Category Archives: Philanthropy

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Bethwell Ogot Footprints on the Sands of Time

My Footprints on the Sands of Time is an autobiography by Professor Bethwell Ogot (wikipedia),  an eminent academic scholar. It is a tale of a young man overcoming incredible hardships, and going through early schooling at Maseno, and later through winning scholarships and prizes, on to excelling at Makerere, St. Andrews (Scotland) and teaching with Carey Francis at Alliance High School. It also touches on his work and roles in the establishment of the University of Nairobi, and Maseno University, and at his travels to present papers and speak at prestigious conferences and other institutions across the world.

Ogot narrates tales on growing up in Luo culture, seeing emerging economic changes e.g. he took a honeymoon trip to Uganda in 1959 traveling on first class from Kisumu to Kampala via Nakuru, a twenty-seven-hour train journey. Later, when his father died on August 30, 1978, this was the day before Kenya’s first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was to be buried, and it was a period when the sole broadcaster – the Voice of Kenya refused to publish any other death announcements, newspapers would not publish any other obituaries as a sign of respect to Kenyatta, and coffin-makers were not willing to make any other coffins.

He was close to former schoolmates, who were now in government and its leaders. Ogot was waiting to meet Tom Mboya for lunch at the New Stanley Hotel when Mboya was shot (his death was not unexpected to his friends), and Ogot had an encounter with Mboya’s killer who was fleeing the scene.  He writes of his work to establish and get government and financial support for the Ramogi Institute of Advanced Technology – RIAT and a delicate dance with community leaders including Oginga Odinga who was firmly out of government.

The book has a wealth of information on corporate governance and management from Ogot’s time at regional bodies, parastatals, international organizations, donor-funded ones, universities that were in slow decline and government. He writes of working in research and publishing, and struggling to document and publish African history. Also of his times at the East African Publishing House that published books on political science, history, geography and a modern African library with much opposition from British Publishers who controlled publishing and later from government officials who set out to shut down independent academic stories. They published Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino that some critics considered a terrible poem ahead of its publication but which went on to be celebrated and sell over 25,000 copies.

There are also stories of navigating the East African Legislative Assembly, travels around East Africa, interacting with leaders and observing actions that were either supporting or undermining the East African Community. Uganda’s President Amin spoke of supporting the community even as he launched Uganda Airlines that he said would only do domestic flights in Uganda. There was also the importation of goods for Zambia through Mombasa that undermined the Dar es Salaam port and the Tazara railway, so Tanzania banned Kenyans trucks with excess tonnage from using their highways, and Kenya retaliated by closing its border with Tanzania. Officials in different countries also tried to keep community assets from leaving their borders, and Kenya grounded planes and withheld fuel of East Africa Airways which owed money to Kenya banks in a move designed to hurt vast Tanzania the most.

The most shocking tales are from his time working at the Museums of Kenya and its spinoff that saw Ogot as the first director of The International Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory – TILLMIAP (see an excerpt). It is a serious indictment of Richard Leakey who regarded TILLMIAP as his personal family fund-raising institution and who, with the support of Charles Njonjo in government and diplomats and donor agencies to warded of transparency and Africanization efforts – and were eventually to hound Ogot out of the institution.

Another tale is of when, as the candidate representing Africa on the executive board of UNESCO, he ran for the Presidency of the General Conference. But what should have been a formality of confirming his position became a long process after a surprise Senegalese candidate emerged to run against him – and France lobbied Francophone countries to only vote for a French-speaking African candidate, rules were changed, documents forged, and additional multiple election steps added before Ogot finally won.

The 500+ page book by Prof. Ogot does not have an index, but it’s worth reading all over again.

TEF Forum 2016 Part II

Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian businessman is considered one of the most influential business people in Africa. He’s been an advocate for seed financing and angel investing for entrepreneurship across the continent, something that he’s dubbed “Africapitalism” and advances this through the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship program that has seven pillars including mentorship, online resources, the annual forum, seed capital funding, and an alumni network.

Dr. Awele Elumelu and Tony ElumeluAt a Q&A session during the 2016 forum in Lagos, Elumelu spoke of his desire to expand the awareness of the program which currently has applicants skewed in Anglophone African countries (Nigeria had almost 1/3 of the applicants, followed by Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana). He said he’d been asked in France if this meant anglophone countries were more entrepreneurial but he said they were more aware of the program, and that he wanted to see more Francophone and North African participation in the program

He also spoke of his desire to grow the program even larger through partnerships with other organizations, one of which is the African Development Bank to match, and therefore double,  the number of fellows that the program is supporting.

Parminder Vir, the CEO of the Foundation also said that the 6-year-old organization would be  rebranding several aspects of the two-year fellowship program and that all initiatives will be realigned under the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). So there will be the TEF  entrepreneurship capital management , TEF entrepreneurship hub, and TEF research & advocacy etc.

 TEF Forum at the Nigeria Law SchoolVir said they had also built a platform to link partners and the diaspora with the entrepreneurs and which can be vital to the program (e.g. Nigeria get $62 billion from the USA in remittance). She asked entrepreneurs to engage on the unique social network (not facebook or snapchat) as the platform is unique for investors thought leaders, partners, funders –  VCs, PEs, Angels who want to come to Africa and now would now have access to 65,000 entrepreneurs in the  54 countries who were  pipeline of bankable investments, and 2,000 have who had already received advanced entrepreneurship training.

Already the entrepreneurs who are diverse sectors, use the platform to share their stories, engage each other, network, market to each other, pose and get solutions to problems they face. This platform also forms valuable data for research and trends and they will be producing more research reports to market to the diaspora and potential partners.

The largest sector of those supported in the 2006 cohort are in agriculture (27%) followed by fashion/clothing and ICT, and about 1/3 are women. Vir said they were committed to supporting 20-40% of agri-entrepreneurs every year and this was echoed by other participants including former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.

The next class admission class to the Tony Elumelu entrepreneurship program will start in  January 2017.

TEF Forum 2016

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) staged its 2nd entrepreneurship forum on October 28-29 in Lagos, Nigeria. Billed as the largest gathering of African entrepreneurs, it featured 5,000 young attendees who were recipients  of funding and support from the Foundation through its TEF Entrepreneurship Program.

TEF Forum 2016

TEF Forum 2016

The meetup is one of the support structures under the TEF Entrepreneurship Program‘s 10-year, $100 million commitment, which aims to find, fund and support 10,000 entrepreneurs across Africa over ten years. In the first year, they had 26,000 applications, and for these second they got 45,000 from every African country and selected 1,000 who are eligible to receive up to $10,000 to implement their business plans.

The attendees got lessons in entrepreneurship from business, financial and international leaders and other mentors and partners in the program, on things like raising capital and getting started in their ideas, generating revenue and making their companies bankable through efficient financial processes, how to build structures so that companies can survive beyond their founders (“business in your head has to be decrypted so it can last 100 years”  – said the UBA CEO) and on how to live within their means.

They were also startled to see and hear from past recipients including one farmer from Uganda who’s won a  $70,000 NGO order, and a Gambian entrepreneur who’s gone from earning  $20,000 to $2 million in sales through exports of mangoes and groundnuts. Also, some of the suppliers at  the event such as the caterer were past recipients of funding and support from the program.