Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Big Games of Hunting

Last night 75 entrepreneurs gathered in a room. Overlooking the skyline of Dar es Salaam, they received their first lecture in business development. Plans were diverse, participants gracious, and the atmosphere excited. Handshakes are firm, smiles wide, and the commodity “Mambo / Poa” Swahili introduction can be traded for laughs.

I met and heard the business plans of three exceptional entrepreneurs. All had traveled great distances. From Dodoma to Mbeya on the Southwestern border with Zambia, 12-hour bus rides were common.

Ideas included a pyramid-style marketing scheme, a big game hunting travel agency, a regional IT hub, a Japanese pottery factory, a public business directory, and more.

Words like “Asante” and “Dreams” were spread around. Though the AC was high, the feelings were warm, and the opportunities large.

Today I went on a treasure hunt throughout Dar es Salaam for a local attorney who had absconded from a friend’s brother. Two-dozen offices, buildings, and secretaries later, we finally found our legal friend. Although hot and inconvenient, our tour of Dar, up and down back alley staircases, Swahili hellos and thank yous, secretaries and subtle knocks, taught me much about the African spirit. I say the African spirit because I’ve heard it referenced by others as the ability to problem solve when resources are tight. Though my coworker’s brother had the issue with the lawyer, he spent considerable time and effort locating this man. Whereas I am sure that any American counterpart would have called the effort futile after half the offices, we continued until we found him. Part of this is caused by an inherent inefficiency in the numbering, details, names, signs, etc. But what is commendable is that in spite of this dearth of infrastructure, the human spirit of helping others transcends inconvenience and is not only expected, but unexpectedly common.

A trip to the National Museum, two hours of one-on-one consulting, a few PowerPoint decks, plates of Thai food, and Namibian beers later, and it’s nearly Wednesday. Today I was the two goards that mixed the soil of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in the early 1960s as a symbol of their unity. In the next week I hope to set foot on both sets of soil, though Ngorongoro crater calls near the heart of the Masai-region.

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