Business activities surged from the month of June and into the month of July for my host organization. A contract with the Swedish government was signed by my CEO on behalf of the company on powering Zambian homes and institution with off-the-grid electricity (solar products), which is the core of our business. Also, another contract with a Dutch organization was signed to provide cooking solutions to Zambian families and discourage them from cutting down trees for cooking. These two projects took effect in July.

 

The challenge now is deploying motivated staff to carry out the project effectively.  In order to prepare the staff for the job ahead, some trainings were needed to increase their productivity and team spirit, which I implemented with a company consultant. We had a cultural workshop because the company, though relatively small, is multicultural with staff from five different countries. The idea was to understand our cultural differences and make positive use of the strength in our diversity to deliver effective services. Overall this was a good experience and was well-received and appreciated by the staff.  

Having spent four months now in Zambia, I have experienced the business culture of the people here and found out that, on the average, operations are slow and there is little urgency in doing things. Though there are few occasions where things run as expected, they are slower when compared to Europe and Nigeria. This includes the banking system, eateries, and government institutions. I am trying to change this among the staff of my host organization, by focusing on efficiency and effective time management culture in order to increase productivity.  Although it has been a challenge, I have seen gradual changes in the way they operate. The staff have realized that what is worth doing is worth doing well and also timely.

Just last week, I was part of the team that met with the Vice President of Zambia to discuss making Zambia more business friendly by ceasing to collect VAT on all solar and energy-efficient products. The clause on no VAT on solar and energy-efficient products has been in the government gazette of the Ministries of Finance and Energy, but has never been implemented. It has been a challenge to make our products more affordable to ordinary and poor Zambians with the added VAT. The meeting was extremely timely, as they are preparing next year’s budget. The Vice President has arranged for another meeting to include more stakeholders to look into our plight. I was privileged to have a direct meeting and shake hands with the second most-powerful person in Zambia.    

 I would like to end by reporting on our preparation for the Agricultural and Commercial show in Lusaka on August 2nd – 7th 2017. This event draws more than 200,000 people yearly. We hope to capture a larger audience for our products, as our target customers usually visit the show every year. Also, our business partners from Kenya and the Netherlands will be on the ground to co-brand and attend the show with us. This will be a good addition to the just concluded International Trade Fair in Ndola, Zambia, which we attended as an exhibiting company/organization.

 

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Sunday Shomide is a 2017 LDI Africa Fellow placed with Emerging Solutions in Zambia.

 

In the month of May, I have gained a greater understanding of the challenges facing the organization as compared to the previous month. As stated in my blog for the month of April, there is a need to focus on staff training to increase their productivity for the effective operations of the company. Therefore, I have planned to engage all staff in a training workshop every month, with various topics to address the issues at hand and make it more interactive.

This month, the topics were: MAKING A SUCCESS OF THE TEAM (for general staff) and BUILDING CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP: A STRATEGIC PERSPECTIVE (for the sales team). For every organization, teamwork is important to increasing staff efficiency. I engaged all staff in interactive sessions and exercises to learn about one another, with details on motivations, likes, dislikes, interests/hobbies, workplace challenges, and suggested solutions. There were also sessions on building the skills necessary for each team. The staff discussed at length, and it was an opportunity for them to learn more about themselves and their team members.  

The customer is king in business, and the way every customer is treated will determine his or her loyalty to the organization or product brands. The sales team shared their experiences concerning their customers, and we all gave our thoughts on how to build customers relationship and engage them profitably and sustainably.

 After the first two sessions of the workshop, I asked for feedback randomly to check if the impacts of the workshop on their professional roles/career were positive or negative. I am very glad to say that all staff sampled said they had enjoyed the training and would like it to continue, as they had learned many good and new things that had been previously lacking in the organization.  

Also in this month, I was privileged to be part of the company’s team to meet with the Bank of Zambia (Central Bank), in an attempt to address the issues surrounding VAT charge on company’s products. According to the law, the company should not be charged a VAT as they offer solar power and renewable energy, but customs still charge for these. As a result of this initial contact, meetings will be scheduled with the country’s Ministries of Finance, Energy, and Commerce. We expect a meeting to be arranged in the coming weeks. We hope justice will be achieved, and the VAT charge on our products removed.

The mutual respect and interactions between the staff and I have remained interesting and continue to improve day by day. The people have confidence in my skills in improving the operations of the organization for the better. 

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Sunday Shomide is a 2017 LDI Africa Fellow placed with Emerging Cooking Solutions in Zambia.

 

The month of May has generally been good with a lot of developments within Emerging Cooking Solutions. My task in the organization has been two-fold, enhancing customer repayment and solving challenges with information technology.

Emerging Cooking Solutions has given me the opportunity to learn a different dimension of the pay-as-you-go business. My previous experience was with a company that offered pay-as-you go products only to customers who pay via mobile money. The system was also based on the GSM network, which meant communication could be made with the device in real time. I am now working with a company whose product works opposite to the previous system relying on the input of a key code to activate the solar system.

The other dynamics to it is the addition of a cook stove and pellet subscription. This obviously provides a different dimension to repayment, and gives me the challenge of developing an efficient way of collecting and reconciling customer payments. My task has mainly been to monitor the repayment and activation processes of Emerging Cooking Solutions, with special emphasis on reconciling payments that are made into Emerging Cooking Solution’s bank account with activation on the Angaza platform.

The main challenge has been the separation of bulk deposits to match the respective individual activation made on the Angaza platform. The process so far has mainly been manual, with the matching of individual payment receipts issued out to customers to the activation made by ECS agents on Angaza. This has been very rigorous. What I have set out to do is provide a means of separating these payments from the activating agent’s end. This I have done by creating a Google sheet and other tools that allow them to break down the bulk payments into exactly what is represented on Angaza.

My other challenge has been to reduce the number of disabled accounts by a 20% margin. This is important to the health of the business, as a high default rate often impacts negatively on the image of the business. To solve this, I have been working with the sales team and engaged an intern to follow up with customers with calls and reminders to pay their loans. Customers that are not able to make payments over 120 days risk ECS repossessing their devices.

My next task has been to solve the problem of unstable Internet within Emerging Cooking Solutions. I have done a comparative analysis on what it will cost the company to try out a new Internet Service Provider without changing the existing service outright. What I have set out to do is try the new ISP with the existing one in use at the same time. This will eventually ensure the company gets the best Internet solution. 

My experience with Emerging Cooking Solutions has been very good. It has provided me with the opportunity to utilize my skills and develop new ones. My IT role has provided a learning platform for me to acquire skills in this area and at the same time helping to solve important issues within the company. I am continually learning new things especially from the company’s CEO and IT consultant. This has given me the opportunity to improve on my IT skills. I am looking forward to exciting times ahead with the company.

I hope to have contributed greatly to Emerging Cooking Solutions at the end of my fellowship program and stay on to take the company to greater heights. I am excited about the prospects for the company and its vision. The company has a unique preposition and has the ability to make a huge impact in its niche. Customers and investors are excited about our products. I strongly believe that with the expertise of LDI fellows the company will benefit immensely from a diverse range of experience and move to higher heights.

I believe this fellowship will be of great importance to anyone seeking to make an impact on the African continent. It provides a great learning experience and the opportunity for an individual to be part of a success story. Africa is the last frontier of untapped business potentials and many successful dimensions of business will evolve out of startups on the continent. Given the right skill and opportunity, businesses and individuals will ultimately achieve their goals. I would therefore encourage every well-meaning African in the diaspora or on the continent and/or persons desiring to change the face of businesses in Africa to be a part of the LDI fellowship program.

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Dominic Adongo is a 2017 LDI Africa Fellow placed with Emerging Cooking Solutions in Zambia.

 

I had mixed feelings on my arrival in April. I was happy I arrived in the country safely and was enthusiastic to join the team and contribute my expertise. However, I was anxious to see how the people would receive me, learn about their business culture, and how we would get along. Generally, I like exploring new cultures. I have lived with people from different nationalities and cultures, including fellow Africans in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Namibia, but was still interested in exploring Zambian culture. As I expected, I was received with open arms, and the contact person at my host organization had prepared the ground for me.

The company is small compared to my former company and undergoing a scaling-up process. The first challenge I had was to quickly understand the business operations of the company, its strengths and weaknesses, and how to strategize and assist in the restructuring process. Prior to my arrival, I did a desktop research about the company and got more information during the interview process from them. This gave me a background of what to expect. Assuming a Chief Operating Officer’s (COO) role, I knew I had to learn fast and hit the ground quickly. I found that most employees came to work late, especially the office staff, there where were no clear job descriptions for most staff, and departments had no managers. The CEO and Operations Manager lead most operations.

By the second week in my role, I took charge of HR and implemented standard office hours, meaning in at work 08:00hrs and out at 17:00hrs. Later on, I had to develop staff job descriptions under the guidance of the CEO, including KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for increased efficiency at work. It is good to know that my effort and strategy yielded results, as all staff now observe the set hours and their efficiency is building up gradually. The restructuring process is ongoing, and I expect things to improve more in the next few months. Hiring capable employees has been a problem in Zambia, according to my host organization’s management and my own observations. I am attempting to solve this challenge by implementing monthly trainings for the staff and helping the organization in the interview process to recruit capable team members.

In recent weeks, I was caught up between management and an employee in a contract re-negotiation problem and was asked to broker the deal. Management initially offered a better salary package than previously, but the employee insisted on a further increase. I took up the case to sharpen my negotiation skills, and after talks that lasted about two weeks, I was able to convince the employee and win her loyalty for the company. Both management and the employee were happy that my efforts yielded good results. I am very happy I was able to broker a deal.

In order to be successful in my current role at my host organization, I am aiming to improve my skills in effective communication, project management, negotiation, business development, and staff training. Effective communication is a very important management skill for a leader in order to make positive impacts on employees. This skill is also useful in training staff for efficient operations.

My experience so far has been good. I am learning new things every day and solving challenges as they present themselves. For people interested in participating in the LDI Africa fellowship program, I would advise them to keep an open mind to all challenges in order to be successful in their roles. They should also be able to assimilate new business/corporate cultures, as there will definitely be cultural differences. Above all, irrespective of age and years of experience, they should not miss any opportunity that comes their way to learn new things, as we all learn every day in order to grow. 

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Sunday Shomide is a 2017 LDI Africa Fellow with Emerging Cooking Solutions in Zambia.

  

I first arrived in Lusaka on the 8th of April 2017 to start my fellowship at Emerging Cooking Solutions. I had mixed feelings and some anxiety, which comes with visiting a new country. However, I had a warm reception from the team at Emerging Cooking Solutions. I took time to interact with everyone, and soon I was partaking in sales programs and activities related to the business. I really felt at home with the team and the new friends I made. The first week was mainly one of orientation and learning the company culture, demands, and expectations.

My next plan was to understand the business and the role I would be playing since this is critical to my success in the organization. I engaged various persons in different roles to understand what they did in the organization. I engaged the sales team individually to understand their challenges, achievements, and plans. They provided a great amount of input that gave me a good understanding of the business. It formed the basis of my discussions.

The main challenges were with making sales, repayments, sales support processes, and the systems support. The challenge with sales was finding the right group of customers to make sales to, as this directly affected the repayment ability. Some customers could not fulfill the pay-as-you-go terms, and the solar systems and stoves had to be repossessed, this therefore increased the disabled accounts rate of the company. The most critical challenge was to get customers to make payments on time. Since most of the customers did not have a regular source of income but relied on seasonal income, like proceeds from the sale of farm produce, the repayment rate is much affected. On the sales support front, there are some challenges with regard to assistance with information on agent network, mobile money, and bank payment, critical for improving sales.

What I set out to do to support the team was to form various support, report, and feedback channels to assist sales. Important among them was to encourage the engagement of buyer groups. I met with one group called Zazu, who provide a purchasing platform for farmers in Zambia. The conclusion of the meeting was that our sales team would engage their farmer groups and pitch our products to them. I encouraged the use of such buyer groups, as this will boost our sales. In solving the challenges related to disabled accounts, I instituted a reporting and feedback process from customers as to how they planned to finance their loans, and even if they were willing to continue with the use of the product. I got a lot of feedback useful for further decision-making.

The biggest takeaway from my engagement with the various teams was that the business was making many strides, and customers were generally happy with our products. The important issue is to have the right strategy and execution in order to make a greater impact. There needs to be continuous engagement with the various teams so they can in turn provide the right approach to customers. The team is very open-minded and receptive to change. I envision a team that will make a lot of impact in the pay-as-you-go solar systems and cook stove business. I believe Emerging Cooking Solutions is a great place for my LDI fellowship program.

Fellowship programs like the Landmark Development Initiative are very important to the development of businesses across the African continent, and I would encourage persons with diverse experiences in different fields to sign up for the program. The continued placement of skilled experts from varied fields will not only positively impacts the businesses where they are placed, but will be a testament of the important work of LDI across the African continent. I would highly recommend this to my network of Fin-tech professionals, as well as friends in other fields of study.

I view my fellowship program with Emerging Cooking Solutions as a great opportunity to acquire valuable skills in Financial Technology, and I am looking forward to a wonderful time.

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Dominic Adongo is a 2017 LDI Africa Fellow with Emerging Cooking Solutions in Zambia.

 

We are proud to welcome Leila Santos to the LDI Africa staff team as our new Chief of Staff.

 

Leila Santos is a development leader with over a decade of experience that spans social enterprise, media, and the hospitality industry. The organizations she has worked with include Active Minds, Enroll America, New York University Press, and The World Bank.
Leila served on the World Bank Capacity Building Project in Cape Verde, where she prepared, monitored, and evaluated civil works and consulting contracts for a highly successful multi-million dollar 10-year project in collaboration with the government of Cape Verde.
She most recently served on the development team of Active Minds, a Washington DC based, student-led mental health advocacy organization, where she helped plan their annual fundraising event, which raised over $80,000. She also contributed to the organization’s communications strategy and assisted with donor relations.
Prior to this role, she wrote and edited for the American Excursionist, a travel startup based out of Miami FL. Leila was based in the NY office where she help provide content for the company’s PR and customer engagement campaigns. Leila Santos is currently focusing on applying her diverse experience to support the development and communications work of nonprofits in the U.S with international focus. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in Foreign Affairs and Economics. Leila is a native of Cape Verde Islands with a passion for travel, food, culture, and the arts.

Gbenga Ogunjimi came to U.S. as part of a State Department sponsored fellowship in 2011. He has in the subsequent years distinguished himself as a thought leader in the field of emerging markets and built two dynamic social ventures - LDI Africa and GO Global INC. LDI Africa has engaged 500+ leaders from U.S. corporations such as IBM, Yahoo and Deloitte in direct service in over 10 African countries. Through GO Global INC., Gbenga started the Tell Your Story Series hosted in collaboration with The Foundation Center, Impact Hub and local financial institutions. In these professional development workshops corporate executives from across the U.S. are given the tools to establish their personal brand through storytelling.

He is looking for a Chief of Staff Fellow to partner with him to amplify the impact of these two social enterprises. The Fellow will work directly with Gbenga, taking on many responsibilities within these two organizations as well as assisting with Gbenga’s public speaking engagements and writing.

PROJECTS:
Together, you and Gbenga will partner on leading and executing:

GO Global INC: The personal brand for Gbenga Ogunjimi with portfolios that include:

  • GO Investing, an impact fund that provides seed capital for early-stage entrepreneurs based in the Washington DC metro area.
  • GO Speaks, through its Tell Your Story series runs storytelling workshops across the country.
  • GO Coaching providing integrated life coaching program for businesses and executives in brand identity transitions.

LDI Africa: A social enterprise matching global talent with local opportunities in Africa. LDI Africa having established its presence in the international volunteer service space is now deepening its local impact in the United States. To this end we launching two major US based programs in 2017:

  • Public Service Accelerator- a leadership pipeline to bridge the gap of talent of African diaspora professionals in the US public service institutions.
  • African Immigrant Center – to support newly arrived African immigrants in the DC metro area with the resources for self-sufficiency and cultural sensitive transition.

Thought Leadership: Gbenga is a writer and contributor to the Huffington Post and regular conference speaker. You will help his communication strategy and help him share his ideas with the world related with purpose-driven work, emerging markets, smart philanthropy and transformational leadership.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Goals: Facilitate goal-setting processes for Gbenga to set and prioritize goals spanning GO Global Inc, LDI Africa and other endeavors. 
  • Information: Synthesizing information from Gbenga’s inbox, tasks, and meetings into executive summaries to prioritize and action the most leveraged items.
  • Actionable Research: researching topics ranging from finding contractors and advisors to understanding new methods of effectiveness, as well as completing research, such as minor due diligence and market research
  • Content: Write and edit for social media, long form, emails, and any other writing needs, as well as implement an effective, cost-efficient video production process.
  • Time Management: research and implement best practices on time management and leadership from thought and industry leaders

REQUIREMENTS

  • Strong social enterprise interest or experience
  • Based in the Washington DC Metro area with the ability to travel to offices in Downtown DC and Anacostia 2-3 days/week.
  • Extremely good communication and people skills
  • Organized, strategic and detail-oriented
  • Excellent understanding of the big picture, ability to extract the most important information
  • Familiarity with collaborative tools such as Social Media, Google Drive and SquareSpace

DURATION

Fellow must commit to 6 months of direct service LDI Africa and GO Global INC. Fellow will be expected to work 20-25 hours per week including staffing events.

BENEFITS & COMPENSATION

  • Fellow would receive small stipend.
  • Transportation costs will be covered.
  • You will also have the option to enroll in GO Coaching program for the entire fellowship. GO Advance Coaching program is valued at $6,000.
  • Opportunity to be coached by Gbenga and experience the growth curve of two innovative social enterprises.

TO APPLY

Email your resume and a cover letter stating why you believe you will be a right fit for this position. Email application to apply.us@ldiafrica.org . Application deadline is May 1, 2017

TALENT AFRICA SERIES

October 26, 2016

Washington, DC

Mon, October 14, 2016 at 6 pm

 

Once again, LDI Africa is pleased to host our Talent Africa Series.  This free series discusses how professionals in the U.S. can connect with volunteer-service and employment opportunities in Africa.  Our theme this year is “Matching Opportunity to Talent”.  We will highlight the opportunity provided by our Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program along with opportunities with Africa-focused fellowships at other organizations.  The two organizations that will be joining us in the Talent Africa Series this year are the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship and Global Health Corps.  The event will be held in Washington, DC at the Shaw DC Public Library, near Howard University.  You can RSVP and get your free ticket to participate at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/talent-africa-series-tickets-28866470390?aff=es2

 

Applications Now Open

LDI Africa’s Global Fellowship Program
Deadline: November 30, 2016
http://www.ldiafrica.org

 

We are pleased to open applications for the LDI Africa Spring 2017 Global  Fellowship Program!

LDI Africa is seeking dynamic leaders for our prestigious fellowships. These fellowship programs connect professionals from around the world to Africa, and African business leaders to the United States. Applications are now open for our Spring 2017 Fellowship:

Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program connects global professionals to serve Africa’s best profit and nonprofit organizations. Fellows serve organizations such as One Acre Fund in Malawi, Startup Your Life in Morocco, and Generational Enterprise in Nigeria. During this yearlong program while making a difference on the continent, Fellows receive travel assistance, medical insurance and a paid work-placement opportunity. This program is ideal for a global professional seeking on the ground experience in an emerging market, particularly Africa.


To Apply:  Qualified candidates should APPLY on our website. For more details about eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit ApplyLDIAfrica2017. To make further inquiries about the fellowship, please email apply@ldiafrica.org.

    2016 Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program 

    LDI Africa is an award winning social enterprise that connects African organizations, entrepreneurs and professionals to the global marketplace using the expertise of skilled volunteers. 

    We need your help to identify rising business and social enterprise leaders to apply for the fellowship positions at LDI Africa particularly the opportunities listed below. Fellows will have the unique opportunity to work with Africa’s best investment funds and position emerging businesses towards the path of sustainable growth. You can help either through word of mouth, social media, or email communication. 

    Interested candidates should send cover letter and resume to john-ubong@ldiafrica.org with the interested position in the subject line of the email by May 30, 2016.  Earlier submissions will be given priority.  

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    Esoko
    Location: Nairobi, Kenya

    Esoko is an information and communication service for agricultural markets in Africa. Through partnerships with businesses, governments and NGOs provide advice to farmers (in the form of market prices, weather forecasts, and growing tips) to help them increase yields and profits.

    Description: Fellows will serve at Esoko as Commerce Solutions Lead, and Director of International Sales and Marketing.

    Commerce Solutions Lead: We are looking for someone with extensive experience managing complex projects in the design, development and deployment of mobile applications, especially digital financial services and/or m-commerce

    Director of International Sales & Marketing: We are looking for someone who is equally strong on strategy and process, understands what agri-businesses need, and is passionate about the opportunity to work in a private sector tech company with huge potential for increased social impact and scale.

     

    BURN Manufacturing Co. Location: Nairobi, Kenya  

    Description: Fellow will serve at BURN Manufacturing as Visual Designer. BURN designs, manufactures, and distributes aspirational fuel-efficient cooking products that save lives and forests in the developing world.  BURN has revolutionized the global cookstove sector by proving the business case for selling high quality, locally manufactured, and unsubsidized cookstoves.   We are looking for an extraordinary Visual Designer to create and produce print, digital, and media content to further the BURN mission. 

     

    Emerging Cooking Solutions. Location: Lusaka, Zambia

    Description: Fellow will serve at Emerging Cooking Solutions as Financial Controller. Emerging Cooking Solutions Zambia Limited is a Zambian/Swedish joint venture, introducing clean burning modern cook-stoves and renewable cooking fuel pellets made from waste biomass. The pellets, stoves and heating/power solutions are branded as “SupaMoto® Energy”.  We are looking for a Financial Controller who is able to coach our finance admin/team, improving existing systems and prepare the company for rapid growth. Another critical competency is the ability to advise our management team on strategic issues and be involved in developing existing and new business areas.

     

    Accion Microfinance Bank Limited. Location: Lagos, Nigeria

    Description: Fellow will serve at Accion Microfinance Bank Limited as Human Resource Information Systems Manager (HRIS). Accion Microfinance Bank Limited is one of the largest microfinance banks in Nigeria with a capitalization of N1.7bn and total asset of N2.7bn as December 31, 2012. Its shareholders include three of the leading commercial banks in Nigeria: Citibank, Zenith Bank and Ecobank, as well as three global financial institutions: IFC, a member of the World Bank, SME Managers and ACCION Investments. We are seeking someone for our HRIS manager position to be responsible for managing and overseeing the Bank’s human resource information system. This role will require working closely with members of the Information Technology team to ensure that the HR data is captured accurately and integrity is maintained. 

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