“Knowledge is like a garden: If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.” So goes a prominent African proverb. These are words that should challenge and inspire each of us to seek the wisdom of others in order to become better professionals. It is in this light that I attended the recently concluded SOAR Africa leadership and entrepreneurship summit 2019.
The inaugural summit opened its doors to well-established leaders and entrepreneurs as well as small and medium enterprises (SME). SOAR Africa summit 2019 purposed to ignite progressive thought in order to inspire economic progress in Africa. We are the change, progress and future that Africa awaits, and we are all called upon to mobilize towards that cause. Leaders and entrepreneurs from all walks of life responded to this clarion call and gathered at the Kasarani Stadium Indoors Arena on the 6th of September, 2019.
SOAR Africa summit 2019 was headlined by drummers who electrified the arena, setting the pace to warm conversations led by prominent leaders and entrepreneurs, among them American televangelist and businessman TD Jakes. In his signature booming voice, he began by appreciating Kenyans on Twitter for their aggressive way of pursuing matters, saying they should use the same energy in industry. Here are some of the insights I gathered from the renowned TD Jakes.
- Success is no longer a local but a global idea. The quest for success is a universal cause. Therefore, we are all in this pursuit together.
- Do not allow people to lock you in one dimension and stop your creativity.
- Your products have a huge demand. Believe so and do not take this for granted. Use what you have to get what you want. You have no excuse not to progress. You can start from anywhere. What matters is where you will finish.
- Have a business plan. This will give you direction and a strategy.
- You are the architect of your future. Design the life you want to live.
- Do not be selfish. Invest in other people because we move as a society. Teach others and show your concern. You will be mentoring the future generation of genuine professionals. Remember, you can’t be successful without a successor.
- Do not neglect your environment. Before you condone pollution, remember that you breathe the same air you are contributing to erode.
- Personal branding. A business is a brand and everything about you should define that brand. A brand should be a promise that your customer can trust, deliver it. When trust is generated business is transacted. And when you brand yourself, do not limit yourself. Use your intellect, beauty, handsomeness. Whatever it takes, tell your story and make it legit.
- Africa may be a dysfunctional family but it is still a family. We must stick together and make it work.
- Global market. We must learn how to define and establish ourselves in a global market so that we can be respected like Israelis. We should reach for that global market, think outside the box. Our ads should be international in nature so as to sell our brand around the world.
- Learning is a continuous process. You must always be open to learn both in life and business. Technology changes every single day.
- Your strategy to build a deal will determine your success or failure in business.
- Business is not busyness. Busyness means you do not have a strategy to accomplish what you are trying to do. It will only make you rich and tired but without a strategy success won’t last.
- Surround yourself with people who are good with what you do. People who complete your vision.
- Avoid stress as it is shows that you are not in control of things and your opportunities overwhelm your infrastructure.
- You are a creative. That’s why you were created by a creator. That is who I am, a creative.
- Value people. You do business with people not with ideas. Create time to listen to people who work on your vision.
- Respect the process. Grow your business one day at a time. Take baby steps as you begin and, remember, the gestation period is what makes a baby. Create polices in your business that will make it sustainable in the long-run.
- Be humble. Always remember the far you have come. Be thankful and appreciate the little things people do for you.
- Honesty and helpfulness. Be honest and surround yourself with people who are sincere with you. Help others and the church when you can. Balance your work and family life to sustain your happiness and fulfillment.
Among the other contributors at SOAR summit 2019 was KCB CEO, Joshua Oigara. He observed that Africa is more than we can imagine and is not short of leaders; all the continent needs are new leaders to bring about economic morals. They will empower job creators who will in turn create opportunities, invest in programs, and eventually, Africa will sustain herself. Weighing in on the debate, Interior CS, Dr. Fred Matiang’i, said that Africa has large deposits of resources and talent in young people that could translate to success. But in order for this to happen, leadership has to become transformational. Conversations around leadership must happen more often, not just in the country but also across the continent. And each one of us must arise, lead, and have the courage to do the right thing always. If we do this and learn from our mistakes, we can make a difference.
According to Dr. Matiang’i at SOAR Africa Summit 2019, the rise and fall of the African continent depends on the leadership we have. A good leader must have the courage to question inefficient systems. This is a paramount attribute one needs to become an efficient, transformational leader. Unfortunately, the battle of leadership is lost because we focus on irrelevant and petty things. We lack courage to confront inefficiencies and because of our love for money we betray the younger generations. And yet, “The future of any great nation lies in the investment that it makes in children and the youth.”
Purpose and sacrifice
Unless we have the commitment to go beyond our selfishness, we shall not achieve anything. We must have a purpose, one that will lead us towards a transformational goal. This will give us something to live for; otherwise, we will be of no use to society. For instance, if you leave an organization and no one misses your service, you should not go on with the same job. Leaving a bold footprint wherever you go and in whatever you do is the most important goal of your life. Great ideas must have purpose or they will be pointless. If you have a good idea, just believe in yourself and actualize it. But how do we find out our purpose? Find out your how, and you will find out your purpose. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Another insight by Interior CS at SOAR Africa summit 2019 is that genuine respect comes from the inspiration and impact we make in people’s lives. Leaders and entrepreneurs must have strength of character in order to succeed. If each of us implements this, we will have a generation of strong characters.
Serve your country
We must move from the ordinary and lead with purpose. Dr. Matiang’i believes leadership is a calling and an opportunity to impact the lives of others through the decisions we make. Therefore, making radical decisions can positively change lives regardless of who opposes. He is greatly inspired when decisions change people’s lives, when their problems are solved by decisions. Every leader must desire the difference that comes with good decisions because that keeps you going. “One way of remaining grateful to God for the calling to serve is by doing the right thing, ensuring that I don’t let my people and my country down.” The Interior CS said.
All of us must desire to do the right thing, not what is convenient. “This is what lacks; the courage; and the fear is real. People will tell you no; even your friends. But if your friend is not taking you to the direction of your ambition or your destiny, then those friends will never deliver value to your life. So you must make a choice and you run the race.” Said KCB CEO Mr. Joshua Oigara. Without contradiction we will never agree. He added that failure should never distract young people because it is part of the process of growth, discouraging them from putting too much thought into what others say about them because that’s not what defines a person, a sentiment shared at the fireside chat the previous evening by keynote speaker, TD. Jakes, who said that, “If you are willing to be misunderstood for a season; you can be understood for a lifetime.”
Since entrepreneurs look for solutions to the private sector and the government, they are interconnected with leadership in more ways than one. SOAR Africa summit 2019 is about creating a movement of great leaders and entrepreneurs with a vision towards transforming the continent. And until this is done, there will be no giving up.
Econet Group Chairman and keynote speaker, Strive Masiyiwa, expressed the great importance of investing in the continent. He said he had to return his business to Africa in order to succeed as Africa accounts for almost half of the world’s population and has a great future. Mr. Masiyiwa who has spent more than thirty years travelling the continent said Africa is our only continent; Africa is each one of us. “Your words locate you. Your voice contains everything about you and the words that you speak say a lot about you.” Therefore, we must believe in our potential.
Fellow panellist and Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of Safaricom PLC, Sylvia Mulinge emphasized the crucial role of the youth in driving forward the leadership and entrepreneurship agenda. Other panellists at SOAR Africa summit 2019, Darshan Chandaria, Bilha Ndirangu, and Polycarp Igathe, spoke of the need to open up African markets, build bridges between entrepreneurs in order to enhance collaboration in enterprise. Governments need to streamline the process by putting up infrastructure that encourages entrepreneurs to share their experiences and collaborate so as to improve inter-African trade and ignite overall transformation. As entrepreneurs, this kind of interactive collaboration is very important for our growth. And it includes identifying the challenges of the public sector and offering solutions as the private sector. “There is no market for tears,” said Polycarp Igathe, “there’s only a market for solutions.” We must rise up and tell our stories because “God’s fools have never lost to the devil’s genius.”
The importance of technology in enterprise was also underlined. Owing to the internet, we do not need to travel anywhere to learn other technologies. We can easily access them on our fingertips. If used well, technology can catapult our process of growth in enterprise. All we have to do is to courageously go out and fetch the opportunity, and if we fail, rise quickly. Furthermore, as Mr. Polycarp Igathe said “we are living in an age where opportunity in Africa far exceeds the risk.” With mentorship and networking, success will be a continuous journey. We must also have the right attitude as we engage in business because our destiny is always a result of the decisions we make. Tomorrow is not known, but in every new opportunity that comes our way, how we decide to respond and execute is what will lead us to the next big brand. One of the best insights by Mr. Igathe was that to become a successful entrepreneur, one should identify a human need and reach out to solve it in a sustainable way.
Opening the stage for the day’s main speakers at SOAR Africa summit 2019 with a lyrical piece, poet and spoken word artist, Teardrops, declared that “Africa doesn’t need to rise up. Africa needs to wise up.”
Keynote speaker, Nunu Ntshingila who is the regional Facebook director, declared that this is the time to give our ideas a breath of life, for the world is always ready for our ideas. Today, multiple platforms are available to showcase them to the world. “The technology that exists now is the catalyst that will propel that idea to become something greater that can drive change in Africa” She said. Africa is the fastest growing continent after Asia, and Mrs. Ntshingila called on Africans to drive innovations, particularly the youth who are the continent’s ‘greatest dividend’. The global market is growing fast, with 4.5billion people now using the internet, but adverts come mainly from other continents. We must know that Africa’s time is here, grab the opportunities available and put our ventures online.
Supreme Court judge, Njoki Ndung’u, adding to the leadership debate said that leadership is about doing things when you feel that it is right and leading from the front. Additional insights were given by other panellists who questioned how we can make innovation and start-ups sustainable. The DNA of a good idea is the passion we have about it. In order to make it succeed, we should use our mental resource. The more difficult things get, the stronger we must become. Mentorship was again encouraged, and the big sister program—an intensive mentorship program where youth are supported towards success—was mentioned. Men were challenged to man up and mentor boys as well. Budget plans and their immense importance in a business were highlighted as well as the need for self-valuation.
When the curtains finally closed and the drums went silent at the three-day SOAR Africa summit 2019, we took home these and many more insights with the challenge to become better leaders and entrepreneurs in order to propel our continent to the next level and succeed in the global market. We are the future, and the future is us.
Story by David Macharia, Creative Lead Photographer, Versatile Photographers.
Edited by Tim Njugi, Writer, blogger and photographer