Inspiring, motivating, and full of wonder, discover how those who succeed do it. Hear what drives each of our dynamic guests to overcome obstacles and hear stories of their accomplishments.
Chi-chi Ekweozor, Representing and Creating Spaces for Black Women in Tech
In this episode, Zeze interviews Chi-chi Ekweozor, a social media marketer, software engineer, and the founder of Assenty. Chi-chi talks about the very beginnings of social media and how she founded her company. Also, Zeze and Chi-Chi dive deep into why it is so important to consider representation from many different angles.
Chi-chi Ekweozor understood the potential of social media well before others did. This allowed her to acquire a unique set of skills that led her to advise large companies and create her own business early on. As she identified challenges and problems in the process of building communities and promoting interactions, she decided to create solutions for this. Eventually, Chi-chi became a very successful business owner.
In this episode, Chi-chi and Zeze talk about the representation of Black women in tech and the many aspects that can influence this. Chi-chi remarks on the importance of pursuing your ideas and being brave enough to try and reach out, connecting with others, and seizing opportunities. Chi-chi had to traverse a fascinating path that led her to see how the internet and social media have changed the world. making the most of it at every turn.
ABOUT Chi-chi Ekweozor
Chi-chi Ekweozor is a Nigerian social media marketer, front-end developer, software engineer, and the founder of Assenty, a platform that allows event organizers to interact live with their audiences. She has been working in the tech industry for the past 15 years and she was a pioneer in the world of social media marketing and tech communities.
Highlights of the episode:
Chi-Chi's career in engineering and her to focus on tech. How she had to adapt and develop the skills set to thrive. A career as an independent musician and podcaster before podcasts became popular. How Chi-chi became a social media expert before social media was a thing worldwide. The realization that there was true potential in the interactions between attendees and conference organizers and the birth of Assenty. The importance of creativity in the world of tech and how it allows for the creation of a self-sustainable business. Female and African representation in tech at different levels of the industry. The impact of generational wealth and experience on the success of entrepreneurs. Knowing the timing and making the most of societal changes as keys to make a business or an idea grow.
Third Culture Africans Malée Assenty
Lwazi Wali, Creating a New Space for WOC Entrepreneurs
In this episode, Zeze interviews Lwazi Wali, a South African investor, entrepreneur, and the founder of H(er)Q. Lwazi talks about the current situation for new businesses and startups in Africa, the barriers faced by women, and the tools that can be used to break these barriers and create our space in the African business world.
Lwazi Wali knows more than most about the many barriers faced by entrepreneurial women in the African continent. As an investor involved in venture capital, she has seen the numbers that show that, while startups and investing are growing in Africa, women continue to face considerable barriers to get funding. They are creating the majority of new businesses, but they lack the funding to scale them and make them grow.
In this episode, Lwazi goes in-depth into the barriers that are holding Black African women back and how we can help make a significant and long-lasting change. She remarks on the importance of uniting as women and creating our own table where we can create opportunities to have access to the necessary funds. Lwazi also provides practical advice on how to present a new product or idea for funding, and how to change the paradigms and societal preconceptions that limit women to this day.
ABOUT Lwazi Wali
Lwazi Wali is a South African fundraiser, investor, an Obama Leader in Africa. Lwazi came back to Africa after studying and living in the US with the goal of helping in the development of venture capital infrastructure in the continent. She is the founder of H(er)Q, a community for women of color that are interested in building a community by and for entrepreneurial women.
Highlights of the episode:
Lwazi Wali’s perspective on the current state of venture capitalism in the African continent. The approach to fintech in Africa. How the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to further develop the digital infrastructure. Lwazi’s decision to go into venture capitalism in Africa. Impacting society in a positive way. The gender differences seen worldwide. While women are starting businesses at a faster rate than men, they are not scaling them. The importance of rethinking and creating systems of capital that support women’s businesses by creating funds led by women. African entrepreneurs often look for investors from the West as local investors tend to be more risk-averse. The three things an entrepreneur needs to be able to provide when looking for funding. The first doors to knock on to be able to raise funding for a business include accelerators and incubators. The far-reaching impact of teaching girls about their potential and possibility to have key roles in the business world.
Third Culture Africans Malée Founders Factory Lwazi Wali
Vamba Sherif, Surviving Two Wars through the Written Word
In this episode, Zeze interviews Vamba Sherif, a Liberian best-selling author, essayist, motivational speaker, and activist. Vamba shares his story of survival after the Liberian civil war and the Gulf War. Listen to the episode and learn how these experiences led him to become a thriving novelist and storyteller.
Vamba Sherif was living in Kuwait when the civil war started in Liberia, his home country. As he felt the pain of what was taking place back home, he found himself in the middle of the Gulf War, seeing horrors that he is unlikely to forget. This led him to become a refugee and an exile, and he remembers his time in a refugee camp between Jordan and Iraq as one of the worst ones of his life.
However, Vamba managed to not only survive but thrive once he made a home in Holland. Thanks to his affinity for languages, he was able to learn Dutch, study, and make a life for himself. Writing stories about pre-war Liberia became his coping mechanism, which helped him preserve his mental health and led him on a successful path as a writer. In this episode, Vamba shares his inspiring story, filled with family love, his admiration for women, and the will to keep growing, embracing and sharing African stories.
ABOUT Vamba Sherif
Vamba Sherif is a Liberian best-selling author, film critic, activist, motivational speaker, essayist, and occasional actor who found himself stuck between two countries during the Liberian civil war and the Gulf War. This led him on a journey of survival, traversing through different countries before finding a home in Holland. He shares his personal experiences through his novels and memoirs, and he also focuses on showing the history of Liberia before the war.
Highlights of the episode:
04:54: Vamba Sherif shares what his life was like before the devastating Liberian civil war took place. 07:47: Vamba found himself stranded between two wars, the Liberian civil war back at home and the Gulf War in Kuwait, where he resided at the time. 09:56: The return of Liberian slaves from the US to Liberia. 12:37: The chaos experienced in Kuwait during the Gulf War, and how Vamba was able to smuggle himself out of the country. 15:42: The strength demonstrated by Arab women fighting during the occupation of Kuwait. 20:10: The sense of hopelessness experienced at a refugee camp between Iraq and Jordan and the feeling that there was no longer a future. 26:02: Returning to the stories of Liberia before the war and showing the good things about the country served Vamba as a survival technique. 32:55: Being a writer can be a privilege that allows them to ascend and embrace all the stories they tell. 37:10: How his mother and grandmother influence the characteristics of the strong women that appear in Vamba’s stories. 40:09: The huge impact being loved had on Vamba’s life and how he wanted to put that into words through an emotional journey that led to him writing his memoirs.
Third Culture Africans Malée Vamba Sherif
Zukiswa Wanner, Writing and Publishing African Words for Africans
In this episode, Zeze interviews Zukiswa Wanner, an award-winning South African author and humanitarian. She has published fiction novels, co-authored Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, and started her own publishing house to help bring African literature to the forefront in the African continent.
Zukiswa Wanner believes in changing how African literature is seen and embraced in Africa. She writes not for the European or American masses, but for her fellow Africans. Seeing how the African publishing houses often prioritize foreign markets over their own, she decided to start her own publishing company, as part of her drive to change the self-oppression that has been imposed on African literature.
Zukiswa also discusses the importance of bringing literature to children, providing them with the opportunity to learn and thrive in the world. She also remarks on how accomplished Black African women are often seen as aggressive when they pursue their careers and are good at what they do. Zukiswa highlights the importance of women not second-guessing themselves and becoming part of this narrative.
ABOUT Zukiswa Wanner
Zukiswa Wanner is a Zimbabwan and South African author, co-author of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, a humanitarian, and a recipient of the Commonwealth’s Writer Prize. She has also started her own publishing house, with the goal of distributing African books in the continent, including both adult and children books.
Highlights of the episode:
04:16: Zukiswa Wanner’s journey to becoming the co-author of Nelson’s Mandela autobiography in only 4 years. 10:58: Zukiswa’s love for literature never led her to think she could be a fiction writer. 14:15: The debate about being seen as an African writer in Africa. 17:59: Writing for the African community and how resonating with Africans is especially valuable for Zukiswa. 20:45: Zukiswa’s transition from author to publisher and editor. 25:39: Building bridges across the African continent through different events and literary initiatives. 27:15: The reasons why Zukiswa asks the question “do I make you uncomfortable” in the context of being a black African woman. 30:16: Why African women often feel like they need to shrink. 32:27: The need for platforms in which African women can talk without having to be a representative of the entire collective. 34:13: Zukiswa’s passion for helping children have access to learning resources and developing their critical thinking skills.
Third Culture Africans Malée Zukiswa Wanner Nelson Mandela on the Run
Aminatta Forna, Changing the Narrative on Identity, Grief, and Appropriation
Aminatta Forna was raised to be a fighter. As a triple minority, she knew from a young age that she would be great, but she would need to work very hard to get what she wanted. This led her to develop an inquisitive and astute mind that questions the things everyone takes for granted. As a writer, she has explored and shared her grief as well as the concept of identity and she talks about the importance of telling ourselves the right narrative.
Aminatta has lived a life of change, being born in Scotland and raised between Sierra Leone and other countries. She went back to Sierra Leone before the war ended and was able to bring change into a community with assertive and empowering interventions. She talks about the impact words can have on people, why she thinks appropriation can cause great damage to the literary and arts world, and why the elevation of victimhood does nothing for actual progress.
ABOUT Aminatta Forna
Aminatta Forna is a British-Sierra Leonean formidable writer, humanitarian, professor, and thinker who has won numerous awards, including the Windham Campbell Award from Yale University. She has published four novels and a memoir, which have been translated into twenty two different languages.
Highlights of the episode:
01:53: Aminatta Forna discusses the relevance and currency of her BBC documentary The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu. 04:57:How Aminatta forged her identity. 10:06: The common and constant rebranding of identities to fit in with the rest of the world. 14:00: The American narrative and how it illustrates the many perspectives that can exist regarding one event or fact. 17:20: The everlasting nature of grief and how while it gets better it never disappears. 21:10: Aminatta’s experience as part of the diaspora. 25:50: How Sierra Leone has survived through the ages and how the forests have been a sacred place of protection. 30:32: Growing up as a triple minority and being brought up to be ready to fight for what she wanted. 36:28: The drive that comes from having something different to say and the will to share it not with a minority but with the majority of people. 42:13: American academia and what Aminatta’s experience as part of this world has been. 44:26: Writing and reading as a one-on-one experience that deeply touches people when they look for a certain kind of answer. 51:02: Elevating victimhood has become a common narrative that leads to the creation of tokens.
Third Culture Africans Malée The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu Aminatta Forna The Window Seat
Helon Habila, Bringing African Literature to the Rest of the World
Helon Habila believes in hard work, perseverance, and believing in himself and his capabilities. His motivation to be a great writer led him to defy the wishes of his parents and to challenge the negative beliefs of some of his fellow authors. He always believed his dream was possible, even if he didn’t realize how big that dream could be and the reach it would have. Helon was willing to make big sacrifices in pursuit of his writing career, including leaving Nigeria, a country that was suffering from the consequences of a totalitarian military regime.
Despite having won awards for his work, Helon maintains a humble attitude. He recognizes that he has had a lot of luck, which he could only leverage thanks to his preparation. Helon’s determination is a big part of what allowed him to become a published author by Penguin, one of the world’s top publishing houses. His advice to writers is to own their voice by understanding their culture and where they come from. Only then will they be able to see where they can innovate and how they can make their impact on the world.
About Helon Habila
Helon Habila is a Nigerian writer, poet, literary, and pioneer when it comes to African literature. He is an award-winning author, having earned prestigious recognitions such as the National Poetry Award and the Caine Prize. He has also been nominated for numerous other awards. Helon is currently a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and he is in the process of writing his next novel, tentatively titled The Fortress.
Highlights of the episode:
02:17: Helon Habila’s journey to literature after trying to meet parental expectations by studying engineering. 06:57: How Helon had to hide his decision to become a writer for fear of being misunderstood. 11:06: Helon’s start in the writing industry as a struggling romance story writer. 14:14: The “I made it” moment that encouraged Helon to keep writing. 16:40: The hardships faced by the publishing industry. 21:25: Helon’s decision to enter his work into a contest posing as a publisher 23:50: The experience of being part of a community that believed in making cultural changes in Nigeria. 25:05: The need to leave the country to be able to write due to the anti-culture atmosphere in Nigeria. 29:23: Visualizing success and believing in the quality of his work helped Helon get where he wanted to be. 31:43: The need for a new model that allowed African writers to be published. 36:34: What it means to own your voice. 40:14: The process of reinventing yourself and adapting after arriving in a new country and how this can impact creativity.
Third Culture Africans Malée Helon Habila