Letitia Wright and Winston Duke join Motion Picture Academy

The Black Panther stars are among several new members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences LETITIA WRIGHT and Winston Duke are among the new members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Black Panther stars were invited to join the organisation behind the Oscars as members this week.

Source: Letitia Wright and Winston Duke join Motion Picture Academy

Samuel Kariuki

Kenyan Entrepreneur Making a Fortune Online

Meet Samuel Kariuki aka, Kush, a Kenyan Entrepreneur Making a Fortune Online.

Samuel Kariuki wanted to send his high school principal an email to inquire about the possibility of securing a scholarship.

The principal had promised to help the school’s top student to secure a scholarship to study abroad.

Kariuki had passed highly in his high school leaving exams in 2003 and was hoping to get the scholarship.

Given that he had never used a computer before, he walked into a local cybercafe for help.

What started as an email inquiry turned out to be a light bulb moment for him. His mere curiosity for the internet changed into a resolute decision to learn more. Eventually, the internet became a life-changing platform for him.

“I was fascinated with the amount of information l could get online. I set my mind to start a business that involved the internet and computer. The only problem was that l did not know what type of business that would be and there was nobody who could tell me the type of business l could do that involved the internet and computer,” says Kariuki.

Today Kariuki earns a six-figure salary working as a freelance writer on Upwork. He also runs a blog and an Online Jobs Training Course

Growing up in Nyeri county, Kariuki had always wanted to become a businessman. But it is his first encounter with the computer that made him make up his mind to pursue a computer-related business.

Determined to achieve his ambition, he in his gap year, took up computer packages to acquire basic skills in computer usage.

His dreams appeared to be taking the right path when he joined Kenyatta university for a bachelor of science degree. Upon graduating in 2009, he did not put much effort into job hunting because he was passionate about self-employment. Within the first few months after being conferred the degree, he launched his first business.

“While in college, l learned about the movie business where you download movies for sale. I did that for some time but l didn’t see it’s future. The business meant l had to pirate the movies which didn’t sit well with me,” says Kariuki.

Despite this first encounter with failure, Kariuki unswervingly kept following his dreams. It was not long before a light appeared at the end of the tunnel.

“My friend told me about a position where I would use a computer and internet to work. So I was employed in a BPO-Business Process Outsourcing firm where they were basically getting projects from clients abroad and distributing them to us,” says Kariuki.

Freelance Job Opportunities

He was earning 12,000 Kenya shillings ($120) a month. Seven months into the job, he began freelancing as a side hustle. He had grown in his writing and editing skills. A month into the side engagement, he quit his job at the BPO firm to work exclusively in the more rewarding cyberspace.

“Starting out was quite challenging. But I had made up my mind. I only used to get some articles from one of my friends and I would work for five hours a day. However, I would make more money than I used to make from my job. If you can call it a job,” says Kariuki.

He was keen to upgrade his writing skills and to grow his online career. He also wanted to share his knowledge and hoped to help other people to get started with online work. For this reason, he created a blog where he would share his thoughts about online writing.

When the government, in 2016, launched the Ajira Digital program, a platform where the government in partnership with the private sector provides training and mentorship on online work to Kenyan youth, he quickly signed up.

As part of the program, Kariuki completed a one-week training course and a one-month mentorship program. The training opened his eyes to new opportunities. He took his blogging seriously and was able to identify several gaps in the training that he sought to address.

“I can say the training was great. But the mentorship program was not effective. It could have been a bit difficult for those starting out from scratch,” says Kariuki.

Starting an Online Training Course

For this reason, he started his own Online Jobs Training Course where people can learn in just eight hours-what took him long to grasp. He keeps adding new content to the course and once a student is enrolled, they get lifetime access to the training and can access any new content. Since launching the course, he has trained 168 people online and many more offline.

“The course is a step by step guide to getting started online with a mentorship program that ensures the students get the most from the course and me.

The fee is 5,000 Kenya shillings ($50) but right now it is on a 50% discount for a limited time,” says Kariuki.

Although he regrets having to work long hours and to pay high power and internet bills for working online, he has never opted to work offline. He used to work from home but he moved to an office in Kikuyu and employed three people after launching the e-learning platform.

Kariuki makes 1,250 Kenya shillings ($12.5) an hour for data entry and 2,500 Kenya shillings ($25) from digital marketing.

He believes that the future of work is online and in artificial intelligence. He says aspiring online freelancers should get into it now because it will be a bit difficult getting in later. 

“Online work is slowly becoming the norm. It is cheaper for the employer and offers more benefits to the worker. l am looking to cement my future as a go-to person for those looking to learn about online work and companies wishing to start offering work online,” says Kariuki.

For now, Kariuki continues to get more people into the online gig market while enjoying its flexibility. He finds projects that match his expertise, decides when to work and whom to work for and never dreads about coming face to face with an overbearing old-fashioned boss.

Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto

New Book Chronicles Nineteenth-Century Brazilian Black Abolitionist Efforts

Note from BW of Brazil : It is often said that history is written by the winners. As such, people or groups who were deemed the losers in the annals of history will often suffer from decades, centuries or more of having their plight told in a manner that is, at best, mostly true with a few misunderstandings, exaggerations or exclusions, or at worst, a completely ficitionalized version of what actually went down in history.

READ MORE HERE: Book reveals the role of black intellectuals against racism and for full citizenship of former slaves in nineteenth-century Brazil

Maryland Sets Up First Statewide Commission On Lynchings

With all the recent racial tensions in the United States, it’s refreshing to see that progress is being made in the area of racial justice. Similar to how tribunals were set up in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide and apartheid in South Africa, tribunals are needed in the US to repair the lasting and historic damage of racial violence and terror in America.

SourceWhat To Expect From The Nation’s First Statewide Commission On Racial Terror Lynchings

Sudan

How is Sudan Doing After Bashir Ouster?

Image credit Jedrek B via Flickr (CC).

On April 11th after five days of sustained protests outside of the compound of the Military High Command in Central Khartoum, the Minister of Defense and First Vice President of Sudan, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf made a televised broadcast to the nation, announcing the arrest of President Omar El-Bashir and an unspecified number of other high ranking officials primarily associated with Islamist Movement.

Source: Sudan’s national salvation

Tuskegee Heirs Create Hit Kids Comic

In 2016, artist Marcus Williams and writer Greg Burnham came out of nowhere with a Kickstarter for a comic book concept that blew everyone away. They took the real-life story of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (the precursor to the U.S. Air Force) and updated it with kids and superpowered mechs to create Tuskegee Heirs .

Source: Tuskegee Heirs Creators Mix History With Fantasy To Create Hit Kids Comic

The Young and the Jobless: Kenya’s Fledgling Youth Fund

In 2006, the government of Kenya established the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF), one of four affirmative action agencies to drive down youth unemployment in the country by providing loans and business development services to youth-owned enterprises.

This was in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals which among other things, were developed to increase the number of youth who have relevant skills for employment, decent jobs, and to foster entrepreneurship–all by 2030.

But with the continued bulge in the number of young people in the country, this vision has not become a reality given the baby steps the country is taking in tackling youth unemployment.

Although the fund has made some progress, it is clearly unable to keep pace with the increasing youth population.

In its 2013-2017 strategic plan, YEDF, reported that between 2008 and 2011, over. 6.5 billion kenya shillings was lent to youth enterprises, 1,973 youth enterprises had received market support, over 200,000 youth were trained on entrepreneurship and another  9,370 were facilitated to secure employment abroad.

In February 2019, The Star newspaper reported that since its inception, the fund had lent out Ksh. 12 billion to 800,000 youth countrywide.

Young and Jobless in Kenya

According to the 2015/2016 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey released in March 2018 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 9 in every 10 unemployed Kenyans are 35 years old and below.

The report, which focused on people who were actively looking for jobs, found that 85%  of young people were unemployed.

In his speech during the launch of the 5th cohort of the Tuskys Internship Programme in December 2017, Mr. Ronald Osumba, the YEDF  acknowledged that the country is struggling to deal with youth unemployment.

“We have a situation where the number of young (people) leaving school every year is much greater than the job opportunities that our economy is able to generate,” said Mr. Osumba.

A 2017 British Council Study indicated that about 500,000 to 800,000 young Kenyans enter the job market every year but Kenya’s economy has not been able to absorb them into the workforce and provide the necessary amount of employment opportunities.

While noting that the current education system is insufficient in preparing youth for the employment market, the study cast doubt on the country’s capacity to attain the Vision 2030 goals.

This, the report noted, despite an improving business environment in the country. Kenya moved from position 129 to 108, in the 2016 Doing Business Report.

Jobs in Kenya

The Kenya Youth Survey report published by the East Africa Institute, 10 years since the YEDF was established, revealed that 55% of young Kenyans between 18 and 35 years (80%of Kenya’s population) were unemployed.

So worrying is the situation that 30% of the 1,854 respondents in the study believed that corruption was profitable, with 47% of them expressing admiration for individuals who had acquired money and wealth through dubious means.

It also emerged in the report that the majority of the youth had entrepreneurial ambitions.  48%of the respondents preferred establishing their own businesses to studying law, teaching, medicine or engineering while 26% of them were keen on employment and careers.

But the Youth Fund has done little to actualize these self-employment ambitions among the young people.

Shouldering the Burden of Unemployment

The government, through the YEDF, is putting enormous pressure on Kenyan youth to create jobs for themselves.

Research published in April last year by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), found that Kenya needed to create 2,000 jobs a day to meet the growing number of young people entering the job market every year.

This is a mammoth task for a government that spends more than it earns, with more money going into salaries than development.

According to Kenya’s Economic Survey 2018, the national government collected 1.4 trillion Kenya Shillings in revenue while the county governments collected 32.5 billion Kenya Shillings in the 2016/2017 financial year.

The survey showed that the national government spent Ksh. 2.3 trillion in the 2016/2017 financial year and budgeted for Ksh. 2.8 trillion in the 2017/2018 financial year with Ksh. 2.1 trillion allocated for recurrent expenditure, while Ksh. 670.6 billion budgeted for development spending.

The ODI report, titled, Opportunities for Commonwealth Development: creating jobs, sharing prospects and increasing resilience revealed that the government of Kenya had created 400,000 new jobs each year between 2003-2016.

To realize Vision 2030, the report said that Kenya should create 600, 000 new jobs each year to provide work for the youth.

Underfunding

Demand for YEDF services is overwhelming resources. In the 2015/16 and 2016/17 budgetary allocations, for example, the fund received Ksh.300 million and Ksh.600 million respectively.

A 2016 study published in the Strategic Journal of Business and Change Management found that although the YEDF had created jobs among the youth, the loans which majority of the youth groups accessed was minimal compared to the number of people in each group who expect to benefit, making the trickle-down effect difficult to realize.

The study titled, Influence of Youth Enterprise Development on Youth Empowerment in Kandunyi Constituency, Bungoma County found that market linkages had not provided adequate market for goods and services produced by the youth enterprises.

Unskilled Entrepreneurs Abound

In May last year, 48% of respondents in a study published by the International Journal of Liberal Arts and Social Science reported that they had received the YEDF loans without undergoing any form of training.

68% of respondents in the study titled, Assessing People’s Perceptions of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund in Employment Creation towards Poverty Reduction in Meru County, felt that the fund created employment and reduced poverty.

More funding to the YEDF will certainly mimic some difference but real change will be made when Kenyan society begins equipping its young people with entrepreneurial values, attitudes, and skills. They need to be business-minded from a tender age. More importantly, they must know that corruption will not give them enduring wealth but a well-managed business will certainly do.

Battling to Draw: The Story of Two Kenyan Art Students

In 2015 two freshmen in college, Jerry Timbwah and Denis Mwendano bumped into each other while navigating the admission process at Maseno University.  Drawn to each other by shared aspirations and similarities in their past, the two visual artists instantly became friends.

They had both suffered rejection and had been struggling to fit into a society that was yet to approve of their carrier choices.

Having defied their critics, the final year students of Fine Arts are currently building a visual arts brand dubbed, Kuchora Tu.

“Some people would dismiss our courses as, “Kuchora tu,” (a Swahili phrase for “mere drawing”) that is how we came up with the brand,” says Timbwah.

Recently, they represented the university in the National Cultural Celebrations organized by the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO (KNATCOM) in Kisumu before taking part in the 2018 UNESCO Kenya Week in Paris.

“It was fascinating. We were like dogs that had been caged for years. Boarding the plane to France opened our doors,” says Mwendano.

Mwendano’s love for art began when a shoe polish company organized a drawing competition in his primary school to promote its brand. He was in class 3 (tBatthe equivalent of third grade). He drew a locally celebrated footballer pouncing at the company’s shoe polish instead of the ball. He topped his class and later joined a team of winning artists in Nairobi for a trip sponsored by the company.

After the competition, Mwendano would spend every spare moment drawing. A year later, his hobby got him into trouble.

“One day my father gave me the cane for drawing in my homework books. But he realized that l loved art because he bought me drawing books,” says Mwendano.

Growing up, there was something inherently different about Timbwah that made him quite troublesome. He could not find the correct medium to express it. One day, while in class 4 (fourth grade), he sprayed paint on his schoolbag. His mother bought him a drawing book. Then it clicked.

“l started drawing anything that could inspire me: trees, cartoon characters, spiderman…l was also doing calligraphy and wood carvings,” Timbwah says.

The tide started turning against them when they joined high school. They both landed in schools that did not offer art as a subject..

Although he was disgruntled, Mwendano was patient, , eventually, hoping to pursue art in college.

Timbwah got more and more irate, forcing his parents to move him through several schools in his native Vihiga county until neither of the schools could accept him because of his notoriety.

Although the school was not offering art, Timbwah was compelled to join a girls’ school that had only 15 boys. The school was transitioning from a mixed day school to a girls’ boarding school.

He too resolved to pursue art in college.

Timbwah and  Mwendano’s struggle to be accepted as artists continued upon graduating high school in 2014. Since he had performed better in physics and business subjects in his high school leaving exams, Timbwah’s father wanted him to forget about art and pursue a degree in either of the subjects.

Close to abandoning his dreams and unable to face his father, who had since moved the family to Voi, Taita Taveta County, a rebellious Timbwah ran away from home. With no final destination in mind, he wound up in Nairobi. He had never been to the city. Luckily, a friend took him under his wings as soon as he landed.

“l wanted to explore the arts industry. I walked into several art studios and exhibition shows. I was only going to change my mind if art was not what l expected,” says Timbwah.

Back in Taita Taveta County, Mwendano’s degree choice had attracted blowback from his family and friends. Although it was distressing, he somehow learned how to step back and neutralize t all the negativity thrown his way.

“Most of my friends were getting into short courses while waiting to join college. But l would hide in my room alone to draw sketches,” says Mwendano.

Even though they were still skeptical about his career path, Mwendano’s parents welcomed his admission to Maseno University to pursue art and design.

On landing at the university, Mwendano’s social anxiety quickly dissipated. He met Timbwah who was being admitted to the same course. They were keen to professionalize their talents. At first, they challenged each other to paint portraits of their janitors. Eventually, they started collaborating on projects. IThheir first gig was painting the interior of a local club.

“The most amazing part of the project was that when l would tell him what to do, he would do just that and vice versa. If l am painting on one side, l don’t care about what he’s doing the other side. We’ll merge the painting and it’ll be perfect, ” says Timbwah.

Even though they still faced obstacles about their courses, they were determined to prove themselves.

In 2016, Mwendano wowed a live audience by painting a portrait of the late reggae star, Bob Marley, in just 3 minutes. He was representing his class in the Maseno Got Talent annual competition.

Bob Marley by Denis Mwendano

Live Portrait of Bob Marley by Denis Mwendano

“There were too many flashes.People were taking pictures. I was tense. I was painting it upside down and had started with the nose and the mouth. I thought it would backfire but when l turned it, people were cheering and screaming,” says Mwendano.

His stunning performance won him instant fame. Students started to appreciate his work and approached him to do their portraits.

Timbwah and Mwendano would later turn their rooms into art studios and have been working collaboratively on commissioned work and occasional live performances. Their parents are proud of who they have become and They gentlemen have since found closure. Their current success is a fusion of various factors: patience, determination, teamwork, and friendship.

They hope to strengthen their brand Kuchora Tu after graduation.

Meet Michael Otieno, The Kenyan Entrepreneur Cashing In On Water Hyacinth

By Edwin Lisamira

Michael Otieno
Michael Otieno

Otieno is the founder and CEO of Takawiri Enterprises Limited. Established in 2006, the enterprise produces unique handmade stationery and craft items from water hyacinth. Some of their products include folders, envelopes, notebooks, seasonal cards, gift bags, and paper lamp shades.

“Lake Victoria is in a sorry state because of the hyacinth, we are trying to do something about it,” Michael Otieno tells me as we walk into his business premises in Mambo Leo, Kisumu county where he makes paper from the stubborn weed.

“I am trying to offer a sustainable solution to the hyacinth problem. The government has tried to eradicate it without success. The weed is endangering some fish species such as tilapia by drawing oxygen from the water and blocking sunlight.”

“The fish numbers have declined and access to the lake hindered because the weed clogs the lake making it difficult for fishermen to navigate,” Otieno says.

He regrets that the local community who depend on the lake for their livelihood are bearing the brunt of the invasive weed.

“During the December holidays, many people went out of business because there was too much hyacinth. Tourists were coming in for boat riding but the boats could not navigate. People were unable to pay rent and school fees for their children,” says Otieno.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2014, he came third in the Green Innovations Awards, organized by the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND). He also earned a spot in the 2017 National Science, Technology and Innovation week, where he showcased his products. According to NETFUND, Takawiri Enterprises has managed to control over 20 tons of the hyacinth.

So passionate is this budding innovator that he is convinced his project could eradicate the hyacinth in less than a year while creating employment and conserving the environment by reducing the number of trees used in papermaking.

However inadequate resources to scale up his business continue to challenge that conviction. But for a man who never thought he would own a business of his own in the first place, he remains hopeful.

Born in Nairobi, Otieno moved to Kisumu where he joined Kisumu Boys High School in 1997. He wanted to be an accountant. Barely two years later, his dreams were shattered when his parents were unable to pay his school fees.

Disheartened and out of school, he reluctantly took his uncle’s advice to train as an artisan at the Kisumu Innovation Centre of Kenya, KICK (a charitable organization until 2002). His uncle was a painter at the organization.

Otieno joined KICK in 1999. He learned to make woven furniture from hyacinth and papyrus. The training was free and the organization would pay weavers 600 Ksh (about $6) per chair. Trainees would receive half of the amount and the rest would go to their trainers.

Hyacinth Gift Bag

It was not long before his dexterity caught the attention of his boss, Mr. Muchilwa. He began to nurture the young man’s talent. He would give him orders directly. This meant Otieno would no longer split his pay with his trainers.

After learning that he had dropped out of school, Mr. Muchilwa adviced him to go back.

Having saved some money to pay for school fees, Otieno went back to Kisumu Boys High School in Form 2 in 2002. He continued to work at KICK during the holidays and over the weekends.

Unfortunately, he says, his boss’ contract ended a year later and most operations at KICK were halted. He could no longer work at the organization as a part-timer. This dented his prospect of finishing high school.

Although he missed many classes because he would be sent home for school fees most of the time, he managed to sit for his high school exit exams in 2004. He reunited with his former boss who had established his own paper making microenterprise at his home.

“Mr. Muchilwa advised me to join him to learn more about paper recycling. He trained me in blending waste paper with hyacinth fiber. After working with him for 3 years, he advised me to start a business of my own.” says Otieno.

Although he was skeptical of going it alone, he embarked on getting equipment. He bought a small trough, a pestle, and mortar.

“I was not clear about what to do. I was young at the time and trying to venture into business for the first time. But l had nothing else to do, l decided to do it anyway.” Otieno says.

He began to manually blend waste paper and hyacinth from his residence in Migosi, Kisumu, producing business cards, book covers and envelops. The process was labor intensive because he lacked the necessary machines.

After the NETFUND awards, he received some seed money from the agency which enabled him to fabricate a calendaring machine and a pulping machine. This enhanced the production process greatly. The agency also supported him to undertake a one-year business course.

With the seed money, he also rented a 0.25ha piece of land in Mambo Leo, Kisumu where he moved the business. He also added gift bags to his line of products.

One of the major challenges Otieno faces is the inability to produce in bulk. He operates on a made-to-order basis. He regrets failing to secure business contracts with companies who wanted eco-friendly packagings when the ban on plastic bags came into effect in 2017.

“At the moment we can only make 200 pieces of paper per day. Once we get the pulp, we make the paper manually but there is a machine that can give us up to 3000 pieces of paper in a day,” says Otieno.

For now, with 5 permanent employees, Otieno makes Ksh. 60,000 on average per month. He believes he could make up to Ksh. 100,000 per day once he acquires the necessary machines. By mechanizing the entire process he says, he will be able to hire more workers and expedite the eradication of the hyacinth from the lake.

How it works.

  • Hyacinth is cut into small pieces before it is dried in the sun. When the weather is not conducive for drying, the weed is boiled for 3 hours.
  • Waste paper is added. The mixture is crushed to produce pulp before adding wood glue to bind it.
  • The pulp is put into a trough filled with water.
  • The mixture is sieved. The A-3 size sieves are put in the sun to allow the residue to dry, forming paper.
  • The paper is then passed through a calendaring machine where pressure is exerted to it leaving it smooth and foldable.

New Opportunity For Black Entrepreneurs Around The World

The Afropolitan Shop today announced new features to give black entrepreneurs around the world an opportunity to make a living online.

In an ambitious plan, the online company launched a 6-week online course to train black entrepreneurs to enable them to start and run sustainable, black-owned businesses from scratch.

“You don’t need to have a business to enroll. My job is to help you start and launch the business of your dreams.” said course coach, Beverly Lwenya.

When she created a blog in 2007 to share African stories and images with the black diaspora, Beverly had no idea that her blog would evolve into a sustainable online business. Today she makes decent returns from her blog-turned boutique-The Afropolitan Shop where she sells African handmade accessories. “I started it because I used to get so many questions about where I got my earrings. And since I always bought them from the same vendors in Kenya, I finally decided to start an online boutique to give them access to the global market,” she said.

To build on this success, Beverly is adding The Afropolitan Academy to her brand to share her business insights with other black business hopefuls around the world.

The course, called How to Build Your Own Global Afropolitan Brand That Sells, is designed to equip everyone from those who are still discerning whether to start a black-owned business to those who have already started on their entrprenuership journey. The course will give them the skills and resources they need to grow and amplify their brand while expanding their influence in the black diaspora.

The program will see participants acquiring strong marketing skills and proven ways of building and maintaining customer loyalty.

Participants will gain a better understanding of social media-particularly on how to use platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to connect their brands to the global market.

Learners will also be taken through effective ways to attract mainstream media coverage, particularly with international news outlets. By submitting their businesses to international news organizations, they will connect with the Black diaspora easily.

“You’ll get two phone consultations with me every month for 30 minutes and 4-days of email access per week. I’ll also be giving you a video call to track and assess your progress,” said Beverly Lwenya.

After completing the 6-week course, participants will join a global mentorship and social network dubbed The Afropolitan Academy where they will gain lifetime access to the tools and resources necessary to bring their business ideas to fruition.

About Beverly Lwenya

Beverly is a seven-year veteran in the online business space. She is a Shopify and Facebook Ads expert with marketing skills from leading institutions in both the private and public sector.

About the Afropolitan Shop

Afropolitan is a fusion of the word “African” and “cosmopolitan” and represents sensibility, culture and a worldview.

In 2007, Beverly created a blog called the Afropolitan Network to highlight stories and images of the African Diaspora.  Later, she expanded the blog into an online boutique called The Afropolitan Shop.

The Afropolitan Shop is now a global brand specializing in designer handmade accessories. The shop aims to celebrate African designers and artisans for their prolific and imaginative handiwork while giving them access to the global market.