On the ground
It’s official. I’m here, on the ground, in Kampala, and have been for 2 weeks. I’m enjoying the 25 degree heat and humidity– it’s like New Orleans in April all the time, although it (sometimes) cools down at night. A little.
And it’s “real” Africa. This is not South Africa or even Botswana. The power goes out all the time. The Internet is spotty at best. The hot water works randomly. Prices of things are all over the map– from the excellent cafe where I get $1US lunch to the $20US curries. Many, many things are used– at Owino Market you can buy goodwill clothes– the ones the hipsters didn’t buy (but probably wish they did) and nearly anything else.
Of some interest and enlightenment is the auto supply: In Japan, cars cannot operate past some small number of km on the odometer– like 80-100,000, which is a huge boon to developing countries– they are imported en masse such that nearly all “new” cars here are Japanese “used” cars, well taken care of. Much of Uganda operates like this.
What I’m doing, in detail
Working with carbon finance to fund projects, NGOs, and entrepreneurs. An awful lot of what I’m focused on here is cookstoves. About half of the world’s population cooks on biomass cookstoves (wood, charcoal, crop residue, dung, anything that burns), often indoors, and typically on a three stone fire. This means a fire with three stones around it– you know how you chant “I hate rabbits” to get rid of the smoke blowing in your face? Imagine that 6-8 hours a day, often indoors (during the rainy season).
And imagine that, to do that, you have to walk 4 or more km to get your wood. Or buy a bunch of charcoal. You can’t afford to buy in bulk; you can barely afford to buy the food, and you have to choose between Matoke or Posho (Pap, mealie pap, basically a porridge of cornmeal) and charcoal.
It’s a rough situation. What I’m doing is working with NGOs and local entrepreneurs to finance the distribution of energy saving technologies– improved cookstoves, Solar LED lanterns (to replace kerosene) so far, but there are other things as well. The UN IPCCC estimates that 500Bn (!) tonnes of CO2 equivalent can be mitigated in the developing world– and each tonne has a significant impact on people’s day to day lives. One project that I’m working on will directly impact somewhere between 750,000 and 1mm people. This means even if we hit half our targets– it’s a Good Thing.
This woman will cook for these children, every day, with only farm income.
No one smiles, dances, laughs, or sings like Africans…
The work is exciting, interesting, and fascinating. I recently got back in touch with an old friend, who is looking for work (if you’re looking for an excellent, seasoned marketer and bizdev person who can do most other things, you wouldn’t go far wrong with him). He spoke recently on his blog about making sure that you pick up skills you can take with you. It hit me right away, because, although I’ve taken a complete shift, and could be making more money, the life and business experience that I’m gaining here is invaluable. I don’t know anyone from my class who’s using quite so much of the “MBA stuff” that I am… and I’m happy about it. Plus, I get to live in Uganda!
The laundry list of sklls I get to apply is:
- Operations strategy
- Product strategy
- Company strategy
- Marketing strategy
- Financial reporting
- Financial controls and management
- Financial planning
- Corporate strategy
The list goes on– and this is positioning me perfectly to execute the business that I’ve been working on for some time– and to do it in a better way. This is exciting stuff.
I started out setting up this blog as my “MBA journey”… and I’d intended to finish it when I got a job. As time goes on, however, I enjoy the work that I put into writing it– it’s helped me, at times, capture and concretise some of the thoughts that I’ve been having. It will focus more, in the future, on my analysis of what I’m doing rather than listing my travels and posting photos. You’re going to have to look me up on Facebook or Flickr or whatever to see what’s going on. Hopefully, some lessons can be learned– either that, or I’ll get dozens of comments demanding that I shut up!
Please, go right ahead.
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