By Adebayo Adebiyi
Today marks the end of the third week in April, the week which marks the end of our time here in Uganda. Figuring out how five weeks have gone by so fast is one big question on my mind as I write this blog. Sometimes it feels like I woke up from a deep sleep that has somehow morphed into 38 days in a foreign country. The reality though is that our time on the ground in Uganda has been anything but non-distinct. In fact, as I look back over our time here, I see that it has been full. It has been full of discovery of Uganda and our client’s operation. It has been full of brainstorming meetings about challenges, ideas and frameworks that will hopefully provide a solid basis for the future growth and success of Solar Sister.
Even from the comfort of our rooms at the Namirembe guest house in Kampala, we experienced the reality of the Uganda’s energy inadequacy and the need for alternative technologies that can bridge the gap between its energy demand and supply. We have also been constantly reminded of the initiative, industry and resilience of the Ugandan people through the different manifestations of the thriving and boisterous ‘informal’ economy, represented perhaps most symbolically by the ubiquitous ‘boda boda’ riders, who serve as the solitary means of ‘mass’ transportation in Kampala. The combination of these two realities; i.e. an inadequate energy supply and presence of people, who are motivated to better themselves, form the basis for the existence of Solar Sister. In the course of our work with Solar Sister, we visited client sites in Mityana, Ruhanga and Kireka, brainstormed internally and with the client, had workshops and created several documents, tools and frameworks that will hopefully be the foundation for strong Solar Sister success. More importantly however, we have hopefully empowered the in-country staff and provided useful overarching strategic insight to help Solar Sister to reach its full potential in Uganda.
In the midst of all our work, we found time for our weekend getaways to Jinja, Bwindi, Mbali and Murchison Falls. These experiences etched in our minds the beauty of Uganda and the warmth of its people. It gave us insight into cultural and historical antecedents that color the reality of today’s Uganda and holds the key to unlocking its potential. Needless to say that the general consensus on the team is that this trip has been a remarkable learning, cultural and travel experience overall. Our time here may be up but it has definitely been time well spent. We are grateful to ExxonMobil Foundation for the opportunity to be here and also to the remarkable TEM Lab staff and faculty for the assistance that have provided during our time on the ground. In preparation for our long flight back to the US, the team is heading out for one last meal at our favorite Indian restaurant here in Kampala so I have to say goodbye. Ciao!