All eyes are on Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o as her newfound fame thrusts her into the global center stage. Born in Mexico as the child of prominent Kenyan politicians before later moving to the United States for college and graduate school, Nyong’o has had a truly global life thus far. Her travels have been the best education of all, bestowing upon her a rare sense of worldly wisdom and care for humanity. Her compassion and her astute perspective on the world makes her performances that much more extraordinary and poignant.

Before her role as Patsey in “12 Years A Slave,” Nyong’o starred in several other socially conscious films, one a drama about HIV/AIDS and another a documentary drawing attention to the treatment of Kenya’s albino population. Although she has not been in the public spotlight for very long, she has already managed to voice some groundbreaking thoughts regarding race, gender, beauty and charity, making it clear that she is a burgeoning beacon of the philanthropic spirit and a trailblazer for human rights advocacy.

Here are several thoughts from Nyong’o:

1. “You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

2. “As I look down on this Golden Statue, may it remind me and very little girls that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.”

3. “You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.”

4. “Human beings have an instinct for freedom.”

5. “Feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

6. “I have phenomenal parents… to watch those two people do so much and mean so much to everyone but at the end of the day still have the humility to serve. I thank their example because at the end of the day I just feel it is my deeds that are more important than my fame.”

These words of wisdom from Nyong’o teach us that, above everything else, we are all equally deserving and capable of love, admiration, success and humanity. Beauty, in the sense of living a beautiful life of compassion and friendship, is something universally available and unhindered by the situations of one’s birth. May every person take Nyong’o’s message to heart, and begin to fully realize his or her amazingly valued position in the grand global community.

– Stefanie Doucette

Sources: The Independent, Huffington Post, Pinterest, The Root
Photo: The Advocate

Thus far, Kenya’s economy depends largely on tourism, specifically safari tours. Travelers often spend the night in Nairobi, the region’s gateway to business, before their safari adventure. Kenya also benefits from pineapple production–a top five producer worldwide–through exporting both canned pineapple and juice concentrates. But there is much more to the booming country than tourism and agriculture. So what else is special about this east African nation?

Kenya is Young and Friendly

Youths serve as optimists for the future and in Nairobi, they keep the economy going. More than 60% of the population is less than 25 years old. Kenyans tend to be warm-hearted and welcoming to foreigners. While the national language in Swahili, many Kenyans speak English at a high level and are willing to converse with tourists about Kenyan culture.

While Kenya is sophisticated compared to its East African neighbors, the country still suffers from unemployment and poor infrastructure. Many of Kenya’s young cannot get jobs due to a lack of skills and opportunities.

The Diaspora Returns

Waiting an hour and a half for a pizza in Nairobi? Rotesh Doshi would rather not. After studying at the London School of Economics, he pursued work opportunities abroad. When he had the chance to bring United States-based franchise, Naked Pizza, to Nairobi, he took it and ran with it.

Although it is his hometown, Doshi found many challenges to setting up a business in Nairobi, including poor infrastructure, government bureaucracy and a short supply of skilled human labor. “You often ask yourself ‘is it worth it’ when a lot more things go wrong than right,” Doshi said. “But there is nothing else that I would rather be doing right now, especially being part of that growth story in my own country.”

Promising Entertainment Industry

Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar win for her supporting performance in 12 Years a Slave gives Kenya’s entertainment industry a ray of hope. With 40% of Kenya’s workforce unemployed, and 70% of those being less than 35 years old, successes like Nyong’o’s show young people that they can, in fact, make it in the entertainment sector, which can then boost the economy.

The government hopes to do this through establishing a film school and promoting the entertainment industry as a legitimate avenue for job creation. Kenya looks to Nigeria for inspiration. Nigeria’s film industry, referred to as “Nollywood,” produces about 50 films per week–many more than Hollywood and second only to India’s Bollywood.

Attracting New Businesses

Food processing giant Del Monte set up a Kenyan branch called Cirio Del Monte Kenya to take advantage of the region’s high-yielding pineapple production. In the technology sector, Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung announced plans for a new assembly plant in Nairobi, positioning the city as the East African center of operation.

With businesses like Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and IBM opening regional hubs in Nairobi comes the opportunity for more employment for the country’s youth. Foreign businesses that are setting up their African headquarters in centrally located Nairobi also benefit local businesses, like Kenya Airways.

– Haley Sklut 

Sources: BBC, How We Made It In Africa, All Africa, US Embassy, Career Nation
Photo: Sida