Saturday, May 29, 2010


Peter is home safely from Sierra Leone. I will try to make him blog more about his trip sometime this weekend. Just wanted to let everybody know he's okay.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Market Research

Things are going very well in Sierra Leone. I am working here with 3 other guys as part of a consulting project to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Their goal is to build 3,000 Microfranchises over the next three years. To accomplish this, they have hired us to identify businesses to partner with, develop a microfranchise system and assist 3,000 youth to launch their own business. Funding has come from some big players like the Mastercard Foundation, the UN, and World Bank. Creating job/employment for youth is so key in this country because it was due to the vast unemployment that in part led to the 10 years of civil wars in this country. Early test pilots indicate that the youth that participate in a microfranchise are more confident and happier. This is a direct solution for the use of aggression used by the youth in response to feeling powerless.Our team is here for 4.5 weeks to perform the research portion of the work. Our goal is to identify the businesses with whom we plan to partner with and prepare a proposal for building a microfranchise system around their businesses. One of my jobs will be to compile all the research and prepare business plans/proposals. With only three weeks left, we've been cranking to get all the required research done. Below are some photos from the research as well as some of the beautiful surroundings here.

This is a picture of the market downtown. The streets are packed with vendors with every type of good you could imagine. Thousands of people pack the streets, negotiating for their various purchases.
Although the pictures don't do it justice, it is a smelly, dirty, loud area of the city with several blocks dedicated to the sale of both domestic and imported foreign goods.

Here is a group of men pushing their large bundle of products through the already packed streets. My friend Mike, shown on the left, almost got run over by them - the cart doesn't have any breaks. Our goal of exploring the markets was to see what people were selling and what demand for those products looked like.

Because these people are poor, many consumable products are sold in sachets. Above is a small Brandy sachet. The Sierra Leonean that was with us told us that these burned a lot going down. Straight poison. They sell for the equivalent of 10 cents each.

Despite the bustle of the market, there are so many beautiful things about this country. The people are very nice and the surrounding mountains and beaches are picturesque. Above is the beach at sunset. The water is very warm and the lonely beaches stretch for miles down the coast.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Living in Sierra Leone

So, I have safely arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone. It was a bit of a stressful 30ish hours with delayed flight out of NYC, trying to reroute my ticket in Ghana (not as easy as you'd think). Lack of sleep, delays, and a scary book outlining the history of Sierra Leone left me stressed and somewhat regretting my decision to come. Once I got off the helicopter and into my room and made it to the good part of Sierra Leone's history in the book (where the British come in and fix everything), everything seemed a lot better.As Rachel mentioned, the food is quite a bit better here and there are lot more options. As you can see in the photo below, its a beautiful mountainous city on the ocean.

On my first day I met with a couple of boys that were running a small firm that sells cell phone minutes. They walked me through their business and also what they purchase. They are part of the microfranchise initiative put on by the International Relief Committee, who we are working for. Our goal in this project is to identify 2-4 businesses that can easily be scalable to 750-1,500 microfranchises over the next 3 years. The work is a lot of fun and the people are great. The picture below is of Hassan and Paul. They've worked hard at their mobile phone business and used capital from it to launch a small tea shop that sells evening meals. They have big plans for a movie rental shop and latter want to go back to school. Both awake at 6 in the morning and work straight until 10PM. Hardworking and creatively enterprising, youth like these are the future of Africa.

Here's a picture of the view from my room - hard living in a third world country....