….Part 2 of Yvonne´s story….
….A prolonged job search followed, but after my previous experiences in South Africa and Tunisia, it was only natural that I would end up back in Africa. I’m not sure if I picked the continent or if it picked me. I ended up working at an organization called CMAP, a participatory development NGO in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, managing CMAP’s operations and finances. CMAP’s mission is to bring about peaceful, participatory development of waterfront slums in Port Harcourt. These slums are informal and vulnerable to demolition, but CMAP is trying to change that. To that end, we are mapping the waterfronts, conducting job trainings for local youth, launching a community radio station, and building a community center in the waterfronts. Community members are participating in all of those projects, and our goal is for vulnerable communities to ultimately take control of their own development. Coordinating these concurrent programs can entail a lot of work-60 hours is a light week-especially as I’ve had to learn a lot on the job, but it’s worth it, as we are making a difference for some of Port Harcourt’s most vulnerable residents.
Living in Port Harcourt has its ups and downs as well. Port Harcourt does not have as robust of a social enterprise and/or NGO community as do Lagos or Abuja. What’s more, because the city was plagued with kidnappings between 2006-09, many expats who work for multinational corporations are locked up in secure compounds. My office is attached to my house, which is also attached to my boss’ house, so needless to say, the environment can get to be a bit intense. However, I’ve made both local and expat friends, and exciting cultural things are starting to happen here. Port Harcourt has been designated the UNESCO World Book Capital this year, and a friend just opened an art gallery. Already, there’s more to do outside work than there was when I first arrived.
All in all, I’ve learned a lot, picked up both hard skills I lacked when I graduated from IE and first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to work in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. Because I remain convinced that inclusive economic growth, especially for youth, is key to making sure that growth in emerging market countries benefits all its citizens, not just a privileged few, I ultimately want to move from advocacy-based NGO work into social enterprise, ideally focused on entrepreneurship and livelihoods.
But despite the challenges I’ve faced, this is a huge step forward on my chosen career trajectory, and I don’t have any regrets.
Yvonne, we wish you all the best and are proud of you. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us and being part of our IE Family.