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He Came, He Trembled, He Conquered

It was a night of trepidation and surprise in Monte Carlo as a Nairobi banker became the first African to win a coveted award for entrepreneurs. Africa was right behind James Mwangi—he wasn’t so sure.

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When James Mwangi boarded a commercial plane in Nairobi, bound for Monte Carlo, he was nervous.

This was a big trip to the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 Awards and the competition was tough. They call this award the Olympics, or World Cup, for entrepreneurs. It was a prize too far away in the mind of a 50-year-old like James Mwangi, CEO and group managing director of Kenya’s Equity Bank.

“I started wondering how I would be ranked when you hear stories of the personal wealth of these entrepreneurs. These people range from heads of industries like: the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world; the biggest ship building company in the world; supplier and producer of 90% of the world’s silicon chips—people with extensive experience—the majority of them are in their seventies,” he says.

Any fears in mid-air were confirmed when Mwangi’s commercial flight touched down in Monte Carlo on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Most of his competitors had arrived in their private jets.

“Not only did we not jet into the country, like most participants, we had to do a 45-minute drive to the hotel, while the others were lifted in helicopters,” Mwangi says.

“I was given a hotel room overlooking the beach on the 10th floor, overlooking yachts, more than 200 of them, expensive and luxurious yachts, at that. I realized that I am in a different place and not a usual place.”

So you can imagine the shock and surprise when the Nairobi banker, far from home, won.

“The whole hall was silent except our tables, with Nigerians and South Africans, of course.”

As they gritted their teeth and applauded, the illustrious competitors waited for the winner to walk to the front. Then, they waited a bit more.

“Instead of making my way to the podium, we started hugging and embracing each other with African joy and warmth. It was like thunder and something extraordinary had happened… We started singing the song, It’s Time for Africa and we were very excited about it—almost assuming that there was nobody else in the room until I was prodded by someone to make my way to the podium.”

Mwangi delivered the shortest acceptance speech in history, without protocol and almost incoherent, in his excitement. The roof-top drew back and fireworks crackled into the night sky over Monte Carlo—on the ground, Mwangi, the first African to win in 25 years of the awards, felt like exploding with them.

“This award makes a point that Africa is ready to be fully integrated with the rest of the world and what we hold are perceptions that are very far from reality. This is global recognition for Africans who are embracing the power of entrepreneurship to change the economic and social state of Africa,” says Mwangi.

Other African participants in these awards included: Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, group managing director of Access Bank in Nigeria and Braam van Huyssteen, founder and managing director of Tekkie Town.

It was recognition for the entrepreneur who opened up banking for millions of poor Kenyans through Equity Bank, in which he owns a 5% share.

Mwangi joined Equity Bank nearly 20 years ago when few gave a dime for its chances.

“The bank was declared technically insolvent and earmarked for closure when I joined in 1994,” recalls Mwangi.

Deposits were at Ksh22 million ($262,000), loans were at Ksh9 million ($107,000); there were 27 employees and losses were Ksh33 million ($393,000) against capital of Ksh3 million ($35,000). So the bank was technically insolvent to the tune of Ksh30 million ($357,000). He converted his family’s 15-year home loan of Ksh4 million ($71,000 in 1994) into capital, thus reducing the technical insolvency of the company to save it some interest.

“Instead of the traditional banking, we went to mass banking, high volume and very low margins. Consequently, we became relevant in terms of affordability. Through the use of technology, particularly that of mobile banking and agency, we were able to breach the last mile in terms of access to financial services,” says Mwangi.

“There was no way of going back to the family to say that we had lost everything, hence I had to work hard to redeem that which I had lost.”

Equity Bank grew and the deposits flowed in. Today the company has a turnover of about Ksh200 billion ($2.3 billion), with nearly 7,000 employees. It is listed on both the Nairobi and Uganda stock exchanges.

The Mwangi model is studied in several business schools including the Stanford Graduate Business School; Columbia Business School and Lagos Business School. Maybe, one day this method of making money at the bottom of the pyramid will be referred to by business graduates as “Mwangist” alongside Marxist and Keynesian theories.

It was the fruit of years of struggle for Mwangi. His father died when he was very young and his mother struggled to bring up her children alone. To raise money for school fees, Mwangi sold charcoal and fruit on the streets. It was his training ground for buying, selling and trading.

The blood of an entrepreneur ran through Mwangi’s veins from a tender age. As a young man, Mwangi formed a small company selling sand around Nairobi, in partnership with the current assistant minister of agriculture, Gideon Ndambuki. They had four lorries and a pickup truck; later they sold fruit and vegetables to hotels.

“Entrepreneurship is the cure for the African paradox of a continent with resources and human capital but that remains poor. The only ingredient lacking is entrepreneurship,” he says.

Anyone who can beat a fleet of high-flying entrepreneurs is surely worth listening to.

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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