May 19, 2017
I've been back in Uganda for a little over a week. It's is harvest and also the cooler time of the year. For those of us from Northern climates, we would consider it the middle of the summer. The equator is only an hour drive south of the capital, so even cold days here are warm and balmy. StartupBoat pays for my housing through AirBnB; I am housed at a bed & breakfast just outside the business part of town. A cafe is attached with high-speed wifi, so I usually start my mornings and end my days there. Kampala is called "The City with Seven Hills," so from the terrace I can see different part of the city, sprawling lazily over the rolling hills. Monkeys are often heard chattering in the trees overhead, but I have yet to see them.
I shall take the time now to explain what I am doing in Uganda, while my mission is still on aid and support, the focus has altered. I am the managerial director for StartupBoat, East Africa. I had initially began with the group as the innovation scout for Uganda, but it did not take long before my title was changed. The title has changed, but my mission-goal is still the same. The only difference is that Kenya, Rawanada, Congo, Tanzania, and Burundi are in my jurisdictions. So what is StartupBoat and how did I come to be working for them? StartupBoat is a foundation that develops sustainable responses to social challenges. We have partners that are willing to finance/partner with entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as mentor them as they develop their business plan.
Now this sounds like we are strictly a finance company trying to make a return for our partners. That is true to some degree. While we have an obligation to our partners, we also are trying to use their funds to move society forward; profits are not our goal here at Startup, but rather creating jobs in developing regions and progressing society forward as a whole.
One of our partners, GreenTec, has a project of making electricity available to rural areas in Mali. This project utilizes shipping-containers that have the entire set up for solar-power. This is a sustainable energy source, as well as the proximity to the sun/equator amplifies the amount of sun-rays each unit can intake. This project will also create jobs locally for those installing as well as technicians for maintenence. In the bigger picture, more jobs will become available due to access to a sustainable energy source.
The first full week in Uganda saw me sitting behind my laptop, sending emails to every university in Uganda and any possible implementing partner. Fortunately, coffee culture is important as well. You will often find me sitting on a cafe, ordering coffee for the use of their wifi. Free wifi and cheap data are commodoties that have yet to fully integrate throughout the region, and often there will be hours in a day where the power-grid or data is non-existent. After 4 in the evening, my fingers and my mind have had enough, and I leave my computer for another day. While professional networking is pertinent to my job, I find social interaction one of my stronger abilities.
There is a theory that the more south one lives, the more open the person is as well. Northerners are often pressed by the elements and have a natural tendancy to shove their hands in their pockets and walk forward as fast as possible. Here, everyone acknowledges salutations and respond to a smile with a smile.
It is very easy to pick up a conversation with a random stranger; I find it impossible to avoid making friends here, and I am somewhat of an introvert. I happened across a Mexican restaurunt here, which was the one thing I missed during my tenure in Greece. I would dare-say that the Mexican cuisine is more authentic than most venues in Mid-West America.
You will find me here 2-3 evenings a week. Not necessarily for the dining, but rather the ambience and opportunity to meet new people One of the people I met is the director of "Afrika Arts Kollective." They work in the communities empowering and teaching skills by using glass and other items, turning them into art pieces and useful household items.
Another man I met works in tourism and takes people on safaris. We have a great opportunity to market safaries to people on a budget. Often people think of safaries and consider the $5-7000 cost way out of their pocket, that only the rich can afford it. If we can budget safaries between $1-2000, many more would be apt to consider. For a fraction of the cost we can improve the economy through tourism, by including younger adults; safaris do not have to be for the retired or rich.
Each day puts me into contact with more people; and as I search I find more conventions and conferences for innovators and entepreneurs. On the 26th-27th of June, I have the opportunity to speak at the Sahara Sparks conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This will be my first culture-hackerthon, with over 1000 attendees and 30 partners. I am excited to both begin this partnership with Sahara Sparks, as well as scouting for tomorrow's game changers.
Andrew R. Frania
Managerial Director, East Africa
Phone: (+256) 07876 11386