Claver Gatete named African Finance Minister of the Year

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Prominent Rwandan politician Claver Gatete was recently named African Finance Minister of the Year by Global Capital, a leading financial news and data provider.

The award recognizes Gatete’s recent success in successfully keeping Rwanda’s economy on course amidst difficult regional economic conditions.

A master economic strategist

Gatete, Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, was particularly gracious when accepting the prestigious accolade. He said: “The resilience of our economy, despite the global economic shocks that affected our commodities, was mainly due to good leadership and strategic guidance of our President and the hard work of our economic team at the Ministry of Finance and central bank”

However, despite his humility, it’s clear that Gatete has been instrumental to Rwanda’s continued fiscal success. Global Capital explained their decision to bestow him with the award saying that he has demonstrated “impressive commitment to prudent and proactive fiscal management.” He was also praised for his talent in crafting bilateral agreements with international institutions and neighboring countries, which have been key components of Rwanda’s resilience.

Early life and career

Gatete was born in 1962, in Mbarara, Uganda. He spent the majority of his school years in Mbarara, due to his father’s line of work. Gatete proved himself to be an adept student with an aptitude for numbers. He attended University at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where he obtained both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics, finishing his studies in 1993.

Gatete stayed in Canada working as an economist until 1997. However, in the wake of Rwanda’s terrible genocide he felt the desire to return home and help in the efforts to rebuild his home country. He managed to obtain a post with the United Nations Development Program working as a Development Economist in Kigali.

During his time working with the UN, Gatete became embedded in the political and financial landscape of Rwanda. No doubt this expertise is what set him for a string of senior government positions.

 In 2001, he was invited to join the Office of the President as the president’s personal representative to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). He excelled in this position, and in 2003 he was promoted to the Ministry of Finance, where he served as Secretary General and Secretary to the Treasury. In 2005, he became Rwanda’s Ambassador to the U.K, Ireland, and Iceland. Returning to a domestic position, Gatete served as both Deputy Governor and Governor for The National Bank of Rwanda until his appointment as Minister of Finance and Economic planning in 2013.

A sure hand at the helm

Gatete has formulated and implemented the policies that have kept Rwanda’s economy performing over the past few years. Commentators have pointed to Gatete’s action with regard to the slump in global commodities, which severely hampered Rwanda’s mining sector, at a time when production was already falling. Global capital said “For a small country with limited export opportunities this could have proved a severe setback. The impact on the wider economy, however, has been largely mitigated by prompt action by policymakers,”

Gatete has also made great strides in improving efficiencies in Rwanda’s agricultural sector. He has implemented innovative new measures to educate, prepare and supply Rwanda’s farmers more effectively. Additionally, he has directed investment towards irrigation which has greatly increased food security and helped eliminate the risks from erratic rainfall.

Commentators have attributed Rwanda’s strong growth projections to Gatete’s overall ability, and the confidence financial institutions have in his ability to deliver on his commitments. Gatete embodies the new ideal of African leadership; shrewdly intelligent, talented and progressive.

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Forbes Magazine names Mosunmola Abudu Africa’s most successful woman.

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Mosunmola Abudu, or Mo Abudu as she is more commonly known, is one of Africa’s most vibrant personalities. She is a jack, and a master, of many trades. Abudu is a renowned entrepreneur, talk show star, media personality, human resources guru and philanthropist. Forbes magazine has even gone so far as to name her “Africa’s most successful woman” and others have dubbed her “Africa’s Oprah”.

Early life in the UK and Nigeria

Born in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, Abudu spent her early years in Hammersmith, London. When she was aged seven, her family decided to return to Nigeria. She was sent to stay on her grandparent’s farm in Ondo State, and it was here that Abudu really connected to her African roots. When she was just 12 years old, her father tragically passed away, and not long after, Abudu returned to the UK. She moved to Kent, to stay with a family friend and guardian before enrolling in The Ridgeway School, in Tunbridge wells.

Abudu has recounted that she was one of the few black children in the school and that 1970’s Britain wasn’t the most multicultural or tolerant place. She often felt the need to prove herself in the face of ignorant remarks and hurtful questions. She said: “I think somewhere deeply buried in my subconscious was a need to tell Africa's story.”

A remarkable career and an outlandish dream

Abudu obtained a Master’s degree in Human Resources Development at the University of Westminster. She started her HR career in 1987, joining recruitment giant Atlas Group. She swiftly maneuvered herself into senior corporate positions. In 1992, she moved back to Nigeria after being headhunted by ExxonMobil to head up their HR and training unit. In 2000, she set up her own specialist HR consultancy, Vic Lawrence & Associates, which she still owns today. Despite her success, an unfulfilled ambition gnawed at her. She left her HR career in 2006, to pursue her dream, television. Abudu felt that Africa was ready for its own TV talk show and that she was the star to host it. In 2008 she pitched her pilot episodes to executives at DStv. Convinced by her tenacity and passion; they decided to commission the program.

An African television sensation

“Moments with Mo” has gone on to become a pan-African Success. Abudu has hosted distinguished guests such as Hilary Clinton and President Goodluck Jonathon. Today it airs in over 50 African countries, and Abudu is a veritable household name across the continent. However, the popularity of Moments with Mo was not enough for Abudu. She was convinced that Africa needed a bigger platform to promote African culture in a more positive way. In 2013 she launched Ebony Life TV. This award winning network is now established across the continent, and offers a range of high quality, exclusively African content across television, mobile and internet platforms. Through Ebony Life TV, Abudu hopes to particularly engage with Africa’s growing young demographic, as she sees them as the “custodians of the future.” She hopes to use her network’s content to galvanize this generation, and foster a new-age African identity for the future.

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Olatorera Oniru and her journey to successful e-commerce business leader

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At just 29 years old, Oniru has achieved more in the last decade than many people do in a lifetime. She grew up partly in Nigeria, and partly in the USA, which provided her with a unique mix of cultural experiences and educational background. She moved to the US with her family at the beginning of high school, after which she completed a business administration degree at North Carolina A&T University in 2008.

Wall Street, Banking and Life in New York

After university, she was recruited to Wall Street where she spent two “exhilarating” years at Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a Senior Analyst. Africa was still on her mind however, and she always knew she would return to her homeland. During her years at Wall Street, she also served as the co-founder and president of the Network of African Professionals in New York City. Following her success in New York, she accepted a role with the Bank of Nigeria as a Senior Supervisor which she eventually gave up to complete her Master’s degree at Emory University, Atlanta. During her years in the business world Oniru traveled to over 50 cities in four different continents. This exposure to different industries, cultures and environments was instrumental in the development of her later business. She had aspirations to connect Africa with the rest of the world through something she loved: Fashion.

Unfulfilled by the Corporate World

The majority of the business plan for Dressmeoutlet was finalized while she was completing her Master’s degree at Emory. She had spent several years working for fortune 500 companies in both the USA and Nigeria and had established herself in the corporate world. Despite holding prestigious roles and earning a substantial salary, she says she never felt 100% comfortable in this environment. She felt ill at ease living in a materialistic, corporate environment, knowing the poverty rate was over 65% in her native Nigeria. She took her financial experience and business acumen and established her e-commerce fashion startup in January 2016. It has been referred to as “the Amazon of the fashion world” and essentially connects retailers and consumers via a giant online shopping database. After just six months of operation it has customers in over 15 different countries including the US and France. Although it showcases apparel, accessories and beauty products from all over the world, it strongly favors African producers, which is the motivation behind the company. Oniru wants to create global visibility for African products while creating employment and opportunities for people throughout the continent.

Big Plans for an even Bigger Picture

Oniru only thinks in grand terms. She wants her business to act as a catalyst for the African fashion industry’s emergence, while also combating cyclical poverty and youth employment in undeveloped areas. She said recently, “Success for me, means witnessing a reduction in poverty across Africa, witnessing a worldwide increase in the appreciation of human creativity.” She believes in her company 100%. Her dream of fighting youth unemployment while becoming a role model for other entrepreneurs and women inspired her. She took a leap of faith, leaving her lucrative career in finance to found her ambitious start-up venture. Fortunately, this has paid off and her website already stocks over 1000 different products from across the globe. In just six months it has become a major player in the e-commerce world, and has connected over 500 artisans with consumers. Oniru is more invested in this than most entrepreneurs, funding the startup entirely from her own savings. She explains: “I love fashion, I love the retail industry, and I love Africa. Beyond that, I have always had the yearn to go entrepreneurial and develop my own empire that would serve as a role model to other startup journeys”. Oniru’s tenacity, experience and drive are evidently a winning combination. She is committed to social change and inspired by fuelling development in Africa. If the last six months are anything to go by, this fashion retailer is here to stay.

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Tech start-up MAGNiTT and its founder Philip Bahoshy

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Philip Bahoshy and his groundbreaking company MAGNiTT are revolutionizing the start-up industry. What’s interesting is that MAGNiTT is itself a start-up firm. So how is Bahoshy simultaneously helping new companies, while nurturing his own venture through its infancy period? Bahoshy, 31, was raised in the U.K and has Iraqi roots. He obtained a BSc in Economics from the prestigious London School of Economics which he completed in 2006. In 2007, Bahoshy made a move to Dubai to work for the highly regarded management consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, where he immersed himself in the corporate world. He then made a move to Barclays Wealth in 2010 to work as the chief of staff for the CEO of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

A start-up for start-ups

His high-flying corporate career bestowed him with an acute understanding of the business and investment landscape in the MENA space. Upon completion of his Master’s degree in 2013, Bahoshy was looking to go solo and start his own firm. Armed with a slew of business ideas, he was keen to get the ball rolling; however, he struggled to find investment, guidance and concept validation. After speaking with other start-ups, Bahoshy came to realize that although Dubai was a vibrant and energetic hub for all kinds of business people, new firms weren’t always making the right connections. He described this as “start-ups struggling in isolation.” This realization gave birth to MAGNiTT, which Bahoshy founded late in 2014. He envisaged building an online ecosystem that would make life easier for start-ups to find the various supports they need, while enabling external parties to identify fledgling firms that they are interested in. Initially, MAGNiTT solely focused on linking start-ups with investment. He explained: “We identified that the real pain point in the region is access to angel funding – basically $100,000 to $250,000.” He elaborated, explaining that start-ups often struggle making the transition from setting up the firm with their own capital, to developing a viable business that is ready for substantial investment from venture capitalists. Linking start-ups with angel investors is often critical if firms are to bridge this gap.

An online pitching platform and more

Bahoshy already had other ideas about how MAGNiTT could develop and provide further services. Firstly, he realized that it can be bewildering for investors and other parties when trying to identify start-ups, and that his product needed to work seamlessly. He focused on making MAGNiTT a streamlined online portal where start-ups have to outline the core concepts of their product. They have to succinctly present their business idea and the problem it solves, their elevator pitch, their target market, the competition, and finally, monetization. External parties can filter and search profiles for concepts they are interested in, analyze the product outline, access further information and ultimately connect with firms that they want to start a dialogue with. Bahoshy was already aware that start-ups need more than just funding to get off the ground. He focused on bringing mentors, accelerator programs, service providers and co-founders to the ecosystem. For start-ups, they can request what kind of support they are looking for. According to MAGNiTT’s data, 58% of start-ups on the site have listed that they are looking for mentorship, 56% are interested in showcasing supports, while 26% are looking for legal support or backing.

Major interest, new features and the future 

In January, Bahoshy had a respectable 200 start-ups signed up to MAGNiTT. Since then the site has exploded and today there are over 1400 start-ups and thousands of users registered on the platform.The site is already helping to forge valuable connections that are taking start-ups to the next level. Bahoshy has said that he wants to bring resources such as video conferencing, legal, marketing and HR services to the site. Additionally, MAGNiTT has recently launched a blog alongside a raft of materials relevant for start-up firms. He is also looking to bring Venture Capitalists into the platform to assist start-ups later down the line. MAGNiTT is itself listed as a start-up on MAGNiTT. Uniquely, its own success is being defined by how well it creates opportunities for all of its parties. For Bahoshy it’s so far so good and he is currently in negotiations with interested investors. It looks as though MAGNiTT is set to take off while bringing other great business ideas along for the ride.

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South African entrepreneur succeeds with designer socks

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Serial South African entrepreneur Nicholas Haralambous has hit it big with a line of colorful designer socks that are sold in 20 countries around the world.

Haralambous, who counts his company Nic Harry as his ninth business venture, markets socks made from environmentally friendly bamboo fiber. Nic Socks are worn by celebrities including cricket player Herschelle Gibbs, rugby player Bob Skinstad, actor Maps Maponyane, and Mmusi Maimane, leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance party.

Haralambous, who is in his early thirties, got the idea for the business after buying brightly colored imported socks years ago. He did not like the quality or the design. After selling a tech venture he had founded, he used the some of the proceeds in 2012 to launch Nic Harry, a fashion venture that produces the socks and other men’s accessories.

The Cape Town entrepreneur considers socks the foundation of a classy wardrobe for men who may have limited options for accessories. Men should dress “from the ground up,” Haralambous said.

Sales increase rapidly

He sold 6,500 pairs of socks worldwide during the first year of the business. Sales grew ten-fold the second year to 66,000 pairs, and the company expected to sell more than 100,000 pairs in 2015.

His best-seller is The Barbershop sock, which is popular in 10 countries. The company has produced about 70 designs with more than 60 in stock.

Socks sell for as little as $10 a pair. Buyers can subscribe to buy one or two pairs of socks each month and the company also offers early access to new designs and loyalty pricing.

In addition to socks, the company sells accessories including scarves, ties and pocket squares.

Haralambous said the subscription model is the first in South Africa.

Success after nine tries

He said Nic Harry is his tenth business venture in a decade – and he said he has learned a lot from failure.

He didn’t intend to be an entrepreneur. He studied journalism, philosophy and politics at Rhodes University in Eastern Cape and took jobs in talk radio and newspapers.

But he had started his first business while in school, at age 19, and he left the Mail & Guardian to join a start up called Zoopy. He also co-founded Motribe, a mobile social network builder. Motribe was his most successful venture before Nic Harry and Mxit, the mobile messaging giant, bought the company.

With no business training, Haralambous said he mostly learned by trial and error.

Perseverance is critical to success

“Build, fail, learn, and repeat,” he said, emphasizing that successful entrepreneurs will need to persevere in the face of many obstacles. “You’re going to face hardship. If you want the long-term benefit you need the short-term pain and risk.”

He said it is important to see problems as puzzles to solve rather than as roadblocks.

He said he started the accessories company with about $400 he made from his previous business and increased it to more than $2,000 within six weeks.

While many doubted he could build a successful company, Haralambous persisted. He found a manufacturer who could make samples at reasonable cost. He put photos online. Within a month, he had sold more than 1,000 pairs in South Africa and farther afield in the United States and France.

Lessons for entrepreneurs

He said his success carries a lesson for fellow entrepreneurs in his country because it shows it is possible to build a valuable enterprise with only a small amount of money.

Haralambous sees himself as a disruptor in South Africa’s fashion industry, which he says has become complacent.
“The online space is going to disrupt the fashion industry in South Africa. I’m getting in early enough so I’m the leading disrupter.”


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Vanessa Zommi: the entrepreneur fighting diabetes with Tea

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Vanessa Zommi

Vanessa Zommi’s business is flourishing in her native Cameroon. She has an established business with social entrepreneurship at its heart. Zommi got an early taste for entrepreneurship by watching her mother sell computers after school, “I started learning how to make money, how to market a product, and how to talk to customers. I learnt the basics.” These early experiences would shape her future immensely.

Family has always been incredibly important to Zommi, 21, who comes from a household of six children. She lost both grandparents to diabetes, so when her mother was diagnosed she decided to take action. Knowing from a young age that she wanted to become a social entrepreneur, this drive to find a treatment for her mother led her to the perfect business

Diabetes rates rising among lower-income classes in Cameroon

She researched diabetes and potential treatments for her mother. While looking for natural remedies, she discovered the Moringa Oliefera tree which reportedly has over 40 known antioxidants. Among its health benefits is a noticeable blood-sugar reduction, around two hours after consumption. These health benefits were the cornerstone of her product and she saw its potential as both a treatment and prevention of diabetes. She started processing the Moringa leaf into tea, before selling it as a convenient and enjoyable health supplement.

Diabetes is an increasing health problem in Cameroon, mainly due to poverty rates and a lack of education concerning diet and nutrition. Poverty is one of the leading causes of diabetes throughout Africa as much of the cheap food and snacks are sugary and highly processed. The cost of healthcare often prevents early detection, with many of the sufferers in Cameroon unaware of their condition. The medicine used to treat the condition is also out of reach for many of the country’s rural poor. According to Zommi’s research, up to 15% of Cameroonians suffer from diabetes, and as many as 80% are not aware of it.

A tea with health benefits

Zommi’s tea is marketed as “Afya Moringa Tea” and currently supplies consumers in Molyko, Cameroon. Tea drinkers currently make up 5% of the population in her native country. She has ambitious plans: Zommi’s vision is to see that number rise to 40% by 2025. She wants to see the product marketed across the country as an affordable health supplement, for people at risk of diabetes and as a treatment for those who already have the condition. Zommi explains: “So at first I was doing this just for my mom, but then I realized this could help other people like her in Cameroon, as well as Africa.”

Conventional medicine too expensive for most

Compared to the soaring costs of medicines such as insulin, her tea is affordable and accessible to the local population. It costs just $2 USD per 40 g, and she hopes to reduce the price further once mass production commences. Alongside her ambitious plans for herbal domination in Cameroon, she hopes her product can spread throughout low-income areas across the continent.

The recent success of her business earned her the prestigious Anzisha award for 2015. It recognizes innovative entrepreneurs throughout Africa, in many different industries. Her self-belief and determination has got her far. She said recently: “The day I knew this was going to work is when I discovered that there is more availability of Moringa in Cameroon than there are areas of abject poverty.”

Helping other people help themselves

Zommi is tenacious, driven and her passion is helping other people. Her tea company now trains farmers to grow Moringa, and she helps provide the seeds to start their own crops. She is also an advocate for women in business, and believes that you don’t have to be naturally talented at entrepreneurship; you just have to have the drive and work hard at it. She explained: “so to all the young entrepreneurs – don’t be afraid! It will be difficult, but if you don’t give up, it will be worth it.” Cameroon needs more entrepreneurs like Vanessa Zommi.


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Omar Samra: entrepreneur, adventurer and humanitarian

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Omar Samra may be one of the most interesting Africans alive today. The 38 year old Egyptian is a highly distinguished explorer, holding a string of adventuring firsts to his name. Samra has experienced great tragedy, and then gone on to conquer that adversity, becoming a renowned motivational speaker and notable writer. He started life as a severely asthmatic child, but is now scheduled to become Egypt’s first astronaut. What’s more, Samra is known as a conscientious, highly successful entrepreneur and philanthropist; he is most certainly a unique individual.

Early life and career

Heavily asthmatic, weak and unfit as a child Samra said he couldn’t even finish a lap of his local 400 metre track. In an early sign of his deep and unwavering resolve, he set out to conquer his condition, dedicating himself to a brutal six days a week running regime. He gradually built up his fitness and became less reliant on medications. Aged 16, he climbed his first mountain in Switzerland and a passion was born.

In 2000, Samra obtained a degree in Economics from the University of Cairo. He then worked in London and Hong Kong, climbing the corporate ladder with the banking giant HSBC. However, adventure’s call gnawed at him, prompting a yearlong odyssey which took him through 14 countries in Asia and South America and saw him scale numerous mountains. He returned to the corporate world before completing an MBA in entrepreneurship with the London Business School in 2007.

Mt Everest, Kilimanjaro and a special partnership

Later that year he fulfilled a lifelong dream of climbing Mount Everest, becoming the youngest Arab and first Egyptian to arrive at the peak of the world. After defeating Everest, he yearned for another challenge, deciding to pursue the “Seven Summits”, the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. On a 2008 trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, he met his future wife and business partner Marwa Fayed.

Together, Samra and Fayed built a challenging and daring business. Their company, Wild Guanabana focussed on providing carefully selected, life changing adventure trips to destinations around the globe. The idea spawned from their love of travel, and their passion to encourage people to challenge themselves and transform their lives.

Their business began to blossom. The firm became the Middle East and Africa’s first carbon-neutral travel company, dedicated to sustainability, eco-protection, awareness regarding environmental issues, as well as collaboration and partnerships with environmental projects around the globe.

Not content with their efforts, the couple wanted to find another way to give back and enhance lives. In 2010 Marwa Fayed founded Cairo’s Toy Run for Orphanages. She gathered used and unwanted toys from around the city, and gave them as gifts to underprivileged, orphaned children. She said: “every child has the right to a toy; a loving friend and companion to nourish their creative minds.”

The Seven Summits and a desolate nadir

Samra continued his effort to scale the Seven Summits. By 2012, he only had one peak left on his list, Mt Denali in Alaska. He failed in his first attempt, but he finally summited North America’s highest peak in May 2013.

Just after this momentous achievement, Samra flew back to Miami where his wife Marwa Fayed was due to give birth to their first child. On the 17th of June 2013 their daughter, Teela was born. Just five days later, Marwa Fayed tragically and unexpectedly passed away due to complications from the birth.

Obviously this unimaginable tragedy took an immense toll on Samra. He found an outlet for his grief when he remembered the Toy Run initiative his wife started. He renamed the charity Marwa Fayed’s Toy Run as a way of keeping her memory alive. With the help of her family and friends, the project grew quickly. Today the organization has delivered hundreds of thousands of toys to children across the world. In 2014 the project was recognized by the Middle East Broadcasting Centre as Humanitarian Project of the year.

As part of his healing process, Samra wanted to get back to something he loved, adventuring. In April 2015 he became one of just 40 people in history to complete the ‘’Explorers Grand Slam”; skiing to both poles in addition to climbing the Seven Summits.

Today, Wild Guanabana is thriving. The company has had a huge increase in bookings and believes its revenue will increase 70% compared to last year. If that wasn’t enough he hopes to soon become Egypt’s first man in space after winning a grueling competition. One thing is for certain Omar Samar is remarkable human being, a genuine inspiration, and a role model for Egypt and beyond.

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Nana Boateng Osei and his sustainable vision for Ghana

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Nana Boateng Osei is the young man behind the stylish luxury eco-eyewear company: Bôhten. He hails from a Ghanaian family that is deeply proud of its heritage. He has travelled the world, conceived various outlandish business ideas and even appeared on the Canadian version of Dragon’s Den. Today his company Bôhten is going from strength to strength, while also giving back to his home country, Ghana.

Travel, the Big Apple, education and Lilo

Osei’s early life certainly wasn’t dull. Due to his father’s job as a diplomat for the Foreign Ministry of Ghana, Osei and his siblings spent long periods of time in countries such as the U.K, the U.S, Yugoslavia and South Africa. His family eventually settled to live permanently in New York City. However, they held on tightly to their Ghanaian roots; Osei has said that at home his family would always speak Twi and eat traditional Ghanaian dishes. They became closely involved in the Bronx’s large Ghanaian community and retained strong links with family in their home nation.

In 2007, Osei moved to Canada to study at Environmental Science at the University of Ottawa. It was while at University that he first began to create and pursue his own business ideas. In 2009, Osei opened a marketing firm Lilo Enterprises, which was designed to connect sustainable and environmental product manufacturers to consumers. Lilo foreshadowed the creation of Bôhten, highlighting the causes that Osei holds dear. He also flirted with other unorthodox businesses such as vertical gardens and limousine services during this time.

Ghanaian beginnings and the Dragons’ Den

Bôhten eyewear was born from the culmination of multiple ideas. Firstly, Osei was inspired by a trip back to Ghana where he was moved by the natural beauty of the area. Also, some of his family worked in the local wood business which interested him. These factors swirled with his love of fashion and passion for sustainability. He said “At some point, my interests began to play off of each other and during that trip, the seed of the idea for using reclaimed wood for glasses was planted.”

In 2012 he started initial work on Bôhten while still at University. He derived the company from his own name, Boateng, which means prosperity in Twi. Osei got the chance to pitch his business in the infamous Dragons’ Den during a student special episode. While he impressed with his pitch, he didn’t receive an offer from the Dragons, who felt the business was too young.

Osei wasn’t deterred by the Dragons’ decisions. He went on to bring family members into the business to help him grow the organization. Osei has said that with hindsight, investment partners may have stifled his creative freedom, and that the company has managed to move forward without them by knuckling down and getting things done.

The exposure from appearing on the show led to skyrocketing sales and growth. Some say the Dragons missed out.

A sustainable vision for Ghana

Sustainability is at the heart of the business; Bôhten uses reclaimed wood from items such as chairs and tables, all sourced in Western Africa. Additionally Osei wants to use Bôhten as means to better the economy in Ghana. The company currently manufactures its glasses in Canada. However, later this year the firm intends to open a full-scale manufacturing plant in Ghana. The plant going live will be the realization of a long term ambition for Bôhten. “Our ultimate mission is to create a zero-waste facility in Africa that will not only serve to create jobs but also educate people the importance of eye care, sustainable design and social entrepreneurship.”

Osei says that eye care is woefully inadequate in Africa. He explained that the high levels of UV radiation on the continent are responsible for some of the issues that African’s face. To combat such problems, Osei has partnered Bôhten with eyesight charity Sightsavers. For every sale Bôhten makes, the company will make a donation to Sightsavers programs, aimed at eradicating avoidable blindness in West Africa.

As Bôhten grows, so will the benefits that it brings to Ghana and other nations in the region. Nana Boateng Osei is tenacious, compassionate and conscientious individual; a great example for Ghana and Africa as a whole.

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Egypt’s supply minister resigns amid corruption probe

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CAIRO/ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Egyptian Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafi resigned from his post on Thursday, the highest level fallout from a corruption probe into whether millions of dollars intended to subsidise farmers were used to purchase wheat that did not exist.

“I announce leaving my post so that the state can choose who will bear and continue this path of giving,” Khaled Hanafi said on state television.

Egypt, the world’s largest importer of wheat, has been mired in controversy over whether much of the roughly 5 million tonnes of grain the government said it procured in this year’s harvest exists only on paper, the result of local suppliers falsifying receipts to boost government payments.

If Egypt’s local wheat procurement figures were misrepresented, it may have to spend more on foreign wheat purchases to meet local demand – even as it faces a dollar shortage that has sapped its ability to import.

Egypt’s supply ministry is in charge of a massive food subsidy programme and the main state grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC).

Parliamentarians who formed a fact-finding commission to investigate the fraud have said upwards of 2 million tonnes, or 40 percent of the locally procured crop, may be missing.

The general prosecutor has ordered arrests, travel bans, and asset freezes for several private silo owners and others allegedly involved in the scandal.

While Hanafi has not been accused of directly profiting from misallocated subsidies, parliamentarians, industry officials, and media commentators have in recent weeks pinned blame for the crisis squarely on his shoulders.

The prospect of hundreds of millions of dollars in squandered government subsidies comes as Egypt gears up for a raft of austerity measures, including various subsidy cuts agreed to as part of a $12 billion IMF programme that could bring pain for its poorest.


(Reporting by Eric Knecht and Maha El Dahan; additional reporting by Asma Alsharif; editing by William Hardy)


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Thato Kgatlhanye and her “upcycled” solar powered schoolbags

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Thato Kgatlhanye

Thato Kgatlhanye is a bright South African startup entrepreneur who is using innovation to benefit lives of local youths.

Thato Kgatlhanye is another shining tech star to come out of South Africa in recent years. Her passion for social change and empowerment is reflected in her landmark product: the solar powered school bag.

At age 18, Kgatlhanye founded Rethaka, literally meaning “we are fellows.” She set out with no concrete business plan in mind, just the idea that she wanted to do something that impacted young people and benefited underprivileged communities. Less than two years later, Repurpose was born.

Combining tech innovation and social motivation

Kgatlhanye had noticed that many children in South Africa walked to school carrying their books, or using plastic carrier bags. She was concerned that they frequently journeyed along busy roads, often late at night. Her vision was to create a practical book bag for disadvantaged students that could be low-cost and environmentally friendly.

Kgatlhanye and her business partner Rea Ngwane founded Repurpose with a $50,000 seed. The two childhood friends generated the startup capital by winning hard fought business competitions, and attracting corporate grants. They produced a prototype in partnership with an industrial product designer, before launching their brand of “upcycled” school bags. The bags are made from hundreds of reclaimed plastic carrier bags. They contain a solar powered battery element designed to charge on the student’s walk to school, and then emit light for up to 12 hours. Not only are these bags strong, durable and waterproof but they also come in many bright and unique designs and are made from high visibility materials.

Utilizing waste materials

The bags were designed with three core concepts in mind, forming the cornerstones of Repurpose’s success.

The first is its recycling element, which helps to alleviate Africa’s plastic crisis by upcycling collected carrier bags into a useful end product. Repurpose sets up “PurposeTextile” Banks for locals to deposit used plastic bags, taking them out of the environment ready to be made into repurposed bags.

The second is the bags’ durability and practical nature. They are long lasting, waterproof and available in bright colors. They are also made out of a highly reflective material in order to be more visible to vehicles. Three children are needlessly killed every day on dangerous South African roads, often walking to and from school along roads not built for pedestrian travel.

The final element is the solar powered light. The solar panel charges on the student’s walk to school and then can be used as a lantern for up to 12 hours of light. Many children cannot study once it gets dark as their families’ cannot afford candles or kerosene. Furthermore, around 3 million people are killed globally each year from accidents and illnesses involving kerosene and other temporary light sources.

Repurpose bags

Upcycling, generous donors and low-income families

Repurpose seeks out “Giving Partners,” who are matched with low-income schools that pay for a consignment of bags. Although Rethaka is a for-profit, women-owned business, they profess to do “what is right, not what is easy,” and their ethos is focused on generating profits, jobs and empowerment in otherwise struggling communities.

A recent graduate in Brand Management from Vega University, Kgatlhanye is enjoying her business success at a very young age. Her company has now dispensed over 10,000 backpacks, with plans to roll out further development and promotion of her bags. Repurpose has significant potential for the rest of Africa. Kgatlhanye has expressed a desire to extend her project across the continent, where it can save lives, benefit the environment and benefit children on a far grander scale. They intend set up more workshops in other African countries over the next 5 years, creating jobs and extending their reach. They also want to partner with large organizations like UNICEF to distribute the bags on a larger scale to identified African communities.

But Kgatlhanye is setting herself even wider targets. After identifying a new market, her next project is a range of luxury bags to be sold in the western world. This will be on a one-for-one model, donating one backpack for each bag sold. At just 23 years old, she is part of a new generation of change makers in South Africa. These individuals are utilizing their business acumen, entrepreneurial ideas and commitment to social progress for the greater good.

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