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An Hour of African Optimism

In our October 2020 Hour of African Optimism, our participants included people from DRC Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and France.

Our panellists were Nizar Juma; Lizzy Kuoth, Dr Fatma Abdullatif Abdallah, Hon Dr Néhémie Mwilanya Wilondja MP, Innocent Magambi and the Honourable Peshi Prince.


Nizar Juma

"Corruption is a killer. It's a killer of good governance. It's a killer of security. It's a killer of success in business."

Nizar Juma is a Kenyan businessman and leader of softpower across 49 countries and is the founder of The Blue Company Project "focused on fighting corruption in the long run, capacity building activities, and embracing the judicial infrastructure and political will to hold those who transgress accountable."

In The Centre for Optimism and Project Optimism's Hour of African Optimism last week, Victor asked Nizar what makes him optimistic. 

Nizar  "Optimism? I was not born with it. For the early part of my life, I was a very intense, angry young man, full of stress. And it made life difficult for me because I managed so many things with anger and anxiety. Positiveness came much later to me.  I found spirituality at the age of 48, and I think that spirituality brings optimism to your life. And I don't mean that you sit in a corner wearing coloured robes and sit in the lotus position. Spirituality is positive power.  Positive power brings many benefits. I found that more and more and more, as I became more positive, I became more optimistic, enthusiastic about what I was doing. I now find that I cannot do it if I don't have a passion for something. I need to believe in what I'm doing. And once I believe, I become passionate. Once I become passionate, I become optimistic. And so I do lots and lots of things because I'm positive. I'm optimistic."


Lizzy Kuoth

Lizzy Kuoth, Refugee from South  Sudan, Victorian Multicultural Commissioner, and a Board Member of the Victorian Council of Social Service

"What makes me optimistic? I feel like I have a lot in common with Nizar in understanding optimism and its healthy role in our lives. For me, coming to Australia as a refugee, it's not been an easy journey. It comes with lots of challenges and adversities. And from a very early age, I've learned to reflect, to see life through a different lens, not through a lens of "Why is this happening to me?" but rather "What can I learn from my experiences?" So, optimism helped me transform my perspective on challenges from seeing them as, "Why me?" and "Why has this happened to me?" to asking, "What is the universe trying to teach me in this situation? What can I learn from this?"

"When you're an optimistic person, you are driving you: You look for the learnings in a situation rather than how you're victimized by it."

"So, for me, really, it's about being able to reflect through a very positive lens.

“And it helped me overcome many challenges because I was able to move then away from a place of "I can't do this. I'm in a tough situation" to "What can I do about this? Who can help me deal with this situation? And I think for me, optimism is always key to really unlocking your mindset, to find the solutions to solve not just personal problems, and I'm also seeing how people can use optimism actually to solve world problems.

"And I, and I've seen a lot of amazing optimistic people doing amazing work. And I think optimism is the key to that. That's what I believe."


Innocent Magambi

Innocent Magambi, Author of Refugee for Life, Chief Executive Officer at INUA Consulting and Founder of There is Hope

"My  faith is at the top. It is number one. That gives me the strength to keep pushing.   Born in a refugee camp, I only heard my stories that my dad was doing well in Burundi before he became a refugee. But there I was, a refugee; I did not have shoes on my feet until I was 13 years old. So, it wasn't easy to reconcile. But with the faith, when I went to church, I heard stories of Israelites and many other stories, you know, uh, of, you know, uh, the prophets like Mohammed, then other people who changed this world, I was like, okay, the same God will change my life and will make me change, uh, the lives of other people. So, with that concept of faith, it gives me the strength to push forward.

"Not only the faith, but it's also the small gains that I make in my journey as an optimistic person.  Sometimes when you have big dreams, you forget to count every small gain that you make. So, I have the habit of looking back and saying, wow, I just did that. And that just did that. And to get that those small collective steps, small gains, they build up this, I don't know this library that I live on to say if I was able to do that and that, and that this one I'll do it as well. So, in brief, that's where I get my optimism."


Fatma Abdullatif Abdallah

Dr Fatma Abdullatif Abdallah, Diplomat, Kenya Ministry of Foreign Affairs

My optimism basically lies in the environment where I was brought up in terms of the challenges facing the girl child. I grew up in an Islamic environment, and we had the challenges of early marriages and education empowerment.

As I grew up, I was lucky to be with parents who instilled values and motivation towards pursuing education instead of getting married. So, I had the determination to pursue further education at university and all beyond so that I could become a role model in society. And I became a leader who other members of the community, especially the young people, can emulate. And so, I strive to pursue education as a form of optimism for myself and the community and my country.

And that's how I ended up working hard. So then, I made it in terms of educational achievement. And then I got lucky to be now employed in the government sector as a civil servant. And with that, I mentor other young people into initiatives that can help them enrol in government and become diplomats and leaders in their own capacity to help in the development of Kenya and Africa as a whole. So that's why I also became involved in the mentorship program through the Global Give Back Circle Scholars Foundation so that I'm mentoring the young people in education, the undergraduate people, people who are in doing their masters so that they can also have somebody whom they can emulate to be able to realize their dreams. And then that brings about the overall development of Africa as a continent. So, it's through educational aspects and work that makes me optimistic.

Dr Nehemiah Mwilanya

Dr Nehemiah Mwilanya wilondja DÉPUTÉ, Député national pour le territoire de Fizi, RD Congo, L’ancien chef de cabinet présidentiel du président Kabila Joseph Kabange

"Je suis heureux de participer à ce forum pour partager l’idée de mon pays et c’est  l’occasion  de partager  ma joie pourquoi je suis optimiste.

"Je suis optimiste parce quenous avons une génération qui fait faceà  de nombreux défis,  mais cette génération a l’énergie et la capacité de surmonter les obstacles.

"Nous avons des raisons différentes de croire cette génération et d’être optimistes en raison de l’accumulation de  temps,desdifférentes ressources dont nous avons besoin  pour  la nouvelle  technologie.

"Je suis optimiste grâce aux ressources humaines. Mon pays, la République démocratique du Congo, compte des millions d’habitants, mais la population est jeune et dispose de nombreuses ressources qui nous  permetnt   d’attirer des  investisseurs  dans le monde entier.

"Les jeunes ont acquis une éducation qui leur donne la capacité de comprendre les erreurs  de la génération passée et ils ont  embrassé la nouvelle direction et les  nouvelles opportunités.

"La République démocratique du Congo dispose de ressources et de potentialités qui peuvent être en mesure de développer d’autres pays  et de fournir des éléments clés pour la création d’emplois. Il disposede la forêt de l’équateur, une grande ressource d’impuissance  pour lutter contre lechangement climatique  qui  pourrait être en mesure de réduire le stockage du carbone et les ressources pour la  transformation de l’économie verte.

"La RD Congo dispose d’autres ressources telles  que le cobalt qu’il est essentiel pour les batteries des voitures électriques, des ordinateurs, des  téléphones portables   et la demande de cobalt augmente et nécessite une industrie future. "

English Translation

"I am happy to participate in this forum to share the idea about my country, and it is an opportunity to share my joy why I am an optimist.

"I am optimistic because we have a generation that faces many challenges, but this generation has the energy and capacity to overcome the obstacles.

"We have much reason to believe in this generation and be optimistic because of the accumulation of time, different resources we have that need for the new technology.

"I am an optimist because of human resources. My Country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, has millions of people, and the population is young. So it has a lot of resources that we can be able to attract investors around the world.

"Young people have gained an education that allows them to understand the past generation’s mistakes, and they have embraced the new direction and opportunities. 

"The Democratic Republic of Congo has resources and potentialities that can support the development of neighbouring countries and provide the key to job creation. It has the equatorial forest, a tremendous vital resource to tackle climate change, which could support carbon storage and be a resource for the ‘green economy’ transformation.  

"DR Congo has other resources such as cobalt essential for batteries in electric cars, computers, cell phones. "

Peshi Mtenga Prince


Hon Peshi Mtenga Prince, membre du parlement de la province du Sud-Kivu pour le territoire de Fizi, République démocratique du Congo.

Je suis l’honorable Peshi Mtengya Prince,membre du parlement de la province du Sud-Kivu pour le territoire de Fizi en RD Congo.

Je suis heureux de participer à ce forum et je remercie le Centre pour l’optimisme, en particulier M. Victor, de m’inviter.

Victor Perton: Ceux qui ne connaissent pas le Sud-Kivu ont été le théâtre de nombreuses batailles au cours des 20 dernières années et de l’activité des gorilles dans les lumières. Il doit donc être très difficile d’être un député optimiste dans cette région. Dites-nous comment vous y faites?

Je comprends qu’en tant que député, ce n’est pas une tâche facile, mais je peux dire que l’optimisme se manifeste lorsqu’on fait face à un obstacle.  L’optimisme me donne l’espoir et la conviction que la situation finira par s’arranger. cela me donne de l’espoir et comment je peux surmonter la situation. À cet égard, je suis devenu député de la province duKivu.

Victor: Those who do not know South Kivu has been the scene of many battles over the last 20 years and guerilla activity in the lights. And so, it must be very hard to be an optimistic member of parliament in that region. Tell us how do you do it?


Hon Peshi Mtenga Prince: I understand that being a member of parliament it is not easy job, but I an state that optimism is demonstrating when you face an obstacle.  Optimism gives me hope and conviction that the situation will work out in the end.  It gives me hope and how I can overcome the situation. That's why I became a member of parliament of province of Kivu.



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