Jan 7, 2021 • 40M

📩Newsletter & 🎙Podcast: Episode 161

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Rare Birds
Stories of startups from emerging markets.
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Episode 161 Conversations with Jo-Ann: Sharing Intentions & the Rare Birds Story 📍

In today’s podcast you heard me discuss the Genesis of Rare Birds.  I also dived into what motivates me and guides my decisions. I shared with you what is to come this year and mentioned this newsletter. In line with the theme of intentions, I thought it a good idea to take a closer look at the podcasts I produced and hosted in 2020 as well as the motivation behind these conversations.  It is worth knowing that I refer to the podcasts as conversations as opposed to interviews. Keep reading, I tell you more below. But first that’s me (below) most days. Always plugged into podcasts.🛑 👇🏿

✍🏽 People often ask me what is the difference between an interview and a good conversation. I believe an interview is controlled, well researched, efficiently prepared and has a specific set of questions, aiming to arrive at a certain ending.  In contrast, a conversation, irrespective of how well researched is overcome by humanness. There is no single person in control, we navigate together. Sometimes we digress but I always make sure we get back on track to dive deeper down the rabbit hole. I mention rabbit holes often (you may have noticed)! This is because I believe it is only by going down this path that we are able to experience another reality, step outside of ourselves and view the world from a different perspective.  During the conversation points arise, which neither my guest nor myself may have considered. There is often a shift and along the way I feel like something happened. I let you, my audience of Rare Ones decide what that "something" is. Everyone leaves the conversation having taken away what was magical for them. There is always value to be found in having a good conversation.  At the very core of our human existence is the need for connection. By sharing these weekly conversations, I aim to help you build connection with people in similar situations across emerging markets. I assert that the early stage entrepreneur in Port-of-Spain has much in common with their counterpart building something similar in Nairobi. This is because the issues faced across emerging markets have common threads. Those common threads are what I intend to extract and offer to you as we navigate the conversation.

With that said, let’s go down the rabbit hole and explore the intentions behind the 2020 podcasts. I will focus primarily on the six series that I did. This does not mean the other episodes in 2020 were not significant. They were equally important, however bearing in mind that 2021 will only focus on four series, starting from here acts as an inflection point for moving forward. Shall we? Let’s go!

Series 1: Scholarship to Entrepreneurship: African Students Creating Opportunities in China

In this five part series I spoke with students from across the African continent studying in China. They were from Cameroon (Gaelle), Tanzania (Kizwalo), South Africa (Zazu), the Gambia (Fama) and Ethiopia (Neud). As someone who believes in the power of entrepreneurship and has been teaching it in schools and universities for the past five years, this topic was fascinating to me. Living and traveling in China has afforded me the opportunity to meet and interact with many people who have relocated here for various reasons.  One of these groups are students. Research shows there are a significant number of foreign students studying in China. The largest group of these are from the African continent. I quickly learned from my interactions with them that they were not only studying but also building businesses’ both here and in their home countries. In some instances, they were building bridges between their home country and China. My intention here was to explore the narrative of student entrepreneurs and young people who are doing more than simply studying. I believe that cultivating entrepreneurship in young people is hugely beneficial to both their academic and personal growth. Not only do they learn life skills but they learn life lessons and are taught to embrace failure and seek out challenges. That’s what much of life is about!

Series 2: Broken World Thinking

In this series I spoke with three Ethiopians. I explored the startup investment landscape with China-based Hiruy, building a stable global currency using blockchain technology with U.S.- based Mathias and lastly startup ecosystems across emerging markets with Ethiopia-based Anteneh. I titled this series broken world thinking after reading Rethinking Repair by Steven Jackson as well as Beyond the Valley: How Innovators Around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow by Ramesh Srinivasan.  After consuming both I started thinking about how this kind of thinking could be used to restructure the current flaws in: startup investment, currency and ecosystems. These conversations were intense and at times highly technical. Each of these men were highly intelligent and challenged me to think deeper and in entirely new ways. Hiruy’s frankness about funding for startups was well needed. His experience as an analyst at SOSV, was incredibly helpful. He broke down concepts and gave a perspective from the other side.  Mathias’ knowledge on crypto has no limitations. His work as a developer, entrepreneur, blockchain community builder and business developer for Reserve  meant he was a fountain of knowledge.  Lastly, Anteneh’s passion translates well into conversation and makes for great debate. He is confident in his own thoughts but equally accepting of other musings. Anteneh is busy building Shega, a digital media and research platform that covers the tech and startup space in Ethiopia. More importantly, beyond their wits and drive they are just really nice guys who are busy doing great work which helps all of us rethink the world.

Series 3: Digital Transformation for Pan-African Entrepreneurs

Series 3 was a collaboration between entrepreneur and tech developer Kenroy George from Grenada. We began with the question:  What happens when societies become digitally transformed? Estonia and China are great examples of bastions for digital transformation.  In this series I spoke with Kenroy and two additional Caribbean entrepreneurs who see themselves as a part of the Pan-African entrepreneurial movement. Each detailing the work they are currently engaged in as well as the challenges they faced. In Jamaica, Melissa Powell shared the work she is doing to support the government as well as her own initiatives.  From St. Lucia but currently based in Croatia, Johns Beharry shared his experiences working in his country and the challenges of receiving payment for his work. There were many frustrations shared in this series, which only means there are problems in need of solutions.  In the end one main conclusion drawn was that culture plays a very big role in ensuring citizens are willing to embrace new and disruptive technologies. Education isn’t enough when working in countries where the dominant paradigm is one characterised by old tales or unverified claims.

Series 4: Men Engage

As I mentioned in this week’s podcast; in its embryonic stage this platform was female focussed.  However, I decided that a gender neutral platform was best suited for my vision. In this series I spoke with five men about women’s roles in society. The men were all entrepreneurs hailing from Tanzania (George), Pakistan (Ali), USA (Paul), Nigeria (Kenneth) and Zimbabwe (Tichaona). Each conversation explored a topic of interest to each individual and they were both honest and telling. I think it is important to highlight the delicate layers of life. We can hold contradictory thoughts in our minds about anything, we can be confused by our own thoughts, and try to no avail to make sense of them. Remember the purpose of conversation is not to arrive at a specific end. The purpose of this series was to give my male counterparts an opportunity to share their views with me, the way they always do when the recorder isn’t on!

Series 5: New Frontiers of Africa Tech

Series 5 was a collaboration with Chinese PR consultant Heather Li. The collaboration was borne out of a desire to understand the e-commerce space and resulted in five podcast conversations (Nana Opoku, Nyasha, Tav, Adeshina and Reginald) and one panel (Charles & Noah). Funding for startups and access to resources were discussed several times in these discussions. There were stories of frustration, challenges and wins. Overall, I really appreciated the candor that was brought to these discussions.  It was a steep learning curve trying to understand the challenges and opportunities of building a digital marketplace in various countries across the continent. As the platform economy continues to reshape how business is done I am curious to see what innovative business models will arise and how they will be embraced by the consumers.

Series 6: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in the Gambia

The Gambia is a country that I spent a lot of time learning about this year. I had many guests from said country in the chair this year. This series was very vast in terms of topics. We looked at entrepreneurship to solve the migration issue (Mbadibba and Babucarr), technical skills as an option for youth (Ida) and learned from a venture and ecosystem builder (Modou) what the general entrepreneurial landscape is like in the country. We also got a view of what it’s like to build a beauty brand and the vision behind one of the country’s most promising entrepreneurs (Maiyamuna). If anything you should know that Gambia is a country filled with many ambitious individuals who are using entrepreneurship to tell new stories.

We have now arrived at the inflection point ☝️ and invite change 💡 so that we can venture forward to series 1 of 2021 which launches next week Wednesday. I am as always thrilled to be sharing this new work with you. You can opt into the Monday news here for Podcast. Community. Newsletter. information and to gain some $RONES.

Continue to stay rare. Until next week.

Bye for now,