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African Entrepreneurs

Creators of Ushagz clothing

In a Northeastern University dorm overlooking the Boston city skyline, two students began what seemed to be a fun side project while finishing up their undergraduate studies. However, they didn’t think their small idea would take off in such a positive way.

Africa is usually looked at as one of the poorest continents in the world. Although there are some bad parts in Africa a lot of young Africans have learned to be innovative with the resources they have. This craftiness and creativity allows young African entrepreneurs to come up with interesting businesses and concepts that can often times be inspired by their surroundings.

Martin Kimani, a senior, Engineer major, who grew up in Kenya, and Binja Basiminke, a junior, pre med major, who grew up in both Kenya, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo were both able to bring their cultural backgrounds into their newly formed T-shirt line as well as other African cultures.

It all started with a small idea revisited and a dull spring break that put it into action. Kimani had brought up the idea of a T-shirt line to Basimike a year prior but it wasn’t until it became a reality later on when he conjured up a few designs and later collaborated with Basimike for more design ideas. Both wanted to focus on the progress in Africa as well as the past. That idea came to life as Basimike and Kimani brainstormed some ideas of the different shirts they wanted to create. Basimike who has lived in multiple parts of Africa and speaks a few different languages, which was the jumping point for their T-shirts

Ushagz seemed to be an appropriate name for the T-shirt company, due to the fact that it is a term that mostly young Africans use and the pair had the idea to relate to their younger audience with a catchy name. Ushagz, which is a Swahili slang term for the “rural areas,” became the name of the line because to most it would represent something less modern but to Kimani and Basimike its where they draw a lot of their inspiration. With their quirky shirts that use African humor as well as different languages spoken throughout the continent they are able to use their shirts as both an educational tool as well as an interesting way to meet new people. They wanted to create cultural awareness about Africa by creating conversation pieces.

“We want to help people become more culturally aware,” said Basimike. “I know a lot of people hear of Africa and they think they are hungry, they are dying, there’s so many wars going on, but there’s actually so much more then what the stereotypic idea is”

Kimani, who always found it interesting that people wore paraphernalia from other states brought that idea into the T-shirt line he co-created.

“I’ve always had that idea in the background to represent Africa so what happened was I sat down and came up with a few designs,” Kimani said

“What’s different about us is one of the things that’s in our goal and our mission statement,” said Basimike. “We want our t-shirts to carry a message with it and so the message that most of our T-shirts have is Africa is diverse, Africa has so many aspects to it and we have so much to offer to the world.”

To get their company off the ground they didn’t just start any old website to promote their new brand they hit the social media full force with blogging, Twitter, and Facebook.

“Right now websites and social media is the way to be out there,” Kimani said. “You’re able to reach more people and that’s what helped us a lot.”

However the purpose of the T-shirt line was not to gain a profit, although making a profit is great plus to the company, they plan on giving a large majority of that profit away to countries in Africa that may be in need.

“Our goal as young African entrepreneurs is for us to bring Africa to the world,” Basimike said. “We want to do this through the clothes that we make.”

Whether its something as small as helping one family eat for the month or as big as giving the money towards building a school, the pair have big dreams to better their home continent.

“You can have an idea to vote for where you want your money to go to whether it’s a grassroots organization in Congo or it be in Uganda so we have that type of interaction with the costumer” Kimani said.

Young African entrepreneurs Kimani and Bakimike can be found all throughout the campus at Northeastern University. Mirna Shampemba, a sophmore business major at Northeastern hopes to one day work in Africa as a corporate lawyer and contribute to her home country of Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I just wanted to be able to help my country in some way and business was always something that I have been interested in, said Shampemba.

Shampemba, who has been living in Finland with her family before coming to Northeastern University, has also lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo feels the importance of giving back to where you came from and through her education would like to do so. Although she is not yet an entrepreneur Shampemba does have big plans to bring new ideas to her country.

Coming from a family of euntrepenuers Shampemnba has the experience in creating businesses and running them in her home country. This business background has inspired Shampemba to use her future Northeastern degree for the betterment of her home country.

“We know how important it is to develop and evolve the countries,” Shempemba said.  “My dad has had many opportunities to work abroad but he has always taken positions in Africa.”

Africa has been churning out a lot of different kinds of entrepreneurs who have been working at breaking the stereotypes that people have about Africa. As it moves forward into the future we should be looking to Africa to see the newest development in culture and make the idea of Africa with all the negative connotations that appear along with it.

Whether it starts out in a dorm in the middle of Northeastern University or a corporate office in South Africa, African entrepreneurs are setting the precedence all over the world in order to benefit Africa in the long run.



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Lately the news has been filled with either news from the earthquake in Japan or Libya. There is a lot of misconceptions with the reporting and all that is going on in the country as to why the people have been protesting and how it all began. There is even misconception of the quirky leader Qaddafi.

Due to all the revolts that began in primarily arab speaking african countries starting with Tunisia. Most of the revolts started because the people of the countries were unhappy with the way their economies were as CNN described,

In Libya, protesters rallied against, among other things, high unemployment and a delay in a government housing project, and they eventually called for democracy and an end to Moammar Gadhafi’s almost 42-year-long rule.

Following the lead of two successful revolts preceding Libya, the country was able to begin their protest, however their revolution seemed to be covered very differently in the media then the Tunisian and Egyptian protest. instead of being called protestors the people fighting against Qaddafi became rebels and were considered very violent and the death toll rose everyday because of these violent clashes that ensued in some of the most highly populated cities in the country as news networks such as CNN say,

“At the beginning of March, the Libyan military stepped up efforts to reclaim areas lost to rebels.”

This battle continues and soon right on cue the US gets involved launching missiles at the country at Qaddafi’s army and supporters. Why would the US get involved in something so far from them and a country that seems to not affect them very much? if you want to look deeper into this question just take a look at how much it takes to fill up your gas tank now a days. They are one of the biggest exporters of oil and this upheaval they’ve been having has been affecting the US greatly. however is it necessary to get involved in yet another conflict? Guess we will have just see what comes of it.

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Africa Night 2011!

On y va – Lets go was the theme for the night as Students from all different cultures and backgrounds came, last Saturday, to Northeastern’s African Student Organizations Africa night celebration. There were all kinds of African oriented entertainment from music, dance, food, and fashion. The night kicked off with traditional African dancing to drumbeats and ended with modern African dancing that showed the evolution of West African culture.

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Big Love: Polygamy

With the lovers month of February coming to an end I wanted to discuss a bit of a taboo topic that comes up in all parts of Africa. What is this topic? Well, its polygamy, when a man takes more than one wife. This trend appears mostly in Islamic societies on the continent but many tribes believe in the practice also. Many men take on multiple wives as a sign of status but sometimes for these men it backfires and they take on more then they can handle with the multiple wives and caring for them all such as in the case of Ayattu Nure and Ethiopian man who has 11 wives and 77 children who is struggling with caring for all of his family according to this BBC article,

“After seeing his fortune disappear under the competing demands of his enormous family, Ayattu Nure, 56, even urges people not to get married.”

This is becoming an issue in may different countries where men have been taking on many wives and have been ok to care for them but as the years go by their funds become depleted from all the children that are added to the family at once.

“Mr Ayattu says he used to be rich and wanted to share his wealth around, which is why he took so many wives.”

Polygamy seems to be an interesting subject where many seem to have their different opinions on the matter and even participate for their own reasons. The independent world a UK news org discussed this subject in depth.

“Polygamy is very common in the animist and Muslim communities of West Africa. In Senegal, for example, nearly 47 per cent of marriages are said to feature multiple women. It is relatively high still in many Arab nations; among the Bedouin population of Israel it stands at about 30 per cent.”

Whether you’re for polygamy or against it, it is a long-standing tradition that has been around for many years and doesn’t show any signs of ceasing.

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Africans can publish their own magazines?

Picture from Vogue Africa prototype

The words high fashion and Africa are rarely combined. When Conde Nast was offered to create Vogue Africa, along side their many other international affiliations, they kindly passed. Although vogue creating an African magazine would have promoted Africa in a more positive light as well as a more diverse standard of beauty (you can see for yourself here), there are many other African magazines that display high fashion in Africa and promote Africa positively. One of these magazines that you can actually find in the magazine section of Boarders is Arise. This magazine includes vibrant fashions spreads and features on things like street fashions, up and coming African musicians, as well as African super models.

Another African magazine that can be compared to the likes of cosmopolitan (except less sappy) is True Love a canadian based magazine that does interesting features on both African and American celebrities. This magazine isn’t afraid to take on the cultural issues such as polygamy (which is very common all over Africa) that occur throughout the continent. while those two magazines, just mentioned, are physical magazines that you can subscribe to similar to Vogue, one online magazine is a stand out in featuring african fashion alongside intriguing features.

Haute while its working on creating its hard copy magazine is still doing a great job of providing people with an online edition that covers all things African entertainment and fashion related. It even has video for everything from fashion shows, photo shoots, and store events. All these African magazines makes me think Conde Nast may have made a very bad choice by not taking the offer for vogue Africa but knowing that these magazines exist gives me a good feeling, we will be alright without Conde Nast’s help.

Photo by Mario Epanya rights reserved to qiv and flickr

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