Cynthia Mukendy, 28, Belgian of Congolese origin, is the designer of the “African Gist” platform. Objective: to promote African cultures as well as the opportunities offered by the continent. With a Masters in Communication and New Media, Cynthia Mukendy is currently working in Nigeria in a communication agency.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville: What motivated the creation of the “African Gist” platform? What are the objectives ? How long has it been around?
Cynthia Mukendy: The objective of African Gist is to promote African cultures as well as the opportunities offered by the continent through two aspects: preparation for the stay of young people wishing to go there for personal or professional reasons. Indeed, the platform offers practical articles to support our readers in the different stages of travel preparation (how to choose a destination, calculate your budget, find work in Africa, etc.); cultural discovery through the testimonies of our travelers who share their experiences of cultural discovery both inside and outside the continent. African Gist was born from two observations made following several trips to Africa.
The first is that on each of my trips I met young Africans who, like me, loved to travel. These had traveled in and out of Africa and had all had cultural exchange experiences that I thought were worth sharing. Unfortunately, few of them had a space in which to recount these experiences. The second observation was made during my first year in West Africa. I have found that as a foreigner we are often ill-prepared for the cultural realities on the ground. It is easy to find a myriad of websites listing the addresses of good restaurants, hotels, the exchange rate and tourist places to visit but few to explain how to behave, habits and customs, what to do and what to do. ‘it is important not to do so as not to upset our interlocutor.
Indeed, what in one country is considered a mark of respect may not be in another. Not giving anything with your left hand, for example, is not so obvious to us in the West. I myself have upset more than one person by giving change with my left hand while ignoring the significance of this gesture in the country I was in, sometimes causing negative reactions. In 2016, African Gist was therefore born from the fact that, in my eyes, there had to be a platform giving, on the one hand, real tips on how to prepare and adapt to the cultural environment of different African countries and, on the other hand, highlight the testimonies of African travelers who also had to adapt to the cultural reality of the countries visited. The name “African Gist” was inspired by my time in Lagos. The word “gist” is widely used by young people in Lagos and can be understood as “a summary”. African Gist is meant to be a platform giving a summary of what you really need to know before you go.
LDB: You recently organized the first edition of the conference on the theme “Afropeans and return to Africa”. What can we learn from this conference on the experience of young Afropeans who decide to go to work in Africa?
CM: The aim of this conference was to give a key to young people wishing to live, work or undertake in Africa. The speakers were what are called Afropeans (young people of African origin born in Europe) who for one reason or another decided to move to Africa. As a result of this event, I realized that there is a real desire on the part of young Afropeans to invest in their countries of origin but that few know how to do it. There is also apprehension about the reception they would receive when they return home. Indeed, the Afropeans are the result of an African history marked by the immigration of its peoples, the return to the country of young people from the second generation of immigrants is sometimes apprehended by them. Through their testimonies, our speakers allayed a large number of fears and brought to light other good realities to know if we want to be an entrepreneur in Africa.
LDB: Tell us about your personal experience? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being Afropean and working on the continent?
CM: My experience in Africa is quite special because I did not settle in my country of origin which is the DRC but in Nigeria. The benefits of working in Africa is that working in a developing country takes work to a whole new level. It is the perfect ground for learning. Indeed, Africa is booming, there is a lot to do and it is exciting to be in societies and cities that are being built day by day. To see that what we are doing today will have visible repercussions on a sector of activity or an environment under construction. Another advantage is the good weather and the jovial temperament of the Africans. The sense of celebration but also the hard work and determination that I see every day in Lagos. The downsides are worries about electricity or water at times.
LDB: What are African Gist’s plans?
CM: For this year 2017, African Gist aims to offer a greater offer of content on its platform. Even more varied articles and testimonials to support and help young people wishing to leave, regardless of the activities they want to undertake in Africa. African Gist also aims to conduct a series of conferences on the different aspects of returning to Africa.