When we arrived last week in Ghana our team had prepped enough to know what it was we didn’t know. That way we could immediately start gathering the information necessary to develop a set of deliverables that would best meet the needs of our client. So we got on site, did just that, and showed up at our meeting last Friday confidant in our proposed deliverables that we were hoping to get our client’s sign off on. But of course, as a rule of thumb in consulting, we should have expected the unexpected. Despite discovering that PALMS’s moringa-focused business was still in the earliest stages of infancy and deserved our full consulting attention to get it off the ground, our client was very focused on having us work on developing a business plan for biodiesel production – something that almost seemed like a pipe dream from our vantage point. As our team sat around (admittedly a little frustrated and confused) collecting ourselves to determine how to go forward, I was hit by a wave of inspiration and excitement when I recalled something I had learned in Professor Ramaswamy’s Global Strategy class – one of the foundational principles of operating in an emerging market is long term vision. This was exciting for two reasons: 1) the ideas on the table were starting to make sense and 2) I could breathe a quasi sigh of relief that the tuition money was starting to pay off.
In a western environment where business plans are developed to attract investors who want an exit in two years or less and a payback period less than 12 months, planning is linear, we focus on the most immediate need and speed to market is king. These things are important in the emerging market space, but the institutional voids are many and barriers are high, so you have to be ready to dig your heels in and hold on for the ride – no matter how long it may be. Planning is systemic, you need to be open to the whole picture in order to plant seeds well ahead of time (literally and figuratively in this case) to reap harvest even years down the line. In Ghana, where savings and credit culture is only budding (both indicators of longer term thinking), our lead client, Pastor Brenyah, is truly a visionary.
As a result, we’re now on a massive learning curve studying the worldwide market for biofuels and creating a forecasting model that can be used as a tool to guide decision making for this plant in the future. As an alternative energy enthusiast, I’m incredibly excited to watch our project take shape.
On a more personal note, my cultural experience in Ghana thus far has proven to be equally rewarding. My excitement for riding tro tros, taking the back roads, and seeing Ghana for everything it is has led to some incredible experiences. I think it’s fair to say I’ve adjusted quickly and, as I’m probably the most open to experiencing life as a local out of my colleagues, I’ve had the opportunity to venture out on my own and experience the incredible street nightlife in downtown Accra, attend a very lively local church service with some of the hotel staff, make friends with school children on my morning runs and of course learn a little bit of Twi and Ga from every taxi driver. More on the fun stuff next time.