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Wednesday, July 11th, 2018


Iconic Kongo mosque believed to be oldest in East Africa

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Amid huge baobab trees at the northern part of the Diani Beach shoreline lies the iconic Kongo mosque, overlooking the Indian Ocean.

It has stood for ages and is believed to have been built using coral stones between 13th and 14th century by Arab merchants. At the time, the coast was an important economic hub.

The mosque is reputed to be one of the oldest in East Africa and it still attracts worshippers.

Formerly known as Diani Persian Mosque, the building’s architecture is as unique as its discovery. Kongo was derived from a name inscribed on a stone at one of the graves in the mosque compound, where Muslim faithful Swaddiq Kongo was buried centuries ago.

Also at the compound are several graves believed to be of the people who built it.

According to historical accounts, the mosque was built and used by Arab merchants for prayers.

But it was abandoned when Arabs left the coast. Wild animals and bushes are then said to have found a home there.

Huge baobab trees gradually enveloped the mosque and shielded it from sight. Very few people knew of its existence.


However, 300 years ago, native Muslim scholar Mwinyi Kombo allegedly had a revelation in his sleep directing him to the mosque.

Today, a few adjustments have been made, including the erection of three central pillars to prop up the mosque.

The interior has been renovated using modern building materials like cement and paint.

Green and white paint bestow a veneer of modernity to the otherwise dated building.


Caretaker Hamisi Suleiman said an extension was added to the eastern wing to accommodate an increasing number of worshippers — up to 300 during Friday prayers and Muslim celebrations.

He added that there is a huge, round stone a few meters into the ocean which can be accessed only at low tide.

Locals believe the stone is sacred, and occasionally use it for religious rituals. Folklore says the stone used to revolve in the ocean, but this suddenly stopped.

“We extended the entrance that overlooks the ocean to accommodate the number of worshippers frequenting the mosque on Fridays and on special Muslim celebrations,” he said.

« Vacances sans grossesses » : Une nouvelle arme contre le phénomène des grossesses précoces

« Nous voudrions lancer ce mercredi 11 juillet l’initiative vacances sans grossesse ». C’est en ces termes que le coordonnateur des Agences du Système des Nations Unies, Siaka Coulibaly, a annoncé leur nouvelle contribution, qui s’entend telle une arme, contre les grossesses précoces devenues un phénomène criant au Bénin. Des centaines de ces cas de grossesses ont été dénombrées, au cours de cette année scolaire, dans presque tous les départements du pays. Le phénomène est tout autant préoccupant dans le milieu de l’artisanat appelant des approches innovantes. « Vacances sans grossesses », est donc la bienvenue notamment pour marquer la présente édition de la Journée mondiale de la population.

La primeur de ses détails est revenue à la commune de Lokossa au cours de la phase officielle des manifestations de cette 29e édition. Aux dires du Dr Siaka Coulibaly, l’initiative onusienne est constituée de campagne d’information et de sensibilisation, de causeries, d’émissions et de jeux radiophoniques, de messages sur les réseaux sociaux sur la sexualité juvénile. Ayant pour cible les adolescents et jeunes, cette initiative va se déployer tout au long des prochaines vacances.  « Notre souhait est de voir les adolescents et jeunes s’approprier cette initiative et y participer massivement pour la réalisation de leur plein potentiel », a souhaité Dr Siaka Coulibaly. Enième action de sensibilisation visant à promouvoir une sexualité responsable et sans danger, « Vacances sans grossesses » ne repose pas sur la prétention d’éradiquer les grossesses précoces mais porte la promesse de freiner le développement de ce phénomène. Son impact pourrait se mesurer, par exemple, au cours de la prochaine année scolaire. Engagées dans la quête de ripostes encore plus efficaces, les Agences du système des Nations Unies ont réitéré également leurs appuis au gouvernement dans la formulation de politiques et programmes fondés sur les droits humains. Saluant ce qui se fait déjà dans le sens de l’amélioration de la qualité de vie, notamment les engagements en faveur de la gratuité de la planification, le coordonnateur des Agences onusiennes prévient que de grands défis attendent encore d’être levés au Bénin. Car, retient-il, « Des indicateurs montrent une faible prévalence contraceptive et d’importants besoins non satisfaits en planification familiale ».

 Désiré C. VIGAN A/R Mono-Couffo

More schools set alight as students protest

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Police were on Wednesday looking for the authors of leaflets calling for the ejection of a principal in charge of a school whose two dormitories were burnt down on Tuesday night.

The leaflets, found at Makhokho Secondary in Kakamega South, read: “Rambo must go,” clearly targeted at Mr Steady Ligono, whom the students have nicknamed after the fictional movie star, John Rambo.

Mr Ligono has been the acting principal since the beginning of this year after his predecessor retired. Other leaflets read: “We must get a new principal.”

At St Mary’s Mumias Girls, students protesting against the acting principal, Ms Mercy Luvai, burnt down a dormitory and were sent home.

The details emerged as Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed continued with her tour of western region, warning that those found guilty of starting the fires would be punished regardless of age.


Kakamega South police chief Bernstein Shari said preliminary investigations had shown that the fire could have been started deliberately.

He said police had initially thought the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault but the leaflets had introduced a new dimension to the incident.

No learning was going on at the school yesterday and detectives were busy recording statements from students and teachers to establish what caused the fire.

“We have found leaflets dropped in the school compound and suspect the fire could have been started deliberately,” said Mr Shari.

As the wave of fires in schools continued, a Kenya National Union of Teachers official, Mr John Wesonga, called for the re-introduction of caning in schools, saying it is the only way to instil discipline in students.

The Mumias branch secretary-general said students were becoming lawless because there is no clear policy on discipline in schools.

“The government banned corporal punishment but did not spell out alternative means of disciplining the learners,” said Mr Wesonga, referring to caning which was outlawed more than 10 years ago.

He said the education sector “is on fire” and asked the CS to convene a national stakeholders’ meeting to find solutions.

Some students have blamed the wave of protests in schools on teachers’ high-handedness, transfers of popular teachers and lack of entertainment facilities.

But unionists have accused the Teachers Service Commission of pressurising teachers to produce good academic results without ensuring that the government releases money promptly to schools.

At Makokho, the flames engulfed two dormitories – Shirikisho and Mashujaa – at about 8.30 pm.


By the time the guards raised the alarm, the fire had quickly spread destroying beds, mattresses, clothes and students’ personal effects. The students were at the time in class busy with their evening studies.

Yesterday, Ms Mohamed, who toured St Mary’s Mumias Girls, warned both students and teachers found to have a hand in the attacks of severe punishment.

She said some of the teachers were lazy and “this gives the learners room to do as they wish.”

“We have arrested a number of students and are still pursuing more who are taking part in the burning of school properties. We shall deal with them and nobody will be spared even if they are children because we have juvenile centres where they can be taken for rehabilitation and corrective measures,” said Ms Mohamed.

The school in Kakamega was closed on Monday after a dormitory was burnt down.


The students were said to have been protesting against the acting principal, Ms Mercy Luvai, accusing her of high-handedness.

In Kisii, authorities shut down Kisii High School, bringing the number of schools closed in Nyanza to 10.

Nyanza regional Director of Education Richard Chepkwai gave the 198 students 30 minutes to leave the compound, just hours after a dormitory was burnt down. Those from far-flung places were, however, given more time to arrange how to get home.

Earlier in the morning, eight students were arrested at the school after they were caught on security cameras emerging from the hostel moments before it caught fire.

Reports by Benson Amadala, Shaban Makokha and Magati Obebo

State on the spot over dam payment claims

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The government has denied knowledge of attempts to coerce victims of the May 9, 2018 Patel dam tragedy to sign an indemnity taking away liability over the accident from the owner of the dam before they are compensated.

Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Interior Patrick ole Ntutu said the ministry was not aware of the compensation process and neither had it issued such instructions to any of its officers in Nakuru.

“I am hearing this from you,” Mr Ntutu told the Senate select committee, which is investigating the circumstances in which the dam collapsed killing 47 people and destroying property worth billions of shillings.


“I will personally take charge and investigate the veracity of the claims and, if we establish it is true, we shall surely take action.”

The CAS was forced to react to concerns raised by the committee which visited the site of the dam on Friday last week. During the visit, the Solai community had told the committee, which is chaired by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr, that the alleged compensation is being carried out by national government officers in Solai under supervision of the County Commissioner.

According to the committee, the victims were paid Sh1 million for a life lost, Sh200,000 for the loss of a semi-permanent structure and Sh1 million for a permanent structure lost. The money is allegedly being paid through the county commissioner’s office, who has forced the victims to sign indemnity forms that bar the victims from pursuing further claims.

On Wednesday, Mr Kilonzo Jr said Nakuru county commissioner, Mr Joshua Nkanatha, was facilitating the payout and demanded that he, and all national government officials in Solai, be suspended for proper investigations to take place.


Others the committee wants suspended are the deputy county commissioner in Subukia, the assistant county commissioner in Solai and the area chief out of concerns that they will tamper with investigations.

The indemnity states that the dam owners are not liable for the incident despite them offering to compensate them. The discharge forms would protect the dam owner from any further claims.

“Both the dischargee and dischargor are now mutually agreeable that none of the parties hereto, were responsible for the natural disaster that befell the Milmet Dam and its environs on May 9, 2018,” the discharge and indemnity document states.

Last week, Patel Coffee Estates managing director, Mr Perry Kansagara, and the general manager, Mr Vinoj Kumar, and four others were arrested and charged with 48 counts of manslaughter and abuse of office. They were on Monday freed on Sh5 million bond with a surety of similar amount or a cash bail of Sh2.5 million each.

Judge declares all county deputy speakers jobless

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The Deputy Speaker’s position in Murang’a County Assembly has been declared null and void by the High Court. The ruling will have major ramifications across the country.

It also gives impetus to the debate on whether Kenya is over-represented, coming in the wake of a bill by Uasin Gishu County Woman Rep Gladys Shollei seeking to scrap the same post she holds.

The Murang’a ruling is the second by a judge to rule that the post is unconstitutional. Earlier, Justice Francis Gikonyo had declared the position null and void in Meru.

Mr Gikonyo ruled that the Standing Orders of the Meru County Assembly, which created the position, contravene the Constitution and County Government Act, 2012.

And on Wednesday, High Court Judge Kanyi Kimondo ruled that the creation, establishment and maintenance of the office in Murang’a is not based on any law.


In the petition filed against Deputy Speaker Mwangi Kihurunjo, Speaker Leonard Nduati Kariuki and the Murang’a County Assembly, local resident Anthony Mwangi Maina urged the court to declare Mr Kihurunjo’s seat unconstitutional, and also prohibit him from acting on behalf of the Speaker.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Kimondo issued a permanent injunction restraining any person ”from acting or representing himself as, or purporting, to act in the position of the deputy speaker of the county Assembly.

The ruling is a major blow to Mr Kihurunjo, who has been at loggerheads with the Executive, led by Governor Mwangi wa Iria. He is one of the rebel MCAs who oppose the Executive’s agendas in the Assembly.


Last week, 10 MCAs who opposed the budget proposals were removed from the committees they were heading in a disciplinary move.

The 10 include Mr Kiiru Mbembe, who headed the Finance Committee, who is to be replaced by James Kairu; Water Energy and Forestry Chairperson Sammy Mwangi, who was replaced by Jane Muigai; and Roads and Public Works Chair Peter Muthoni, who is to be replaced by Mr David Irungu.

Similarly, a Nyeri resident has moved to court seeking to have the deputy speaker’s post, held by Samuel Kariuki, declared unconstitutional. Mr Amos Muchiri says that the election and subsequent appointment of the deputy speaker is unknown in law and should, therefore, be scrapped.


He argues that the Constitution provides only for the election of the Speaker. The case will be heard on October 22.

In 2016, Jubilee Party MPs, led by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, launched the “Boresha Katiba Punda Amechoka, Punguza Mzigo” initiative, which sought to reduce the number of counties from 47 to 18, and also scrap the Senate. It also sought to reduce the number of MPs from 345 to 200.
Mr Kuria said that would reduce the taxpayers’ burden of paying elected leaders hefty salaries and allowances.

Supply delays ‘derailing' Agoa

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Delays in fulfilling orders were cited on Tuesday as the chief reason for Kenya’s inability to take greater advantage of its apparel industry’s duty-free access to the US market.

Jas Bedi, the head of Kenya’s Export Promotion Council, told a Washington audience that it takes an average of 135 days for goods to be delivered to US buyers from the time they place an order in Kenya.

“That’s too long in today’s market,” Mr Bedi said. China can fulfil orders from US purchasers in as little as 45 days, he noted. The 75 days it takes for fabric from Asia to reach manufacturers in Kenya accounts for most of the lag in delivery of finished products to the US, Mr Bedi pointed out.

The varieties of fabrics needed to keep pace with rapidly changing demands are not made available to Kenyan factories in a timely manner, he said.

Shortening the supply chain would enable Kenyan manufacturers to reap greater gains through the US preferential trade programme known as Agoa, Mr Bedi suggested.

Some 40,000 Kenyans currently hold Agoa-related jobs, according to the US trade agency.

With $340 million in textile and apparel sales to the US last year, Kenya ranks as the top supplier in that sector.

Agoa is set to expire in 2025.

Estate dispute: Fresh twist in Nyong’o case

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A property dispute pitting members of Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o’s family took a new twist yesterday.

This was after Prof Nyong’o’s sister admitted that there were errors in documents that confirmed them as administrators of their father’s estate.

Dr Risper Nyagoy said there had been mistakes in a chief’s letter and the confirmation of a grant that awarded them powers, alongside other siblings, to control the multi-million-shilling estate of Mr Hesbone Shimei Nyong’o.

According to the law of succession, once grant of letters of administration is issued to dependants, they must approach the court for what is known as a confirmation of grant for them to be able to distribute the assets.

Dr Nyagoy, who took to the stand, admitted that the chief’s letter omitted the names of five of her siblings. She, however, maintained that her brother, Mr Samuel Otieno, was represented by his wife, Dr Juliana Otieno, while another sibling, Aggrey Omondi Nyong’o, was represented by his eldest son Kwame.

The names of her two sisters and one Charles Anam Nyong’o, the governor’s brother who has been missing since 1980, were not also included in the father’s estate. She said Dr Otieno was listed as the senior Nyong’o’s daughter yet she was his daughter-in-law.

“I only realised last week that my name was written wrongly in the confirmed grant and the names of both my mother and my sister Hilda were missing from the document,” she said.

She, however, pointed to the court that she was willing to have the document rectified.


In the case, Prof Nyong’o’s nephews Geoffrey Omondi Nyong’o and Kenneth Odhiambo Okuthe have sued the governor and Dr Nyagoy for leaving out some relatives in the list of beneficiaries to the estate. The applicants accused Prof Nyong’o and Dr Nyagoy of concealing important information on confirmation of the grant.

Mr Omondi is the eldest son of Governor Nyong’o’s sister, the late Judith. Mr Omondi and his sister Fiona Atieno Nyong’o were taken care of by their grandfather. The parties are expected to report to court on July 31.

Dr Nyagoy however maintained that the two could not be made administrators of the estate because Mr Omondi has been like a son to Governor Nyong’o since he had taken parental responsibilities while Mr Okuthe was never a dependent because “he was not part of the family since he had been away for many years.”

But she failed explain to the court why there was no letter of adoption of Mr Omondi yet there was one for Fiona Atieno, Mr Omondi’s younger sister.

“Dr Juliana was included because she represented my eldest brother while Mr Kwame took over his father’s house and has been helping my mother ever since.”

In the case, Prof Nyong’o’s nephews Mr Geoffrey Omondi Nyong’o and Kenneth Odhiambo Okuthe have sued the Governor and his sister Dr Nyagoy Nyong’o for leaving out some relatives in the list of beneficiaries to his father’s estate.

The court proceeded to full hearing before High Court Judge Justice Tripsisa Cherere after the family failed for a second time to settle the matter out of court.

Mr Omondi and Mr Okuthe claimed the administrators left out two of their siblings’ children from the list of beneficiaries. Mr Omondi is the eldest son to the late Judith who left him with another sibling Fiona Atieno Nyong’o. Both of them were taken care of by their grandfather Mr Shimei Nyong’o.


Mr Shimei died on November 10, 2006 without a will but the applicants claim they have never benefited from the deceased’s estate.

The two nephews had accused their uncle and aunt of neglecting the children of the late Margaret Awuor Dick and Judith Nyong’o who were both daughters of the senior Nyong’o.

Mr Omondi and Mr Okuthe claimed the governor and his sister were made the administrators of multimillion estates after the local chief certified that the two and their mother and other siblings were the true beneficiaries.

The applicants accused Prof Nyong’o and Dr Nyagoy of concealing important information on confirmation of the grant and not accounting for the estate and are in court seeking revocation or annulment of the letters of administration.

During cross examination, Dr Nyagoy said she was not aware she was supposed to file books of account and confirmed that no trust account had been opened for her father’s estate.

The applicants through their lawyer Mr Rogers Mugumya are demanding that an audit be carried out so that everyone gets their due. Mr Omondi filed the case saying he feared that Prof Nyong’o could sell or transfer the estate.

The governor and his sister have maintained that his nephews are opportunists taking advantage of him being in an elected position to demand more, a move he said is calculated to embarrass and extort him because he was elected Governor of Kisumu County.


The entire estate is estimated to have been more than Sh200 million when the trust was opened by the governor and his sister.

It includes 100 acres’ piece of land in Miwani under a 99-year lease, same to another parcel of land on Jogoo Road in Nairobi which currently holds flats. Other parcels of land are in Manyatta, Tamu, Milimani estates and East Rata in Seme Sub-county in Kisumu.

The parties are expected to report to court on July 31 where they will be given a date for the judgment.

No one should disrupt Mau Forest evictions

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A fresh initiative to restore the Mau Forest complex comes with serious political implications, but must be actualised in whichever way.

Over the years, parts of the forest, like others elsewhere, have either been excised and allocated to individuals or opened up for occupation by illegal squatters, all to serve selfish political interests but with consequent environmental degradation.

Now, the government has ordered the eviction of illegal squatters from the forest following a recent report by a task force commissioned by Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko, which recommended the recovery and restoration of all natural forests to avert natural calamities associated with degradation of the ecosystems.

Further, the government has enforced a ban on logging, which has become the singular cause of depletion of forests.

So far, we are encouraged that the government is acting on the recommendations and has begun the evictions, which it says will continue until the last person leaves the forest.

The authorities must act resolutely and see the exercise through to its logical end. The only caveat, though, is that the evictions should be humane.

Never again should we allow forests and other natural resources to be depleted through the instigation of politicians serving short-lived and selfish interests.

Forest and public resources should never be allocated to individuals — as happened in the past, especially during the Kanu era, when they were used to buy political support.

Indeed, years of plunder have seen the Mau lose a massive 8,214 hectares of forest cover between 1973 and 2005 with heavy environmental losses.

Many rivers have dried up and the geological impact on the lower basins, including Narok Town, has been severe.

Despite that, efforts to restore it to its original form and shape have faced serious contestations, largely fuelled by politicians.


The most memorable was in 2009, when the Grand Coalition government decreed eviction of illegal squatters and which assignment was given to then-Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

It would be stiffly resisted and later used against him. In 2013, when he contested the presidency, he was accused of dispossessing the squatters and leaving them homeless by evicting them from the forest.

For now, the task ahead is to remove the families who have since taken occupation of the forest land and, beyond that, the government must embark on a comprehensive restoration programme, including planting trees and protecting it from further exploitation.

Mau is the biggest of the country’s five water towers and feeds several rivers that flow to Lake Victoria and serve the entire East Africa. It must be protected and the politicians must keep off.

It’s too little, but welcome

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There should be some jubilation in the civil service following the salary increment announced by the government recently. However, it is a miniscule effort that will make little difference in the lives of the government employees. The increases of between Sh1,400 and Sh4,300 per month are marginal, indeed. Considering the generally high cost of living, the civil servants will not feel any tangible difference in their lives.

However, the recipients must be aware that these are difficult times and, even in the private sector, which generally pays higher salaries, many redundancies have been declared in recent months.

For the government, it has been a tough struggle to deal with the huge wage bill from what has generally been acknowledged to be a bloated workforce. The government’s dream is to have a lean and efficient civil service that can be well-remunerated.


This is not going to be easy to achieve and the situation has been compounded by the wild recruitment by the counties.

These devolved units now account for the bulk of the more than 200,000 civil servants. It is a big headache for the government, which needs to cut the flab without undermining performance in the civil service.

As the civil servants enjoy their slightly higher salaries from this month, they will, perhaps, be encouraged by the fact that this is the second increment in a year and more could be on the way.


However, quite disappointing is the huge disparity in salaries between the majority low-cadre staff and their bosses, including the Cabinet and principal secretaries.

Many of these top officers have been recruited from the private sector, coming in with super salaries.

For the civil service to attract the very best and enhance efficiency in the delivery of public services, it must match the offers they would get elsewhere.

How youth can build tech businesses

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Africa’s ongoing digital revolution has not only fast-tracked economic development across the continent but also produced a fresh crop of young and dynamic entrepreneurs.

Tech hubs in major cities like Nairobi, Johannesburg and Lagos are teeming with young men and women determined to roll out homegrown tech businesses that can rival Facebook, PayPal, Alibaba and other global heavyweights.

Some of these young innovators have enjoyed a relative level of success. This is illustrated by the heightened investor interest in African tech start-ups, majority of them youth-led.
Last year, venture capital funding in African tech start-ups reached a record $560 million (Sh56 billion), a 53 per cent increase from $367 million in 2016, according to a report by Partech Ventures, a venture capital firm.

With the steadily growing investments in youth-led tech start-ups, it is tempting to sensationalise the achievements of a few and forget the multitudes who suffer successive failures despite the commercial viability of their solutions.


I have experienced first-hand how difficult the entrepreneurial journey can be — especially when you are trying to figure things out all by yourself. In my entrepreneurial journey, I have found three principles that can be particularly useful to youth who have tremendous talent but lack the benefit of experience.

In 2004, in the earlier days of our business, we convinced Dr Samuel Kiruthu to serve as our board chair, a position he holds to-date.

We greatly benefited from his business acumen and experience as he interrogated our financials more exhaustively and helped us to establish strong corporate governance structures.

Bolaji Akinboro, my co-founder, who heads the business in Nigeria, always reminds me that this was a watershed moment for Cellulant. Having a board that held us accountable to our business plan helped us to realise that a business is not a hobby. People had staked their entire careers and reputations on us. Failure was not an option.

As an entrepreneur starting out, it is important to reach out to experienced people outside your core network to help you to set up a board and establish solid corporate governance structures.


This will help you both at the beginning and later on in the business when you want to raise capital from investors.

When Cellulant started, we were focused on mobile content distribution. The pivot into digital payments evolved as a result of going out to solve a payments problem that our customers faced and we competitively positioned ourselves in digital payments in Kenya and across the continent.

While it is understandable for entrepreneurs to be sentimentally attached to their first big idea, evolution and adaption are necessary — especially if there are other commercially viable opportunities within reach.

It is important to look out for big trends that have the potential of giving your business access to multiple markets. Investors are always eager to back businesses that have the potential for scalability across different markets. Entrepreneurship is a journey, not a destination.

Last year, American e-commerce giant Amazon reported revenues of $177.9 billion (Sh17.8 trillion), which is close to six times Kenya’s current annual budget.

One would think that Amazon is resting easy after achieving this kind of wild success. Quite the contrary. It is aggressively exploring other emerging areas in tech, such as artificial intelligence.


According to Mary Meeker’s ‘2018 Internet Trends Report’, Amazon is now the top spender in research and development and capital expenditure in the United States, surpassing pharmaceutical companies which develop new medicines.

After hitting one milestone, you realise that there are several more down the road. You need to realise from the outset that entrepreneurship is not an easy fix to your financial problems but a demanding journey that requires you to make a long-term commitment.

Bolaji and I thought we would retire in 10 years. But after seeing our impact and getting a clearer sense of the immensity of the digital payments opportunity, we decided that we would be in this for longer.

Two thirds of Africans are still locked out of the financial system. We are keen on accelerating financial access for this unserved market segment by leveraging on mobile phones.

This is one of the reasons why we recently secured $47.5 million (Sh4.7 billion) in equity capital in one of the largest fintech deals in Africa.

I personally had to do 400 presentations to over 60 investors before settling on a set of investors who subscribed to our vision and mission.