Hello everybody from sunny Lusaka! So Team Zambia have been in the country for 5 weeks now so there will be an awful lot to catch up on.
After numerous messages on Facebook back and forth we all met up at Heathrow airport on Friday 3rd October. We boarded the overnight plane, and to Jo’s delight we had personal screens with an array of films to choose from. Following a brief stop in Addis Ababa and a small panic that our flight had mysteriously vanished from the departures, we boarded the plane to our final destination: Lusaka. Dreary eyed we were automatically hit by the heat and the friendliness of the Zambians where even the security guards greeted us with beaming smiles – we have noticed this is very common here, everyone wants to smile at strangers just to be friendly, in particular at all of the Muzungus (foreigners). We arrived at the lodges on Saturday afternoon and were greeted by Cris Muyunda, our country manager (he has a picture of him meeting Barack O’Bama on his CV – he is kind of a big deal). It was really welcoming and surprising he recognised each of us, and not only could tell us all of our names but a snippet of information about us as well! We all had really nice rooms, double bed, bathrooms and the mosquito net we have to put over our beds make us feel like Princes and Princesses! …Apart from one night where Will woke up with his mosquito net on top of him and having a hilarious struggle to find his way out.
Cris took the team out for a meal where we got to know each other better. He then took us to a ‘traditional’ Zambian bar for a small taste of the culture, things we learnt consisted of: Zambians have the ability to move their limbs in isolation and with much more rhythm than us English folk could dream to have; and they genuinely enjoy dancing to themselves infront of the mirror.
Here is a brief background to Zambia that we learnt during the training:
Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa and is a middle income country, having recently moved up from third world status. The SMEs over here would be considered as ‘minute’ businesses over in the UK.
They are currently in their fourth administration with their fifth president.
24th October 1964 – Independence established – Kenneth Kaunda (president).
1991-2001 – Privatisation era. First time as a multi-party state. FDI peaked – especially in the mining sector as it is number one export for Zambia. President Fredrick Titus Chiluba.
2001-2008 – Strict administration which focused on bringing the rule of law and eradicating corruption. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa – cut short due to President’s death.
2008 – 2011 – From same administration as Mwanawasa so largely followed the same policies – lowered production costs and prices of commodities, improved overall welfare. President Rupiah Banda.
2011 – 2014 – ‘Pro poor’ focused on the needs of the struggling communities and put in place a minimum wage. President Michael Sata. Very interesting time period for us to be here as President Sata died last week on 28/10/2014. We are currently in an official state of mourning where all national TV and radio channels are focused on mourning and play gospel songs. Guy Scott, Vice President, is the current acting President for 90 days until a new President is elected. The state funeral will be next week 11/11/2014.
Training started and we met the other half of Team Zambian who all seemed timid initially but very friendly. We spent the week doing workshops in the major areas we will be tackling in our placements: Management Consultancy theory, Finance, Health, Security, and Marketing.
All of us will be going into the agriculture sector with a focus on food processing. This contributes to 22% of the GDP but employs directly and indirectly around 80% of the working population which demonstrates some clear inefficiencies and room for development – those of which we will trying to improve at ground level with the SMEs.
Sylva food solutions – Food processing, mainly dried product – Euan and Abraham
Farmers junction – supplies inputs to farming and is hoping to expand into an agency – Will and Cynthia
Pumuna ltd – fruit juices (squashes) – Steph and Vivian
Ronipan – chutneys and peanut butter – Ellinor and Chris
Gilmarth – peanut butter and dried vegetables and fruit – Chigz and Anne
Lyben – Marmalades and jams – Jo and Florence
Mumpu – Mango fruit juice and selling plants. Worked with Greenpatch. Off season mangoes is their USP. – Rudo and John Paul
We also went to the Zambian volunteers’ hostel, Golden Days, for a salsa night there at their bar with four teachers, they also taught us Kazomba (excuse the spelling) which is traditionally from Angola and more of a slow dance. It was really funny to watch everyone attempt the moves!
Settling into our jobs and getting to grips with our SME’s. We all discovered most of them, if not all, are significantly different to what was stated on the diagnostics we were given, or a lot has changed since they filled them out. Therefore the second week was spent largely conducting interviews with the employees to work out the current situation with the companies and in what way they want us to help, and what exactly we are capable of to assist with their development. This was interesting as for most of us it has been our first experience with Management consulting and working with such small businesses. They all have a lot of potential but not necessarily the skills or resources to be successful on the market and that is something that we will be addressing over the next 9 weeks. It is a lot of responsibility but we all found it very eye opening and exciting.
Hard work starts here! After compiling the majority of the information we can with employees and brain storming the measures we can use to work with them, this week was about putting those wheels in motion. For the majority of the SME’s what the pairs will be doing will be making a business, marketing and financial plan as they have many ideas but have nothing in concrete written down. As well as creating a clear direction for the companies for the immediate and future plans, the business plans could potentially be the key to them receiving some external investment and we hope it will be something they can present to banks or investors to show they are a serious business with serious potential.
Continuing with the progress we have made with each of the businesses; for the most part it is building a business plan for them and helping them to revamp their brand so we can either get the product on the market or get better exposure and brand recognition for existing products. Chigozie, Anne, Steph, Vivian, Ellinor and Chris have been lucky enough to be invited by their companies to attend different conferences regarding SME development which was a rewarding experience to learn so much from the talks, and especially to meet other business entrepreneurs in Zambia. Went to Kafue for the Safari at the weekend.
Had to renew our visas which was a bit of a hassle on Monday but then we sat in Intercontinental Hotel for a coffee and to do some work with wifi as Internet is still an issue but hopefully it is being resolved this week. On Thursday we are going to a bar to meet with Barbara and her husband who are over working with Agbit (Agricultural Business Incubation Trust) and who we met in the Edinburgh training weekend. This week consists of building the plans furthers and working towards the mid-term review.
Funny mishaps from the team:
- When Kirsty told all of us at training to bring big dollar notes as they don’t like the small notes, Steph somehow heard the opposite and raided Thomas cook of all the one dollar notes and consequently received 5.5 kwacha to the dollar compared to 6.5 for the rest!
- Jo bought insect repellent from the supermarket. After a week of dousing herself in it every day and night, she reread the bottle and discovered it was infact industrial strength insect killerKILLER. When she had read ‘for insects’ she had taken it as protectant against them, unfortunately there was a clear warning ‘harmful to human skin’ right next to that part. The highlight of the story is that this insect repellent was called DOOM.
Facts about Zambia you may not know:
- They are landlocked by Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Angola, Namibia, and Malawi.
- They have 72 languages, with 7 being officially recognised.
- Their hospital, University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, is the biggest hospital in Southern Africa.
- Their termite hills can grow to the size of a cottage.
- Their national anthem was composed by Enoch Siantonga, a South African composer, who also composed the South African national anthem, and so the two are quite similar.
- On their flag, red represents the struggle for freedom, black, the people of Zambia, orange the country’s mineral wealth and green the wildlife and environment. The eagle in flight symbolizes the freedom in Zambia and the ability to rise above national problems.