Made in Kenyaのブランド

ナイロビの鞄ブランドSand & Stormの工房

ナイロビの鞄ブランドSand & Stormの工房


I often hear from local Kenyans that Kenyans, especially who grew up in Kenya, don’t really prefer Made-in-Kenya brands when in comes to some design and fashion. Possible reasons for that, according to those Kenyans, include: 1) Kenyans don’t have trust in the quality of locally made products (this is partially due local companies also need to compete with other cheap options including made-in-Asia products and second-hand clothing), and 2) Urban Kenyans do want to be a part of global trend so do not necessarily support local brands.

Nonetheless, there are a number of brands that are leading a new movement of creating and promoting made-in-Kenya / made-for-Kenya brands. I met CEOs of some of those brands and visited their workshops. Let me introduce three here.

1.Vivo – Activewear brand, CEO: Wandia Gichuru

Vivo is sort of like Lulu Lemon. They develop activewear using colorful jersey fabrics and produce comfortable garments for women. I would say they have more dresses and daily wear than Lulu Lemon. They now have 8 retail locations in key malls across Nairobi in addition to their own online retail store.

The founder Wandia is a former international development expert who worked for the World Bank and other organizations in multiple countries including the UK, Mozambique, Sudan, Uganda, and the US before starting her own brand in Nairobi. She sources fabrics mostly from China as stretchy fabrics are not locally available, and houses her own workshop to produce all her garments.

She is also passionate about working with other creative entrepreneurs in the region: She sources jewelry from Kigali while also does capsule collections with young local designers like Wambui Kibue.

2.Sand & Storm – Urban Safari canvas/leather bag brand, CEO: Mark Stephenson

I first met Mark in Ethiopia at an expo/trade fair called Origin Africa which promotes and facilitates businesses around made-in-Africa fashion/lifestyle products. Mark is a Scottish entrepreneur who came to Nairobi, fell in love with the then-safari tent company, and invested his own capital to manage and build this Sand & Storm brand.

I visited his office/workshop and caught up with him in Nairobi. He’s quite ambitious about growing his brand inside Kenya, across the region, and overseas. He also sees potential in the growth of Kenya’s leather industry as there will soon be opening a leather park in the industrial area in Nairobi.

3.KikoRomeo, – High-end fashion brand, MD: Ann McCreath

KikoRomeo is one of the household names in Kenya when it comes to fashion. Founder Ann is a Scottish fashion design professional who was trained in Italy and worked in Spain. While she’s the designer, the brand is really about Kanya and Africa, and she’s been building Kenyan/African brand for the past two decades.

Ann also actively involved in supporting other African designers, and also organizes bi-annual fashion/art showcase events featuring multiple designers and photographers across the Africa continent.

Each CEO has his or her own challenge, but they both have the vision to create globally-renown, successful Kenyan brands, and they not only do that by building their own brands, but by collaborating with other local creative designers and artists. Such collaborative efforts are the key to create a larger ecosystem to build strong brands that represent Kenya and Africa.



1.アクティブウェアブランドのVIVO(CEO: Wandia Gichuru)



Wandiaはほかの起業家との連携やサポートも積極的に行っており、キガリのジュエリーデザイナーの商品を展開したり、ナイロビのデザイナーWanbui Kibueとのカプセルコレクションも展開しています。

2.都会的サファリをテーマにした革・キャンバスバッグブランドのSand & Storm(CEO: Mark Stephenson)

Sand & StormのMarkとは、はじめエチオピアで開催されたOrigin Africaという展示会イベントで知り合いました。Origin Africaは、アフリカ製のファッション・ライフスタイル商品を紹介し、新たなビジネスや貿易を促進するイベントです。Markは、スコットランド出身ですが、当時サファリキャンプ用のテントなどを製造していたこの会社を知ったことをきっかけに、自ら投資もして、Sand & Stormブランドの育成にコミットしています。


3.ケニアを代表するラグジュアリーファッションブランドのKikoRomeo(MD: Ann McCreath)





Mpho @Johannesburg

Mpho @Johannesburg


My business partner, Mpho, is a dual South African-US citizen. She was born in the US during the apartheid as her parents were exiled from South Africa until the end of the regime. Mpho and her family then returned to SA where Mpho did her Bachelor’s and Master’s in fashion and textile design technology.

Mpho and I rarely talk about our lives before we met because both of us know that we share our future and we went through the challenges of our own. That’s good enough. However, I should probably have known that she had different last names in her South African ID and American ID (due turmoil during the apartheid), which created months of waits before a contract to be signed…

But the contract was finally “signed, sealed, and delivered” yesterday. We still cannot fully disclose the detail yet, but this will create an amazing structure to work with the government, school, and the private sector, and it will be a step forward for us to energize the creative economy in South Africa and beyond…

Are we celebrating? Not quite yet, but will get there!
Kudos to my most talented designer, Mpho Muendane. She will be a new role model of “black African women” (I have to emphasize this in this context) leading the creative industry.







Is this a land of opportunity or...?

Is this a land of opportunity or…?


As a part of my high school assignments, I read the book called Illusions: The Adventure of a Reluctant Messiah by Robert Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. While I had to go to Wikipedia to refresh my memory about its plot, I remember one key message that we discussed in the classroom: Life is all about making choices. As much as the statement seems to be an obvious one, I still think that we sometimes forget it, or take it for granted.

More complicated the world gets with multiple layers of globalization, information technologies, connectivity, climate changes, terrorism, and so on, individual choices, as well as business decisions and policymaking (particularly within a democratic society), become more complicated ones. In the context of the international development, the choices around creating a more sustainable society or ecosystem always create tensions between more developed and less developed economies.

Such tensions are almost unavoidable if you’re committed to having your life/career focus in Africa even though you’re not directly involved in the field of international development. And more interaction I have with people in the African continent, more uncomfortable I feel when Japanese people (or other people outside the continent) make blunt statements like, “I didn’t like it when Maasai people were too commercial,” or “Africa should figure out the way to remain as is (e.g. less industrialized/developed).”

I feel uncomfortable not because people express such opinions are necessarily wrong or ignorant. I feel uncomfortable because I also do always hear people like Kenyans saying, “we will/want to become like Japan/US (aka developed economies)” or “It will take another 100 years for us to become like Japan.”

So how can we avoid these tensions without screaming some soundbites and keywords like sustainable development or fair trade? I believe that there are at least three key elements: 1) Education, 2) The economy of quality, and 3) Value chain re-engineering.

Education is about unlearning and relearning. It is about empathizing others instead of sympathizing them. Unlearning part is probably more important yet difficult. When we encounter something new, we always filter it based on our past experiences and make a reference to them. One exercise to overcome might be to question existing filters and values by thinking of a completely opposite situation. What if the poorest we think is the richest in a real sense? What if the ugliest we think is the most beautiful? What if the slowest is the fastest?

The economy of quality is something that we should be discussing more as much as the economy of scale is discussed. The majority of businesses still operate under the principle of making things cheaper and faster. Probably economies of quality can be assessed when we think of a small unit of economies coupled with the sharing economies. How can we create small units of self-sustaining economies that are neither competing with each other nor being silo still allowing the free movement of people and goods?

Value chain reengineering includes any types of innovations around value chains and new business models that challenge existing ones. Shorter the value chain it becomes better the values are communicated. Better e-commerce experience (or general digital experience), logistics, and beautiful design play key roles in this element.

And these are all truly relevant to the strategic choices of what we do and where we do as Maki & Mpho. Our brand is all about education – questioning the existing values and paradigm and presenting something new using designs that tell stories. We are now less focused making physical products which can create short-term economic return because we believe that ultimately Africa’s intellectual property including its long-held philosophical/cultural wisdom and limitless creativity – these elements of quality – are the moneymaker. And we challenge existing ways of doing things including trade shows and fashion shows while seeking an alternative model of born global market creation.

The challenge is that I also need to keep challenging myself from being inclined to follow existing business practices and thinking I’m really stupid…









ここに記載した3つの要素は、Maki & Mphoが、どこで何をおこなうのかという戦略的判断に、密接に紐づいています。私たちのブランドは、既存の価値観やパラダイムにチャレンジし、デザインとコミュニケーションを通じて、新しい価値を提案するという意味において、教育そのものです。今、短期的な利益を見越した、物理的なプロダクト開発に、あえて注力していないのは、常に存在していた哲学的、文化的な知恵や知見と、限りなき創造性など、アフリカの知的財産(これらの質の要素)こそが、究極的な経済的価値を作り出すと考えているからです。さらに、展示会やファッションショーなどの既存の王道的なビジネスのやり方をチャレンジし、新しいBorn Globalな市場構築を目指しているのです。



FullSizeRender (8)


At the business conference during TICAD VI, I heard one of the speakers mention that Japan’s investment in Africa means Japan’s next phase of the globalization. Whatever he actually meant by that, that statement itself to me was an interesting one.

So the question is: Can “Africa” globalize Japan?

I put the quotation marks on Africa because it doesn’t refer to the geographic area, specific region/countries, or people. “Africa” in this context is more of a political and economic keyword, a certain mindset or a perspective that can potentially lead to more specific discussions. And “Africa” IS about global and diversity.

To be honest, I personally don’t necessarily want to become a bridging agent between Africa and Japan. I rather want to become a bridging agent between African and the rest of the world. And we do it by creating a globally competitive brand. And we do it by working with other Africans and people from other nationalities creating a diverse team.

And by doing so, by NOT being a Japanese representative, but rather one of the global players, I believe that I may be able to help Japan become more globally minded.

(By the way, the reason why I continue to write every blog post both in Engish and Japan is also because of this belief even though I sometimes feel like giving up as this takes almost twice time and effort!)







ケニアのe Citizenでビザ取得!

Kenya eVISA


In 2014, Kenya launched the eCitizen portal site for its citizens and visitors to get access to various public services including applying for a passport or a visa. Since its launch, the number of people who registered on the portal has been growing. According to a news source, as of February this year, 1.23 million Kenyans registered on the portal and 2.4 billion shillings (roughly 24 million USD) have been collected. Besides its growth potential, there are several aspects of this service that I think is amazing:

  • It is cost effective: This is an obvious benefit as you can cut middlemen and administrative costs. The service can also save users’ opportunity costs coming from having to go to government offices during their open hours, and queuing up in long lines.
  • It can address corruption: Online transactions create more transparency in fees and payment, and consequently discourage corruption.
  • You can pay via mobile money including M-Pesa (Vodafone/ run leading mobile payment service in Kenya).
  • It is meant to be a one-stop portal: Citizens can seamlessly access to various services provided by various agencies. Once fully implement, the portal can allow citizens to access to 15 services including various licenses and certificates.
  • It saves time: I applied for eVISA and my visa was ready just in 2 business days.

My visa application via the ePortal was super easy as well. You basically need a digital file of a passport size photo, a scanned copy of passport, and hotel booking info, and you are good to go… I hope that they soon set up the portal ready for the East African Tourist visa which should encourage more travelers to visit the Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda.


  • コスト面のメリット:仲介業者や様々なアドミンコストをカットできるというのは自明の益です。また限られた平日のビジネスアワーに各機関に行って、長い行列を待ったりすることで発生するユーザーの機会コストも削減されます。
  • 汚職の防止:オンライン取引によって、フィーや支払いの透明性が増し、汚職防止につながることが期待されます。
  • M-PESA(ボーダフォンとサファリコムが提供する、ケニアナンバーワンのモバイルマネー・ファイナンスサービス)などのモバイルマネーで支払い可能です。
  • ワンストップポータルとして、国民がシームレスに様々な機関の公共サービスにアクセスすることができます。最終的には15のサービスが導入される予定で、各種ライセンスや証明書発行の手続きが行われます。
  • 時間短縮のメリット:私のeVISAも約束通り2営業日後には発行されました。





I was in Miyagi and Iwate for the first time after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. It was completely a private trip that I had to take due my family’s plan, but I had this weird feeling that “I have to DO SOMETHING.”

I always have a self-conflicting moment wherever I have this feeling. A philanthropic and altruistic self is on this suddenly-emerging unknown mission to “help” people who are still recovering from various challenges aftermath the earthquake. On the other hand, rather sarcastic and practical self is hating my other self “trying to help.”

I am quite familiar with this feeling. Since I began to be aware of the professional field of international development (probably in high school), I’ve always had this feeling that I want to do something to address challenges in less developed countries especially when the motif of action comes out of sympathy. And I do not like it because sympathy does not last. Sympathy is not sustainable.

One thing that I am absolutely confident about my business Maki & Mpho is that this will sustain at least so long as founders live. It will sustain not because of our business model, because such thing will change, but because our premise is about creating more happiness rather than mitigating sadness or misery.

We focus on creativity and multiply that positive energy to bring social, economic, and cultural prosperity. We focus on entrepreneurs who already see the positive side of things because we believe that is more effective and efficient. We want to create a model that is similar to what Endeavor does: They focus on high-impacting entrepreneurs who are already making a difference to multiply the impact.

I personally focus on and work with African creators and innovators to share more positive stories from the African continent. I focus on the positive side not because I don’t see any problems but I believe that positive stories can bring a virtuous cycle to attract more people, capital, and other resources to the African continent.




今取り組んでいるMaki & Mphoのビジネスに関して、一つ確信をもっていえるのは、我々創業者が生き続ける限り継続性があるということです。ビジネスモデルなどは変化に対応していくので、それは本質でなく、アフリカビジネスにおける前提的なコンセプトが、それを可能にすると考えています。つまり、私たちは悲しみや困難の解決ではなく、幸福感の増大に焦点をおいていることが重要なのです。






When you Google Rwanda (in Japanese), the top results are mostly about genocide(esp. image results). While many Rwandans I met in Kigali have already moved on (of course, some may consider the “talk” as a taboo) and are celebrating the new era of entrepreneurship and economic prosperities, many “outsiders” still seem to be hoping to talk about one of the saddest events in the history of humankind.

While I don’t suggest us to forget the event, I also want to help non-Rwandans to see something more about Rwanda based on my first-hand experience in Kigali last September and second-hand research of reliable sources.

If you have no idea about the city of Kigali or only have know about the genocide or gorillas, you would definitely have the 180 experience. To me, Kigali is one of the most non-local friendly cities.

  • You can be mobile using motorcycle taxis. (And you won’t have one of those crazy situations where you see too many passengers on a single moto – Kigali only allows one passenger on a moto and the helmet is obligatory. You also have a new great Uber-like service called SafeMotos, a startup my friend started.)
  • You feel completely safe even at night. (To be honest, I love-loved how we can go up/down hilly roads at night feeling the air! – Okay, that might be a bit too much adventure for some of you.)
  • You can jog around the hilly road and get some exercise.
  • You will get gigantic avocados at local markets for nothing.
  • And more importantly, you have a vibrant entrepreneurial community which is a mix of local and international entrepreneurs. (More to be shared in upcoming blog posts.)

While I personally love Nairobi’s much larger entrepreneurial community, I definitely recommend people to visit Kigali especially if you have never been to any cities in the African continent.




  • モータータクシーでどこにもいけます!(しかもたまにアジアなどで見かける1台に何人も乗っている状態ではないです。キガリではそれは禁じられていて、ヘルメットもマスト。たまたまボストンで出会った知人が始めたベンチャーですが、アプリで呼べて手軽なウーバーのようなサービスSafeMotosも活躍しています。)
  • 夜でも危険を感じることはありません。(実際、私はバイクタクシーで夜風を受けながら、丘陵地帯の道を駆け抜けるのがすごく好きでした!これは全員にはおすすめできないかもですが。。)
  • 外をランニングできます!(こういうことはできないアフリカの都市も多いので。。。)
  • 巨大なアボカドが激安です。
  • それからもっと重要なことに、ローカルと外国人が入り交じったわくわくするような起業家コミュニティもあります。(詳しくはまた後日ご紹介します)






I believe that the bright future of the African continent is summarized into one word: Leapfrog. It is not just The Economist that talked about Africa as “The leapfrog continent“: I came across a number of examples where African innovators do leapfrog when I was researching emerging market businesses in the grad school in the US.

The leading example is the mobile phone technology. According to GSMA Intelligence, the unique mobile penetration rate in African as of 2015 is 46% and is expected to grow by 54% by 2020. You may think that the rate could be higher, but the power of mobile phones is beyond communication: Mobile phone technology is delivering financial inclusion to the unbanked populations in 42 countries in Africa via 157 service providers as of June 2016 according to the same source. This means that some Africans can go directly from cash transaction to mobile money by leveraging the latest and affordable technology.

Leapfrogging, I believe, can apply to Africa’s creative class as well. By leveraging the latest and affordable technologies such as digital printing, social media, and internet (yeap, no more capital I), Africans can realize their creative ideas without much infrastructure or can easily access to infrastructure elsewhere.

Africa may still luck key infrastructures to address basic human needs, but by means of leapfrogging, I believe that Africans can rather quickly build globally-competitive businesses. And that’s what I’m trying to realize with Mpho and fellow African creators, and that’s why it is absolutely crucial for us to create an African business that is born global.







Africa Nouveau


Last year, I was traveling around a number of cities in Southeast Africa including Nairobi, Kigali, Addis, Joburg, and Capetown. But I have to say, by far, Nairobi was the most entrepreneurial and creative city among them.

I was lucky to see cultural/creative events in consecutive weekends, and I met so many creative entrepreneurs there! One of the events was called Africa Nouveau, which was started by a musician, Muthoni Ndonga, who wanted to address the lack of platforms for artists, musicians, and other creators to showcase their creative work and started an event called Blankets & Wine, a previous format of Africa Nouveau. As the name of the event suggests, it is basically an opportunity for Nairobians to hang out in the park with blankets and wine while enjoying local designers, musicians, creators, and artists showcase and perform their work.

Such event is also the best way to meet up with many creatives at once – you basically meet all key people there! I had an amazing fun while efficiently getting know many creators in the area.

Do check out their website for more info!!


ちょうど滞在中、2週間連続でカルチャー・クリエティブ系のイベントに参加できたのもラッキーで、そこで多くのクリエイティブ起業家と出会いました!その一つがAfrica Nouveauというもので、自身もミュージシャンであるMuthoni Ndongaが、アーティストやミュージシャン、クリエイターらが自身のワークを発表する場がないということに機会を見出だして、もともとBlankets & Wineというかたちで始めたイベントでした。Blankets & Wineは、その名のとおり、ナイロビの若者がブランケットとワインを持ち寄ってパークに集まって、地元デザイナー、ミュージシャン、クリエイター、アーティストなどの展示やショーを楽しむというイベントです。


Blankets & Wineのカッコイイウェブサイトもぜひみてください!



The African Renaissance: It is time for Africans to take ownership of their own culture and bring it to the global audience.

This is the fundamental philosophy of my business partner, Mpho Muendane. Often portrayed as the last frontier, some people see the African continent as the place where things are lacking. But it is not necessarily true.

Africa is about abundance. It is about richness. That’s what Mpho wants to show to the world using her artwork. And more importantly, it is not just her who wants to do that – there are many creators who are expressing their voices to show the world the richness and diversity of the African culture.

Here’s a website where you can browse some of them! Enjoy!!!





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