GUIDE TO WORKING IN CORPORATE AFRICA

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When we threw paper kites in the air, we stood where we stood enjoying the comfort of a custom private jet. We had no idea of hot air hostesses, the same way we never imagined that people die in ghastly motor accidents each time we rammed our tooth-paste-carton cars against each other.

Against the dreams to become Lawyers and Doctors, which some of us became in nursery school (yes, we looked good in those tiny wigs and makeshift stethoscopes), some of us became entrepreneurs, others became thieves and fraudsters.

When we tugged on the trousers and skirts of adults to give us money even though we knew nothing about denominations, it never occurred to us that “broke” isn’t just a way of describing ceramic plates which once were.

We are here — grown. Surprised why the midlife crisis is coming to us a little too early. Surprised that we haven’t become all we thought we would become at thirty or thirty-five when we thought our sixteen-year-old daughters would own their own sports cars.

Some of us became lawyers and doctors and the other things we dreamed. Some of us will — if we do not die before we become them. Some of us won’t because we’ve amputated our aspirations to work in Corporate Africa.

Always add these to the professional skills segment of your CV when applying to Corporate Africa: “Ability to juggle multiple priorities,” “Demonstrated experience in beating early morning traffic,” “Unfailing adherence to deadlines,” “Cross-discipline-competence.” Your hobbies and interests should contain these: reading European Literature, bowling, gardening, exploring new cultures, cuisines, or something similar, uncommon.

Never wear Aso-Oke, Mudukare garment, Habesha kemis, Djellaba, Kente gown, Kitenge dress, and other African attires; they hold little value at Corporate Africa; rather, adopt the corporate wears of the white man.

A foreign accent is the language of Corporate Africa. Corporate Africa is assiduously seeking ways to become more inclusive of colonial languages and culture. Roll your r’s, silent your t’s, adopt nasal elocution; a mangled, nasal, foreign accent without the decorated accents of indigenous tongues is the passport to getting a job in Corporate Africa.

It’s taboo to talk about salary expectations because you have no bargaining power. Inform the HR you’d take whatever the company reserves for such a role, which will be more than your country’s minimum wage anyway. Get your priorities right, otherwise, you will have to keep waiting for a job that will never come.

Ignore those HRs that make you feel you’ve gotten the job when it’s your rejection letter she would be drafting next. Instead of expecting congratulatory calls after your interview, take to praying; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Sow more seeds from your empty purse strings. Your mother should take to fasting, your father should wet the earth with strong drinks, preferably locally brewed gin. He should offer kola and a small goat (there’s nothing a goat cannot solve) to his ancestors and beg them to favour his child as it once favoured him.

You should show genuine gratitude when you get a job in Corporate Africa; your counterparts working in government parastatals only have the option of using stairs to get to the 12th floor of a rapidly decaying infrastructure while you’ll enjoy the luxury of lifts. Corporate Africa enjoys sustainable Wi-Fi connectivity and a mortuary standard air conditioning that acts as a dress rehearsal for your Canada dream. In contrast. civil servants remain glued to analog processes and share hand fans to combat the heat in their populated workplaces. You also get to partake in the fake niceties of workplace colleagues, enjoy teas, coffees, and corporate biscuits, and wear fancy tags: Business Executive Officer, Content Creator, Administrative Head, Audit Associate, Senior Project Manager, Lead Research, Concept Architect, Business Analyst… Welcome to Corporate Africa!

As you walk through the doors of Corporate Africa on the first day of the job, your boss will introduce you to “our family” and you will be welcomed with plenty of smiles and teeth sunned at you — a camaraderie display of affection from your colleagues. Some will open their arms wide for you to step into an embrace, which you will later come to acknowledge as necessary façades to survive the corporate abyss of dirt.

Your first reality in Corporate Africa is that it’s plagued with monotonous tasks, alongside a looming danger of being replaced by automation; however, try not to give the impression that the environment is toxic, that the work is boring, stressful, and depressing. Embrace the terrible work culture and learn to switch between a smile and a frown in nanoseconds.

In Corporate Africa, you are not entitled to annual leaves. God forbid you to fall sick. Are you not a child of God? A day off is enough annual leave except you are getting married; that could earn you 3 weeks off, at most, which your colleagues or the stipend-earning interns will invariably bear the weight of your absence. You must notify your boss the night you fall ill that you might not be available for office nor remote work the following day. A colleague at the workplace will confirm your story but must end it with “she’s already getting better,” to not put thoughts of unreliability in the mind of your boss. KPI’s has to be met.

If you do not wish to join the millions of unemployed people in the streets, then you should eagerly do other related and unrelated office jobs and be willing to work overtime for zero pay. Resist that frown when your boss asks you to scout food for her. There is a common saying in Corporate Africa: the frown of a goat doesn’t stop it from being priced. Recall when you added “ability to juggle multiple priorities” in your CV. Is food not a priority? Do you want your boss to starve and aggravate her ulcer? She might die, the corporation will collapse and you’d go back to selling okpa on your WhatsApp status. Be eager to double as an office assistant, of course, it’s an unpaid role, but once in a while you get to ‘keep the change’. Consider it a privilege to do the bosses’ work.

Note that part of your role in Corporate Africa is to take the blame for things that might not be your fault. Take the blame when the potted plants are not watered, take the blame for spilled coffee in the kitchenette, take the blame when the books don’t add up, if milestones are not met, for not following up on leads, for having lofty ambitions, for civil disobedience by corporate workers, for your boss having a bad day; if she had terrible sex the night before. You’re a woman and by default, you have to take the blame for not being submissive enough.

From time to time your boss might donate insults or slaps, issue threats of sack, and all other corporate palavers like the unguarded attempts to fondle your breasts and feel the softness of your butt cheeks. You need to seize the opportunity and sexualize yourself for consumption for the latter. You are a woman; you cannot attempt to climb up the corporate ladder to become an executive that earns overpaid salaries without offering your body as a commodity. However, do not be avant-garde in your dressing. Showing off cleavages is not permissible in Corporate Africa; you might want to ease off that décolletage-friendly dress. Act as though you are publicity-shy, laidback, and silent as David Mabuza.

As a corporate worker, you cannot engage in civil disobedience, attend protests, or hop on Twitter to use social commentary hashtags. You may want to tweet #EndSars because your dignity as a person has been murdered. You may have chosen #ZimbabweanLivesMatter as a megaphone to express your discontent about injustice at the workplace; to tweet #EndAnglophoneCrisis because of the marginalization and discrimination at the workplace. And when “Words cannot truly explain how terrified I am to exist as a woman in Namibia” pops on your timeline alongside photos showing the brutal murder of a young woman, you really do want to quote the tweet with #ShutItAllDownNamibia because the world isn’t tired of the sexual assaults that have been perpetually reanimated. But the morally objectionable forces of Corporate Africa frowns at active demonstrations, especially from its internal stakeholders, as such undermines its perceived immunity from political machinery.

To supplement the paltry socialist wages of Corporate Africa, you’d need to have a side hustle. Become cab drivers after work hours, own thrift stores, invest in sports betting, indulge in forex and cryptocurrency and money quadrupling-Ponzi schemes. Sell shoes, hair extensions, anything at all to earn extra cash, including but not limited to sitting before your computer and assuming other nationalities to sell a love you never had and offer contracts you only dream of. You need to do these, else you won’t be able to afford the basics: pay rent, subscribe for internet and satellite TV, purchase a night for yourself, order a cold beer or a cup of Cold Stone on a warm day, do a makeover, sport a weave, or send money to your entitled boyfriend.

Finally, you should know that Corporate Africa is always going to be short-staffed forever, and would love it if you continue multitasking and working yourself to death to sustain its capitalistic culture. However, you would be doing a lot of services to yourself, if you wisely put into work the same amount of energy civil servants use in working the few weeks to Christmas. These companies don’t owe you shit, neither should you suffer to serve them, especially when they don’t pour value into you. Longevity has its place; but get out of Corporate Africa while you can, navigate jobs before things go pear shape.

I tell stories.