Thursday, 23 November 2017

The African Summit on Entrepreneurship & Innovation (ASENTI) Uganda 2017 Report 1.0

Photo Courtesy: ASENTI

Day 1

We were ready. The voices of matatu conductors from the road below echoed through the second floor corridor of our bed and breakfast hotel. I fastened my cuff lings as I and two other Kenyan delegates made for our breakfast in the small dining room downstairs, next to the flight of stairs on the back side of the hotel. The view of the hilly capital as we descended dissolved every inch of tiredness we carried from our journey there. It was breath-taking under the misty morning sun.

Photo Courtesy: getty images

Mathew, the hotel tenant, subtly explained to us that because of our early morning arrival, the hotel had not made any breakfast for us. Regardless, he offered to take us to a local café and even paid for the food as well. Good man that man. We decided on a delicacy served at breakfast called katogoo. It was a plate of white rice laced with beef soup and a scoop of sukuma, a few pieces of cooked cassava on the side complimented with small pieces of sweet potato all covered in groundnut stew and, finished off with a piece or two of boiled meat and a mug of milk, brewed with a pinch of tea leaves and turmeric powder. And we haven’t said anything about lunch -- I had a feeling I was going to like this country.
A typical plate of Katogo. Ps, the sukuma and groundnut stew was the "Katogo Special" package. Photo Courtesy: naturemeetscultures..wordpress 

We had an intriguing chat about healthy foods and why you should drink hot tea instead of cold water when thirsty with one of the locals who joined us afterwards. I know, and oddly enough, he wasn’t a fan of their delicacies. He had sliced chapatti and beans.

The venue for this summit was a mere 5 minute walk from our hotel. We met a Senegalese delegate along the way who turned out to be on the same floor of the hotel we were. As we shared formalities, I couldn’t shake how much the roadway resembled the outskirts of Nairobi. Its sides was red alluvial soil littered with broken pieces of asphalt from the road. On one side was this bordering alluvial red-stained wall with a neatly trimmed waist high hedge matching its length that harbored a grand Catholic Church. Yes, it reminded of Nairobi, a less chilly one.

After getting lost in the complex the venue was in, we found our way like pros with a little mentoring from the staff to the Village. Innovation Village was grand in its simplicity. That is when it hit me; I was in another country, attending an Africa-wide summit and had just eaten a lunch that is breakfast material in this airspace… Concisely, this was one of those “I just can’t” moments.

We registered and got our badges and programs. DELEGATE, it said. 
The badge

I was happy. I was proud.

The summit had already began. The theme for that morning was on Re-thinking Innovation in Africa and on speaker was Dr. Ian Clarke, founder of the Clarke Group. Even though we missed half of his talk, his contributions across the whole session showed just how much he believes in helping others grow and, having strong moral values in terms of trust and transparency in any organization.

Dr. Clarke (far right)

Here are the key nuggets of gold I was able to mine from his talk:

Ø  Build on your values; walk the talk, which is what being passionate means. Your word should have weight, responsibilities and consequences.

Ø  Always sell who you are; people buy into your ideas not because they might be great, but the one selling them is, and how much he/she believes in them. Do this and you will get followers, support and investors. (my favorite)

Ø  Your success is a measure of your successes and failures, not the sum of your successes; be patient and don’t be afraid to fall. Everyone falls, but the ones who stay down are the failures.

Ø  Think of your ideas as of now; never let your ideas fade away. Write them down, work on them, share with others.

The next speaker was Mr. Anthony Tafadzwa Munyaradzi, CEO of Taffie Communications in Zimbabwe. The one thing I loved about his wisdom was how he gave the basis of innovation required in every individual. 

Anthony Tafadzwa during his talk

Opening with this point, here are his core inspirations I resonated:

Ø  For you to be an innovator, you need to have a solid identity; be comfortable under your own skin. Know your element, and then own it. Figure you out first- others will always be there to emulate. You won’t. (my favorite)

Ø  Critical thinking is what stands between success and quitting; things always get hard. The difference between the one who overcomes them and the one who quits is finding that gap they can thrive in. But you must think it up first.

Ø  The world is changing, so change with it; technology is advancing with every dawn of day. Make sure anything you do today is technology proactive.

Ø  If you don’t like where you are, move; you are not a tree :-P

Kate Kibara, Founder and CEO of Kate Organics was the next on stage. One would not know the value she carries with her until she begins to speak. And I can well say, man did she speak. 

Kate Kibara delivering her wisdom

Here’s a recap of her wisdoms:

Ø  Lack of capital; everyone starts with nothing. So wherever you are, it’s not a valid excuse. Make do with what you have, and the rest will come. (my favorite)

Ø  Mentor-ship; having a mentor is like taking a shortcut to success. Find someone you want to emulate and seek their advice as often as you can

Ø  If you fall, think your way back up; not all ideas are viable, but all the viable ones are ideas. Never stop thinking of a way through your hurdles.

Ø  Adapt and change with your environment; always consider the space you operate on as it always determines what works.

Ø  Think of ways to move your ideas forward; without action, ideas will always be mere thoughts and dreams.

Ø  If you want to succeed in business, plan to fail; always have something to fall back to so that you can give yourself another chance to get back up.

After Mrs. Kate’s piece, we broke for a-tea/coffee with egg on bread toast and sausage slices-break. I honestly did not anticipate this in the program since katogoo had done its job and did it well.

As we stood in line, the ostentatious vibe of the place slowly sunk in. The serving counter was made of re-designed wooden damp-brown crates that flattered the re-used sofa sponged-wooden couch beside and the wooden framed-glass-top tables all round. Behind it was this off-white wall that endorsed light diagonal strokes of brown paint and random deep brown chunks of wood displaced casually. A wooden guitar stood head height and a few frames of abstract art of African women and guitars hanged either side. By the serving counter was a pillar, on which suspended two pictures of a lit city street that entailed romantic pre-historic buildings reflected perfectly on a still body of water beside, amidst the painted silent night. One was colored, the other black and white. The whole theme was sealed off by this set of clear bulbs hanging from the wooden ceiling above, emitting a sunset orange light from its glowing sun-yellow balls of light at their bulging bottoms, which dosed the place with savor and a relaxing almost scent of wood and brown.

I was excited.

I was glad.


And most importantly, I couldn’t wait for what was to come next.  

Writer's Note
I was warming up tea for my midnight snack when I remembered a friend I had in high school. I have no intentions of complaining when I say my first years were tough for me mentally. I was shy, introverted and couldn’t express my thoughts in words—that’s classic wierdo anywhere in the world. But here came this guy who knew what I meant every time I mumbled nonsensical words, shared with me his time, his Life, and even joined me in living my fantasies without carrying a care in the world about whatever others said.

Ali Dhidha, you stood with me when no one else knew I had fallen. You understood me when no one else knew I was talking. Once upon a time we lived in a world only the two of us knew existed. And now that I can share my mind with this world, wherever you are, I thank you for sharing your life with me. For just a moment you made me feel like I belonged…like I could breathe under all the pressures. I am grateful. And every word write today is a testament to that. Allah bless you in every way, Ameen.

Your bro from them days,

Abdulqadir Mahmoud—tc.



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