“Let me clarify this, policy does not drive innovation. People drive innovation.” Strong opening words from Imad Mesdoua at the Africa Technology Business Forum’s Policy Panel in June. To most, innovation and entrepreneurship seems like a quintessential personal activity. An individual or a small group has an idea, spots a niche in the market and decides to set up a business. What does any of this have to do with Government?

Of course this has a lot to do with Government. Moderator Gosbert Chagula referred to Government as ‘the ever-present illusive force causing mischief in the background.’ Not only does Government set regulations and policy that can stifle or spur innovation, is responsible for putting in place basic infrastructure, it can also provide direct access to finance. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Programme (GEM) has found that almost one third of social enterprises rely directly on Government funding: “Governments are not equipped to solve all of the world’s problems — nor should they be — and are looking for innovative solutions from the private sector. Social entrepreneurs will play a vital role.”

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“Girls with dreams become women with vision.”

IMG_2548This was written on one of my birthday cards last year. I have a lot of dreams, from running my own company, getting a phd and finally writing a book about start-ups. Living in London, I am surrounded by ambitious women with equally bold dreams. However, the devil is in the detail and turning dreams into a vision whilst juggling all the competing demands of work, friends, family and life in general can be tough. Alex Hess, a partner at a private equity firm, philanthropist and mother said at a recent Eyedea event: “The desire to always want do more when there is never enough time is a trap that catches us all.”

What if we could just do more things a little bit better and a little bit faster? New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg, has attempted to solve this conundrum for us and compiled his lessons into eight neat chapters in his recent book: smarter, faster better. The Secrets of Being Productive. As can be expected from a Pulitzer price winning author, the book is a pleasure to read and provides inspiring tales of Jack Welsh’s turn around of General Electric to how Disney’s Frozen became a hit (and almost didn’t get made), alongside a set of practical recommendations from agile thinking to forecasting the future. I have road tested his tips this year and below is a summary of my personal highlights on how to do more things better.

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The first thing I noticed was the audience. There was something special about this particular crowd. A majority of women of all ages, colours and shapes – interspersed with some men. Apart from looks the audience was rapturous, you could feel the energy and the excitement reverberating in every single heart that night in London’s Southbank. It was all for her. She, who is a reluctant feminist. She, who says she is still unsure of what it means to be an icon. Nonetheless, she embraces it with all her smart vigour. She, that is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Shero of a generation of women who are looking for a voice and for the right words to articulate what we all feel and are rarely able to say. Not the way she does anyways.

It’s a Saturday night and Chimamanda is greeted like a rockstar when she enters the main auditorium to speak about what it means to be a woman today as part of the Women’s of the World Series.

She started off her talk with a profound statement from her new book, Dear Ijeawele. Dear Ijeawele, is a small booklet with 15 suggestions on how to raise a strong independent woman. The statement is quite simple, really, it says: I matter equally. Not ‘if only’, not ‘as long as’. I matter equally. Full stop.

This sets the scene and Chimamanda then explains how she became a feminist. She talks about how she was at carnival and had to go inside when the beautiful masks came out whereas her brothers were allowed to stay outside. She questioned the distribution of domestic chores, where she had to do the dishes – hating it – whilst her brother who actually enjoyed doing the dishes didn’t have to do it. She was told too that she must learn how to cook, whereas this was optional for her brothers. She said she asked a lot of questions and was never satisfied with the answers. Why aren’t roles assigned based on interest but based on gender? She talked about how girls and women from the early ages are taught to talk themselves down, make themselves less intelligent and how those constant sacrifices we make are in a perverse way rewarded by society. Like us being small is somehow beneficial for humankind.

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In 2015 Senegal’s central government blocked Dakar’s first municipal bond launch a pioneering transaction supported by the World Bank. This post first appeared on Medium

Transport for Dakar.

Nestled on the shores of the Atlantic, Senegal’s capital Dakar has been changing radically in the past decade with some large investments in roads and infrastructure. Yet, poverty and poor service delivery remain endemic especially in the ‘other Dakar’, informal settlements where 40 per cent of city dwellers live. As in many African cities, chronic shortage of jobs and affordable housing, poor transport services, flooding, erratic waste management and frequent power cuts hamper economic development. Running on a ticket for improving the city for all citizens, Khalifa Sall, member of the opposition party Parti Socialiste, was elected Mayor of Dakar, unseating an ally of Senegal’s long-time president Abdoulaye Wade.[1]

To realise his ambitious plans, the reformer Sall needed capital and technical support. He enlisted help from the donor community to strengthen the cities administrative capacity and fiscal management and attract financing to improve Dakar’s infrastructure. As a first step, the World Bank led Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF)’s Sub-national Technical Assistance Program (SNTA) reviewed the municipality’s financial management systems and potential for accessing loans and other external finance: the first African sub-national entity to be assessed under this programme. While the review highlighted deficiencies in Dakar’s financial management, SNTA proposed a number of reform to improve its financial management systems and increase revenue collection. These reforms produced rapid benefits in enabling Dakar to borrow on commercial terms to finance investments to develop municipal markets and road rehabilitation.

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IMG_4855From dusty Dodoma to cool Arusha and in Dar es Salaam’s sticky bars, guessing the presidents agenda is a new favourite past time for Tanzanians and visitors alike. 

John Magufuli’s recent moves to restrict work permits for foreigners, not only worries the expat crowd, but effects will be far reaching. An American business owner had to put the business she built over five years by herself in her husbands name and can only run it from her living room as spousal visas don’t allow for work permits. The American Chamber of Business is holding special info evenings to explain the planned regime to their members and struggle to mitigate the negative message the move sends to potential investors.

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Stone Crusher Stone crushers rattle for 12 hours. 6 days per week. A man is standing by its side feeding the machine shovel after shovel with gravel. A shawl covers his face against the stony dust.

Gold that will later decorate the necks of Indian brides, be displayed in a Turkish souk or stored in the vaults of central banks first has to be scrapped from the belly of the Earth, often in devastating conditions around the world.

Given the volatility of gold prices and the general depression of metal prices many large mining companies lack the spirit and financial muscle to engage in new gold ventures. Countries around the world feel the pinch and increasingly turn to their home grown artisanal mining sector to make up for the shortfall.  This could be a welcome shift from many countries obsession with mega projects back to their own mining force.

Oftentimes large mines operate as enclave industries with very weak links to the rest of the economy, although their environmental and social impact on the surrounding communities can be dramatic. Read More

Dhow in Dar es Salaam harbour

Dhow in Dar es Salaam harbour

Bowing to mounting political pressures it appears that Tanzania has halted its constitutional review process until after the General Elections in 2015.

President Kikwete and others have recognised that the time to accomplish the momentous task before he leaves office won’t be sufficient.

John Cheyo, chairman of the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), announced the suspension after a meeting with President Jakaya Kikwete at Kilimani State Lodge on Monday afternoon, Mr Cheyo said those present agreed unanimously that the exercise be called off on the grounds that it was unlikely to deliver on the promise.

A suspension of the process and the meetings of the Constiutional Assembly would save taxpayers money given the fact that a new constitution can only be passed after October 2015. Thus far the assembly has not recognised this logic and proceeds with business as usual.

Starting in 2012 the review process gathered a broad range of views including those of the youth, civil society and for once even pastoralists, Masaai, Barbaig and others came together to present their views on democracy and the future of Tanzania.

Woman in Paje, Zanzibar

Woman in Paje, Zanzibar

Inefficiency, arguments and delays have characterised the process ever since. After all the new constitution was suppose to be announced at Tanzania’s 50th anniversary in April. The failure to deliver on his promise to give the country a new – modern – constitution will be a further blow to the outgoing President’s legacy.

Only time can tell whether the incumbent will steam ahead with the endeavour and pick up where Kikwete left off or whether Tanzania – once again – leaves the job half done.