The complaint is: “Nobody told me…” The truth is: No one was listening. Hearing is easy, listening is an art. Conversation is not conversation when everyone is talking and no one can hear what is said.. Missing, misunderstood, mistaken and all lost by the lack of intentional listening. (This goes on in our head as well.) – Too harried, too busy, too much. Just noise.
Remember, If you cannot hear the wind, you will never receive your message…

It seems like most of us are guilty of this at one time or another But have you noticed just how predisposed we become to listening when the talker her/himself is likewise a listener? For me, I believe conversations should begin with an open-mind; a practice of give and take exchange bet. individuals with no hidden agendas.


Is satellite TV killing African football?

Is satellite TV killing African football?

Accra’s stadium is empty, while football fans watch English games on TV

When satellite television started broadcasting the top leagues of Europe around the world in the mid-1990s, football lovers in Africa must have been unsure whether to laugh or cry.

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To succeed, leagues have to become businesses but very few have grasped this yet”

Gary Rathbone Former head of Africa, SuperSport

On the one hand, they could suddenly watch some of the best club football on the planet – simply by turning on the TV.

At the same time, the realisation must have dawned that the local league they had been watching for years was a sub-standard product to the one found in countries like England, Spain and Italy.

It wasn’t always thus though – for African club football’s heyday came in the 1970s and 1980s when vast crowds, sometimes 100,000 strong, regularly flocked to league games and the leading pan-African club competitions.

By the 1990s, however, the state of Africa’s leagues had become a major worry.

The exodus of players to Europe, which today is a flood, was beginning to become significant, meaning local fans were denied the chance to watch the best talents as they left for greener pastures, while many leagues were also blighted by poor organisation, corruption, chronic infrastructure, low crowds and sometimes a combination of all four.

Newcastle United's Ivorian midfielder, Cheick Tiote (R) vies with Manchester City's Ivorian midfielder, Yaya Toure (L) during an English FA Premier League football match at St James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, on December 15, 2012. The best African players now play in Europe

European football was most welcome when it arrived, as fans feasted upon the chance to watch legendary clubs like Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester United on a regular basis, but the impact on the diminishing local leagues – North Africa aside – has been less well received.

Empty seats

“The advent of satellite TV has certainly taken away the feel people had for the local league – more so when you have the likes of Lionel Messi at your fingertips,” Ghanaian football commentator Karl Tufuoh told BBC Sport. “It’s clear local attendance has been massively affected.”

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Why I support Manchester United

Kabir Ahmed

Kabir Ahmed, Kaduna, Nigeria:

I am a supporter of Manchester United football club. I have been supporting the club for the past 15 years. I like the game they play. I like their style of play, their fighting spirit.

I normally enjoy watching Manchester United matches in a viewing centre with my friends.

It is not that I don’t have a satellite but I hate isolation, I don’t like watching football in isolation. When I am in the viewing centre, watching with my friends and others like Chelsea and Arsenal fans it gives me lots of joy and happiness, shouting, arguing, cracking jokes and all that.

I just don’t have time for local matches now. I used to, way back in 1998-99 when Katsina United was playing but they are no more playing, they are no more in the Nigerian premier league, that’s why I don’t watch local football any more.

I only watch international premier league now, I don’t enjoy the kind of play of local matches, that is the fact. It is not entertaining at all, maybe that is why people don’t watch them frequently. We are used to watching international football now and you know it is a known fact, international football is better than our local football.

Tufuoh was speaking at the Accra Sports Stadium, whose 40,000 red, yellow and green seats were more or less all visible for a league clash between top clubs Liberty Professionals and Asante Kotoko on a recent Sunday.

A few miles down the road, the bar at the Alisa Hotel was overflowing with fans who had come to watch two crunch English Premier League (EPL) clashes.

“Maybe if we had no option, we would have to follow our local league,” said one customer, Kojo. “But if you find something better than the local league, you would watch the better one.”

The situation in Ghana is far from unique – it is played out in countless African cities every weekend.

In fact, the attendances became so insignificant in many African leagues that they have been scheduling domestic kick-offs to avoid the big European matches.

However, there has been a recent reversal in the declining attendances as a previously-unseen factor has entered the market: Satellite television that now broadcasts some of Africa’s leagues.

In 2006, South African broadcaster Supersport started to air matches from both its own league and Nigeria’s on the DSTV network, which is broadcast across the continent for those who can afford it.

Seven years on, SuperSport also owns the rights to games in Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, Angola and Tanzania.

Crowds up in Kenya

While the beneficial impact on some leagues has been questionable, such as in Zambia and Nigeria, one of the stand-out successes has been in Kenya.

Prior to SuperSport’s involvement, the domestic league was riddled by infighting, poor crowds, poor marketing and a chaotic fixture list.

Fans watch football in Mali
Can African fans be persuaded to watch more local football?

The situation is now wholly different, with improved organisation added to the TV money that enables clubs to pay their players both well and regularly, making the league not only more attractive to fans but foreign players too.

“The first season we covered the KPL, you were getting a few hundred people for normal games and a few thousand for the big games,” says Gary Rathbone, former head of Africa for SuperSport.

“Last year, crowds were in their thousands for normal games and 25,000 for the big games. Another massive change was that the league sponsorship had increased from zero to something quite substantial.”

The success of SuperSport’s KPL coverage – which has included the creation of a studio, a weekly magazine programme and the coverage of over 100 live games – has been staggering.

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BBC Africa Debate

Tune in to the BBC World Service at 1900 GMT on Friday 1 February to listen to the BBC Africa Debate – Is satellite TV killing African football? – broadcast from Durban.

Or take part in Twitter – using #bbcafricadebate – Facebook or Google+

Prior to the input, Rathbone estimates that 75% of the Kenyan media’s football coverage was devoted to Europe but he believes that figure is now equal – with perhaps over half sometimes devoted to the KPL.

A survey later revealed that the Advertising Value Equivalent of sponsorship for the KPL – which Rathbone now classifies as a “truly professional league” – amounts to a barely-credible $86m (£55m).

“That’s what happens when you get behind the league and broadcast it and organise it properly,” he says.

In his own South Africa, the TV audiences watching local games are double those of the EPL – even if the advertising revenue for the latter’s games is significantly higher, given the demographic being targeted.

However, slick television production can only take a league so far if it has perceived flaws – as those running Nigerian football have discovered.

Believing that the league is unattractive, amateurishly run and constantly haemorrhages its best players, Nigerian football fans – those backing Kano Pillars aside – have not come out in numbers to attend games.

In Zambia meanwhile, a former FA president says the SuperSport deal means fans now watch local games on TV – not just because they can watch the European games afterwards, but also for more simple reasons.

“In our stadiums, refreshments are not allowed – so why should I go to a stadium to be thirsty for 90 minutes when I can watch at a bar with a big screen?” asks Simataa Simataa.

So when African leagues complain about the impact of the EPL on their attendances, is this simply an excuse for their general laziness and incompetence when it comes to improving their product?

“To succeed, leagues have to become businesses but very few have grasped this yet,” says Rathbone. “They also need to explore other forms of revenue – like advertising and merchandise.”

“If the local leagues are run properly and it’s an interesting standard, the experience is positive and the media is supportive, there is no reason why the EPL and the local league should not live successfully side by side.”

A Kenyan eye clinic with a long vision

A Kenyan eye clinic with a long vision

The eye clinic provides vital treatment to thousands of East Africans

Kenya’s Hurlingham Eye Care Services – a company founded in 2007 by three female doctors – started with small steps but with a long vision.

In the last six years the firm, which opened with just a few patients, has become East Africa’s leading eye clinic and offers a wide range of services, from eye tests to laser surgery.

“Right from the onset our dream was to work in a centre that can be able to provide all types of eye care as a one-stop shop,” one of the founders, Dr Kahaki Kimani, told the BBC’s series African Dream.

“We also wanted to be a centre of excellence and so, when we saw a lot of our people travelling [for treatment] long distances outside the country – to Europe, to South Africa, to India – we felt that probably it was the right time to bring some of these services closer home,” she explained.

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Initially we tried to get many more ophthalmologists to come and invest with us but they were not willing; they thought that the risks were too big”

Dr Kahaki Kimani

Dr Kimani and two other ophthalmologists – Prof Dunera Ilako and Dr Nancy Kiumbura – set the firm in motion with an initial investment of $15,000 (£9,500) which they borrowed from a friend, an eye doctor who lives in Germany and who has given them a lot of additional support, including training.

The three Kenyan ophthalmologists first established a series of optical shops through which they could offer eye tests and glasses to their patients.

Later they decided to set up a centre with state-of-the-art technology that would enable them to provide laser surgery and other specialised treatment, and for this they needed additional funding.

“Initially we tried to get many more ophthalmologists to come and invest with us but they were not willing; they thought that the risks were too big. Family thought we were nuts, colleagues thought we were crazy.

“I mean, how do you raise this kind of money and how ever will you pay it back?”

Private backing

After approaching several of Kenya’s main banks in vain, they entered into a partnership with a private equity firm, Jacana Partners, which invests in entrepreneurs and small-to-medium sized enterprises.

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Hurlingham Eye Care Services

Dr. Kahaki Kimani (left) and a patient
  • Started in 2007
  • Location: Nairobi, Kenya
  • Co-founders: Dr Kahaki Kimani (left), Prof Dunera Ilako and Dr Nancy Kiumbura
  • Starting capital: $15,000
  • Opened Eagle Eye Laser & Diagnostic Centre in 2010
  • Employees: 30
  • Annual turnover: $1m

With its backing, they started the Eagle Eye Laser & Diagnostic Centre in 2010.

At the moment, Hurlingham Eye Care Services (HECS) has 30 employees and an annual turnover of around $1m.

“If someone needs a cornea transplant, we are able to do it. If someone has glaucoma – that is high pressure in the eyes – we can take care of that, if someone needs refractory surgery – that’s surgery to correct focusing problems – we are able to provide that.

“We have both the equipment and the personnel to be able to provide whatever is needed,” the doctor told BBC Africa’s Anne Mawathe.

While most eye care in Kenya is provided through the state hospitals, the queues are long and the service is far from ideal.

Dr Kimani and her colleagues believe that their clinic is a better alternative.

“Some of the services we provide are not cheap but they are not cheap anywhere in the world,” she said.

But she thinks their fees are lower than those of comparable clinics in Europe, the US, or South Africa.

Treating the poor

However, they are aware that many of their treatments are still beyond the reach of Kenya’s poor and so they have created a charitable arm to the company that provides “pro-bono treatments for patients in desperate need” and runs eye tests in the slum areas of the capital, Nairobi.

People queuing for eye tests
The company runs eye tests in the slum areas of Nairobi

“The kind of eye hospital we dream about with my team is where we would be able to give, on the one hand, service to those who can afford it and are looking to going abroad for this service and, on the other hand, the people who are the majority of this country but, with little subsidy, can get good health care,” she said.

The centre is also offering services to foreign medical tourists who could, they say, “get their eyes lasered at the same standard, using the same equipment [as abroad] but for a lower cost, and then go on a safari with their new perfect vision”.

However, Dr Kimani warns budding entrepreneurs that starting and running a business usually means a considerable financial sacrifice.

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Sometimes you may even go without a salary but there’s always that satisfaction that you’re offering a service that you feel proud of”

According to her, although her company has grown significantly since it started, it is still along way from where they want it to be.

“Eventually we hope even to be a centre that is able to train, even offer some speciality training for eye doctors.”

She admits that they are not yet earning a salary of note and says that a significant amount of the money they get is being used to pay for the equipment they need to perform laser surgeries.

“Right now, I must confess, finances are tight and of course when you’re a business owner you get paid last; sometimes you may even go without a salary but there’s always that satisfaction that you’re offering a service that you feel proud of.”

If you have any questions for Dr Kahaki Kimani, please join her in a live Q&A on the BBC Africa Facebook page from 1500 – 1600GMT on Friday 15 February.

African Dream is broadcast on the BBC Focus on Africa radio programme every Thursday afternoon, and on BBC World News throughout the day on Fridays

Every week, one successful business man or woman will explain how they started off and what others could learn from them.

The Ghanaian woman who made millions fighting skin-bleaching

The Ghanaian woman who made millions fighting skin-bleaching

African Dream: Ghana’s Grace Amey-Obeng

Ghana’s Grace Amey-Obeng, one of West Africa’s most successful businesswomen, made her fortune promoting products which emphasised the beauty of the black skin, at a time when many of her competitors were selling dangerous skin-bleaching formulas.

The business empire she started a quarter of a century ago with around $100 (£63) now has an annual turnover of between $8m and $10m.

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The women in the market had destroyed their skin with all this kind of beauty products, bleaching products”

Grace Amey-Obeng

Her FC Group of Companies – which includes a beauty clinic, a firm that supplies salon equipment and cosmetics, and a college – has eight branches in Ghana and exports to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Mrs Amey-Obeng has won dozens of accolades and industry awards for her skincare beauty products and marketing.

But one of the things that make her especially proud is her FC Beauty College which, since its opening in 1999, has trained more than 5,000 young people, mostly women.

“It’s like a family bond. I’m so proud that they have managed to go through the programme,” she told the BBC’s series African Dream.

Equally important to her is her role as a medical aesthetician and she cites seeing a skin condition resolved as something that gives her “joy”.

“I’m so happy that God has given me that talent and that touch to heal people,” she said.

‘Irreparable damage’

Mrs Amey-Obeng studied beauty therapy in the United Kingdom and after graduation, in the 1980s, returned to her native Ghana.

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Grace Amey-Obeng

Grace Amey-Obeng
  • Age: 55
  • Studied Beauty Therapy at Croydon College, London, UK
  • CEO FC Group of Companies
  • Annual turnover: $8-10 million
  • Start-up capital: $100
  • Number of employees: 95
  • Exports to: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast, UK, Switzerland
  • Branches in Ghana: Eight
  • Trainees: 286 currently in hairdressing/beauty therapy
  • Hobbies: Collecting African art

She knew that in her country women take great pride in their appearance and was convinced that there was a niche market she could “tap into”.

Working out of her bag and going from house to house she advised people on skincare.

Soon, however, she became aware that there was “a lot of skin-bleaching going on”, a trend she found “alarming” and something that is common in much of Africa.

“The women in the market had destroyed their skin with all this kind of beauty products, bleaching products, and so I saw the need for assisting them to reverse the process because otherwise it would become a social problem,” she said.

“The level of damage – in this climate – bleaching does is irreparable,” she added.

Not long after her return to Ghana, she opened her first beauty clinic with financial support from her family.

“I couldn’t access any funds from the bank. I didn’t even think about it because everybody said ‘In this country nobody will give you money'”.

Business loan offers came pouring in only after her business had been running for three years.

Although access to bank loans in Ghana might be relatively easier these days, she advises that budding entrepreneurs should take care not to borrow too much.

Made in Ghana

Mrs Amey-Obeng explained that, once her clinic was running, she realised that the imported products they were recommending often proved too expensive for their clients.

FC Beauty College students Since its opening, the FC Beauty College has trained more than 5,000 young people

This was often a result of currency exchange rate fluctuations.

“It was a challenge. They would come back with worse conditions, and so we said: ‘OK, why don’t we start our own line that we can sell to our people?'”.

Her skincare line, which she started in 1998, would soon have a huge success not only because of the products’ prices – which currently range from $3 to $15 – but also, in her opinion, because they were made taking into account black skins and the West African climate.

In view of her concerns about skin bleaching, the name of her brand, Forever Clair (Clear), may seem controversial to some.

However, she argues that “clair” there refers to “light, hope and strength”, not skin colour.

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The joy of putting smiles on the faces of people that this business offers, that’s what makes me want to do it forever”

“Light shows the way. It’s not about complexion, it’s about the heart,” the entrepreneur said.

And she seems indeed bent on helping others to gain hope and strength. She is well-known in Ghana for her philanthropic work, especially through the Grace Amey-Obeng International Foundation.

Women leaders, she says, should offer a helping hand to less fortunate women, encourage them and share expertise.

“The joy of putting smiles on the faces of people that this business offers, that’s what makes me want to do it forever.”

African Dream is broadcast on the BBC Focus on Africa radio programme every Thursday afternoon, and on BBC World News throughout the day on Fridays

Every week, one successful business man or woman will explain how they started off and what others could learn from them.