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.
After attending the recent Decolonizing the Academy conference, PfAL 5 candidate Aaron Munzaa asserts in the Africa at LSE blog that while listening is good, it is critical that there is active engagement in deconstructing dominant and oppressive power structures and legacies in all spheres of life.
Conversations on colonisation and racism are difficult to have between races. These brutal racial ideologies have left a scar in the conscience of humanity. What is even more difficult is to confront the reality that the legacies of this noxious and oppressive heritage persists in our world today – from pristine halls of the academy to the murky residences of shack dwellers, as was ably examined on 21 and 22 April 2016 at the University of Edinburgh during a conference aptly themed Decolonizing the Academy. Brave scholars congregated to discuss and share experiences on this incredibly complex issue and the many faces it wears in our world today. There was great diversity among those present and the depth of their work was enlightening as they exchanged ideas and experiences in confronting multiple power structures of domination that continue to exist in the classroom, research, publishing, language, ideas, history, and institutions among others.
In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 5 candidates Yossie Olaleye, Hope Kyarisiima, and Camilla Omollo reflect on the debates that took place at the Decolonising Education conference that took place at the University of Sussex on Monday 11th April.
The concept of decolonisation—or decoloniality—has existed for decades, particularly in use among postcolonial scholars and activists from the Global South. Fanon’s decolonisation theory, for example, posed philosophical questions about the colonial roots of global politics, education, law, and travel, all of which, in many ways, have a violent history at their core. It is against this violence, both material and symbolic, that movements of decoloniality fight. In recent times, the concept of decolonisation has mostly garnered global attention from the academic and institutional angle. Through social media and other digital technologies, we witnessed movements from #FeesMustFall to #RhodesMustFall (and #RhodesMustFallOxford), and we listened to Professor Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s excellent lecture at LSE on South African universities as sites of struggle.
As LSE students who had become accustomed to a particular conference setting, we were a little taken aback by the setting of the #DecolonisingSussex conference. We had walked in expecting to see beautifully arranged tables with long, skinny mics and a lovely banner promoting the university. Instead, we walked into a room with chairs arranged in an open circle, no desks, and, even more alarming, no conference folder or leaflet. For us, then, being within that space demanded reflexivity, which, in some ways, is at the core of the struggle to decolonise education and academic institutions.
If Nigeria is to achieve the sustainable development goal of ensuring gender equality in the political and business arena, there is a lot of work to be done. In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 4 alumna Nwamaka Ogbonna has a checklist for the government, private sector and civil society.
Women make up about 49 per cent of the Nigerian population and nearly one out of four women in sub-Saharan Africa is a Nigerian. While this presents potential human resources that can be harnessed to enhance economic productivity; the disparities in social and economic opportunities between men and women have never been starker. Nigeria has the lowest number of female parliamentarians in sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 133rd in the world for female political representation. Women own only 20 per cent of enterprises in the formal sector and only 11.7 per cent of Board Directors in the country are women. Although it must be acknowledged that the country has made some progress in closing the gender gap in certain areas ie primary school enrollment rates, gender equality still remains in a deplorable state and these statistics reveal that there is still so much work to be done.
I therefore argue that if Nigeria is to meet the sustainable development goal of “ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life”, there is an urgent need to adopt a more holistic approach to the inclusion of women that comprise various stakeholders in society.
With the increasingly popularity of the internet for political communication and mobilisation, PfAL 4 alumnus Donnas Ojok examines the factors behind the social media lockdown during the 2016 general elections in Uganda.
“Your inability to use social media for political mobilisation in Uganda today is at your own peril” a senior Uganda government communications advisor warned politicians and civil society activists during a recent launch of a flagship publication on social media and political communication in Uganda.
But what if this online political mobilisation tool is suddenly censored at the height of a political process like elections day? This is exactly what happened in the recentelections in Uganda. Twelve hours before 18 Feb, all social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and even more interestingly, mobile money was completely locked down. Many Ugandans thought this would last just for one day – the day of the general elections – but to their dismay,it would continue for the next 72 hours. Thanks to the VPN applications whose downloads in Uganda clocked one million in just 12 hours – a small segment of the technologically savvy population bypassed this digital blockade. Generally, it can be argued that to a very large extent, the government digital blockade was significantly effective in demobilising political participation which is a significant blow to democratic consolidation processes.
In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 5 candidate Yossie Olaleye and a fellow classmate meet Professor Pius Adesanmi to discuss current issues in Nigerian politics, the African diaspora, and contemporary Nigerian literature.
If you close your eyes and picture a literature professor in Ottawa, you do not picture Pius Adesanmi. Expecting to be greeted by a stuffy thesaurus personified, I was instead confronted by the beaming face of the professor himself who had emailed me an hour ahead of our scheduled time to tell me that he was ready. “Oh, so this is only audio? I could have worn jeans and a T-shirt,” he lamented.
Yossie Olaleye and I met with Pius Adesanmi to discuss his views on African identity, literature, and contemporary Nigerian politics. In his role in at Carleton University in Canada, we were particularly interested in his viewpoint as a member of the Nigerian diaspora, and where it placed him in ongoing conversations.
Pius Adesanmi burst onto the international literary scene in 2011 with the publication of his book You’re Not a Country, Africa! – a poignant mixture of personal essays, political discourses, satirical letters, and literary criticism. The book was awarded the Penguin Prize for African Writing in 2010. More recently, Adesanmi was appointed Director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University in Canada.
On the vision for the Institute and his job as Director, Pius said that as Director, he has a mandate to facilitate “strategic linkages” between Canadian institutions organising Africa-focused initiatives in order to blend them into the strategic vision of the Institute, whose aim is to shift narratives — something that 2016 LSE Africa Summit also aims to do.
In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 5 candidate Ronald Seruyombya laments that there is no provision for Ugandans in the diaspora and in prison to vote in their country’s general elections.
Five decades after Uganda gained independence coupled with twenty years after the 1995 constitution came into force; it is remarkable that only free inhabitants of Uganda have full rights as citizens. Those living abroad automatically relinquish their right to vote. In addition, people awaiting trial or in prison lose their right to participate in both local and national general elections.
The architects of the 1995 constitution did not envisage that diaspora and incarcerated people needed to be included. This omission can be excused. However, given that the constitution has been amended several times, there have been multiple opportunities to rectify this exclusion.
Ugandans living abroad have no say in deciding who rules their country
In an interview on the Uganda television station NTV discussing the 2016 elections, the Chairperson of the Uganda Electoral Commission, Hajji Badru Kiggundu reiterated that ‘there is no provision for people in diaspora and prisoners to vote’.
The question is: What will it take for this issue to be considered?
In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 4’s Yusuf Kiranda analyses whether the youth vote can steer the course of the 2016 general elections in Uganda.
The third general elections since the reintroduction of the multiparty system will be held in Uganda on February 18. Elections have been seen as a quasi-market where political agents trade policy promises to voters who make choices that permit selected politicians to control government institutions and by this determine the allocation of scarce resources. The logic of electoral competition is that politicians are primarily concerned with attaining electoral victory, they thus have a proclivity to respond to the interests of those groups which are seen as most likely to swing the vote.
Motivated by the Arab Spring as well as the most recent developments in Burkina Faso, considerable discourse on current African political processes have paid much attention to the continent’s youth. Their demographic significance and high unemployment rates are seen as factors that have augmented youth political activism. In the 2016 elections in Uganda, population statistics and the national voters’ register show that youth make up a significant proportion of registered voters: around 44 per cent of 15.2 million. Counterfactually speaking, if Ugandan youth were to significantly turnout and cast their vote as a united bloc, they could swing the vote to determine the eventual election outcome—only 60 percent of total registered voters turned out to vote in the most recent election in 2011. However, the absence of youth-specific issues, possession of multiple identities as well as high unemployment and poverty levels makes co-ordination of the youth vote a tall order. As such, young people’s demographic significance and their high numbers on the voters’ register may actually count for less than often speculated. Indeed whether young people will turn up in large numbers to vote remains a matter of guesswork.
In the following video PfAL alumnus Donnas Ojok recites an original poem campaigning for peace in the coming Uganda elections. (Text below)
In the light of Peaceful elections By Donnas Ojok
On top of that mountain lies a priceless pearl
To me, it’s not just priceless, but hey it’s the best pearl in Africa
Inside this pearl lies a checkered pattern of political history
Where – colonial distortion of socio-economic and political way of life left indelible scars
Where – the euphoric independence trumpet ushered in only but short-lived celebrations
And long term poverty and violence
In the 1966 Lubiri attack, Kampala blacked out
And in 1971, just in a twinkle of an eye, Amin reigned
Nani wuyu, simama, Panda gari were all you could hear
From then on, your gun was your voice
Then in the midst of these gunshots and bombshells, coup d’états and espionage
Came the unbridled struggles by the upright thinking men and women
A concept regarded by Abraham Lincoln as the government of the people, for the people and by the people
Democracy is the brightest light in our dimly lit room and by voting, we choose our leaders
But the rocky road to elections shouldn’t be forgotten
With protruding fangs, elections can bite like a venomous cobra
Do you remember the post-election violence in Kenya?
The turmoil in Bagbo’s Ivory Coast? Charles Taylor’s troubled Liberia? Mugabe’s Zimbabwe?
These are, but painful realities of how politicians’ blows became painful blood clots of the citizens
Of how countries that resisted colonial exploitation succumbed to selfish political pleas
Of how millions of innocent lives perished in hot and cold blood
Of how billions of properties vanished just like that
Of how children became orphans, women widows and men widowers
These are, but true stories of how our rich cultural diversity are crushed
Of how our dazzling cities and tranquil villages are crippled
Of how our dreams, courage and hard-work are undermined
Of how short sighted and stupid we can be
Just like Konrad Adenauer, I keep wondering why God limited the intelligence of man
But did not limit his stupidity to be violent
Don’t be stupid and naïve about the dangers of violence
Cut it out and think for just one second
If you are uncertain, let the recent history of peaceful elections in Nigeria,
Senegal and Burkina Faso be your guide
Electoral violence is only but a can of worms
With each worm craving to come out to take the first bite
Each worm struggling to take the sharpest nibble
Once opened, everything and everyone is in danger
This danger transcends tribe, race, sex, age and even more interestingly political affiliation
Elections in Uganda are a significant political achievement
So let it not swing us like a pendulum bob
Or else, decades of state building will be switch off just in one click
And our hopes will once again be hanged on the weak ropes
And suddenly, the sweet dreams will turn into nightmares
All rendering centuries of hard work a trivial effort.
Let elections cast the light of non-violence
And a shadow of peace
Let it build new clouds of certainty
And generate thundering threads of jubilation
Let it ignite a shining flame of love
And spark a spontaneous feeling of patriotism
Voices are silent
Ears on the ground
Eyes on a gaze and hearts patiently pounding
All believing that today’s peaceful election is the Launchpad for tomorrow’s unstoppable progress
In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 5 candidate Duncan Njue explores how African countries can become bigger players in global trade.
Economists define globalisation as a process that involves the integration of economies – products and services; labour, capital and knowledge markets – across international boundaries. In the western world, more so in Europe, North America and in the Asian powerhouse economies of China, Japan, South Korea, globalisation has entrenched itself and has brought huge economic benefits to its people. However, Africa has not largely benefited and continues to be a small player on the global front. In fact, the continent’s share of global trade – of goods and services – in 2015 stands at only 3% of $18 trillion worth. Yet Africa’s population share is about 16% of the world’s total. With a population of over a billion, the second highest in the world, there is a huge latent demand for its goods and services.
The ongoing and established integration of markets must be commended and encouraged. It is certainly a step in the right direction. The continued deepening co-operation between Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the South African Development Community (SADC) will yield huge opportunities to regional trade. The continued co-operation in infrastructural projects in energy, transport and communication networks such as LAPSSET and Northern Corridor Integration Projects ongoing in East Africa currently will for sure be critical in the economic transformation of these regions. They will foster trade. But Africa’s trade must shift from the traditional importation-and-distribution from the developed economies and focus on value adding the made-in-Africa for export both within the continent and to the rest of the world. This is what will truly lift the people from poverty to dignity. To achieve this each African country must determine what its comparative advantage is and should be and then develop a clear and effective strategy to strengthen that advantage on a global scale. It could be specialised agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, labour market, knowledge economy, service industry. The age of doing a little of everything is long gone and no longer sustainable.