Tiny Deswai explores sights and sounds of Dakar
During a recent trip to Dakar Senegal it was heartwarming to catch up with a familiar face so far from home.
Six months into her stay in the francophone city, Tiny Diswai doesn’t hide her excitement of conversing in Setswana much to the surprise of the hotel staff and patrons within ear shot.
“Le rona re buwe segarona”.
She says busting out in hysterics. She goes on to share comic moments endured during her short stay due to language barrier.
“My cab guy and I often don’t agree, he ends up speaking to me in French whilst I launch into sekgatla. Initially it frustrated me but now I find it quite funny. On a serious note though, I really need to learn French.
Tiny Diswai is the Director of Administration and Finance with the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESTRIA).
“I am responsible for the Accounting function, managing the finances, HR, protocol (as a pan African institution we deal with people from all over Africa hence I am responsible for all logistics regarding travel, accommodation and all our guests needs. As a pan African organization my colleagues are from countries that include Botswana, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, Benin, Morocco and Mozambique”
About her appointment, Diswai says, “The council was looking for someone that could bring together and tighten issues of internal controls, issues of governance and try streamline the accounting function and transform the whole administration and finance department to introduce more effective ways of providing support to the research agenda of the council.”
Why Seegal? Diswai says she actively looked for opportunities very different from her previous experience and wanted to live and work in the Diaspora.
Stumbling on the post of her position on Facebook, was exactly what Diswai was exactly what the doctor ordred for Deswai.
I applied and was subsequently invited for an interview in Nairobi Kenya. As they say the rest is history.
Diswai is no stranger to demanding and complex work environments. In fact in her own words, she thrives in environments that are challenging and require her utmost input.
Her illustrious career has had many notable achievements including her appointments to various boards and her stellar delivery as former PEEPA Deputy Executive Officer.
Working with transaction advisors; the Ministry of Transport and Communication and the management of BTCL and its advisors, she was the glue behind the success of the BTCL IPO being delivered according to plan.
“There have been many highlights in my career but none quite like my current post. Although she was unceremoniously dismissed at PEEPA resulting in a court case yet to come to an end, Diswai refutes harboring any bitterness but chooses to reminisce of the many strides achieved while with the organization. Speaking passionately about her new role in Dakar Senegal, Diswai says the council attracts membership from the whole of Africa and the institution and international employees like Diswai of the council enjoy diplomatic status. The council has a host agreement with the government of Senegal that bestows the diplomatic status on the entity and its staff members.
Diswai says, though it is a surprise that there were no members from Botswana, she hopes that her being there will be a catalyst to attracting membership from her home country.
“Batswana must take advantage of CODESTRIA. The council has membership of academics and researchers that Batswana can engage and benefit from. In addition there are research grants that the council gives. Batswana researchers can indentify research areas/topics that are specific to Botswana and apply for these when the council advertises the grants. The end result is that when one gets nominated they get to attend a research institute in; governance, democracy, youth, gender and many others. Attendance of these is quite eye opening and goes a long way in one’s career. Professionals get to engage, do their research and get published. They get to publish a CODESTRIA bulletin or a CODESTRIA book, which makes them authors in their own right. Professionals thrive on this and as Batswana we are not taking advantage of this opportunity.” Laments the visibily concerned Diswai.
On an upbeat mode, she speaks of the prestigious gathering she and her colleagues are currently working on.
“December is a special time and I look forward to going home and enjoying all kinds of Setswana delicacies. However before then we will be hosting the CODESTRIA general assembly. The general assembly is the highest governance authority over the council. It meets once every three years to set the strategic direction or theme of the council for the next 3 years.
It is a gathering of some 300 or so researchers from the African continent and the world over as CODESTRIA members are not just based at African universities but are also with European and American Universities and as Africans they remain members.
Sharing the importance of the upcoming conference, Diswai excitedly says, “Of late the current strategic plan of CODESTRIA is looking at meaning making research. This is research of topics that will influence policy on the continent and can be used to argue policy transformation for governments across the continent.”
When commenting on issues she feels deserve to have a spotlight shined on them; Diswai is quick to point out governance.
“Issues of governance must be a part of every conversation. How can the African continent hone their governance practices to make them more profitable for all their citizenry and more transparent? There needs to be a shift in how things are done and more importantly, there must be accountability. The conference will be split into sessions that will also allow participation of non members and the election of a new executive committee. When not prepping for work and important functions; Diswai enjoys exploring the sights of Dakar. It is amazing with so much to do. However she admits to the brutal realities of missing out on stuff back home. I cannot bury loved ones and no matter how great life is, this is painful.”She said