Harambean Times: A Crisis – An Opportunity To Serve

The wine valley of  Franschhoek, South Africa was the backdrop of the fourth  Harambeans Global Summit in February 2023.  The gathering assembled Harambeans and the Alliance’s guilds of investors, partners and policy makers, who met to reflect  on the challenges facing Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and remind Harambeans and innovators at large why their work, in spite of the temporary setbacks, still matters.

A report from Sequoia, a storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm, set the tone for the Summit. The report warned founders  that the combination of turbulent financial markets, inflation and geopolitical conflict would lead to a decrease in the flow of capital to start-ups. Echoing similar sentiments, partners at YCombinator advised their founders that in these uncertain times “the safe move is to plan for the worst.” This oppressive climate is leading many founders to question their choices and the very value of their work.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, Executive Chairman of Oppenheimer Generations and supporter of the Alliance, reminded Harambeans that despite the downturn “you have the willpower, the brainpower and the capacity to order your space. That’s the business of an entrepreneur.”

In his opening remarks, Okendo Lewis-Gayle, Founder and Chairman of Haramabeans noted “These challenging times, are Harambean times for they demand fidelity to the promise we made at the inaugural address of our Alliance on April 19th, 2008: behind every crisis, we will explore opportunities; in the midst of desperation, we will shed light on stories of hope and during failures of leadership, we will lead. Never, will we surrender our conviction that tomorrow can be better than today.”

Guild Sessions

Several Guild Sessions aimed at  recycling the insights of experts within the Alliance took place on day three of the Summit. Sneha Shah from Kenya, an Executive Vice President at SEI and Head of New Business Ventures and a Harambean advisor, moderated the session, Nature of our Battle. Harambeans and Guilds in the Alliance choose to lend their skills and networks to the needs of underserved populations  – where others see challenges, they see opportunities. This instinctive choice is a defining trait of the Alliance, one that denotes their wholehearted commitment to the tenet of servant leadership. This session examined how the world of Harambeans and the Alliance is translating deeply-rooted values into scalable results.

Another Guild Session entitled, The Opportunity of the Now, which was led by E4E Africa and the Segal Family Foundation, delved into why Alliance partners have chosen to be active participants in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and what this choice reveals about the innovation landscape across Africa.

During the 3-day event, attendees shared some of their observations of the Alliance and working with Harambeans.

“Whenever I explain to people what Harambe means to me, I tell them it’s solid gold. It’s focused on what really matters in life and in business and the values that add value. The Alliance helps them to share the challenges and support that is needed on a day-to-day basis.” — Marsha Wulff, Founding Partner, Lofty Inc Capital


Every day that I have the opportunity to interact with a Harambean, I am energized, more hopeful and more committed to the work that we do every day. Harambeans have a special sauce that no one else does. The interactions are truly filled with a lot of humility and courage. They’re not transactional and everyone is truly here to help one another. In a world that is highly stressful and filled with a lot of darkness, this sort of engagement and interaction fills me with a lot of light. It’s people like this who are going to change the world and do so every day.” — Diana Skurka, Managing Director, Schmidt Futures


You have to lead people with servant leadership. If they think you care about them and you have a logical mission that they can believe in, they tend to respond differently.” — Charles Phillips, Co-Founder, Recognize

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