The last 2 weeks in Uganda finally made me realise why I feel so attracted to Africa as a continent. Many people asked me that question, including myself. The world is so big and there are so many nice places, but there’s something that attracts me to Africa. People say that you fall in love with this continent and that you don’t wanna leave again once you’ve been there. I just found an old travel blog I wrote in 2011, the first time I went to Tanzania. I wrote that the people, country and culture stole my heart and I knew for sure I that would come back and discover more. A few days ago Regina, a friend from Breda, asked my what exactly stole my heart and why I do feel so much at home in Africa, and in this case especially Uganda. I think I finally have the answer now, after all the conversations and great meetings I had over the last 14 days. The reason why I feel so comfortable and happy in Africa is because I have the feeling that I can have a very meaningful life when I would live and work here. I know that ‘Africa’ is very general and that there are huge differences between all the different areas and countries, but from what I’ve experienced till know, I feel like that.
The fact that you can directly support people by just sharing your knowledge, experiences, logic and open mindset, means a lot to me. It gives me so much energy and satisfaction to talk about someone’s business idea or initiative to help a local community. Just by asking a simple question like: “have you thought about selling this soup at the market?”, it is possible to change someone’s mindset and create an opportunity. Or having a conversation about how to improve local tourism or creating a tour in which the local community is involved. By having these talks and discussions, you can learn so much from each other and I love this exchange of ideas and knowledge.
I asked myself if I would have this feeling of satisfaction and being so passionate about supporting entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, but I don’t think I would. Here, entrepreneurship has a different meaning. Of course, there are many successful startups that become profitable businesses in Africa, but there are also many people who run a very small business just to survive and make enough money to feed their family and pay school fees. If you can train these people to adapt their business model a bit or approach things just a little different, you can make a huge difference. A business model does not necessarily have to be the next Facebook or a fancy coffee place with vegan donuts. It is still possible to make a chance by providing a micro loan to someone who makes jewellery. Or another example from Tanzania where a guy could rent a sewing machine for a very low amount. He now has his own clothing brand and 15 employees… It's great to see that people will become more self-sufficient, make more money and a whole family or even community will benefit from this. That is what motivates me to start a business here and use the profits to facilitate these kind of training programs and tools to improve local businesses.
The idea that life can be more meaningful to me here than back home became clearer now. The side jobs I had were all related to customer relations and making the client happy. I liked it a lot, but thinking about it more carefully, I have realised again that calling suppliers and taking care of complaints from customers will not make be happy at this moment. Of course, I could try to start a profitable business in Europe and use the money to support projects overhere. I would still have to do these tasks, but then I know the purpose and that it will benefit others. But I prefer to try to start a business here in Africa, just because I love the people, nature and culture and I would love to spend more time here. So for now I am still busy looking for a way, which enables me to have an income and to live in Africa for a longer period of the year and allows me to use the profits to invest in training programs for local entrepreneurs.
I just arrived in Zambia, had a very very warm welcome by Daliso and Violet and I’m super excited to explore this chapter!