Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Emeka Okafor of Timbuktu Chronicles Unveiled

The contraption called the Internet has a penchant for throwing surprises in ones path. When I stumbled upon the Z + Partners web site, little did I know what lie buried beneath the maze of web pages.

As I dug deeper, I ran into Ann Marie Healy's post on Emeka Okafor*, the Numero Uno of the Nigerian Blogoshere.

Emeka is perhaps the only Nigerian Blogger that has defied the test of time, and successfully carved a niche for himself as a Blogger.

Since 2003, he has blazed a trail on the Blogoshere; he is the force behind Timbuktu Chronicles and Africa Unchained.

I present below excerpts from Ann Marie Healy's interview of Emeka Okafor.

When did you first become interested in entrepreneurship and technology?
I’ve always had an interest in science and I found a commonality between science and business. I don’t mean making money but rather the ways in which people go about creating something that can sustain itself. I think the context of science, business and creativity is something that has been with me since I was very young.

My mother came from a Nigerian family of merchants. She was born in Nigeria and then she moved to England where she met and married my father. They moved from England to Canada and then back to Nigeria so they started this nomadic lifestyle that has more or less continued.

My parents always forced us to recognize how important our culture was regardless of the other cultures around us. They didn’t do this from the standpoint of, “You have to respect this.” Instead they would talk about our culture and say, “See how complex it is; see how it stands on its own two feet. It’s just as interesting as everything else.”

For example, an uncle of mine, a very famous author, wrote the book Things Fall Apart. When we were young, in Canada, my father always made it a point to say, “This is a book your uncle wrote. See how rich this culture really is….”

The writing in the book feels very self-assured. It wasn’t written the way someone would write about rural England; the writing constantly affirms that this is the way people really live their lives. Knowing that the author was my relative made me feel comfortable with where I came from.

When we moved back to Nigeria, my mother continued along those lines. She always made us eat all the traditional foods. Other people who had “lived overseas” came back to Nigeria and they would try to show that they were upper-middle class or global by “apeing” the lifestyles and attributes of what they considered more civilized parts of the world.

My parents weren’t like that. They made us try everything. At the beginning of the rainy season, we had termite queens filling the sky and they would cluster around light. People trap them in water and then they eat them as a snack. My mother made us try this and it was delicious. We never got the message that it wasn’t worthy.

When I go back and reflect on it now, it feels like all of my work relates back to this attitude about where I'm from...
There is more.

Read the full interview. Enjoy

*Photograph of Emeka Okafor by Alexander Zolli