Four Weeks in Maputo

September 29, 2015

It has been four weeks already since I arrived in Maputo, Mozambique, yet it feels like a week. There is a contrast between the dynamic at work and that in the city – the pace at work is fast, while that in the city is slow. So, I find myself in this paradox whereby I feel properly adjusted at work, but still need to readjust to the pace of the city and country. Work feels like it did back in the United States. Everyday life, on the other hand, runs a lot slower than it does in the United States. Incidentally, time also seems to move slower. In the United States, every glance at my watch revealed an hour gone by. In Maputo, every glance at my watch reveals five minutes gone by. To be fair, I have had the same impression in every other African country that I have been to.

I spent my first month at work acclimatizing myself to the work environment, my colleagues, the company’s operations, and its clients and partners. I also designed and drafted a five-year strategy document for the company, which should be presented to the Board of Directors at the next Board Meeting. For that assignment, I collaborated with the Managing Director and Investment Manager. The experience gave me insight on how they work, think, and structure their deliverables. I have been attending a number of meetings, related to various projects, during which my opinions were sought and I was prompted to present certain arguments that I held convictions about. Such experiences are valuable because they reveal that there exists multiple approaches to issues and that opting for a particular approach is not an implicit rejection of other options.

My most valuable experience of the month has been establishing a foundation of trust with my colleagues. With the management team, this implies ensuring as candid and effective communication with the managers as is possible. With the rest of the team, this means regular conversations about their personal backgrounds, interests, sports, and sharing lunch during lunch-breaks. The effort has been beyond worthwhile. I am confident that I am already forging solid understandings with my colleagues, especially those who are not in management. The reason I decided to do this is that I learned from my previous professional experiences that the most important thing in human relations is effective and constructive communication. This enhances the level of trust and understanding between individuals. Trust and understanding typically make for mutual progress.

I am all about mutual progress.

 

- Yana


(Washington, DC) LDI Africa, a social enterprise connecting African professionals and organizations to the global marketplace through its Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program; a program largely placing skilled volunteers from around the world to strengthen the organizational capacity of African-based for-profit and nonprofit institutions, recently reached a major milestone by expanding to the United States.
Kenneth Izedonmwem, 23, is the first African young professional to take advantage of this immense opportunity with a 6-month paid fellowship with EDUN a global fashion brand in New York. EDUN was founded in 2005 by Ali Hewson and Bono and is currently a part of the luxury group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy). Kenneth will also take fashion classes in the world-famous Fashion Institute of Technology.

Janice Sullivan, CEO Edun remarks: “Edun’s mission has always been to support trade with Africa and thus we are excited to welcome a young African talent as part of our trade and training programs. We look forward to having this young designer as part of the team in New York and wish to extend thanks to those who helped to make this program a reality,”

Kenneth was accepted into LDI Africa’s fellowship through the MTN British Council Lagos Fashion and Design Week Young Designer of the Year competition (Nigeria), a fiercely competitive program of Frallain Inc. Frallain is a Ghanaian owned luxury company that comprise of established African premium and luxury brands in the categories of Fashion and Leather goods, Accessories, Wines & Spirits and other specialty products. Roberta Annan, Founder of Frallain remarks: “Frallain is very excited about this competition! We believe that this competition will give an African designer a rewarding opportunity in which they can take their design skills to a whole new level and introduce their designs to the international market,”

Gbenga Ogunjimi, the Founder/CEO of LDI Africa remarks: “This marks an important milestone for Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program. This monumental opportunity will make it possible for rising design entrepreneurs like Kenneth Izedonmwen to acquire industry expertise, forge key networks to launch the next premier international fashion brand, and secure African designs on the world’s fashion map.

 

 

GTBank Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2014 - Kenneth Izu 

On a bus en route to North Harvard, I sat eagerly preparing LDI Africa’s business pitch while identifying which entrepreneurs and panelists to reach out to at the Harvard Business School’s Annual African Business Conference.

After finding my way through Harvard’s heavily trafficked streets, I arrived at the Business School’s humble and historic campus. To my delight, I found myself in the right place; in a room full of elegantly dressed people who looked and sounded nothing like me.

Friday night’s networking event was full of young professionals – novice or seasoned in their respective professions, they all eagerly handed out business cards, spoke of their ambitions, while warming up to New England’s frosty weather with delicious h’eurdurves and cocktails. I crossed paths with many a Ghanaian and Nigerian that night. The younger of the like, those pursuing MBA’s in the United States, told me they had heard of LDI Africa. While others who listened to me speak of our services were eager to learn more about our fellowship program.

The prospect of recruiting more MBA’s to our inaugural class of Fellows fueled my conversations, but it was not until I stumbled into a conversation, discussing with older professionals social enterprise investing and competition, that I began to internalize the gravity of each introduction and motive communicated that night. I gleaned one lesson from that night – you get very few chances to impress a potential ally, so execute, and execute rapidly. Business cards in hand, occupied with self-reflective thoughts of how LDI Africa can do better than any other volunteer service enterprise, I left exhausted and better prepared for Saturday’s lecture series.

In spite of the meticulous preparation that the planning committee had put into Saturday’s keynote speeches, the sector-specific panel discussions were what fueled constructive debate and got people’s pens moving. I sat in lectures that addressed VC capital acquisition and the dos and don’ts for entrepreneurs. The most memorable panelists were: Jeremy Hondara of Rocket Internet and Jumia, Walter Lamberson of Open Capital Advisers, Gregory Rockson of M-Sika, and Ehgosa Omoigui of Echo VC. Amidst the hundreds of nuggets of useful advice, espoused in each panel, the following statements carried the most weights and significance to those involved in the start-up and early stage investment game:

· Competition in Africa is unorganized, meaning that most markets are ripe for the picking

· Execution and delivery innovation are what funders seek in potential partners

· African SME’s and social enterprises need professionals who know how to scale; they need professionals that can move fast and never tire out

· Mentorship programs and the cross-pollination of knowledge will foster an environment for skilled professionals to thrive and grow African businesses

· Management teams who know how to build up their employees and make tactful use of resource is imperative in early-stage success

All of the above – meeting with aspiring professionals and seasoned veterans, reevaluating LDI Africa’s offer and vision, and the valuable lessons from the lecture series – have further fortified my conviction that LDI Africa’s mission will create partnerships and pipelines that foster social and economic development on the Continent via talent acquisition and retention; mentorship; and scalable and profitable growth among Africa’s risk takers and lenders.

 

Carlos Morla

 

 

   

 

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Gia Claybrooks, Program Manager
 
Email: gia@ldiafrica.org. Phone: (202) 670 4182 
 
LDI AFRICA & DC FASHION FOUNDATION LAUNCH INCUBATOR AT MACY’S METRO CENTER
 
Washington, D.C. (September 8, 2015) –- Today Macy’s will unveil a fourth location of the highly successful Fashion Incubator program, in Washington, D.C. Officially known as the DC Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Metro Center (DCFI), this city established fashion design initiative will be devoted to supporting and promoting emerging fashion designers and encouraging local designers to grow and maintain their businesses in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
 
The District of Columbia, LDI Africa, We Are DC, Macy’s Metro Center, Prince George’s County Arts & Humanities Council, Africa Fashion Fund, the DC Fashion Foundation, and several educational and international institutions devoted to fashion design are all partners of DC Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Metro Center (DCFI).
 
"We are very excited to welcome DCFI to our Macy's Metro Center store in Washington DC, DCFI at Macy's Metro Center joins an elite portfolio of Macy's stores in downtown Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, that have successful City-established Fashion Incubator programs in residence." Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Macy's Inc.
 
“Ideas and talents are abundant in Africa but the opportunity for business leaders to cross international borders with their ideas are not as much. We are proud to partner with Africa Fashion Fund to connect designers in Papa Oppong to the DC Fashion Incubator at Macy’s in Washington, DC.”  Gbenga Ogunjimi, CEO LDI Africa
 
“We are excited to partner with DCFF and DCFI@Macy's on a project that provides Young Designers with the tools and skills needed to thrive in the Fashion Industry. It is very much aligned with our objective at the African Fashion Fund.”  Roberta Annan, CEO Africa Fashion Fund
 
"I am proud of the DC Fashion Foundation and our partnership with Macy's to support emerging artists in the fashion industry.  By investing in the next generation of DC fashion innovators and entrepreneurs, we will give them opportunities to grow and thrive in the District.  This is a boon to our creative economy and yet another example of how this Administration is creating pathways to the middle class for all District residents," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
 
“The DC Fashion Incubator is committed to supporting and investing in the emerging local fashion industry. Our goal is to foster the growth of designers as leaders of small businesses, by providing the training, mentoring and resources designers they need to be successful,” says Shaka King, Executive Director of Operations at DCFI.
 
"We want to ensure that all of the DCFI Designers in Residence adopt a global view of the fashion industry, and our designers from Peru and Ghana will help develop a unique cultural exchange that will benefit the entire class as they prepare to take the fashion world by storm. We are proud to have PromPeru and The Frallain African Fashion Fund as our 2015 Cultural Exchange Partners," Alida Sanchez, DCFI  Retail and International Development Director.
 
The DC Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Metro Center is the latest addition to other successful city-initiated Incubator programs that have been established throughout the country and have taken up residence within a Macy’s store. The year-long program at DCFI will provide the selected Designers-In-Residence (DIR) with office space, a production room and shared showroom space/conference room. Designers selected by the DCFI’s Selection Committee which consists of representatives from local fashion and business sectors. The 2015 class consists of six locally based designers and two designers from Peru and Ghana through a cultural business exchange program between those two countries and the District of Columbia. This international arrangement is the first of its kind for the Incubator program. The DIR will receive mentoring from industry and business professionals in addition to a significant schedule of seminars and workshops dedicated to the global business of fashion. Workshops will include topics on creating a business plan, marketing strategy, and identifying legal needs and funding. The tailored curriculum will be offered by industry experts,  fashion insiders, community business leaders. The 900+ square foot space will be located on the fourth floor of Macy’s Metro Center.
 
LDI Africa is excited to link fashion entrepreneurs and designers in Africa to the U.S. market. The application for the Spring 2016 LDI Africa Global Fellowship Programs on October 1, 2015. Fellowship programs will include - DC Fashion Incubator at Macy’s, Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program, and the Broad Street Fund Fellowship Program. For more information about LDI Africa fellowships, please visit www.ldiafrica.org