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!
PfAL 5 candidate Caroline Miring’u argues in the Africa at LSE blog that regular teacher strikes in Kenya are risking the future of the next generation.
Public school enrolment and attendance in Kenya has grown but as long as the system is plagued by unending teachers’ strikes, the future of our children’s education is in jeopardy. Kenya’s educational system has evolved over the last several years and, like most systems, there are private and public (or government) schools. There have been major reforms in the educational sector aimed at making the public system just as competitive as the private.
The introduction of free primary education in 2003 saw an explosion of the student-teacher ratio which rose from 30:1 to 60:1 against the UNESCO standards of 24:1. Due to this, public school performance plummeted and parents who could afford chose to move their children to the better-performing private schools.
Then, in 2014, entry into public secondary schools was changed from enrolment by merit across the board to priority being given to pupils from public primary schools. This gave the latter a higher chance of being enrolled in a good public secondary school. This caused panic among parents and led to a huge reverse shift of children transferring from private to public schools.
As the world becomes increasingly intertwined, PfAL 5 scholar Susan Poni Lado reflects on the role of mass media in spreading culture globally in the Africa at LSE blog.
In an age of globalisation, the culture of both people and mass media is fluid. We have the inclination to appropriate it, mis-appropriate it and dis-appropriate it all at once. But what of those who live in the bubble of third culture?
After reading We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo – who presented a dystopian reflection of her time as a child in war-torn Zimbabwe, followed by an account about the rest of her formative years growing up in the USA and having to acclimatise to the culture while at the same time pulling at the memories and remembrances of her beloved Zimbabwe (which she playfully terms: paradise) – I was prompted, if not inspired, to reflect on how third culture kids (or TCKs) relate to the world and how the physics of social norms can create new cultures through norm proliferation made ever so easy through the zenith of social media.
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…”
Today was different. For the past few months we have been scavengers awaiting our next meal. Sustenance has become something to dread, death has become appealing.
Aisha was not from Chibok, but she was Nigerian. Or so she thought. Aisha basked in dreams of achievement, working tirelessly for it. Despite the pervasive poverty that spotted her area, she thought education was her ticket out. She was wrong. Her environment decided not to relinquish its grip; the narrative chose not to change, despite her best efforts.
That day was different too. The moment she was thrown against the iron bars of the rusty Hilux, she knew. In one fell swoop, her dreams had been dashed. Boko Haram had struck. All hope for her survival, for rescue, slowly faded as the vehicle maneuvered deeper into the Sambisa forest. She saw herself in all the girls who had made this trip before her, now awaiting her arrival. Formally strangers, but sisters, under this bond of broken dreams, dashed destinies, and an uncaring state.
Nigeria decided. The recent presidential election was the most competitive in the history of the Nigerian state. As was widely reported, General Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the two-year-old opposition party, All Progressives’ Congress (APC), is now the President-elect. His victory over the incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the de facto ruling party for the past sixteen years, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is being hailed as a step forward for democracy in Nigeria and on the African continent.
However, this is not the first time that General Buhari has taken part in a contest for the privilege of managing Africa’s largest economy and most populous country. Before winning in 2015, General Buhari had made three failed presidential bids. The last of those was in 2011 with the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party he founded in 2009. This time around, the former military leader ran for the top position in government in Nigeria with the recently-formed APC – a merger of a number of small opposition parties including his own CPC. Although some have argued that the ethnic backgrounds of the names on the APC ticket alone helped secure the win, the election results demonstrated a widespread desire across all Nigerian regions for alternative governance.
Mobile phones revolutionised Africa. From the simple ability to communicate or to access the Internet or online banking, today most Africans cannot function without one or more mobile devices.
The majority of this access comes from satellites. In fact, I am writing this article from South Africa accessing the Internet using 3G via satellite. Satellites are an indispensable part of an almost unthinkable number of equations. However, despite the benefits that mobile phones have brought to Africa, most do not realise or comprehend what satellites and other aerospace technology can truly do to transform the African continent.