Our experiences are continuously accumulating. These experiences enhance and enrich our professional expertise, from a wealth of perspective to the expansion of our capacities. In my interview with Anzetse Were, a development economist in Nairobi, Kenya, we discuss the significance of her experiences in shaping the consultancy practice she has created, the importance of collaboration and dialogue in expanding the work she does, and the personal meaning and value she derives from contributing her expertise.
How have your varied and combined experiences in economics, community development and gender issues, as examples, defined your approach and the perspective you bring to economic development in Africa?
My experiences have made it clear that any development intervention on the continent must be multi-pronged and multidisciplinary if it is to be effective. Interventions do not work well when executed in silos. This is the reason I place great emphasis on bringing contacts in my network together in a manner that may be deemed unconventional since each entity brings strengths not present in the others and vice versa. Additionally, clear and transparent communication channels are crucial when several parties come together to solve a problem. As a result, I am often the liaison between the different parties involved in the intervention so that I can foster trust that can only come through clear, authentic and consistent communication.
Your website profile includes some wonderful personal phrases, "an optimistic cynic" and "one of the growing voices that believe in Africa". Can you comment on the power of personalizing the motivation that creates the work you do and where you want to contribute your talents?
Africa tends to be negatively stereotyped at worst, and seen as a monolith with potential at best. In my personalization, I seek to make it clear that there are numerous players on the continent, the most important of which are Africans themselves, and we have clear ideas of how we can and want to contribute to the continent’s development. My focus right now is on the socio-economic development of Africa with a focus on economic research and analysis. Accurate data and content on Africa can be hard to come by, thus I leverage my expertise to play a role in plugging this gap.
Being in business for oneself, or creating profession, is an interesting combination of: individual talents and capacities, self-expression, creativity, personal values, continuous learning and adaptability. How has your expertise continued to expand through the experiences of having your own business? What are some of the most meaningful aspects of having your own business?
Before I started my business as an independent consultant, I did not truly realise or tap into the wealth of my experience and networks. Running my own business forced me to change that not only due to the necessity of doing so to make my business flourish, but also because I am more motivated now than I ever was as an employee, to bring the best to the work I do. What I enjoy most in my work is the fact that I contribute to varied interventions from private sector, government, think tanks, development finance institutions and non-profits, all aimed at improving the lives of Africans. In doing so I have learnt a great deal from the individuals and organisations with whom I have worked in a manner that would not have been possible if I were stuck in one role in an organisation. Further, as an African woman and mother, I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring the additional qualities I bring due to my identity, to make interventions more effective and truly focused on supporting vulnerable and marginalised communities to become self-reliant and independent.