Posted by: beninmwangi | January 3, 2008

Farewell from Benin Mwangi

Hi all, I know this is probably somewhat late notice. But the decision that I have made has been one of the most difficult in my life-discontinuing beninmwangi.com.

You, the readers and bloggers have made publishing this blog such a beautiful experience for me. I have chosen to put more energies into helping to make African Path and the Cheetah Index even better. It is probably just as much an emotional decision as it is an investment and a business decision for me and I sincerely hope that this blog has been good for you.

Of course you may catch me on Cheetah Index as editor and writer, as a writer and behind the scenes person with African Path, and as a conversationalist on the African Path Village. Please know that this is more of a continuation of my personal vision than a departure from you who have supported beninmwangi.com .  Also, you are welcome to visit me at any of the above sites and in this way we can keep the conversation moving forward.

Many thanks and much love to all of you.

Sincerely,

Benin Mwangi

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Posted by: beninmwangi | November 24, 2007

How Do African Businesses Get Start Up Capital?

Hi again, sorry again for the long pause. It seems to be occurring more than what I would like, but things have been moving at whirlwind pace recently.

Anyway, this is a question for all of you entrepreneurs, business students, professors, and others in the know on the inner workings of start ups in Africa. How did you or someone that you know get start up funds?

My conjecture is that it would go something like this with the most common sources of funding starting at the top:

Often times in my reading the biggest obstacle outside of weak infrastructure cited as a deterrent to entrepreneurs in Africa is the scarcity of start up capital, many of my acquaintances have echoed this sentiment. What I wonder is if there is a way that, with today’s technology, the start up capital reservoirs in Africa can be widened to the extent that a really good entrepreneur lacking personal funding or powerful connections can do more than just ask family and friends for start up capital (without necessarily having to fall under the umbrella of micro finance).

Posted by: beninmwangi | November 23, 2007

Cheetah Index to Premiere Soon!

Cheetah Index

African Path launches business site

As part of our mission to fill the void left by conventional media in covering African issues, African Path will take an active role in supporting and empowering the continent’s young and progressive decision makers. Today, African Path announces the launch of a dedicated business section under the African Path network which will be branded as the Cheetah Index. Currently the site will run on a Beta version.

The Cheetah Index derives both its name and inspiration from Ghanaian economist Dr. George B.N. Ayittey, author of Africa Unchained. A central topic in this book is the new generation of young African professionals who look at Africa ’s problems from a different and revolutionary perspective. Dr. Ayittey believes that this group of professionals plays a central role in re-vitalizing African economies. This group of progressive, problem solving and action-oriented Africans are called the “Cheetah Generation”.

African Path will build the Cheetah Index into a leading online resource for Africa ’s current generation of decision makers. These will include managers, entrepreneurs, government officials, educationists and other people who influence Africa ’s development. The site will provide breaking business news, profiles on African entrepreneurs and industry news while making it easier for business people from Africa and other continents to connect and network.

The site will premiere on November 26, 2007 at http://www.cheetahindex.com.

About African Path

African Path is an online portal that allows Africans to tell their own stories on the global stage. While most representation of Africa outside the continent is by foreign media houses, African Path provides the platform for Africans to express themselves. The site features daily headlines, opinion and commentary through our comprehensive blogs and an interactive calendar.

Visit us today http://www.africanpath.com

Posted by: beninmwangi | November 7, 2007

Happy One Year Blogging Anniversary!

November 3, 2007 was actually my official one year anniversary as a blogger.  It has been extremly fun and eductional.  The goal for my upcoming year of blogging is to further merge my blogs into my offline activities.  We’ll see how it works out.

Here is how blogging has the last year of my life…The differences between the “before ” and “after” for me have been quite stark. Prior to blogging my personal mission was the same as it is today but my daily activities were, for the most part, out of line with my goals. Where the change is even more evident is in my rolodex. If you had seen it a year ago it would have looked like the rolodex of someone who was all over the board, so to speak. But today there is a more of a specific type of a profile within my contact list-there are more professionals on the other end who are already doing business in or within the African continent or they might like to, than not. This means a lot to me. For that I have you, the reader, to thank-thank you!

Posted by: beninmwangi | October 29, 2007

What if They Don’t Buy?

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photo courtesy of: Bichu

This post I am writing in response to the story about the UK Soil Association’s decision to increase barriers to airfreight produce imports from other countries. When I read this story my heart became heavy for the Kenyan and Ghanaian farmers who will likely lose income and might ultimately be forced to sell or reorganize their farms; as a result of the harsh new standards imposed upon agricultural products flown into the UK from abroad.  Some are viewing this decision taken by the UK Soil Association as protectionist, I am not sure where I stand on this view yet-but it is difficult to completely rule out. However, it seems that this will most likely be the effect of their decision-that it might tip the balance of trade between the UK, Kenya, and Ghana drastically in the favor of the UK.

Here’s an excerpt from a BBCstory where they quoted Jane Ngigi, chief executive of the Kenya Flower Council:

“One minute we are talking about fair trade and market compliance, the next this is less of an issue and the issue is lessening the carbon footprint of the developed world possibly by cutting markets in Africa.

“It is so confusing.”

For Africa to export to UK and European markets, a smallholder farmer has to adhere to stringent environmental and ethical standards, which is a lengthy and expensive procedure.

African producers have worked very closely with supermarkets to ensure that these rigorous certification procedures are followed through resulting in the quality product the consumer buys.

Up until very recently I’d always seen the growth of the international organic food market to be the best thing to happen to farmers in countries like Kenya or Ghana. Organic produce farmers in these and other African nations appear to have a comparative advantage over their European counterparts within this small, but growing agricultural sector. And indeed over time this industry did in fact become an African farmers success story. However, according the the UK Soil Association the air freighted produce imported into the country threatens to increase the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, they are making extreme efforts to tighten controls on air freighted produce imports.

Kenyan Maize Farmer

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  photo courtesy of: Computer Aid International

The UK Soil Association’s drive to cut carbon emissions by allowing less air freighted food on market shelves threatens the agricultural exports of several African nations. My understanding of how it would play out is that the association would require the companies exporting air produce to the UK to answer questions regarding fair labor and to show how they are working on ways to circumvent the need for produce to be sent to the UK by air. Those firms that don’t meet the raised standards will not be able to apply the organic label to their goods. Thus, if the producers of those high quality organic foods still want their products on the shelves of UK supermarkets-they can still do it but their products will not be shelved and sold in the organic section.  Instead they will have to compete with the less expensive produce goods in the non-organic produce sections.  This could mean that consumers would have no incentive to buy the more expensive African imports.

Again, I haven’t fully made up my mind on how to view this. But one thing is for sure-change is on the horizon for Africa’s farmers. If they in the West won’t buy, African nations may may need to look more at their neighbor states or perhaps other nations in the southern hemisphere to find new markets.

Ghanaian Cocoa Farmer

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Photo Courtesy of: Wandering Ro

This is definitely a topic I’d like your input on. So please feel free to expound on what you feel African farmers should do to offset their possible upcoming losses or how you view this latest decision by the UK Soil Association.  BRE or Pablo, if you are reading, I am very curious to hear your thoughts.  Thanks.

Posted by: beninmwangi | October 19, 2007

Inspiration

During my time away from blogging about entrepreneurship in Africa, I have been inspired by the works of my neighbors ( in the Africa blogosphere). So I wanted to highlight a few of the posts that have left me in adoration.

In a post summarizing a conference that she attended, Ms. Uduak Oduok of Ladybrille asks the rhetorical question ” is entrepreneurship teachable?”; she asked this question in the context of development on the African continent.

Now of course, Ladybrille normally features the the business of fashion and beauty but for me this piece was certainly amongst the lovliest posts of all-thanks to the section on 9 to 5’s. After the opener Ms. Oduok went on to describe the highlights of the event and again I found her narrative of the event to be quite eduTancational and engaging. Reading this post surely helped to pick me up.

Next on my list was Kofi at Annansi Chronicles he wrote a very nice piece on Tanzania’s debut into the US Airwaves via their TV ad campaign. What I liked about this post is that like Ladybrille, Kofi was there-firsthand at the Africa Travel Association’s Second Annual Presidential Forum on Tourism to hear the news firsthand. He then relays that information back to us with a good bit of detail and anaysis of the event. Something else that can appreciate about this post is that prior to reading this post I’ve read some of Kofi’s other posts where he mentions the need for African countries to brand themselves. So I can imagine the excitement he felt when he actually had a chance to see someone taking that idea to heart.  By the way, I have seen the commercial on CNN and Tanzania is serious!

Ok, next comes a source that really isn’t a blog it’s actually a bedrock offline news publication called The Africa Report, this was the October -December 2007 issue. And the reason that I am mentioning here and now is that the article which I am citing was written by an Africa Blogger-Ms. Jen Brea. What Jen did was highlight each of the main genres of blogs that one would find in the Africa blogosphere like-politics and cyber-activisim, technology, gender, culture, group blogs, and of course my favorite-business 🙂 and she sort of brought to light their inter-connectedness; while also telling us how blogs have allowed all of Africa’s stories to be heard. And you know seeing both African Path and The Benin Epilogue mentioned there brought a big smile to my face, right? No, seriously, she cited such bloggers as Emeka, Politique au Senegal, Hash, Afromusing, Zimpundit, Sokari, Mzalendo, and many others. If you haven’t seen this issue of the magazine yet, Jen’s story definitely makes it something worth grabbing. Great job Jen!

Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to Branded, he is someone whom I have eagerly watched blossom into a very strong blogger. Branded was the person who came up with the idea to host the 5th Edition of the African Enterprising Blog Carnival on the African Executive. Additionally, he did a tremendous job with building publicity for the carnival through a sponsorship alliance, he also did all of the editing for this edition, as well as the very professional graphic design, and finally he orchestrated contest to participants which resulted in a carnival where nearly every submission was on the same topic-Positioning Africa for the 21st Century . I am both proud and appreciative of Branded for his magnificent contribution to the Africa’s blog universe. Branded, you’re professional grade like GMC trucks and great job on the carnival!

This will wrap up my thoughts for the day. But in closing, let me say that the posts mentioned above are quite representative of the overall quality of the African blogosphere. The component that each of the above posts share in common with each other and the greater world of Africa bloggers is that each is 100% substance over fluff. This to me is truly inspiring, today it feels good to be an Africa blogger!

Posted by: beninmwangi | October 15, 2007

Many Thanks

Before going on further, I just wanted to thank everyone forthe support that you have given to my family and me over the past two weeks.  Grief is not an easy thing to deal with but I have found that writing about my late father has been very soothing to me.   But just as much, the kind words of support that you have shared have been of tremendous upliftment.

I still have more to say about my Dad.  So, I will be doing that from a blog dedicated exclusively to him.  It is DrCharlesBrown.wordpress.com.  That is all for now, thank you again.

Posted by: beninmwangi | October 9, 2007

5th Edition of the Carnival of African Enterprising is Upon Us!

For anyone who is interested in airing their views about Africa in the 21st Century via the 5th edition of the Carnival of African Enterprising please submit your articles HERE.  Deadline to submit articles is on or before October 10, 2007.

excerpts from Blogging Africa into the 21st Century :

 The latest craze that seeks to use online discussion to further Africa’s positioning in the 21st Century is the Carnival of Africa Enterprising.

For newcomers, this is basically a traveling web magazine or blog that discusses business in Africa. Centered around a concept mooted by Blog Carnival, it spurs dialogue amongst African bloggers and other leading thinkers; and provides a forum for web publishers (such as bloggers) to discuss common topical and development oriented issues.

In short, there are many variations, but typically, someone who wants to organize a carnival posts details of the theme or topic to their blog, and asks readers to submit relevant articles for inclusion in an upcoming edition.   Writers who submit their articles to carnivals are rewarded with traffic if the host decides to link to their original article.   

The Carnival of African Enterprising, which is hosted on Blog Carnival but managed by ambitious youth interested in shaping the future of Africa, is only four editions old. Nevertheless, based on topics discussed so far, it’s among top Blog Carnivals that really seek to answer to Africa’s call to development. Some of its past editions have discussed:

1. Doing business in Africa (1st edition – hosted on African Path June 6th 2007)
2. Foreign aid, trade, business and entrepreneurship with focus on the African continent. (2nd edition- hosted on African Loft July 6th 2007
3. African business and economy (3rd edition hosted on White African August 5th 2007)
4. African business and economy (4th Edition hosted on nubian cheetah September 12th 2007)

The African Executive will host the 5th Carnival of African Enterprising from the 10th of October 2007. The topic of discussion will be: “Positioning Africa in the 21st Century.” 

This special edition of the carnival will also be featured in the annual Africa Resource Bank meeting, which will be held in Tanzania from the 11th to 14th November 2007.

(For anyone who is interested in airing their views about Africa in the 21st Century via the 5th edition of the Carnival of African Enterprising please submit your articles HERE.)

Posted by: beninmwangi | October 4, 2007

The Day My Dad (Dr. Charles S Brown) Changed My Life


3 professor brown

Originally uploaded by beninmwangi

People always ask me what inspired me to get so involved in Africa or how did I wind up wanting to promote the African continent as a business destination.

This is a question that I get fairly often. Most of the time people from the States and sometimes every now/then from people that I meet and know from Africa. It seems like the questions, behind the questions could be “why should it matter that there are business opportunities and successful entrepreneurs in Africa?” And “what do you know about Africa, anyway?” But, you know…my background’s not really in psychology or anything-thats just my take on these questions.

Anyway though, this post is my round-about attempt at answering both questions. So come on and let’s see if we can really just rap a tad and get to the bottom of it all. Be forewarned though, it’s a bit longish…

Now the year was September 1995, I was like a 3rd year sophomore at Morehouse College (I had just changed my major from engineering to economics). More importantly, my path seemed paved for the road of the entrepreneur. You see at 20 years old my partner and I had already started our own real estate biz. We weren’t making any real money yet, but everyday our Rolodex expanded. It really felt like the tipping point was right in front of us…And that’s when it happened-my father found out that he had been chosen as a Fulbright Scholar to teach physics at some university in Ghana, it was the University of Cape Coast, for like 17 months. He told me about it & and at the time, I had not bought into the idea yet. To my Dad’s credit, for the next one to two months he worked on me with subtle, yet persistent suggestions. Then he finally was like if you don’t go you might end up regretting it for a long time (Now my dad had a funny way of predicting things and almost all of his predictions came true). On top of this he dropped the bombshell on me, he said, “Ben if you don’t go, then I’m not going”. Now, I knew how much this trip meant to him, so that helped to change my mind.

4-dad-and-baby-me.jpg

Later on in life, I realized that’s that forever altered the course of my life; it’s the day that my father and I signed an unwritten or unspoken father and son agreement. Shortly after my decision was made I spoke to all of my professors and my student advisors to make sure that my student status would still be intact upon my return, which would be in a year. They assured me that not only would it be intact, but that since my father was going under the Fulbright Program, in essence I would be doing the same thing, plus on top of that since the University of Cape Coast had such a strong reputation, any classes that I took would count for the normal credit hours… This was October 95′-I think..

Oh, fast forward to November 95’…Since my dad and I were supposed to leave for Ghana towards the end of November my professors all agreed to let me take my finals a bit earlier. My recollection is that by the end of November everything was ready-my finals were complete, my father and I had taken our shots, physicals, passports, visas, then the going away party, and all that other good stuff.5-dad-me-kumasi.jpg

 So now, all we had to do was to prepare our belongings for the long journey, that lay ahead. This took about another week, which worked out fine, because our departing flight was probably like that first week in December. Funny thing about it is even though it seemed like we had so much time and were so prepared on the day of the flight we were still running around in a nervous frenzy. Someone, who was helping us do like some final packing on the day of departure had noticed that there were a lot of opened packages in our luggages-you know like toothpaste, lip balm, hair pomade ( that was back when I had a full head of it). Our friend who just so happened to be a big international traveler, was like where do you think you’re going with these opened packages….we were like, to the flight! But what happened is that we had overlooked the fact that U.S. customs & didn’t allow those opened packages on international flights ( something to do with international security). Inside the back of my mind was, “all these times Dad went to Africa (my father loves Africa and always has), how can we not know that you can’t carry opened packages?” By the time we took care of it we were late for the flight. Matter of fact when we got to the gate the plane had already started pulling away from the terminal. We ran as fast as we could and the airline agent who was about to leave his podium somehow managed to stop the flight from leaving without us.

 5-ddad-in-ghana-home.jpg

The flight itself was almost unbearable, from the time we left Atlanta until the time we arrived in Ghana was like 24 hours-granted we had a 6 hr layover in Amsterdam-which we maximized to the fullest. So by the time we arrived in Ghana we were so tired and dehydrated we didn’t know how we’d even make it off the plane. But we did make it off

What started out for me as just a one year study abroad tour in Africa, quickly progressed into one of the greatest bonding experiences that a father and son could have -Dad you were right again. And that was just the beginning.

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Posted by: beninmwangi | October 2, 2007

Dr. Charles S. Brown in Ghananian Village


dad in village

Originally uploaded by beninmwangi

This picture was taken when my Dad and I were in Ghana. We had the opportunity of a lifetime when a friend of ours, Awauni (seated next to my dad) offered to take us to his village “up north”.

The trip there, by car, was a real adventure. But the bonding that he, Nita (my second mom), and myself were able to do was incredible.

When you see my Dad seated there on top of the “main house” of this village compound, notice how happy he looked. This is how my dad was. He was as comfortable in an African village- as he was shaking hands with three African Head’s of State (Ghana’s Rawlings, Botswana’s Festus Mogae, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali). He was also at home in the academic and corporate worlds. And when I was a student at Morehouse College, we’d sometimes go for walks around the campus (which at the time had a low income inner city feel to it) and the way that my Dad would talk to the residents of the area, it was like he was one of the residents.

I think my brother, Dr. Daryl Brown summed it up nicely

“in Dad’s hometown of Boston, Mass he was known as Charlie, to the brothers around the way he was known as “Doc”, in academia he was known as Dr. Brown, in Ghana he was known as the Prof or as Nana, and to us he is affectionately known as “Dad”.

bolgatanga_painted_village.jpg

Photo Courtesy of: Wikipedia 

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