Great experiences in Dar Es Salaam

We have just arrived in Zanzibar after 2 days in Dar Es Salaam. The differences to Kigali were apparent from the moment we got off the airport: It is a sprawling city, much busier, more populated and not as clean and organized as Kigali.

After a nap to recover from our very early flight we met the founder and some team members from Nala for lunch at the hotel (which was beautiful, by the sea). They are working to advance mobile payments in the region with an app that makes this solution more user friendly, and aim to provide a wider range of financial services in the future. The team was small, young and very passionate.

Lunch with Nala at the Sea Cliff hotel

After the lunch we visited Zenufa pharmaceuticals – one of the 5 pharmas in the country. They explained us the challenges of operating such a technical business in a country like Tanzania, where resources are not always readily available. But according to Joanna, one of our group members who is somewhat of a pharma expert, they have managed to put in place impressive operating procedures, even when compared to more established companies in larger markets.

The group at Zenufa

The evening was quite fun – we went for dinner at a place that turns into a club called Samaki Samaki (Fish Fish, literally translated). As in Rwanda, the locals proved to be quite fun and friendly people!

The next day was one of my favorites so far in terms of visits. We started with the IMF Afritec, a technical training center from the institution, and met Idan’s former boss, who gave us an extremely interesting overview of the macroeconomic landscape and outlook for the region. Afterwards we visited the carbonated drinks plant of Azam, a major conglomerate with a wide range of businesses in East Africa. It was mesmerizing watching all the production lines, and the volume of their operation is respectable – 6 production lines and warehouses after warehouses full of drinks ready to be distributed. The final visit was Liquid Telecom – a large Internet Service Provider with one of the widest infrastructures in Africa. Despite being somewhat small in Tanzania versus their operations in other countries, they were one of the key drivers of telecommunication capabilities in the country, The technical director in particular stood out for how passionately he talked about their network.

The group at the IMF

We said goodbye to Dar with a wonderful dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant (I now believe that there is nothing more satisfying than eating with your hands), and a few more drinks and a lot of dancing at Samaki Samaki again. Dar was extraordinary – populated with kind people and very dynamic and entrepreneurial businesses. We expect Zanzibar to charm us with its stylish old town and paradise beaches – more updates soon!

Welcome to Zanzibar!

Pedro Anjos is a 2020 MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School

Rwanda was incredible; On to Tanzania!

We just arrived in Dar Es Salaam, and all of us are very impressed with what we experienced in Rwanda. The bar has been set high for Tanzania, but we trust it will be up to expectations.

Before the official trip started, our group was split into two pre-trips: A visit to the gorillas in Volcano National Park and a safari in Akagera National Park. They were both amazing! The gorilla group came back very enthusiastic about how close they got to them, and we saw, among others, 3 of the so-called ‘Big 5’: An elephant, two lions and a lot of buffalos. It was also exciting to find some crocodiles and hippo by a lake.

The gorillas at Volcano National Park
Luke and Joanna with their new friend
A few of the many Zebras we saw at Akagera

The official trip started on the 22nd of August – a welcome dinner in Kigali, where we finally all got together. We kicked off the company visits the next day with Mara Phones. The plant we visited is just being finished now, and both of the company’s 2 phone models are expected to launch in September. They will be phones made ‘by Africans for Africans – as well as the rest of the world’; the company will be based in Kigali, employ Rwandans – including 60% women – and initially target African markets.

After Mara Phone we visited Africa Improved Foods. The company is producing an enriched porridge aimed at providing the nutrition that pregnant women and infants from 6 months onwards require, and in the process is also helping to improve the economic conditions of Rwandan farmers. It counts large international organizations as its backers and clients.

The group at Mara Phone

We closed the day’s visits with Fablabs, where we learned how a few young Rwandan entrepreneurs are tackling problems like clean water supply with the support of this branch of the incubator. Afterwards, we still had time to visit the Genocide museum. I don’t think words can do justice to the atrocity and extent of human suffering that defined this period of Rwanda’s recent history.

The weekend was dedicated to a trip to see the chimpanzees close to lake Kivu. We drove probably over 15 hours in total to be able to see them, which allowed the group to really bond and get to know each other in the van – a nice side effect. Seeing the chimps themselves in their natural habitat was of course an amazing experience – watching them get rowdy when one of the leaders showed up in the middle of their ficus meal was really funny.

I think it’s fair to say that Zipline, the company we visited on Monday is among the group’s favorites. They started around 5 years ago and deliver medicines to hospitals and other healthcare facilities with drones, solving the problem of access in regions with insufficient infrastructure. Everything about them was impressive – their sophisticated drones, the UI they developed to track them, the logistics behind sorting out the pharmaceuticals – and it was super cool watching the drones be launched and land again. Zipline also employs top local talent and counts leading global VCs among their backers.

The group listening to our guide at Zipline

Just before leaving the town we visited the local market, where we set out to see who could knock off the most from whatever item they decided to purchase by haggling with the merchants. Gang was the winner with 70% off a pair of wooden masks, closely followed by Gavin, who got 63% off a pair of woven baskets. Pretty impressive!

Anita and Professor Brian at the market in Kigali

As you can see, Rwanda provided us great experiences and we are thrilled for Tanzania. I’m sure I will also be talking about how amazing it is in just a few days. Stay tuned!

Pedro Anjos is a 2020 MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School

Rwanda and Tanzania: We’re ready!

We have less than two weeks to go until our trip to Rwanda and Tanzania, and I think it’s fair to say that anticipation is running high among the entire group. With the exception of Dee and Idan (our organizers) who are a sort of experts on the region, for most of us this will be the first time in Africa, or at least in East Africa. We are incredibly excited to get to know the companies who are making it the fastest growing region in the continent – such as FabLabs, Mara Phone Factory (the first smartphone factory in Africa) or Liquid Telecom. We also can’t wait to become acquainted with the local people, their culture and history – which has had its dark moments, such as the recent genocide in Rwanda, which we will get to know better in our visit to the genocide museum.

The preparation process has been somewhat eventful – it took us a while to figure out that being vaccinated against yellow fever is apparently not mandatory in the region, as we originally thought, and our interactions with the Rwandan online visa system have been challenging – we hope not too much of a preamble to challenges the region may present us!

We got to know each other in the pre-departure social in New York, and shared some of our expectations – from the company visits, to the local food and culture and scuba-diving opportunities, it seems we will be aiming to enjoy the trip to its fullest potential. Personally, I’m very excited to explore Dar Es Salaam’s thriving music and nightlife scene when possible – apparently the fun and creative Singeli genre is emerging in clubs all around the city. Over the next two weeks I’m certain that feelings of anticipation and packing plans will be filling  everyone’s minds. Stay tuned for updates as we kick-off the trip and go through with our exciting itinerary!

The pre-departure social in New York

Pedro Anjos is a 2020 MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School