Luca Neghesti, a Serial Entrepreneur in Media, ICT and Logistics Industries
BY ORTON KIISHWEKO, 7 JULY 2013
LUCA Neghesti is a serial entrepreneur with vast experience in the Media, ICT and Logistics industries in Tanzania.
In 2006, he founded Bongo5 Media Group, the first digital media outfit in Tanzania targeting youth development through entertainment and social media engagement. In this interview, he spoke to ORTON KIISHWEKO on entrepreneurship, the youth and mothers. Read on...
QUESTION: You are usually referred to as a serial entrepreneur. Can you share with us your experience in detail.
ANSWER: I have been very driven and entrepreneurial from a young age, not having much while growing up forced me to think out of the box for creative ways of making a living and always be on the lookout for the next opportunity. I have been a part of various enterprises in unrelated fields throughout my years ranging from media, tourism, real estate, ICT and logistics.
I have been able to capitalize on certain opportunities at the right time, and started a couple of companies that have enjoyed significant success.
Q: As the youngest member of the Dar es Salaam Port Improvement Committee, what has been your role in decongesting Dar port?
A: I joined the Port Improvement Committee at a point in time when the port was at its worst with dwell time close to 25 days. Being the youngest person in the room at the age of 30, my first goal was establishing myself as a relevant member by bringing to the table a fresh approach on solving challenges affecting our port. I
was actively involved in the tariff reform of 2009 where the port and ICD rates were harmonized in an effort to reduce cost for the importers, and significantly impact the economy at large. As a committee member I was also involved in the drafting of the SOP signed by all stakeholder setting the guidelines on the three modes of evacuating containers from the port to the ICDs, that is the cornerstone of the current framework which utilizes ICDs as release valves for the port of Dar which cannot not cope with the growing volumes.
It is important to note that the establishment of ICDs came at a critical time, not only they saved the Port of Dar es Salaam from a catastrophic end but they also created a significant amount of direct and indirect employment along with increasing government revenue.
Q: Do you mind sharing with us your bond with mum and how it shaped your perceptions on life and the world?
A: My mother the most selfless person I have ever met in my life. She has managed to raise three children on her own, with very little means and a disability. She contracted polio as an infant, which was treated but sadly compromised her mobility. She did not take this as a defeat, rather a challenge and never thought of herself as being any less or incapable than everyone around her.
Growing up I watched her struggle to make ends meet, and I could not wait for the time when I would be able to repay her for all the sacrifices she made for us. Even though she is not a teacher by profession she has devoted her life to building capacity and empowering others, I remember as a young boy whenever we'd go around together everyone would refer to her as 'mwalimu' as she would constantly impart knowledge to others, even people she had just met.
I did not understand the level of impact she had on so many people until much later in life, one of the most important lessons she taught us is that all people are equal and to look beyond race, religion or social status.
It is through this life experience that I learnt the value of making money and having financial security. But it is through my mother's life example that I learnt the importance of giving back to the community, building capacity in others and transferring knowledge so that we may have a better society not only for us but also for future generations.
Q: In December 2009, you spearheaded a relief aid campaign for thousands of victims of the Dar es Salaam floods through the use of social media platforms. Tell us what informed your thinking that ICT could be used for such a social cause and how you did it.
A: I remember it was a devastating time; we started seeing unconfirmed reports on social media that thousands of people were left homeless by the floods, as a concerned citizen I decided to drive through the affected areas to witness the extent of the problem and provide some real time reports. What I saw was heartbreaking, but an eye-opener nonetheless, I saw hundreds of women and children seeking shelter in schools and other buildings with very little at their disposal.
I knew that the fastest way to get support would be through the use of social networks. I immediately posted a message on twitter asking for people who would like to volunteer their time and donations to help the victims. The response was immediate and overwhelming, in no time we managed to gather food, water, medicines, clothes, mobile toilets, mattresses, carpets and much more.
We setup a network of people and each one of us was in-charge of various aspects, most efforts were coordinated via twitter and facebook and this exercise carried on for a few days.
Q: In 2010, you conceptualised the social enterprise Kinu Innovation, Co-creation and Capacity Building Hub. How has this helped young people?
A: Kinu is a a social enterprise with the mission of concentrating, growing and accelerating the Tanzanian tech and social landscape. At Kinu we provide the youth with a neutral environment where we nurture collaboration and foster innovation, we enable the community to participate into the co-creation process and make a joint effort to generate new solutions to social challenges.
Through a number of workshops and events we are building ICT and entrepreneurial skills that empower our youth community. Since Kinu's establishment we have witnessed significant impact, capacity building activities range from robotics classes for children, to mobile apps creation and all the way to pitch training and how to prepare effective presentations.
We have been pre-incubating a number of projects, including a group of high school students who formed their own IT company. We are gradually achieving a shift in mindset among our youth, by showing them that by collaborating they can reach greater success, as opposed to trying to do everything on their own simply out of fear of their ideas being stolen.
Kinu has also been instrumental in creating wealth for our youth through the use of ICT, we have bridged the gap between developers and corporates as well as providing our youth with access to various funding opportunities for viable and market ready projects.
Q: From an underdog, to a bigger portfolio currently, how did you manage to turn around fortunes of Jefag Logistics?
A: The fact that I was given the opportunity to lead such a crucial project as an Inland Container Depot at a very young age and in a very critical time motivated me to be a better leader, and to prove to my shareholders that us youth are capable of delivering if given the chance to.
My formal education played a great role in charting the growth path of the business, however it was the wisdom and knowledge gained through mentorship of the senior directors that enabled me to forge the appropriate plans to grow the portfolio.
Like any other business you must secure your market share, however the logistics industry is very dynamic and to avoid remaining stagnant I formulated new expansion strategies as well as strategic partnerships, followed by timely executions. One of my strengths is my support staff, as a good leader I believe in creating other leaders and not followers hence I have been able to assemble a team of motivated and proactive managers operating under me.
Q: Do you see Dar es Salaam port growing its competitive edge in the region? How?
A: With the development of berths 13 and 14 in addition to the modernization of the terminals and the Big Results Now! Programme, which has already been set into action, our port, is undoubtedly headed for much greater heights and levels of competitiveness. Processes, quality and standards will be observed keenly through KPIs improving our productivity and reducing the cost of doing business through the port of Dar es Salaam.
The government's plans on improving the transport infrastructure and streamline transit from the port through to our trade corridors will make us the regional hub for most landlinked neighboring countries. The planned implementation of a single window programme will allow all stakeholders to interface electronically, submitting and distributing documents including customs declarations, import/ export permit applications, trading invoices and certificates of origin.
This will enhance our trading operations by eliminating paper, reducing timescales and accelerate the supply chain. After the introduction of the ICDs and under the current circumstances we have been enjoying a growth in volumes of 10 per cent per annum, you can imagine how much higher that will be once the new equipment is deployed in the terminals and the infrastructure works are completed.
Q: The use of ICT to impact on daily lives seems to be doing better in Nairobi than Dar es Salaam. Your take.
A: Had you asked me this question a few years back I would have completely agreed with you, however, as we stand today there is a boom in technology and the use of ICT in Dar es Salaam through various private and public initiatives. Nairobi still has the lead, but we are catching up quickly and after all this is not a race.
We have recently had quite a few home-grown success stories of ICT services which impact our daily lives, take for instance all the MNO's mobile money solutions, as well as banks introducing internet and mobile based services.
In the private arena we can see how successful Max Malipo has become by enhancing peoples' lifestyles through open access to electronic payment solutions up to village level, other new examples include, among others, the introduction of shuledirect.co.tz an online platform that provides educational learning content for students and teachers in schools, or SafariYetu.com a paperless web and mobile based system for intercity bus ticketing, as well as Minishop a user-friendly accounting package that improvesthe way Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) keep financial records.
We can also mention the public private partnership mHealth solution Wazazi Nipendeni which provides informative text messages and appointment reminders in Swahili at no charge for pregnant women and mothers of newborn babies up to 16 weeks of age. One thing that our neighbors are definitely doing better is how their media reports their own success stories, shining a positive light and raising awareness among the local and international community.
Q: What inspired your recent campaign of 1,000 books to public schools through Bongo5 Media Group?
A: I firmly believe that capacity building is most effective from an early age, the books are by a local author, and carry very powerful motivational and inspirational messages for young boys and girls telling them that they can achieve their dreams.
This message fits right into Bongo5's mission, which has been to empower the youth through the introduction of high quality yet affordable informative, educational and entertaining products, some of which include the most visited edutainment website bongo5.com and the monthly publication Mzuka Magazine. This books are only the first installment in a series of books and activities we are working on. We hope to impact as many children as possible through our efforts.
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