Like me, young Felix Omondi grew up loving to fish and feeling it was natural to be outdoors. We both took to the fly rod at some point as we grew up, finding that sport could be as valuable as fish in the pan. We were much alike, the only significant thing separating us being a pond called the Atlantic Ocean. While I lived in places like Nova Scotia, Maine and New York, Felix lived in Kenya.
Felix went to college and was probably always a smart, observant and naturally curious fellow anyway. And when his credentials failed to produce the long hoped for medical career, he turned back to what he did naturally and well: tying flies but not as just a hobby now. Felix saw a niche created by wealthy foreign fly-fishers in need of their special weightless lures. Felix knew where to get fur and feathers cheaply, knew how the lures should be constructed and had a little capital saved.
Today Felix’s simple little workshop employs several other Kenyans. He has worked hard to market his wares through the internet and on the ground and reaps the benefits of perseverance today. He posted pictures recently of a second-hand car he was able to buy. Felix benefits from his enterprise, his family benefits, his employees benefit and, yes, his fly-fishing customers also benefit.
Africa likely receives more charitable aid than any other continent. Probably since we were children, we’ve heard the call to give for Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia or sub-Saharan Africa and we’ve probably all given. There certainly is a place for this generosity and a real need.
But what does more real good for Africans: another boatload of World Food Programme rice or a few determined Felix Omondis, making Africa better for Africans one small business at a time? What lasts? What’s sustainable?