June Syowia: What I learned From Africa’s Brightest Young Minds

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Article writen by one or more writers at Inversk Magazine
Staff Writer

I had the opportunity to head over to Johannesburg, South Africa 2 weeks ago. I was selected as one of the 100 Brightest Young Minds in Africa 2017. Brightest Young Minds is an NGO that has been in existence for 16 years! Yes 16 imagine that. It was humbling and I was excited but all the same contained.

When I stepped out of the aircraft (Boeing 787, Dreamliner) my heart raced. It always feels so different when you get into a different space/ country aside from the one you are used to or maybe its just in my head? I wonder how pilots feel every now and then. I digress. O.R Tambo is such a huge airport but I was greeted by so many warm smiles from the security guys to the random eye contacts. I picked my luggage and headed over to catch the Gauteng train that would get me to Sandton (an area in Johannesburg, which is famously known as the richest square mile in Africa. It’s an economic hub!)

It was my first time at O.R Tambo and in my cluelessness, I met a young man from Botswana who was so kind to handle everything for me from purchasing the Golden card to loading it with cash for the train ticket. He even offered to drag my suitcase for me. Be kind people! It was an electric train, whoop. Kind of looked like the one we were promised. Okay am joking.

I arrived at 7pm and the launch had already started. I have never been around such vibrant and energetic people. What! I entered the room and got intimidated (quite unlike me but oh well) we already had an activity on the first night. An intellectual game, which we played in teams and the prowess of these guys, baffled me. No one was quiet or even seemed out of place, yet it was day zero. There was cohesion and energy balance which I loved.

Then came the next day, knowledge is important guys. Being well vast with world news or even what is going on in different fields/countries is highly important because then you can be able to strike any kind of conversation with anybody and at the same time, you can join in in conversations with a huge audience and sound remarkably smart at what you are saying or doing.

Being articulate is also very important. Bringing out your points very clearly without an element of doubt in whatever you are trying to express is essential. I am a great listener. I listen more than I speak and I have heard this from so many people. Since I have a strong personality I tend to be quite aggressive and intolerant when allowed to be loud (giggles) So I minimize this by listening to people and I thoroughly enjoy it. PS. I learn bits about myself everyday, which is a thrilling journey to self-actualization.

The 5 days were intense. The program started at 8:30 am and ended at 11pm each day. We rarely had time to ourselves as the program was strict and fixed but the best part is every single activity was really fun and the speakers were eloquent and professional. The times I enjoyed most were when guys chipped into issues. You can clearly tell when someone is well knowledgeable in a particular matter and people were. If anything stood out for me from the whole summit, it was this. You know Warren Buffet said that he would not have been where he is if he did not read. Reading at least 100 books in a particular sector makes you an expert in that sector.

One of the speakers at the summit let us in on a secret on how to be a millionaire guaranteed. Wait for it, Discover what your WHY is then read 100 books on that one subject. Oh yeah, that’s about it. So what book number are you in?

I picked up some key points on different topics, which I will highlight below from nonprofit to business. Do you know that the biggest problem with NGOs is that they are internally focused? If most NGOs could just focus on picking up energy from the outside-in then their impact would be quite huge and donors will be trickling in in large numbers. Case in point, look at the Elman Peace Foundation in Somalia. They are doing remarkably well because instead of focusing on themselves and how to make them richer, they are well vast with rehabilitation of extremists in Somalia and consequently they get the funds and recognition.

If you want funding for your projects, evidence is key. You have to do a cost effective analysis per individual impact that you want to create. This excites donors especially if you couple it with the development methodology. If you are not raising your own money through your social enterprise then you are unsustainable.

Then on business, do you have a business model canvas? It’s so important and its so simple too. Just Google Business Model Canvas, go to Images and write down the format or print it out then fill it. Having a product ideation framework enables you to be structured and well detailed on what your objectives are. If you have a product that needs selling, then it should be pre sold!

Some interesting quoted statements I noted:

  • Don’t ask a marketing guy how to market. Ask a financial guy; he knows where the money is
  • Know more than anyone else
  • If you know the WHY in anything then the rest does not matter.
  • You cannot escape conceptual reality
  • We see with our minds and beliefs
  • You can’t improve what you don’t measure
  • We don’t have to agree with each other, we just have to create a space where we can share our anger and our fear.

On day 4, we were divided into groups of 10 and tasked to create a solution that will eventually be implemented in our country of choice. Everyone had to scramble for a topic. Guess which one I went with (moment of silence) Nop, I dint choose technology, marketing or digital Africa, I chose Climate change! The reason for this is because I wanted to deal with a different topic on something I have never tackled before. We chose a topic “How to support smallholder farmers to mitigate climate change problems” We named our project Khulisa which means growth. We wanted to base our project on offering insurance to farmers something that is nonexistent because of the risks in insurance but it’s existent in Kenya (yeey to Kenya) Our teamwork was amazing and we had really cool people. We even went ahead to win the Most Innovative Project (wide grin)

After the 4 days we had a gala dinner at the tallest building in Joburg with the best view. This was to officiate us as the Brightest Young Minds in Africa and we are now proud 2017 alumni’s! Go BYM! This was a start of my 5-day vacation in South Africa, a story for another day.

Overall, I am challenged, inspired and greatly motivated to take the world by storm and make it my oyster. I am a big believer in possibilities and that nothing can stop me. Oh I know it gets hard but it only stops when I quit and hey am not about to quit ever. So lets go out there and be great, together.


June Syowia is an award winning entrepreneur and social innovator. She is the CEO of Beiless Group Limited, a marketing agency in Kenya.

You can reach her via: junesyowia@beilessgroup.co.ke

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