Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lessons from a White African

After a beautiful Friday night, I woke up at 9.00am (with lots of trouble!) to catch up with AlyKhan Satchu’s Mindspeak monthly event at Westgate. Ushahidi creator, Erik Hersman (who I have followed on twitter and blogosphere for a while; was the man with the Mic and top on my agenda was to know more about Ushahidi, their newest kid on the block ; Ihub, and just the person behind his better known blog name “white African”

( I think Erik ironically is more African than most of us!: will tell you why in a bit)

Eric did a great presentation and introduced us to his world, and while we know of all the success stories with the Ushahidi model being taken as far as Haiti; I mostly enjoyed how he openly shared some of the failures they face and how they go around it:

He also said something I think most entrepreneurs need to engage in their day to day: Eric follows the 80:20 rule, where 80% of his time is spent on normal work: daily routine) and the other 20 % working on edgy stuff, projects that have a high likely hood of failing: That way you expose yourself to an environment that forces you to learn more, I sort of feel that this is kind of stuff “doers” are made of.

The presentation was followed by a Q& A session which turned into a very engaging conversation; with topics ranging from regulation; incubation & pre-incubation for startups, seed capital; VC and Private Equity;and even touched on media and it’s pre-occupation with politics other than a focus on development stories. It was interesting to note that it was felt that International media is doing a better job in telling good stories from the IT world; while the local media seems pre occupied with politicking.

As a journalist I tried to defend; But also gave the attendants my two cents on how to get media publicity. It’s a thin line between free marketing/ publicity and Journalism. I would be caught dead reporting on a product launch, but I may probably call the same person to comment on an area of expertise; say development of mobile applications: and my take is that entrepreneurs have to position themselves as providers of content other than product developers. If I begin to respect your name as an expert, I am sure my audience will appreciate it. Be confident in your expertise, and use that to propel yourself as a brand.

Today’s world runs on relationships; make an effort to network, meet the “right” people, identify journalists that cover your kind of stories and interest them in what you are doing. And it is a two way traffic; as white African put it; journalists may also see you as a resource if they are looking for someone in your industry, info on different subjects etc;

White African notably dressed in a TED Tee shirt talked about something I have wanted to really blog about; I have but, a full page of rant on why we need Africans who are proud enough to be Africans.

A proud, confident person usually works, performs better than one who has tucks his tail between his legs, we need a mindset change and in my words I say “we need a to raise a new culture, a culture of proud Africanism. Then we will begin to think bigger; look at the bigger picture; and begin to work with each other.

One lady raised an issue about interconnecting with tech hubs from the UK, Denmark etc; and White Africans cultured response was that “we first need Ihubs in Africa to be networked. Ghana, Rwanda, & other African countries, raise ourselves up as Africans, and then after that we can begin to look at the Ihubs abroad.

Now that’s a Proud African.

We are usually, too quick to look abroad, finding funding abroad, when right next door in Uganda for instance, or Tanzania we could partner with like minds and make the most out of what we have. It's culture Africa has never had, and it goes back a long way. That will have to change if Africa wants to be a respected voice.

The rest of my day was spent at a Kids Easter party with Imani, left her to play and went window shopping, bought a ring which I wore on my right hand, when I got back, she look at it and said “ mum did you get married?”

That’s all folks! See you on twitter? (TerryanneCNBC)

I later set up an interview with "White African"


  1. Thanks for the insight and thoughts. I think Erik has it right, we do need to collaborate with ourselves first and appreciate what it is we are doing on the continent. It is high time the world started COMING to Africa for the latest and greatest, instead of us always looking to jump on the next plane to show off what we have accomplished.

  2. The phrase of "proud Africans" strikes a cord. Indeed, as Eric mentioned we must look within the country and continent to build our capacity and networks before or, as an alternative to mainly seeking outside intervention. This was a common theme discussed at the "Animation Expo" held yesterday in Nairobi. Our challenge was creation and marketing of relevant and quality content for the different media outlets. Lots of young, vibrant hungry minds there.

  3. I received some negative energy from Kenyan Wizard on some things mentioned herein; and am sorry I will not publish it; while the rest of us are keen on moving to the next step; it does amaze me how much we doubt development and try to make excuses for it.

    Kenyan Wizard, My blog has no space for that.

    We need more positive thinking Africans.

    TMSRuge you are doing great stuff with African Diaspora and that definately takes collaboration to another level, with those Africans with International Exposure:

    Gitonga,I got a comment from #colouredopinions called "Typical Anglophone talk"when I quoted Kagame on why Africans are the solutions to their own problems, and this big brother attitude wont take us anywhere.( I also offered him that Kagame is francophone)

    I am currently reading a book titled "The logic of Life" and on the dedication page he says" And To Africa' who will get her chance in the stroller" I am still trying to figure out whether Africa is a child in The writers neighbourhood because that's the "big brother attitude " I am talking about. (the book's very good though!)

    Maybe I am just an angry African! But I am a positive thinker and I will talk of the development happening here with my held up high.

  4. Great post, I missed the #Mindspeak talk but i caught up with Eric before he left and i was impressed with how positive he is about tech space in Kenya and Africa. I guess if many Africans start adopting such attitude we will be far..very far.

  5. Thanks Terry for the insights. I couldn't agree more. The day we as AFricans stop begging and thinking that the West must always "give" something is the day we will become truly independent. We have got all it takes to do all we need to do and poverty mentality leaves us crippled and impoverished.
    I was at the iHub launch and seeing the young, vibrant Kenyans who were creating "our" stories left me having more hope for us as a country.

  6. TERRY,
    I must say i like your blog. Its personal and informative... What i like about the write up is that fact you tried to defend the oh so true aspect of the media in Kenya.
    Sometimes i am ashamed of being one reporter! If its not sad, controversial or sadistic.. then its not news in our radar!
    We have portrayed to the rest of the world how hopeless africa and in particular My country is. The next thing we see is our leaders following this with day in day out pleas for financial aid and such...

    Yet here we are as a country, we did so well in the eighties with no foreign aid... did we die? no! did our people starve? a little... but not because of aid but rather lack of national planning.. a phenomenon we still have to deal with to date!

    But who reports on those who are winning rotary and making it in life? who is reporting on those genius kids being born asking the right questions.. the saviors of the so called generation x? who is reporting on how the stock is coming out of the woods as Tiger Woods is? Who will report on those that are thriving in the coffee industry as we see them?

    There is so much beauty as it is than the crap we feed people with if you ask me... Its not a battle field in Africa. Its a resourceful continent in its teenage days...

    So don't defend our weakness... build on it, because when we come of age, believe me, Africa will lead the world!

    Muthoni Njuguna K24 tv

  7. Muthoni, you are right on point, wouldn't have said it better.Thanks for seeing the truth as it is, and bringing it out, we are our own worst enemies. Someone once asked me, when did you last see the footage of dead American soldiers in Iraq on CNN?

    We need to set our priorities right!

    @ Dorothy, Kachwanya, Gotonga...Thanks!

  8. Good stuff Terryanne.

    Will start following.

    I've never been to Mindspeak myself but it might have a good chance of becoming our very own TED.

    I hope the iHub lives up to the ever growing expectations :)


  9. I don't understand how I missed mindspeak this month but that's why I so so so love this blog. I am quite pleased that we have more people who are giving us the Kenyan experience for Kenyans. We need to flag more and more of this kind of content. The more kind of content like this out the better for everyone. Keep up the fire.
    Hey Imani!

  10. Terryanne,
    I love your blog, will be a regular visitor.
    Well, we need more stories like Ushahidi’s, and if Ushahidi is our only story, then let’s tell it over and over again.
    Africa has a strong heritage with solid roots and that’s all you need to reach for the skies. Being huku amerikani a lot of African Americans wish they had the heritage that was taken away from them, they constantly feel like something is missing. We on the other hand don’t have that burden, so let’s embrace our rich heritage (someone once challenged me on what ‘this heritage is’ but that’s for another day) and diversity and move with confidence (swagger). I declare that Obama gets his swagger from his direct African roots. Those visits he made to Kenya gave him clarity and conviction. At this point I’m reminded of Thabo Mbeki’s famous speech, ‘I am an African’.
    Bwana Erik is right, we shouldn’t be too quick to seek answers from the West. I have always felt that it is more powerful for an African to travel to another African country and witness the development thereof than it is for them to travel to a European country and witness even more development. The fact that fellow Africans have figured things out will lend more lessons to an African. It suddenly dawns on him that Africa is not a lost cause, that there is hope. So I do wish that the cost of travel within Africa could be cheaper if only for this purpose. But, in the meantime, we have forums like this, where like minded individuals can find each other because in those famous words of Margaret Mead, ‘Never believe that a few people can’t change the world. For indeed that’s all who ever have’.

  11. Ben, I have no idea why...but now many months later I have returned to this post..and it makes so much sense, what you say about a heritage to hold on to, it is being "African' that makes me think and act as I do, and I should be proud of i, WE should be proud of it: Afropessimism notwithstanding. I may be one small person in the heart of a "developing" country, but I am an agent of change, in my own little way, and my two cents is that all of us who are proudly African are agents of change, lets start from within, our thoughts, then our actions..because our's is not a dark continent, but a continent of dark skinned people.