Alex Rees is Wasafiri’s new Managing Director

Stella Odhiambo
Stella Odhiambo

Latest posts

Share:

Alex Rees became Wasafiri’s new Managing Director on April 1, 2022. He sat down with Communications Officer Stella Odhiambo to discuss his new role and what he’s most (and least) looking forward to.

In one sentence, what is your one new responsibility as MD that you did not have as Food Systems and Inclusive Growth portfolio lead?

Wow, well I’m very excited to be leading such a wonderful, innovative and values-driven organisation and of course, playing an MD role for the first time!

What’s the most exciting aspect about becoming MD of Wasafiri?

There are many exciting aspects of becoming MD of Wasafiri, and let me share two…

The first is that it allows me to continue to heed my father’s advice from when I was setting out in my career: ‘…seek out the most effective people who are fun to work with – and go work with them’.

Another is that over five years I’ve seen just how amazing Wasafiri is from the inside, not just in the accomplishments it has achieved typically in very complex areas where we work like countering violent extremism on the coast of Kenya and helping food systems evolve through support to small food businesses – but also in how we work in the world. I’m consistently impressed by how Wasafiri manages to punch above its weight – in part because we build relationships for the long term. I intend to continue this trajectory.

What’s most daunting?

Good question, I think the most daunting aspect is filling the shoes of the wonderful Kate Simpson who has done a fantastic job over the past four years in enabling our operating system, culture, systems approach and impact to really take off.

I’m delighted she will be around in the months and years ahead to offer sage advice. She now leads our new Wasafiri Institute as we create new ways to help systems leaders have even more impact with the challenges they are facing. You’ll hear about this in 2022!

What’s your vision for the future of Wasafiri as we launch Wasafiri 3.0?

My vision for Wasafiri is that we accelerate how we support diverse systems leaders to better grapple with some of the world’s toughest problems from local communities to global gatherings in the areas of violent extremism, conflict, climate change, loss of nature, food systems and reducing poverty.

I believe that Wasafiri can play a leading role, both in bringing systems leadership into focus for more people and critically, helping people develop their systems leadership in day-to-day decisions so that it is used to improve lives and the environment.

Anchoring collaborations that empower individuals and groups to make different decisions, particularly if disadvantaged, is what truly inspires me.

I’m very excited about the next year or two with Wasafiri looking to advance three areas:

  1. Establish our Wasafiri Institute with firm foundations so it can thrive in years to come
  2. Grow and diversify our work stabilising conflict settings and transforming food systems
  3. Making a meaningful contribution in tackling climate change and encouraging nature to rebound

 

Connected to these, I’d say we intend to make strides in innovating at the nexus between conflict, food and climate. These issues typically affect people and our environment together and I’m confident there is more we can do to tackle these issues in a joined-up manner.

What management style or approach do you plan to take as MD?

I see my job in simple terms: empowering people across the business to make good decisions.

Wasafiri has an effective decentralised ‘domain’ model where individuals lead their areas, taking all relevant decisions. We actively avoid decision-making easing its way up towards the MD. And like my predecessor from whom I’ve learned much, I look forward to nurturing this model and supporting the people best equipped to make good decisions.

How is Wasafiri different?

Let me share two important ways among many that I feel Wasafiri is different:

Firstly, we believe we’ve proven the value of a globally significant and practical systems change approach, which we call Systemcraft, in practical settings with diverse leaders at all levels who wish to make better decisions today and tomorrow for the longer term. Clients, consultants and partners are valuing Systemcraft in support of their strategic and day-to-day decisions.

Secondly, we’ve nurtured a lovely and special culture as staff, with our consultants, and with our partners and clients. We call it ‘Wasafiri spirit’. This feels important to us, and I’m keen we continue to shepherd our culture as we grow.

Get to know the MD

What’s his favourite thing to eat and what was his last search on Google? Get to know Alex some more in this fun video.

Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

Share:

African Food Fellowship at the forefront of Rwanda’s food systems transformation roundtable

"Unlocking innovation to transform Rwanda’s food systems"

The Fireside Chat conversation is part of the larger IGNITE Food Systems Challenge which will be taking place at the Kigali Conference Centre on March 25, 2022.

The Challenge, which is a first of its kind, will provide an important platform to pitch to Food Systems experts and win much-needed financial and technical support.

The African Food Fellowship’s Dean Eunice Khaguli together with three Rwanda Fellows Florence Mwashimba, Kelvin Odoobo, and Esther Ndungutse Mukundane are excited to be a part of a roundtable discussion on “Unlocking innovation to transform Rwanda’s food systems”.

The fireside chat will convene key players from the local ecosystem for an open and frank discussion about food systems transformation and how to unlock innovation and systems change thinking in Rwanda.

Meet the speakers

Eunice Khaguli

Dean, African Food Fellowship and Senior Manager Food Systems and Inclusive Growth, Wasafiri Consulting & Institute

Eunice is an international development consultant and seasoned incubator, convenor and evaluator of food systems, private sector development and inclusive growth initiatives in Africa.

Her passion to see Africa’s food system transformation championed by Africans is mirrored in her current work at the African Food Fellowship; AGRF 2021; CAADP (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme) Biennial Review amplification sessions; UNFSS Small Business Agenda and Generation Africa.

Eunice, a firm believer in collective action, has been at the helm of the African Food Fellowship as its Dean since its inception in 2021. Since then and under her joint leadership, the Fellowship has grown in number from a Kenyan cohort of 27 to an additional Rwanda cohort of 27.

“Rwanda continues to make significant strides at developing a sustainable, healthy, and inclusive food system. As a fellowship we welcome this opportunity to lend our voice, experience, and harness collective intelligence over a fireside chat with our peers!”, says the proud Dean.

Esther Ndungutse Mukundane

Esther Ndungutse Mukundane

Country Director, Aspire Rwanda

Esther is a Sustainable Land Use Fellow and an agriculture expert. In her current role as the Country Director at Aspire Rwanda, she oversees programmes geared towards the improvement of the livelihoods of women and youth.

Her notable achievements include setting up and serving as the first country director of Sustainable Harvest Rwanda, an NGO promoting the inclusion of smallholder women coffee farmers in the entire value chain. She also organised the first “Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda” Conference that attracted senior government officials, retailers, NGOs and roasters from Europe and the US to discuss challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers in the coffee value chain.

Florence Mwashimba

Florence Mwashimba

Fellow, African Food Fellowship| Founder & CEO Kigalifaam and PIMA Zero Waste Shop

Along with Eunice will be Florence Mwashimba. Florence is an Access to Nutritious Food Fellow, entrepreneur and sales and marketing specialist.

She founded Kigalifaam and PIMA Zero Waste Shop, both the first of their kind in Rwanda, to collect, sort and upcycle tonnes of recyclables in the country. She has also worked with large and small businesses as an aggregator to ensure access to affordable food products.

Notable achievements include being recognised as the Social Founder of the Year, 2021 finalist, Rwanda (Founder of the Year Awards – FOYA).

Kelvin Odoobo

Kelvin Odoobo

CEO & Founder of Shambapro

Kelvin is a Food Entrepreneurship Fellow, Agriprenuer and Agribusiness Consultant in East and Southern Africa. He is the founder and CEO of Shambapro Limited, an Agtech start-up that is helping smallholder farmers in Africa access suitable finance without traditional collateral and other value chain services on its digital platform.

His notable achievements include helping The Hive Limited, a Kenyan beekeeping start-up, to scale and expand to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and Malawi.

As the Lead Consultant, he also helped H2O Venture Partners to build Ingabo Plant Health, a Rwandan social enterprise that provides solutions for farmers to reduce crop losses, increase crop yields and increase their incomes, and raise £100,000 seed funding from DFID.

Moving forward

The African Food Fellowship is increasingly being recognised as a voice in the transformation of food systems in Africa and believes that through practical, collaborative, and visionary leadership, ending world hunger on the continent is achievable.

Moving forward, the Fellowship is looking forward to even more opportunities to support as many African start-ups and SMEs as possible to scale up their solutions and contribute to their communities and economy.

Meet the rest of our amazing fellows.

About the African Food Fellowship

The African Food Fellowship is a leadership initiative for inclusive and regenerative food futures on the continent. It targets emerging leaders from the civic, public, and private circles to jointly transform Africa’s food systems and ensure equitable availability and access to healthy and sustainable food for all.

Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting initiated this fellowship to help deliver progress promised in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, which aims to end hunger on the continent by 2025, and to promote intra-Africa food exchange through the continental free trade area.

Photo by Irina Blok on Unsplash

Share:

Nikki Feltham joins the Wasafiri team!

For several years, Wasafiri has been working on a range of climate and nature-related complex problems, ranging from climate finance for African nations, soil carbon sequestration and net-zero transition. But, like many organisations, we have been asking how do we do more and do it better?

So, last year we launched a focused Climate & Nature portfolio.

Wasafiri’s Director, Kate Simpson, interviews Nikki Feltham, Wasafiri’s new dedicated portfolio lead

Nikki – it’s great to have you joining our team at Wasafiri. Tell us a bit about what brought you here.

Like the rest of the team here, I want to make a difference – and for that difference to stick.

I am really drawn to both Wasafiri’s practical approach to systems change – Systemcraft – and the positivity of everyone here in working to make change happen! I was also keen to return to my consulting roots and work with lots of organisations seeking to make changes – but with the (hard-won) experience of working within non-profit organisations.

We were super excited about the diversity of experience you bring to the team – from eight years with Accenture and eight years at Save the Children (including as their UK Strategy director). What are you excited to help Wasafiri achieve over the coming years?

Wasafiri has such a powerful combination of tools to dig in on the really complex challenges we face – consulting support, networks, and learning and capability building.

What I’m excited about is figuring out how we best bring them together to serve organisations and individuals who are driven by a purpose to unlock their full potential for impact.

There are so many amazing organisations, innovators, and ideas out there, and we need all of them to be able to work brilliantly – together – to address our collective challenges. Being able to bring my own experience and ideas into this is what’s lighting me up right now.

What is your new role at Wasafiri?

As an ex-consultant with a consultant’s attention span, I’m lucky to have three aspects to my role!

I get to build up our Climate and Nature Portfolio, steward our work and partnerships with the World Economic Forum and design how we will build knowledge and share our systems-based approach. Sounds great, doesn’t it!

Amongst all that choice (!) what are you looking forward to the most?

As well as the opportunity to contribute directly through the Climate and Nature portfolio, I’m hugely excited about being involved in Wasafiri’s own journey.

The team has had such great successes helping to address complex problems across intractable areas – it’s great to be involved in how we innovate and grow to deliver even more impact. What next is the big question!

Connect with Nikki

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

Share:

African Food System Leadership is alive and well; celebration as the African Food Fellowship announces its inaugural graduates!

On 1 October 2021, 27 fellows graduated from Stage 1 of the Food Systems Leadership Programme1 – Kenya! And so across Wasafiri’s virtual and literal corridors, there was a jubilant celebration; we have our pathfinders!

As I reflect on the last six months as implementation lead and Dean at the African Food Fellowship1, I smile. These, and soon another 30 Rwandese fellows, are stepping forward to claim ownership and collectively champion food systems transformation!

Why is this exciting or different? The focus here is on leadership as a pathway to food system transformation. Yes, leadership. The ability to influence and guide. And not just any form of leadership, but African Leadership.

As Dean, I can confidently state that we are contributing to ongoing systemic efforts to change the narrative around African Leadership. We are harnessing the collective intelligence of African food system leaders with the ability to influence and guide by shaping agendas, setting priorities for investments, policy, and action.

As an African food system actor, I candidly acknowledge that this recognition is long overdue.

A significant shift in Africa’s food systems socio-economic status presents us with an unprecedented opportunity. Covid-19 and other food system shocks have underscored the eminent need for African leadership to navigate complex contextual problems at country and continental levels.

As a fellowship, we are stepping forward to present cohorts of food system leaders, actively shaping their speciality impact areas and collectively driven by a systems transformation agenda.

Having completed a highly interactive 5-month systems leadership training, our trailblazers are now embarking on another 5-month Systems Action phase (Stage 2), designed to provide catalytic support for progressing Systems Initiatives and to deepen the Fellow’s capacity for leading systems-change through inspiration, coaching, and technical mentoring.

And with that, it is with immense pleasure that I invite you to Meet our Fellows, a shining example of our vision to jointly transform Africa’s food systems through collective leadership.

Agri-Finance and Digital

Anthony Makona – Kilimo Trust
Grace L. N. Njoroge – GSMA Mobile For Development
Janet Ngombalu – Eastern Africa Grain Council
Lillian Ndungu – Regional Centre For Mapping Of Resources For Development
Monica Githige – Global Alliance For Improved Nutrition
Richard Midikira – Aceli Africa
Serah Waceke – Agricultural Finance Corporation
Sieka Gatabaki – Agrifin

Aquaculture

Alex Akidiva Amuyumzu – MEST
Charles Kanyuguto – Nyeri County Fish Farmers Cooperative Society
Dave Okech Okech – Cage Fish Farmers Association Of Kenya
Erick Ogello (PhD) – Maseno University
Fredrick Juma – Hydro Victoria Fish Hatchery Farm
Kristian Larsen – Nutriento
Proscovia Alando – Samaky Hub And Ressect
Ruth Lewo Mwarabu – Aquaculture Business Development Programme
Safeena Musa – Kenya Marine And Fisheries Research Institute
Justus Wanjala – Fisheries Meru County

Horticulture

Charles Muteithia – Kagure Syngenta
Elizabeth Gathogo – World Wildlife Fund
Leah Mwaura – SNV Netherlands Development Organisation
Rashid Boru – County Government Of Isiolo
Kweyu Suleiman – Agrokenya
Tele Boit – Wageningen University & Research
Tom Ogweno – Tradin Organic
Waithera Ng’ang’a
Winnie Yegon – Food And Agriculture Organization

What an honour to sit at the table and be surrounded by African Food Systems Leaders who are actively shaping their speciality impact areas (aquaculture, agri-finance and horticulture) and are collectively driven by a systems transformation agenda. Hongera!

1The food systems leadership programme is a flagship programme of the African Food Fellowship, an initiative facilitated by the Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting & Institute, with support from IKEA Foundation.

Learn more by subscribing to our fellowship social media pages:

Photo by Nicolas Tissot on Unsplash

Share:

Exciting developments in Communications; Stella Odhiambo joins Wasafiri!

Stella shares insights on her new role as Wasafiri’s Communications Officer

What drew me to Wasafiri

The Wasafiri culture and the people! For a while now, I’ve been more intentional about the organisations and clients I partner with. After eight years in media and publishing, as well as freelancing for clients in Kenya’s private sector, it became increasingly important to connect with organisations with values that align with my own. More importantly, to work with those that have good people dedicated to doing good things at the helm.

Right from the get-go, this place gave off all the right vibes and, after meeting a couple of members of the Wasafiri family during the interview process, it felt even more like the right fit for me.

My role at Wasafiri and how the experience has been so far

I’ve joined the team as a part-time Communications Officer – a sort of hybrid consultant. I was brought aboard to help streamline, strengthen and support Wasafiri’s communications which, so far, is a happy learning experience each week.

After just two weeks on the job (eek!) I was invited to support a Food Systems project that was wrapping up. I was terrified. But with the support of the friendliest and most helpful colleagues anyone could ask for, my confidence grew.

Though I’ve barely scratched the surface of really being in the driver’s seat managing the entire function and leading campaigns, I’m pleased to report that I’m getting into the swing of things.

I’m also reassured to find myself fast becoming the face and point person for all matters comms here at Wasafiri.

What I am looking forward to the most

I’m thrilled to be part of a work-family that is supportive and mindful of one another, even outside the scope of work. A place where Ubuntu and transparency are some of the values woven into the fabric of the organisation – what’s not to love!

The potential for growth is what I most look forward to. Though it’s only a part-time position, I’m keen to prove myself. Adding my little voice to help the organisation tackle complex problems every day will be my small but significant contribution.

Share:

Wasafiri’s Director, Hamish Wilson, interviews Chiara Frattini on joining the Wasafiri team.

The Fellowship brings together 30 passionate food systems leaders who make up the inaugural cohort of the African Food Systems Leadership Programme.
This 10-month Fellowship is the first of its