Impacting the sustainability of the cook stove industry in Zambia: LDI Africa Fellow Dominic Adongo

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.