Each year a cadre of young African innovators gather around a rosewood table in the shadow of Mount Washington to sign the Harambe Declaration — a solemn pledge “to work together as one” to build Africa’s future. Today, the Declaration is what unites the close to 300 Harambeans in our Alliance. It represents the acceptance of our individual responsibility in the realization of Africa’s potential. It is a personal pledge made not to Harambe, but to Africa. If decades from now Africa’s potential is not achieved, the “dream of our generation” not fulfilled, Harambeans accept to share in the blame and acknowledge that conscience, not courts, will enforce the moral dictates of our individual and collective commitment.
Much like The Prosperity Paradox by Efosa Ojomo H’17, the Harambe Declaration places great faith in the transformative power of young African innovators: “There exists a large number of skilled, creative and innovative minds… eager to take their turn at Africa’s helm…yearning for a peaceful and prosperous Africa.” These creative minds, these Harambeans are the key to Africa’s prosperity.
Along with the book Harambeans: Ordinary People, Doing Extraordinary Things, the Harambe Declaration captures the principles and values of our Alliance. When each new class of Harambeans signs the Declaration in the Gold Room at Bretton Woods, the very room in which the historic Bretton Woods Agreements were ratified in 1944, their signatures are merely part of a dream on a piece of paper. Embracing our values and transforming the words of our Declaration into action is what brings it to life.
HARAMBEAN VALUES AT WORK
Three core values are distinctive traits of Harambeans. Servant leadership – an innate desire to put our skills at the service of our communities. Deliberate audacity – an unapologetic choice to face challenges boldly. Enduring optimism – a sanguine attitude that sees every challenge as an opportunity.
The most consistent observation of signatories of the Harambe Declaration is a wholehearted commitment to servant leadership. Demonstrated by Harambeans in unique ways, servant leadership, at its core, is a desire to put their skills, networks, and education at the service of their communities. It is an admirable willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to unlock Africa’s potential, an instinctive embrace of the principle that to whom much is given, much is expected in return.
This commitment can be seen in the works of Harambeans like Oluseun Onigbinde H’15, who is working tirelessly to create a digital solution that makes public data accessible to Nigerians and enable government accountability. Despite being one of Africa’s richest economies, with a GDP of $404 billion as of 2016, Nigeria ranked just 148 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, signifying the persistence of widespread malfeasance.
Onigbinde decided to combine his expertise in journalism, strategy, and finance to enact a solution. His vision was to utilize technology and other tools that were in common use by the public — mobile phones, interactive applications, internet, and even town hall forums — to create accessibility to public finance information. By connecting with a pool of civil society nationwide and by transforming data into easily understood forms such as infographics, his venture BudgIT would help citizens understand public projects and enable Nigerians to hold the government accountable for public expenditure.
When BudgIT launched in 2011, Onigbinde had the high goal of engaging 2 million Nigerians through the BudgIT website and platforms. BudgIT met this goal in 2017, when their analysis of the 2017 federal budget reached over 2.5 million Nigerians and saw 25,000 citizens participate in the review process. This example shows the impact that can result from servant leadership and the dream of just one Harambean being put into action.
To the untrained eye, the boldness of the young Africans in our Alliance may come across as the fanciful machinations of untethered idealists. However, their audacity is an informed and deliberate choice. A choice commensurate with their life experience and instrumental in overcoming the vicissitudes of the entrepreneurial process.
One such example is the work of Adetayo Bamiduro H’15 and his team with his venture MAX NG – an Uber-like moto-taxi company in Nigeria.
According to data released by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, there are approximately 20 000 fatal vehicle accidents per year, making Nigeria one of the countries with the highest road fatalities in the world. The state of transport infrastructure in Nigeria is unsafe, expensive, and time consuming, which inhibits the growth and productivity of Nigeria’s citizens. To mitigate safety risks MAX owns and leases its fleet of vehicles and provides its drivers with adequate training, licensing and financial stability.
In true Harambean fashion, Bamiduro and his team not only believe that MAX NG reshape Nigeria’s transportation industry, but that they can also scale their solution across Africa. MAX NG is well on its way to meeting its ambitious targets. In just a short amount of time, MAX NG completed over 300,000 trips and with a network of over 500 drivers. The venture is now in the process of expanding to other locations in West Africa. Through his work Bamiduro and his fellow Harambeans are proving that with deliberate audacity you can sometimes dare your dreams into existence.
The Harambe Declaration also reveals the unyielding buoyancy of Harambeans: “We will not let our fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark… We will not let the hero in our soul perish.” It is an enduring optimism, anchored in a firm vision of a prosperous Africa. It is an optimism that refuses to yield to the overpowering despair of impregnable challenges. It is the contagious sentiment in full display in the struggles and triumphs of Harambeans like Ms. Eyitemi Popo H’18 on her journey as a woman entrepreneur.
Popo comes from a lineage of barrier-breaking women; her grandmother was the first woman to reach the highest level at the Nigerian Ministry of Education and helped build the education system all Nigerians follow today. In her family, Popo has proof of what it means when they say “when you educate a girl, you educate a nation.” With this mindset, she decided to tackle the challenge of African stereotypes on two fronts: the first was the creation of Ayiba Magazine, which is breaking down perpetuating stereotypes of Africa by telling stories that exemplify the complexity of African identity.
The second is with her venture Girls Trip, which is a travel experience focused on female empowerment in Africa. Despite encountering fierce skepticism along the way, Popo turned Ayiba Magazine into an award-winning publication with a team spread across three continents, recognized by organizations like the Financial Times, and an online readership of over 20,000 viewers each month. The success of Ayiba Magazine created a launch pad for Girls Trip, which in 2018 reached 22 Ghanaian girls aged 14 – 20 enrolled at the Soronko Academy: West Africa’s first coding and human-centered design school. The chain reaction of building upon each success propels Popo’s mission to use Girls Trip and Ayiba Magazine as ventures that will mold a new generation of female leaders by giving them living, thriving examples of women at the helm. The type of perseverance exemplified by Popo demonstrates how enduring optimism is enabling Harambeans to achieve great success in spite of the numerous hurdles along the entrepreneurial journey.
The work of Onigbinde, Bamiduro, and Popo illustrates that Harambean values are not just confined to the Declaration we sign on our rosewood table in the Gold Room each year, but that they find expression in the deeds and ventures of Harambeans across Africa. In recognition of this, the Harambe Gold Room Award remains the highest honor our Alliance can bestow upon a fellow Harambean, as a sign of their embodiment of our most cherished values. Given the vicissitudes of the entrepreneurial process, the ventures of Harambeans will invariably change, but we are confident that their commitment to servant leadership, deliberate audacity, and enduring optimism will persist.