An African inclusive business is in the final stages of developing an exciting and revolutionary new product. However, the work has been long and tiring, there is great pressure to get a product to market before the initial funding runs out, and motivating staff is an increasing challenge...
The country has materialistic culture and most people are extremely short-term in their outlook. The company can afford to pay its staff slightly better than the public sector…Continue
A common challenge for inclusive business practitioners, much debated at last November's BIF team week in Malawi, is defining their field. If inclusive business is business activity that expands opportunities for the poor, doesn't any business operating in a poor country (or, arguably, elsewhere) count as an inclusive business? And if not, why not?
One way to tackle this question is to turn it around and examine the counterfactual: are there businesses in developing countries…Continue
The debate in Zambia around a new Companies Bill has caused worried looks on the face of at least one inclusive business entrepreneur. The proposed legislation would severely curtail the activities of foreign owned firms, limiting their ability to borrow money locally and the sectors in which they could operate. The most extreme provisions of this bill may never get passed into law, but the mere possibility was enough to trigger The Economist Intelligence Unit last month to…Continue
On a group of islands in the South Pacific, the pre-industrial age ended quite suddenly in 1942. As the American military manoeuvred to block the Japanese advance into the Pacific, rural villagers who had previously considered the iron nails with which they banged together their huts to be the height of modern technology suddenly found their islands overrun with aeroplanes, trucks, machine guns, electricity, Coca-Cola and all the amenities needed to support a modern army of a hundred…Continue
Added by Andrew Gray on November 19, 2012 at 20:30 — No Comments
The Riverside Pub in Lusaka has a problem: it regularly runs out of beer. This naturally has a detrimental effect on business, and the owner is seeking investment to overcome the problem: namely, the $20 he needs to add an extra crate to his regular order from the distributor. At a rough calculation this investment would pay itself back within months, and earn 150% profit within a year, yet so hard is it for businesses in Zambia to access finance (or accumulate their own capital in a culture…Continue
When dirty dishwater began spilling across my driveway in Lusaka, I went looking for someone equipped to poke blockages out of long pipes. I was led to a nearby road junction, where a man known to his companions as Mr Plumber offered to unblock the drain for $30. He had the necessary long pokey thing, he assured me, and the job would only take him and his colleague half an hour.
Commenting, perhaps less delicately than I should have done, that $30 per man-hour was a ludicrous amount…Continue
The Jatropha farmers who gathered to meet the BIF team last month at Kapiri Mposhi in central Zambia are optimists. Several years ago, organisations came and encouraged them to plant Jatropha, in the belief that a good income could be made from selling the bushes' oily nuts as feedstock for biofuel production. Today, they continue to maintain their Jatropha fields, even though no reliable market for the crop ever materialised. Neighbours laugh at them for persisting with the crop; one farmer…Continue
Added by Andrew Gray on July 10, 2012 at 7:00 — No Comments
Last year, while researching rural connectivity initiatives for the iSchool project, I visited Macha, a rural village in southern Zambia - and was amazed by what I found there.
In addition to the usual dusty jumble of earth huts, stalls and maize fields, Macha is home to an Internet cafe, a large office block, a Western-style restaurant, a craft store, a library, a bank branch, a well-built school that would not be out of place in a California suburb, a biofuel farm, a visitor lodge,…Continue
Added by Andrew Gray on June 27, 2012 at 16:30 — No Comments
Milton Keynes, the English new town near which I grew up, was once described by a family friend as “the place where people live behind hedges”. The expanding suburbs of Lusaka, where iSchool has its offices, look superficially similar, except that here people live behind concrete walls.
Some of the homes enclosed by these walls are home to Lusaka’s elite – not just whites, but also what expatriates describe, in a characteristically British misuse of the term, as the growing African…Continue
Added by Andrew Gray on May 4, 2011 at 20:30 — No Comments
Aisha Community School has 584 pupils, and 60 desks.
“Sometimes we lay planks across them so the children have something to write on,” the headmaster tells us.
Even by Zambian standards, this is not a wealthy school. Aisha occupies a tiny maze of concrete rooms in the middle of Ng’ombe, a high-density slum area in the suburbs of Lusaka, surrounded by box-like dwellings and brown dirt roads. The headmaster’s office is at the back of the maze, next to the toilets, which smell.…Continue
Of all the poor decisions that set Zambia on its course to become one of the twenty least developed countries in the world, one of the most notable was taken in 1966, when the newly-independent country’s Education Minister chose to endorse the recommendation, made by a group of Western educationalists, that “The medium of instruction should be English, from the beginning of schooling.”
This decision was not unique: virtually every ex-colonial country has continued to use European…Continue
At a primary school on the scruffy green outskirts of Lusaka, parents are being given a demonstration of Internet-enabled learning. The Internet connection isn’t actually working – due to technical problems, the content is being played from a visitor’s laptop – but the parents don’t seem to notice. They sit along benches at the sides of the room, their children in front, watching stories being projected in words and pictures onto the screen at the front of the classroom. Not all of the Grade…Continue