Vitalite, a social enterprise in Zambia, are trying to address environmental and health issues by providing alternatives to charcoal with clean tech.
Location: Lusaka, Zambia
Volunteers: Melissa Hamalambo, Emmanuel Muntanga, Helen Wright, Edward Lowe
This case study provides an example of the ideal Challenges Worldwide impact – an enterprise which is providing employment and training for a range of people, is having a social impact (in this case health and environmental) and is profitable – ensuring sustainability and growth options. This is then combined with an exceptional experience for the volunteers, resulting in employment for our ICVs and continued engagement with global issues for all volunteers.
Deforestation is a huge issue in Zambia, with over 250,000 hectares of forest cleared every year – a significant proportion of this to create charcoal for fuel. This is hardly surprising with only 26% of the population having access to electricity and frequent ‘brownouts’ resulting in no electricity for up to eight hours at a time. Charcoal provides the cheapest form of energy, but this has a devastating effect on the environment and people’s health.
Vitalite, a social enterprise in Zambia, are trying to address these issues by providing alternatives to charcoal – through efficient cook stoves, sustainable fuel, and solar solutions. In 2014 Vitalite impacted over 3,000 households and 15,000 people, this was before the introduction of their pay as you go system which has increased their reach even further and has huge potential. The largest company of this kind, M-KOPA in Kenya, has connected 400,000 homes to affordable solar power – demonstrating the huge potential of this kind of intervention.
Action at Home is the final step of the ICS programme. It requires volunteers to complete an activity that will allow them to transfer the skills learned on placement and benefit their home community. Here’s an account of Sangha’s Action at Home where she transferred her enterprise skills to raising awareness of food poverty in the UK.
What was the action and where did it take place?
I volunteered for a charity called FoodCycle and helped organise a Family Activity day in collaboration with St Mary’s church in Sheffield. The day started with a social meal. I collected surplus food from local supermarkets in the early morning which I then delivered to the kitchen and helped cook, along with other volunteers, a delicious three-course meal for anyone in the community who was hungry or lonely (including families with children). I also helped put out signs for the event in the morning and welcomed guests throughout the day. There were activities such as crafts and games organised in the church grounds in the afternoon.
How may people attended?
Did your Challenges Worldwide ICS experience inspire this action?
Have you done something like this before?
What did you learn during this project?
I learnt about food poverty and how it’s within our capacity to resolve it if we don’t waste so much food as a society. I also learnt that poverty is a reality for many people in my community and a space like this makes a significant difference in their lives.
Have you any future plans related to this project?
I will continue to help out during the social meals and Family Activity Days that FoodCycle leads and organises in my community as I am passionate about tackling preventable waste and eradicating poverty. I will also take a leading role in helping the charity advertise their events and make them more accessible to local residents.
How was your action Youth Led?
I took the initiative as a young volunteer to collect food, help with cooking and serving a nutritious meal for a large crowd, clean up afterwards as well as spread the word about FoodCycle and their events through posting signs and flyers out in the community.
How did your action Make a Connection?
My project covered three of the Global Goals: No poverty, No hunger, and Good health. There is poverty in my community which leads to hunger. Since ‘junk’ food is generally cheaper than their nutritious counterparts, this is what poor people eat more of, leading to poor health. By providing a nutritious meal to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it made a huge difference to their lives. Being marginalised leads to poor mental health as well which we helped counteract by giving people a chance to socialise and engage in activities with other people in their community.
How did your action Make a Change?
There was an opportunity for visitors and volunteers to make a donation on the day. This helped raise funds for future social meals and activity days that will continue to benefit the community. All the volunteer cooks were unemployed – the day provided us all with vital employability skills and practice in cooking and hospitality, project management and team work. Furthermore, the FoodCycle programme has gained media attention during a recent nation-wide campaign on curbing food waste within big businesses in the supply chain (‘Stop the Rot’). Even if this individual event may not have directly impacted upon public policy, events such as this, across the UK, collectively have the power to influence policy-making and the food recovery process.
How did your action Engage Others?
The space and time we created gave the local community, especially the poor and the marginalised, a place to go, to belong, to have fun and get involved. In addition, I got the chance to speak to members of my cooking team about ICS, Challenges Worldwide and my recent experience to help spread awareness about this fantastic opportunity. After the event, I spoke to friends and family about my work and experience at FoodCycle which made them aware of food poverty and the opportunities they have to make a difference where
Ghanian tech startup TinyDavid has created an exciting location mapping service that is revolutionising the market for African enterprises. With the Support of Challenges Worldwide TinyDavid are on a path to change the world.
Why are Challenges Worldwide working with TinyDavid?
Charity and NGOs both in the continent and across the world are indispensable combatants in the war waged against poverty in Africa. Their humanitarian efforts in fighting off disease pandemics, providing shelter, potable water, and other important relief services have continually been hailed. While most of them are persistent at first in providing as much aid as possible to selected communities, they can only do so much and would have to channel their resources elsewhere.
Sustainabilty and Scalability
This lack of continuity always begs the question of how scalable and sustainable these projects are in the long term. This inconsistency defines the incentive for the alternative approach of other pioneering NGOs. Challenges Worldwide believes that by supporting the development of fair and inclusive local economies we can help alleviate poverty and bring a lasting positive impact to communities in low- and middle-income countries by empowering emerging businesses to make them more sustainable and successful. Through the International Citizen Service (ICS), a UK Government funded development programme that brings together young people from the UK and developing countries to volunteer in disadvantaged communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Challenges Worldwide volunteers work together with micro and small-sized enterprises where they can have a direct positive impact through sharing their capabilities, skills, perspectives and experiences.
Whats in it for the volunteers?
It’s an enviable opportunity to develop professional skills to enhance the employability of volunteers over the long term and create a global cadre of future wealth creators who have a practical understanding of the vital role of economic development in reducing poverty. Having already influenced dozens of small businesses in Ghana, the programme seeks to increase its impact to further parts of the country. TinyDavid is one of the enterprises being supported by Challenges Worldwide.
For a technology based enterprise, TinyDavid is a particularly peculiar name. However, the story behind the name brings the company’s mission to life. The business’s motto ‘tiny solutions to big problems’ is clever mantra from the famous bible story of the encounter between the giant Philistine warrior Goliath who was defeated by a tiny teenage boy, David. This creativity, illustrated in the brand, amongst other such ingenuous and unique ways of thinking is what has allowed the business to overcome any challenge thrown its way, and flourish in the process of becoming a game-changer in the Ghanaian tech industry.
So what is TinyDavid?
In Ghana, it is no mystery that finding your way around can be a bit of a hurdle, especially if you’re new to an area or in worst cases a visitor from a different continent. Although the average Ghanaian is irrepressibly hospitable and beaming with friendly smiles willing to give a helping hand to lost people in the neighbourhood, he is poor at giving directions. Unfortunately, our goodwill often gets such people who have gone astray even further confused. People cannot necessarily be blamed however since houses rarely have numbers, and street names are near enough invisible. The usual practice is that well known locations such as businesses or schools are used for navigational purposes but are rarely reliable in poorly zoned areas. This is where TinyDavid and more importantly their app, SnooCode comes to salvage this menace of directional errors.
The SnooCode app founded by Sesinam Dagadu in 2011 produces a unique specified code which uses a combination of any of the 26 letters from the English alphabet and numbers to accurately generate a code which will pinpoint your location using GPS technology. You are then enabled to use this code to identify the distance, time expected for distance to be travelled and plot routes to your very exact location without the usual stress of asking your way around town.
The prospects of such an amazing app coded to be user friendly to every layman is just limitless. This multipurpose usefulness of SnooCode has already been exhibited as a potential ally to not only the individual but to benefit broader society.
Why is SnooCode so revolutionary?
In an epidemic situation for example, the ability to produce an accurate location for local authorities to use allows them to act swiftly and efficiently, reducing the risk of several damages occurring. In different areas across the capital where up to 160 emergency workers have been trained to use the app, its social impact already in these early stages of development is phenomenal. An application like this has the possibility to do wonderful things.
How will it help the people and enteprises of Ghana day to day?
Mr Dagadu has reiterated that pertinent avenues like ambulance services and food delivery services have very low efficiency rates in Ghana as compared to that of other advanced countries largely due to the inability to produce an address and know where on earth to deliver to. While such efficient addressing systems are popular industries in places like the UK, and provide employment for many (particularly the youth) they are still fledgling in Ghana. The system has the potential to benefit young people greatly, as the addition of work experience in any form has the ability to bolster your CV remarkably and make you more employable.
The vision of TinyDavid is to export this ideology to Ghana which can provide jobs for a developing country where unemployment is rife, and essentially bridge the gap of uneasiness of finding directions in the country. It is quite apparent that Mr Dagadu is on the verge of revolutionising both transport, address systems and service delivery in Ghana. With the correct guidance, support, investment and marketing in place, SnooCode along with TinyDavid can balloon in size especially in a country which is as consumed with cellular technological advances as Ghana is.
During the 12-week programme in which Jon and Kailian (the assigned volunteers), from the UK and Ghana respectively, have both undertaken rigorous Chartered Management Institute (CMI) training as Junior Business Associates. The pair has added a fresh insight to TinyDavid’s operations and offer recommendations based on the Challenges Worldwide Enterprise Support Framework, paired with their cross cultural perspectives which has proven invaluable to the business over the past weeks.
They have conducted analysis involving the financial performance of the business, as well as using other tools to segment the market, and get to the root of the business’s hitches. All whilst gathering enough data to profile the business to be able to recommend suitable changes. As well as the analysis conducted, Jon and Kailan have gone the extra mile of getting involved in the day-day activities of the business while using their previous experiences and acquired training to make relevant decisions to positively influence the business such as developing potential features for the app.
Continued support from Challenges Worldwide
However, the programme doesn’t just end there. Challenges Marketplace, an online platform linking businesses across Africa to investors across the globe has the capability to help TinyDavid reach its peak potential. TinyDavid will be able to report monthly and build up a portfolio of themselves, which they can then use to attract investment. The more information uploaded on Marketplace allows for more investors to trust the business, understand it’s purpose and their track record to judge whether investment will be a worthwhile venture. Making funding accessible to these businesses is a key part of the programme in its mission to achieve the ultimate goal of alleviation of poverty in Africa through enterprise empowerment and strengthening business ties. While the attraction of funding is purposefully a keynote for Marketplace, it also enhances networking and creates specialised contacts in relevant fields all geared towards achieving TinyDavid’s business goals whilst meeting Challenges Worlwide’s wider social targets.
As Challenges Worldwide volunteers, Jon and Kalian have both gained massive experience with this opportunity to work on a project such as SnooCode especially in the early stages where their help, and guidance have had a substantial impact.
Their input into SnooCode has been invaluable for TinyDavid, but the Challenges Worldwide’s work does not, and will not stop with the end of the 3-month volunteer placements. With an in-country business portfolio team as part of Challenges, TinyDavid has access to all the support it needs, and with other relevant opportunities available, TinyDavid could quite possibly become one of Challenges Worldwide’s biggest success stories.
Project OPTIMA has been setup by Challenges Worldwide volunteers working with Rainland Timber in Kitwe, Zambia.
OPTIMA stands for Organic Propagation Through Independent Micro-franchise Agents; we want to help our fuel efficient, clean cooking stoves organically propagate throughout Zambia by utilising a micro-franchising business model.
Deforestation is a critical issue in Zambia. Our solution, known as Project OPTIMA, has the potential to let Zambians overcome this environmental disaster and the first step to success is your help. What is project OPTIMA? Organic Propagation Through Independent Micro-Franchise Agents. In the developing world, micro-franchising business models have seen significant success. They empower the grassroots level of society to take ownership of providing commonly used goods to consumers everyday. We developed the idea of using this model from existing cases in Zambia, such as MTN and Airtel network providers, who have seen success selling mobile phone credit from the urban jungles to the deep rural bush. Even the government owned corporate giant ZESCO use a micro-franchise business model in Zambia.
Our aim is to select agents such as women’s groups to sell the stoves and wood fuel to their local community. For the pilot scheme we will create a micro-franchisee package for each agent, which will include:
IT MAY SOUND LIKE A LUDICROUSLY OBVIOUS STATEMENT… BUT AFRICA IS A SUNNY PLACE.
As I perform my daily morning ritual of spraying myself in copious amounts of suntan lotion (so as to prevent myself turning the shade of a lobster) I wonder why many African countries like Ghana are not littered with solar panels powering their houses, shops, and industrial buildings.
My preoccupation with thinking about solar power stems from the fact I’m working at Translight Solar, a Ghanaian company which works in this field. The figure below shows ‘solar horizontal irradiation’ – a fancy way of saying how much sun an area gets. Look at how little sun a place like Germany (which is a solar giant) receives compared to most African countries. Surely Ghana, along with many other African countries, should be in a prime position to fully harness all the sun it benefits from. Yet solar capacity is still at a relatively low rate – Ghana’s modest target of ensuring 10% of the energy mix is renewable by 2020 is unlikely to be met. All this begs the question…why in Ghana, alongside other African countries, is solar power far less ubiquitous than it could be?
On arrival in the country, we were advised that if you ever needed to make small-talk with a Ghanaian, you should mention ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana) to them. ECG, the nationalised energy company, is notorious for its rolling blackouts. The occurrence is so regular a phrase has been coined in their local language – ‘Dum-sor’ (off-on) – to describe them, and Ghanaians are well known for berating the organisation – just as the British are known to passionately moan about the weather.
The regular blackouts are one of the most striking things about moving to Ghana – reading a book before bed with just my head-torch for illumination has become a semi-regular occurrence. Yet whilst ECG’s performance seems bad now (at least relative to my experience of constant power in the UK), ECG was in fact far worse around a year ago, when blackouts of up to 24 hours were common.
When there is a crisis in the grid, alternatives become a lot more attractive, and the solar business boomed. But since the energy crisis has subdued, so too have solar installations. If there are such clear advantages to solar, what explains the slow-down in business? Does ECG need to get worse before solar can continue to grow?
Part of the problem is that solar energy is still seen by many as a luxury, not a necessity. Whilst the price of solar panels has plummeted in recent years, the cost of storing the energy still remains relatively high, so even though in the long run moving to solar is significantly cheaper, there is still a significant initial cost to be made. Western countries with strong solar take-up solve this issue either by subsidising the process (which the Ghanaian government seem unlikely to do), or ensure consumers have access to credit to finance the cost of installation themselves.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT IN AFRICA THEN?
This is where we arrive at one of the main issues… lack of finance. Because banks have not developed comprehensive credit history reporting systems to assess risk, consumers face eye-wateringly high interest rates and short repayment periods. Furthermore, a lack of finance doesn’t just affect consumers – it also affects businesses within the solar market. Without boring you by going into the economics of bank lending in many African countries, it is often more profitable for banks to lend to governments than to consumers… this leads to prohibitively high interest rates for SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) of between 20-45%.
THE SITUATION IS NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM, HOWEVER, THE FUTURE OF SOLAR APPEARS BRIGHT.
Companies such as Translight Solar are developing innovative products and payment systems to make solar systems much more affordable, enabling a far higher number of people to gain access to a clean, cheap and reliable source of energy. Ultimately solar energy should be viewed not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Having a more reliable source of energy will also boost productivity and ultimately economic growth, raising everyone’s standard of living. The only downside may be consigning the Ghanaian national hobby of complaining about ECG into a thing of the past.
“So what exactly will you be doing in Africa and what precisely does a team leader do?” These are questions that I have been asked many times before, during and after my placement. It’s also a question that I asked myself a lot before I boarded my flight to Lusaka, Zambia to be a team leader with Challenges Worldwide.
I knew I wanted to volunteer abroad whilst building leadership skills that would be useful to my learning and development as a consultant. After some intensive googling I came across Challenges Worldwide and thought it was a perfect match. Challenges Worldwide is a pioneering social enterprise that offers volunteers the opportunity to work with small to medium sized enterprises on 12 weeks placements. It was everything I was looking for in a volunteer placement; building upon my consultancy experience to lead a team to deliver sustainable changes. As I excitedly submitted my application little did I know the adventure I had just signed up to?
Being a team leader is both incredibly challenging and rewarding. One of the main challenges I faced was adapting my management and training style to the different personalities, experiences and cultures. This was especially true for delivering the weekly Chartered Management Institute (CMI) learning sessions. These sessions were an excellent opportunity for volunteers and team leaders to be trained to an internationally recognised standard on core consultancy skills. However, as a facilitator it was often challenging to cover the basic business fundamentals whilst keeping those with business experience still engaged. I learned to link the theory and tools with how I have used these in my job as a consultant. I also ensured that CMI classes were interactive through group discussions, activities and exercises that combined useful practical learning with vocational training
As much as we had many challenges, we also had many successes. One of my proudest moments was watching the Mid Programme Review (MPR) presentations. At the MPR presentations the teams present on their work to date in their enterprises, including their challenges, successes and findings. To add to the pressure they were presenting to a panel of industry experts including the Department for International Development (DFID) who would ask questions and provide feedback. As much has the team had prepared and practiced in advance everyone was nervous as presenting to a room of 50 isn’t an easy job, especially to a panel of experts! However there was no need for all the nerves as it was an excellent day and as a team leader it was an amazing opportunity to reflect on the progress and growth of the volunteers. To see how much they had learned and achieved over such a small period of time was incredibly rewarding.
Through my experience as a team leader I have enhanced and developed many skills that are hugely transferable to my job as a management consultant. Prior to this placement I would have called myself a good manager, but not a leader. However, the role as a team leader is essentially a free, intensive, three month leadership training course. It has taught me so much about leadership and the importance of developing and inspiring.
This experience has also being incredibly rewarding from a cross cultural experience. By living in a host family and having a Zambian counterpart it was an amazing opportunity to be fully immersed in the local cultural and ways of life. This has helped teach me the importance of cross cultural differences and truly highlighted the needs to be adaptable, flexible and understanding. Yes, every country has different cultural norms and approaches which can be daunting as well as frustrating – but these differences should be embraced and celebrated. This is an incredibly important skill in today’s interconnected global world.
I equally learned the importance of admitting when you don’t know the answer. As a team leader you generally do get bombarded with questions from bus routes, exchange rates, supply chain theory to even the chances of rain today (and I am most definitely not a weather woman!). To be a good team leader you don’t need to know everything – realistically we are still volunteers and we are learning as we go the same as the team. If you don’t know the answer – that is fine – you just need to work through the problems logically and ask for help when you need it. In a group of 42 there are always going to be other people that can help and support you and that you can learn from.
I still can’t quite believe that my three month placement is over. It has been one of the most challenging, frustrating, enlightening and rewarding things I have ever done. When I applied I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain real life leadership experience and enhance my CV whilst experiencing a different culture. Little did I realise how much I would truly learn and that it would spark new career interests. I plan to continue within consultancy, with much more of a focus on training and learning and development. In working with Challenges Worldwide, I’ve learned that leading and managing volunteers is hard work, but rewarding. I would recommend this programme to anyone wanting to explore their leadership potential while discovering the beauty and diversity of Africa.
Challenges Worldwide are pleased to announce the success of one of our Alumni, Abel Ofoe-Osabutey.
Abel has successfully started a Bamboo Eyewear Business in his home country of Ghana. The Kingzmen Gh was born out of Abel’s undying interest in his sister’s eye defect which she has lived with from childhood.
By age four, Abel’s little sister could hardly open her eyes and struggled to see in the high rays of the sunlight and was deemed to be partially blind. As a result, she had to leave her regular schooling due to her inability to cope with class activities and the negative attention she received for her eye condition.
Inspired by this, Abel Ofoe-Osabutey, was motivated to do something innovative to help support the movement to prevent blindness amongst people living in Ghana, Africa and across the world. In the backseat of a Business class at the University of Ghana Business School, he conceived the idea to start an Eyewear Business aimed at solving one of the leading causes of blindness in Ghana and across the world, Cataract. Joining this with his passion to cause change in Ghana through innovative ways of job creation and creating better living standards, The Kingzmen Bamboo Eyewear was conceived.
However Abel didn’t start this business right after conceiving the idea. He wanted some advice from a creative genius in order to know what direction to take his business.
Fortunately, he was paired with a design expert, Izzy Housley during his ICS volunteer period under the supervision of Challenges Worldwide. After bouncing off ideas between each other over the period, Abel set out to begin his entrepreneurial journey.
His vision for the Eco-friendly Sunglasses is to help prevent cataracts one pair of sunglasses at a time while creating sustainable jobs through continuous innovation and cutting edge designs and con- cepts.He also believes in the vast potential of the African continent and seeks to use his brand to inspire individuals to join in exploring and promoting the continent by thinking differently and acting differently.
We caught up with Abel to find out how the his Challenges Worldwide placement supported him to start his business.
CW:Hi Abel, Thank you for taking the time to speak to us about your exciting new venture, The Kingzmen GH. Would you be kind enough to share with our readers some of your inspirations and goals for developing your sunglasses range so that we may inspire more young people to follow their dreams?
AO: It is really great to hear from you and it is quite amazing that i get to have a feature with Challenges Worldwide. I hope I will be able to inspire a lot more young people out there.
CW: I understand your inspiration comes from your sisters eye condition. What was your reason for deciding to start an eyewear brand to help tackle this problem?
AO: My main inspiration for starting a business first of all was the reason that I have had a strong urge to be a business owner for a while. So in search of things I was pas- sionate about that I could transform into a business, I decided to focus on my sister’s eye defect and make a business aimed at helping to prevent people from suffering blindness. I did some research around it and discovered that one of the main causes of blindness in Ghana was Cataract and one of the ways to prevent it was by shielding your eyes from the sun. Hence a sunglasses business. Cataract usually occurs in older people in Ghana because they have exposed their eyes to the sun over a long period of time growing up. In my view, its always best to prevent it before it occurs by wearing sunglasses as often as possible.
CW: How did you come up with the design of the glasses?
AO: My challenges team mate, Izzy Housley was very helpful in that area. Whenever I come up with a concept in my mind I tell her about it and using her design expertise, she put together something. Generally, the designs have been inspired by popular sun- glasses we see people wear around just to ensure that they are trendy with our own special touch of difference.
CW: What are the reasons for using Bamboo?
AO:Bamboo was chosen as a result of its strength. In Ghana, it’s used as beams when building storey buildings as a result of its strength and durability. It’s also a plant that grows very quickly compared to wood hence making it a more sustainable eco-friendly source for us. The choice to use bamboo particular came to mind when I read the bam- boo bike story from Kumasi which inspired me to use bamboo for my designs. Its worth adding that, the business I worked with was a family oriented and one of the siblings in the family happened to be involved in a similar idea where she made glasses from wood and sold only to her friends. So seeing her designs also helped bring my bamboo concept into perspective.
CW: Do you think the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme helped you to be able to develop this business?
AO:Challenges was very instrumental in my success because if not for Challenges I may not have met Izzy and I may have been stuck or delayed at a point in my business. She has been quite helpful and am quite grateful for all the things she thought me with regards to design while we were on the programme. She introduced me to some email template platforms for communicating with customers and suppliers which have been quite helpful. Her insight of how to sell via social media in order to build a presence have also been useful in building our page. My knowledge in negotiations from CMI are also helping me to make some contact with retail outlets which seem positive to take on my product.
Finally, what are your long term goals for the business?
Our vision as a brand is to inspire focuses on cataract prevention, one eyewear at a time while creating sustainable jobs through continuous innovation and cutting edge designs and concepts. We also believe in the vast potential of the African continent and seek to inspire individuals to join us in exploring and promoting the African continent using its indigenous products.
Why did you choose to apply to Challenges Worldwide for your Saltire placement? What was it about ICS and Challenges which appealed to you?
I was looking to gain business skills in a challenging environment, away from the standard office type job. I was looking for something more adventurous, where my actions may have a greater impact than in a standard internship.
When you applied, what did you hope to gain from a Challenges Worldwide placement?
I was looking to gain early stage business experience in growing an SME. I wanted to gain exposure into how to build business plans, keep accounts, market and sell a product/service at grassroots level.
I was seeking to be in an environment that fostered an entrepreneurial spirit working and living with individuals of different cultural backgrounds but with a shared interest for sustainable development of social enterprises.
How did you find the pre-departure process, eg fundraising, training, preparations, and the support you received from Challenges and ICS throughout the pre-departure stage?
The pre-departure process was fairly straight forward. Challenges were helpful with vaccinations and there was plenty of support for the fundraising aspects. There was definetly a strong community with the UK mentors before we departed, this started with the two day briefing with CWW in Edinburgh and continued through groups in social media.
Can you summarise your placement and how you found living and working in another country and culture? What business did you work in, what was the host experience like, how did you find working with a national counterpart, and what did you learn from these aspects of the programme?
My placement was with Green Heat Ltd (www.greenheatinternational.com) who are biofuel specialists implementing onsite solutions to convert human and agricultural waste into sustainable sources of energy. I acted as a business and engineering consultant, exploring enterprise avenues in developing biogas and briquette production.
Working and living in a foreign non-western culture was extremely exciting. I was motivated throughout the entirety of my programme, largely due to my personnel interest in the companies work and the openness of the company directors Gabriel Okello and Vianney Tumwesige.
Working with a national counterpart had it’s pros and cons. It was a great opportunity to be immersed into their a local community but there were differences in work ethic and academic backgrounds. These difficulties were mostly overcome after the first two weeks by dividing tasks up and setting realistic targets. We went on to become a successful little unit.
What was your highlight of your placement?
1) Researching an alternative agro-waste kilning technique and developing a business proposal that would be pitched to the carbon Bureau of Uganda for a carbon trading scheme involving 8 of the largest flower farms in and around Kampala.
2) Visiting the final school a government funded initiative with Green Heat to install 10 fixed dome biogas latrine digesters. Please see the Seed Development Award video below:
What was your biggest challenge during your placement? How did you overcome this and what did you learn from this?
My biggest challenge at the early stages of the placement was ensuring a consistent communication link between myself, my counterpart Rachael and the company directors. I could see from other members on the programme they were completing excellent business/marketing/sales plans but were struggling with their host company to get the key messages across and implement such plans.
I dealt with any potential communication gaps by organising a weekly meeting with my counterpart and company directors every Friday afternoon to do the following:
To keep the meetings exciting and motivating we changed the venue most weeks and one of us organised a social event afterwards. Venues and activities included:
Macare University – with tour of research facilities
The garden of my homestay with meal and pool tournament afterwards
Kampala’s Rugby clubs – lively pork barbeques!
Shearaton Hotel – swimming pool
Chinease resturants – (Gabriel loved Chinese food from studying in Beijing)
These meeting and events created strong ties and were key to my continued working relationship with Green Heat upon returning to the UK.
Now that you’ve had time to reflect on your placement, what impact has it had on you and your personal development? Did the placement have an impact or benefit for your business, counterpart and /or host community?
A massive impact no doubt. Personally I gained the experience/confidence to start a business (Riverbank- see below). My counterpart, Rachael gained the marketing experience she was seeking. My host company have grown extensively now employing 40 members of staff full-time and winning numerous contracts including the following:
An extra 10 government funded latrine biogas digesters which have now been installed in Ugandan schools
Since graduating, I co-founded Riverbank, a creative communications business to improve the outreach of Engineering and Ecology based projects. Our first business proposal was presented by the CEO of Green Heat at the prize giving ceremony for the seed development award in Nairobi, Kenya. Riverbank have been working with Green Heat ever since to enhance the information outreach of their products and services.
Our site is not quite live but a a little more information can be found here:
When is does go live it shall be here:
Welcome, this is ICS Challenges Worldwide Ghana –Team Accra’s first communications blog post and we want to give you an insight into this unique programme. What do we do? I here you say. Build schools, pet endangered animals or teach English in the middle of some Himalayan village? Sorry, we don’t live up to your stereotypical gap yah activities like I say we’re unique. We empower people, create and implement ideas and most importantly we give people the tools to change their own lives. Pretty cool eh?
We thought you the reader were probably quite bored of reading the same blog post about how they got called Obroni (White Man) or just tried this exotic dish called Red Red. Oh, and those really annoying, eye wateringly beautiful Instagram photos….
Instead why don’t you just check out the types of business we work with and meet the people whose lives we’re changing (ourselves included).The Businesses from the small to the medium because we only work with Small to Medium Enterprises. Here’s the rest of the communications team to tell you about they’re businesses.
“SELADELS FOOD LIMITED is a medium enterprise located in Afienya comm. 25. Their main core business aim is to produce quality and healthy fish and meat locally to meet international standards. They have been operating for 14 years and currently has a staff population of 23. Seladels, have over the years built a great relationships between them and their customers and that has made them currently having a ready market for their products”
“I immediately liked her and I hope she felt the same way about us. After our chat about her enterprise, I was truly impressed by her motivation and forward thinking about her business…She graduated the University of Ghana in 2012 and since then she had worked in TV Africa for a few years before realising she wanted something different for her future. That’s why she decided to give it a go and start her own enterprise making drinks. Her flagship product is the popular Ghanian drink called Sobolo”
“When it comes to taste, undoubtedly Froyurt is one of the best yoghurts I’ve personally tasted, however the ladies have contacted Challenges Worldwide in hope to build brand presence and increase market share in Ghana. They one-day hope to compete with already established probiotic brands in Ghana such as Yomi and Goghurt and more importantly, to see Froyhurt sold in big malls such as Melcom and Shoprite. They believe starting with Challenges Worldwide is the right direction to begin achieving these goals!”
“Most of the production was completed in the back garden of the house, where the four smiley carpenters worked hard as a team. I tried my hardest to speak clearly and not eat my words when introducing myself. My counterpart assured me in confidence that they didn’t understand a word I said. Over the next 10 weeks I hope to give myself some self-taught ‘Scottish mumble’ rehab.”
“As my colleagues enjoyed a very exciting first week at work, myself and my counterpart Sam were first stood up on the day we were to begin work, something we both weren’t expecting … I was full of excitement to get started for J-Nissi Enterprise, a business which specialises in hand cut sugar coated ginger chips, and it had only been running for a year and has ‘space issues’ as the enterprise summary crudely put it.”
“M-JAP a small company with huge ambition, dreams of exportation and a revolutionary packaging solution. There’s a lot of potential here but also a lot of recommendations to be implemented but I don’t mind I like the challenge and its satisfying helping such a motivated and enthusiastic business.”
“The ICS programme has a strong set of values. To me the ICS programme stands out from all other aid and development programme. The key areas that make it unique is the use and focus on youth led change and the creation of global citizens through UK volunteers working in pairs with in-country volunteers. In the short time I have been in Accra, Ghana I have seen great bonds being created and cultures shared including both (Ghanaian and UK culture nights). The ICS programme stands for change through the sharing of knowledge and aims to be sustainable where the people supported are then able to support themselves and continue sharing the knowledge further and wider (compare this to giving someone money! A process of development still used by many governments and charitable organizations).”