LDI Africa 2017 Fellow Meets Vice President of Zambia

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.