A circle closes

27 Apr

Today I spent some time with two friends in Nairobi, both of who were instrumental in me falling in love with Kenya.

One replied my email asking about volunteering in Nairobi very detailed and fast, picked me from the airport, included me in family travels and gave advice on my slum projects to start the list.

The other one spent hours explaining me his culture, boosted my confidence allowing me to integrate seamlessly and became my brother hosting me in his family’s house for over a year only to mention few highlights.

As we were sitting together, sharing updates about work, challenges and business and advice on relationships I realized how far we’ve come since the first emails in April 2008 and since this blog started.

Thanks for all and I’m glad I’ve been able to return the friendship and bring in mutuality!

A great and highly recommended book which again I looked through today is “Africa – altered states and ordinary wonders” by Richard Dowdon

“I have seen the sun set, shrunken and mean, over a cold drab English street and stood outside a mud hut the next morning on a Kenyan hillside and seen it rise in glory over the East African plains. Africa is close.
Few go there. Africa has a reputation: poverty, disease, war. But when outsiders go they are often surprised by Africa’s welcome. Visitors are welcomed and cared for in Africa. If you go you will find most Africans friendly, gentle and infinitely polite. You will frequently be humbled by African generosity. Africans have in abundance what we call social skills.”


A new place… but still me!

18 Sep

I refuse to believe there is no solution to the hunger, pain, malnutrition, climate change, poverty of mind and wallet. I see food, medication, education, clean water, decent housing and employment for every human being. Call me a dreamer, but I cannot sit back. I prefer to get moving and building towards billions of people living a life every human deserves.

Millions of people in the world think like me, thankfully I am not special. There are thousands of volunteers in Africa, decades of NGO work and Development Coooperation have come and gone. Hundreds of Millions in the world donate for the betterment of peoples’ suffering. But still the problems seem to be getting worse, not better.

Between making money and making a difference, choose both!

I heard this slogan in 2010 and got excited. You can make a sustainable income and still change lives?
Sounds like the answer to a lot of challenges in Emerging Market and Developing Countries. Byebye Corruption? I hope you are as excited about it as I am and hopefully even more.
In 2011 I started my career as a consequence of my time in Africa. I am now part of the Social Business Movement by joining edgeand I moved to London.

It’s another step towards supporting change in this region that I hold very dear. The journey starts today, be with my on manumoments.wordpress.com!

I cried but I no longer cry

13 Sep

A really nice story from a traveller in Ethiopia:



1 Aug

Huge parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are affected by the worst drought in decades. Low Rain fall, growing deserts, low investments in irrigation systems and transport infrastructure are hitting Millions of people. Animals starved first, now its children, elderly people, breastfeeding mothers. Everyone. 2/3rd of Kenya are arid or semi-arid areas, meanwhile the other parts are very green and extremely fertile. We have mud slides and floods in the west, while Millions are in hunger on the other side. Hunger and thirst are words that can hardly express what is happening just 10 hours away from me. I have talked to AIESECers and NGO workers who have been in the area in the last days and they are all very shocked and touched with how desperate the situation is.

Check out some pictures here, articles about Somali refugees in Kenyan Refugee Camps here and international reactions here.

Here in Nairobi we are affected, but until now not much more than we were during the last drought in 2009. Water rationing as usual and “Power Supply Management” (a new word invented by Kenya Power for Power Rationing, predefined power cuts) for industrial areas all over the country. Food Prices have increased over the last months.

The government spokesmen said during his press conference, that no Kenyan has yet died of Hunger. Shock on us! Even if he was quote out of context (or so he said later) it is a lie and a shame for all Kenyans to listen to him on media and imagining the international reactions on international media. Every help is welcome and the faster the donations and international help, the better.

A great initiative called Kenyans for Kenya (follow on Twitter) showed that Kenyans are concerned themselves and can do something for the starving brothers and sisters in the north and east. Banks, Supermarkets and Mobile Phone Companies are building a platform for every single Kenyan to be able to donate and give amounts from as much as 10 KSH. The goal is to collect 500 Million KSH in the next 4 weeks to make a big difference in millions of ppls lives that are affected.

My highlight this weekend was a ceremony that I attended where 7 trucks with 150 tons of food (or to be more precise a mixed powder of maize flour and proteins that can be mixed with water to feed undernourished humans) were presented to the public and sent off. Kenyans have so far donated 61 Million KSH in 5 days for the drought victims in the north and east of the country! We heard speeches from the CEO of involved companies, ordinary people who donated and more importantly the Country Manager of the Red Cross, who reminded the public, that the North and East of Kenya with the right investments and infrastructure can feed the whole country and the center and west of Kenya can produce agricultural products for export. A true vision for the country!

All bad?

7 Jul

Read an opinion on foreign investment in Africa here

Dear AIESEC in Uganda

1 Jul

when I heard of you the first time, I had just been in Africa for 4 weeks. The person who I first met, was Ram. We were facis together at EALDS 2008 in Nanyuki, Kenya. If you know Ram, you know the first impression and will smile now!

At that time I had been in AIESEC for over 4 years. I had been to many countries and even more conferences.

It was a conference like no other. A conference, where I realized the importance of AIESEC to Africa. The relevance of a youth leadership development organization is already incredible high. The impact of a student-run organization that practices integrity, participation and initiative cannot be valued in Shillings!

In the next 18 months I interacted with you severally. I met and worked with Frank, Eunice, Chris, Wakib and Peter, who are all very special individuals, from who I learnt that there is responsible leadership, that there is selflessness and that things can run differently in another place. They taught me that there are fine differences in cultures in East Africa and I learnt to value them! I went through a tough time, loosing my “assumptions”!

At IC 2009 in Malaysia I experienced your delegation: A rather quiet group, many beautiful girls, who stand out whenever they started discussion but I got fascinated by the unique spirit that the MCP spread.

After I lost the MCP elections in Kenya, I took heart and applied as President of AIESEC in Uganda. A breathtaking idea! Filling out an application for you although I had never seen you was hard! Developing strategies and getting the on-ground picture over email? You challenged me from the start!

But you made me feel welcome and valued.

I formed my team of 10, knowing that we were going to be 11 at some point!

In India you were crowned over all African countries. We were called on stage to receive the UBS Award for Regional Excellence! We were proud about the generations of leaders and especially the Amplifire team, who worked so hard on making this possible. They grew you through growing the LCs. It sounds so easy, but I was yet to find out how hard it is.

Our first conference, our first proposals, our first reports, long team meetings, legislation, new projects and initiatives, partnerships signed, partnerships lost, promising leaders and resigning ones, two new expansions and other LCs limping. It felt like flying and it felt like crawling. A hard time with long nights and early mornings! Frustrated moments, then a good word, smiles and hope!

The team traveled to India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, the Netherlands, Mexico and Norway. Sometimes we took bodas, taxis, buses, stairways, horizon, KCs, Queens, sometimes air-buses, sometimes planes and sometimes we walked!

The 11th person joined us on in January, amazing! Alumni, Members and Leaders were surprised, but we Titans were clear about it: We have to love each other in all situations and everybody’s contribution is unique! So today I congratulate you: We are changing perceptions every day!

When we brought you the ING Award home, we made you a role model for dozens of other small countries. A country with 16 OGX can send out 80 people just the next year? 136 Leadership positions in 12 months with 300 members? Our unique project structure make it posible. 211 incoming exchanges realized by 6 LCs, a unique rate in the global network!

Great events like the Career Week, Y2B and the Annual Dinner take long preparations but lead to treasured moments! An amazing “Sweet 16” Dinner started the Titans goodbye from you and the Planning Conference shows the ambition, diversity and brilliance of the 2015 generation!

I wish you all the best. I know you are going to treat people harshly, like you treated me and my team.

You give experiences, that shake people up and challenge them to the core. You take a lot and you don’t always reward within weeks or months. Some efforts you don’t seem to reward at all or even notice!

Let me not get caught in that trap! Your reward comes late but I know it comes!

Every coin that somebody spends on you, they spend on themselves. Every word file, every letter, every wiki, every presentation, is a milestone on building ourselves. You give networks, you give skills, you give friends for a lifetime.

Being responsible for you during this year was the greatest challenge I could have ever imagined. The year of the 11/7 bombblast, Pakalast National Elections, some big shoes to step in, an empty bank account, promises to fulfil and debts to clear.

We promised you to make “The Noise we need”… In the last 12 months we sometimes got tired from making noise. We lost focus on what is needed. But we definitely tried and there is a lot we delivered!

Crazy Parties in the MC house, Entrepreneurship trainings, HIV outreaches in the villages, the Career Week in the universities, we sat next to important people in official meetings and they stared at us in aaawww showcasing our activities. We defined policies and build a democratic youth driven system. We stopped complaining about what we can’t change and just contributed what is needed!

We made friends with our interns and house mates. The amount of flags in our living room truly shows the diversity of our year. We matched colors that were not regarded matchable.

We promised you to change “One Life, One Day!”. We sent out 90 students on international internships this year. We changed hundreds of peoples perceptions within East Africa, we sent students to Colombia, Germany, Finland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana, India, Singapore, Oman and more countries. Our international volunteers have educated thousands of children, teachers, women and men in urban and rural areas. Encounters that are opening up new perspectives and opportunities! Trainings to our members, project and event leaders, LC leaders are just the beginning… the challenging job role and the networks is what enriches their studies!

We reached 336 out of our 366 Exchange Goal but we DID change lives every day!

The biggest contributors to my personal path this year were my MC team members, my LCPs and a group of very special alumni… Individuals, who let themselves be lead by me, who lead me, who explored new ways of doing things, who followed agreements, who broke agreements, who explained themselves, who taught me how to be a girl, who showed me how to be a woman, who inspired me to be a mum, who laughed with me, who made me laugh, who advised me, who shared their food, who lent and borrowed clothes, who shared their worries, who gave me feedback, who got stuff done, who didn’t do sh*t, who danced and sweated, who closed the door, when silence was needed, who opened the window, when oxygen got scarce.

I am very happy to have you!

But after all the pictures are taken, what only you know is how deeply AIESEC touches Uganda and how much deeper it can touch the country and change Eastern and Central Africa. I am dreaming of the day when we expand to the neighboring countries. I can see hundreds of members attend a  National Conference. I am dreaming of the 1000th Ugandan students to go abroad. I can’t wait for the years when you will comfortably submit your bid to host a global Conference!

Having done what I could, I am now leaning back a bit and give other people the chance to steer you forward to greater heights. Taking the responsibility for you means the chance of changing hundreds and thousands of lives and the fate  of a thirsty country!

You are just amazing and have given me so much…

Laughter, Rumors, Tears, Scars, Scandals, Memories, Friends!

I will be a part of you for the next 16 years and more!

Thanks to Ram, Frank, Wakib, Eunice, Ivan, Eva, Matthew, Jimmy, Donah, Nashera, Emma, Joram, Nassir, Abu, KJ, Peter and Cindy for the never-ending inspiration you gave me and untapping the strength I needed for this year!

Thanks to Hugo, David, Malina, Fiona, Amos, Abraham, Ismael, Femi, Kaisha, and many other MCPs for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me!

Thanks to my parents for their great support and anyone else who were part of my year, members, interns, alumni, friends and enemies.

Thanks to Matoke, Rolex, Bread and Butter, Gologo and Sunda!

Be strong, AIESEC in Uganda!

Winter in Nairobi

28 Jun

In the last week we received visitors from Denmark, Spain, Canada, Russia and Dubai. As much as we told them it is the cold season, they were not really prepared. So let me do this explicitly!

I really dont know how to call it, so that people understand… winter? fall? It doesnt quite fit into Western climate patterns.
We are experiencing the long rainy season in Kenya.

If people think of Africa, they think of heat in the steppe and deserts. If you say it can also be cold, someone might think of the chilly nights in the deserts…

Nairobi is neither in the desert nor in the steppe. It is at the edge of the Kenyan Central Highlands on 1700m. Currently it is rainy, grey, chilly and foggy most of the days. The temperatures vary between 8 and 15 degrees, although you might find a rare sunny hour where it heats up to 20 degrees. On Sunday it rained for 3 hours straight and one of the major roads (near the National Stadium) was flooded around 30cm deep! I clearly remember 2009, where the long rains did not fall and Kenya fell into a crisis of food, water and electricity shortage.

So should someone be happy about the water? I am really not saying this! The infrastructure does not effectively handle the rain. From one season to the other we are falling from one extreme (too much water) into the other (no water).

I really don’t want to upload a picture, please use your imagination to understand how grey and muddy looks like 🙂 So if you come here in July, carry 2 sweaters, warm jeans, socks, closed shoes and a shawl!

How long is the weather going to stay like this? Hard to say! Usually it gets dryer and warmer again in August…

Bye, Uganda! Tulabagane :-)

16 Jun

My year in Uganda is over… wow, time flies!!!

A great experience in a challenging environment.

Uganda was so beautiful! I just love the green hills, the mist in the valleys, the palm trees and the rain forest atmosphere in the mornings and evenings. Getting used to the food was possible, though not really simple. I lost around 5 kgs in Uganda, I guess due to the heat, the hills and the somehow irregular dinners. Kampala also frustrated me a lot. Kampala can also be dusty and loud. There are things that “don’t work”, people who can’t agree to common sense, wrong directions I was given. Traffic is crazy, but Boda Bodas were a good way out.

The Work was amazing. Quite flexible working hours, working with ambitious individuals, networking with NGOs and corporates. I was able to achieve at least 70% of what I had set out to do. Managing a National Office for an organization is not as easy as thought. I was juggling member motivation, available financial resources, company relations, press, the Board and many more. It was not always easy, but I believe to have left most processes in a better state than when I started. It is about constant improvement 🙂

I made really great friends and we had an intense time together. Eva, my great friend was pregnant and gave birth. Together with the boys Ivan, Matthew and Jimmy we ran the house, crazy madness. The pressure of working on the National Team was too much for some, others just couldn’t get enough of work. The ki-boy and his cup, his girlfriend and his food. The malaria cases that were treated by Chinese doctors. 6 Brazilians in the house, 10 Chinese, 4 Germans, exhausting diversity! Our house warming party on Canada Day. The bomb blast in July. Water shortage in August. Crazy East African days with old friends who we last met in Zanzibar. Nights where we hosted at least 40 people in 21 beds. The elections in February. Interns who kissed at least 4 of the boys on the team. Black and Yellow. The memories will last!

Now I am going to Kenya, for a 2-month engagement! Let’s see how re-integration there will go.

I will definitely come back to Uganda. For a visit or for a job. Tulabagane!

And these are some pictures of my team in the last week 🙂

A worthwile read!

28 May

I just finished reading an excellent book . It took me two weeks to finish it, but if I had not been as busy with work, it would probably have been 2 days! I would like to recommend it for everybody to read it.

Muhammad Yunus, born a Bangladeshi, by profession a teacher and a change maker by passion write this book somehow as his autobiography, somehow as a manual to give a chance to the poorest.

So you will wonder… Manuela in Africa… a Teacher from Bangladesh?

Just read this book and you will realize, that it has many answer regarding poverty, it challenges the way you think about poverty and development. It has a lot of wisdom about families, the human nature and the power of having money or not having it.

Check out http://www.bankertothepoor.com/


Making solar a business

24 May

He wants to ensure people in rural Uganda get access to Electricity. He is not running an NGO, he is a businessman!

Social Entrepreneurship is the new buzzword. Doing what NGOs and international Development Aid have not done in decades, using a more innovative and sustainable approach. It means applying business perspective on challenges. Social Entrepreneurship is not only creating buzz, it works! It employs people around the world and solves societal problems!

Read what Abu, one of AIESEC in Uganda’s great alumni, has to say about his business, Village Energy!