Thursday, 28 November 2013

#Electricity outages impacting #Uganda's development

Reading feedback from our volunteer consultants and clients problems with power outrages meaning lap tops and mobile go dead during calls is a continual complaint and major frustration. I read it so often that I have almost become immune to it.

My first weekend in Uganda really made me conscious of how much electricity outages can impact businesses here. Friday morning I woke no no electricity in my bnb, meaning I had to go to a conference where I was presenting without blow drying or straightening my hair. A girl problem but I started to think about anyone running a hairdressing business would also have been affected.

Saturday evening I was having my nails done and the electricity went out. An hour long chore turned into 2 hours as the electronic filers were not working. In this case I started to think about productivity in Ugandan businesses, whilst having manual filing was option the production time was significantly increased yet for the same money.

Finally that evening I went back to watch the football with my 'Ugandan hosts who run a bar restaurant long with the bnb. The electricity went out and within ten minutes the bar had cleared. I started to think about the significant loss of profits that August would have experienced because of the electricity. I asked about generators and he said they were to expensive even taking into consideration his loses that evening.

With electricity supply being a rare problem for us back in the UK I was surprised at the acceptance local people had to this. I guess if it is a regular occurrence you become phased by this. I really hope that with Grow Movement addressing the business skills for Ugandans that the electricity issues will also be resolved.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Exhilarating and affordable ways to travel cheaply in #Uganda and #Rwanda

CEO Claire Jenkins on Moto
Rwanda and Uganda are two very different neighbouring countries. Rwanda is often described as 'Africa lite' or not the 'true Africa' by ex pats used to a lack of rules from working on this continent of 54 countries. When it comes to modes of transport this is certainly true.
Claire Jenkins and Grace Akullo on moto in Uganda
Being used to getting the tube to work in London travelling by motorbike everyday certainly wakes you up. The adrenaline pumps much more so than a 30 minute trip on the jubilee line reading  the 'Metro' newspaper and struggling to get out of the armpits of other passengers.  Travelling by local taxi driven motorbikes keeps our organisational costs down as well as supporting local businesses. Rides vary by distance and cost anything from 50p to £2 for rides of 20 mins.

Violet in Moto
In Rwanda these are known as motos and are regulated heavily by the government. Each driver must carry a spare helmet for their passenger, only one person can be carried at a time and ladies are not permitted to sit side saddle.
Violet negotiating prices
In Uganda all the rules are out of the window, no helmets for anyone and pack as many as possible on the back though to save dignity ladies are allowed to sit side saddle, whilst great when you are in a dress not so great when going around corners carrying a lap top bag unbalanced. 
Being a bit of adrenaline junkie cruising round without a helmet certainly has an exhilarating effect, though I do prefer the safer option of 'Africa lite'.

Just a simple example of how two country neighbours are very different. 

Violet and Eric in Rwanda 

Monday, 25 November 2013

#Airbnb making #charity travel more affordable

Being cost efficient is a key value that Grow Movement operates to. After flight costs our biggest expense is hotel bills, even staying in the most affordable accommodation from the Lonely Planet guide book, as well as often being dull and uninspiring for a stay beyond a night or two.

In Kigali, Rwanda there is a particular problem with affordable hotels and bnbs. Preparing for 5 weeks away I wanted another solution to bland hotel stays. Airbnb was my answer! I stayed with an American couple; one who worked all over Africa shooting videos for NGOs and the husband who worked as a consultant.

Having another perspective on a country from people who live there as  well as my team was fascinating. Being able to chat around the challenges, benefits and pitfalls of operating NGOs  in Africa, gaining their expertise and insight very much enhanced my experience of Rwanda and gave me real food for thought on how we should manage Grow Movement in the future.

In Kampala, Uganda, I moved to stay with a Ugandan couple and their daughter near to Kampala International University. Great place! It took me to a part of time I would not usually visit, putting me right in the middle of late night street food markets, DVD sellers and street side chicken bbqs. Chatting about Kampala, the electricity challenges, business limitations and school fees all helps with mu understanding of how Kampala works.

Airbnb helps provide alternative experiences to hotels, offers a lower tiered costing for more price sensitive travel and offers a greater and/ or different  insight into communities in which we work, really recommend it to other folk travelling overseas whether for business, charity work or holidays.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Party party! Celebrating #volunteer, #entrepreneurs and #Skype in #Rwanda!

Violet, Rwanda manager
Grow Movement certainly knows how to through a party! Last week I asked the Grow team how long we had been operating in Rwanda for?

'Almost a year! We started during Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2012'

Focusing hard on recruiting entrepreneurs and hitting our performance targets  we had forgotten to mark our achievements. Pausing the world,  celebrating, and  having the chance to say thank you to all of those who have made us a success is so important for our team motivation and what a great way to welcome our two new team members, Josiane and Eric.

Grow entrpreneurs
After 1 year of operation with just Violet working part time in Rwanda we have worked with 38 entrepreneurs, completed 13 impact assessments, and are working with a further 45 clients. From this we have created 64 jobs, improved the business skills of each person we have worked with and improved profits on average by 40%. All achievable by the power of not just the Grow team and our volunteers but also through the power of technology, Skype.

Andreas from Educat and Kelsey from SURF our local Partners
What a great reason for a party!  Between the Rwanda Grow team of Eric, Josiane and Violet, the local corner shop and bakery we pulled of an awesome party in just 3 days for 40 people.

Over 30 clients came, we had 2 local volunteer consultants and one from the UK who happened to be in town as well as 2 partners Educat and SURF. Hearing great reports from our clients on their Grow Movement consultant was immensely motivating and inspiring . Emmanuel who is setting up a secondary school in the Eastern province of Rwanda  spoke about his British consultant Graham who has been assisting him
with his business plans and helping him source additional funding after his existing loan fell through.
Herman a Rwandan volunteer and Mark a new British volunteer

Really looking forward to the next party in Rwanda during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014. You're all invited!

Friday, 22 November 2013

#War, #genocide and #poverty or the Switzerland of# Africa? Would the real #Rwanda please stand up

Google ‘Rwanda’ and you have a wealth of knowledge on genocide, HIV programmes and gender based violence so you could be excused for thinking I’m writing this from a bunker fearing for my life as a female eating ration packs. As I speed around the city of a thousand hills on the back of a ‘moto’ (taxi driven motorbikes) I think wow what a beautiful place, tarmacked roads, well maintained buildings and immaculate gardens, roundabouts and pavements but where is the google impression? It would be amazing if more folk had the chance to experience Rwanda as it is today, though it is such an amazing place I think I want to keep it a secret.
 Beyond the surface beauty there is a thriving entrepreneurship scene that is evidence of the resilience, drive and strength of this small nation. It has been Global Entrepreneurship Week where Kigali has been buzzing. The city has been full of events celebrating existing entrepreneurs, small businesses and providing opportunities for innovators, investors, NGOs, and business people to share and learn.

I had the opportunity to be a judge on our partner ‘Educats’ business plan competition. After 5 days intensive training 9 entrepreneurs competed for a £4K investment and a KLM plane ticket. Between 6 judges ranging from a mix of Mzungos, local entrepreneurs and bankers we had to choose 3 finalists. A serious challenge to select between a smoothie company, a bread manufacturers, a chicken farmer, a sausage maker and designers. Do you choose the best pitcher, the idea with most scalability or someone who could inspire a generation of Rwandans?

I am pleased to say that Herve, a Grow Movement entrepreneur won the competition. He is a sausage manufacturer and pig farmer selling to supermarkets, hotels and local people. His pitch did not have the greatest clarity but he really impressed us with his knowledge and passion for his business during the Q&A session. Herve is a true entrepreneur with drive and natural charisma. I am proud that Grow Movement and his volunteer consultant Rick in the USA played a part in his success.

The talent, energy and breadth of ideas coming from these young entrepreneurs I wish we could showcase and inspire other people with. I hope  that next year the work that Grow Movement does can help put entrepreneurship in Rwanda at the top of google listings and help to drive out these negative assoications, just one Skype consultancy call at a time.