French_FreddyPosted by Fred Wed, June 13, 2012 04:35PM
As an idealist pacifist humanist with a barrage of flaws and
contradictory ideas, running away from some notion of peculiar
perfectionist ideals, I believe nothing is impossible. We think it and
so it is. I think impossible, therefore it is.
Attitude is overrated and has highly been commercialized and
sensationalized in the past odd decade or two...in Kenya and Africa at
large. We went from meek 'fuata Nyayoism' to overzealous 'Haki Yetu!isms' practically overnight, and in that way shifted the very tread-lines on the wheels of change.
All very well and good.
Where it became a problem was when, as is ever so blatantly obvious in
Kenya and to a certain extent East Africa, attitude began being peddled
as a commodity. As a brand that could be imbibed tele-kinetically
without having to be practised and / or perfected.
I speak, good people and otherwise, about the Imagine This Nation campaigns, the Najivunias and Brand-Vision-Stimuli macho bravado we the chest-thumping buffoons and ignorance buffs have been drip-fed for so long now that even the smarter Kenyan / African - and I tread very lightly on the word smarter - has been relegated to an obliviously euphoric walking template convinced on premises of nonexistent Utopia.
This is not a script from Zombies™ ©, the reality TV show from your
daily existence. Or lack thereof it. This is not about you. Neither is
it about me, and especially not about me sitting here, cozied up in posh
Kampalan Suburbia on the hospitality of a human who was a total
stranger all of 15 hours ago. Much less about me poisoning you with
It is about the Son of Africa. He may rise in the western bliss and
dancing lights of hopeful horizons and fattening piggies and piggy
banks, but he sets in the dingy dinghies in eastern docks, the cyclicly
redundant errors of blissfully arrogant ignorance.
Think, Africa! Yes you are, you can and
are going to be alright.
All you need do, is think,
"There is never failure, ever;
there is only ever feedback."
French_FreddyPosted by Fred Wed, June 13, 2012 04:30PM
Two weeks ago at Mindspeak, Bharat Thakrar
said that ego and passion walk hand in hand; yet only when you learn to
lead your ego and replicate your own successes in others can your truly
be considered a leader.
Last week Thursday, at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, a forum was convened in which AIESEC Kenya Alumni were to discuss 'Social Business in East Africa'. Dubbed Innovation Cafe, the Business of Doing Good, the event coalesced student and startup, SME and MNC alike. Among the represented companies were Acumen Fund, Edge, Juhudi Kilimo, Growth Africa, Trademark East Africa and Taka Taka Solutions.
The event was a glorious success, and several key points are worth reiteration:
solve huge social challenges, we need great solutions. This, simply, is
the core value of Social Business (Social Entrepreneurship)
- The structure of any social business must be permanent and self-sustaining. Think business modelling.
- They must also be scalable
- They cannot be inaccessible (Good Distribution)
- Key sectors attracting funding today are:
- Urban Infrastructure
- Access to Money and Financial Services
- Rural Innovation and Agribusiness
The panelists (Acumen Fund's Biju Mohandas, Taka Taka Solutions' David Paffenholz, Juhudi kilimo's Ghalib Hafiz) talked extensively about their social business ventures, and here are some of the highlights of what transpired:
Why do you do what you do?
Biju: About 10 years ago, The Economist published an article titled Africa: The Hopless Continent (actual date May 11, 2000). Recently, they published another article titled Africa Rising (actual date December 3, 2011). What they see now, we saw then.
How do you do what you do?
business model is one that finances productive income generating
assets, as opposed to the old school of thought that finances working
capital and consumption. As such, Juhudi Kilimo ensures that our
clients' progression from poverty is one that is centralized on the new
assets we finance, and not their pre-existing assets. In the event of
default on a loan, the asset we financed acts as collateral, and in so
doing our clients would not be left worse off. They are, in the event of such a scenario, simply taken back to their original state.
of simply transporting garbage to Dandora, we collect it, process it,
sell processed goods, and take only 20% of the garbage collected to the
dumpsite at Dandora. Therefore ensuring garbage is not simply relocated
to a more convenient locale.
Why social business?
businesses have tried and failed to kickstart a resurgent Africa;
Humanitarian Aid has faced similar constraints. We had to place
ourselves in the middle ground. The increasing inequality, especially
among the youth, has now resulted in Social Business becoming one of the
fast emerging markets.
Paffenholz: There comes a time in a young visionary's life that they get bored building someone else's brand. Social business is the sexy business
of our age, and it came naturally to me. I wanted to do good, and do it
in a big way. You can build a fountain in one area and get to touch 500
people's lives, or build a water pipeline and touch a million's.
Ghalib: The timing has to be right. For me, after years in the corporate world, it felt like the right time when Juhudi started out in 2004.
Why is it that Kenyan
citizens have not quite taken to Social Business initiatives, whereas
in India, for instance, the people identify their own needs and come up
with Social Businesses to address them?
we have more people in India perhaps? Really, though, Social Business
takes a lot of time, communication and energy in getting the word out.
The more exposure you can get, the better, before starting any Social
What one idea do you have that is worth spreading?
Biju: Taka Taka Solutions. Their idea is truly innovative, which is why we as Acumen sought to partner with them.
Survival, in any business, dictates that you be long-sighted. With the
evolution that is Social Business today, you must be ready to weather
the storm, and take on your business aspects academically.
Ghalib: It's not just about ideas, but execution. Be ready to take the idea to the next level.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
As a changemaker you have to deal with the reality that it's not ever a
matter of how lucrative the venture is. You also need to be at the
right place at the right time, which once again means spending money you
are not yet making. It's a delicate balance.
Paffenholz: Challenges already overcome? We're still facing them...ask me in ten years.
(10 years later, he continues...)
takes blind belief at all times, because there will always be
detractors in your way. As such, your highest intentions for the
business must be clear at the beginning, and remain thus over time.
The rewards far exceed the challenges. If you believe in your vision,
it must not always be financially rewarding at the startoff. I, for
instance, saved for quite a while to come to Kenya, because I believed
in the place...and the people.
How do you sell your dream?
yourself. Then that ONE person will come on board eventually. You don't
have to convince everybody. Out of 9.7 billion people maybe all you
need to convince are 10. People, not billion. If among them you convince
Obama, then [maybe] you can change the world.
Paffenholz: I agree with Biju. In addition, endorsements and awards also have a ripple effect: take advantage of them.
[Check out and apply for Acumen's East African Fellows Program here.
Edge talents also have a business model competition ongoing, and
there'll be an innovation conference on June 21st, as well as Acumen's
2012-2013 Fellowship Program Launch.]
Ghalib:Hard and soft skills must be part of your dream. Get your business model right, and court various agencies for fund generation.
are all young. In this room, out there in the streets. We are a
subsection of the future. Believe in yourself. Be ethical. Inspire.
Paffenholz: We are expanding and will soon be hiring. Get in touch.
Ghalib: I'm going to echo Biju and David...we are also hiring.
to AIESEC Kenya's Rose Thuo, Bosibori Nyambane and the whole team
(including Edge's Manuela Muller, an AIESEC Kenya alumni and good
friend) for a job well done. Any highlights left out will be included in
a future post.
French_FreddyPosted by Fred Fri, May 11, 2012 11:57AM
A "text-savvy" continent. A superhero. The man;
behind a mask of routine as a reporter, wielding superhuman ability to
reach and change lives; telescopic vision, carrying the world around him
on his shoulders. And...wait for it; he's not Clark Kent. This isn't Kansas, Smallville. He's African. This is Kenya, to be precise.
He got on
stage with one goal in mind. To change the future with one story. That
story. The same story relished by 62% of school kids in Kenya. A story
of taking responsibility...of taking action, not tossing around blame. A
story of courage. A story called
As Rob Burnett got off the stage, it was hard not to think man this guy's good. Not
just the fact that he totally demolished the stage with a crisp,
timely, innovatively designed presentation full of well-balanced
graphics. It was more the fact that he spoke about an idea already spreading more than the darkness seems to at Kenya Power.
From Well Told Story: A good comic makes you laugh or cry and it opens up your heart and your mind to new ideas.
The Swahili version of a pre-antisemitic post-Mad Max Bravehearts
Maybe with a little less gore and tragedy; at least in the
is the story of a young Kenyan comic book character turned live action figure cum DJ. DJBoi,
like some Kenyan bloggers and tweeps I like to call Mass Anone
(anonymous), airs his own progressive mindset change agenda from the
comforts of his makeshift radio station. Where he beats many slacktivist
citizen journos is in his viral self leadership initiative. Influencing
the people physically around him to change for the better.
This reminds me of post I just read, from one of my students at True North Leadership College
despite all the trauma and hardship he faces, like many of his fellow
students, living in the Nairobi slum. Like the creative team at Shujaaz fm,
he has not let the world dictate his ambition; he defines his own purpose in life. This is a story bloody well worth telling. An idea truly worth spreading.
And a bright young man rearing to have a go at the world.
French_FreddyPosted by Fred Fri, May 11, 2012 11:50AM
honest...you clicked on the link to correct the error in my
heading into "With great power comes great responsibility". No? Ok...then you must have known that I was trying to pull
some wool over your eyeballs. That not it either? One last shot at it
then...third time charm and all - you just knew that with such a title
the post would HAVE TO be interesting. No?
Well in whichever case you'd be disappointed. Because it's not an error. Am not into the fabric
business, so no wool here either. Maybe just a hint of fabrication
. And of course I'm not here to tell you anything you don't know. So how could it be interesting?
- and still needs - no introduction. Yet like the TED@Nairobi MC, I
feel the need to introduce her. She shouldn't have had to - and still
doesn't have to - care so much for the world YOU live in, yet she makes
me want to share the sentiment. Every single one of the four times I
have spoken to Paula Kahumbu this past month.
clenched fist punched the air at Braeburn, cool lull of nature filled
the silence in the hall as she projected her passion for the ecosystem
to a captured audience. All that was missing in the picture was a broom,
preferably a Nimbus of Firebolt, perhaps an invisibility cloak and
headless Nick or two red-haired troublemakers, et voila.
brilliance imbued the #TEDTalentSearch wavelength with such ferocity
that I could bet you no-one dropped a gram of litter all day the next
day. Her plea for a balance between mankind and wild-kind was so
infectiously affectionate that I for one felt sorry for the lions killed
in Maasailand. Much in spite - and malice - of the fact that they
encroached on the morans's homesteads and got what was coming their way.
Spears...and one man's poison.
|"Lions are a National Symbol for Kenya," asserted Paula, during the TED@Nairobi talent search last Saturday, Braeburn High School Lavington. |
See her talk at Pop!Tech in Camden, 2009.
certain she intended to complicate our understanding so - the
understanding that there are two sides to encroachment on nature. That
much as the lions were in the wrong place at the sharp pointedly wrong
time, that land was once theirs to roam freely in.
freshman year communication skills lecturer said, in 2007, that we as
listeners should not be swayed by our perceptions of anyone as they give
a talk. I have never begged to, but I feel the need to differ with her
today, all of 5 years later. Because with Paula, it's impossible not to
flow with perception when you lend her a stage.
with Paula, it's not a matter of power coming with responsibility. She
takes responsibility everyday...and everyday, her power to change the
world rises to greater heights. She on many occasions calls former
President Moi's burning of ivory in the eighties "a massive global
She is wrong.
How? Here's how. Paula Kahumbu is THE "massive global political statement". Even without trying to be. Because she does not try to be.
French_FreddyPosted by Fred Fri, May 11, 2012 11:15AMSometimes
to err is human, and to human is to exaggerate. I've been guilty of many
exaggerations in my posts, and a lot more
take-my-head-off-and-smash-it-onto-a-drum melodrama. This, however, is
Do you have an 11-year old in your homestead? Does he skate like Evan Doherty and drive you crazy like a Kenyan matatu with his occasional falls off his prodigious pedestal? Maybe your kid even says the times table to the nth power? Impressive, aye? Well meet Richard Turere and get a bit depressingly impressed.
At the age
of 11, I had made out with - and told on - about 11 girls since
kindergarten and gotten over them. At 11, Turere had faced LIONS; conquered, gotten over them and all!!!. I kid you not, Samson. And no, ladies and lions do not have any similarities. Save for the retractable claws.
Here's how the cradle of brilliantkind
did it. Without any knowledge of electronics or advanced art in
science, Richard faced the possibility of losing his responsibility and
livelihood as a cattle-herder in the plains of Kenya to the Man Eaters
of Kitengela. Impossible odds, no? How about learning that he actually
cared about the lions almost as much as he did his cattle, and did not
see them as expendable creatures? Impossibler
anyone embodies possibility, this idea worth spreading is the young
Turere. He came up with a system of dancing lights using a car battery
and bike indicators, strategically lined along his homestead's fence.
All this from the observation that lions did not like [read 'scampered
off like little kitties'] at the sight of a flickering torchlight. And
in this simple innovative way, complicated as Kenyan politics for a kid
who shoulda been doing his tortuously impractical 8-4-4 homework, Turere
He has now, at age 13, graced Brookehouse Schools with his presence: on a full scholarship to meet and interact with dozens of bright young Kenyans like himself - or lesser even - and have the same sort of impact but on a bigger scale. Kudos to Brookehouse for that, but even more kudos should go to Paula Kahumbu for finding the young prodigy, and the most kudos to Turere for taking initiative. Not for being a part of the solution; for being the ONLY solution that the neighbourhood he lives in has in the face of predation.
Food for thought, that, Mr List-all-the-problems-Kenya-has-NEVER-the-solution. And of course am not about to forget you, Mrs Oh-My-Nailpolish-spilled-over Oooh-that'll-make-a-cool-tweet!
So you say the 'T' in T-Pain stands for Teddy? No way! Turere patented #Winning long before we had the hashtag! He now also joins FabLab. Inspired yet? I'll hazard a guess it's either that or utter standing ovation while inwardly green as a pea pod. The time to act is NOW!
See Photos of Turere and the Lion Light at @PaulaKahumbu's post, WidlifeDirect
[Blogger @french_freddy's earlier posts can be found in the Diary of a Serial Schizo]