Archive for February 22, 2012

Their efforts in technology business have helped Kenya earn the tag ‘Silicon Savannah’. Photo/GRAPHICS

Their efforts in technology business have helped Kenya earn the tag ‘Silicon Savannah’. Photo/GRAPHICS

There is money in IT, and this is how we make it

Posted  Thursday, February 23  2012 

They are ambitious, aggressive and tech-savvy. In their efforts, they’ve shown that one can turn technology into a successful business. Below, meet six ‘techpreneurs’ who have ventured and conquered the virtual world.

Hilda Moraa, 24, Head WezaTele Company

WezaTele is a solutions provider that applies mobile technologies such as SMS and USSD — a technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network.

She honed her business skills at Strathmore University, where she was a student. After her studies, she set out to take advantage of the many opportunities that she saw in the innovation arena.

“My love for technology and innovation spurred me to look at my school projects in an applied dimension. My curiosity and self-determination also inspired me to become one of the solutions providers,” she says.

The young techpreneur, who employs seven full-time staff, says she hopes her firm will break even by June this year.

The firm now has clients from several companies in Kenya, including, a local e-commerce company.

Wezatele has been featured in global circles, and was most recently featured in TedX — a global set of conferences held around the world for thought-leaders and innovators.

‘My-Order’, an application developed while she was still a student, has gained continent-wide attention.

Mbugua Njihia, 28, CEO Symbiotic Media

The technology company focuses on mobile business, mobile entertainment, custom Web and mobile application solutions.

The company, Symbiotic Media, is a leader in this technological field, and its product ‘Sembuse’ was recently named one of Forbes Africa Top 20 start-ups.

Mbugua’s techpreneurial skills were fostered early — since his university days in 2006 — and he says his love for business and technology meant that he would eventually start his own firm.

Among the firm’s achievements is building East Africa’s first mobile social network, which achieved a base network of 250,000 million users by 2009.

His advice to others venturing into techpreneurship is to first seek a niche, and settle where one is most comfortable

“Will you be a solutions creator or a reseller? Will you develop from scratch or will you support and distribute? Such are the questions that one must answer. A real business means cash flows and margins,” he says.

Kamal Budhabatti, CEO and founder, Craftsilicon

CraftSilicon is a global software firm based in Kenya, providing software solutions to core-banking, microfinance, switching, electronic and mobile payments across four continents.

The company is worth Sh1.7 billion, with an annual income of over Sh500 million.

Mr Budhabatti used to moonlight during office hours, often writing software all night long, until he got his first big break in 2000 when a friend told him of a local bank that needed software.

He grabbed the opportunity. When his boss found out about his side job, he was fired from his work as a data entry clerk and deported to India.

He struggled to raise money to buy a ticket back to Kenya, as he still had to finish the software.

That is how his story in techpreneurship began.

Now the firm has over 200 staff, housed at the Sh420 million Craft Silicon Campus, off Waiyaki Way in Westlands, Nairobi.

It also has offices in New York, India and West Africa, serving over 200 clients.

The company also has an office in Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto California, a feat few African founded companies can claim.

Mike Macharia, group CEO, Seven Seas Technologies (SST)

Mr Macharia founded SST in 1999, aged 25, based on a strong belief and faith in himself.

The company has since grown steadily over the years, evolving from a humble infrastructure-based firm to a full IT services company that has 100 employees and three offices in Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Last year, it generated Sh2 billion in revenue. He has steered SST to the heights through innovation, vision, commitment and passion, rising to become one of Africa’s respected technology entrepreneurs.

He has always been passionate about technology and how it can be used to leverage and transform Africa in the way people live, work, play and govern.

SST has won global recognition, including the VMware Africa Channel Partner of the Year in 2011, in recognition of the firm’s cloud computing efforts in East Africa.

Moses Kihumba, CEO Partech Solutions

Partechs Solutions, a firm worth Sh4 million, has found a niche in providing customised software solutions to businesses in Kenya and East Africa.

As an active member of student club activities, the Nazarene University alumni dealt a lot with entrepreneurship and empowering communities through business, where he earned the skills to start his own firm.

“I started exploring what sectors were profitable and offered high growth potential. That is how I ended up in ICT. Though I was doing finance major, I decided to look for some friends who had studied computer science and convinced them to establish an IT firm.  That is how Partechs Solutions was founded,” he says.

Last year, the firm was declared the winner of stage one of the Ericsson Application Awards — an annual, global competition for application developers on the Android platform.

Remaining disciplined in personal, financial and social aspects during the first few years of building the company are some of the challenges he faced.

“Mobile apps in the business sphere are the present and the future; that’s why Partechs has already embraced the future,” he says

The anatomy of millionaires

Most are self-made, launch their enviable business empires from almost nothing, writes ANTHONY NGATIA

Millionaire! The term conjures a number of images in the minds of most people. Flamboyant, proud, snobbish, lazy people vacationing in glamorous locations.

Well, while one or two millionaires may be described in some of these words, the stuff the average millionaire is made of baffles. A peek into their lives reveals a different story: hard work, sacrifice, frugality, sheer devilry risk taking coupled with a steely determination to succeed.

We would like to say luck was on their side or some tall or well heeled relative put them in ‘the stead’ hence they had a head start in life unlike most of us, but yet a keener look at them reveals the stunner stuff they are made of.

In terms their outlook, they are a different breed altogether that sees the glass as half full; and never half empty, hence their resounding success.

They are persistent and focused, bold, entrepreneurial, patient, creative, disciplined among other attributes. And their stories run the gamut from inventors, celebrities, industrialists to struggling entrepreneurs who over years built enviable business empires.

And while few became millionaires from their fast lane jobs, nearly all of them rose from the low-rated jobs.

Warren Buffet, for instance, started as an itinerant supplier delivering newspapers to people using a bicycle. Today, his business empire is valued at around $47 billion.

Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest and powerful women in the world and whose net worth hovers around $2.7 billion, started off in a humble way as a grocery store clerk.

Girgio Armani, the eccentric Italian billionaire, whose net worth today stands at $5.3 billion was a photography assistant.

Even stories of our very own is a portrait of a humble beginning. The late Gerishon Kirima was a carpenter then a butcher and this confirms that there is something: a rare business acumen that propels millionaires from the bottom end of society. At the time of death this year, Kirima had built an empire worth more than Sh750 million.

And it is this rare trait coupled with ‘smart thinking’ devoid of even impressive college certificates that probably saw Njenga Karume manage to pull himself up and build a massive business empire from the unenviable lowly-rated menial job of a charcoal seller, according to his biography: Beyond Expectations; from Charcoal to Gold.

But perhaps one of the most outstanding traits of millionaires is their clenched teeth determination to pursue whatever they focus on, and do not care about the opinions of others, and without fearing any failure.

When asked about how people reacted to his intention to resign from teaching a few years ago, the late Kenyan poultry millionaire Henry Muguku said: “my principal thought I was crazy because my job was stable. But I was determined.”

It is this ‘craziness’ coupled with steely determination, traits common with all millionaires, that saw him build the biggest hatchery in the country estimated to be worth more than Sh3 billion.

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group of companies epitomises how determination to pursue one’s passion regardless of one’s weakness (he was dyslexic can take a person far.

As a teenager school drop out, Branson started with his passion: starting his own newspaper. Today, he is a quintessential billionaire, with over 400 companies under his arm and ranked as the 254th richest person in the world by Forbes Magazine in 2011.

But as the number of self-made millionaires seems to rise even amidst the worst global financial crisis in recent times, scientists are weaving another strand in the whole question about the stuff millionaires are made of.

A June 2006 article published in The Mail Online quotes a research done in Britain and the US on entrepreneur-millionaires, which found that self-made millionaires’ success could actually lie in their genes.

This is contrary to the generally held notion that family environment and upbringing influence going it alone.

Stacy Kiruthi, an entrepreneurship consultant, argues that it’s a combination of factors such as planning, thinking big, superb management acumen, and the people one associates with, chance and fearlessness that make the millionaire tick.

“They are penny-wise. They combine frugality and always live below their means. They seem to fully ascribe to the rule ‘look after your cents and the shillings will look after themselves.”

What of education? A peek into most of their resumes, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Richard Branson, Michael Dell (the University of Texas drop out who has built the world known, Dell, a computer company and is today a magnate estimated to be worth about $13.5 billion), Apple’s Steve Jobs, and off course some of the local millionaires shows they went through the ‘school of hard knocks’ or street school but emerged wiser than most of us in the subject of money and wealth making.

But there is never a shortage of ‘eccentrics’, even crazy few within this class, perhaps a tipping point of the genius bubbling in them.

Graham Pendrill, a British millionaire traded his £1.2 million mansion in his native town Almondsbury for a Maasai mud hut in Kenya last year having been adopted by the Maasai as an elder.

Karl Rebeder, a French millionaire who grew up in poverty decided to give out his entire fortune valued at £3 million claiming the money “did not give him happiness” as he had thought when he was poor. He opted to retreat into a small wooden hut into the mountains from a luxurious Alpine retreat.

Stacy says that this is unexpected from this ilk “as at they are first and foremost ordinary human beings like everybody else. The fact that they are millionaires is because they concentrate more and unrelentlessly on investing and the experience has made them wiser.”

Too many descriptions and conjectures as to what makes millionaires exist, yet no single word or as compelling explanation exists apart from probably the horse’s mouth.

Richard Branson says many people ask him what his secret is and what they can do to be millionaires. The reply: “I always tell them the same thing. I have no secret. There are no rules to follow in business. I just work hard and, as I always have done, believe I can do it. Most of all, through, I try to have fun.”

By Ulf Laessing

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – South Sudan’s plans to build a pipeline to Kenya or Djibouti to end dependency on Sudan’s oil industry seems unrealistic in the short-term, showing the need to find a deal with Sudan over oil payments, a Norwegian minister said on Wednesday.

South Sudan is locked in a row with Sudan over oil payments because it needs to ship its crude through northern pipelines and a Red Sea port.

Last month, Juba shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels per day after Sudan started seizing southern oil after both sides failed to agree on a transit fee.

Juba now wants to develop an alternative pipeline to Kenya or Djibouti to bypass Sudan.

But Norway’s Minister for Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, said oil pipeline projects tend to take longer than planned.

“I see very few people in the international community who consider this feasible in the short-term,” Solheim told Reuters.

“A much more realistic option would be to find a settlement using the north-south pipeline in meantime while then you can consider a long-term solution,” he said during a visit to Khartoum.

Norway is advising Sudan and South Sudan on developing their oil industries.

Asked whether Juba would be able to build a pipeline to the Kenyan coast within 11 months as planned, Solheim said: “It’s a very optimistic assessment.”

Apart from Kenya, Juba has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Djibouti and Ethiopia to build another pipeline. No companies have been named yet for either project.

North and south resume talks sponsored by the African Union on March 3 but Solheim sounded sceptical on a breakthrough.

“Both sides say they are ready to compromise but there is not huge optimism,” he said, warning: “It’s a very serious issue for both sides, especially the south.”

South Sudan’s budget depends for 98 percent on oil revenues.

Positions of both sides are wide apart. The South wants to pay around $1 a barrel in transit fees, Khartoum demands around $36 a barrel plus back payments of $1 billion.

South Sudan in talks with Vitol to build small Refinery in South Sudan

Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:04am GMT

By Hereward Holland and Emma Farge

PALOUGE OIL FIELD, South Sudan/LONDON (Reuters) –

South Sudan is in talks with top oil trader Vitol to build a small refinery which would start producing in 2013, as it seeks to end dependency on Sudan, its oil minister said on Tuesday.

South Sudan took three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production when it became independent in July but has no refineries and needs to import petrol from Sudan or East African neighbours.

The landlocked country is in a dispute with Sudan over oil payments, as it needs to export its crude through northern export facilities. It has shut down its entire output of 350,000 barrels a day after Sudan started seizing southern oil for what it calls unpaid transit fees.

“We are expecting the first product in 2013,” Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau told Reuters during a visit to Palouge oil field when asked about refinery talks with Vitol.

“They will use 10,000 barrels per day and the output will be 35-40 percent of the total so it will be 3,500 barrels per day initially and then we will develop it gradually,” he said.

South Sudan planned two more small refineries, he said without giving details.

Vitol’s Chief Executive Ian Taylor told Reuters talks have been held with Juba.

“The South Sudanese are interested themselves in creating some finished products which they don’t have much of. They have talked to us and not just us,” he said.

“They have got a problem with refining products on how to bring them in. What they’ve got is crude oil, sadly stuck in the ground,” he said.

South Sudan accuses president of oil company of colluding with Sudan, expels 

Washington Post
JUBA, South Sudan — The head of the largest foreign oil company in South Sudan has been asked to leave the country over allegations he conspired with Sudan to steal the south’s oil, South Sudan officials said Wednesday. Liu Yingcai, a Chinese national 

South Sudan expels Chinese head of main oil firm
MSN Malaysia News
South Sudan has expelled the Chinese head of the country’s largest oil firm Petrodar on charges of colluding with former civil war foe Sudan to “steal” millions of barrels of its oil, a minister said Wednesday. “It is the first time in South Sudan’s 

South Sudan Kicks Out President of Oil Company
By: MICHAEL ONYIEGO | AP JUBA, South Sudan (AP) The head of the largest foreign oil company in South Sudan has been asked to leave the country over allegations he conspired with Sudan to steal the south’s oil, South Sudan officials said Wednesday…

South Sudan Expels Petrodar Executive
Wall Street Journal
By NICHOLAS BARIYO KAMPALA, Uganda — South Sudan has expelled the head of Petrodar, the country’s largest oil producer and pipeline operator, accusing him of covering up the theft of oil by Sudan. Liu Yingcai was ordered to leave South Sudan within 72 

Reuters Africa
By Hereward Holland PALOUGE OIL FIELD, South Sudan (Reuters) – South Sudan has expelled the head of Chinese-Malaysian oil consortium Petrodar, the main oil firm operating in the new African nation, a top southern official said on Tuesday, escalating a 

South Sudan expels head of Chinese-Malaysian oil firm
Yahoo!7 News
South Sudan has expelled the head of Chinese-Malaysian oil consortium Petrodar, the main oil firm operating in the new African nation, top southern officials said on Tuesday, escalating a row between Juba and Chinese oil firms. South Sudan has attacked 
South Sudan Welcomes London Court Ruling on Disputed Oil Cargo
21 (Bloomberg) — South Sudan welcomed the ruling by a London court to withhold payment for a cargo of crude until ownership of the oil was settled with neighboring Sudan. The ruling was a “positive thing” because it means that Sudan will not receive a 
Struggling Sudan consumers warn of unrest
Prices soared in recent months while the currency fell in value after the economic shock of South Sudan’s separation in July. The South took with it 75 percent of Sudan’s oil output, which accounted for the vast majority of Khartoum’s export earnings 

New railway line to link Uganda to Tanzania and South Sudan
Daily Monitor
The planned railway line from Tanzania through Uganda to South Sudan is expected to become Uganda’s second direct link to the coastline, the minister of Works and Transport has said. Eng Abraham Byandala told Daily Monitor that the proposed 

South Sudan: Japanese engineers join UN mission to build roads and bridges
UN News Centre
A Japanese engineering contingent has arrived in South Sudan to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the young country and help build roads and bridges in areas with very little basic infrastructure. The group of 120 engineers from the 

South Sudanese, please stop harassing aliens
Sudan Tribune
By Isaiah Abraham February 21, 2012 — After independence of South Sudan from the Republic of the Sudan six months ago, the people of the South (say some) have started to misbehave towards other non-South Sudanese or foreigners on the ground that they 

UNAMID chief seeks to enlist Juba’s help to promote Darfur peace accord
Sudan Tribune
February 21, 2012 (JUBA) – The head of the African Union–United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Ibrahim Gambari met today with South Sudan President Salva Kiir to discuss with him ways to strengthen of the Darfur peace accord signed less than a year 
 South Sudan: Japanese engineers join UN mission to build roads and bridges
Middle East North Africa Financial Network
Feb 22, 2012 (M2 PRESSWIRE via COMTEX) — A Japanese engineering contingent has arrived inSouth Sudan to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the young country and help build roads and bridges in areas with very little basic infrastructure.

South Sudan: Emergency Appeal
SOS Children
In recent months, the relationship between recently-divided Sudan and South Sudanhas deteriorated. This has led to outbreaks of violence, with thousands of families and unaccompanied children fleeing from South Sudan to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

SOS Children
Eight19 deploys IndiGo off-grid PV systems in South Sudan
On February 21st, 2012 Eight19 Ltd. (Cambridge, UK) announced that it has begun deploying its pay-as-you-go IndiGo off-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) solution in South Sudan, in partnership with NGO WorldVenture (Littleton, Colorado, US)…

COLUMN-Threat to economy could force IEA to release oil: Kemp
Confrontation with Iran and a series of supply disruptions in South Sudan, Syria and Yemen have pushed prices back to levels that derailed the recovery in the United States and Europe last year, and could do again in the first half of 2012…

US troops stationed in 4 Central African countries in fight against LRA rebel 
Washington Post
Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the top US special operations commander for Africa, said the US troops are now stationed in bases in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic. “We’ve already seen a decrease in the lethality of LRA activities, 
Humanitarian crisis grows in Sudan
Sudan (MNN) ― In the region where Sudan and South Sudan’s borders touch, there’s an eerie familiarity in crisis. An ethnic cleansing has created a humanitarian problem, and the picture revealed bears resemblance to the tragedy of Darfur.