Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ghadija Vallie: a heart without borders

The session we had with Ghadija Vallie brought me back to the African wisdom I used to hear from my grandmother, my mother and in some old traditional songs. I felt like drinking at a source of potable water falling from the mountains of my village I visited years ago. Her speech was clean, pure, deep and inspiring true love.

The predominant color on her dress was green, testifying expansion and change, and she said it: change is constant. I love you mummy. The session was among the shortest we had so far but full of wisdom. No PowerPoint slides but simply wise words and advices (please do not misinterpret me, I am not against technology).

In this individualistic society we are living in, with extensive promotion of the ego, the ‘moi’, she came with a revolutionary thought: ‘I am the community, we are the community…an injury to one is an injury to all’.

Whatever the circumstances, I will always ask my self, what is the contribution I make to my community? Key for a valuable contribution: humility, commitment and passion.

She traveled from Cape Town just to share that with us. It was great and comforting, raising hope for the future. Thanks a million to you Ghadija Vallie. I will always remember of you.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A session on Project Management at Constitution Hill

When I first came to South Africa, two months later I started my courses at Wits in February 2004. As I could not secure a place in one of the Wits student residences, I lived in Hillbrow and I used to catch the Wits bus at Essellen to come to the main campus.

One of the things that attracted my attention was the huge construction within Constitution Hill (http://www./ Despite my curiosity, I never tried to know what was being built, I simply noticed that it was taking time. I then assumed that it was one of those next highest buildings in the Southern hemisphere or maybe a skyscraper of the African version of the memorial twins in Manhattan.

A year later, I was one of the frequent attendees of some conferences within the Constitution Hill, especially those ran by the Edge Institute ( and the Sociology of Work Unit (SWOP).

Despite such closeness, I never enquired what was being built nor did I ask why these respectful people from SWOP and the Edge always brought us to those old and dirty buildings, almost threatening our safety. Money constrains I thought. Then, why do we leave Wits were they have offices and halls at their disposal? Anyway, that was not so important to me since those conferences were an opportunity to increase my knowledge on the South African society as well as its crucial social issues.

Thanks to the WOW training as I finally came to discover Constitution Hill as a place of great significance to the history of South Africa.

On the guidance of the gentle tourist guide, Lebo, I realized what this country went through. For several times, I paid visits to Vilakazi Street with the famous Mandela’s and Tutu’s houses and the Victor Piettersen museum in Soweto, but it never had such an impact on me. Anyway, the past belongs to history.

Late after the visit, we had a wonderful presentation on Project Management by Brian Orlin form the JDA (Johannesburg Development Agency (http://www./ In such a short period of time, Brian browsed what he learnt and practiced for years. Though I attended two courses on Project Management; Brian simply impressed me with such an integrative session, covering key areas of the topic. And lastly, I finally discovered what was being built on the site: a commercial centre which both generates income and keeps alive a South African legacy. It made my weekend great. Any single day in the WOW had added value to me.


HIV-AIDS: good policies also require unambiguous political commitment

Thursday 23rd March, we had a very good presentation on HIV/Aids and the workplace. Christine Rendall demonstrated that she is familiar with the topic. I am not going to repeat what she has said but I have one concern.

My concern, however, is about the connection between policies and political commitment. I think that is the best recipe for the issue of HIV/Aids in South Africa. I learnt form Christine that South Africa has got one of the best policies for HIV/Aids in the world, moreover, that is a view shared by the WHO.

My worries are that, compared to some other developing countries, South Africa does not perform well regarding this HIV/aids issue, hence my question: what is the need for the best policy when the situation on the ground shows terrible gaps?

I am not writing about politicians here, but I am still questioning the efficiency of those policies if they are to be carried by a minister and a president whose views on HIV/Aids simply testify ambiguities.

The political environment is a major determinant of policy success of failure. I do share couple of things on most South African government policies, but I am very skeptical about its commitment to HIV/Aids.

A study by a world renown American economist bureau, Sachs Goldman, which is reported by Samir Ghabi in the French magazine ‘Jeune Afrique l’Intelligent’ of February 2004 (, shows how South Africa may not have the required demographic population to sustain its growth rate by 2050. The Study shows how, both economies of South Africa and Brazil have the same growth rate by 2002, but by 2050, Brazil is likely to be far better and rank 9th world economic power with a GDP 5 times bigger than the one of South Africa. That is sad news not only for South Africa but also for Africa.
With attitudes and statements like "If the scientists . . . say that the virus is part of the variety of things from which people acquire immune deficiency, I have no problem with that. But to say that this is the sole cause and therefore the only response to it is anti-retroviral drugs, [then] we’ll never be able to solve the AIDS problem" (Mbeki in 2000
Analyzing Mbeki's last State of the Nation address, the Treatment Action Campaign is of the view that Government attitude towards the pandemic has not yet changed (,,2-7-12_1661207,00.html).
These views were shared by many political leaders (

According to the DA (Democratic Alliance) Tony Leon for instance, HIV/Aids is one of several serious issues Mbeki had glossed over in his speech. Patricia Delille on the other hand said that Government had enough time to improve service and that should not constitute an excuse. In IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s word, the South African HIV/Aids issue shows a ‘leadership crisis’. As part of the solution, the ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) Kenneth Meshoe believes that HIV and Aids should be included on government’s priorities agenda alongside poverty and unemployment.

My own view is that, this country has suffered a lot form past racial imbalances. Apartheid is still alive in many and political leaders should face the HIV/Aids challenge and give a chance to next generations for a long and prosperous life.
I am sorry if I recall apartheid here, but I like these wise words: ‘the past belongs to history, but if nothing is done for the HIV/Aids, today is misery and tomorrow is probably a mystery’.

Something must be done on the top political milieu of South Africa. Otherwise, Sachs’ prediction will be proven right. By writing such an article, Sachs Bureau does not expect things to happen as they planned, they simply warned us to take urgent actions.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Workplace and change: the office spouses

The workplace is an environment that changes at such a fast pace that I feel very lucky to interact with people with practical experience at hands. For a successful entry, emotional quotient is a key element. A couple of weeks before the WOW (world of work) training, I never thought of such a connection. I was quite sure that all the theories I have been exposed to would suffice.

To show how fast the corporate environment is changing, intimate office relationships are getting common currency and one of its fastest growing form is the ‘office spouse’. The phenomenon seems to be more in vogue in developed countries as some researches have already been conducted on it, I hope we going to fill this research gap very soon in our developing countries.

To illustrate this phenomenon, this is a story of a pretty 47 year old columnist working for the financial times. Lucy Kellaway has been through six office spouses, actually six marriages. The first two broke up as she has changed her work and the last four where experienced by her in the two decades she has been working for the Financial Times (FT). The longest marriage Lucy Kellaway had was her sixth, which lasted for nearly five years. Guess what; lastly Lucy had just announced her search for the next husband.

Lucy defines the spouse office as ‘someone you see every day and spend more waking time with than your actual spouse’. Talking on the phenomenon, this is what she writes in her article posted on the FT on Monday 20 March: ‘according to Vault, a US-based career consultancy, 32 percent of workers have an office spouse, and the number is growing fast. Although these surveys are always daft, and the figures suspect, the concept is a real one…’.

Bad or good thing, is something difficult to tell and which I do not want to delve into here. It all depends on one’s personal experience and judgmental background. My first impression on Lucy was that, that is too much instability and might affect her productivity. Yet, after I read more on her bibliography on , I learnt that Lucy was named columnist of the year at the 2006 British Press Awards. Controversial indeed. If one wants a say on that, Lucy expects comments on .

Nonetheless, the point I would like to mention is that, trends in the WOW change every single day and one should be prepared to that and make it work at it best. Make it work for you, for your corporate and mostly for the people you serve, your clientele.

We are living in a world whereby after spending almost one third of a day in bed, some people have to spend more than one third of their day at work. Therefore, make sure that you are not only at work, but also to work. Moreover, make sure that you adapt to any changes you encounter. My university syllabi do not predict the next trend within the work place and I am aware of that. Thank you to all our guest speakers who share with us some tips to help us succeed at work and cope with change. Special thanks to the WOW training staff as well and Good luck to Lucy Kellaway.

Monday, March 20, 2006

South African politicians also do blog

Last week I was searching on the internet about blogging and I found a blog on last South African local elections I learnt something from it. It is not only about politics but also the power this blogging technology has to spread information, news, and mostly emotions.

In fact, politicians who blogged as responding to a Mail &Guardian initiative, did not only blog for electoral campaign, but it was time for some to share how they experienced their days and share some of their feelings.

I have also decided to blog not only for marketing purposes but especially for the openness that it allows, for the interactions that come with feedbacks and comments by people visiting my blog.

Indeed, during one of our internship sessions, I personally complained about the practical time I would have for blogging since my favourite activities on internet were emails and internet search. I have to reconsider this. My tour at showed me how busy politicians managed to blog about their views and plans and that created room for debate. As a result I made my mind and have decided to devote at least 45 minutes to blog whenever I am online.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Four Cs: Competition, Collaboration, Cooperation+ Clusters.

Last Friday when I left my room down west campus village around 8:30, I had no clue about what the session with Josie Rowe would look like.

In fact, she spoke of Competition, Cooperation, and Cooperation. Few minutes after I reached the wits club, the day started on a very good note with teaming. I had a formidable balanced team with three interns and three delegates from the Limpompo Local Economic Development project.

The way my team worked, someone from out could not easily differentiate between ‘witsies’ and ‘limpompo workers’, we formed a team and interacted very closely. That remembered me about team work as presented by Peter Arden.

To get back to my Friday, that was a very busy and informative day. I learnt quite a lot from Josie presentation in the afternoon. Before that, I enjoyed the morning session, the talk on competition. I liked Josie’s approach. She tackled it from very different angles: individual, corporate, state and global viewpoints.

Competition is the ‘current rule of the world’ and when Darwin talked of natural selection, he meant exactly the same. That should be understood not only at the individual level, but at the corporate and state levels as well. Thank you Josie because you brought in Collaboration and Cooperation.

We were all given teams where we pulled together our knowledge and experiences to work on the cases we were assigned, I understood the word complimentarity and synergy, that was great.

After the break, Josie came with the fourth C: clusters. The puzzle was complete. It was tough to swallow when she started, then I felt like bored and drowse. I managed not to sleep and focused on clusters. The last work with my team shed more light with the ‘Soweto tourism’.

My team worked on how historical places like the Victor Piettersen, and Villazi street were turned to generate some clusters in Soweto…

Thank you to the delegates from Limpompo, you inspired me about teaming and diversity, thank you Josie for the 4 Cs, tu as été merveilleuse Josie, très énergétique et amicale.

I met green, orange, brown, red, white and blue people!

Africa faces so many issues to day: HIV-Aids, war, poor governance, etc. Despite that, I strongly believe that one day Africa will efficiently compete with giants and the world will talk of the ‘African miracle’.

Key to such attainment is the understanding of sustainability and corporate citizenship, thank you Paul Kapelus.

When is that day? I think it’s today, and now. Africa needs its sons and daughters to believe in its renaissance. Do you believe in such a think? I do. Let’s unite our ‘heads, hearts, and hands’ (thank you Brad Arden for the triple H) for sure that is going to create a synergy.

The African miracle is around the corner, because I met the six races composing Africa and I want you to meet them as well. I am proud that I am from central Africa, the ‘red’ zone. The bloodshed made me decide to come to the rainbow nation, where I met ‘blue’ people like South Africans, leading example of economic growth in Africa. One of them is Roy, blue skies.

Moi (I) belong to Africa because since I came to the rainbow nation I met ‘white’ people like some west Africans, always challenging me and asking why will it work Cyrille?.

Yes, I belong to Africa, reason why I plan to travel to Egypt and meet some ‘green’ people and get inspired from pyramids that teach change and expansion. Yebo, I belong to Africa, reason why I will be traveling to Mauritius after Egypt and meet some ‘orange’ people, ready to encourage me to always move forward and be positive. In fact before going to Egypt, I met one around, Peter Metcalfe.

Sim (yes), I belong to Africa, reason why I have to meet some ‘brwon’ guys from Djibouti so that they help me gather everything I learnt so far from these six races. I think, I also met some brown people like Tina Thomson and Shameen Naidu in the WOW (World Of Work) training.

Oui (yes), I belong to Africa reason why I live in the rainbow nation where I am likely to meet Egyptians and Mauritian before traveling to their land.

My encounter with these six races make me feel like I am ‘brown’, clustering information about the WOW , tomorrow I will turn to my preferred color, ‘blue’ after I will meet Nigerians as they always urge me to implement what I learn.

Gracias, merci beaucoup, thank you to the speakers at the World of Work training.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Roy, your session was Nice

Hey Roy, about your two sessions:
I learnt New things, I Interacted with the world of Creativity, and that was Cool, Excellent!
It was niicce, Merci Beaucoup (tks) Roy!

A positive approach to problem solving

Thanks a lot Peter Metcalfe,
We had a good session with you this afternoon and I really appreciate the discussion we had after your presentation. Many people could say the same things but from very different standpoints.

The thing that will always make me remember of this session is ‘A positive approach to problem solving’. That was fabulous. I personally share Peter’s view that a 10ml glass containing 5ml is not half empty but half full. I felt comforted in my way of approaching life. I also think that this might be helpful when thinking on prospects of development in Africa. We do not need the all continent to share the same approach to see things starting to change; we simply need to act as far as one is concerned. We already have the NEPAD vision even if NEPAD secretariat seems no fully involved in the vision it is supposed to serve.

In the same line, I share Peter’s contention that we rather create growth than alleviate poverty. The issue, however, is that our educational system is set in such a way that there are themes, standard words and concepts to define certain things. As one can read from my profile, one of my areas of interest is ‘Poverty alleviation’. This is a world-known and -used theme. In the US and UK, certain universities are offering postgraduate degrees in ‘Poverty alleviation’ with an impressive curriculum. An institution such as the World Bank has as motto ‘poverty alleviation’.

Nowadays, poverty alleviation tends to be an area of focus for many governments in the South. Just look at national policies, they are all aimed at ‘reducing poverty’. So far about 70 countries in the South are involved in the World Bank-IMF Poverty Reduction Strategy ‘PRS’ and they all design national policies that accommodate such a vision. To day we talk of the Milleniun Development Goals (MDG) with poverty alleviation at the forefront.

By the fact that ‘poverty alleviation’ is in vogue not only in development institutions but also as commonly adopted in the development mainstream and popular language, one can not easily reverse the trend. Moreover, we end up saying the same thing. Peter's argument of ‘let’s create growth and prosperity’ does not seem so different from World Bank strategy of ‘Building the climate for investment, jobs, and sustainable growth’ nor does it differ from the Bank’s argument going that ‘growth is good for the poor’. It all becomes semantic. Maybe I need to engage more with Peter’s strategy and look at the implementation side…anyway, thank you Peter, your presentation was great.

Monday, March 13, 2006

My Profile

I am a self motivated, hard worker, and bilingual gentleman from the DR Congo. I am passionate of taking up challenges in my life as well as being group motivator or team leader.

I am interested in working in multicultural environments where I can meet and interact with multiskilled people, learn from them and contribute to a better performance of an organization.

My field of interest are: policy analysis, poverty alleviation, global issues, state-society relations, field research, and proposal writing.

I have lastly completed a Masters of Arts degree in Development Studies at Wits. My strongest side as student has been a sense of deep critical analyses, thus, I expect two things from guest lecturers at the world of work training: firstly to prepare me for a smooth entry in the workplace, and secondly to inspire me with some practical tools that can help me translate my knowledge into effective delivery of work.

Cyrille Mutombo

My photo

Friday, March 10, 2006

Getting into the world of work training

Friday, March 10, 2006March

Getting into the world of work training

I am quite happy to get into the world of work training, an opened door for a bright future and a successful career!!!

Studying for so many years has been an interesting experience and now time has come for long term practice. I feel stressed and anxious from time to time when I think of it.
Many thanks to the WOW training as this program is going to serve as a bridge connecting me to the workplace. I feel happy about that, I also feel proud about the WOW training and internship staff as well as all guest lecturers.

Life is about moving forward and whenever you find yourself at a crossroad, take up any challenge you face, remember that there are people that made the walk before you, look for them and once you find them, mentors or trainers, step in, find your inspiration and invest your self in what you believe is right.

Just by being accepted to this program, I strongly believe that I am gone for a successful shift for my career expectations. Therefore, I am committed to demonstrate a sense of responsibility, respect and compliance with the program requirements.