Pearls And Heels: Anne Eboso Okongo


Today as Pearls And Heels closes for the holidays we feature two amazing women on Pearls And Heels. One of them is Anne Eboso Okongo. Anne Eboso Okongo is the founder of Rusinga Cultural Festival, which seeks to celebrate the culture of the Suba community while at the same time providing a platform for promoting cultural expressions, information/knowledge empowerment and economic empowerment for the community members. She integrates this cultural pursuit with literacy promotion through reading initiatives such as the boat library.

Anne is also the CEO of All For Cars Ltd, a company that deals in genuine automobile spare parts from the world’s leading OEM brands. A huge percentage of profits from this company is dedicated to the promotion of literacy, health campaigns, women & youth empowerment, art and cultural initiatives.

  1. Describe your typical day?

I am not a morning person. I am up at 6.30 am and my office work starts at 9:00 am. My day mostly consists of meetings with prospective clients (for All for Cars Ltd), partners and sponsors (For Rusinga Festival). My day typically ends at midnight. I have been known to send a lot of late night emails. Besides, I am most creative after dusk. Away from work, my evening routine is pretty much predictable – Catching up and spending time with family – my hubby and two sons. As a wife and a mother, I have to make sure everything around the home and with the family is fine.

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?

While growing up, I wanted to be so many things. At one point I wanted to be a lawyer or a detective after reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.  Again reading books such as Anna the air hostess made it cool to be an air hostess. And so did Truphena city nurse and Pamela the probation officer. There was a time I wanted to be a literature teacher. This would probably have been the real deal for me.

  1. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

 Nothing much.  I would have probably started my social enterprise a few years earlier.

  1. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?

The three values that I would say are required for one to succeed are:

  1. Passion – “People with great passion can make the impossible happen.”
  2. Consistency – “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins
  3. Persistence – “Never give up on something you really want, it is difficult to wait but more difficult to regret.”

5. What motivates you?

The fact that a life will be changed if I do what I do gives me the inspiration to continue doing what I do. Hence my motivation is the satisfaction that comes with the impact of my work.

  1. How do you define success?

Being the best is not so important.  Doing the best and making a difference in the community is all that matters.

  1. Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Well, I will be pretty predictable in this. My mother. She helped nurture a reading culture in me since I was four.  Every time my late mum saw me with a book, I would be exempted from house chores.  And my sisters would be told to let me read if they attempted to assign me any tasks. I hence discovered reading actually came with its own fair share of ‘favours.’ The more I read, the more curious I became to explore the different worlds portrayed by the writers. And this has hugely impacted on the person that I am today. (And this is not to say that house chores are bad or parents should exempt their children from them).

  1. What is your favourite aspect of your job?

 About Rusinga Festival. Right? Meeting people who have never heard of Rusinga Island and they cling to my every word as I describe the island to them.

Today I would like to focus on my work as the producer of Rusinga Festival because the fifth edition of the festival will be happening in a few days time. Rusinga Festival is two days of nothing but music, fashion, film, food, artistry, literature, sports and conversations taking you back in time to the wealth of the Suba culture. This festival is held annually on Rusinga Island and attracts more than 7,000 people.

Rusinga Festival As a result of assimilation, the Suba culture has come under pressure and the language is now listed in UNESCO’s Red Book of Endangered Languages (2003). So why should this be important? Because most of the cultural wealth of a community is stored in its language, philosophy of life, stories, medicinal practices and general way of life. When this is affected, the socio-economic empowerment of a community is equally affected. Rusinga Festival as a platform helps in preserving this cultural identity and hence making all other things fall in place.

This festival encompasses several cultural and social aspects. People come from across the country to experience Suba food. There are exhibitions for local artefacts, the community performs thrilling traditional dances, there is a fashion show with a focus on the traditional aspects, men and women compete in various sports, including tug-of-war and boat racing, and there are tours around the islands of Lake Victoria, among other activities.

  1. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?

1. Passion – “People with great passion can make the impossible happen.”

2. Consistency – “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins

  1. Persistence – “Never give up on something you really want, it is difficult to wait but more difficult to regret.”

10. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?

I work in two locations. Nairobi and Rusinga Island. Nairobi is so fast-paced. You have to be really fast and smart. You need to keep on re-inventing yourself to stand out. Once you get it in Nairobi, it’s easier to penetrate other locations.

On the other hand, Rusinga Island is bae. Rusinga Island is an unexplored treasure and is more open to opportunities that promote the welfare of the community members.

11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?

To be genuinely passionate about their work and to work smart. There is no royal road to success. The going is tough but sacrifice and hard work is a must!

12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?

Being selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders to gain skills and connections they need to accelerate their own career trajectories and contribute more robustly to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth and enhancing peace and security across Africa.

My work with communities prompted me to apply for and I was privileged to get selected for the fellowship. Spending seven weeks with young awesome African leaders from different parts of Africa is life changing. These fellows are drawn from diverse fields and cultures.  Apart from the reaffirmation that you are doing the right thing, there is the opportunity to compare notes with the people addressing the same challenges as your own in their various countries. The greatest learning for me was that leadership is not a position but an activity.  This changed my way of thinking and I am constantly on the lookout of opportunities to intervene with solutions that seek to drive the community forward.

13. What makes you happy?

Family. Books. Stories. Smiles of people whose lives have changed because of one of my initiatives.

  1. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?

I am easily distracted by books. When I am not working, I am reading a book. A lot of reading!

  1. Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?

If you haven’t figured out by now, Rusinga Festival will be going regional (with a focus on the countries sharing L. Victoria) in a few years time. So in ten years, I want the Rusinga Festival to be the biggest festival in the region that celebrates the cultural wealth of a community. And of course with a world-class touch to it.

Find out more about the Rusinga Festival and what you can do here – Make The Most Out Of Your Trip To The Beautiful Rusinga Island

If you would like to interact with Anne you can find her on twitter @ebosoAnne. You can also follow Rusinga Festival on Twitter and Facebook.

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