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Posts Tagged ‘Female Entrepreneurship’

So, my poor blog has been thoroughly neglected, but I have been on a good cause! Happy 2010 people! Maybe a little late in coming seeing as its February and all 🙂

It’s been a hectic busy and very eventful 5 months (that is how long I have been back), but I feel like I have been here forever – nimekuwa mwenyeji tena – complete with driving amidst mad matatu drivers on bad roads, sitting in a matatu with blaring music I do not understand ( ama ni uzee? Lol!) It is a little different when you are back visiting for a few weeks, and it is a totally different scenario when you are back for a little longer – as in my case. I say “back for a little longer” because I have yet another part of my “relocation” that I will be going on in the near future that will be my next 4-5 years. That will be talked about when it happens.

Holiday season was very eventful and exciting! All of us were home together for the first time in 10 years. And it was an experience I would not trade for anything! Then its amazing that 10 years ago, we were kids and this time around, there were grand-kids for my mom- talking-too-much, running around grown grandkids!!! Blessings, blessings! Of course, for the first time in many years, I got to enjoy my holidays, winter – free! No winter coats, no scarves, mittens, no snow, no ice – just good weather! (Though it rained a little too much this time around) –Bliss!

I am very humbled and pleased to announce that, together with some people near and dear to my life, heart, dreams, visions and goals, we have founded a Foundation that is geared to developing young female entrepreneurs. We are specifically targeting young disadvantaged girls and our goal is to equip them with a skill and training that will alone enable them go “out there” and be self sustainable. We are absolutely not training the young girls to go out there and look for a job, though that is a choice they will ultimately make for themselves – there is a very serious paradigm shift going on globally and Kenya has not been left behind.

Entrepreneurship is it!

My Doctoral Research will be on Female Entrepreneurship as I had alluded to here so, as you can all see, I am finally, finally, after many years in Financial Markets, beginning to live my passion and that is something that I am profoundly grateful for. Baby steps but I am very confident that our vision at the Foundation is coming alive in a big way!

So besides fine tuning documents for registration and grant presentations, building our initial office facilities (read haggling with Kenyan Fundis that are seasoned to look down on wanawake), extensive travel, getting sick three times, serious networking ( I have talked to people I have never thought I would talk to and folks – its been quite an adventure) – it’s been fun.

I am very picky and detail oriented but I was occupied with other things and didn’t have the time to sit and type up constitution, drafts etc so I had someone do that for us – BIG mistake! Gosh – I got the first drafts and I used very many little words (bearing in mind I am the “polished type” that doesn’t curse). Yaani there were so many mistakes, I wanted to beat someone up! Then I realized, well, I better do this myself – and that put me about 3 months behind schedule because I was basically re-working a lot!

We are working on the Corporate Blog for the Foundation (as we work on the website etc) and I should send a link in a few weeks – so much to do! By the way, for those that do not already know, Social Networking is the in-thing. Yaani nowadays, you can do some facets of business efficiently via just a corporate blog (if well thought out) and even on Facebook. I am not surprised, because I have seen first hand what and how such avenues as Facebook and Blogs can be used in a very powerful and positive way.

Of course, we have issues we have to deal with, like any organization, but we are taking it one step at a time and realizing that Rome was not built in a day. We are taking the things we have to deal with in stride and in line with our mission and our vision.

As Executive Director, boy, the curve balls come each hour! And I realize that people want answers from me! It is greatly shaping me and with each day that lapses I am learning so much. I am no longer in a position where I can just leave and hope that someone gets the job done for me – I have to go out there and get things done. Very exciting, nerve wrecking BUT fulfilling! I knew it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake when I resigned from my Treasury job in the US, and it was something I knew I wanted and had to do – so help me God.

My Mom deserves special mention here – she seriously has been there so so so so much! I WOULD NOT have been able to do this without her support: emotional, moral, spiritual, networking (she knows everyone!) and financial support! She keeps telling me I can do it – and that keeps me going!

There are going to be subsequent posts concerning this (moving back), coz there is so much I want to write about but cannot do so in one post so watch out for, but be patient – Lol! And I hope I will actually get to doing that.

There are 2 things that I want to quickly mention though.

My friend ( and my once roommate in Kansas when we were in Grad School) and I were going for a latte at Savannah in Down town Nairobi and walking down the streets, we bump into this guy that was also living in the same city with us that now works with my friend in Nairobi. During dinner, as we caught up, we were amazed at just how many of us that were living abroad are now back home either working or running our own businesses.

The beginning of the end of brain drain? Maybe.

But one thing I am thankful for is that I am not back to Kenya to “look for a job” per se. I think that would be a very exasperating and novel idea for me right now.
I personally know of about 10 Africans (in professional jobs in the US, UK and Canada) that have been back to their countries in the past year. And I know of a good number that are returning in the coming months.

The second thing I want to note is that I have observed and gladly enjoyed the fact that there are a good number of young Kenyan women “doing their thing” back here. Some are married and have families, some are single and have no children, and some are single parents. In all these situations, I have had an opportunity to interact, in my three months back, with some seriously fierce Young African Women who know what it is they want in life and are going after it. The complacency that was previously held about and concerning us is just simple no longer in existence.

There are still some weirdly insecure and sick men and women out here, that still perceive young women or just women in general in the patriarchal idiocies that defined our (African women’s) place in society, but like I like to say – there are some things that are so etched in people’s DNA’s hakuna haja trying to change them.

A man, a grown Kenyan man, we were consulting on some technical aspects of the Foundation at one meeting told us there are some things a Kenyan Woman cannot simply do and needs a man to do them. We thought it was a joke in bad taste and let it slide that time considering the business at hand – big mistake! (Out of the 7 Trustees, 4 are women). That guy said the same thing in a subsequent meeting and we respectfully told him we no longer needed his services – chauvinistic idiot! I wonder if he has a wife or daughters!

And surprisingly, these self proclaimed, know it all, save the world men are the same ones that have no issue whatsoever with a woman picking up the check all the time, paying for their indulgences etc. They only feel the need to assert and affirm their man-ness to other people (and perhaps themselves!) when they are dealing with a woman who reads into their BS and refuses to indulge their nonsense! Bure kabisa!

Such thinking simply has no place siku hizi!

There are other pleasant things going on in my non-business life that I don’t want to blog about yet, but boy, am I glad to be back!

Happy goings everyone and do not let anything stand in the way of doing what it is you want to get done. The major thing begins with YOU taking the first step.

Be bold and have a great year!

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I have a personal philosophy; I believe that you cannot change a society by mere giving – I believe that you change a society by enabling its members to be participants in economic development. I believe that you can only effect sustainable development by building capacities in men and women in ways that will ensure they are able to earn their own livelihoods. This is my cornerstone for my passion for entrepreneurial activities, entrepreneurship research and specifically female entrepreneurship.

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Many years ago, fresh from high school, equipped with a diploma in computer studies, I had an opportunity to work for an entrepreneurship development center in Kenya as I got ready to go to college. The center basically did project proposal appraisal, but mostly geared its efforts towards issues facing women entrepreneurs in one rural part of Kenya. I was immediately drawn into that vision and that sparked my interest for business, entrepreneurship etc.
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For undergrad, our Business class was required to write a thesis/paper either based on our industrial attachment experience or on a business area of interest to you. I didn’t really gain much from my internship experience so I wrote a 120 page paper on Integration of Women in Entrepreneurship and did a case study of one specific Metropolis in Kenya. I knew that this was just the beginning of things to come – and I was right.

When I was working on my MBA a few years ago – my focus on what it is that I wanted to do say 20 years from today was even further accentuated….Not that I am going to write it here….Lol:-)

All, all and all need to know are that I have an immense zeal for female entrepreneurship activities in Kenya – name it – R&D, training, understanding role conflict, motivation for business, issues in running businesses, success factors, micro financing, public private partnerships etc and all those other things that will ensure that women are well placed to be able to engage in entrepreneurial activities.
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A while back I read Prof Muhammad Yunus’s, Banker to the Poor and was totally floored. Honestly, I had heard only briefly about the then, Dr Yunus and his Grameen Foundation and the work they were doing among women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. After reading the book, then listening to a series of interviews he did after that, I totally understood why he had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
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One of my favorite books is End of Poverty, Economic Possibilities for our time by Jeffrey Sachs – Prof Sachs simply says that we CAN alleviate poverty, and do it in our time, not our great great grand children’s times – paraphrasing the book would be an insult – its one of those you have to read to draw your own paraphrases. He stresses the need to work towards attaining the MDG’s – Millennium Development Goals, among them Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty – no man, woman or child should die because they are hungry or because of Malaria 😦
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I have a hypothesis – hear me out:

Attaining the MDG’s first has to begin with an empowered society. I believe that sustainable development requires a fully participative population – that you have men and women that are WILLING and ABLE to earn their livelihoods in some way.

Aside:
You know when people talk about earning a livelihood – most people have images of people waking up, dressing up in suits and going to a job or driving an expensive car or sending their kids to the best schools in the country. Well, fortunately, that is not the case being referenced to as far as the MDG’s are concerned.

What we need is that people will be able to feed their families, allow children to have some kind of education ( so that they don’t vote for some way ward politician because he has offered them a pack of Unga etc), have access to health care and be treated equally in the things that be…

So back to my hypothesis, it is about time, specifically in Africa that people were able to have a “decent” livelihood going on – something that will only be possible if the WILLING are ALLOWED to earn their livelihoods. By “allowing” I mean, access to resources and an environment that fosters “participation” – just to be short, since this we can discuss for elongated periods of time 🙂
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Dr. Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian Economist, has been fueling some global discussions about Foreign Aid to Africa. A friend recently recommended her book, Dead Aid: Why Aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa to me. I got the book, but I have yet to read it – Yaani I have SO much going on, BUT, I shall be reading the book from next weekend – that has been placed on my calender 🙂 – So I am not going to comment on the contents of the book yet.

I have however, listened to a couple of excerpts from Interviews she has done and read the NUMEROUS reviews about her all over the net.

Aside:

Special note is being made to her being an African Woman FIRST – then being a PhD in Economics among other academic credentials and professional qualifications.
Well – I am glad the world is finally coming to terms with what we have LONG known – that we African women can do whatever we set our minds to do 🙂 – and do it excellently – and we CAN do all that in Stilettos if we choose to 🙂 :-)!

Dr Moyo, basically says – there are other ways that Africa can get on the path towards sustainable development and keep going forward. She advocates such avenues as incentivising poor countries to access finance on international markets, supported by the tripod of micro finance, trade/FDI and remittances – Instead of GIVING, LOAN! I like!

I am not going to say that I buy into her arguments hook, line and sinker; but I do like the central idea which is – don’t just give aid, give aid to the right persons e.g to the entrepreneurs that need capital for raw materials instead of giving it to Governments without PRECISE stipulations on where the Aid money should be used. How many governments in Africa are misusing Aid Funds? Too Many! Mere giving is not going to change Africa if people are not presented with some kind of responsibility.
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I like that idea and like Prof Yunus and Prof Sachs, I know the day is coming when we will see an African Continent that is empowered. I also know that Female Entrepreneurship is well on its way to “officially” becoming the IT, that will transform the lives of so many families in Africa!

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I am intending to make my own contribution to this – as I best know how to 🙂

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Edit:

A friend of mine ( thank you! ), this morning pointed it out that Prof Sachs and Dr Moyo recently had a fall-out as concerns the Foreign Aid Model and Africa. Prof Sachs ( once Dr Moyo’s professor at Harvard), seems to believe that the Model she is proposing i.e not depending on foreign aid for sustainable development is more suited for emerging economies and not the developing nations per se. And we wonder why Africa is still lagging behind in economic development! *sigh*

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I would like to say that my personal opinion is one where Africa will NOT have to depend of Foreign Aid – each Nation will have to curve out its only model to wean itself off Aid, but I believe we need to get away from the just receiving attitude we seem so complacent with and know we CAN use other available investment avenues to get onto sustainable development keep going from there :-). I like what Dr Moyo says, she says Foreign Aid should be short, targeted and finite – not indefinite as we currently have it!

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, has been a strong proponent for African Nations to begin weaning themselves off Foreign Aid by building up Savvy business Ventures and developing and embracing smart economic policy – I like that!

Rwanda may be depending on Aid right now, as does the rest of Africa, but at least we have a President that is thinking progressively and long term in terms of sustainable development for his country. They may not get there today – but it is a commitment they have emarbarked on – Slowly but surely! I can bet in the near future – Rwanda will be so worth watching economically speaking – if it isnt already! I dont care what political views Kagame holds, all I can see is that he is thinking smart policy for his country.

I wish we had more such progressive leaders in Africa!

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