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“For me, what is more constructive is identifying the problems… and figuring out the opportunities to solve the problems” – Nmachi Jidenma, Chief Evangelist, CP-Africa

For me, what is more constructive is identifying the problems and opportunities we have and then figuring out how we can leverage the opportunities to solve the continent’s problems.

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With the plethora of negative news content about Africa today, it is most likely you get bored and appalled by the unending posts on the things that are wrong about Africa – poverty, disease, hunger, war and strife. But there are extremely inspiring and beautiful stories coming out of the continent. Now, there’s a promising cure for your headache! CP-Africa was founded in April 2009 by Nmachi Jidenma, a 22 year old Applied Economics & Management graduate student at Cornell University, New York. This new online crusade to reshape the Africa conversation began when Nmachi started blogging about progressive things happening in Nigeria on her Facebook page. She later added topics from other African countries and eventually moved the content to a Blogger account. The CP-Africa website is unique in its strict adherence to publishing positive and progressive content from and about the black continent. It collaborates with other organisations and websites concerned with relevant issues in Africa to deliver up-to-date information about Africans in Diaspora who are doing great. It also employs links to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to reach out to the increasing global network of internet users.

In this exclusive interview with BN Editorial Assistant, Gbenga Awomodu, Nmachi Jidenma talks about her current crusade and her dreams about the future.

Tell us about you

Sure…My name is Nmachi Jidenma. I am a 22 year old, Igbo girl who loves to chatter excitedly about Africa, development, technology, business, music and politics. I love life and passionate, driven people. I have been studying in the U.S. for about five years now and I rep Naija hard! *Yess Boss!*

What has your experience been like, living and studying in the US? Any challenges?

The U.S. has been good to me. I have learnt a lot and met some really amazing people. In terms of challenges, there’s been nothing much apart from, perhaps, adapting to the culture during my freshman year. But even that wasn’t bad!

Could you tell us more about your academic background?

I am currently a student of Economics and business. I studied Economics for my first degree at Grinnell College and I am currently doing a Masters programme in Applied Economics & Management at Cornell University. Within the field of economics, I have always been interested in economic development and international business especially the interplay between both fields. So typically, I am excited about topics that have to do with emerging market economies and spurring economic growth through private sector development.

As an undergraduate and just before you enrolled for Masters, did you take part in any extra-curricular activities and internships? Kindly share your experience with us and the impact on your current endeavours.

Hmm…As an undergraduate student, I wanted to learn a lot about business. My freshman year, I worked for Accenture’s strategy practice in Lagos, where I was part of the team that worked on launching the Lagos Civic Center. The next two summers I spent on Wall Street working as an analyst at JP Morgan where I learnt the basics of finance and global markets. I also worked at TechnoServe, a terrific nonprofit in Washington D.C. that uses business solutions to solve poverty in African countries like Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique. As a student, I started my school’s Economics magazine called the Grinnell Economist, which was a good initiation for me into the publishing sphere. Overall these experiences have helped shape me into someone who is highly interested in finance, management strategy, development and journalism.

What are you passionate about?

Africa. The continent excites and inspires me. There are so many possibilities…in the arts, business, literature and politics and I like to publicize them. I meet people from the continent and hear their stories and I am often blown away. I think the continent is at an interesting moment in its history…and the outcome of this moment say, 50 years down the line is all up to us, Africa’s young generation. In a sense, this is both a tremendous burden and an exciting opportunity. It all depends on how we choose to look at it. For me, the glass is half full; it is an exciting opportunity!

You are the founder of CP-Africa. In fact, you recently adopted the title of ‘Chief Evangelist’. What is it all about and what motivated the founding of this organisation?

I founded CP-Africa.com (Celebrating Progress Africa) because I’ve always liked to celebrate and debate or talk about the continent in some shape or form. It’s something I’ve always navigated towards. At first, I started posting progressive things happening in Nigeria on my Facebook wall. As time went on, I posted content on other African countries as well. One day, I wrote a note about an African development issue on my Facebook profile and then moved the topic to a blogger account. Ever since then, I have not looked back.

CP-Africa is very special to me. I like to tell the progressive segment of the African story. I have decided to let other news organizations bother about reporting the bad and the ugly. For me, my focus is on the dynamism, the rising opportunities and the success stories happening on the continent.

I think there is benefit in focus and positive thinking. This is not to deny that challenges exist. Of course, there are lots of challenges and problems but I think focusing on only our problems as though we are a people without hope overwhelms us to inaction.

For me, what is more constructive is identifying the problems and opportunities we have and then figuring out how we can leverage the opportunities to solve the continent’s problems.

This is why, on the website, we focus on publishing constructive ideas and opinions. We discourage Africa bashing. Africa bashing is easy. Even better is asking, what next? What do we do next? How do we become the change that we seek? Who are those that embody the change that we seek and how can we emulate them? What current opportunities and trends happening on the continent can take us to the Promised Land? That is the conversation I’m interested in advancing on CP-Africa.com.

About the Chief Evangelist position, haha! I saw someone call herself that and I copied it! (Precisely, Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist, an entrepreneur I like). It sounded apt for my role at CPA and so I decided to adopt it. My mission with CP-Africa is to publicize opportunities and exciting trends on the continent from music to science. What else is that, if not being an Evangelist?!

How do you hope to achieve the vision and goals for CP-Africa?

CP-Africa’s vision is to change the Africa conversation. I hope to achieve this by getting as many Africans involved as possible. So please, if you are reading this and you are a young African passionate about Africa-focused topics ranging from politics, development and literature to music, fashion and lifestyle, CP-Africa needs you…Especially bloggers. We love bloggers because they are already involved in the online space. So please, get in touch, let’s talk! CP-Africa’s goal is to create a vibrant platform for young Africans online where anyone can log onto the site and publish their thoughts. Our editors vet the articles and publish them as long as they are progressive, insightful and useful.

CP-Africa is first and foremost for African people, which is why one of our tag lines is “Africa’s inspiration hub on the web”. If by inspiring ourselves, we are able to inspire the rest of the world to think about the continent differently, then we have achieved 100% of our vision.
What is your assessment of the African situation? Is there any hope for Africa?

Oh definitely. In fact I think there is more than hope! Clearly, we have a lot of issues with governance, but even that is changing. In Nigeria, for instance, we see how the youths took to the streets in March this year and the remarkable activism initiated by young people on the web and increasingly on the ground. The first step towards initiating change on the continent is electing competent government officials with integrity. And so it is definitely refreshing to see that young people are interested and excited to be a part of the electoral process.
But governance aside, it goes without saying that wonderful things are happening in the technology, literature, fashion and music scene. I recently saw this CNN video that featured the lovely and inspiring Nigerian fashionista, Deola Sagoe where she said, “The global fashion capitals should prepare for an African invasion”. It couldn’t have been more eloquently put. CNN’s Nima Elbagir hilariously retorted, “coming from a country where looking sharp is a national preoccupation, it is a warning that should definitely be heeded.” I almost died! So true!

In ten years, where do you see Africa and what would CP-Africa be doing to celebrate and position Africa in its rightful place?

In ten years, I hope that many African countries would have gotten their acts together governance-wise and would have implemented development policies that emancipate the poor and marginalized on the continent. This is why I keep saying, “Africa, please don’t fall my hand!” The whole concept behind CP-Africa is banking on an African re-birth powered by us – young people. If we don’t deliver, CP-Africa will have nothing to publicize and celebrate. However, I am happy to report that since April 2009 when the website launched as a blog, we have had more and more exciting trends to report, so progress is definitely being made.

In ten years, I want the continent to be churning out many more globally respected entrepreneurs, many more Chimamandas and many more Nnekas. In terms of reporting, I am hoping that CP-Africa’s reporting would have been taken to the next level by then. For instance, if we can carry a story by then about an African who started the next Google, CP-Africa would be able to comfortably say, it is in business, because that is the level of achievement the website envisions for the continent.

What would you be doing in the next ten years? Do you have any intentions to relocate to Nigeria in the near future?

In the next ten years, what would I be doing? I have no idea. Whatever it is that I would be doing though would hopefully have something to do with business, technology and journalism. As long as I am happy, that’s all that matters.
Oh, and yes I definitely have intentions of relocating to Nigeria. Who knows, maybe even as soon as next year! I will keep you posted!

I observed you hardly have more than two pictures on your Facebook profile. Is that a conscious control measure for privacy? How do you explain that?

Oh please don’t mind me. For the longest time, I hadn’t taken pictures until quite recently. It wasn’t a conscious decision at all. I lost my camera. That being said, I am a private person. Maybe I’m just being myself after all.

How do you unwind?

Movies, books, writing. Conversations with friends, hanging out and discussing the most random but interesting things, a good hearty laugh…I am a very free spirit…!

Any other things you’d like to share?

Well, shout out to BNers/the BN community! The BN comment section is by far the best thing since sliced bread. #Lwkm most times!

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Gbenga Awomodu is a freelance writer and editor. He blogs at Gbenga’s Notebook!, a repository of his thoughts and other works.

Digital Content Strategist | Creative Writer. Copy Editor. Storyteller. Vocalist. Amateur Pianist. Spoken Word Poetry recording artiste. Lover of Words & Images. #ArsenalFC. Twitter: @gbengaawomodu

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