WEEK 1 : Friday 30th of August – Friday 6th of September
I can confirm: we did NOT miss the boat! Or rather, the consecutive flights…
Dear friends, family, colleagues, supporters and enablers; first of all, thank you for your warm encouragements last Tuesday during our 15 years Close the Gap celebration in the Africa Museum in Tervuren near Brussels. As you know, it was also the start of a new chapter for me and my family: our move to Mombasa; yes I’m writing this from Mombasa…
Without the TUI direct flights to Mombasa – being a seasonal winter flight only as from the end of October – the travel was quite challenging: with 8 pieces of checked-in luggage, a three-year-old and our very frightened and schizophrenic cat Simba! (On top, we named him Simba, in periode non suspecto, 9 years ago, which means Lion in Swahili!)
After some emotional moments and tears at the Brussels Zaventem airport and saying goodbye to the grandparents, we took three flights, and 22 hours later we received the warmest welcome imaginable at Mombasa airport by local friends, despite the late hour (it was 1.30 am). All in all we settled in very well.
Saturday was unpacking day and of course, as life goes on 24/7 here in Mombasa, I could luckily work a bit on Sunday 😉. Sunday afternoon was a very impactful one, visiting our partner ConTech (working for GreenLink) where we are constructing the newest Close the Gap Digitruck (#7 already!) for Huawei’s educational civil society programmes in Nairobi. This Digitruck is the first big assignment we got in on the new social enterprise Close the Gap Ltd. in Kenya, and thus also our first real net contribution to Kenyan VAT for a significant amount.
This makes me proud, as paying taxes in developing and emerging economies (with a majority of informal economic activities) is the only sustainable way forward for making societies work! As a for-profit social enterprise we are walking the talk and doing the ‘right’ thing!
On that particular Sunday afternoon, our son, Alexander, didn’t realize yet that the next day would be very impactful for him as well: he would start his first day of school…
Two days in Mombasa, first Monday… school! With his brand-new backpack and with a lot of excitement, our little boy went to school for the first time ever…. Of course, education is the best gift ever and this combined with a multi-cultural setting, in a different country, in a different language, I’m sure it will be a great experience for Alexander (or Alex as they like to call him here)…
At the end of the first day he said his first words in English: ‘I want mommy’ 😉. On day 2 it was very hard to drop him off at school, as he was resisting and crying. On day 3 as well, but now, on Thursday morning, he was happy and smiling when Mommy left the classroom!
Meanwhile Mom and Dad went to the future Close the Gap Kenya offices at Ratna Square… Now, let me introduce to you Ratna Square: the oldest shopping mall in Mombasa, constructed by a famous Indian family. We are lucky they wanted to rent a part of the mall to us to create our own impact-first TechHub!
The first phase of the construction works are almost finished and we will move in during the third week of September! We are so excited to make this happen, to be at the center of the Mombasa city life, to roll up our sleeves and meet all these inspirational young boys and girls, (future) entrepreneurs and change-makers; all passionate leaders wanting to excel their own lives in a way that they can make Kenya become a prosperous and leading nation in both digital and development.
Ratna Square is very close to the so-called Nyali Bridge connecting the Mombasa City with the Old Town. Ratna Square is located between the Mosque, the market and the city. It is the ideal place to host the youngsters who want to benefit from a Tech Hub… It’s easy to reach, close by and not in a sterile environment… Phase 1 of the incubator will be 300m2 co-working space and adjacent a 200m2 multi-purpose event space.
We plan to open our Hub here early October when a USA tech executive’s delegation from Arrow Electronics will visit the Silicon Savanah ecosystem in both Nairobi and Mombasa, guided by Close the Gap! Of course we will keep you posted on that big milestone and if you would happen to be around, you’re most welcome 🙂 ! Here, you can see a short video introduction to Mombasa and the construction works at Ratna Square, filmed by my friend and Professor at VUB, Michael Dooms.
The arrival in Mombasa also marked another milestone for Close the Gap and myself, as you have maybe read in the Belgian press. The period before we traveled to Mombasa was marked by five weeks of hard work which eventually and luckily resulted in the acquisition of Arrow Electronics’ IT Asset Disposition Belgium business.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, this successful and long standing partner company of Close the Gap decided to close the doors of their Asset Disposition business worldwide. Therefore, we decided to acquire their branch in Belgium, with lots of support from the entire management team and from the mother company in the USA, Arrow Electronics! The new name of our social enterprise business is CTG Circular. For more information, visit www.ctgcircular.com. For us, it’s another way to positively disrupt the circular economy and make hardware contribute to better societies in Europe, Africa and beyond! It feels like the ecosystem is complete now… let’s get started!
This particular item was also covered in the Belgian press.
Warm greetings from Mombasa, till soon for an update! Speak next week!
Olivier, backed up with his amazing crew here in Mombasa.