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Ory Interviews Mama Mike's Founder
Alex Steffen, 25 Jan 07
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Worldchanging book contributor Ory Okolloh has posted a short, casual but informative interview with Mama Mike's founder Segeni Ng’ethe. It's really worth a read:

There’s been an interesting debate going on in the Kenyan blogosphere about the dearth of investment opportunities in Kenya (esp. for Diaspora-based Kenyans aka KT’s) beyond the overdone real estate market and the stock exchange - what’s your view on this? Where else could guys be putting their money?

I can’t comment on this properly, because most of what I own is tied up in MamaMikes. I have not invested in real estate or in the stock market. So I lack the experience to offer ‘tried and tested’ answers.

Also, I have an issue with how the question is phrased, why call investments in real estate and the stock market as “overdone?. The people I know who have invested in the stock market have done and continue to do phenomenally well. I think investments are ‘overdone’ when they stop generating returns. So long as they continue to give you good returns they will remain a good investment.

If I had cash, where would I invest today?
(i) Planting Eucalyptus trees to feed fuel hungry tea factories. (Tea factories require wood fuel to process tea. And they can’t get enough. The same trees can be used as electricity poles and are used for Charcoal).
(ii) Investing in low income housing in populated areas (target rental rates averaging between 5k - 15k a month). For example in areas like Eastleigh.
(iii) Investing in a learning institution - offering a niche education, not yet offered in Kenya. Eg: Mobile phone programming, high-end web programming
(iv) Investing in good people, who lack the capital to build and develop their ideas.

What comes through for me in this interview is a perspective that seems to be somewhat common in African discussions of Africa and really rare in American takes on that continent, which is a sense that, despite all the staggering problems Africa faces, many African countries are now more than ever before places bursting with opportunity, even if that opportunity may require thinking in wholly new ways.

Mama Mike's seems like a great example of how such new thinking (especially when combined with leapfrogging technology) can create a successful and useful venture. (If after reading Ethan's remittances post and Ory's interview you're still unsure of exactly what Mama Mike's does, check out this funny video advertising their services.)

[Thanks, Ethan for the heads up!]

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