SUNDAY DIGEST: A case of validation

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By Conrad Mwanza

The year 2010 holds some special memories for me as a Zimbabwean and African. It was the year that the continent known as the cradle of mankind opened its arms to welcome the rest of the world as South Africa hosted the biggest global soccer showpiece, the FIFA World Cup. It also happens to be the year Zimbabwe Achievers Awards (ZAA) was founded in the UK.

My recollection of the year is not just nostalgic but it bears great significance to me because it was the year the seed of our vision to celebrate our people and our achievements bore its first fruit. The success stories of Zimbabweans around the world can never be exhausted and as ZAA we were seized with the burden to make sure our story is told and our legacy cemented. Oftentimes our progress and innovations as people have been swallowed in time because of lack of validation among ourselves. WE need to validate ourselves.

Far from it being a case of jealousy or indifference, sometimes people get so wrapped up in their personal challenges and we forget to remind each other how important and gifted we are. These were some of the things we meant to address as ZAA, to celebrate our achievements and spread the positive vibes as Zimbabweans and Africans.

Over the course of time, many of the people I meet inevitably ask me one recurring question; Why ZimAchievers? And my answer is always the same; because there is more to us than the world knows or hears about through their own media and platforms.

Our vision goes beyond just recognising successes by Zimbabweans but playing a part in instilling and uplifting national pride. Celebrating each other leads to positive conversation and positive vibes which lead to innovation. There is the unfortunate trend in some of our African cultures of only recognising people for their positive contributions when they are dead but at ZAA, we believe that there is more to be reaped when we validate each other alive.

This is because no one can dialogue with a dead person and no one can share ideas that can improve our country and continent from beyond the grave. Our interaction and networking should be fully exploited in the land of the living. Shaping and changing the country is a mammoth task and though one can contribute significantly we need all hands on deck for a fruitful exercise.

When I look around us, I see a wealth of ideas and opportunities. I see a people who keep on changing the game through innovative ways, youths with solutions that can put an end to most of our problems, I see men and women who hold the keys of destiny in their hearts and minds.

As we continue to make positive strides towards claiming our space in the world, it becomes important to uplift one another as a people. Our self-worth cannot come only when we are validated by the foreign narrative, they are too busy pushing theirs. I have a number of Jewish and American friends and associates who continue to impress me.

There are a lot of their own domestic challenges as a nation and people but when they sell their American dream or the Jews way of doing business you will be forgiven for thinking they come from a land of total bliss and sunshine.

This is but one example of a people who have come to accept that to make the best of their opportunities they must see beyond their present challenges but work towards fulfilling their vision. They validate each other and put value on their services and products. I have often wondered what the world would have thought of Simba Mabasha and Simukayi Makuna who had created a video-on-demand (VOD) streaming service called Wabona, before the Netflix craze took over. One wonders if we offered enough support to his audacity to dream and create the platform that sadly shut down in 2015.

I have, in lighter moments, albeit bitterly joked that I am of the opinion that had Facebook started in Africa it would probably failed because we would have not embraced it as a people, we seem to only embrace things that come from outside the continent. If you look today we have no mainstream African clothing brand, no mainstream African car model/brand.

Not taking anything away from Forbes, CNN and other mainstream media platforms but we accept that we have succeeded only when we are recognised by these platforms. Such is the sad precedence we have set among our own people that we forget that our own validation and pride in who we are is the tonic we need to take our place.

Personally, I have written to many personalities home in order to honour them in our own small way and been in some cases, politely turned down and in others explicitly rejected because we were not an ‘international big brand’. Thankfully, we have received overwhelming support from many who have run with the vision and we now have a presence in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and South Africa. We have not been deterred by the obstacles along the way but keep going because of the support of many who see the growth and endless possibilities in what we seek to achieve as a people and institutions.

It is our sincere hope that the same way some global figures have endorsed our initiatives may be the way we also unite in various positive initiatives that lift the country. Trying to preach positivity in the midst of struggles as a country has come with its own repercussions. Some have tried to politicize my views and assert that we are pushing a political agenda, but nothing could be further from the truth. Positivity and nation building should cut across political views and preferences. It is the nation that should take prominence over everything and I am more than convinced that though the journey gets tiresome, we will eventually get there.

Conrad Mwanza is Founder of Zimbabwe Achievers Awards and Publisher of Zim Abroad Magazine, he writes in his personal Capacity