasi Akpan, OPay country manager, told reporters.
Unlike other players which allow users to hail a ride both online or on the streets, passengers can only pay via the OPay app, developed by Norway’s Opera Software.
The firm has comprehensive insurance that covers both riders and passengers and secures its drivers with asset financing contracts that ensure they pay back the cost of their new bikes in 18 months.
Bumps in the road –
Overall, the two-wheeler taxi market is forecast to reach $9 billion worldwide by 2021, according to India-based Tech Sci.
But it has not been all smooth riding since the apps launched.
Accidents remain unavoidable in the confusion of Nigeria’s roads, online apps have faltered, drivers have looked to inflate fares and corrupt officials still prey on road-users.
Gokada in May announced over $5 million in new funding and said it hoped to branch out into other forms of transport and eventually push outside Nigeria.
But last month, the firm shut down for two weeks after its chief executive, Fahim Saleh encountered some of the navigational problems when a short journey ended up taking much longer.
The driver he ordered took 15 minutes to pick him up, admitted he wasn’t using GPS and then set off on a circuitous route to the destination.
“How could I be the CEO of Gokada, the company that pioneered motorcycle ride-hailing in Nigeria and be experiencing this?” Saleh wrote in an online post.
“I told the pilot to pull over to the side of the road, I would hop over the median and wait for an Uber. ‘This is what it has come to,’ I thought.”
The disappointment chimed with the gripes of some Nigerian users who have complained of navigation problems while using the various apps and accuse drivers of deliberately taking longer routes to increase fares.
Firms have sought ways around the issues.
Gokada re-launched its 2.0 service with a fresh fleet of bikes after giving drivers more training and incorporating features like helmets with inbuilt mobile headsets.
ORide has a monitoring unit set up to track its drivers.
Despite the bumps in the road, riders told reporters the apps were helping them bolster their business and offering a key lifeline.
“This scheme has taken many out of poverty by creating jobs,” ORide driver Johnson Onipede told reporters, sitting on his light green bike as he waited for his next ride.
Onipede said his main headache remained one familiar to all Lagosians — venal local thieves.
He said riders needed help getting small gangs of thugs, known as “agberos” or “area boys”, to stop their extortion and harassment.
“Both the government and company should help us to stop the agberos and area boys because they are making life unbearable for us.”
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