Isn’t it time we started talking about prosperity not poverty in relation to Africa?
As Challenges Enterprise Portfolio Director, I was delighted to be invited to present and join a panel discussion as part of SCVO’s The Gathering 2017 in Glasgow last week to talk about how Challenges are showcasing innovation and tech for good. In our case the emphasis on prosperity and the leapfrogging opportunity that we believe technology can play in growing African economies such as Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda where I oversee a growing portfolio of SME’s.
The Gathering is the only event of its kind in Scotland. It’s a unique opportunity for people in the third sector to meet, connect and share ideas. It’s also a great way to form new partnerships and learn from a wide range of colleagues. Since 2014 it has attracted 38,148visitors, brought together 1,452 exhibitors and delivered 548 workshop events.
It was exciting to talk to a room of engaged people about the potential for the African SMEs and future leaders we support through our programming. Having spent the night before being bombarded with the lazy shock marketing techniques of unnamed NGOs asking for my money in relation to the famine in South Sudan, it was a perfect opportunity to challenge the common perceptions about Africa.
Since 1999, Challenges has taken an innovative approach to Enterprise development working in 40 countries around the world. This has lead to us now embracing technology fully across our enterprise and professional development work. Since 2014, we have been able to bring +300 SME into a cloud-based performance platform allowing enterprises to track and share KPIs to access trade and finance markets….
Enjoy the video! I start at 30 mins!
Watch this space for even more technology developments at Challenges and our markets but most importantly, sharing success stories.
Did you do anything similar to the CW ICS programme before you were 35?
Do you feel that it would have benefitted your career?
Yes most definitely! It would have shown future employers that I could work for a developing community supporting a good cause internationally and challenging myself voluntarily. It would have also enhanced my career by working in a different environment and culture where I had to adapt to the local people and use my knowledge and skills in a suitable way.
It would have been amazing to take away a rewarding experience that could add a unique and extra dimension to my career and personal growth.
What is your most recent position, with what organisation and which sector was this in?
I currently work as a ‘Technology Consulting Analyst’ for a Global Fortune 500 Professional Services company called Accenture. We work with businesses on large scale Technology and Transformation projects. During my time here I’ve worked on four different projects in a variety of industries which makes my job very exciting! I get the opportunity to do different roles and gain new experiences each time.
What was your first job?
My first ever job was at the age of 16 working part-time in a shoe shop. I absolutely loved it as I interacted with customers and learnt how to provide good customer service as well as stand on my feet all day. I then did two other part time jobs in retail whilst I studied and eventually trained as a Primary School Teacher. I worked with 7-9-year-olds for a few years and then challenged myself by embarking on a totally new career in Recruitment. I did this because I really wanted to learn about a new industry, expand my skills and knowledge. I dreamt of having a job in the city where I could combine my experience from teaching with something new.
Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
A variety of people including friends, family and anyone who had an interesting story. I would read magazines a lot whilst growing up and found inspiration from successful people, celebrities and famous people.
In the past few years, I met a variety of people in my professional and social life who collectively inspired me the most! They all bought something unique as individuals and fed my hunger to explore new experiences and follow my ambitions without them even realising it.
I wanted to be like them as all these people showed me that you can have a successful career or a change in career if you work hard and believe in yourself. You just have to have the right attitude and be passionate! Meeting them encouraged me to take risks and be confident because I was determined to gain further success improve my lifestyle and future job prospects.
Advice for Young People
What are the most important things to ensure your career continues to progress?
Network! It’s always about who you know, create connections everywhere you go and new opportunities will open up. Identify who the decision makers and key people are at work, people should always be aware of your presence and know what your skills and capabilities are. Building relationships at work is crucial as it will help you do your job better, give you recognition and when it comes to promotion you will have a network that can support you.
It is also important to network outside of work as you can learn so much through meeting new people who can help you with your career or the things you enjoy doing in your free time. Gain new experiences and have fun! You can grow your network by doing a hobby, participating in sports, volunteering or just socialising with friends. You will find that the more diverse your professional and social network is, the more inspired and confident you’ll become as a whole. You will have a wealth of knowledge and a broader understanding of the world which is advantageous.
Have confidence in aiming high and developing yourself constantly. Set some goals short term and long term, don’t be afraid to take risks. Attend training whether it’s online or in a classroom, read about your industry and keep up to date with the news and competitor activity. Join professional networks on social media and get involved in events or voluntary work, try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail! Failure teaches valid lessons you and helps you grow. You may not get to your desired ambitions straight away! So take it one step at a time and your hard work and persistence will pay off.
Ask questions at work – don’t be shy. People are always willing to help if you ask nicely and will support your curiosity and enthusiasm. Create opportunities to shadow colleagues that are more senior to you and mentor junior colleagues. This way you are learning and observing from those advanced in their career path and with junior colleagues, you can you apply what you have learnt and guide them on their journey.
What three things do you look for when hiring a young person?
Personality – Somebody who is confident, friendly and has a positive attitude
Hard working – A good work ethic, someone who is reliable and trustworthy
Enthusiasm – Having an appetite to learn and achieve, someone who is a self-starter that is adaptable to different activities and environments
What is the most difficult interview questions you’ve ever been asked? Hopefully, it’s none of these questions!
I usually do thorough interview preparation, research the company and industry beforehand. However, I’d advise you not to do too much of this as you want to sound natural in interviews and not like a robot reciting facts. Think of examples which show typical attributes that the interviewer is looking for in the job you are applying for e.g. problem solving, teamwork and leadership. Even if you can’t think of examples from you professional life, or if this is your first job then it’s perfectly fine to pick examples from your personal/academic life and talk about how you handled a certain situation, e.g. project work in university shows collaboration, participating in a sports demonstrates teamwork and competitiveness, baking cakes exhibits creativity and patience etc. You get the idea.
The more interviews you attend, the better you will become at them so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a job straight away, it’s good practice.
The only questions I have found difficult are those that may relate to a skill that I do not have experience in. So in this situation, I would answer how I could develop it if I got the job and show my willingness to learn. If you display enthusiasm and excitement in an area you wish to progress, this is often seen as a positive thing by the interviewer. Nobody is perfect as we all have strengths and weaknesses and everyone has an area to further develop in, so bare that in mind. You just need to have that inner desire and it will naturally radiate from you in the interview.
Some young people feel frustrated that they cannot get the job they are after or start a business and feel anxious about their future. What would you say to them?
Don’t give up, never lose hope. As frustrating as it can be, hang in there, otherwise, it will be a downhill spiral which will make you feel 10 times worse! This is where your network and networking comes in handy. Reach out to people, ask for their advice and speak to them about their experiences and how they became successful or got their first job. Enquire about any job opportunities that they can refer or if they know anyone hiring. Think about how you can make yourself stand out from other people looking for the same job as you, acquire extra-curricular skills and activities to put on your CV.
Until you get a job, undertake some voluntary work you are interested in, read about inspirational entrepreneurs and business people who have been in the same situation as you and find out how they bounced back. Do some training courses, write a really good CV and have it reviewed by a recruiter and friends. Search organisations and career advisors who can provide free guidance on obtaining a job. Attend job fairs and get involved in your university alumni as you may find people there who you can speak to and they might have good connections to employers. Invest in building a strong LinkedIn profile, as this is like your online CV and a place where most employers will check before calling you for an interview. It is also a great platform to apply for jobs, join professional groups and get tips on landing your dream job.
Good luck and if you feel anxious this is normal, just find a way of understanding and managing your anxiety and you will be fine.
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.
Whilst volunteering with Challenges Worldwide in Zambia earlier this year, I was placed on a project with in-country volunteer Emmanuel, a recent graduate. Beyond being a great personality to be around, he had this strong hunger to learn and improve despite having little previous experience in business, particularly in a consultancy role.
Over the course of three months, we worked together to improve his communication skills, presentation abilities and technical capabilities. His rate of improvement was fast, and the company we were working with were so impressed as to offer him a role at the end of our placement. Being able to impart some of my knowledge and skills to him, and watch this improvement, was the most pleasing element of my entire placement.
This mentoring benefitted both of us hugely
Emmanuel gained presentation, PowerPoint and Excel skills, whilst I improved my teaching skills through this process. Mentoring is something I had not had any experience with, and it tested my technical knowledge when passing this on to someone else. Emmanuel also offered a fresh perspective about how to tackle problems that I found enlightening. Coming from a different culture can have such a huge impact on your worldview.
Yet in the United Kingdom, there seems to be an adversity to seeking advice and mentoring from other businesses. Local to any business there are many individuals with decades of experience who can help new companies and their founders overcome the many problems across a range of functions such as finance, marketing and operations. It is hard for new firms to cover all of these areas.
Meanwhile, mentoring helps experienced professionals gather a new perspective from start-up businesses, and better helps them to see innovation in technology and strategy. It also gives a sense of wellbeing to pass on knowledge to the next generation, helping a local entrepreneur achieve his dreams by lending a supporting hand.
What can organisations do?
Large organisations can develop systemic programmes to ensure that mentoring support is provided in a sustainable away that leaves a lasting impact. For example, management consultancy Accenture’s ‘Skills to Succeed’ programme has had huge success in the mentoring field. By using its consultants’ skills to help others develop their coding, strategy and operational skills has developed and grown thousands of businesses. Over 1.2 million people have already been helped by the program since 2011.
The crucial difference between mentoring and other forms of help or aid for businesses is that it does not build a dependency. Instead, providing mentoring and developing skills gives the business themselves the opportunity to succeed, and therefore develops a sustainable impact. This is something which other forms of business aid, such as grants, have struggled to achieve.
By providing mentoring to young businesses, we can develop a more vibrant and competitive local and economy. replicating this model internationally can help to spur on international development in a meaningful way. Experienced employees should consider working with us through Challenges Worldwide to see how you can help promising SMEs in developing nations. Alternatively, if seeking to be a mentor or receive advice locally in the UK, head to mentorsme.com.
By all being involved in a business mentoring system, we can develop mutually beneficial relationships that help everyone fulfil their potential.