By Oral Ofori
Recently, I’ve been talking to Michael Agbortoko in a bid to find out more about him and his passion for Africa’s development, I find him an intriguing young fellow with great dreams and ambitions that made me strongly feel the need to tell you about his passion. Michael is a graduate of Southbridge High School in Southbridge Massachusetts. He is currently pursuing an entrepreneurship degree at Assumption College in Worcester Massachusetts. He tells me he was very lucky to find out what he is passionate about at a very tender age–business innovating and a heart to help others.
Growing up in Bomaka, Cameroon, Michael was privileged to have a father who worked in the USA who traveled back home on a regular basis (thus twice a year) to his family in Cameroon. When Mike’s father realized the opportunities that were available in the States, he decided to take his entire family to the USA where he felt they will receive a better education. It was while in the States that young Mike started realizing how vast an opportunity his life in the USA presented him. This made him strongly want to make the friends and family he left behind in Cameroon have a feel of this opportunity as well.
This great desire coupled with inspiration from people like Mother Teresa and Dr Martin Luther King Jr fueled him to believe that it doesn’t matter where you come from, be you rich, poor, homeless or whatever class you find yourself at in life, almost all of us want to be of help especially to those we love and care about. Mike says Dr King Jr thought him that when you have a dream or a goal, you have to be the leader and you have to strive to make a difference because no one else will achieve your goals for you. Based on this, Michael strongly feels he must not take opportunities for granted because he is inspired by people from his past whose deeds have guided him into his present. This is why he is working tirelessly to create a better future not just for his friends and family in Cameroon, but for the less fortunate in Africa and all over the world.
To innovating entrepreneurs, money is the biggest brick wall to any great idea, and this young Cameroonian has learned that he is not immune to this problem. Mike learned to quickly realize that, as long as you stay focussed and determined, nothing is impossible. Though he doesn’t have the money now, Michael has taken a bold initiative to establish DuAfrica; a humanitarian organization with the objective to be self-dependent rather than relying on governments who’s standards they’ll have to meet. DuAfrica is aiming to help bring Mike’s dream of a less dependent Africa into fruition. Mike tells me that If you don’t have money, it is best to focus on your goals while building a strong network. With over two thousand friends on the Facebook page of DuAfrica, he seems to be doing exactly that–networking.
Michael Agbortoko says ever since he was young, he had always loved the art of business and when he looks around him today, he sees that everything has a business touch to it with the major difference being that there’s good business and there’s bad business. His focus is therefore on those good businesses which help to generate income to stabilize communities, states, countries or individuals. Greed is the major cause of bad business because it lets people to crave benefits for themselves rather than to help others. As I listen to Mike speak with passion on his ideas and dreams for DuAfrica, I find myself being sucked into this great dream and wanting to be a part of it simply because it serves a greater good.
At present, Mike plays soccer at Assumption College Division 2, is a model and also a movie extra. When fully off the ground and functional, DuAfrica will be a global platform that provides African music, fashion, art, talent, and other respective forms of African self-expressions to the rest of the world and individuals who have emigrated from Africa to other countries around the globe. It will strive to help people remember and embrace their roots while helping the rest of the world become more familiar with these creations and characteristics of the African culture.
Most of DuAfrica’s ambitions will be achieved basically by providing a website where visitors can listen to and educate themselves by exploring the many works, creations, and qualities of African culture at no cost. As an entity, DuAfrica and its website will not only serves as a gallery of African culture, talent, and information, but also as a means of enabling people to purchase items and ideas of direct or indirect African lineage or origins that they find interesting either on the website or programs and events put together by the organization. Those who choose to become users of the web-page will also have the opportunity to purchase discounted calling cards, the ability to ship and receive goods and services to and from Africa at lower rates, and the ability to book affordable flights to their desired destinations on the continent.
DuAfrica will also embark on efforts to bridge the communication gap for individuals with family members or friends overseas who join the site. It intends doing this by providing video chat or texting at relatively affordable prices on its platform. Keeping with the values of DuAfrica, each product sold is purchased at fair trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. We (remember I’m not only writing about this, but working on the ground as well to help make Mike’s dream a reality) will also strive to further support the native villagers and hard-working communities.
One of the ways DuAfrica intends to do that will be by donating %5 of every amount accrued from any sale or service through its platform towards the foundations that it chooses to support. This will allow it to give back to the native African people and their communities. The mission of this organization is simple: to promote the pride held in the countless and ever-emerging creations and achievements of the African culture to the rest of the world, while helping native Africans overseas keep in touch and admire the lifestyles they have come to recognize as their own. Mike is not one to be easily deterred. He doesn’t think people can ever reach their full potential because there is always room to learn or teach something new. Given the advancement of technology and the way society is constantly changing, we must not settle for little, we must leave room for improvement he believes.
The best way to encourage improvement is to have a tolerant mindset and to treat all people equally, irrespective of class or creed, Mr. Abgortoko thinks everything you do and everyone you meet impacts you in some way. Although we have minds of our own, it is up to us to determine what we learn and see because those are the basic things that shape our personalities. Family is also one great place of sharing and influence in a person’s life. For this young Cameroonian friend of mine, family doesn’t only have to be blood relations.
Mothers across the continent of Africa always made sure the children they were raising never took things for granted. Mike speaks fondly of his mother and family with a gleam of pride in his eyes. He says his family and the people around the setting in which he was raised have contributed greatly to what he is today, something which he’s extremely thankful for. One of his greatest responsibility is to strive to succeed, so he can someday give back to others.
DuAfrica is one of the mediums through which the strife for success will be driven. Africans living in the USA, Europe, Asia and other places outside the continent have gotten so sucked into the fast-paced lives of their new environments and have little time to keep touch with their roots back home except for resorting to phone calls and social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and others to inquire about the continent. Michael started pondering on what it will be like if Africans in the diaspora and back home also had an African based social networking site like Facebook or YouTube, where they could share authentic materials relevant to the continent and not rely on people outside of Africa to tell the African story from a non-African perspective.
Armed with this strong desire to let the African tell their own story from their own setting and in their own way is what brought DuAfrica forth. Michael set out to dedicate himself to creating a platform that will help connect individuals who have immigrated from Africa, a place where people around the world could educate themselves on the many different cultures and countries located in Africa and also something which could help people residing in Africa promote their talents and ideas to the world. He talked to me about it and I’m like wow, I’ve also been dreaming about something like this. So I decided to put all my efforts into helping Michael on his quest and since I am a journalist, what better way to do this than write about it so people out there can read and share in #TheAfricanDream
How will DuAfrica be used to positively impact the African continent and the people living inside and outside of it? As Mike tells, by educating the world and showing the many great things happening in Africa today. This is necessary because people have misconceptions about Africa. Through this, it is hoped that opportunities will be brought back to Africa because it is becoming tiring to hear people speak and think negatively of Africa. This is what we can all do to make Africa better. DuAfrica will serve as a voice for the many people with hope. If we can change one person’s life, through our efforts, then that will be a great achievement towards working harder to effecting a more greater and positive change in many more people.
I personally believe the African mind has the capacity to effect positive change. We’ve got all it takes to rub shoulders with the very countries we seek green pastures from because grass is greener at our feet already. What we really need is the desire and the will power to work on that desire by dedicating ourselves to staying the cause, irrespective of the harsh circumstances and oppositions we might encounter. It is only when we endure to the end, that we shall see the light we so dream of at the end of the tunnel. We must do this not just for ourselves, but above all for our children, especially the unborn ones–we must therefore not disappoint them!
If Michael Abgortoko can think of projects like the creation of better water sources, building better facilities where the elderly and children can go to learn, developing apps and programs to make ICT practical even to farmers in Africa and to eventually become self reliant, then all we need is for you to get out there and start thinking of ways to make the country you are originally from better than you left it. Lets do this for mama Africa.