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Elko Lemiso…On life as a teenage boy and how he is creating memories through software

Elko was born in Kenya to a Dutch father and a Kenyan mother. His family of six thereafter, spent some years in Ghana where his father worked as a water engineer. He came back home when he was 11 years old and despite losing his father at a young age, he is still keen on building a better future for himself and his family.

‘I can’t quite remember the first four years of my life, save for the stories I hear from my paternal figures every so often. I was a very social child though, and growing up, I deeply enjoyed the company of other kids. With time however, I noticed that the people around me became less and less social. My peers were always watching TV (a luxury I did not get until I was 7 years old) and our play time was substituted by remote controls and indoor activities.

I therefore immersed myself in books and later, the internet as soon as it found its way into our home. Most of my time was spent building things with the help of my brother. It was during this period, that my curiosity about the digital world came alive and I knew I wanted a future in programming and software engineering.’’

What was school like growing up?

‘I developed a rebellious streak along the way and faced expulsion and rejection from numerous schools. I was unable to follow mundane rules not because I did not like the rules, but because I was disturbed by how the authorities overly relied on them. I remember an instance when a teacher said that poverty was a good thing. I found this controversial and what ensued was a heated debate that got me expelled. I guess, given the school rules, it was unacceptable to argue and talk back at teachers. I don’t regret it though because I believe we should be given an opportunity to air our views no matter how controversial. We are all different’

Where did you go from there?

I was accepted at Mutungoni Academy in Machakos County. I really liked the school. I had the freedom of personal expression. The teachers were really young and they understood us. I credit much of who I am today to the school, its teachers and the friends I made while there.

What are you up to lately?

‘I just finished my software engineering course at Graffins College in Westlands and may be joining my brothers in the Netherlands to advance my studies. To prepare me for my future, I am building my skills in the real estate and entertainment sectors. I consider myself a builder of ideas. If you have an idea, I will give it life, with the same passion and dedication that I have built my own.

I came across an article on how block chain technology will revolutionise our real estate structures with the dawn of tokenisation. I want to be part of that. I now associate myself with people in the real estate industry to get a better understanding of what is expected of me as a real estate agent. My goal is to completely transform the landscape of the real estate industry, with cutting edge technology. I am working to eventually open my own real estate consultancy that trades in tokens as opposed to actual homes.

Besides real estate, I want to bring back the joys of classic social interaction. Today, our social lives rely heavily on social media platforms and everyone is competing to crowd source their self-esteem through likes and followers. I want people to interact more in the real world. So, a couple of months ago, my friends and I started hosting our own events and we ended up founding the company MALI SAFI ENTERTAINMENT. Our most recent event TANGO LATTE, was our most successful event thus far with over 500 people attending. We didn’t expect this.

The idea behind Mali Safi was to create an avenue for upcoming performers, but we have since grown, and the philosophy behind the business has expanded to providing a whole spectrum of experiences including live performances, games and art expos. I am developing an App through which people can outsource ongoing and upcoming events. Finding the right event can be hectic sometimes and the App is intended to provide a platform where your customers can easily and affordably find your events.

That is very innovative. Have you faced any challenges in your quest for this solution?

I have come face to face with generational stereotypes where older people instinctively judged me as lazy and irresponsible. It is also challenging when your family and friends do not understand why you chose to start a business as opposed to being employed. Tied to this, I have had to balance my time between school and the two ventures. All these can be overwhelming for anyone and there are times that I have doubted myself and my abilities. There are days I have felt like I should give up.

I have however, learned to embrace all the gains I have made along the way, in spite of the criticisms and social rejection. I have come to learn that in life, things will not all go according to plan. You will have to improvise and if you are persistent, you are guaranteed to see all your ideas take shape.

What do you think about the future?

The future lies in technology. The constant development of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies promises a future where business is data-driven and industries are smart. We are heading towards ‘smarter’ everything: smarter products, processes, consumer goods, tech solutions and even cities. I feel lucky to be born in Kenya as we are leading the continent in the race for technological advancements. Kenya’s $1 billion tech hub is home to more than 200 startups. We can learn from the United States, which set aside a region — California — for technological advancements, discoveries and inventions. Innovations in this Silicon Valley, birthed global companies such as Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Uber, Apple, Adobe Systems, Cisco, HP, Netflix, Oracle, Tesla and Intel. I am convinced that we are living in a country with many opportunities. We are still developing. More roads need to be built, people need access to more affordable housing and innovative projects need more funding. As young people, we are the ones to make all of this possible.

How can teenage boys prepare themselves for this future? In particular, what do you think are the challenges facing the teenage boy today?

My mom always tells me the worst thing you can be in the world is a broke man. We live in very competitive times and our society expects a man to be successful in every aspect of his life. According to the society, you are a failure as a man if you don’t have a stable source of income, a family, a house and a car.

As a result, life is a bag of tests for a regular teenage boy. Beyond the hormonal changes in the body, there are the strains of prioritising, achieving goals, feminism and fulfilling your parent’s and peers’ expectations. Many teens boys feel misunderstood, but they are often told to “man up”. Tied to these, are the issues of low self-esteem and drug abuse. Many teens compare themselves with their peers, especially on social media. This in turn creates pressure on what they wear, how they speak and how they look. In worst cases, they adopt poor eating habits or resort to substance use to ease their stress and to feel secure and assured from within.

I believe the solution to this challenge is to create more spaces for the teenage boy to express himself. Men in general go through a lot but their issues are often minimised. It is time they are heard and supported.

Fun Facts:

  1. The most important thing in his life? My Family; My mum has especially been there for me and my siblings since my dad passed way when I was 16…I would like to reciprocate that love and sacrifice.
  2. Favourite time of the day? Mornings; makes me more productive. I have a longer day and I get more stuff done.
  3. How he passes his time? Music (Classic rocks like Pink Floyd) or books (History and biographies)
  4. The person who has had the most impact in his life? My big brother- I always had a hard time finding the difference between right and wrong and he used to guide me on what to do.
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