The burning desire of a young African

Sat, 21 Jan 2012 Source: Ofori, Oral

to effect positive change on the continent.

By Oral Ofori

Recently, I've been talking to Michael Agbortoko in a bid to find out more about him and his passion for Africa’s development, I find him an intriguing young fellow with great dreams and ambitions that I strongly felt I needed to share with you. Michael is a graduate of Southbridge High School in Southbridge Massachusetts who is currently pursuing an entrepreneurship degree at Assumption College in Worcester Massachusetts. He tells me he was very lucky to find out what he is passionate about at a very tender age--business innovating and a heart to help others.

Growing up in Bomaka, Cameroon, Michael was privileged to have a father who worked in the USA and traveled back home on a regular basis (thus twice a year) to his family in Cameroon. When Mike’s father realized the opportunities that were available in the States, he decided to take his entire family to the USA where he felt they'll receive a better education since opportunities in Africa are very limited. It was while in the States that young Mike started realizing how vast an opportunity his life in the USA presented to him as an individual. This made him strongly want to make the friends and family he left behind in Cameroon have a feel of this opportunity as well.

This great desire coupled with inspiration from people like Mother Teresa and Dr Martin Luther King Jr fueled him to believe that it doesn't matter where you come from, be you rich, poor, homeless or whatever class you find yourself at in life, almost all of us want to be of help especially to those we love and care about. Mike says Dr King Jr thought him that when you have a dream or a goal, you have to be the leader and you have to strive to make a difference because no one else will achieve your goals for you. Based on this, Michael, who is very fortunate to have been given lots of opportunities, strongly feels he must not take these opportunities for granted because he's inspired by people from his past as their words have guided him into his present, which is why he is working tirelessly to create a better future not just for his friends and family in Cameroon, but for the less fortunate in Africa and all over the world.

To innovating entrepreneurs, money is the biggest brick wall to any great idea, and this young Cameroonian is has learned that he is not immune to this problem and has learned to quickly realize that, as long as you stay focus and determined, nothing is impossible. Though he doesn't have the money now, Michael has taken a bold initiative to establish DuAfrica; a humanitarian organization with the objective to be self-dependent rather than relying on governments who’s standards they’ll have to meet or implement. DuAfrica is also aiming to help bring his dreams of a much less dependent Africa into fruition. Mike tells me that If you don't have money, it is best to focus on your goals while building a strong network and with almost two thousand friends on the Facebook page of DuAfrica, he seems to be doing exactly that.

Michael Agbortoko says ever since he was young, he has always loved the art of business and when he looks around him today, he comes to the conclusion that everything has a business touch to it with the major difference being that there's good business and there's bad business in our world today. His focus is therefore on those good businesses which help to generate income to stabilize communities, states, countries or simply individuals. Greed is the major cause of bad business as it encourages people to crave benefits for themselves rather than to help others. As I listen to Mike speak with passion on his ideas and dreams for DuAfrica, I find myself being sucked into this great dream and wanting to be a part of it simply because it serves a greater good for the African continent.

At present, Mike plays soccer at Assumption College Division 2, is a model and also plays a movie extra besides his responsibilities as the founder of DuAfrica. When fully off the ground and functional, DuAfrica will be a global platform that provides African music, fashion, art, talent, and other respective forms of African self-expressions to the rest of the world and individuals who have emigrated from Africa to other countries around the globe. It will strive to help people remember and embrace their roots while helping the rest of the world to become more familiar with these creations and characteristics of the African culture.

Most of these will be achieved basically by providing a website where viewers can listen and educate themselves by exploring the many works, creations, and qualities of African culture at no cost. DuAfrica as an entity and its website will not only serves as a gallery of African culture, talent, and information, but also as a means of enabling people to purchase items and ideas of direct or indirect African lineage or origins that they find interesting either on the website or programs and events organized by the organization. Those who choose to become users of the web-page will also have the opportunity to purchase discounted calling cards, the ability to ship and receive goods and services to and from Africa at lower rates, and the ability to book affordable flights to their desired destinations on the continent.

DuAfrica will also embark on efforts to enhance the communication gap for individuals with family members or friends overseas who join the site by giving them means to video chat or text one another at relatively affordable prices on its platform. Keeping with the values of DuAfrica, each product sold is purchased at fair trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. We (remember I'm not only writing about this, but working on the ground as well to help make Mike’s dream a reality) will also strive to further support the native villagers and their loving, hard-working communities of Africa.

One of the ways we intend to do that will be by donating %5 of every amount accrued from any sale or service through our platform towards the foundations that we choose to support. This will allow us to give back to the native African people and their communities. Our mission is simple: To promote the pride held in the countless and ever-emerging creations and achievements of the African culture to the rest of the world, while helping native Africans overseas keep in touch and admire the lifestyles they have come to recognize as their own. Mike is not one to be easily deterred. He doesn't think people can ever reach their full potential because there is always room to learn or teach something new and with the advancement of technology and the way society is constantly changing, we must not only settle for little, we must leave room for improvement he tells me.

The best way to encourage improvement is to have a tolerant mindset and to treat all people equally, irrespective of class or creed, Mr. Abgortoko thinks everything you do and everyone you meet impacts you in some way. Although we have minds of our own, it is up to us to determine what we learn and see because those are the basic things that shape our personalities. Family is also one great place of influence in a person's life, for this young Cameroonian friend of mine, family doesn't only have to be blood relations (which is also actually the case for most Africans) because growing up back home in Bomaka, he had very limited resources and even for those who weren't as poor as other families still did have to deal with the struggles of sharing the scant resources.

Mothers across the continent of Africa always made sure the children they were raising never took things for granted. Mike speaks fondly of his mother and family with a gleam of pride in his eyes. He says his family and the people around the setting in which he was raised have contributed a lot to what he is today, something which he is extremely thankful for. One of his greatest responsibility is to strive on his mission to achieve, so he can someday give back to others.

DuAfrica is one of the mediums through which the strife for success will be driven, when I asked what the inspiration behind DuAfrica is, Mike told me it started when his sister sent him a CD of a collection of African music from countries across the continent iin 2010 during his freshman year in College. While listening to the collection his sister sent him, it not only made him feel good, but it also dawned on him that he has been in the USA for a decade… This dawning brought home fond memories of those glorious years he had spent in the past with family and friends back in Cameroon. This made him also realize that he was starting to lose a little bit of touch with his roots not because he disliked his past. The reason for this subtle disconnect in Michael's opinion is because when you leave a 3rd world country and travel to a country like the USA or wherever opportunities abound, life moves on a faster lane because people are going to school or working many hours trying to provide for their new lifestyle or trying to support families back in their countries of origin that they barely realize time fly past them.

Africans living in the USA, Europe, Asia and other places outside the continent have gotten so sucked into the fast-paced lives of their new environments and thus have little time to keep touch with their roots back home except for resorting to phone calls and social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and others to inquire about continent. Michael starting pondering on what it will be like if Africans in the diaspora and back home also had an African based social networking site like Facebook or YouTube, where they share authentic materials relevant to the continent and not relying on people outside of Africa telling the African story from a non-African perspective.

Armed with this strong desire to let the African tell his own story from his own setting and his own way is what brought the whole DuAfrica idea to birth. Michael set out to dedicate himself to create a platform that will help connect individuals who have immigrated from Africa, a place where people around the world could educate themselves on the many different cultures and countries located in Africa and also something which could help people residing in Africa promote their talents and ideas to the world. He talked to me about it and I'm like wow, I've also been dreaming up this so I decided to put all my efforts into helping Michael on his quest and since I am a journalist, what better way to do this than writing about it so people out there can read and share in Mike’s dream and ultimately join in his noble cause!

How will DuAfrica be used to positively impact the African continent and the people on and off it? As Mike tells, by educating the world and showing the many great things happening in Africa today because people have misconceptions about Africa. Through this, it is hoped that opportunities will be brought back to Africa because it is becoming tiring to hear people speak and think negatively of Africa This is what we can all do to make Africa better. DuAfrica will serve as a voice for the many people with hope. If we can change one person's life, through our efforts, then that will be a great achievement towards working harder to effecting a more greater positive change in many more people.

I personally believe the African mind has the capacity to effect change positively and we've got all it takes to rub shoulders with the very countries we seek green pastures from because grass is greener at our feet already. What we really need is the desire and the will power to work on that desire and dedicating our individual selves to staying the cause, irrespective of the harsh circumstances and oppositions we might encounter because it is only when we endure to the end, shall we see the light we so dream of at the end of the tunnel. We must do this not just for ourselves, but above all for our children, especially the unborn ones because they are the real owners of the future, they've just allowed us to borrow today so we can build them a better tomorrow… We must therefore not disappoint the children.

If Michael Abgortoko can think of projects like the creation of better water sources, building better facilities such as facilities where the elderly and children can go to learn, stay active and become self reliant, and his passion can have so much force on my way of thinking enough to make me want to share his brain with you, then all we need is for you to get out there and start thinking of ways to make the country you are originally from better than you left it, let's do this for mama Africa. Watch out for DuAfrica and remember where you first heard about it.

ORAL OFORI, +12027021220, oralofori@gmail.com, Freelance Writer, Broadcaster, Retail Specialist, Music Promoter, Artiste. http://about.me/oralofori/

Columnist: Ofori, Oral