No. 101: Christian Taylor Almost Set the Triple Jump World Record!

What a jump! That last phase looks like it hurt, but was so worth it! The world record in the triple jump is 60′. So close! That is the third time Taylor has jumped beyond 18m, equaling the number of times Jonathan Edwards – the world record holder – jumped beyond the 18m mark. He is making a strong case for nipping at Edwards’ heels as the greatest triple jumper in history. Check out these stats on the furthest jumps in triple jump history.

Here’s Christian Taylor speaking before the IAAF World Championships about switching his takeoff legs. He has jumped 58’9″ inches with his left leg, and 59’7″ with his right leg. Beast.

Another story from the championships is Kenya expanding beyond its dominance of the distance events. Nicholas Bett won the 400m hurdles in 47.79 from lane 9, while taking 13 steps between each hurdle for the entire race. Typically, you see athletes go 14-15 steps over the last 5 or so hurdles. Andre Phillips almost ran sub-47 seconds in the 400m hurdles going 13 steps. Kevin Young, the world record holder went down to 12 steps before finishing up with 13 steps!

Could we see Bett take the lead in pushing the event to the 47-second edge? With more work on his speed and technique, in particular, getting that lead leg down, perhaps! Check out his race below.

Julius Yego, another Kenyan, won the Javelin with 304’2″ – the furthest distance thrown in the event in 14 years. What a great throw!

Yego already had the world’s top throw of the year with a 299’8″ performance. I hope he has what it takes to push towards Jan Jelezny’s world record of 323′. Considering that Yego learned the sport through YouTube, while Jelezny grew up in the javelin-chucking center of the world, he is progressing quite nicely. Take a look at Yego’s progression, compared to Jelezny’s,

No. 99: 3 Tuesday AM Views

1. After highlighting how problematic it is being labeled the first black woman head of South Africa’s Insurance Institute, Delphine Maidu, CEO of Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty for Africa, discussed women leadership styles, what the insurance industry could do to better serve customers, and the low insured rates in South Africa. 

2. Ushahidi executive director Juliana Rotich highlights the importance of building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs across Africa to get traction with their innovations. 

3. Tryphosa Ramano, CFO of PPC (South Africa’s largest cement company) gave her insights on the importance of women landing board seats and pushing for policies that support the development of women leadership in South Africa’s corporate world. 

I’m constantly looking for black women leaders I can reference as my daughter gets older. Leave names of others who come to mind in the comment section below. 

No. 76: What Does a Potential Liberty Global-Vodacom Deal Mean for Safaricom?

Liberty Global and Vodacom are in talks for some sort of deal. Early rumors were that the two were considering a merger, which would be one of the biggest ever, but Vodacom denies a merger being part of deliberations. 

What’s interesting about this news, besides John Malone continuing to take over the media world, is that Vodacom has a 40 percent stake in Safaricom, Kenya’s leading telecommunications provider. If a deal happens, could Vodacom sell off Its stake in Safaricom while spinning off its Middle Eastern and African subsidiaries like Vodacom Ghana and Vodacom Egypt?

The global media world is in consolidation mode. You probably heard about DirectTV potentially acquiringT-Mobile. John Malone’s Liberty Broadband is backing the proposed Charter-Time Warner merger. In Europe, where Liberty Global and Vodacom are based, telecom providers are pushing quad-play – television, mobile, telephone, and Internet. A deal between the two companies would probably position them to compete in this market. 

Safaricom is entering the bundling competition in Kenya, recently seeking regulatory approval to offer television services. Perhaps, it would benefit from a Liberty-Vodacom deal by gaining access to intelligence on how to best compete in this space. I think Liberty and Vodacom could benefit from tapping into Safaricom’s expertise in mobile banking and figuring out how to incorporate that into a bundling strategy. 

No. 70: President Obama is Going to Kenya: Dumb or Nah?

Witney Schneidman, Fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote this rebuttal of Harvard professor Robert Rotberg’s Politico piece which panned President Obama’s upcoming trip to the country for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit as a bad idea.

Quick thoughts:

  • I’m not sure President Obama tacking on a trip to Ethiopia would go over well with Africa watchers, given the flap over Gayle Smith’s nomination for US AID administrator. Africa watchers…that’s a pretty bad tag line. Who coined it?
  • The parallel between this trip and President Kennedy’s trip to Ireland is a nice one. The country was experiencing violence of its own at the time and was still dealing with Britain not respecting its independence.
  • Professor Rotberg’s analysis of President Obama’s impact on ethnic tensions reinforces President Obama’s remarks last week during Start the Spark, an entrepreneurship initiative the Administration is launching: “And entrepreneurship breaks down barriers between cultures and between faiths at a time when we need more than ever the capacity to understand and work across borders.” Since President Obama is going to Kenya for the Global Entrepreneurship Summitt, this is an opportunity to highlight the breaking down of ethnic tensions.

I’m excited about President Obama going to Kenya. He can’t visit Africa enough in my book. His trip focusing on entrepreneurship at a global scale is really cool and it will be interesting to see African entrepreneurial stories within a global context rather than in something of a vacuum. 

No. 63: What is Happening in Africa’s Cybersecurity Space?

Andreessen Horowitz just wrapped up a series on the current cyber security landscape. It got me thinking about what the cybersecurity landscape looks like in African countries. In particular, I’m interested in cybersecurity work going on at the intersection of telecommunications and banking. Nigeria has a policy of reducing the circulation of cash in the economy by 2020, and launched a national ID card program last year that incorporates banking capabilities. The dominance of mPesa and mobile money in Kenya has been the talk of the town for several years now.

My two main questions are:

1. What are the cybersecurity risks companies and the respective countries are dealing with here?

2. Who are the leading companies working on these issues?

Look out for a future post on this after I talk to some folks and read up a bit.

Here are links to the Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) security series:

Getting Security Right Isn’t As Hard as You Think (But the Effort Never Ends)

Barbarians at the Gate — How to Think About Enterprise Security Today

Making Security More Usable

My three takeaways from the series are:

1. Companies can no longer think about their security in binary terms, that is, “We are breached. We are not breached.” Today, the thinking is more, “We are probably breached right now. What are we doing to mitigate the impact of this.”

2. Security and speed historically have somewhat of an inverse relationship. As content moves back and forth faster, the harder it is to ensure that nothing compromises it.

3. After seeing what happened to Target’s executive team after their highly publicized credit card breach, company executives are communicating more with their security teams to ensure that they have the systems in place to mitigate similar attacks that could get them fired.

No. 28: Kenyan Social Enterprises Attract Impact Investors Because of a Focus on Sustainable Growth

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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.

No. 20: African Countries Drive Geothermal Development Amid US-China Brinksmanship

A geothermal well at the Menengai crater. Credit: Suleiman Mbatiah

United Nations climate talks end today in South Africa and the United States and China are playing chicken on who will take the lead in stewarding the environment well while also driving economic development. Quietly, Kenya has signed major deals just this year that will see the opening of at least three plants that will grow Kenya’s geothermal capacity to 514 megawatts (MW) by 2014. By 2030, Kenya aims for geothermal energy to make up 5000 MW of the total 15,000 MW of power the country will produce to meet growing demand – an estimated $16 billion investment. Imagine that, an African country driving the uptake of clean and renewable energy.

Experts estimate that Kenya has the potential to generate 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW. The country began developing geothermal in the 1980s and currently produces about 209 MW. In 2008, the country set its geothermal power goal in the Vision 2030 strategic plan. Since that time Kenya has aggressively grown geothermal with the 36 MW expansion of the 48 MW Olkaria III, the construction of the 280 MW Olkaria IV, and the drilling of the 1,600 MW Menengai field.

Contrary to what the Wall Street Journal reported on December 6, Kenya is not the only African country developing geothermal energy. Kenya lies within the East African Rift System that runs 6,500km from Tunisia to Mozambique. In a recent conversation with Dr. Meseret Zemedkun of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), she explained that some countries in the East African region are looking to complement their current hydropower capacity, while others like Eritrea and Djibouti are looking for primary renewable energy sources. Ethiopia has drilled a pilot 7 MW plant. Eritrea is conducting detailed exploration. Djibouti is drilling wells, and Uganda and Rwanda are conducting semi-detailed and detailed exploration.

According to Dr. Zemedkun, “[African] countries are very keen to develop their resources.” She cited the high availability rate of geothermal compared to hydropower – 90-95 percent versus 50-55 percent. Changes in weather impact the availability of hydropower whereas geothermal energy is not impacted by changes in weather. Furthermore, enhanced technology is reducing the unit price of geothermal energy, increasing its accessibility to African countries.

Dr. Zemedkun is currently driving the African Rift Geothermal Project, an initiative that brings together several African countries in working to build their geothermal capacity. It also helps reduce the risks of exploration through exploration studies, site selection, and surface exploration. UNEP partners with the World Bank in this work, leveraging its risk mitigation fund to further the exploration of geothermal energy.

I am excited about the work Kenya is doing to develop its geothermal energy capacity. Its leadership has also kickstarted the exploration of geothermal energy in other countries along the East African Rift System. Hopefully, the US and China will figure out a way to do their part and contribute to the preservation of this earth while meeting the economic needs of their citizens.