Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Wind Beneath Africa's Wings

I aspire to become a modern communication technologies knowledge expert upon studying the relationship between culture, identity, expression and technology and how they impact on processes within the Networked Communications Environment-my United Nations Internet Governance Forum Panellist Bio attests therefore this post is important to me in several respects.

I happily invited Precious Blood School to participate at Workshop #417 - "Can Digital Citizenship Scale into the Emerging and Developing Countries effectively? Should It?" at the Sixth Annual Internet Governance Forum Meeting held in Nairobi, last September 2011 but they never came-so I was somewhat dissapointed.

But little did I know that among the reasons preventing their attendance was the fact that they were extremely busy in their IT laboratory re-inventing the future of social networking. Redefining its purpose and building a community around it.

The discovery hit me in the face yesterday afternoon at Precious Blood School, Riruta where was invited to witness the future unfolding, upon being urged “You cannot afford to miss it!”
Opening song “Wind Beneath My Wings” was melodiously performed by Angela Gachui and Ayub performed three African songs with his Nyatiti instrument at the colourful launch ceremony.

Ambitious and Zealous Movers of Africa, in short AZMA are an amazing group of young high school girls accomplishers [I hope Angela forgives me for contriving the title of her performance in describing my impression of founders passion as the wind beneath Africa's wings ] Their differentiating mission “It is not charity, but our duty to serve!” imprinted on their t-shirts as they declared their purpose as “to open the eyes and minds of the young people.”

Their activities are focused on three key objectives; a) Knowledge transfer, mentorship and value based leadership by helping students from weaker primary and secondary schools. Collecting (so far 2,000) books, covering them then donating to needy schools, b) Green Movement in honour of their icon, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai by planting millions of trees all over Kenya. The launch date, 25 November, was special to the founders considering that on 25 September, 2011 was the date their icon passed on. The network intends to mobilise the youth to clean streets, markets and slum areas for clean green environment and c) Outreach - which involves visiting homes, hospitals, slum areas and donating blood. Their idea is to infuse consciousness on others' needs by exposing themselves to society's challenges.

A powerful phrase, “we need to break our hearts to connect with the heartbroken” by one of the founders was quite humbling.

Under objective one - knowledge transfer was the day's highlight - the launch of a brand new youth Social Network Kenya's next big thing! Demonstrated was a powerful new use of Internet technology, by youth for the youth, with guidance from teachers and support from parents and well wishers. They invited students from other schools to join up.

Sorry chit-chat online fora, posh upmarket teens recreation centres competition has arrived. This group is resolute on making young people abandon cheap online fora “discussing breakfast” among other cheap talk instead moving the young to engage on intellectually stimulating online and other digital conversations. They promise to shift popular hangouts from lavish malls and drunken pubs misleading youth to children's homes thus making them responsible young adults.

“This social network is open to all high school students in Kenya who wish to participate in community service, mentorship and outreach efforts in various communities around the country.” states their portal. They have Activity, Forums, Groups, Members, Events, About, The Team, Blog, Contacts portal sections.

And true to their word, visitors to the website sample unfolding intelligent conversations.

From youth discussing how to avoid traumatizing monster tribalism that degenerated an otherwise peaceful country, Kenya, to thousands of deaths during 2007/08 post elections violence. Under 'Culture in Modern Society' forum are thought provoking questions; Does culture have a place today in modern society? Is going back to our roots progressive or retrogressive? Is there a difference between culture and tribalism? Attracting members' reactions, such as,

“Culture in our society is divisive! Going back to our roots is retrogressive!! The clashes in 2007 were a result of pple unable to accommodate other tribes and cultures.....” “There is a difference between culture and tribalism. If I am educated on how my clan carries out social ceremonies such as marriage and initiation, why should that hinder me from working well with someone else? If anything, I would want to learn from someone else’s culture. The clashes that took place in 2007 cannot be tied down to culture…” “Culture is a way of life. People come from different parts of the world with different ways of life. This is something that is respected. On the other hand, tribalism entails finding fault in another person’s culture. This is unhealthy. In the modern society, we cannot fully live according to our respective cultures to the letter.....”

Mrs. Were (Butere High School) with AZMA team planting a tree

“Today culture remains a story told through oral traditions or occasionally written. but really what really is culture? Well in our society it is difficult to draw a clear line between the tribe and the cultural.The older folks have taught that culture is your tribe’s way of life. If they hate another tribe you hate it. So when you tell me to go back to my roots am supposed to join the hatred? The line between culture and tribalism is yet to be demarcated as for now they are one and the same thing”

“I lyk what Ken has said. Lets pick out the wheat from the chaff. That way, we will have a whole society. It is impossible to completely abandon our culture because, uncultured, we cannot stand!” and “….look at the nations in the world that are succeeding, they all hold on to their culture up to today.”

Under objective two have set out to plant millions of trees in honour of their icon the late Prof. Wangari Maathai. Parents, Teachers and invited guests together with students planted several trees in the school compound. (Yours truly, assisted by AZMA members, planted one christened “tech tree” amidst cheers and ululations)

Students from a school in Ukambani and another from a less priveleged were given book donations under objective three-outreach. Founders outlined their plans to visit childrens institutions, such as, Jacaranda school caring for cerebral palsy children. Their plans to visit this institution was particularly touching considering that my first official function to preside over as newly elected Parents & Teachers Association (PTA) Chairman of a primary school in 2001 was an event hosted for the Cerebral Palsy Society of Kenya.

But why should be a re-invention of social networking and Kenya's next big innovation? It's simple, technology is all about the people and not the gizmos or software. The students identified the root cause of hopelessness among the youth and as peers decided to fix it using popular platform among as peers. Created a community motivated to do good, not by profits.

Below join up data from when started to when concluded writing this blog post already confirms my prediction that this local students social network's rising and unstoppable popularity qualifying their collective will as the wind beneath Africa's wings.

Start of writing Completed writing
92 members115 members
31 active members54 active members
186 updates 237 updates
4 groups6 groups
5 forums7 forums
3 topics5 topics
30 posts42 posts
4 blog post4 blog post
2 blog comments4 blog comments

I promised to support AZMA in their endeavour to make Kenya and the world a better place and call upon my friends to join me in supporting these young visionaries effecting change!

Photo credits:
United Nations Office at Nairobi by Alex Gakuru
Launch ceremony photographs courtesy of AZMA
Visit for more photos


  1. Wonderful!
    I'm glad to see the interest you have taken and how well you have been able to understand exactly what we are doing.
    Thank you for your support. We can make Kenya a better place, together. They say, "When I dream alone, it is only but a dream but when we dream together, it's the beginning of reality."
    Long live the tech tree!

  2. You are welcome and glad to have been invited.
    In deed, I saw your team dressed for success.
    Perhaps you all consider buying dark glasses?
    You've got a very bright future ahead of you.
    So the shades could tint it a little, dunno;-)

    Wishing you the very best,