Business & Economics

Art meets wealth in one Nigerian-American’s vision for a community

Shimite Obialo founder and CEO of Anoko

“You must kill it,” her parents would tell her. Killing it signifies putting your best foot forward, having the “doer mentality,” as some may call it.

Her father and mother left Nigeria for America, with the vision in their eyes, to provide for their kin a much more prosperous life than they had. They made the hard choice to uproot from their native land, which is filled with their families and friends.

They arrived in America and with them, their culture. Nigerian culture is built on hard work, dedication, a strong resolve, all of which cannot fully be utilized without education rooted at its core. So when they had children, they instilled all those core values deep within their minds.


Shimite Obialo took that “kill it” mentality from her hardworking mother and father. She’s a lawyer who works sometimes 80-hour weeks, sings at events with a beautiful voice that captivates souls, and works tirelessly on as  founder and CEO of Anoko, her social networking business.

Anoko is a new members only art social club based in New York, that connects professionals with arts, culture and culinary experiences. Through a diverse set of partnerships, with arts institutions, galleries, performance venues and more, Anoko provides its members with discounts and VIP access. The group was selected to curate the VIP section of the 2017 VOLTA Art Fair happening in March.

The meaning of the word “Anoko” is wealth, in the Nigerian language, Igala.

On Saturday night, I attended the private launch party in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn. Once there, I was blown away by the creative ingenuity and uniqueness that presented itself in the portraits hanging from the wall. These were Afroprofessionals expressing their creativity outside of the confines of their daily, standardized lives.

Attendees viewing artwork at Anoko's lunch event in Brooklyn, NY
Attendees viewing artwork at Anoko’s launch event in Brooklyn, NY

After having a drink or two (probably more) and waiting for the event to commence, I parlayed with some of the creative professionals about the event, and why they were drawn to attend. Most knew Shimite on a personal level; others were guests of her guests. They all genuinely believed in the mission of sharing their creative artistry with the world–that true art is communal. The professional creatives wanted to be apart of the space, the feeling of transparency that art provides to the soul.

Shimite walked out from the back room–commanding everyone’s attention. She is a striking woman, tall and elegant, with laid back eyes and a beautiful smile. She walked around the room, greeting her guests, before proceeding to kick off the event. Her demeanor exudes a quiet, yet commanding presence.

After some performances by fellow creatives, Shimite, an artist herself, captivated every person’s’ soul with the cadence of her voice, rendering them speechless.

Jeremiah Ojo, art consultant at Anoko speaks with attendee.
Jeremiah Ojo, art consultant at Anoko speaks with attendee.

“There is a multiplicity in us, we don’t have to be just one thing. I can be everything I want to be; we can be anything we want to be. It’s with that vision in mind that led me to starting Anoko,” Shimite said.

Shimite is also building a strong team to help build this community. She brought on Jeremiah Ojo as an art consultant at Anoko. He brings a dynamic experience traveling globally to curate and project manage a variety of exhibitions, working with artists studios, galleries and museums.

He shares, “I decided to work with Anoko because of the mission set forth to educate our generation about the importance of pursing and attaining cultural wealth. Anoko is the first company I have seen to successfully blend the social & cultural capital of the arts and cultural sectors, with immersive educational experiences, built around people and community, not institution.”

Shimite and Jeremiah have built real careers doing creative work. As Afroprofessionals, we don’t have to just be pragmatic. We can be raw and unfiltered in our capacity to express ourselves; we need to share with the rest of the world a bit of who we are through mediums such as photographs, paintings, writings, singing, and all other creative outlets. It shows the world us, the way we would like to be defined: multifaceted individuals with beaucoup identities.

There’s a voice inside of us that can only be emulated through the art that we create.


Kamar Foster is a contributor who covers events and writes the stories for ZNews Africa. He narrates the cultural stories of the African diaspora as he experiences them locally and globally. Hit him up on twitter @KamarFoster and on instagram @definitionsarerealyall

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Michelle Obama’s Natural Hair; Tea with Mugabe; Uganda’s “Uber for Motorcycles”

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Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Greetings Everyone,

If the above sentence is true, then we at ZNews have been “praised and worshiped” quite emphatically over the the past few weeks. Our friends at top global publications and similarly focused African media companies have complimented us wildly in their recent newsletter “additions.”

It’s all love. We influence each other. If only everyone did as good a job copying Ghanian jollof, the world would be a better place.

If you’re a proponent of African innovation, check out the 2017 MIT Sloan Africa Innovate Conference, coming up this weekend.

Speakers include:

  • Her Excellency, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, GCSK, CSK, PhD, Dsc
    President of Mauritius
  • Mr. Ola Oresanya, Managing Director, Globetech Remedial
  • Zim Ugochukwu CEO, Travel Noire.

A special hello to all of the new subscribers joining us from the Columbia University African Economic Forum this past weekend.

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How a Nigerian software engineer is feeding the poor with an app: The app connects supermarkets to NGOs and low-income earners, allowing them to buy food that’s about to expire at a discount.

Michelle Obama Is Rocking Her Natural Hair And The Internet Can’t Even: It’s not confirmed exactly where the former first lady is or when the photo was taken, but that didn’t stop Twitter from having a damn fit.

Wildly Talented Nigerian Artist Made This Drawing Without Any Training Whatsoever: Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley has been drawing for as long as he can remember, without formal training.

A new documentary shows how wrong China is about its African immigrants: Africans in China are often discussed in terms of blatant racism or fears that African migrants are criminals or bring many security risks. A recently released documentary, Guangzhou Dream Factory, hopes to broaden the perception.


A. Affairs

B. Business

C. Culture

D. Development

E. Entertainment 



The number of plaintiffs involved in a billion-dollar lawsuit against Johns Hopkins University over its alleged role in the deliberate infection of hundreds of vulnerable Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases.


How many days English-Speaking Cameroon has not had any internet.


The number of hours of work the average Black American worker performed 2015.


“Shark Tank” Harlem Casting Call: Values Partnerships is working with Shark Tank to support entrepreneurship and bring more diverse ideas and voices to the show. On a first come, first serve basis, companies may be selected to pitch their businesses to the casting team from ABC’s Shark Tank.

Ecobank is challenging Africa’s new generation of entrepreneurs to find lasting solutions to the continent’s most pressing banking issues. Submit entries in one or more of our key areas of interest for your Chance to win up to $500,000 funding.

Sierra Leone Opportunities for Business Action’s Innovation Lab (SOBA iLab) incubates and accelerates high-risk, high-potential enterprises that advance change at scale. Implemented by Adam Smith International and funded by the UK Government, SOBA is the largest market systems development programme in Sierra Leone. Apply by April 26, 2017 to join the Business Model Validation Lab.

Powered by Passion: An Investment Banker’s Journey to Build Social Good

By Michael Rain

At close to the end of a humid spring New York day, Laurel Djoukeng arrives in Brooklyn full of energy, and fatigue. The investment banker traveled from Midtown Manhattan to Flatbush in central Brooklyn after an already long day, but his workday is not over.

He projects a warm enthusiasm. His eyes are slightly weary, but his smile is bright enough to disguise most hints of weariness. His tie is sharp and his suit is freshly crisp, as he heads into a parent-teacher night at Erasmus Hall High School. He is attending the event to inform students, parents and educators about a free summer program offered by the non-profit organization he co-founded, Catalyst Network Foundation (CNF).

In the midst of an era of Black Lives Matter campaigns, adverse statics about the future of young African-Americans and reports on millions of missing Black men, Djoukeng has built a smart social impact enterprise that has benefitted hundreds of Black lives. His non-profit helps high school sophomores and juniors of color develop academic and professional skills through a variety of fellowships, programing and workshops.

CNF was launched in 2011, guided by the wisdom of experienced African-American elders and powered by a team of young and educated professionals of color. The organization operates in both New York City and Washington D.C. and maintains three cohorts with over 65 Fellowship Scholars who have moved forward to earn acceptance and attend selective colleges and universities.

CNF offers career workshops, SAT prep sessions, and college admissions events by partnering with Ivy League schools including Columbia and Harvard, as well as, top historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) including Spellman, and Djoukeng’s alma mater, Hampton University.

CNF has also exposed young people to corporate careers and industries through internships, company site visits, and special programs provided by financial leaders, tech titans and media powerhouses including, Google, Goldman Sachs, Nike, LinkedIn, HBO, Microsoft, Essence Magazine, Bloomberg, FOX News, BET, and NBC ‎Studios.

As Mr. Djoukeng’s prepares to introduce himself and CNF to faculty and parents, he reminisces about how this all began. This social impact venture wasn’t originally his planned path. His passion for community and several encouraging mentors led toward a journey to build it.

Djoukeng was born in Washington, D.C. His parents emigrated to the United States from Cameroon. They were from the same village, but met in the U.S. as students at Howard University. He moved to New York after graduating from Hampton University.

“What are you doing to help the community?” a gentleman about 60 years old would ask Djoukeng every day for two years as he walked home from work. He answered the man by sharing his contributions as mentor with iMentor and volunteering with other social good programs.

“No, what are you doing for this community?,’” the man would reply, referring to the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn Mr. Djoukeng lived at the time. Finally he asked the man what he needed to do to help out “this” community. He was directed to attend a meeting at Community Board 8, which covers most of the Crown Heights neighborhood.

At the meeting Djoukeng joined a committee and met Priscilla Maddox (whom he refers to as Miss Priscilla) who offered to drive him home. During the ride she asked him why there weren’t more Black professionals, entrepreneurs and famous people involved in community building.

“I think we learn how to give back when we had a base of support giving to us. Most young African-Americans just don’t have that platform,” he assessed.

“Then why don’t you build it?,” Miss Pricilla inquired. She planted the seed. She stressed that there needs to be a platform that gets young people of color from wherever they are to rise toward their goals. Reaching their potential takes a cultivation of a lot of things. It takes guidance, mentorship and a support system from the earliest stages of development.

The two spoke for over two hours and by the end of the conversation Djoukeng promised that he would work to build that platform.
“I just met her that night. I shook her hand and gave her my word that I would build this platform, even though I had no idea what I was committing to build,” he remembers.

Djoukeng assessed his experiences with non-profits he worked with in the past and thought about how he could recruit a committed team. He knew he would need to find people who were naturally passionate about the organization’s mission and their role in making the vision a reality. “I never reached out to someone blindly,” he says. “I engaged people, then figured out what they loved to do and then asked them to do it for CNF.”

The organization has been run by a team of passionate volunteers. There are no salaried employees atCNF. Djoukeng himself holds a full time job while operating the venture, as does his team, who all retain 9 to 5 employment.


“Passion is the only thing that will make you want to get involved and do anything. We have volunteers who stay up until 2 and 3am to get work done even when I tell them not to do it. They go in that hard because they are passionate about it,” he shares with a proud grin.

Djoukeng began by working with his team to design an approach that helps young people identify their strengths and interests. They then receive guidance on how to pursue building a career based on their assessment.

“We feel like the most important thing is self-motivation. Once you’re self-motivated, you don’t need anything but the resources so you can go to where you want to go. We feel like the only way to get them to be self-motivated is to get them to feel like they are pursusing their passion. So we’re doing everything to help them discover what that is,” he shares.

The program gives students a head start to try a variety of interests and discover what they are good at and what they don’t like. CNF then cultivates their youth, provides a base of resources and then partner with organizations to facilitate that exploration.

One example of CNF’s approach is their summer intensive program. It guides the students in the discovery of their passions. They then learn practical steps on pursuing a career aligned with what they enjoy.

Strengths Finder 2.0 is used to assess the student’s character traits and leadership skills. Once the organization has identified what student’s have an aptitude for, the team then figures out which professional sectors compliment them.

Students’ soft skills are developed through workshops improving their public speaking, presentation ability, writing and resource skills in the two-week intensive program. They then work on a special project to hone their practical skills. Their hard skills grow through internships and hands on training.

“We create that ecosystem to help draft that roadmap for them to go from point A to point Z,” says Djoukeng. “It is always going to be fine tuned, because there is no way to do it perfectly.” He stressed, “We as young professionals are still trying to figure it out. We’re just ahead of the students at point F or point G. Going from point A to point Z is a never ending journey, but it’s critical to continue.”

While in college, Djoukeng saw his fellow classmates compromise on their dreams out of consideration of financial pressures and desires. It influenced him to set a framework for CNF to encourage students purse their passion and become aware of innovative ways to monetize on it. The goal is to provide them with the necessary recourses so they don’t have to conceed when they leave college.

Djoukeng just happens to love capital allocation and business development so he works in the sector that aligns with his interests, but “I’ll be damned if somebody told me I better learn illustration because what I love to do doesn’t pay the bills,” he says with a defiant eyes and smirk.

Much of what motivates the volunteers and partners of CNF is their sense of community, particularly as African Americans and people of color globally. This is something Djoukeng feels is prevalent but underreported and remains largely unacknowledged.

“Blacks want to see other blacks succeed. It’s not highlighted enough but they do” he shares as he remembers the support he received from Community Board 8. One board member was an attorney who helped him file a 501(c)(3) for free. Others donated their time and money to get the organization off the ground.

“The elders in our community have the wisdom and they want to help. They know where the bones are buried, but they don’t have the energy to execute anymore. Young people have ideas, but lack the capital. We need to keep that bridge together,” he says in a hopeful tone.

The public high school Djoukeng attended was predominately filled with Black and Latino students. There was a magnet program so the school had an influx of student from wealthier areas, which guaranteed that there were college prep resources available. He took AP classes and other challenging courses that helped him get into the schools of his choice when he became more serious about college.

“I was a jokester in high school. Some of my Black teachers saw me as that but once they found out I was applying the college they were some of the first ones to offer to write my recommendations and assist me through the process. These were teachers who had kicked me out of class or sent me to detention for being a jokester, but they became some of my greatest champions,” he shared.

Djoukeng’s assistant basketball coach, a proud Hampton alum, took him and a teammate on a tour of the University. They connected with a current student who was a senior and whom his coach took on the same tour of Hampton a few years prior. His coach then pushed him to complete his college application and get his recommendations in on time. “I didn’t know how big that was until now, when I’m doing the same thing for CNF students,” he says.

Between a finance driven day job and his social good organization, it might not be clear what Djoukeng’s passion is in his life. “I love to bring new ideas into fruition,” he says with a childlike smile. “I love coming up with new ideas and then working with people to make something that wasn’t there before exist.”

Djoukeng thinks back to that two-hour conversation four years ago with Miss Priscilla and says, “ I didn’t even know what I was committing to, but you don’t always know where things will go.”

He adds, “I always thought I would be the person who allocated capital to non-profits when I got older for initiatives that I liked. I never thought I would be running one. Never. You never know where ideas will lead you, but as long as you are still be pursing your interests, it will be a good place.”


Michael Rain is the editor-in-chief of ZNews Africa. He communicates ideas through written and visual stories and has an ardent interest in expanding the perception of people of color. His editorial intrigue includes design and technology, and their relationship to culture. Say hello on Twitter @michaeljrain.

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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 – 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,



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 or find him on Linkedin.

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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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Why You Need To Attend This Year’s Wharton Africa Business Forum

One great problem the internet unintentionally solved was to make it easier for like-minded groups of people to find each other across the globe and communicate. A woman in Berlin, a teenager in Abuja and man in Johannesburg can now join a Facebook page, Twitter chat or WhatsApp group to share their passion for knitting 1980’s themed quilts using polyester blended yarn. Niche groups today can connect and build relationships virtually and never feel alone about their novel interests.

What is still being worked out today is how do this in person. How do we find people passionate about our non-mainstream interests and connect with them in person? How do we engage and speak through body language, eye contact and laughter?

I’m not sure about knitting or quilts, but if you’re someone passionate about connecting with people concerned about the prosperity and progress of Africa then you should attend this year’s Wharton African Business Forum (WABF) at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania on November 18 – 20, 2016.

Now in it’s 24th year, the WABF is the longest running student-organized Africa-focused business discussion. The conference hosts an array of leaders in business, entrepreneurship and social enterprise to share their experiences fostering collaboration across industries and sectors, and developing entirely new genres of solutions from and for Africa.

What I enjoy about the concept of WABF is the focus on solutions for Africa. The Western-led conversation on Africa is so overwhelmed with negative images and stories of hopeless that being someone focused on the continent’s progress can feel novel. This an opportunity to connect with a community of people optimistic about the future.

Last year I was honored to be invited to moderate a panel discussion with entrepreneurs across Africa about how we use our “Grits, Smarts and Hustle” to persevere in building enterprises that serve the African market. This year, Alpha Bah, ZMedia Tech Group founder and CEO (The parent company of ZNews Africa) will join the media panel on “Growing Audiences at Home and Around the World.”

The 24th WABF will feature powerful speakers, including keynotes from:

  • Acha Leke, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company Johannesburg & Co-founder, African Leadership Network
  • Sacha Poignonnec, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Jumia
  • Ambassador Herman Cohen, Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs & President & CEO, Cohen and Woods International
  • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Co-Founder, Andela & Co-Founder, Flutterwave
  • Fred Swaniker, Co-Founder, African Leadership Network

We hope to see you there. Feel free to say hello.

Black Muslim Trump Supporters; How to Con Black Law Students; The Magic of Black Hair

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Alpha and I have been honored to be invited to speak at various talks and conferences including those at Wharton and Harvard Business School. It’s a special thing for me to be a speaker for my alma mater at this year’s Columbia University Africa Economic Forum. It’s this Saturday, April 1. Get your tickets and come say hello.

Even at our best, it’s probably not going to be as interesting as the BWIJ Conference–a 1,500 member group of black women married to Japanese men holding their first major gathering. I imagine those sistahs have been mesmerizing their beaus through the magic of their Black hair.

What events and gatherings are you checking out? What about African Narratives would you like me to touch on at the conference?

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




I Was Supposed To Have Good Hair: “I was the only black girl in my grade, and at sleepovers my white friends and I would do each other’s hair and I would die inside of embarrassment as their flimsy barrettes burst under the strain of my frizz and as the brushes with ball ends would get hopelessly entangled in my coils. I hated my hair so much.” (The Establishment)

Exploring Ethiopia’s Past and Future Through Body Painting: The prevalence of decorative body painting in her images — stark whites, vibrant reds, azure blues, monochromes sometimes delicately dotted with black — are rooted in Ethiopian tradition and custom. Against a backdrop of globalization, this waning tradition is revived and celebrated as a form of a contemporary self-expression. (The NY Times)

How Diversity Branding Hurts Diversity: The mere presence of diversity policies, diversity training, and diversity awards cause white people to be less likely to believe racial discrimination exists and cause men to be less likely to believe gender discrimination exists, despite other data and evidence. (Medium)

The Emergence Of The White Troll Behind A Black Face: Black Twitter has noticed an increase in the number of white trolls creating fake Twitter accounts in order to take “revenge on Twitter” and to “create a state of chaos on twitter, among the black twitter population, by sowing distrust and suspicion, causing blacks to panic.” (NPR Code Switch)



A. Affairs

Meet the black students and Muslim teenagers backing Trump (Metro)

Smartphones are making Kenya’s gambling problem even worse (Quartz)

Bootstrap myth exposed: White inheritance key driver in racial wealth gap (Channel 3000)

Why Black Families Struggle to Build Wealth (The Atlantic)

B. Business

This Ghanaian Woman Just Introduced the Sponge, “Sapor” to Americans and They Are Going Crazy Over It  (OMG Voice)

Diddy’s Revolt TV Is Being Sued for Reverse Discrimination for Alleged ‘Animosity Towards Caucasians’ (Vulture)

Fading oil industry brings economic uncertainty in Gabon (Reuters)

U.S. airlines are cutting seats and flights to Cuba, amid a glut in capacity (


C. Culture

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on transgender row: ‘I have nothing to apologise for’ for’ (The Guardian)

This Virtual Reality Experience Shows Black Women As The Pioneers of Brain Modulation Technology Through Hair Care (Quirktastic)

Who are the Brazilian black and indigenous women in technology? (Olabi Makerspace)

Colin Kaepernick Is To The NFL What Black People Are To America (Huffington Post)


D. Development

How to Con Black Law Students: A Case Study (The NY Times)

Science-Loving Teens From Ghana And D.C. Geek Out Together (NPR)

London’s black male graduates less likely to get jobs (BBC News)

Google Hopes To Hire More Black Engineers By Bringing Students To Silicon Valley (NPR)


E. Entertainment

Historical dramas ‘limit UK black actors (BBC News)

Racism entrenched in India’s pop culture, with help from Bollywood (Hindustan Times)

Amazon Picks up ‘Moonlight’s’ Barry Jenkins’ ‘Underground Railroad’ Series- Adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Novel (Shadow and Act)


$4 million – $5 million

The amount Halima Aliko Dangote hopes to raise as the new board president of the Africa Center, a Harlem institution devoted to African art and policy (NY Times).

$75 billion

What Mckinsey estimates Africans could be spending online by 2025 (CNN).


The Red Bull Amaphiko Academy is a launchpad for grassroots social entrepreneurs who are making a positive difference in their community. Over the course of 10 days, participants receive inspiration and mentorship, as well as the practical skills and tools needed to take their projects to the next level. Started in 2014, the Academy has been hosted in South Africa and Brazil; this year it will touch down in the US for the very first time, taking place August 11-20 in Baltimore, Maryland. Applications close on April 30, 2017.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Scholarships reward talented students and STEM organization members with the opportunity to attend this year’s conference. Developers selected for a scholarship will receive a WWDC 2017 ticket and lodging free of charge. WWDC 2017 takes place June 5-9 in San Jose, California.

Obama’s $400,000 Mistake?, The Island of African Millionaires, Powerful DNA test results

Greetings ZNews Readers,

Each week is a bit of an emotional journey for me as I curate this email. I balance sharing success stories and information with noting many difficult truths and unpleasant events that so often impact our lives and our communities.

This week was particularly challenging due to the news about Jordan Edwards, the latest unarmed Black male fatally shot by police officers in the Untied States.

Jordan was 15 years old. And as we’ve also come to expect, the original account of the officers involved was retracted after video footage contradicted the initial statements.

I’m not sure how many more of these stories I can take.

Some good news; Singer and producer Ne-Yo has invested $2.3 million to help people from unrepresented groups become full-stack engineers. I love news like this because it highlights people giving back to invest in their communities.

Sure, many monetarily successful Black folks “give back” in photo opportunistic ways by reading to kids or by giving out iPads or computers, but how many use their resources to invest in people? If anyone has stats or info on this, please share.

Meanwhile, anyone up to join me and escape to the island of African millionaires? Maybe some of their wealth can rub off on us. I’ll even settle for new iPad. I’m a kid at heart.

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



Confessions of a wealthy immigrant: “model minority” is a myth: The “model minority” success story is used as a wedge to deny systemic economic and racial injustice, reinforcing myths of criminality in the “bad” undocumented immigrants and “laziness” in immigrants and black people. Because if families like mine could “succeed,” what’s holding back other immigrants and families of color?

Meet the Playwright Putting the Spotlight on African Immigrants: This month, New York Theatre Workshop debuts two new plays by Mfoniso Udofia, Both works are part of the playwright’s epic, nine-part Ufot Cycle, which chronicles the life—the triumphs and losses—of a Nigerian immigrant woman living in America. For the playwright, these plays are an important step in expanding our knowledge of African narratives.

The Suicide of an Uber engineer. Widow blames job stress: Joseph Thomas thought he had it made when he landed a $170,000 job as a software engineer at Uber last year. He and his wife, Zecole, had just bought and moved into a home with their two young sons. But his time at Uber turned into a personal tragedy, one that will compel the ride-hailing company to answer questions before a judge about its aggressive work culture.

Is China the World’s New Colonial Power?: The rising superpower has built up enormous holdings in poor, resource-rich African countries —but its business partners there aren’t always thrilled. China’s relationship with Africa goes back to the 1960s. Today, if you take the red-eye flight from Shanghai to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, chances are you’ll be seated among Chinese workers heading to a construction site in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, a cotton-processing plant in Mozambique, a telecom project in Nigeria.

DNA provides new insights: My father was born and raised in Nigeria, my mother is African-American and knows very little about her ancestry. Family members told stories about being Native American, but could never identify a tribe. My results showed that my mother is mainly African, but also Irish. I turned out to have more ancestry in Benin than Nigeria.

My only access to Ghana was the food: The Brixton-based chef Zoe Adjonyoh rediscovered her heritage through cooking. The daughter of a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, Adjonyoh is a woman anchored in two worlds. Both sides of her family have food at the heart of their culture, and that passion for feeding comes through.

NFL draft profiles are full of language differences that reveal racial stereotypes: A white quarterback prospect is more likely to be discussed in terms of intangible internal qualities. He is smart and displays intelligence. He is a leader. In contrast, a minority quarterback prospect is more likely to be discussed in terms of physical characteristics, to be judged erratic and unpredictable, and to have his successes and failures ascribed to outside forces. We learn about his hands, his weight, his frame, his body. He throws dangerous passes.

How Nigeria rejection led to Anthony Joshua’s rise to stardom: Joshua makes no secret of his Nigerian heritage. If anything, he embraces it. His middle name, Femi (short for Oluwafemi), is as Nigerian as Nigerian is. On numerous occasions, he has not been shy to speak about his Nigerian roots. It was that connection that drove him to try and represent Nigeria at the 2008 Olympic Games, only to be turned down by the country’s boxing coaches.

A counter-terrorism officer put a monkey toy on a black colleague’s desk, and was cleared by a disciplinary panel. The woman who brought the complaint said he used the toy to signal whose turn it was to make tea and coffee. Det Sgt Andrew Mottau was cleared of gross misconduct. He will now receive management advice – the lowest form of disciplinary action.


Heineken sparks beer war with $160 million brewery in Ivory Coast

Katy Perry’s black hair/Obama joke bombed

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Diamond admits his company has a Black talent problem—and the finance industry should listen

A New Art Museum Stands on a Former Plantation in the Congo

Nigerians would rather have a .com web address than .ng—and not just because it’s cheaper

Nigeria’s Cars45 closes $5M round to digitize Africa’s used autos markets

Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders: ‘America isn’t made for the black man’



The year two Liberian refugees founded SheaMoisture, the $700 milllion company now accused of erasing their most loyal customers, Black women.


The number of Haitian Immigrants at risk of deportation due to the recommendation of U.S.Civil and Immigration Services director to end Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.


The fee former U.S. President Barack Obama is collecting to speak at a health care conference organized by the bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which many believe undermines everything he believes in.



BongoHive Launch Program: Based in Zambia, a handful of startups with great promise will be taken through a customised series of interventions co-created by you and our Startup Incubation Lead. Startups will share co-working space with other Launch startups, be matched with an industry leading mentor relevant to their startup, access to legal advice and regularly work with our in-house Accounting and Finance Lead.

Start’Act Business Accelerator: The first Tunisian Startup Accelerator launched by Carthage Business Angels and sponsored by the French development agency (AFD) and the ministry of Finance. This accelerator is for Tunisian entrepreneurs who accelerate their business into sustainable and successful ones. Start’Act is an access to Market accelerator, it offers: Financing, Network, technical assistance, Trainings and exposure.

The Nigerian J.K. Rowling; Obama Returns; Shea Butter Gets Dry

Greetings ZReaders,

It has not been an easy few days for Black women. Rachel Dozeal has reemerged with an African name, Shea moisture tries an ad that “tries it,” and Jessie Williams leaves his pretty brown wife, allegedly for a non-Black woman. My summary of how sistahs in my circle reacted:

I’ve been moved by the number of you who have expressed interest in contributing to ZNews. I’ve spent a lot of time last week reading samples and considering some great pitches. We’re still accepting work, so if you or anyone you know is a talented written or visual storyteller, so just has something eloquent to say, kindly reach out.

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




Shea Moisture reaches out to white women in hair products ad. Black women protest: For years, women of color embraced Shea Moisture for hair products catering to naturally coily and curly hair. But Shea Moisture moved to broaden its reach to include women of all backgrounds and hair types. Marketing that expanded reach while appealing to its loyal customers, it turns out, can get a bit complicated.

They’re Calling this 23-Year-Old Novelist the Next J.K. Rowling: Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi got a seven-figure publishing deal with Macmillian and a massive deal with Fox Studios for her fantasy novel about a young girl’s battle with a prince over bringing magic back to West Africa.

I Moved Abroad With Over 200K In Debt & Returned Home Debt Free:  Struggling is not living. Eat, sleep, work, pay bills became my routine. And I was barely getting by or scratching the surface of my debt, so I decided to do something different.

Portraits show Iran’s hidden minority of Afro-Iranians: German-Iranian photographer Mahdi Ehsaei has spent the last three years documenting a lesser known community in his home country: Iranians of African heritage.

Fortune 500 companies are still hesitant about settling in Africa: Investor interest in Africa may have been piqued since the start of the 21st century, but many of the world’s Fortune 500 still seem reluctant to actually move to the continent.

All Your Favourite Cartoon Characters Are Black: Bugs Bunny, black. Scrappy Doo, black. Elmo, definitely black. On the surface it’s an extremely funny and silly thing to think about— there’s also a layer of sadness that goes beyond silliness.

To Be Black, Female and Fed Up With the Mainstream: Linda La Rue’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum questions what women’s liberation, primarily a white, middle-class movement, have to offer African-American women.

Why is Media Matters stealing credit for the work of Black organizers? Appropriation: It’s not just limited to hairstyles and music. It’s also present in social justice work, specifically the takedown of Glen Beck and Bill O’Reilly.


This Powerful Photo Series Is Showing What It Is Like To Be Black And Muslim In The US

King Mswati III of Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarch wants to make the country the first in Africa to outlaw divorce

Kobe Bryant Recalls Meeting Beyonce, Cites Michael Jackson as His Biggest Inspiration at Tribeca Film Festival

African governments have a new way of controlling the media—starve them of ad revenue

Jeremy Lin Reveals a Sad Truth About Asian Men That’s Rarely Talked About




The number of active tech hubs in 93 cities in 42 countries of Africa.


The number of time Barack OPbama mentioned Trump in his first public appearance since he left office.


Atlantic Fellowship for Health Equity in South Africa: Tekano is seeking applications for its fellowship programme to develop progressive leadership to tackle the deep social and economic inequities that characterise South Africa and impact on the health of our people.

The Monarq Incubator: Diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams. For this program, we seek to source and invest in exceptional companies that have at least one woman in the leadership team, holding significant influence and equity. The ideal candidate is working full time on their company and the applicant is a high-level woman involved in the fundraising effort.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is seeking applications for its Indigenous Fellowship Programme 2018. The programme contributes to build the capacity and expertise of indigenous representatives on the UN system and mechanisms dealing with human rights in general and indigenous issues in particular, so they are in a better position to protect and promote the rights of their communities at the international level.