• Cara-Lee Compton

Africa: The most fertile soil

I recently had the honor of attending the annual GradStar Top 100 Awards. GradStar is a programme that recognizes the Top 100 students across the country based on leadership qualities and readiness for the workplace. This event added so much value to where I currently find myself, at the end of my final year of studies with many different opportunities (which very often ends up feeling like dead ends).

The evening of the awards we were graced by the likes of Dr Thokozile Lewanika Mpupuni,

who is the Group Head of Leadership, Learning and Talent at Absa Group Limited, as well as Akhram Mohamed, who is the CTO at Huawei Consumer Business Group. Both these phenomenal individuals spoke with so much hope and love for both our country and continent and there was no way I could leave without feeling inspired!

Firstly, Dr Thokozile Mpupuni spoke about the time she spent overseas, and upon her return, how she got to be one of the leading ladies in Absa. With so much passion, she convinced me and every other soon-to-be-graduate who attended the event, that Africa is the place to be! She pointed out all the opportunities that we have as young Africans, not only to be the ones that see to a thriving economy, but to be the generation that cares for its people and gives back to the community. A beautiful, graceful woman with so much knowledge and faith in OUR Africa was exactly what we needed to hear in the midst of dire crime rates and recent gender based violence incidents.

Then the young and inspiring Mr Mohamed from Huawei addressed us (of course starting off with a crash course on how to correctly pronounce 'Huawei'). His speech touched me on a different level. He shared with us the financial struggles him and his family had gone through when he was growing up. His father would sell samoosas at the taxi rank as a means to get by each month, and he was then eventually known as "Samoosa-Sam's son". Looking back on his journey and where he started - right at the very bottom of the bottom - and how he managed to become the Chief Technology Officer of Huawei South Africa, he resounded what Dr Thokozile said - AFRICA is where we should stay, work, plant, grow and impact. That is how we can bring change to our country and continent in the long run.

Another theme that really stood out every time anyone spoke, even the next day when we got to hear from the different Rising Star panels, was that your circumstances do not have to define where you end up in life. Not one person mentioned how they got to be in a high-paying, successful career where they are truly happy, because they were born rich and everything was just smooth sailing from thereon. Everyone had some sort of testimony on how they made the decision to defeat all the odds against them and use it as stepping stones to the top!

I went to bed that night knowing that whatever inexpensive clothes I had on for the event, and whatever amount I had left in my bank account for the rest of the month, would not stop me from getting up the next day and every other day after that with motivation and drive to be the best and ultimately, sow the seeds of my own success in the fertile soil of our beautiful Africa!