When I first began working in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill, my initial impression was horror that the country was being run by a bunch of 20-somethings. At 23, I was solidly within the median age range and even felt old when I saw peers walking around with short skirts, finding myself thinking “how inappropriate!” It didn’t take me long to become accustomed to the age range of Hill staffers and soon it even made sense to me that they’d all be so young. The hours were grueling, the work was exhausting, and without energy, enthusiasm, and a youth-like belief in...Continue Reading >>
Stories tagged with Africa
I am a WASP – white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. My parents rarely yelled, spankings were rare and more painful for my mother than me and requests were granted only when accompanied by the obligatory “please” and followed by “thank you.” On Sundays my family sat in well-ordered pews quietly listening to sermons, bowing our heads in silent prayers and rising (as directed) to sing hymns from notations in a book. At school my friends and I were scolded for being late in an effort to train us all in the expectations of the culturally dominant WASPs who value time commitments and punctuality....Continue Reading >>
I never thought I would move to Tanzania to learn about Bengali culture, but then again I never thought I’d eat octopus for dinner so sometimes one must adjust expectations. How have I happened to find myself sitting in an office shared by one Bengali woman, one Tanzanian woman, and me? Such is life at BRAC Tanzania’s country office.
BRAC Tanzania is one of the international legs of the Bengali NGO BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee). Started in 1972, BRAC has grown...Continue Reading >>
This past week Opportunity International-Wedco was able to finally report its loan repayments on Kiva and to its lenders (after pausing during the post-election crisis). Now I can jump into coordinating visits to do journal updates. Special thanks to the sick excel skills of my MPM, Ben Elberger.
I wanted to share a quick funny story from my travels. Many of the fellows have mentioned the various forms of transportation that we get to take around our locations. In Kenya, matatu, tuk-tuk, and boda-boda’s are the transportation staples. Last week I was heading home after leaving...Continue Reading >>
There are a number of things here in Nigeria that are just different enough to bring laughter and puzzlement to my days…
“Oyibo” – Wherever I go, people call out “Oyibo.” Naturally, I initially thought this meant “hello” or served as some sort of greeting. I suppose it is a greeting of sorts, but literally means “white person.” It isn’t an insult, just a way to get my attention and a wave. Generally oyibos remain in Lagos, the business capital, or Port Harcourt, where the oil flows. I’ve seen two other oyibos in my first month here in Benin City – not many. I’m certainly an...Continue Reading >>
Microcredit undoubtedly represents a creative and original response to poverty. But I think that somewhere along the way, the innovativeness of the idea seems to have translated into an expectation of novelty and ingenuity for all “small-scale entrepreneurs.” I was reminded of this recently while reading a report published by IBM that described microcredit recipients as “creative” and “entrepreneurial.” While I’m certainly no expert on the subject, my time in the field has reinforced my belief that microloans do not generally enable budding...Continue Reading >>
Musa Kamara is a simple man. He lives in small hut in a remote region of the Sierra Leone jungle. He lives with his wife and daughter under a palm-branch roof that he built himself. For food he grows a few vegetables in his garden and hunts his own bushmeat. Musa gets almost everything he needs for his family from the jungle. Maybe you would...Continue Reading >>
My small black notebook is quickly filling up with lengthy scribble detailing the businesses and lives Kiva lenders are touching in Nigeria. The ever-present entrepreneurial spirit in this country fascinates me while the big-picture political economy boggles my mind.
To put it all in context, Nigeria is the world’s 6th biggest oil producer. Oil revenues constitute over 95% of Nigeria’s export earnings and 85% of the government’s revenue (at US$50 billion in 2006). However, there are frequent power outages, the roads are slow and hazardous riddled with potholes and 57% of the...Continue Reading >>
“Jalloh, you alive?”
“Yes, Nick… of course.”
“Oh, Jalloh, Jalloh, Jalloh! I think it’s time to get out of here.”...Continue Reading >>
I’ve been in Sierra Leone now for about 6 days. It feels like I’ve been here for about 6 months. Not in a bad way, though. It’s just a very intense experience. Minus the unrelenting sweating it’s quite nice. It’s kind of like a bare-bones boot camp in the jungle, but instead of a screaming drill sergeant there are a lot of excited little African kids waving at you. Getting a feel for this place is all in...Continue Reading >>