Hello from Uganda!
After being home in the states for a wonderful Xmas and New Years, I am back in East Africa and just got back from a project in Uganda for the past 3 weeks. Given that I have spend the majority of my blogging on the trips I have been able to take, I think it would be nice to give you a tid bit on the work I have been doing since that is the primary reason I am here.
Most of the work I have been doing has been in the clean cooking sector. What is a clean cookstove you may ask? Well in many developing countries the primary method of cooking is through an open fire or “3 stone fire” which often occurs in the home. Because of the lack of ventilation in many of these home, the smoke is highly toxic and cooking very inefficient. While clean cookstoves or improved stoves have been around for a few years, it has not been until recently that there has been a large push globally for their adoption. I have been working with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a UN sponsored initiative, to improve the adoption of clean cookstoves to reach 100 million households by 2020. This is done through a variety of initiatives that the Alliance has, but I have been primarily focused on helping manage their grant funding initiatives.
I have been running a global MBA program where teams of MBAs have been conducting the initial screen of the business plans submitted to the Alliance’s 3 venture grant funds. I am now managing over 100 people including students, impact investing mentor/professionals, cookstove experts, ect in this program to select winners to receiving funding. I have enjoyed working with a wide variety of students and professionals and helping develop something new which students can learn from.
In Uganda, I was doing due diligence on 8 different cookstove and fuel businesses of which 4/5 will receiving funding for various “capacity development” initiatives. My family laughs at me because in my world there are so many new words that have been unnecessarily created. “Capacity development” would just be ways in which to strengthen a business. For example, an initiative could be HR management and hiring of additional management team members if there are gaps in their organizational structure, or sales and marketing strategy if they need additional sales agents or outlets to sell their products. So far this has been a very interesting project in getting to meet one on one with these businesses and figuring out what each of their needs are.
I will share with you some photos from my site visits.
This post is titled “Yes, please” as that seems to be the response from everyone in Uganda no matter what you say or ask them. For example, “Can I get a bit more coffee”, response: “Yes, please”. It is quite polite, but doesn’t always make the most sense. I also liked that most Ugandans wore collared polo shirts for working out. Maybe just too look fancy at the gym? They could be on to the next Lululemon trend here….
Additionally, I am not going to be coming back to SF for a few more months now given these projects I am on. Stay tuned for more updates!