FTMBA students Sebastian Pflumm, Rodrigo Calmet, Julian Garzon, Benjamin Irarrazaval, and Chloe McConnell were in Zimbabwe working on an International Business Development (IBD) project.
The first week of our International Business Development project flew by for us five Haasies based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Our project is to develop and teach a two-week entrepreneurship program, named ACT (Apsara Capital Trust), to young Zimbabweans who are passionate about social change. Our client Henri Lambert, owner of Apsara Capital, founded the intensive design-thinking program two years ago to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Zimbabwe that catalyzes economic development and fights unemployment. While our IBD team is a diverse mosaic of nationalities and backgrounds, we share a common work ethic, sense of humor, composure, and dedication to our project.
First Day of Class
Irene, our local and indispensable program manager, picked us up at 6:45 a.m. on the morning of Monday May 16th. Having worked on lesson plans, Powerpoints, online pre-courses, and logistics for the past two months in Berkeley, our team was anxiously quiet on the bumpy car ride to the first morning of class. As we looked out the window onto the Harare streets, we noted the contrast between the huge houses, malfunctioning street-lights, and large pot-holes. We didn’t know what to expect, both in terms of our students’ skills and the general classroom experience. It was not only our first time in Zimbabwe, but also our first time teaching a structured program. Additionally, due to unexpected problems with our Colombian teammate’s visa, we were one team member short. As we pulled into the school at 7 a.m., we were surprised to see that many students had already arrived. The school, our office for the next three weeks, is a large house in the Milton Park neighborhood recently converted into a center for entrepreneurship named Udugu Institute. The students cautiously mingled with each other as we checked them in. Their backgrounds range from the founder of the University of Zimbabwe Entrepreneurship Club to a preacher-turned software developer to a young amateur rapper.
Chloe McConnell teaching the Introduction to Design Thinking class on Day 1.
Our biggest take-away from the first day, was how passionate, excited and bright our students are. They are willing to work hard to change their communities for the better and we left the day incredibly excited to help them realize their dreams.
Diverging and Converging in the Classroom
Over the next 5 days, we experienced the sun-soaked winter Zimbabwe days as we ran the students through the design thinking process while simultaneously teaching them the business skills necessary to launch their ideas. As the intensity of the work built throughout the week, so did the comradery within the teams. Breaks and teamwork time starting filling up with laughter and heated discussions. The teams’ focuses range from waste management to organic farming to increasing employment opportunities for semi-skilled workers.
Rodrigo Calmet working with a team on insight generation.
Luckily, our Colombian classmate Julián finally received his visa to enter Zimbabwe after five lonely days in Johannesburg. We welcomed him with salsa music and a whiteboard full of messages from the students in local languages.
The students welcoming Julián Garzón to Zimbabwe after he finally received his visa!
Julián Garzón with the winners of the marshmallow challenge.
A passionate team working late into the night on their business idea.
Adventures Outside the Classroom
We are staying in the walled neighborhood of Gunhill at the Guinea Fowls Rest Inn and eat out most nights. Harare has a plethora of food options ranging from the local sadza and stewed meat to tempting Thai eateries. Our favorite spot, named Amanzi, hosts trivia every Wednesday. The five of us, Henri, and Irene formed a team named after the tasty South African Cabernet Sauvignon we were imbibing and were immediately hooked on trivia. Our excitement did not make up for our sub-par knowledge of miscellaneous facts, leading to an underwhelming middle of the pack finish. We committed to practice for the next week.
During the days, we’ve explored Harare by accompanying students on their fieldwork. When visiting the Central Business District and the Avondale and Barrowdale shopping markets, we noticed Zimbabwean’s positivity and friendliness despite the distressed economy.
Chloe McConnell taking a Kombi into town with the students for fieldwork.
On Sunday, our first day off, we embarked on a group neighborhood run, relished in a long breakfast, and drove out of town for a hike. The beautiful rocky landscape of Ngomakurira is rife with green algae-spotted rocks and cave paintings. The scenery was ideal for group portraits and we took the time to stage some shots. We then hit the driving range for a fun, but competitive, putting tournament to round out the day.
Rodrigo Calmet, Julián Garzón, Sebastian Pflumm, Benjamin Irarrazaval, and Chloe McConnell (members of Team ACT), pose during a hike in Ngomakurira.
Concluding Week One
Our first 6 days of teaching left us exhausted, yet exhilarated. We feel at home in Harare and are inspired by the work and ideas that our students have developed. We are ready to work closely with our students to develop business models, financial plans, and a tight story that they will pitch to investors next week.