Meeting children’s author – Atinuke

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Atinuke Reads from her latest book – Baby goes to market.

I can’t recall the first time I picked up the Anna Hibiscus series. Our first two books must have been bought by my great friend Diana or I picked them up at TBC at the Junction Mall in Nairobi. I always look out for African writers for the little ones to increase their view of the continent and the children in it.

It was therefore a great pleasure to meet Atinuke, author of the Anna Hibiscus series a week ago through the Alternative Learning Centre (ALC). ALC is a home centered teaching space started by two amazing mums and which is the perfect fit for my last born right now. It was particularly intriguing and purely coincidental that Anna Hibiscus has been my Wed morning choice in the reading class I take on Wednesday mornings.

Here are a few questions – mostly from the few children around on the process of writing for Atinuke.

Q: Where do you get ideas to write and how long does it take to write a story?

A: My ideas come when I am asleep or at some inconvenient time so I often have to get up, sit at my desk and write them down. Some ideas are straight and flow, some do not. Writing a book can take many months to figure out. It can take only days, other times it can be between one and 6 months. Once I am happy with my story, I have to take it to my publisher who takes my ideas from emails to books. Then there’s the process of editing which may entail re-writing the story all over again, or just changing a few things in the story.

Sometimes the editors tell you to change all the characters, the whole story sequence, basically the whole book so that takes a whole lot of time. (This part is told in Atinuke’s storytelling voice).

Q: Where do you get your character names from? How did you name the twins double and trouble? 

A: It varies. It can be people who are unheard of, some I know but we change them a bit. The twins names’ are borrowed – when we were growing up, my sister and I were the original double and trouble according to my father.

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Q: How long have you been writing?

Professionally, since 1999 but I have always been telling African stories for as long as I can remember.

Q: Where do your story ideas come from? Like the orange seller is a common feature in your books. 

A: Growing up I wanted to be an orange seller (audience laughs) but my father was like – NO way, Go to school. In that story – Anna Hibiscus I wanted to explore what would have happened if I had the chance to sell oranges. Why would my father not want to do that because at the time I felt he was just being a spoil sport.

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Q: You have a different illustrator for each of your book series – Lauren Tobia for the Anna Hibiscus Series, Warwick Johnson Cardell for No. 1 car spotter. What’s the relationship between writer and illustrator? Do you have a say in the way the pictures come out?

A: If you are self publishing its different, but if someone else is publishing your stories its different. For instance once I write my book I send it to the publisher and they own the rights to my books. Someone can ask me to do something with my books but I usually say no, because I have sold my rights to my publisher.

In my contract however, I insisted I wanted to have a say in the illustrations. For example in this book, I love the illustrations and the illustrator is from Ghana even thought she’s grown up in England. When the pictures first came out there were all these pussy cats all around the market rubbing up on everyone’s feet. The editors loved the idea of the cats but I said we have to lose the cats and it was a big battle. My experience in Nigerian markets is people don’t have huge cats sitting on their laps and rubbing up on their legs and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be have a say in the way life is represented here.

Usually the images will be sent to me and  I will look at them, have someone follow as well and look out for any things we want pulled out and send them back. Once they are in color however, we can’t change anything if it had not been spotted before as its very expensive to make any changes at the point.

Q: Do you get to meet them?

A: Very rarely. Most of the time they are chosen by my illustrator.

Q: Where are your books mostly sold?

A: Mostly the UK and the US. In Africa, most of my readers are in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

Q: Which of your books surprised you most over its success?

A: I am generally surprised by the success of any of my books. In the US, the No.1 Car spotter is perhaps my most well read book. I once did an event in an impoverished area in Lutten (Netherlands) which also has lots of religious background. One of the Fathers stood up after a reading to say “thank you” for writing this particular book as he had grown up like this boy and he is finally proud to tell his children about his own background. These are the stories that make me proud as a writer.

You can read Atinuke’s post on the link below on her experience at the Storymoja Hay Festival, which she attended the year in which we had the dreaded Westgate siege in Nairobi. http://atinuke-author.weebly.com/home/storymoja-hay-festival-westgate-nairobi-2013

 

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20 Years On – The Prophecy: Fela Lives

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Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, born Ransome-Kuti is a subject of epic proportion and one that I am certainly no authority on. I did not grow up listening to the music of one of Africa’s musical legends, fiery State critic, and prophet in his own right. To others, an outright rebel. I encountered Fela’s music as a post graduate student, congregated with other Africans reveling in his music as we did that of Hugh Masekela, Oliver Mtukudzi and others. This year however, I have encountered him in several conversations, most of them inadvertently while researching some stories I am working on.

I glimpsed into Fela the singer while interviewing one of Nigeria’s prolific civil rights activists, Tunji Lardner on the subject of Kakadu, a celebrated nightclub from the 1960s. Kakadu was the first place Fela performed on his return from England before moving to Afro-Spot and eventually to the New Afrika Shrine. Lardner, whose father part owned and run the nightclub spoke of him as one of the most honest men he has ever come across in his life. He shared about the Koola Lobitos, Fela’s first band, their energy and how the public often misunderstood him.

It was Fela who popularized Afrobeats, taking from the original Highlife music mainly associated with Ghanaian musicians and Nigerian Yoruba bands, fused it with jazz and the funk and soul of James Brown. Yet Lardner also recalled the warts in Fela, acknowledging that he was really just an ordinary man.

Fela became a subject while speaking to Theo Lawson, architect and warder at Freedom Park, who turned the relics of what was formerly Her Majesty’s prison into a place where artists celebrate poetic freedom and license. Theo Lawson, who is also the chairman of Felabration, conceived the idea to built the legends tomb upon his death. This was his way of giving back to a man who influenced his ideas while still a student in the UK, arguing that just as there were European classics, there was African folklore and used Fela’s music as a backdrop to his own understanding of this.

Lawson part conceived the idea of Kalakuta Museum which preserves everything associated with Fela. Kalakuta was the singers residence and the name he gave to the communal compound where he lived with his followers after his release from imprisonment by the Nigerian authorities.

On Monday October 9th, Felabration held the 9th Annual Lecture Series to celebrate Fela, the man, and the legend. Conceived in 1998 by his daughter Yeni Kuti, Felabration is a week long festival for artistes and musicians celebrated once a year during the week of his birthday. This year’s events kicked off with the annual lecture series where Professor PLO Lumumba gave the keynote speech.

On the panel, sat Femi Falana, Fela’s lawyer of whom he said, “Fela was my client and the most interesting one I have had to date. He would come and tell me, I want to commit this offence and it is your business to use your neo-colonial law to defend me.”

Professor Lumumba spoke about Pan Africanism, looking at the movement in light of 20 Years of Fela’s death and 40 years since FESTAC, the celebration of African Arts and Culture, which was held in Lagos in 1977. FESTAC’s ideas can be traced to Negritude and Pan Africanism, inspired by Aime Cesaire and Leopard Senghor. The Festival was first celebrated in Dakar in 1966.

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The winners of the #Felabration2017  art competition unveiled at the event.

Using Fela’s music as a mirror, Lumumba drew out the realities currently happening across the continent. Quoting his famous line, “If a man wants to enslave you forever, he will never tell you the truth about your forefathers,” he made mention of the fact that Africa’s ideals in the 1950s and 60s are a long way off from where we are today. “We gained independence, Lumumba quipped, but it is now debatable if we are at all independent”. His lecture touched on corruption and cultural revival, which Fela stood for.

His song ‘Teacher don’t teach me no nonsense’ spoke against European hypocrisy in dictating African life and their inconsistency to point out wrongs elsewhere. Lumumba questioned the current tenets of democracy we use, imposed on us by the West and wondered if they are really right or wrong for us. For instance we are divided into Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa, created by colonial masters with no Yorubaphone, Igbophone or Hausaphone.

Some of Fela’s music was ahead of its time like Yellow Fever, released in 1971, which poked fun at skin bleaching. “Who steal your bleaching, your precious bleaching, you buy am for shopping for forty naira, you self wan yellow…” which Lumumba said was an affront to African identity and her pride and is still common amongst our sisters.

Zombie was undoubtedly Fela’s most popular song, his way at hitting back at an authoritarian government and its foot soldiers who simply did as they were commanded. The government responded to this song by sending 1000 soldiers to Fela’s Kalakuta home. They burned the place down and threw his aged mother down the window, fracturing her leg and suffering serious trauma. She never recovered and died a few months later.

One has to remember that Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was one of Nigeria’s heroines; a women’s rights champion, teacher and political activist. She was the first black woman in the country to drive a car. Fela’s father, the Reverend Israel Ransome-Kuti was a known academic of note who founded among other things, the Nigeria Union of Teachers. Fela turned his back to the religion he had grown up with, castigating religious leaders for their lavish lifestyles while their flock walked around in poverty, epitomized in his song “Suffering and Shmiling”.

Fela the revolutionary nurtured a close friendship with Thomas Sankara and seemingly sought to challenge the ideology of other Africans around him. He was not just a musician but gave over 60 lectures in campuses around Nigeria, according to his lawyer Femi Falana. “When Fela read the book How Europe underdeveloped Africa by Rodney Smith, he sent a lorry load of books to Ife (University) so they could read about it,” he noted.

To others, the late Fela was seriously temperamental, rambuccous in nature, a lover of women (he married 27 of them in one day) who poured obeisance to unknown spirits. Who can forget the Fela who walked around only in his underwear, items that are still on display at the Kalakuta Museum. 20 years after his death however, Fela lives on, like In the Broadway musical bearing his name or in the music of his sons Seun and Femi Kuti. His songs are as relevant today as when he first penned them.

So where do we find musicians of this generation with Fela’s spirit? As PLO quipped in his closing line, where are the young suckers growing when the old bananas die?

Kenya’s Sauti Sol will be taking the stage on Sunday October 15th at the New Afrika Shrine. Perhaps in celebrating Fela a consciousness will spring amongst the current crop of artistes and maybe, a Fela will arise from amongst them.

Additional Reports from the Internet.

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KAKADU – The Musical Reviewed

 

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Uche Nwokedi’s impressive musical Kakadu, which opens at the Johannesburg Theatre this June, may have been set in Lagos, Nigeria but its themes resonate with Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan and many other African nations.

Set in mid 1960’s Nigeria, the musical is told through the lives of four friends living in post independence Nigeria and working out the challenges that come with nationhood.

They meet frequently at Lugard Da Rocha’s Kakadu, whose name is borrowed from what was an actual nightclub back in the 60s. Nwokedi notes in an interview that Kakadu was the place his uncles often went to which inspired the decision to situate his musical around it.

Da Rocha, the boisterous nightclub owner puts on quite the show-taking guests through periods of musical history from the Limbo, twist and bop, to Nigerian highlife music like Rex Lawson’s Sawale and Bobby Benson’s Taxi driver. Lagos is a city of nightlife, the city of promise, the no-joke city.

The thrills in their lives – women, night escapades and economic aspirations are cut short by the Biafran civil war, rendering those like Emeka and Osas who came from the East back home while his friends Dapo and Kola remain in the city. There’s a period of searching for those left behind, wondering what had become of the country’s freedom. Da Rocha loses his clients to the war but it is in this haunting silence of his bar walls that he has to come to terms with his own identity.

After the war, Emeka returns to Kakadu to find his friends. Lagos feels like a different town and he cannot return to business as usual having been on the frontlines for so long. It is the conversation with his friends that resonate with anyone who has experienced war, unrest or ethnic strife so common across the African continent.

“Hostilities? Is that the euphemism for the war?” Emeka asks his friend Kola who refers to the civil war in this way. Nothing will ever be the same. The reality sinks in when Emeka makes a request to marry his long-term girlfriend Bisi – but she’s from a different ethnic persuasion and both parents will have none of this.

Writer Nwokedi pushes his craft in Kakadu. A lawyer of known repute particularly in the oil and gas sector, he is at home on stage in his rolled up sleeves as he is in the courtroom closing cases. Where legally he cannot get away with mere emotion, in Kakadu he exposes the boldness of poetic license, getting on stage a message across that shared elsewhere would perhaps have different results. The conversations are difficult but here they come alive on his stage.

At the staging of Kakadu in May as part of the activities lined up to mark Lagos@50, there was palpable silence across the auditorium. At the mention of the war, some people walked out, perhaps because the play is considerably lengthy without a break, but also that there is still a lot of discomfort at the mention of Biafra. Kakadu played to audiences alongside Fela the musical – a Broadway and Royal National Theatre production – and Wakaa the Musical, produced by Nigerian veteran Bolanle Austen-Peters, albeit on different dates.

The music on this show scores high; the voices blend effortlessly conveying the right emotion. Musical director Benneth Ogbeiwi who also plays Lugard Da Rocha combines his own skill and mastery of voice with those of the entire cast. There’s not a dull moment with the music, only tapping of feet and nostalgia of the music of yesteryear. The costumes lend to each period in time heightened by the artistic woven display of the women’s hairs.

The shows antithesis would be its length, at three hours and without an interval it is a stretch but the scenes are captivating and one immediately forgives the producer for this faux. Also, the dialogue from Emeka and his friends is a tad bit drawn out in the opening scenes but they make up for this with their animated dances, which follow thereafter.

It is a show relevant for 60’s Biafra, post-election violence Kenya in 2007, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 or even the protracted Sudanese civil war. It speaks to the memories of hope of the locals, their dreams and aspirations for their future against the harrowing recollection of loss, displacement and death of those they know.

A fortnight after Kakadu was staged, the Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua foundation and co-sponsors hosted a colloquium in memory of Biafra@50 which had Nigeria’s acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and former President Olusegun Obasanjo in attendance.

Issues of marginalization, the memory of entire savings and business entitlement whittled to a mere 20 pounds and the starvation of children were brought up. In the same vein speakers celebrated the citizen-to-citizen efforts made by ordinary Nigerians to form an inclusive community where everyone was represented.

In his speech, Prof Osinbajo alluded to Biafran commander Ojukwu’s words on why he didn’t think a second Biafra would not be necessary, “We should have learnt from that first one, otherwise the deaths would have been to no avail; it would all have been in vain.”

Although Kakadu the musical is largely about Lagos, high living and merry good times, it is largely about finding the right place to appropriate a nation’s history and question what do we do with this. Africa should be having more of these conversations. Memory has a way of constructing our individual and cultural identities, particularly in literature, both oral and written and should therefore be embraced to help us evoke nostalgia and then move on.

As a Journalism student at Wits in the early 2000s, I came across many students, particularly undergraduates who had no sense of the other Africa, still reeling in their newly found freedom as a nation-state blurred by the promises of BEE.

Grace Musila, associate professor of English at Stellenbosch speaks of this idea of South Africa’s conflicted relation to its Africanness in her essay Lot’s Wife’s Syndrome and Double Politics In South Africa.

Although speaking from the point of literary awareness from its students, her postulation that South African exceptionalism manifests a conflicted kinship to its Africanness and a fear of glancing back, becoming “like Africa”— a phenomenon recently embodied by Zimbabwe’s crises. She continues, “Like Africa” is shorthand for all that is wrong with many postcolonial African states, including developmental challenges, weak institutions, and various tropes of failure, arguing that this undermines their ability to learn lessons from the rest of the continent.

Kakadu would offer some sense of other for these students, and nationals of all African countries as they struggle with their own issues down South, examining in their own ways, their response to their neighbors from across the continent. Particularly Nigeria.

 

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ATTITUDE. is. everything.

The manicurist at the local salon is just that by day. By evening, she’s a student in Yaba  Polytechnic learning IT. I walked in today after about six months and randomly ask where the manager is today. “She’s late – passed on in December after a brief illness.” Such a sad story. Her demise opened a door for this young, quiet lady to become the stand-in manager. A girl who three years ago came in to clean the  floors and quietly learnt the ropes how to do a good manicure without formal training and is now holding fort as the manager. The power of attitude, the willingness to learn and open doors allowed her to get to where she is now.

There’s a great gift shop that sells children’s items and quirky fun stuff in Lekki. It was one of the first places that Wowed me for customer service. There’s this young lady,a  graduate of Political science who manages the place. She knows what you are looking for and helps you get it. I love her attitude particularly because you go to so many stores where attendants ask you as you walk in, “Madam, what do you want?” Not how can we help you. And if you don’t look the part they totally ignore you. I keep going back because of the lady’s knowledge and her attitude. Her sights are however set on working in the political sphere. Her dreams are valid.

I used to love my previous hairdresser on Awolowo Road. She’s skilled and great at her job but her customer skills are non-existent. Once, I deviated from her  because I was tired of the attitude and the man who re-touched my hair burnt my scalp and he couldn’t care less. About four months ago I was introduced to a new place in Victoria Island by a fellow school mum and friend. The owner is a naturalista and runs the place with her stylish mum in the backroom. She’s taught her stuff to treat people with respect and speak well. That’s my new space. A place that takes people for what they are and gives you your moneys’ worth.

The news channels have been filled with talk of South Africa and xenophobia against Nigerians. I try to explain to a friend that the cadre of jobs being fought for are not held by white collar Sandton sitting Nigerians. It is the Nigerians on Cameroon Street in Braamfontein selling tomatoes and sukumawiki, and slowly growing a business until they own their houses in Gauteng. It is the pimps in Hillbrow making money off uneducated young black girls who don’t see a future. They are  doing whatever it takes to make money because there in South Africa, no one knows them. Not like Lagos where everyone is hustling but no one respects your hustle until you make it. I heard the story of a man who built a huge house in Ajah, beautiful mansion but the neighbours bad mouth him saying he does menial labour in the US. Does it matter? Doesn’t his wife wear expensive lace and live in her house with a working generator off the sweat of her husband? But no one respects the hustle.

Effort is always rewarded. Solomon speaks about wisdom in Proverbs 3, 4 and the value of it. And whatever it takes, learn to serve with a smile and value people for who they are and not the size of their wallets. Difficult lesson for today’s world.

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School is #SMWLagos

The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice. Brian Herbert 

Attending Social Media Week (#SMWLagos) was a choice; the willingness to learn. It has the capacity to put you in a classroom full of teachers from various backgrounds and give you an education in one week on media and various disciplines. I didn’t have the space and time to attend the full week as I had hoped so only caught snippets of it in person and followed the curated videos via social media feeds. I got an education in music without the crazy videos but enough fodder on lifestyle, some history and how social media is influencing the next music phase. For one who feels ancient and out of touch with global music trends as I am, Social Media week just leveled me with many others.

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The strength of #SMWLagos lies in its ability to network and pull relationships to its stage year after year. State Governors, diplomats, fashion bloggers and booksellers, bank CEOs and music legends as well as ordinary citizens were all there.

This year I got to meet co-founder Obi Asika who is also creative entrepreneur. His knowledge of the entertainment industry across Nigeria and some of the African continent,  the US and the UK is quite impressive. When you have a panel that features Asika, Mo Abudu, Bonlanle Austen – Peters, Chika Nwobi and is hosted by Zain Verjee you know it will be good. As an outsider, you also have to grit your teeth and admire their pride as they speak unapologetically on how the Nigerian art and music industry has paid its price and is now commanding global attention. There are lots of collaborative efforts now going on in theatre, music, film and Nollywood and Nigerians are

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Akoma’s Zain Verjee and media entrepreneur Obi Asika

Facebook has ‘noted’ the potential of Africa and has increased its footprint both in terms of human resource and attention paid to the market. Chris Coz, Chief Product Officer mentioned in his opening presentation on Monday that the social media giant is now accepting payment for advertisement in Naira. Makes sense. For every three adverts I see on my Fb feed daily, two are from Nigerian entertainers, artistes, banks etc and it points to the power of a market that cannot be ignored.

I loved the daily themes at #SMWLagos.The impact of Africa’s media landscape – Monday, travel on Tuesday and Women in Tech on Wednesday. Thursday was governance day and A great day in Gidi – celebrating influential digital change makers across the continent closed the sessions on Friday.

On Wednesday I caught up with the Women in Tech and enjoyed the panel the BBC had put together. Miriam Quansah, Digital Lead, Bilkisu Labaran, Editorial Lead at BBC World Service and Anne Soy-Mwendia, Africa’s health correspondent engaged by telling their stories and sharing how to leverage yourself in media. They were hosted by Didi Akinyelure, BBC World Service Reporter and 2016’s Komla Dumor award winner. Her energy is admirable, it’s possible that she’s channeling the former engineer in her but she does good crowd engagement. Stephanie Busari also did great with the CNN panel Monday talking about how social media is changing Africa’s storytelling. Just go to #OneTouchLive and see how these young photographers are showing a side of Africa previously hidden and which must be the new engagement.

Earlier that morning, four women got to pitch their tech-based businesses to the audience courtesy of She Leads Africa and the Dangote Foundation. Great ideas and good luck to them all as they seek angel investors. It is always great to hear the story of ‘How I began my business’ and it is always the idea of a problem seeking a solution.

I will remember Audu Maikori for telling the audience that, “Women are more expensive to promote (because they get married and fall pregnant) and they are also finicky.” The last part was said with a grin but he was all by himself. He was responding to Zain Verjee hosting a panel(manel) on Afrobeats who asked – is the business of music male dominated? D’banj’s views on this question was to say women have come from far in that they are no longer as conservative on stage as they used to be before. He reckons Rihanna taught them a thing or two. Great conversations until this part – particularly on the issue of the afrobeat style and legend, music payments and lip synching things – so I was happy the weird comments came at the end.img_1480

Networking – I remember meeting two great friends in 2015 when I first attended this meet-up and I met them again at this venue this year. Exactly two years. From Port Harcout to Lagos doing our thing. #SMWLagos also introduced me to the work of some very important organizations which I follow to date – Seun Onigbinde’s BudgIT, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) and Enough is Enough (EIE). On engaging government and steering the office of the citizen they are doing enough.I first heard Oby Ozikwesili here and realized she is a real soul. This year Kaduna Governor El-Rufai was talking tough when addressing the issue of #FakeNews and touched on the issue of Maikori versus the State. Bottom line is we’ve all got a job to do where verifying news is concerned.

Coffee was in plenty. I love img_1455that Nescafe has trained and kept the same team for the last three years. They have their jobs by the side but every March, they come  to pour copious amounts of coffee at #SMW. Its nothing to write home about (honestly) but it certainly kept us warm especially because Landmark had decided we needed to freeze inside those rooms. Brrrr! And the girls have great attitude and teamwork.

This meet-up is definitely worth your investment in terms of time and energy. Good luck to the organizers after you hang up your boots when the party ends tonight and take stock of what you did. Great Stuff. I learnt. Again

 

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A running city in words and pics

The marathon begun earlier than we had anticipated. Well, 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled time and we got there 1 minute after the elite runners had exited thanks to all roads closed. Stunned! Lagos City keeps time.

 

 

Walkers, runners and in-betweens. ©Frida Okutoyi

 

Keeping hydrated. Streets were cleaned up immediately after this. First image ©Frida Okutoyi.

Lagos Crowds – na mask una wear no fumes go meet um’

Paralympians. #GoForth

Abraham Kiptum crosses the 39Km mark. We raced past the sands at Eko Atlantic City (It’s Huge) and because of burly policemen wanting to show they are working, we missed him crossing the finish line.

Such a sad state of affairs the photo ops were. Not sure any of the big media – well except Supersport – got a clean photo finish at the end.

These beautiful ladies from the Kenyan highlands gave us a 1-2-3 finish. Rodah Chepkorir cuts the tape to win the Women’s marathon, Fridah Lodepa (2nd) is wheeled out in a wheelchair to regain her strength and last year’s winner Alice Timbilili (3rd) gets some refreshing. Alice, who won last year, had told me the day before “It’s a marathon. It is anyone’s race. We have all trained and are good so anyone can carry the day.” And Rodah did.

Winner takes it all.

The City and Its Bosses.

This is THE’ Eko Atlantic City,  the finishing point for the race. When I came to Lagos 4 years ago, all this was water with people regularly using the beach front for weekends and late night parties. It has now all been reclaimed and very much looking like a mini-Dubai city, without the bling buildings.

Finally, the Paps who ensured you had these memories live. For whichever media they work.

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AGRIBUSINESS ENTREPRENEURS ARE CRITICAL TO AFRICA’S SUCCESS.

Ever heard the saying ‘Ukulima sio ushamba?’ This article proves it…

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Africa’s next crop of entrepreneurs is turning to the soil for business. At least, that is what was revealed at an auditorium filled with aspiring business folk gathering for the second cohort of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) entrepreneurs’ boot camp in Lagos, Nigeria on 29th October.

Statistics from the TEF website show that agriculture was the leading sector with 304 of the 1000 entrepreneurs representing 54 African countries engaging in this business.

“We must glamorize agriculture,” Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo said at the event. He further urged the government to include policies that would favour the sector as a business.

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The passion for agribusiness was seen in one attendee’s plea to have the Nigerian government give more consideration to support start up farmers particularly in locations prone to flooding, which destroys harvests.

Against an economy negatively affected by low oil prices, the government has been forced to rethink its dependency on the commodity and is now seeking to diversify its source of finance.

Nigeria’s Minister for Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated that the government is now targeting agriculture, solid minerals and creative industries as new streams of revenue for the government.

He also reiterated the Administration’s commitment to improve the ease of doing business thereby attracting investors into the country. Nigeria is ranked 169 out of 190 countries according to the World Bank’s ease of doing business index for 2017.

Of the 75 Kenyans chosen to take part in this year’s program, 18 are in the field of Agribusiness. Another 10 are in the ICT business, which remains a favourite choice for entrepreneurs across the continent.

A study released in February by the TEF titled Unleashing Africa’s Agricultural Entrepreneurs focused on the challenges facing them and the need for solutions to help improve their competitiveness. The recommendations included offering training; access to finance, strengthening value chains and having governments invest in the sector.

In many ways, the boot camp spoke to the recommendations tabled by the report. It featured a mix of plenary sessions, workshops and master classes facilitated by some of Nigeria’s foremost business leaders.

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The highlight came when businessman and TEF visionary Tony Elumelu hosted a couple of African leaders to charge the entrepreneurs.

In attendance was the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Prime Minister of Benin Lionel Zinsou and Ms. Clare Amakazi of the Rwanda Development Board.

Africa’s richest woman Folorunsho Alakija shared her journey to wealth including some of the challenges she faced urging the participants never to give up.

This is the second year TEF is hosting entrepreneurs as part of its commitment to drive economic growth within the continent.

In 2015, 167 Kenyans were chosen for the inaugural program, which includes 12 weeks of online training and pairing with mentors to support their growth. The ultimate reward is the $5000 seed money that goes towards their business development.

Many of those describe the experience with TEF as critical for the development of their businesses in so many ways.

Notable start-ups like Amanda Gicharu of Amanda’s Kitchen, David Otieno’s City Rydes and James Kariuki who works in the energy sector are all alumni of the inaugural entrepreneurship class.

Chris Mutandi states that he was able to develop his Montreal Medical Clinics operating in rural Kenya with the seed money he received. The clinics aim to increase access to affordable health care in marginalized communities.

Tapuwa Ndogwe notes that the experience offered huge social capital for him, a testimony echoed by many others from all over the continent. It further allowed him to develop his ideas in renewable energy with the seed capital he received.

“Our company Greennovations was able to create the kind of prototype we needed and move our idea from paper to the place where we are now comfortable to present it for testing,” he noted. Greennovations turns waste from tyres and plastics into renewable energy and is looking to be an alternative supplier to the national grid in future.

One participant however feels he is owed an explanation by the Foundation on why he is yet to receive his seed money. Njalalle Baraza an agricultural entrepreneur was listed as one of the successful 2015 entrepreneurial candidates. He cites the experience at TEF as great, particularly because it afforded the chance to network with others from Mozambique, Benin, Angola and Guinea in one room.

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He is however pained that despite numerous communication follow-ups, even reaching out on social media, he is yet to understand why he did not receive the $5000 seed money. He adds, “I am especially crestfallen because it took me an expensive business trip to Kenya to meet their requirements of a business account only for me to be met with silence.”

TEF’s Communication Manager Bolanle Omisore confirmed that 978 people got seed funding from the foundation in 2015. TEF lists in detail the requirements that entrepreneurs must go through to finally access the seed money promised.

In Baraza’s case, she noted that an incomplete submission based on the online training module and a written business plan may be the reason his disbursement was delayed. The foundation’s alumni manager has however reached out to him to settle this.

One thing that is clear Is that Africa’s next entrepreneurs will be a connected lot across the globe with great stories of opportunity that opened up because of their participation in TEF. The energy and excitement around the room was testament enough to that.

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