The MEST Expansion: An Alumni and Fellow Perspective

Sylvana Lewin, Monday December 11th 2017

Recently, MEST alumni and senior Incubator Fellow Kamil Nabong travelled to South Africa for the launch of the MEST Incubator Cape Town. We sat down with him to get the scoop on all things MEST Cape Town!

What was your favorite moment during your time in Cape Town?

The trip was my second time in South Africa but first in Cape Town. Cape Town felt and looked more like a western city; it didn’t feel like the Africa I have grown in and got to know. That was an exciting surprise for me and pumped me up to explore the city. I had many incredible moments, including visits to the Table Mountain, Waterfront, Robben Island, and an exclusive road-trip to Paternoster with Aaron Fu, our managing director.

My favorite moment, however, was attending Jorn’s book launch at our new incubator. At the launch, I got to learn for the first time that Jorn built the software that facilitated the first e-commerce transaction in Norway. As an e-commerce enthusiast, that was fascinating to learn.

I’ve listened to Jorn a lot since I joined MEST in 2011 as an EIT. Everytime I listen to him, there’s always something new to learn. His speech and panel discussion at the Cape Town launch wasn’t an exception. And of course, I had my signed copy of his book, Outside Insight, which I’d absolutely recommend any 21st century leader or entrepreneur read!

[caption id="attachment_5997" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Kamil with Meltwater CEO Jorn Lyseggen at the MEST Cape Town Incubator.[/caption]

As a MEST alum and fellow, what do you think this expansion means for the MEST community?

MEST’s expansion across Africa means a lot not just for business, but works back to the vision Africa’s founding fathers had. Many of the visionary leaders who led the fight against colonialism had the Pan-African vision of uniting the continent through intellectual, political and economic cooperation. Though they have thus far failed in their efforts, I think that vision is imperative for Africa’s development. The pan-African expansion of MEST points to one fact: entrepreneurship is a clear way of realising the vision that our founding fathers long held and fought for.

Beyond that, the expansion is great news for the MEST community as budding entrepreneurs need springboards to start. This is especially necessary when entering new, emerging, and different markets. The MEST expansion provides that springboard.

When I was an EIT at MEST, I did not have the opportunity to sit in class or work on projects with entrepreneurs from five different countries. I can see how privileged recent cohorts of EITs are, having perspectives from different markets, having co-founders from markets they wish to expand to who will be valuable resources for their efforts. More importantly having ready spaces to work out of and mentors on the ground to help. There couldn’t be a better springboard.

How do you see MEST changing entrepreneurship in Africa?

I think the primary role MEST is playing in changing entrepreneurship in Africa is its push to create an ecosystem. Being an entrepreneur is a very lonely and hard journey. By creating an ecosystem, MEST is helping entrepreneurs not just in Ghana, but in four other countries be part of a bigger pool. That way entrepreneurs get technical, business, and even emotional support to quickly get their businesses off the ground.

Also, MEST is a unique model as it starts with an intensive training program. The training program is a phenomenal idea considering we have a poor educational system in Ghana and other African countries. MEST fundamentally changes the way a normal fresh Ghanaian graduate thinks. It trains EITs to break away from the inertia and biased mindset of the current system. To try and do more with less and see the cup as half-full, rather than half-empty. I believe entrepreneurship and the development of every nation begins first with the mindset. MEST is helping change that.