“Businesses are doing something that’s already been done, but to me entrepreneurship is more original and community centred.”
Micheal Jembe Bongo, is a young, budding entrepreneur from the Rabai community in Mombasa (coast of Kenya).
This 18 year old is passionate about entrepreneurship as a skill to bring about social change in Africa. He believes in using the resources already on the continent and adding value to them in order to better ourselves instead of letting other continents exploit us.
“I guess it’s the age old saying of giving people a fishing rod instead of fish,” he says.
Michael wasn’t always socially aware or inspired to make change. His journey started in 2016 when he tagged along with his mother on one of her rounds of community work. Here, Michael saw young boys his age who were addicted to local brews and hard drugs.
“For the first time, I acknowledged my privilege because these boys were the same age as me yet I had better clothes and better education than they did. Before this, I was a typical teenage boy going through life and school and not being moved by anything but this touched me.”
Michael heard about a football tournament with a hefty cash prize that was taking place and mobilised twelve of the boys he had met to form a football team – ‘Mwangaza’ meaning light in Swahili.
As both the captain and the coach for the team, he had identified how these boys were living in a dark place and wanted this team to be a source of light for them.
Mwangaza won the tournament and although the boys wanted to split the prize money, Michael made the decision to invest it in a community car wash so as to increase their earnings. Although there were many matatus (taxis) in the area, there was no carwash, and drivers would clean their own cars at night when they were tired from work.
Over the course of two months during the next school holiday, Michael and the boys set up their carwash by the roadside and increased their initial capital tenfold!
With the money earned, the twelve boys were able to attend boarding schools, which allowed them to keep out of trouble. Michael also hired a certified professional to educate the youth in the community on the perils of drug use, how to beat it and alternatives options for their lives. Lastly, he was able to pay teachers to act as tutors and help the boys with their full time transitions back into school.
Michael was inspired by ALA alumni Daniel Deng and Cyril Michino who attended the same school as he had. Wanting to venture out of the traditional Kenyan system which he felt groomed one for individual success and excellence, Michael applied to ALA so he could be empowered to help others as well. He was also excited to meet and be inspired by similarly ambitious peers and expand on his options and possibilities for university.
Since coming here, all his expectations except that of a swimming pool have been met. With entrepreneurship being the main thing that drew him here, the Entrepreneurial Leadership Course has allowed to engage and practice in this area.
Of his experience thus far he says, “Although it is difficult while I am here, it is one of those things that I know I will fully appreciate after I leave.”
For the future, Michael wants to keep working with his coastal community back home, turning raw coconuts into wine and connecting local producers to larger companies so they can use their skills to make a profit and uplift the community from poverty.
“When I first came here, I was just a normal team member waiting for decisions to be made so I can follow them but I have now grown and find myself driving decisions, a path that I hope to continue on.”