No. 266 – The Welfare of the City

I’ve been struggling to write this month, particularly this week. Figured I’d share my scripture reflection from this morning.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Jeremiah 29:7

It’s hard to sing the Lord’s song in this country. Yet, God gave instruction to the Israelites in exile to do everything to ensure Babylon did well.

That seek and pray in the verse is key. Action and prayer. I worry that we’ve put government on the pedestal as this out of reach “principalities and powers.” As a result, we’ve given up our responsibility to be involved in the components that go into making a city, a country do well.

The couple verses before verse seven talk about building resources to take care of ourselves and growing our families. What else goes into seeking a city’s welfare? A country’s welfare?

-Vote
-Be involved in shaping policy
-Run for elected office from the lowest to the highest level
-Support folks around you who you think could good officials
-Hold officials accountable
-Hold yourself accountable if you’re one of those officials
-Build businesses either as employees or founders
-Invent things that make life easier for folks

AND

-Pray

There’s a lot to do. We’ve got an uphill battle working through the bullshit in how this country works. But, we have a responsibility to slog through it and reshape it into something better.

We can’t throw up our hands under the guise that there is some spiritual force operating in high places, so we’re only going to pray. That’s not doing our job.

Yes, we have in our hopes that heaven is at the end of our time here on earth. While we’re here, let’s focus and tend to this place well.

It’s hard, I know. I’m feeling quite tired. But, I can’t let my daughter’s children live in a world that hasn’t felt my presence.

No. 264 – Building a World with a Broader Set of Defaults

Tristan Walker Wants Black Businessmen to Taste Financial Freedom – This is a great interview with Walker and Company Brands’ CEO. His statement about the power of defaults sat me down. 

In my house right now, there are no other products other than Bevel and Form Beauty, which is also one of our brands. I have a five-year-old son and a nine-month-old son, and I care very deeply about the power of defaults and precedents. Think about a world where my son is growing up exclusively with a beautiful brand that serves his needs.

Creating a world where black folks can exist without having to prove deserve to be served or present is what this work is all about.

An Update on JPMorgan Chase’s Response to COVID-19 – The last section of this letter Jamie Dimon put out caught my eye. He highlights how the pandemic has highlighted the inequalities that already existed in this country. He stresses how we need to “confront the structural obstacles that have inhibited inclusive economic growth for years” as we emerge from this pandemic. Confrontation is uncomfortable. It could get you fired. He says they’ll be putting out their ideas for how to move forward later. I guess my question would be, “What’s one thing you think you need to do that requires a confrontation of how JP Morgan has done business en route to its $278B market cap?

Government Buildings in Africa Are a Likely Vector for Chinese Spying – I don’t like articles that talk about African leaders as if they aren’t in the room listening. This feels like that.

The End of ‘Who Me? For V.P.?’ Politics – This is an interesting piece. The way Stacey Abrams has approached positioning herself for vice president has been both refreshing and weird. I wonder whether you can say too many times that you want the VP job as opposed to working the machine in the background. I hope she isn’t overplaying her cards. I’m a big fan.

What’s next for journalists? – My mind often goes back to Benjamin Franklin when I think about the journalism world and what it’s future could look like. In a lot of ways, Franklin was the original TMZ. He told everybody’s business while writing under a pseudonym. He used another pseudonym to write an incredibly popular almanac. Writing helped Franklin build a nice life for himself. Perhaps there’s a lesson in his approach for today’s media, save the tea spilling.

No. 241 – Wednesday Reads

Source: McKinsey & Co

For Black America, COVID-19 Is The Bullet. America Is The Gun – “This is how the coronavirus kills Black people. This is how half of the related deaths in Mississippi are Black. This is how 70 percent of the deaths in Louisiana are Black. Sixty-two percent in D.C. And so on. And so on. Not by Black negligence. Not by Black irresponsibility. But because this is how America has been designed since the very first Black footsteps touched down on this country’s soil. The virus and all of its terror is simply one of the many ways weaponized America-ness kills. And kills. And kills.”

COVID-19: Investing in black lives and livelihoods – “While this article was in development, one of the authors’ family members, a healthcare worker in Brooklyn, passed away from complications related to COVID-19.” 

Mozambique: ExxonMobil’s delayed LNG investment decision is disappointing-INP – “The development is valued at between $20 billion and $25 billion (€18.3 billion to €23 billion) and is one of the largest planned for Africa.”

How Democrats Won Big in Wisconsin – “There is a concept in psychology called “moral injury,” which refers to seeing something happen—or feeling like one failed to prevent something from happening—that is so fundamentally wrong that it tears at the fabric of your moral expectations of the world.”

The Midas List: The World’s Best Venture Capital Investors In 2020 – “To qualify, investors are ranked by their portfolio companies that have gone public or been acquired for at least $200 million over the past five years, or that have at least doubled their private valuation since initial investment to $400 million or more over the same period.” 

No. 21: Lessons From a Zambian Poultry Entrepreneur

Sydney Musonda with his first batch of chickens

Never have I been so excited about chickens! Earlier this year in Uganda, I and Sydney Musonda developed a business model for a chicken farm he would run in Zambia. He spent the next five months pursuing financing for his venture and secured funding in November. To date, he has purchased 205 day-old chicks and secured a facility to house them. He will be ready to make his first sales at the end of January.

Sydney and I recently caught up on his venture and our conversation reinforced two things concerning entrepreneurship. The first is that the external environment, both political and macroeconomic, will always make things challenging for entrepreneurs. The second is that entrepreneurs can leverage these kinds of challenges to grow their confidence, brand, and business model.

During the five months Sydney spent pursuing funding, he had a difficult time getting potential investors to buy into his idea. He got a significant amount of great feedback on his model, yet the investors he approached were having difficulty with their finances and were concerned about the political environment in Zambia at the time, it being an election year.

Zambia is one of the better performing economies on the African continent, with its current $16.19 billion GDP projected to grow at an average rate of 6.9 percent between now and 2015, though the country is still trying to make sure that growth is inclusive. Like most of the world though, the economic crisis in the European Union is surely having an impact Zambia’s economy as well.

The country seems to have transitioned well to President Michael Sata’s administration and Patriotic Front party after President Rupiah Banda’s three-year term and the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy’s 20-year control of power. In the months leading up to the election, there was tension on the ground. Sydney shared that one of the banks was taken over by the Zambian government showing that their concern was not completely unfounded.

Despite the challenges he faced, Sydney says that his confidence continued to grow pitch after pitch. He was able to glean advice from the investors he approached and found the feedback helpful in refining his model. In the face of his disappointments, he did not give up and finally secured his funding.

Sydney is launching his business at what seems to be a promising period in Zambia’s poultry industry. Mathews Ngosa, President of Poultry Association of Zambia, noted that Zambia’s poultry industry closed at 2011, having produced 40 million broiler chickens and 2.1 million layers. He projects production growth to land between 20-25 percent, a marked difference from the 40 percent reduction in growth the country experienced in 2009, and an increase from the 17.5 percent growth in 2010.

I look forward to watching Sydney grow his business. The energy in his voice was so infectious as we spoke, and I am really excited that he has progressed this far with his venture. I am sure he will face further challenges considering that his venture is still young but I think his tenacity will help him drive the business forward.