Affairs

The Battle Against Skin Bleaching; African, not African-American.

 

 

Greetings ZNews Readers,

Today Google posted a new Doodle to recognize Ghanaian entrepreneur Esther Afua Ocloo. She was a force in helping millions of low-income women secure loans through Women’s World Banking, the organization she founded. She would have turned 98 years old today.

Africans leveraging our acquired skills and education deciding whether or not to passionately focus on the progress of the continent and her diaspora with its 160,000 millionaires is an issue thoughtfully covered this week by ZNews contributor Jephthah Acheampong.

ZNews is looking to grow our community of amazing storytellers. If you have something to say or a great story to share, please reach out to us. Feel free to spread the word to talented folks you believe would be interested.

My most satisfying smile this week came from viewing a NowThis feature on my friend and inspiration Erikan  Obotetukudo, founder of KIN. Check out the vid, share some love and spread the good energy.

Keep those comments and questions coming. Share your stories, comments, and suggestions with us at stories@znewsafrica.com.

Cheers,

Michael

YOUR STORIES

I had been lured to America by the promise of the American dream. White Americans were friendly but spoke to me about African-Americans as if they were of a different species. This didn’t bother me because I considered myself African, not African-American.

The real secret to Asian American success was not education: In the 1850s, newspapers in California complained that Chinese immigrants were the dregs of the laboring class, having “most of the vices and few of the virtues of the African.” Yet by the 1960s, attitudes had completely flipped.

Uganda has thrown an academic in jail over a “buttocks” insult to president Museveni: #PairOfButtocks is trending on Ugandan Twitter, but don’t be too quick to join in. The Ugandan academic who inspired the hashtag, will be spending 14 days in a maximum security prison in Kampala.

What does it take to date a black man in India? Bryan was an international student from Nairobi, Kenya and we met seven weeks before he was to leave India. In that brief spell, I learned more about race, culture and myself in a way I could never have anticipated.

Congo opposition calls for investigation into expensive passports: Top opposition leaders in Democratic Republic of Congo called on the new prime minister on Monday to investigate revelations by Reuters last week that most of the money paid by Congolese citizens for new passports goes overseas.

“Donald Trump is going to send you and your family back to your country,” Said a woman who was caught on cellphone video threatening to call the police and falsely accuse a Muslim Uber driver of rape.

It Isn’t Just Asian Immigrants Who Thrive in the U.S.: By many measures, the most educated immigrant group in the U.S. isn’t East Asians. It’s Africans.

Youth unemployment is a problem all over Africa, except for one country: A new report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, titled Africa at a Tipping Point, reveals reams of data that paint a dire picture for the continent’s youth, but there was one bright spot.

“Black Women at Work” Hashtag Proves Ever Present Diversity Problem: What It’s Really Like to be a Black Woman at Work. It’s not Pretty. 

How I left my consulting career behind and broke into tech: Three months ago, I moved to San Francisco — one of the most expensive cities on Earth — with no job, no housing, and barely any money. Plenty of people thought it was crazy.

What can Ghana teach South Africa about neocolonialism?: On how the man who coined the term “neocolonialism” fell victim to it and how not to repeat his mistakes.

How Liberia’s New Generation Of Female Entrepreneurs Is Revitalizing The Economy: Rebounding from a devastated economy, new businesses–powered by young self-starters–are on the rise.

VISUAL STORIES

(Click images to play)

 

MORE HEADLINES

NUMBERS

2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds

Geoffrey Kirui’s time winning the 121st Boston Marathon on Monday. Edna Kiplagat won the women’s race to complete the Kenyan sweep.

1.6 million

The total reach of the ZNews Africa platform last month. Here’s why this is a huge investment opportunity.

23.5%

How much black men with 11-20 years of work experience earned less than their white counterparts according to researchers at EPI.

OPPORTUNITIES

The First Africa Startup Digital Accelerator: Accelerates 100 companies to market each year. Their 2-day accelerator program is open to all small businesses, startups, and freelancers connected to Africa. Each application round is rolling admission until they select the top 100. The top 10 companies from the applicant pool pitch investors on demo day. The top 3 are announced the next day and proceed to get capital investment with their investor network.

2017 Metro NY Chapter NBMBAA Scholarship: The Official Application for the annual scholarships for Undergraduate and Graduate students is now live. Apply by May 15, 2017.

ColorComm has launched the ColorComm Fellows Program to cultivate the next generation of young leaders in communications, marketing, media, and advertising. The program will provide mentorship, training, access, and opportunity to a select group of women ages 21-26 with 1-4 years professional experience, who can demonstrate how they would like to make an impact in the industry and how they currently contribute to their community.

 

Maame, Mama Africa Left Another Voicemail

“Hi Maame,

I see mama today. She tell me sey you no fit pick im call. E no good o. I tell am sey you dey work plenti so you no dey carry your phone. Maame, mama don dey old oh. She no go like am if you and her no relate soon. She dey vex sey some yankee boys dey give her wahala for street. She no fit sleep o. Dem enter yard, dem come comot with the computer wey you leave am but e be surprising dey give am light. Dey call am solar power. You know sey that computer na wetin she dey use to remember the way you dey give am sweet belle. Mama no happy! She feel sey you de only light she dey need…

There is a fascinating parable depicting a lady who once lost a needle in her house and ventured to search for it outside. An old man observing the scenario asked where she had lost the needle. She aggressively responded, “Inside my house!” He continued, “Why aren’t you looking for it inside the house then?”

She scratched her head for a bit and said, “Because the light is outside.” This is the reality of most Africans living abroad today. Africa’s sun has somehow positioned itself to shine to the West while consciously alienating the additional cardinal directions. This is a result of the lack of an impactful educational curriculum.

The educational system in a number of African countries is flawed. Those who attend public schools are usually at a disadvantage due to the gradual absence of ill-paid teachers. As a result, attendance rates decline, diverting the attention of our youth to quick monetary gains on the streets of their respective cities. Education then becomes a lingering thought, as opposed to a necessity.

On the opposite end, those of affluent backgrounds have access to the best-paid teachers and the most prestigious forms of westernized education. This may be positioned as the norm in the minds of many, however; a number of graduates complete school with a limited understanding of their country’s narrative. As the brain drain trend dictates, the youth of the latter demographic pursue their higher education abroad, get accustomed to a prodigal lifestyle, and refuse to return to a continent they never fully understood.

Between one-third and a half of the tertiary educated populations of Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Mozambique and Ghana leave their country. Africa has been in darkness for centuries and the permanent absence of her children – coupled with their past ephemeral presence – utterly encapsulates the drastic lack of development.

“What are you going to do to push the upsides of your continent so it could be open for business?” Adebola Williams – Chief Executive Officer of Red Media Africa – asked participants at the most recent Africa Economic Forum at Columbia University. At this forum, participants had the opportunity to witness entrepreneurs, disruptors, and innovators who took the bold leap to move back home after completing their education or professional servitude abroad to formulate an impact. Themed “Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers,” the forum encouraged Africans to break out of the fashionable cycle in order to make themselves a force for the people on the continent.

The discussion amongst the African diaspora pertaining to moving back home is clearly one that has come to stay yet quite impossible for most to grasp or take seriously. Many philosophers and influencers have said that the only thing greater than failure is not trying. However, when it comes to most Africans, I firmly believed that the trying is not the hardest part. The ability and need to try have been ingrained into our DNA for many years to the extent where it has been culturally positioned as an essential part of our survival. The problem for most is

The problem for most is comfort. As Thabo Mbeki said, “The principal investors in the South African economy are South Africans. And this is something, I think, we should really pay attention to.” It’s no coincidence that when you ask most non-Africans to name a country in Africa, an almost certain answer would be South Africa. Imagine an African with a well-paid job in investment banking, management consulting, or engineering. Logically thinking, why should she bother packing her bags to a land where the odds are portrayed to be against her, even if she is unfulfilled?

The perceived risk factor has been marketed to be exponentially high. As a result, we end up growing comfortable and being caught in the wheel of working to build another individual’s dream. A job is no doubt a blessing, however, it’s evident that ten years or so down the line, you may be replaced with someone younger and astute or by a robot. These ten or so years could have been invested into a goal to potentially transform your country or better yet, our continent.

On the note of transforming our continent, Adebola Williams challenged all attendees to become water to Africa. Water is a major problem in Sub-Saharan Africa where people lose 40 billion hours a year collecting it alone. Although all this time is invested collecting, research shows that 319 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are still without access to improved reliable drinking water sources (Source: The Water Project). This issue, amongst others, deserves to be ameliorated and Africans abroad must devise impactful and scalable solutions accordingly. The reality is if we do not, someone else will because Africa is looking for heroes.

Today, most Africans ironically contribute to the single story of a continent filled to the brim with aids, poverty, and corruption. As Adebola said, “We are all media owners. The West no longer owns the media, the wise owns it.” For our singular narrative to be shifted underneath the wings of a progressive light, it’s of vital importance to cultivate our why as it will be the guiding force to propel us to bear with almost any how. Regardless of our respective realities, our why needs share a common denominator of improving our continent for future generations. A blessing and curse about our continent are that there are so many challenges. Understanding that when our neighbor’s house is on fire, our house is also on fire creates a tremendous opportunity to perspire and become water.

Patrick Ngowi – a Tanzanian Entrepreneur – is one of many success stories, as highlighted by Adebola during his keynote. Patrick started selling top-up vouchers, however; he saw that there were limited mobile phones in his vicinity. As a result, he imported mobile phones from China to address this challenge. He then realized his neighbors lacked the power to charge their phones. This realization challenged him to venture into solar energy. Patrick became the water cycle for his country. Today, Patrick is a millionaire.

Based on Patrick’s story, it’s quite evident that what Africa recognizes and celebrates is a force that doesn’t hesitate to transform, adapt, and execute. Second keynote speaker Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond – author of Powder Necklace – shared an experience where 39 African writers, including herself, set out to celebrate their published books. During their time at the summit, every author present spoke English, except two. This observation goes to show how colonialism has placed barriers in terms of our languages and interactions as Africans. This observation also creates an opportunity for the African diaspora to provide creative distribution models for individuals on the continent to better connect.

In his book, The Advanced Formula For Total Success, Robert Anthony said, “If we divided all the money in the world equally, in a short time the rich would be rich again, and the poor would be poor.” This idea carries on to the realities of our continent. Based on Anthony’s logic, it could be argued that what Africa needs to increase its competitiveness to promote economic equity is skillset, innovation, and access (opportunity). A combination of these three could be the right recipe for growth and development on our continent.

On the Media, Fashion & Arts panel, Lolade Olayokun – First US correspondent for BataBox.com – shared with attendees an experience with her family while in Nigeria. According to Olayokun, the more time she spent in her hometown, the frustrated she grew due to lack of cell phone service. At one point during the trip, they decided to climb a mountain.

“At the top of the mountain, there was service!” she exclaimed with joy. This is a story not foreign to the population living and breathing on the continent. For them, it’s not the issue with their cell phone service, it’s the lack of immediate connection with a neighbor. It’s not about hiking a mountain for an adrenaline blur; it’s about growing to understand that in order to be adorned with the opportunity to serve others in Africa, you have to be at the top. The problem is those who have made it at the top often forget their roots which leads to our stories being mistold.

As Michael Rain – Co-Founder of ZNews Africa – said, “Don’t just focus on who is telling the story, focus on how they tell our stories.”. Ayoinmotion – A Nigerian Musical Artist – echoed this sentiment by shedding light on his observation of African youth consuming entertainment and information through mediums built by non-Africans. We – the Africans abroad – have been equipped with the skills and have been given the tools to build platforms for our relatives on the continent yet we choose to add flame to the flawed narratives circulating the West.

Ghanaian businessman Seth Dei once said, “I realized it was difficult to be poor here (Ghana): there are so many opportunities. You only have to drop a seed and in two weeks you have a plant. Depending on your ambition you can become a millionaire.”

There were 169,000 millionaires on the continent at the end of 2014 — a number expected to rise by 53% over the next 10 years, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2015. These predictions bring hope for most. However, the hope of being a millionaire should not be your reason for moving back to the African continent. Those who are truly impact driven are the ones who succeed.

Hakeem Belo-Osagie – Nigerian businessman and philanthropist – shared that you will find that a lot of successful people at home (Nigeria) have a deep sense of sadness because they are driven, as opposed to being in the driver’s seat. As a result, they subsume their identity into a piece of work. Their personal life suffers since they have overly committed to some work they just cannot do or they have put an importance or arbitrary significance on some work that doesn’t matter.

Based on his personal experience of venturing down the entrepreneurial route, Belo-Osagie boldly attests to having a wife and children who comprehend the true essence of his drive and assist him when the road grows dimmer as the defining reason for his success. He also advised, “You don’t want to have a lot of contacts but very few friends. When things get dark, the contacts disappear.”

This point hit home the hardest because I’ve had the opportunity to explore a plethora of conferences centered around the theme Africa. The majority of the time, the same familiar faces are in attendance, ever ready to be seen, heard, and acknowledged (See Networking Disguised As Transaction). We consume so much information at these conferences yet fail to execute, which leads us to believe there is more to consume before we go on to turn our wishes into goals.

Today, social media plays a revolutionary role in strengthening ties with friends and family on the African continent. During a discussion with Kwadwo Sarpong – Co-Founder of African Research Academies for Women – he shared that social media was a guiding force in building his organization’s team. With access to social media, Africans abroad have the advantage to assess those in their distant circle in order to formulate a vague idea of what they may be passionate about and whether that passion echoes their mission. Social media is one powerful tool that can potentially mere change contacts into friends.

To further drive the point of contacts, Belo-Osagie advised that having founding members with MBAs from top schools is absolutely not the hailed recipe for success. To succeed on the African continent, it’s imperative to find local people who have spent their entire lives on the ground to aid in a well thought out execution. His additional themes during his keynote included the willingness to be bold and to not hesitate, the importance of failure because it emboldens you to plunge ahead and address your mistakes, and the need to cultivate a laser cut commitment when pursuing your desired goals.

To my sisters and my brothers, it’s so important to live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now. Africa has a population of 1.2bn people, and a GDP of $2.8Tn and assuming a compound annual growth of 5%, Africa’s GDP as a continent can reach $30Tn in 50 years. This should be enough motivation to reach out beyond cultures, races, and national borders to break barriers and build bridges for the sake of our continent, Africa.

Maame abeg you dey enjoy with oyinbo people wey you no fit remember mama.You fit dey bold, dey daring. Uncle Bello-Osagie dey tell us sey “if rain dey fall, e no be the reason wey you no go reach anywhere.” The thing wey dey happen for our kantri dey for head. Whether rain or sunshine, me must to move. We must to remember sey na mama born us. Blood dey thicker than water. As you dey with oyinbo people, make you no forget mama. Na the reason all our papa and grand papa dey fight so we no go fight again. Come home, Maame. Do am for us. I dey pray for you o.  

Your bro,

Chinedu

_____________________

Jephthah Acheampong is an Entrepreneur, Writer, and Storyteller based in New York. Equipped with a background in Economics, Jephthah writes as a millennial voice on social justice, women equality, and education. He currently serves as Director of Sales & Marketing at Esusu. Jephthah also founded Anansi Global, a non-profit empowering youth in Ghana by providing quality education and mentorship.

View his work at www.jacheampong.com or find him on Linkedin.

For editorial inquires contact: stories@znewsafrica.com

 

Sankofa: Investing in Africa in the Rising Era

Editor’s note: This is a recap of the 2016 Wharton in Africa Business Forum. If you’re interested in attending the 2017 event Nov 3-5, visit: http://wabf2017.whartonafrica.com.

“I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.” – First Prime Minister and President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah

Africa has been painted with a negative perception by many, which has created a distorted, one-dimensional view by individuals in the West. In multiple scenarios, members of the African diaspora sometimes partake in this deception, telling narratives that catapult negative stereotypes and in turn, harm the growth of the continent.

Africa has been perceived through a prism of disease, starvation, corruption, poverty, and war. Author Chimamanda Adichie coined this “a single story.”  Even after the celebration of more than 50 years of independence in most African countries, the manacles of ignorance and the portrayal of the media still sadly cripple the continent in the perspectives of many.

For myself, pursuing a westernized education was a driving force in shaping my identity as an African. It provided me with a macroscopic view of the continent and propelled me to comprehend the bottlenecks faced by generational leaders.

There is a popular word in Ghana called Sankofa, which loosely translates to “go back and get it.” Growing up, I never understood the potency of the word, but as I look back today, this word alone has imbued in my ethos a reasoning to not look past Africa as the ultimate destination to grow, harvest, and sell my crops.

This past weekend at the annual Wharton Africa Business Forum, the agenda was to explore the diverse business opportunities that lie in the intersection of the public, private, and social sectors across Africa. Throughout the conference, professionals exchanged ideas, pitched initiatives, and expressed both their excitement and frustration about the state of the continent. It was both awakening and inspiring.

As Richard Branson said, “Finding something frustrating and seeing an opportunity to make it better is what entrepreneurship is all about.” Based on Branson’s quote, it could be argued that almost every attendee present embodied an entrepreneurial drive and possessed a burning flame in their hearts to make a difference on the continent. However, the apparent roadblock seemed to be “How, when, and why do I even begin?”

The first keynote speaker, Ambassador Herman Cohen, President and CEO at Cohen and Woods International and Consultant on Africa at ContourGlobal, advised attendees to look at Africa as an investment destination as opposed to a humanitarian destination.

In her book – Dead Aid – Dr. Dambisa Moyo echoes this statement by making the case that overreliance on aid has stagnated the growth of developing nations by leaving these countries in poverty, leaving their leaders more dependent on aid, and funneling corruption.

According to the World Bank, there is a trillion dollars of African money not sitting in Africa. For this money to circulate the continent, it’s imperative members of the African diaspora put an end to exporting commodities and importing foreign goods. To fill the missing components in the enigma, Ambassador Cohen highlights the lack of technological advances and storage as the problem. For example, 40% of African food goes to waste due to lack of storage and innovative technologies to catapult its longevity.

Leading thinkers, such as Sangu Delle, have created more sustainable ways of growing the continent and produced more jobs through local investments. By investing in the agro processing company Stawi, the company has leveraged economies of scale to create value for people on the African continent. Stawi – like most successful businesses – was born out of frustration.

The founder, Eric Muthomi, noticed the over 400,000 banana farmers in Kenya who produced too many bananas, which eventually went to rot. He then decided to take the bananas and make banana based gluten-free flour and baby food. Today, Stawi foods are sold throughout the Kenyan market. But this is just one success story.

One third of food, beverages, and similar processed goods consumed in Africa is imported. This goes to show a plethora of problems go unsolved on the continent every single day, which creates an opportunity for working members of the African diaspora to play an integral role in enhancing the growth of the continent.

In most African countries, there has been a recent influx of foreigners – particularly from Asia – who gradually invest in the abundance of resources such as infrastructure and agriculture. Unfortunately, most Africans on the continent are unable to take part in their endeavors because of their limited knowledge and experiences in comparison to their Asian counterparts. Foreign investors have compensated for this disparity by bringing thousands of their own laborers and businessmen; this group represents a new face of globalization.

While foreigners are able to benefit from these emerging industries, members of the African diaspora still remain disadvantaged, with only 10% of trade occurring among Africans. However, on the fortunate end, independent court systems have been established to operate fairly in a number of African countries. Regional groups, such as The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have also made it simpler for Africans to trade among themselves.

All these practices contribute to making it simpler for commerce to exist between African nations, thus making it increasingly difficult for foreigners to sell cheaper to Africans. As Ambassador Cohen added,

“The key is not Foreign Direct Investment, the key is African Investment.”

Often times, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes may have the resources, skill-sets, determination, and commitment to succeed however; the missing ingredient boils down to capital. Keynote speaker Sacha Poignonnec, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Jumia, shares that finding the money to execute on an idea is not the hardest part of investing in Africa, the challenge is finding the right investors to hold the rope tight as you climb mountains.

Simply put, the worst thing an entrepreneur can do is to train an unseasoned investor about the continent. Poignonnec proposed for entrepreneurs to do their due diligence before committing to any capital, no matter the scenario. To emphasize this point, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Co-Founder of Andela and Flutterwave, believes that positioning yourself in the right circle makes funding inevitable. He added that investors are averse to risk-taking and unless an entrepreneur has the right track record or a Co-Founder with the experience to complement her skill-set, it is best not to approach an investor right away.

Different experts have varying opinions on the subject however; funding is not the most important hurdle. Poignonnec advised participants to have an idea that is relevant to the people. Often times, entrepreneurs looking to invest fail to conduct a thorough market research on the ground prior to execution. Having so much belief in an idea to the point where you fail to fully comprehend the problem is a setback for many.

Joe Gebbia, Co-founder of Airbnb, proposes “Enlightened Empathy” as the solution to this. According to Gebbia, “Enlightened Empathy is the process of seeing the world so closely in the shoes of the person you are creating for to the point where you see the world the way that they see it and you bring those insights back to the drawing board, combine it with your own design point of view, to create something new.” When channeling your ideas to fruition, Poignonnec encourages participants to strengthen the intersection between three things; talent, brain, and heart. Aboyeji, on the other hand, proposes that it’s best to burn bridges. He believes for an entrepreneur to have one leg in and another out will most likely result in two of many things: cash burn on flights and dwindling profits.

Fred Swaniker, Founder & CEO of the African Leadership Academy, also offered his perspective on the conversation. His formula is simple; pay early employees less than the salary received from their past occupations. This is the mark of true commitment. The recent trend of moving back to Africa has been closely associated with obligation. Swaniker challenges members of the African diaspora to move back not as a sense of obligation, but because it’s an opportunity of our lifetime. He also added,

“We, as black people, will never be fully respected until we have economic power. The reality is this happens in Africa.”

As you look into strengthening the economic pillars of Africa, a few of many sectors to consider include Agriculture, Power, and Payments. Today, approximately 60% of the African population is in the agricultural sector. However, the most talented individuals are leaning towards more conventional sectors for the sake of prestige. Although agriculture has been perceived through a dark lens for many years, the problem is the definition.

Agriculture is more than planting and cultivating, it is every little thing we touch. This includes the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the cement used in building our homes, et al. Power, on the other hand, has recently tickled the fancy of well-read African Millennials. However, there is still potential for growth because 5-10% of annual sales on the continent are lost from electricity outages in Angola, Egypt, and Nigeria. An increase in talents and investments are definitely needed in this sector to fuel enterprises to amass on the continent. As the continent grows and as power plants and innovative renewable energy products are prioritized, manufacturing of local goods will be prevalent.

As highlighted in “Lions on the move II,” McKinsey Global Institute’s widely acknowledged report on Africa’s economic prospects, anywhere between 6 million to 14 million stable jobs could be created through increased manufacturing output. In addition to that, there will be a $326 billion increase in annual revenue by 2025 possible for African manufacturers targeting domestic markets. To make trade between villages, cities, and countries as seamless as possible, Payments will play an integral role. Incredibly intelligent members of the African diaspora are creating some of the most powerful APIs to enable local vendors to accept payments, build, and scale their businesses across the continent. It is no wonder six of the fastest growing economies are currently in Sub- Saharan Africa.

“Lions on the move II” discusses that the continent will profit from rising global demand for natural resources; boast a consumer market of 128 million households by 2020; and see its labour force top 1 billion people by 2040. In addition to this analysis, it is important to keep in mind that investors love transformation. They want to get into spaces that are going through a major transformation from being seemingly horrible to being very powerful. Sankofa. But before that, ponder and you may realize the opportunity you may be overlooking.

_____________________

Jephthah Acheampong is an Entrepreneur, Writer, and Storyteller based in New York. Equipped with a background in Economics, Jephthah writes as a millennial voice on social justice, women equality, and education. He currently serves as Director of Sales & Marketing at Esusu. Jephthah also founded Anansi Global, a non profit empowering youth in Ghana by providing quality education and mentorship.

View his work at www.jacheampong.com or find him on Linkedin.

For editorial inquires contact: stories@znewsafrica.com

Africa’s young entrepreneurs seek to inspire its leaders

Africa’s enterprising youth champion a new development model that will generate prosperity while fostering stability and promoting security. The ethos they embody may be the inspiration that challenges African leaders to re-discover the buccaneering zeal of their forebears who led the independence movement.

There was change in the air in the leafy suburbs of Ota, Ogun state in Nigeria a fortnight ago. The first cohort of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs Program gathered together to embark on one of the more exciting challenges of our times – an ‘entrepreneur-led development’ model that seeks to create sustainable businesses that will generate $10 billion in revenue and create a million jobs in Africa over the next decade, all the while addressing social issues that will foster stability and security.

I felt like a kid in a candy store listening to members of my cohort oozing with confidence and boundless energy as they begin their noble quests in using business to address pressing social issues. Some of the note worthy ventures being undertaken include ventures that deal with local issues such as waste management to the outright daring – using unmanned aircrafts to boost agricultural yields in the inhospitable Sahel region.

The journey began with a grueling application process in which 5% of applicants from 51 African countries were selected out of a pool of over 20,000 applications.

Participants have benefited from the seven pillars of this program which have included a start-up enterprise toolkit, mentoring, online resources, bootcamp and in the course of the year, an entrepreneurship forum, seed capital funding and upon completion, being part of the program’s alumni network.

The highlight of the program for me was the bootcamp. My objectives going into this event were the opportunity to meet and be inspired by business leaders and entrepreneurs, put a name to the faces that I had been in touch with over the last couple of weeks and build lasting relationships.

The occasion far exceeded my expectations. We were spoiled for choices with a list of speakers, which included leaders in business, civil society, entertainment and public officials such as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Prime Minister of Benin and the Governor of the State of Kaduna.

Our patron, Tony Elumelu also provided us with a no holds barred opportunity to learn more about him, his successes (and failures) and his expectations from us. He made it abundantly clear that failure was not an option for us. That said, it was reassuring to note that he is willing to do what he can to ensure we succeed.

Not to be outdone, the entrepreneurs also shared their stories with each other, cross-pollinated ideas and when the time was ripe, took to the dance floor with gusto, amidst laughter, drinks and great expectations from each other.

The common themes that appeared to embody the aspirations of these inspired young men and women were a profound sense of mission, customer/people-centric approach, improvisation and tinkering, adapting best practices to local environments and more importantly, a can-do attitude.

If history is any guide, this can-do attitude may be a harbinger of a transformation that could alter the face of the continent in profound ways as was witnessed on the sunny morning of February 28th, 1948 at Christiansborg Castle in Accra, Ghana. Returning ex-servicemen from the Gold Coast Regiment who had fought alongside His Majesty’s army in Burma, emboldened by their exploits in the war, demonstrated against the colonial authorities due to unfulfilled promises.

The agitation of these men created a sense of awareness and a crescendo that emboldened “troublemakers” such as Kwame Nkrumah and his cohort of “uppity” Young Turks of their time to cause even greater mischief that eventually toppled the erstwhile British colonial regime. The rest of sub-Saharan Africa was not spared the remorseless march of this rebellion. Just three years later, another 17 countries, a stunning 40% of previously unliberated African colonies were freed, bringing down the mighty edifice of European imperial rule.

The confidence and assertiveness of the returning service men changed the face of Africa. However, it is far from complete. Almost 70 years have passed us by with very little to write home about since that fateful morning. In the intervening period, have been unfulfilled potential, false dawns and a desperate desire for the continent’s leaders to re-discover the buccaneering zeal of its forebears to lay the foundation that will bring the best out of the continent’s most valuable resource – its people – to create a virtuous path that will generate prosperity, foster stability and promote security. Thankfully in Africa’s enterprising youth, they need not look too far out for inspiration.

The author is a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur and a Managing Partner of West Africa-focused investment funds, Diaspora Capital and The Heart of Africa Economic Empowerment Fund (HOA Fund).

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For editorial inquiries contact: Stories@ZnewsAfrica.com

What Sepp Blatter and I understand about FIFA

When the corruption scandal broke, I was initially shocked that the derited States was prosecuting and the first thoughts on mind were akin to Imperialism (please read through before you judge).

I didn’t really pay much attention except to count how many times Loretta Lynch and her henchmen repeated “soccer, soccer…” at some point, it sounded like “sucker.” It was okay for me, but I could imagine watching in Nigeria and other parts of the world and wanting to tell them “no, it’s football”!

Anyway, when the facts came out, I realized that the U.S. had jurisdiction etc. And, who better to probe corruption – especially in a body like FIFA – than the U.S.? In spite of her “deflategate,” multiple steroidal Olympians, and Mayweatherisms, the U.S. is still better than most parts of the world corruption-wise. It’s like a whirlwind compared to a tornado. So I was glad that the U.S. was prosecuting, but my thoughts still lingered.

Now it is a fact that all the countries that have won the World Cup since inception have hosted it before (I realized this in the last decade when deliberations were going on about an African World Cup).

Of course, these two may not be related but I know that when you get to those heights, where preparation and talent are only basic requirements, several other factors come into play – confidence, psyche, fan clubs, referee united, winning mentality, limbs of God etc. And if you know what I know, you’ll understand that any advantage is an advantage.

So was I expectant and happy when South Africa got the nod? Of course! And to prove my point, it would have been the best outing of any African country to date except for the intervention of the Mike Tyson of football. There are several other examples to support my hypothesis (e.g. Japan/South Korea – 2002, etc.).

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