Key Points

1. The saga around the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria governor continues;
2. The Central Bank governor is handily backing up his reputation;
3. President Jonathan could get a black eye from this fight; and
4. The independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria is in the balance.

The Saga

The February 20 suspension of Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for “financial recklessness and misconduct” drew many a side-eye. Two months prior to the suspension announcement, Governor Sanusi made claims that Nigeria’s National Petroleum Company had failed to repatriate 49.8 billion USD to the government, before reducing the claim to 20 billion USD.

Governor Sanusi challenged his suspension on the grounds that it is illegal for the President to suspend the Central Bank Governor under the Central Bank of Nigeria Act. This past Thursday, Nigeria’s High Court declined to rule on Governor Sanusi’s challenge. Check out Governor Sanusi’s response.

The suspension is not the only issue Governor Sanusi is dealing with. The Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria is pushing to investigate his use of 1 billion USD while CBN Governor. Nigeria’s High Court has struck down to-date and Governor Sanusi has provided a detailed response.

Dueling Reputations

Governor Sanusi points to the stability of the Central Bank of Nigeria and its effectiveness in fixing the country’s banking system, controlling inflation, and stabilizing currency as wins. The global investing community has taken note and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Governor Sanusi advising other central banks on their activities when the dust settles – unless the forensic audit of the NNPC proves the company’s financials to be in good shape.

President Jonathan, on the other hand, could be licking his wounds from this fight and the continued threat of Boko Haram in parts of the country. The results forensic audit of the NNPCs financials will serve as vindication for one or the other.

Central Bank Independence

The bottom line is that this situation has big implications for the independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Will future governors have Governor Sanusi’s fate on their minds when making decisions? If so, we could very well see the slow unwinding of the governance structure Governor Sanusi helped develop.

Davidson profiled Muna Musiitwa on her work in Africa. Great nuggets on key questions for mapping the way forward on the continent – [http://buff.ly/1ojta8X]

Jason Njoku does some nice analysis on property values in Lagos in parallel with tech investments – [http://buff.ly/1ojtfsY]

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has paid a good bit of attention to Africa, including a $10M initiative to support the development of financial journalism – [http://buff.ly/1ojtkgt]

Ben Leo, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, provides six key things the Millenium Challenge Corporation should focus on – [http://buff.ly/1n4f3Vb]

My Nigerian brother, Odini Nwakuche, is making waves with his clothing venture – [http://buff.ly/1n4f8Iv]

The Dropifi team probably felt chills running through their bodies while watching Zendesk’s share price rise 49 percent on day one of its IPO on Thursday, and then reach a $1B market cap on its second day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Here’s why:

1. Big Sandbox – In its Form S-1 filing, Zendesk highlights International Data Corporation intel pointing to the customer relationship management market being $20.7B, as of 2012. Zendesk did $72M in revenue in 2013. Couple that with IDC’s projection that software as a service (SaaS) platforms will grow 10x faster than legacy platforms in a world with 76M small-to-medium sized businesses, and you get the picture. Zendesk has 42,000 customers. Dropifi has 8,000 customers. Dropifi has a lot of sand to work with to build its own castle.

2. Little Sibling Effect – I’m the oldest of my siblings and after breaking through many new seasons of life, I’ve watched my siblings do everything better than me. Dropifi has the same opportunity to watch Zendesk’s missteps and capitalize on the lessons learned. This will be critical in customer acquisition. With more than 8,000 customers, Dropifi is behind the 10,000 customers Zendesk had in its fourth year of operation.

In David Cummings’ post last night, he pointed to design as one of the big differentiators between the first and second generation SaaS companies. Dropifi may have some work to do to compete with Zendesk here. This has been a tough post to write because I want to pull out my yoga mat every time I pull up the Zendesk site.

The bottom line is that Dropifi has an opportunity to scale massively. After hearing David Osei, CEO of the company, speak at Harvard’s Africa Business Conference, the company certainly has the hunger to make this happen. More than 10 500Startups companies, which recently eclipsed the 500 mark, have been acquired. Dropifi is already the incubator’s first Africa-originated company. If Dropifi can avoid acquisition by Zendesk, Salesforce, or another player in the CRM space, perhaps we could see it be 500Startups’ first company to reach IPO-status. 

What else? Do you think Dropifi has what it takes to compete with the likes of Zendesk?

Your reputation is powerful. I recently sat in on a workshop covering best practices for managing one’s reputation. The three prevailing themes were:

1. What do you perceive your reputation to be?
2. What do you want your reputation to be?
3. How do you plan to make your desired reputation a reality?

None of these is very helpful if you do not know what your reputation actually is. That requires the hard work of going to someone and asking them to tell you about yourself.

I will never forget the wise words of Margaret, one of my middle school classmates. I’m walking to the school bus after classes had ended for the day, making all kinds of pompous comments. I was that not-cool kid who tried extra hard to fit in. Foolish.

Finally, Margaret got fed up and stopped me before getting on her bus: “You think you’re the s%#t, but you’re not.”

If I was born with a tail, it would have been tucked all the way between my legs. I had an idea of what I wanted my reputation to be, but had lost sight of what my real reputation was. I had no idea that humility rather than jackass-like behavior was necessary in managing my reputation. Margaret’s insights helped me re-calibrate.

So, before you receive an unpleasant dose of medicine like that served to me by Margaret, develop a level of self-awareness by:

1. Identifying a core group of people who represent the various parts of your life;
2. Asking the people in that group for their observations of what you’re reputation is;
3. Getting their thoughts on what you might do to maintain, repair, or enhance your reputation;
3. Asking for them to encourage you whenever they notice you making positive gains and to hold you accountable when they see you stepping backwards; and
4. Checking back in periodically with this group to gauge how your reputation is changing.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

What else? What other things are key to managing your reputation?

“I don’t feel pressure from being the President of the Toronto Raptors. I feel pressure from Africa.”  The energy that entered the room when Masai Ujiri said that at yesterday’s NYU Africa Economic Forum is why I am still awake.

Masai went on to say that his work would be a waste if he didn’t have any impact in Africa to show for being NBA Executive of the Year or potentially winning an NBA championship. Boom!

Masai’s speech was the highlight of the NYU Africa Economic Forum, though three ideas from other speakers really got my brain going and I may dive deeper on them later this week.

Makhtar Diop, World Bank VP for Africa, explained how pursuing a credit rating for Senegal while he was Minister of Finance provided investors data they could understand, subsequently increasing their level of interest in placing capital in the country. 

Ken Ofori Attah, retired CEO of Databank, stressed the importance of Diasporans marketing Africa well. 

Eric Guichard, CEO of Gravitas Capital and Homestrings, highlighted the opportunity for the structuring of projects to satiate the perceived lack of capital and projects from the perspectives of companies and investors, respectively. 

Kudos to the NYU Africa Economic Forum team for keeping me up way past my bedtime!

What else? What ideas struck you at the NYU Africa Economic Forum?

When I first saw, the agenda for the Africa Rising seminar at this year’s IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, I posted a tweet:

Probably not the wisest thing to not provide any context. So, here goes.

My issue with the seminar is the makeup of the panels. I believe there could be a greater representation of African academics and practitioners. Currently, 30 percent of the panelists are African nationals. Considering that the topic is Africa, this strikes me as odd.

Consider the following promotion of the Africa Rising Conference slated to take place in Mozambique next month.

The Government of Mozambique and the IMF will convene a high-level conference in 2014 to take stock of Africa’s strong economic performance, its increased resilience to shocks, and the key ongoing economic policy challenges. The Africa Rising conference will be held May 29-30, 2014, in Maputo. The event is intended to follow up on the 2009 Tanzania Conference, which helped galvanize international support for Africa after the 2008 financial crisis. The conference will bring together policymakers from Africa and beyond, the private sector, civil society, academics, and private foundations with the goal of sustaining the current growth and sharing its benefits among African populations.    

I find the statement in bold odd considering the relative struggles much of the rest of the international community faced after the financial crisis. Furthermore, the statement defaults to Africa somehow being dependent on externally driven development. I think the structure of this week’s Africa Rising seminar could potentially do the same.

Afara Global exists to see a world in which African and Western countries engage economically at an eye-to-eye level. To do that, you need the right people at the table. While the majority of the panelists are quite impressive, I think the right people are not all present – at least not in this seminar.

A few candidates come to mind for future reference:

Amadou Hott runs Senegal’s newly established sovereign wealth fund and chairs the development of the country’s new airport.

Rolake Akinkugbe is Head of Energy, Oil and Gas Research at Ecobank.

Alexander Chikwanda serves as Zambia’s minister of finance. As Africa’s biggest producer of copper, the country has had to deal with global copper prices while driving inclusive growth at home.

Yaw Nyarko is Professor of Economics at New York University and is Director of the university’s Africa House and focuses his research on technology and economic development, and has done work on human capital.

Dambisa Moyo is CEO of the Mildstorm Group and has a global view on economics and development from an African perspective.

Rentia van Tonder is Head of Renewable Energy, Power and Infrastructure at Standard Bank.

Akinwumi Adesina is Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and has earned a lot of attention for his efforts to grow Nigeria’s agriculture sector. He could speak to inclusive growth and structural transformation and economic diversification.

Who are some people you think would make for good panelists?

I am on the train headed back from Sankofa54: The Youth Empowerment Conference, nicely put on by the Yale Undergraduate Association of African Peace and Development. I spoke on a panel addressing Africans Investing in Africa, an issue that has kept
me awake at night since high school. The other panelists were Solomme Lemme, founder of Africans in the Diaspora, and Adewumi Mobolaji, special advisor to the CEO at Aso Savings and Loans Bank.

Solomme challenged the audience to imagine the impact 1 percent of the 60 billion dollars that is remitted to African countries could have on development if targeted towards initiatives focused on creating transformative change on the continent.

Adewumi covered macro developments that are creating the environment for increased investment on the continent, while also highlighting challenges that are still present in the quest for a strong investment climate on the continent.

I found a way to weave an Anansi story into my talk – major win.

One of today’s keynote addresses came from Ladi Delano, an entrepreneur who has been getting it done for about a decade. He made some great points on the need for the extermination of Africa’s corruption problem. He discussed the need for greater manufacturing to meet consumer demand. He cited a recent meeting he had with the head of Massmart Nigeria and how little sense it made to him learning that all of its products are imported.

Another keynote speaker was Obinna Ukwauni, a senior economics major at MIT. Beast. This guy has started an initiative to teach robotics to secondary school students in Nigeria with support from organizations like Shell and Innoventures – quite impressive. He plans to use this as a step towards launching a school in Nigeria in partnership with MIT’s Media Lab.

Last night, Nobel Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee discussed the challenges of being a mother and in-demand activist. She did not regret having missed a significant portion of some of her children’s lives on account of her belief that she was laying the foundation for their futures. Tough.

I was really impressed that undergraduates put on a conference of this caliber and I appreciate YAAPD inviting me to speak. I look forward to next time!

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Nigeria has some of the most successful entrepreneurs across the African continent. Individuals like Titi Odunfa, Tony Elumelu, Adenike Ogunlesi, and Jason Njoku have made their mark across a range of industries. While these individuals may not call themselves social entrepreneurs, their motivation to improve the lot of Nigeria and its people comes through in their work. Tweet me @kwamesompimpong if you would like to argue this point.

Last week, I got to speak with Misan Rewane, a dynamic social entrepreneur who is bent on disrupting the high level of youth unemployment in West Africa. She and three co-founders hatched the idea for West Africa Vocational Education (WAVE) while at Harvard Business School. The idea led to a second-place finish at Harvard Business School’s Social Venture Competition and the team was off.

WAVE provides the hospitality industry with thoroughly trained interns and future employees. The company selects participants using an emotional intelligence test that enables the team to catch innate strengths. Participants in the program take on a 3-week 150 hour mini-MBA. WAVE developed the curriculum for the program in collaboration with top local and international employers in order to provide participants with the skills needed to succeed in the hospitality space.

The company uses a shared-cost model where the student and participating companies pay a portion of the cost. The student pays a portion when she starts the program and pays the rest of the cost when she secures an apprenticeship with a company, enabling her to earn while she learns. The company that brings her pays a portion of the cost as well.

The WAVE team aims to be training 25,000 people annually within 5 years, with academies located across West Africa. While the company is currently focused on the hospitality industry, the team does have its sights set on expanding to other industries.

Nigeria has to be one of the most frustrating and exciting country in the world.  Security concerns in the country have people in parts of the country looking over their shoulder with heavy hearts. The country imports so much food when it could be such a powerful force in the agricultural space. That said, this is a country that will be the largest economy on the African continent in a few years. Enterprises like WAVE will ensure that the people who enjoy this macro position will not be just a few. Because of them, the crowd that is bullish Nigeria will continue to grow.

I’m excited about linking up with Misan while in Lagos during the 2014 Innovation Excursion. Join us if you want to connect with talented social entrepreneurs focused on changing the fate of Africa. Let’s go!

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Kenya has garnered lots of attention for Nairobi’s tech scene and the pending completion of Konza City – enticing talking heads to debate Nairobi’s status as the Silicon Valley of Africa. Yet, the technology space is not the only sector sector seeing exciting growth.

Participants in the Geeks Gone Global’s 2013 Africa Innovation Excursion witnessed the impact social enterprises are having in Kenya. Startups like Soko Kenya are providing a platform for Kenyan clothiers to sell their products globally. Soko recently landed $700,000 to continue the growth of its business.

Johnni Kjelsgaard, Co-Founder of The GrowthHub, provided interesting insights on the social entrepreneurship space in Kenya. The GrowthHub is a startup incubator in Nairobi that helps East African start ups position themselves “to deliver sustainable business growth, create employment, and contribute to social progress. According to Johnni, social entrepreneurship is not really a concept in Kenya. A number of the entrepreneurs he has encountered do not consider themselves as entrepreneurs in the first place.

Because of this, The GrowthHub does not use the term social enterprise in the majority of its work with entrepreneurs. It hones in on building a strong and sustainable business model. The GrowthHub sees social benefit pouring out from that. Startup founders like Stefano Carcoforo at iProcure and Melissa Menke at Access Afya are hyper-focused on creating a great product that also contributes to the good of their customers.

Johnni and The GrowthHub team are busy with Village Capital/GrowthAfrica2: Innovation to Impact which just launched on September 13 and will run until December 6. Started in 2012, in partnership with Atlanta-based Village Capital, the accelerator equips social enterprises with the tools to take their business to the next level. One of the 2012 winners, iProcure, recently secured a portion of a $500,000 funding round by 88mph, another VC/incubator that operates in Cape Town and Nairobi.

Are you an investor, looking to place funds in a startup that knows its market, is focused on sustainable growth, and has plans to create positive social change in Kenya and beyond? Join the Geeks Gone Global 2014 Africa Innovation Excursion.

Credit: Waste Enterprisers

The Geeks Gone Global team is excited to lead you on an excursion to check out the innovative things happening in the social enterprise space in Ghana, Nigeria, South African, and Kenya. Check out the first of four country and company profiles to prep you for the trip.

Ghana is among the fastest growing economies in the world. The country has been known for its stable democracy, large deposits of gold, and tasty cocoa.  The country has faced headwinds with a disputed presidential electionconcerns over government management of oil revenue, and the Ghana Cedi depreciating due to rumors of the US Federal Reserve drawing quantitative easing to an end. Despite this, there has been no shortage of excitement about Ghana’s future.

Last year, President John Mahama announced the groundbreaking of Hope City, a $10 billion technology hub that would locate outside of Accra.  Hope City will compete with Konza City in Kenya for bragging rights as being the Silicon Valley of Africa.

The startup space in Ghana is humming.  A few months ago, Accra-based Dropifi became the first African startup accepted into Dave McClure’s 500 Startups Accelerator Program. Startups that have gone through the program include the likes of StyleSeat and TaskRabbit. Other startups that are making waves in Nandi Mobile and Leti Arts, just to name a few.

The social enterprise maybe has not gotten the same kind of attention that the technology startups have received, but that is sure to change in the next year or so as more and more pop up in Accra. Social enterprise startups like Ashesi University are revolutionizing what it means to educate in Africa. Global Mamas brings together makers in order to give them greater exposure through one big retail shop. Golda Addo is building the Born.Again recycling label, a recycled and up cycled line of products. Exciting stuff.

Meet Waste Enterprisers, a social enterprise based in Accra that is focused on creating value from energy found in human waste.  Ashley Murray founded the company in 2010 after completing her doctoral studies in sanitation engineering at UC Berkeley. The company wants to see a global sanitation revolution that – one in which waste is no longer seen as that, but as a free resource.

Waste Enterprisers takes human waste and converts it into biomass the company calls Green Heat, an energy source that is 20 percent more efficient than comparable biomasses.  Green Heat comes in brick form and the company generated between 10 and 20 tons of the product during its pilot phase.

On the competitive landscape in Ghana, Tim Wade, Waste Enterprisers’ COO, stated that the social enterprise space in waste is still in its early stages. The company has come across a few enterprises and international NGOs looking for ways to contribute to sanitation management in Accra.

Looking forward, the team at Waste Enterprisers want to master being a manufacturer that contributes to sanitation as a by-product of its work.  If the team gets the model right, it wants to see uptake of the model in Accra’s sanitation industry and around the world.

If you’re not pumped for January’s trip after this, you need to get a TastyKake and RC Cola, and go think about yourself in the corner of a room for a while. Then sign up and let’s go!

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