Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Leaving Lusaka

By: Sara Taylor (Lusaka, Zambia)

As my time with Mobile Transactions comes to an end, I realise that the summer has flown and that I could happily have stayed in Zambia for many more months, not just to finish off all the work that seems to have piled up but to discover more of this interesting country and spend more time with the engaging people I have met. It has been a pleasure to work with people with such vision, skill and determination.

The past few months have given me a real insight into a small business in an exciting and growing sector in Africa. Mobile money seems to be a buzz word the world over (as evidenced by fellow students looking at similar regulatory issues in Fiji and the Philippines this summer) but the reality is that, like with any business, it is hard work and not without its risks. The hours are long, the business environment and infrastructure can be challenging and no doubt competition will only increase as this sector evolves. Yet the potential rewards can be great, not just for those directly employed by the business, but also for those who benefit from the reach of electronic transactions into remote rural areas.

ot only did it not take long to feel like a member of the team at Mobile Transactions, but I have also been fortunate to stay with and meet some great people who have made it easy for me to feel settled in my short time in Lusaka. It has been interesting to meet people working at places like the UN, microfinance organisations, donor funded research projects (many relating to HIV/AIDS), development banks, NGOs, agricultural organisations and companies working with carbon credits. In the midst of this massive development industry, the need for investment in small and growing local businesses with a view to promoting economic opportunities for Zambians seems clear.

There may be certain things about Zambia that I will not miss (tsetse flies and unreliable internet come to mind) but overall this has been an unforgettable experience - not just from a work perspective, which was my main motivation for going, but more generally it has made me look forward to discovering more of this continent in the future. So, thank you GBF.

As pictures can so often be more effective than words, my fun and creative housemates in Lusaka have put together this video which I hope gives a flavour of my time in Zambia over the last 10 weeks with GBF and Mobile Transactions. Thanks Laura and Tori!

-Sara

video