From the edge of old continent!

Bonjour à tous,

I always find it difficult to write about things that require a touch of literature, melodrama and character in it. I am good at writing reports and answering questions. The best way I could think of writing such a blog was to use a question answer format. I also believe that anyone traveling to a new destination is bound to come across these questions. I have been here for almost a month and I have had the privilege to answer questions asked by people coming from various backgrounds. Here it goes:

# The landlady

Landlady: Do you speak French?

M: No, I don’t but I am learning one sentence/ word a day.

Landlady: You know everyone here either speaks French or Wolof?

M: Yes

Landlady: How will you get the work done? How will you communicate with people? How will you give directions to the taxi driver?

 M: Bonjour –>  je m’appelle Mustafa  –>  #&*!(((####  –>  $$$  –> ^&^#@!!**((   –>   Merci   –>    Jarra Jeff. It’s basically Introductions, lots of sign language/ phrases, agreeing on the price because there are no meters in the taxi and thank you in Wolof.

Landlady: I love Bollywood movies!

M: Which Bollywood movies do you like?

Landlady: I like all the movies that star Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh khan. I grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan movies. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham is my favorite.

# Colleague at work

M: Can you suggest me a place for haircut?

Colleague: I recommend you go to a professional stylist.

M: Why?

Colleague: Don’t you see! All the men here have pretty much the same hairstyle. That’s the only hairstyle most barbers know (keeping it round and short).

# Start-up 1

Start-up 1: What are you doing here? How long are you here? What will you be doing?

M: I am an MBA student from ESMT doing a fellowship at CTIC, Dakar. I am here for 5 months. Most of time is used in talking to the start-ups, figuring out their business model and working with them on specific problem areas such as company valuation and financial modeling. Other responsibilities include helping the incubator (CTIC) with hands on approach in daily operations.

Start-up 1:  Oh you got an ESMT t-shirt. You must know all about mobile technologies?

M: No, not really.

Start-up 1: What did you study at ESMT?

M: I completed my MBA degree from ESMT.

Start-up 1: When did ESMT start the MBA program?

M: It’s been 10 years now. I was in the 10th batch.

Start-up 1: Oh man, the world knows about the ESMT MBA except for the Senegalese people!

M: It’s very well known and reputed institution in Germany.

(The air was cleared after I learnt that Senegal has its own ESMT – Ecole Supérieure Multinationale des Télécommunications. A well-known institute in West Africa for mobile technologies).


Tea session with start-up founders

Start-up 1: What are your plans for the weekend?

M: Not much. I will most probably head to one of the beaches near Dakar and then go running in the evening. I will go the famous Charly’s bar later in the evening. If you are free then we can go to the Disco (The word discotheque is seen outside every club in Dakar and is very famous amongst taxi drivers).

Start-up 1: What do you think of the crowd here? You did go out partying?

M: I am not big fan of hip-hop/ pop music that is played at most of the places. American hip-hop artist are really well known here. Well-known joints have an interesting mix of people with a lot of Mauritanians and Lebanese.

(Some 30000 Mauritanian refugees live in Senegal and equal number of Lebanese people who settled here in the 1860’s)

Start-up 1: What else do you do in free time?

M: I generally watch a football game at a friend’s place or pub/ restaurant. Sometimes I just walk around the city with my camera clicking pcitures. Its fun watching a big game “Senegalese style” (Kids and adults stand outside restaurants/ bars watching the game, cheering and hooting, as the world goes around them).

# Start-up 2

Start-up 2: What do you think of Dakar?

M: I like the weather. It’s warm and sunny. I also like Corniche (the seafront). So far the people have been nice, helpful and courteous. I had no difficulty finding an apartment and I never felt unsafe in the city.

Start-up 2: Did you choose to come to Dakar?

M: I chose to come to Dakar.

Start-up 2: Why?

M: I like going to places that are not so much on the tourist map. It’s like going into the unexplored. I also did some research and found out that Senegal is one of the politically stable countries in the region with a deep-rooted culture for music, arts and food. I’m also doing something I like and believe in.

Start-up 2: Did you visit the real Dakar/ other side?

M: Oh yes, I did visit the other side. It resembles any other developing country. It’s like a dark underbelly under the fair and beautiful Corniche (Corniche, the seafront, houses businessmen and politicians surrounded by embassies from other countries and a French military base). The other side is the grim reality that showcases a developing country with haphazard streets, unplanned infrastructure and poor living conditions.

Start-up 2: Why did you go there?

M: I attended an open lecture for the underprivileged. I was accompanied by two colleagues who gave lectures on importance of entrepreneurship and financial planning in one’s life. (CTIC is also active in promoting entrepreneurship amongst the poorest masses in West Africa).

Start-up 2: How do you see it going forward (growth and development in Senegal)?

M: I expect it to grow because of demographic advantages, political stability and industrialization. But I also see problems in availability of natural resources and other areas such as energy. Senegal is not rich in national resources like fresh water and most of the energy resources are imported. Its not known for a big industry such as mineral ore, chemicals, or other natural commodities except for fishing. So it really needs to have a sound strategy to cope with industrialization, growing population and increasing energy needs.

M: What do you think of the economy?

Start-up 2: It’s slowly changing now. We have discovered oil off the Atlantic coast but lack of equipment, experience and oil drilling techniques resulted in Senegal settling for 10% of the total value generated. Majority of economic value should go to Senegal but international politics and lack of resources has led to Senegal settling for a small share.

M: Is it just you who feels like this because people don’t seem to be talking about it so much?

Start-up 2: No it’s the millennials of Senegal who think like this. The previous generation did not care so much about the economic resources of the country but this generation understands economics and it has access to information.

Start-up 2: Where have you been till now? Did you visit Goree islands, Saly and other beaches around Dakar?

M: I have been to Saly and the white sand beaches there. We rented out a beach house for the weekend for some team building exercise. I also visited Saint Louis (the erstwhile capital of Senegal). I plan to visit Goree islands and pink lake because it looks spectacular in the pictures.


Lessons on entrepreneurship and personal finance

# Sachiko on the Beach

Sachiko: (Playing tourist and taking pictures of kids playing on the beach).

Kids: Don’t take our picture. You are not supposed to take our picture and then show it to the world.

Sachiko: But, but …(I was trying to capture the essence of Africa). Here, I deleted it.

Kids: Let us check. We need to make sure you deleted the pictures.

untitled shoot-076

Sunset at Plage du Virage, Dakar

# The morning coffee guy

M: Please don’t put so much sugar in my tea. It is too sweet for my taste.

Original Gangster: Man you are not an OG!

M: What’s an OG?

Original Gangster: You are from India and you don’t like sugar in your tea. Everybody in Senegal likes his or her tea/ coffee sweet. You are not an original gangster.

IMG-20160222-WA0009With the Original Gangster

# Colleagues at work

Colleague: Do you have family or friends in Senegal?

M: No

Colleague: So why did you choose to come to CTIC?

M: I believe that CTIC’s efforts are sustainable in the long run and the outcome of these efforts will have a higher net impact in term of economic development when compared to other non-profit models. The idea of creating a culture that enables entrepreneurs to build businesses will have a far-reaching impact in the long run. I felt that I could actually contribute to the society by doing something here.

Colleague: Do you like the food? Can you cook?

M: Yes the food is good. I usually eat croissants for breakfast and Yassa for lunch to satisfy my Indian taste buds. Evenings I usually cook something. I am slowly learning about the African spices.

Colleague: Do you like our country?

M: Yes, it’s been interesting and amazing so far. I look forward to explore it further.

To sum it up Senegal is at an interesting junction where the current policies and factors will heavily influence the future. Like most developing countries it has its share of problem. Concurrently it has the spirit to achieve something great. The current situation and state of affairs in Senegal are well summarized by the following African proverb –

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

I hope you enjoyed my blog and experience in Dakar so far. I plan to have a follow up on this once I have more question & answers to share.

Till next time, Jarra Jeff!

Let there be food.

I love food. I enjoy growing it, preparing it, eating it, sharing it…I take it for granted that I have always had access to the food I need and hopefully always will. It breaks my heart to know that millions of people globally cannot access food that they need.

The nutrition centre at Baraka Health centre provides a nutritious meal daily to at least 150 enrollees. Some are enrolled on the feeding program due to being clinically malnourished, while others are referred here by the community team due to extreme poverty. School meals are also provided for pupils in two primary schools within the slum. For many of these people, this is the only meal they’re sure of.
Enrollees are monitored regularly for improvement. When there’s a steady clinical improvement or they are able to sustain themselves financially, they are weaned off the program. However, the painful truth is that re-enrolment rates are high. As Caroline the nurse in charge of the centre told me, and I quote: “my main challenge is that the poverty is not going away, as soon as I wean someone off, the open slot is quickly filled by a new person or someone previously on the program who has relapsed”.

With the kitchen team--Josephine and Wilfrida
With the kitchen team–Josephine and Wilfrida
Vegetable sauce
Vegetable sauce
Cooking the beans
Cooking the beans
Queueing up
Enrollees queueing up
Serving the food
Lunch is served!
Cleaning up
Cleaning up
I made a new friend
I made a new friend!


I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the Nutrition centre on this fellowship, to support German Doctors in helping people access this basic right I’ve always taken for granted.


Cape Town Chronicles – I: Paying It Forward

A better world. Many wish it. Few take actions for it. And fewer strive to realise it. Since the beginning of February I’ve had the privilege of being an active part of an organisation that strives to make the world a better place.

Extreme poverty. Living in shacks. Congested houses, six people living in one small bedroom. Unhygienic sanitary conditions. Teenage pregnancy. Rampant gangsterism. High crime and school dropout rates. These are the harsh realities of life in a township in South Africa. Growing up as a child under such circumstances you literally grapple with life. Education and opportunity are synonymous with luxury.

Upgraded hostel
Upgraded hostel
Common room for kitchen and water faucet in a house of 3 bed rooms. Three families live in one bedroom.
Common room for kitchen and water faucet in a house of 3 bed rooms. Three families live in one bedroom.
This is about 65% of a room in an upgraded hostel
This is about 65% of a room in an upgraded hostel
One of three beds in a bedroom in a township. One bed is meant for one family of six people. Three people sleep on this bed, the man, his wife and the youngest child. The other children sleep on the floor of the bedroom and the common room.
One of three beds in a bedroom in a township. One bed is meant for one family of six people. Three people sleep on this bed, the man, his wife and the youngest child. The other children sleep on the floor of the bedroom and the common room.
Drying area
Drying area
Man preparing smileys. A smiley is the head of a sheep cooked on fire and cleaned up. It is called a smiley because the sheep's teeth are visible!
Man preparing smileys. A smiley is the head of a sheep cooked on fire and cleaned up. It is called a smiley because the sheep’s teeth are visible!
The streets lined with local beer shops
The streets lined with local beer shops

In my two weeks so far in Cape Town, I met some people who grew up in townships. One student had been an active gangster for years before he decided to change his life for better. He is articulate, passionate, energetic and aspires to be an entrepreneur. His vision is to create opportunities for young people in townships so they can choose goals over guns. Another student does hair dressing over the weekend to make ends meet. She wants to help grow her mother’s business of tailor-made beaded garments and shoes. A successful entrepreneur I met yesterday grew up with 27 other people in a three-room house in the Langa township. I found him to be an astute businessman. He has been running a successful business for over 6 years and is a motivational speaker for school children. I am sure I will meet more such people in the days to come.

These people are living examples of the kind of transformation that will create a better world. Their transformation was ignited by the Tertiary School in Business Administration, TSiBA, a non-profit private business school in Cape Town that offers bachelors degree in business administration (BBA), to underprivileged children. It is also home to TSiBA Ignition Centre, an incubation centre that supports entrepreneurs through business and leadership mentoring and training.

TSiBA strives to build entrepreneurial leaders by igniting young minds who in turn can become agents of social change. It has done this by creating a sustainable business model around the idea of paying it forward. The students and entrepreneurs at TSiBA are from disadvantaged backgrounds who cannot otherwise afford university-level education or professional business mentoring. Most of them hail from townships. Their education and mentoring is sponsored by donations, volunteering and consultation services from supporters. The beneficiaries do not pay back, rather pay it forward by creating jobs and driving social change by empowering other underprivileged people. TSiBA supporters pay it forward through their donations and volunteering support.

As part of ESMT Responsible Leaders Fellowship (RLF) program. I am supporting the TSiBA Ignition Centre. RLF is a voluntary program , which gives us ESMT students an opportunity to add value to a social change initiative by leveraging our business skills. I was convinced of the value RLF adds to society and had decided to participate in it even before I started at ESMT. During the MBA, I came up with three criteria to select the organisation for my RLF participation

  1. A cause I am passionate about
  2. Scope for leveraging skills and insights gained during MBA
  3. A culture I’ve never been exposed to before

The opportunities at TSiBA Ignition Centre fitted the bill perfectly. TSiBA is all about empowerment, something that I am passionate about. At TSiBA I have the opportunity to choose what I want to do. There are many initiatives. Skilled people who are willing and able to lend their time and effort to TSiBA’s mission are in short supply. There is ample scope for leveraging the skills and knowledge I gathered from my professional and MBA experience. Through initiatives at Ignition Centre there is opportunity to engage and work with entrepreneurs and other organisations, to share my experiences with them, and to be part of their learning journey. Interactions with TSiBA students is another exciting opportunity to learn and understand the South African culture.

At present my work spans the following:

  1. Leading an entrepreneurial initiative with the goal of setting up an emerging enterprise and building a sustainable business model to enable partnership with one of TSiBA’s donors.The project will also provide the second-year BBA students, a first-hand experience of the challenges entrepreneurs face in the real world.
  2. Profiling, screening and selecting entrepreneurs for TSiBA’s student consulting project program, done in collaboration with another university in the US.
  3. Guiding a micro-finance project, to roll out a pilot to a group of women from Zimbabwe and test the feasibility of the idea.
  4. Lecturing and mentoring students on Entrepreneurship and Leadership & Self-Development.
  5. Mentoring entrepreneurs

This is a great learning opportunity, and I have a strong sense that this will be an enriching experience. I thank TSiBA for the opportunities provided and my alma mater ESMT for the opportunity to pay it forward through the RLF program.

Till next time!

Incredible India: Part 1 – Educate and change

The Mission

This is the first blog I have ever written in my life, I hope you enjoy it. Sometimes I admire professional authors for coming up with hundreds and hundreds of pages in bestseller novels, because truly speaking writing is difficult…well at least for me. So, instead of trying to be all professional, I am just going to write you a story.

I have been in Bombay (Mumbai) for two full weeks now. I am here to learn and contribute, in making this world a better place, thanks to a wonderful Responsible Leaders Fellowship (RLF) programme offered by my management school, ESMT. My late president, Pres. Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” As such I am happy to be associated with a management school that is making change.

I am here with my classmate and friend, Sylvain Huck. We are both in Mumbai for two months to work with an organization called LeapForWord (LFW), before moving on to the next mission in Pune. LeapForWord’s mission is simple, they want to extend the English language to the rural kids of India, in the simplest and most effective manner. Having been here only for two weeks, I really do understand the need for English, both professionally and otherwise. Most people on the streets do not speak English, and thus are limiting their opportunities on getting employed in big international companies.

LFW developed a technique and method that is so simple such that ANY person can be given training for less than a week and if they are successful, they are given an opportunity to teach kids English even without any prior knowledge of English. This is the model they call the “teacher entrepreneur” model. How it works is that they train anyone who is keen and dedicated to teaching kids. These “teachers” currently get trained for free, they only buy books and teaching material from LFW (books and training material were developed from scratch by LFW). When qualified they have an opportunity to go and look for “business” i.e. admit kids in villages. Parents pay the teachers directly (usually 100 Rupees a month, which is approximately €1,32) and LFW does not take any cut from this. I really liked this model as it does not only offer kids an opportunity to learn English but also offers opportunity to rural unemployed “teacher entrepreneurs” to make a living out of teaching.

Sylvain and I basically have three deliverables:

  1. Prepare a marketing strategy and business plan for LFW that they are going to use in scaling up their services in rural Maharashtra.
  2. Prepare a business model and business plan for LFW spelling bee championship.
  3. Prepare a finance pitch presentation and help LFW pitch on the 19th of March, in front of Indian CEO’s and business’s CSR management.
Pranil (CEO of LFW) and I enjoying sweet chai tea
Pranil (CEO of LFW) and I enjoying sweet chai tea

I’ll be honest, when Pranil (LFW CEO) told me of these deliverables, the first thing that ran in my mind was, “Am I here to do MBA 2015 module 7?” It certainly feels like I’m a student again, the only difference is that this assignment is not graded, neither is it a case study. This is the real deal, the real makoya. Our grade will be the impact we leave on LFW and hopefully if they implement our recommendations they can succeed in their mission.

To make us better understand their mission, we visited one of the schools where they implement the “teacher entrepreneur” model. We took an overnight bus ride from Mumbai to Shirpur (380km apart). This was an interesting ride for me as I had never been in a sleeper bus before. I probably could have slept if it wasn’t for the crazy driving in India. After two weeks here, I still haven’t got used to it…kind of makes you feel uneasy 🙂 During our visit in Shirpur, we met all “teacher entrepreneurs” with their students and in some cases, we met the kid’s parents too. Everyone was excited to see us, we conducted interviews with both the kids and parents to see if they liked the LFW idea and if it made a difference in general. It was impressive to learn how highly kids speak of LFW classes, and they certainly excel in English at school. Some kids can read three or four letter words in English before they could do the same in their native Marathi. It was encouraging to see that most kids embraced English as an important language in their lives, with most kids citing job opportunities and better lifestyle as they main drivers for learning English.

Meeting children and parents
Meeting children and parents in Shirpur

The City

Bombay or Mumbai, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is also India’s financial capital. Bombay has a population of 22 million people (half the population of my native South Africa). One thing that is nice about Mumbai is that for such a big city, it is very cheap and convenient to move around. Black and yellow Rickshaws and taxis, buses, the busy Western and Central railways and Uber are my main methods of moving around the city . I would ofter use a rickshaw to get to the nearest train station, then use Western railway when I want to get up and down Mumbai (i.e. North to South). We only use Uber when its convenient at night e.g. when coming back from work late. Although the city is next to the sea and there are lots of rivers through Mumbai, there is lot of water pollution and as such drinking water is not so clean if you are not used to it. Locals drink tap water without any problems, I prefer to just buy purified water. Buying clean water is cheap. We easily get 20 litres of clean purified water delivered to our apartment for less than 1 Euro. Mumbai road infrastructure is pretty solid and in good state, although it is hardly free. Traffic is a nightmare here, if you don’t plan your trip accordingly, you will get stuck. I am using google traffic a lot before I get moving, just to see how long will I be stuck.

The Foodie

I generally love Indian food. In my home country, South Africa, we generally have fairly good Indian restaurants. I was so disappointed with Indian restaurants in Berlin. I think I tried two and I gave up. So you can imagine how excited I am to be here, and experience the real deal…the spicy Indian food, the masala India. So I told myself I’ve give a couple of weeks to get used to everything before heading for street food. It didn’t last that long though. Everything here is so inviting and you get it at every corner of the street. From all day chai tea, to sugar cane juice, to sweet lassis, street omelettes and more…we try it all when we can. And no, I haven’t been sick because of it. I think in general if you are not used to spicy food, you will get sick in India. Not because of the food, but just because your body system doesn’t accept the masala pleasure. I can safely say, Indian food is safe, and it has to be since it is all cooked and mostly fried.

In my two weeks here, I have been converted into being a half vegetarian. Every lunch meal we have is vegetarian and I have not even once complained. One things for sure, Indians do know how to make vegetable food look and taste sexy. I wouldn’t mind being vegetarian here, the masala gels so well with potatoes, dhal, peas, eggs…name it, they will make it sexy. Here is a snippet of what we have been trying so far:

Enjoying chicken tikka masala on the streets of Khar Road
Enjoying chicken tikka masala on the streets of Khar Road
From top going clockwise: Kachori, Shira and Poha
From top going clockwise: Kachori, Shira and Poha

It without a doubt that the next couple of months are going to be interesting, and I am looking forward to it. Please engage with me, I would appreciate some suggestions, myths to be busted and any interesting Indian cuisine to try.

Till next time, namasthae 🙂


Time with the Champions

Beautiful Nairobi. Lots of greenery, lovely weather, friendly people, great beer…what’s not to like!


As in many developing countries, income inequality, high unemployment, rural-urban migration and other issues combine to create a large population living in poverty, dwelling in informal settlements ( read: slums) like Mathare. (view from my office)

Views from my office 1Views from my office 2

Unemployment is pretty common, with a correspondingly high crime rate. The HIV prevalence exceeds the national average. Tuberculosis, malnutrition, hypertension and diabetes are also rampant.

Run by German Doctors Nairobi, BARAKA HEALTH CENTER provides quality, accessible and sustainable health services to the vulnerable population in this community of around half a million people.Picture Baraka health center

Rose has worked in Baraka since 2007, and leads the ‘community team’.  I believe it’s more apt to call them the ‘Community Champions’With the community team

The community team delivers one of the core services of this centre. Their job is to go into the dangerous streets, narrow alleys, unmarked houses and unventilated shacks with ‘flying toilets’. They follow up on patients, identify people too sick to come to the clinic, pick out malnourished children and adults, monitor drug adherence, and refer these people to the feeding centre,the health clinic, the HIV/TB care centre or to other appropriate services.

I spent one day with them on the field to help me understand the center’s work, I couldn’t take pictures to avoid undue attention. Only Rose was bold enough to make phone calls on the street, and she told me: “they see me as their mother, and no matter how ‘bad’ these boys become, they’ll still find it hard to attack their mother; but you make sure you keep your phone well”. (I kept my phone very very well!)

In my time here as an ESMT Responsible Leaders’ Fellow, I hope to contribute to keeping the centre open and running sustainably. If I ever run out of motivation….I’ll just spend another day with Rose and her courageous team-  field trip for me, daily work for her.

With Rose