MESSED UP WORLD

It does matter whether you’re black or white

Being black makes it harder to be believed, respected, to be thought capable.

In Summary
  • I can’t blame venture capitalists, it’s their money. I don’t blame western embassies’ visa denied letters, it’s their country.
  • I won’t even hold it against mzungu for using this white people key that opens all doors of opportunity. I mean, you’d use that key too if you had it.

Let’s talk about being black.

Have you heard about Kennedy Ng’ang’a? Activist Boniface Mwangi shared Kennedy’s story on Twitter so if you want the nitty-gritty of what happened to Kennedy you can check that video out. But here are the highlights.

So Kennedy Ng’ang’a is a Geospatial Engineering graduate (I had to look that up), and one day in 2017 he met Lauren Dunford. The two had a meeting of minds and so they partnered as co-founders to start this techy start-up called Safi Analytics.

 

In the early days Lauren was in the US studying, and as such, Kennedy claims, he did most of the legwork getting the company up and running. At some point, Lauren finished her studies, came back to Kenya, became Safi’s CEO, she recommended they bring in a third partner, Weston McBride, as he had experience in venture capital fundraising. Before you know it, Safi Analytics secured $2 million in funding.

The road ahead now looked blindingly bright for Safi Analytics. But alas, Kennedy was not going to be on this ride because his expatriate partners, Kennedy states, kicked him out of this company he claims he co-founded.

Lauren, on the other hand, denies Kennedy’s allegations and in an official statement, on a Safi Analytics letterhead, she broadly states that Kennedy was an employee and that his title as ‘co-founder’ while he was at Safi Analytics, was largely ceremonial.

Let’s be honest, it’s not likely that Kennedy, by himself, would have found a venture capitalist (foreign or domestic), willing to put up $2 million for his innovation (circumstances). Nor would he have had it any easier going out of the country to find the money because he’d then have to contend with black people problems when it comes to getting a visa to travel to the West (conditions).

 

The matter is now in court.

Apparently there’s this joke in the Nairobi start-up landscape. It goes, if you don’t want to spend an eternity having your ideas and innovations laughed out of offices and you really want the enterprise well on its way to success, best bring in a mzungu as a partner.

Hand him (or her) a script of your idea, and as long as they’re not dressed like a backpacker budget tourist, they’ll get into any office and very likely get the funding needed ASAP.

That this is accepted wisdom makes this joke not funny at all.

 

I’m not going to get into the outrage sparked by this Safi saga on social media and the swirling conversations therein about partnership contracts and how locals are robbed of their creations by western expatriates. I’m looking instead at the conditions and circumstances that make this Safi drama and others like it possible and how all of it circles back to being black.

Let’s be honest, it’s not likely that Kennedy, by himself, would have found a venture capitalist (foreign or domestic), willing to put up $2 million for his innovation (circumstances). Nor would he have had it any easier going out of the country to find the money because he’d then have to contend with black people problems when it comes to getting a visa to travel to the West (conditions).

I can’t blame venture capitalists, it’s their money. I don’t blame western embassies’ visa denied letters, it’s their country. I won’t even hold it against mzungu for using this white people key that opens all doors of opportunity. I mean, you’d use that key too if you had it.

I do wonder though how we all got to this messed up place where being black makes it that much harder to be believed, to be respected, to be thought capable.