Kenya has long been known to be home of many running champions. As the popularity of distance running grows globally, many recreational and amateur runners are looking to Kenyans for tips on how to run farther and faster. A quick Internet search produces a very long list of articles asking, as Runner’s World puts it, ‘Why are Kenyan distance runners so fast?’ The question does not only stay with running publications either. Major news publications including the BBC, The Guardian, National Public Radio, and The Atlantic magazine have written on the topic.
For PfAL 2 and 3 alumna Navalayo Sarah Osembo Ombati, this growing trend presented an opportunity. She had long been passionate about using sports to spur growth and development in her home country, Kenya, and since graduating with an MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics on a PfAL scholarship, she has been dedicated to finding the right way to make a positive impact in Kenya through sport. Her recent social enterprise, Enda, launched a Kickstarter campaign in late May to produce the ‘world’s first Kenyan running shoe’. On June 1, 2016 Enda exceeded its target of $75,000 comfortably and is now seeking to reach its stretch goals. Here she talks to PfAL about Enda – its story, its mission, and how it is bringing the Kenyan spirit into the running industry.
What is the story of Enda?
Enda (which means “Go!” in Swahili) is a social enterprise company making Kenya’s first running shoes. I co-founded it with Weldon Kennedy. We met at an entrepreneurial workshop where I was pitching an idea to start a sports academy in Kenya which grooms children gifted in sports into champions, without compromising their education. We discussed different ideas on the importance of sports in development and Enda is a product of that conversation. We recognized the latent potential of Kenya’s excellent reputation in running and decided to develop a running shoe that not only espouses the great running spirit of Kenya, but also provide a means through which the country can benefit from the global running industry.
Though not the largest continent in the world, Africa is arguably the most diverse. Data published in a 2002 paper for the Harvard Institute of Economic Research titled, ‘Fractionalization‘, indicated that “the 13 most ethnically diverse countries are all in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Yogoslavia and then 7 more Sub-Saharan African countries” (p 8). The authors of African Languages: An Introduction cite a source that estimates 2,035 African languages but makes it clear that the “number is not fixed” (p. 2).
In the PfAL Network alone, the 130 current members represent 23 African countries, and we anticipate that number to grow over the coming years. Many lively conversations and debates have resulted from the varied perspectives and life experiences of members from across the Continent as well as from different parts of each represented country; however, the diversity has been a valued aspect of the Network from the start. As indicated in the PfAL Leadership Code, one of the principles and values PfAL alumni pledge to uphold is:
Diversity–We embrace differences in heritage, cultures, backgrounds, ideas and perspectives, harnessing this in the pursuit of excellence.
But what are the implications of such ethnic heterogeneity on political governance across the Continent? On Thursday 10 December 2015, PfAL@LSE students explored the question in a debate, opened by four volunteer speakers and chaired by Professor Teddy Brett, Visiting Professor at LSE’s Department of International Development. Click through the slideshow to catch a glimpse of the spirit and passion the issue sparked in the room!
The very first PfAL@LSE 2015/16 event kicked off on the evening of Thursday 12th November. 53 LSE graduate students from sub-Saharan Africa came together first to hear a talk from Firoz Lalji, Chairman of PfAL Foundation and CEO and Chairman of Zones, Inc. The evening then transitioned to a student-led debate on corruption in Africa, which was started by four volunteers from the group. A lively debate ensued, bringing up questions around the definitely of corruption, success, and even where the roots of corruption could be found. Flick through the photos below to get a glimpse of a very dynamic evening!
On Friday 11th September 2015, PfAL staff welcomed 23 keen, enthusiastic African students to the London School of Economics and Political Science. Most had only just arrived in London the day before, but the entire group looked ready to take on the challenges of the coming year.
“My new path has led me to realize that the vision of a new society in Africa will need to be developed in Africa, born out of the Africa historical experience and the sense of continuity of African history. The African is not yet the master of his own fate, but neither is he completely at the mercy of fate. As you leave LSE, my wish for you is that we keep looking for Africa’s solutions. Don’t settle!”
With these words Fiona Mungai, a PfAL4 scholar from Kenya, gave a smile to the applause of the PfAL4 group and headed back to her seat. Isabelle Umugwaneza, from Rwanda, took the podium.
“Good afternoon. Distinguished guests, Mr & Mrs Lalji, Fellow Colleagues, it has been a pleasure spending the day with you all, yet again hours spent receiving much needed food for thought, and encouragement…”
We are delighted to announce our partnership with the 2015 LSE Africa Summit. A student-led initiative launched in April 2014, the annual Africa Summit seeks to address relevant issues facing Africa today and in the future. The inaugural summit in 2014 focused on entrepreneurship and featured several high-level speakers including President John Mahama of Ghana. The theme for 2015 is “Innovative Governance” in a wide range of industries and disciplines including health, technology, security, justice, education and politics.
If you will be attending the Summit and would like to speak to a PfAL representative, please stop by our stand outside the Sheikh Zayed Theatre in LSE’s New Academic Building. We are happy to answer any questions or add you to our mailing list.
On Thursday 19th March, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr Mo Ibrahim to speak to the PfAL@LSE group in a talk chaired by Professor Thandika Mkandawire, Professor of African Development at LSE. Dr Ibrahim gave the group a little of his own history in setting up his business and some of the challenges. Under the rapt attention of the group, Dr Ibrahim then spent time talking about good governance and the importance of celebrating good leaders.
Writer Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in White Nights and Other Stories, ‘But how could you live and have no story to tell?‘ At PfAL, we are constantly challenging our members to dig deep, examine their lives and identify how they can contribute to the progression, or even reshaping, of Africa’s future.
On Thursday 26th February 2015, PfAL@LSE addressed the field of media in a discussion with three established African media professionals, chaired by Dr Wendy Willems, Assistant Professor in LSE’s Department of Media and Communications. On the panel were Jeff Koinange, a Peabody- and Emmy-award-winning broadcast journalist; Agnes Gitau, Director for the London-based East Africa Business Network; and Salim Amin, Chairman of Camerapix and Co-Founder/Chairman of A24 Media.
We are delighted to announce that through the continuing generous support of the Lalji family and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), there will again be a significant scholarship fund for bright African students applying to eligible Masters programs in development offered by LSE.
On Thursday, January 29, 2015, PfAL welcomed H.E. Macharia Kamau, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations, to speak to the PfAL@LSE group. Ambassador Macharia Kamau has served at the United Nations for over 25 years, mostly in senior management positions, and has extensive international experience. In addition, he was co-chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, established in January 2013. Continue reading →