How ‘Afropreneurs’ will shape Africa’s future- CNN Feature

So my work got featured recently on CNN. See below;

How ‘Afropreneurs’ will shape Africa’s future

(CNN) — His full name is Idris Ayodeji Bello, but you might just call him “Afropreneur.”

That’s the buzzword adopted by the young Nigerian to describe the bright, independent and tech savvy entrepreneurs using creative thinking and the power of innovation to take over Africa’s economic destiny.

cnn_afrop

“Over time Africa has relied on government and big multinationals for solutions — but they’re not coming,” explains Bello.

“But of recent you’re seeing a new wave of young men and women who have access to all the global networks, who’ve studied either within the continent or outside and have this passion for change — these are the people Africa’s change is going to come from, these are the people I call ‘Afropreneurs.'”

And Bello is certainly leading by example.

At just 33 years old, he has already been involved in several tech initiatives aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship and empowering communities across Africa

cspan

Connecting solutions to problems

 

Early last year, Bello co-founded the Wennovation Hub in Nigeria, a technology space enabling ambitious entrepreneurs to come together and develop their trailblazing ideas into successful businesses.

The Lagos-based hub, one of the many innovation centers that have recently mushroomed across Africa, has so far incubated the efforts of more than 100 entrepreneurs, providing them with space, support and consulting.

nextcool

“Part of our own responsibility is to connect the talent to the opportunity,” says Bello. “We took the “i” out of innovation and replaced it with the “we” and came up with the Wennovation Hub — the problems of Africa are huge, they cannot be solved by one person alone, so it requires people coming together.”

Access is key

Born in Nigeria to a family of academics, Bello says he learned from an early age the importance of access to information.

Growing up, he says, he was surrounded by books. “We had a mantra in our house,” remembers Bello. “My dad would always say ‘never get caught without a book,’ so whether you had lunch or you were sleeping, you always had to have your book.”

idris

Bello went on to study computer science in Nigeria before moving to the United States and the UK to further his academic knowledge in entrepreneurship and global health. Along the way, his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in — he worked for multinationals such as Procter & Gamble and Chevron and also got involved in a number of startups.

But Africa was always bound to be central to Bello’s work. Passionate about his continent, he quickly ventured into what he describes as “the business of technology in health and education.”

meid

‘An app a day keeps the doctor away’

As a result, Bello co-founded AfyaZima, a health technology and management startup that leverages the rise of mobile phones and other low-cost technologies across Africa to provide access to vital health information.

The startup won the 2012 Dell Technology Award — in collaboration with the Oxford Engineering World Health Group — for Blood Pressure MCuff, a low-cost device that enables blood pressure monitoring and data transmission via mobile phones. The technology hence acts as a communication channel for doctors to remotely send treatment recommendations to their patients.

afrop_dell

The concept is this: at the moment you put mobile phone on everybody’s hands, how can it comes to that … instead of people going to the hospital, the hospital comes to you,”Bello says. “Growing up, they used to tell us an apple a day keeps the doctor away, now it’s more like an app a day keeps the doctor away.”

AfyaZima, which comes from a Swahili word for complete health, is also working to create a cloud-based service that will receive the mobile phone data and store them in an electronic health record.

‘Bringing online education to an offline world’

But perhaps Bello’s most daring project to date is YoKwazi: an ambitious initiative aiming to change Africa’s education landscape by putting learning resources to the hands of students and teachers across the continent.

harambe

Bello explains that due to broadband constraints many young Africans are losing out in the major shift toward open education in parts of the developed world, where massive open online courses are offered for free.

“That’s where I step in,” he says. “I come from the developing world but I have had access to this good education and so my goal is to bridge that gap — to knock down that barrier of broadband.”

Still at testing stage, YoKwazi aims to deploy OTGPlaya, an offline wireless cloud device, in key community areas to house and host online educational tools. The device, which was incubated at the Wennovation Hub, will do a one-time download, store the content and make it available for people nearby to access it through their wi-fi enabled devices.

“It’s about bringing online education to an offline world,” says Bello.

Legacy of ‘Afropreneurs’

Multifarious and passionate, Bello says his mission as an “Afropreneur” is to enable access to information so that people can tap into their own creativity to solve their problems without having to rely on government.

afropp

“A lot of times we’re focused too much on trying to solve people’s problems. But people are the ones who best know their own problems but often can lack the tools they need,” he says.

“When you give people access to health education, they will take better care of their health; when you give people access to education, you will see people even do greater things,” adds Bello. “We enable people to access — when they know, they will solve their problems. That my proposition.”

Posted in Africa, Afropreneurship, branding, Education, education innovation, Global Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take your turn, because it’s rarely given!

I finally got my copies of Seth Godin’s new book – What to do when it’s your turn - today, and it’s so interesting that I immediately jumped into it.

setss
I find particularly interesting his story on “being stuck on a broken escalator”.

While it seems obvious what the folks above should do, the reality is that many of us are indeed stuck on life’s broken escalators, unable to see that all we have to do is walk right off the escalator.

Just turn the broken escalator of your life into stairs that get you where you need to get to in life instead of waiting for someone to rescue you or fix the escalator.

The stairs may not be as convenient as a working escalator, but it gets the job done and beats being stuck in a spot!Ask yourself today, which of life’s escalators am I stuck on? What is stopping me from using the stairs, no matter how inconvenient to get to where I need to get to?

sets4

It’s ‪#‎yourturn‬. It’s always your turn. To act.

Take your turn, because it’s rarely given!

 

Posted in advertising, branding, communication, Motivational | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Balancing Contentment and Ambition

We all struggle with being content with what we have achieved, and yet not falling into the zone of complacency. There is always the danger that desiring to achieve more may leave you unhappy with what you have already achieved. So how does one strike that balance between contentment and ambition?

balance

I found this excerpt from a post by James Clear very relevant, and thought you may too. In it, he quotes from the book The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

rose2“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”

That there, is profound!  And it applies to the individual, as it applies to mentors, coaches, and parents!

As James comments ;

Ambition and contentment are not opposites, but we often make the mistake of thinking that they are incompatible. On the one hand, experts tell us that we should be mindful, focused on the present, and content with our lives regardless of the results. On the other hand, coaches and champions tell us that successful people out work everyone else, that we must never be satisfied, and that complacency is undesirable.

The rose seed, however, is both content and ambitious.”

As Gallwey says, at no point are we dissatisfied with the current state of the rose seed. It is perfectly all right at each moment. Yet, it is also incredibly ambitious. The rose seed never stops growing. It is constantly seeking to get to the next level. Every day it is moving forward, and yet, every day it is just as it should be.

content3

Viewed from another perspective, it has to do with what is driving your ambition. As seen in the story of the rose, its ambition to grow is not driven by discontent.  If discontentment or a quest for “stuff” is the motivating factor, no matter what you get or how much you get, you’re still not going to really be happy until you find contentment!

So its about becoming better while loving who you are. Its about enjoying the journey without losing sight of the destination!

Active contentment is growth.

Posted in Afropreneurship, branding, Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How not to respond to Ebola- Idris Bello for CNN

ebolacnn

 

Editor’s note: Idris Ayodeji Bello is a Houston-based entrepreneur and global health advocate. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN) — There is no word more reviled in America than “Ebola,” especially since the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who had traveled to Dallas. But as Ebola has spread, it has become increasingly clear that if there is to be any chance of stopping the disease — not only here in America, but across the world — then the United States must lead through inspiring example.

Unfortunately, the response of some institutions that should know better has been anything but inspiring.

First, this idea of a travel ban. Amidst numerous calls for a ban on air travel to and from West Africa, including from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, it is worth noting that West Africa is not a single country, but a region comprised of 15 nations.

And while Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been ravaged by the disease, Nigeria (20 cases) and Senegal (one case) have contained the disease, while Ghana, Togo, Cameroon and the other countries in this subregion of Africa have not reported any cases at all.

Should the U.S. follow the lead of countries, including Jamaica, which have instituted such a travel ban?

The trouble is that doing so would give us a false sense of security, and at a huge cost. In spite of the hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans that are volunteering on the frontline to fight this disease, only one infected person has so far made it into the United States.

Continue reading at CNN

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ebola in the US: Are we letting fear win?

ebola_independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/ebola-in-the-us-are-we-letting-fear-win-9814193.html

As it is my usual practice after work, I went to the gym on October 1, 2014. This being a gym I frequent, I am known well to the gym’s staff.

On this fateful day, I was met at the gym’s entrance by the owner who asked: “Idris, where are you from?”

Surprised by the question, I replied in a casual manner:”Houston, Texas”.

But she persisted, and said: “I mean, where in Africa are you from?”

I replied a bit indignantly this time: “Nigeria “.

“Oh”, she said, “I just wanted to check if you were from Liberia”.

It was only then I understood her reason for asking me in the first place. I retorted: “What if I was? You don’t want me to spread Ebola among folks here?”

By this time she was red in the face, and started explaining that she just wanted to be sure I did not have family members from Liberia visiting.

That was just three days after Thomas Duncan, lately of Dallas but formerly of Liberia, had been admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, in Dallas, Texas, and seven days before he died, becoming the first case of Ebola diagnosed on US soil.

This incident, and several others that have occurred in the past few weeks, have brought to light the subtle stigmatization of people of West African descent as result of the fear of Ebola transmission among fellow Americans.

Continue reading at http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/ebola-in-the-us-are-we-letting-fear-win-9814193.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Navarro College; Stop Ebola, Stop Stigmatization!

Listen to my Radio France Interview below:

Unless you live under a rock, you are probably aware of the ongoing Ebola epidemic  which has affected multiple countries, with some having widespread transmission (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone), and some with localized transmission (Nigeria, Spain, United States) and Senegal with a travel-associated case.

Of the countries listed above, only Nigeria and Senegal, have currently been declared Ebola free, with the CDC declaring that 1Persons who entered Nigeria on or after September 30, 2014 are not at risk for exposure to Ebola. Persons who entered Senegal on or after September 20, 2014 are not at risk for exposure to Ebola.”

Hence, it came as a shock when I got a call from a very close Nigerian friend of mine in Texas recently, that his brother-in-law along with some other Nigerians had been denied admission to a ‘Navarro College’ in Corsicana, Texas (which I was not even aware of its existence prior to that moment) based solely on being citizens of a country with Ebola cases, or in their words “Navarro College is not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.”

letter_nav

While I had had some embarrassing moments myself based on people’s ignorance about Ebola , this was the first time that I was hearing that a university, which is supposed to be more objective was making a decision to ban all students from multiple countries based on apparent fear. This was even more ironic given that the students in this case were from Nigeria which had been declared Ebola-free (for now) and was a distance of 6525 miles away, yet Navarro College is located only 31 miles away from Dallas , Texas, which has an active Ebola case.

ebfree

It was not until I had seen the letters myself that I sprung into action on social media , and even then, lots of people found it difficult to believe despite my providing a snapshot of the letter. Many people have requested for a pdf of the actual letter which you can find here.

Since then, there has been lots of reactions on Twitter ranging from witty to serious, from surprise to shock. Some have asked that the issue be taken up legally, while some have themselves written to the Navarro College International Admissions  Officer whose details are available here . We have also gotten some of the affected students to write the school demanding an explanation and a reversal of the decision.

Some people have asked why the students cannot apply elsewhere (within or outside the USA), but I think those people miss the point. It is no longer about these young men and women who were wrongly discriminated against, but it is now about reversing that decision so that others do not resort to the same uninformed action. If during the civil rights movement, everyone had just resorted to applying elsewhere or joining a different bus when they were discriminated against, we would still be in the same situation today.

As one of the folks on Twitter who have taken it upon themselves to fight this said ” I have sent an email to the international programmes office of the school, with an official enquiry to this regard. I have also forwarded a complaint to the WHO International Health Regulations council, for further investigation and advise. This contravenes every international health and migration regulation that there is, and I hope that we can get more information, following investigation.”

What you can do to help!

1) You can write Navarro College through elizabeth.pillans@navarrocollege.edu and let them know Nigeria is Ebola-free, and  the fight against ebola worldwide will be won with education and information, not stigmatization!

2) You can share my facebook status which has the snapshot of the letter from the school. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10205114365962569&substory_index=0&id=1346702752

3) You can retweet my Twitter status about this case. https://twitter.com/idrisayobello/status/521444572820279296

4)You can tweet at Navarro College’s handle on Twitter @NavarroCollege ) expressing your displeasure at this action.

5) You can post on  Navarro College’s FB page https://www.facebook.com/NavarroCollege  expressing your displeasure at this action.

6) You can educate yourself and others about Ebola at the CDC site and also read this great short piece by Seth Godin

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that Ebola has been contained in Nigeria (please visit

).

No new cases of Ebola has been reported in Nigeria  since August 31 (please read the article entitled “Nigeria Has Successfully Contained Ebola, US Hopes To Learn From Their Response”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/09/nigeria-contains-ebola-outbreak_n_5959442.html).
Thank you

Idris Bello

October 13, 2014

Story Links:
Washington Post - Navarro College in Texas apologizes after rejecting Nigerian applicants over Ebola fears
NBC News – Texas College Rejects Nigerian Applicants, Cites Ebola Cases
Gawker - Texas College Rejects African Applicants Because It Fears Ebola
Chron – Texas college won’t admit students from countries with Ebola cases
MTV – Did This Texas College Really Reject A Nigerian Student Because Of Ebola?
The Daily Beast – Did A Texas College Deny Men Admittance Because Of Ebola?
CBS Local – Did A Texas College Deny Men Admittance Because Of Ebola?
Navarro College – Updates from the Director
CNBC – Texas college rejects Nigerian applicants, cites Ebola cases
Newser – Texas College Turns Down African Students Over Ebola
Vocativ – College Allegedly Rejects Nigerian Student Because of Ebola Fears
Bloomberg Business Week – A Texas College Rejects Nigerians Over Ebola Concerns
Corsicana Daily Sun – Navarro College sends rejection letters citing Ebola concerns
Slate – Texas College Rejects Nigerian Students, Says Won’t Accept Students From Ebola Countries
The Independent – Texas college rejects applicants from places with Ebola (Texas has Ebola)
Daily Mail – Texas college rejects application from Nigerian students because of Ebola
San Antonio – Texas college won’t admit students from countries with Ebola cases
Mediaite – Texas College Rejects African Applicants Because They’re from Ebola Land
Yahoo Finance – Texas college bans students from ‘Ebola countries’
Dallas News – Texas college says it’s rejecting all international students from countries with Ebola
Complex – Texas Community College Cites Ebola Fears in Rejection Letters to African Applicants
Mother Jones – Texas College Rejects Two Nigerian Applicants Because of Ebola Panic
Financial Times – Nigerian Twitter Campaign Informs the World About Ebola
Fox51 – ETX college confirms denying applicants due to Ebola fears
CBS19.TV – UPDATE: Navarro College doubles down on Ebola-related admissions ban

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Featured in August 2014 Vanity Fair Magazine ‘Spotlight on African Entrepreneurs’

http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2014/08/harambe-entrepreneur-alliance-africa-startups

_i_1_african-entrepreneurs-vf

Harambee is Swahili for “Let’s pull together.” And the flourishing Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance lives up to its credo. The brainchild of 31-year-old Okendo Lewis-Gayle (second from left)—born in Costa Rica, raised in Italy, educated at Southern New Hampshire University—the organization targets African-born twentysomethings from elite schools who have dreams of starting business ventures and socially responsible projects in their native lands. Discouraged by the frequency with which foreign executives tend to swoop in to run new companies, Harambe persuaded large firms such as McKinsey & Company, GlaxoSmithKline, and Standard Chartered Bank to provide grants, pro bono services, and expertise to its members and their start-ups. The result: a 31-country assembly of 225 bright young entrepreneurs, a handful of whom will participate in events surrounding a presidential summit for young African leaders in Washington, D.C., this month.

After a Vatican forum not long ago, Harambe associates met to network and swap stories at Rome’s oldest bar, the Antico Caffè Greco. Among them: Nigeria’s Idris Bello, who oversees tech incubator Wennovation Hub; Zimbabwe’s Rumbi Mushavi, who works with a poultry-farm initiative that provides jobs and sustenance for H.I.V.-positive women in rural Uganda; Kenya’s Rakhee Shah, whose successful fashion label is carried in boutiques in Hong Kong and Spain; Senegal’s David Ly, who leads an app-development firm; South Africa’s Suzana Moreira, who has set up a mobile-commerce service; Botswana’s Rapelang Rabana, a “mobile learning” pioneer; and Kenya’s Sam Imende, who co-founded Enzi, a made-in-Africa footwear brand. Says Bello, “We’re not a think tank—we’re a do tank.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ1vpyekjNg

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Buffett’s annual letter: What you can learn from my real estate investments

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

5 Lessons Running a Half-Marathon Taught Me!

Today, I completed the Chevron/Aramco Houston Half-Marathon in a time of 2 hours and 21 minutes. I am deeply appreciative of your support as I transitioned from someone unable to run a mile less than 8 months ago to completing 13.1 miles at a stretch. If I can do it, then anyone can do it!

photo 4But more importantly, I wanted to share five take-aways from my experience that could be applied to life generally!

1. Don’t pick goals where the stakes are low: I did not need to train for, and run a half-marathon, especially given that I did not like running, and had never run a mile. I could have chosen something easier or more within my comfort zone. What I have realized is that if you fail inside your comfort zone, it’s not really failure, it’s just maintaining the status quo. If you never feel uncomfortable, then you’re never trying anything new. You need to step outside your comfort zone to get into your gift zone! Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Book of Senegalese Stories: Reflections on Gorée, An Island of no return

Visitors, in your grievous smile, I like to read the victory of love”

IMG_6867

 The above quote by the late Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye – founding primary curator of the Slave House of Gorée Island summarizes the mix of my emotions as I stepped foot on this island just a 20 minutes boat ride from Dakar, Senegal.

While I do hope to eventually put up a blogpost about my different experiences (across Senegal- My Book of Senegalese Stories ( as seen here, here, here, here, here and here in pictures), I could not bear to leave Dakar without penning my thoughts about Gorée and its Slave houses, of which it is said;

 The story of Gorée island is the story of how millions of men, women, and children from all over west Africa were sold off into slavery, never to return again to lives familiar.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

My book of Senegalese Stories; ‘Run like a Happy African’ edition

Q24“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

It’s my 2nd day in St. Louis, a tiny fisherman island on the northern shores of Senegal, built and patterned after New Orleans, back when it used to be the capital of Francophone West Africa before Senegal’s independence.

I am here on an innovation working tour to work with local tech hubs and entrepreneurs creating local solutions to local problems. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

My Book of Senegalese Stories: The Thanksgiving edition

1Ok. So while my American friends are enjoying their turkeys in freezing weather ( just had to rub that in from tropical weather zone here) I got invited by a Senegalese colleague to join his family for a meal yesterday. I gladly accepted what I assumed would be a pop in- pop out simple meal. It however turned out to be a very interesting meal-making experience which I have tried to capture in pictures below. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Running to Rome!

IMG_5664

“Redefining your limits is what makes great athletes — and great entrepreneurs.”— Unknown

October 2013 found me on my way to Rome for the 2nd Rome Forum organized by the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance  – a network of highly educated young African entrepreneurs, from leading universities in Asia, Europe and North America who in partnership with a growing number of groups including Pfizer, Western Union, and Syngenta are developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem to support the social and business ventures of young African professionals.

It was to be my second visit to the ancient city which holds a special place in my journey on account of the first visit in 2011 having occurred at a pivotal point in Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Afropreneurship, Education, Harambe, Innovation, Investment, Rome, Social Enterprise, social venture capital, Uncategorized, Vatican, wennovation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Focus on your expectations, not your limitations!

Warning: This is going to be a long post. Grab some popcorn!

First things first. This blog is now officially two years old. Hurray!

Seems like just yesterday, September 2011  when I left for Oxford to begin to live life on my own terms, and what an experience it has been. It is also a year since I left Oxford to embark on a new phase of life, but I digress.

Today’s post is really about how I l almost missed a major milestone today.

Background
In March 2013, I had visited the physician for my annual physicals, and at that point I was horrified to see that I weighed in at  about 30-40 lbs above my ideal weight. Leaving the Dr’s office, I made a couple of decisions.  Not only was I planning to lose that weight before my 34th birthday nine months away, I was going to do more than that. I was embarking on a life style change of eating healthier and becoming more physically active. Continue reading
Posted in Afropreneurship, branding, Fitness, Global Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Limited Edition Awesome Afropreneur Tees

afroAre you an Afropreneur?

Are you one of those bright, independent and tech savvy entrepreneurs using creative thinking and the power of innovation to take over Africa’s economic destiny?

Do you identify with the new wave of optimism about the continent? Then get one of these tees by sharing below how you are making an impact on the world!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment