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Silicon Savannah Swagger

Forget Silicon Valley in the States—the rising Tandaa Generation is clicking towards a fortune in Kenya.

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From a distance, Kariuki Gathitu looks like just another kid you would pass on the street without blinking. He wears jeans, sneakers and a backpack; he sips milkshake and hangs with his friends. But in Gathitu’s backpack are big dreams and a business plan aimed at making him one of Kenya’s first tech billionaires within five years.

Gathitu, a 28-year-old systems architect, is one of East Africa’s new breed of technopreneurs—the hip ones with big ideas who make their fathers’ generation sit up and take notice. They are the whiz kids who command respect. Never before has it been this cool to be a geek. After the international success of Safaricom’s M-PESA, more and more technologists under 35 are mushrooming in Kenya’s large cities. Backed by government-sponsored training, these computer geeks are emerging by the score to build a sunrise industry in what is being called the Silicon Savannah.

Kariuki Gathitu

“The world has changed and so has technology. These youngsters see the world from a different perspective and they are constantly seeking ways to make life easier,” says Soud Hyder, an independent technologist based in Nairobi. The recent Pivot 25 conference saw the cream of the IT crop from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania come together for two days in Nairobi. Few delegates were over 30. Gathitu’s company, Zege Technologies (Zege Tech), was among them with its M-PAYER application. On the company’s first anniversary in July, it was raking in tens of thousands of Kenyan shillings and aims to increase its annual turnover to $2 million in the next five years. The company has prospered through a gap in the mobile money system. Often you have to wait up to 72 hours for money to reflect—a major cause of frustration when paying bills. M-PAYER, however, pays in real time. It took Zege Tech three months to come up with the application and another eight months to tailor it for the business market.

In a highly competitive market, Safaricom and Airtel, Kenya’s largest mobile networks, were quick to buy in. Zege Tech won Best Product in the Young Innovators category at the AITEC banking and technology conference in Nairobi in March and visits to the company’s website increased 400%. Gathitu is one of the few young geeks around the world to turn down a job at Google. “In June, I received a call from their office in Switzerland and was flattered as it has been my dream job for a long time. They said I could choose at which office in the world I would want to work. Unfortunately, I had to turn down the offer as there are still a few projects I am working on that will enable many young people to have an easier chance at doing business,” he says. Gathitu is as humble as he is influential. He has just returned from a trip to Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, where he addressed the heads of state at an African Union summit on youth leadership. “It was a great moment when I could speak to Africa’s big leaders. I wanted to give the older generation goose bumps through what the youth is doing. I hope I succeeded with that.

Afterwards I received many invitations to speak at conferences in Angola and Zambia and Mozambique… I’m starting to wonder when I will find time to work,” he laughs. Gathitu hoped to study aeronautical engineering in Britain, but ended up with a degree in Computer Science from the Kenyatta University in Nairobi. He has been fiddling with computers since he was seven. “It became my default career, but now it feels like a fit.” The mobile money transfer system, M-PESA, has put Kenya on the technology map. It allows the user to over come the headaches of sending money internationally, as well as pay bills and purchase goods and airtime through a mobile phone. It is made for Kenya, a country where fewer than 10 million people out of a population of 39 million have a bank account. According to Q2 2011 data released by the Communications Commission of Kenya, there are more than twice as many mobile subscribers—nearly 25 million— as there are bank account holders.

With the support of the government’s ICT Board andinnovation hubs in Nairobi like iHub, young innovators have a chance. It is part of Vision 2030, the Kenyan government’s plan to transform into a middle income country. Paul Kakubo, CEO of the Kenya ICT Board, calls the young techno warriors the Tandaa Generation (‘Tandaa’ is a Swahili word for ‘spread’). In one of his blogs Kakubo writes: “…the Tandaa Generation is what will deliver a lot of the goodies we are looking for as a country. They can create, they are intellectually curious, they are driven, very exposed thanks to technologically delivered media, they are non-tribal, they are good thinkers; they like to be independent. Technology provides them with the tools. What they now need is capital.” Gathitu is riding the wave. He is sharp and ambitious. His company is eyeing South Africa, Nigeria and French speaking West Africa. It hasn’t always been easy.

“One mistake I have made is to over-value a product based on its technological superiority as opposed to market traction. I now believe that a business needs customers more than cash flow,” he says. The time is ripe and the demand is high. Gathitu believes he is well on his way to becoming a tech billionaire before the age of 35. Like many, he trained hard in the years since the first M-PESA transaction in March 2007, and like the rest of the Tandaa Generation, he is ready to rumble.

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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