First time doing research, first time going to East Africa, first time being in Nairobi! And why not starting with a Safari?!
We are Alisa Sydow, PhD student in Management and Innovation, and Maria Ardizzone, Master student in International Management and we went right on the first day to a Safari in Nakuru.
It was a pretty impressive experience to see all the animals in their natural surrounding and it got us right from the start a good impression of how special and beautiful Kenya is. Even if we had a little fight with some baboons which wanted to have our biscuits.
Actually, even without having planned and organized anything in advanced, our first day in Nairobi was special and exciting. But of course, our objective was not only to go there to see lions, we went to Tangaza College to do interviews with as many local entrepreneurs as possible as we wanted to collect all information for our researches.
Having one German member in the team (Alisa is from Hannover), we tried to organize all the meetings in advance to make sure to get to know everyone. But just after a few days, we have seen that things work different in Nairobi. It is shaped by incredible traffic jams all over the days, chaotic public transport and people walking over the highways, so it’s hard to plan the exact time of a meeting as you never know how long does it takes to you to cross the city.
When we learnt to move at the same rhythm of Nairobi, we had the chance to get to know lots of lovely and passionate local entrepreneurs. They told us their life stories and reasons why they decided to launche their business and joined the E4Impact MBA.
Doing the interviews was really interesting not only because we could understand the reason behind an entrepreneur’s choice, but also because we had the opportunity to better understand the business environment in Nairobi. As a matter of fact, sometimes, after our interviews, we did also some field visits in interesting companies, like a farm owned by a Sisters congregation which produces milk with their own cows. It was such interesting to see how they were developing their farming according to the local needs.
A part from the field visits, we got in contact with Nairobi business community by visiting the iHub as well. It is an incubator for entrepreneurs and it provides a great network for people all over Nairobi. When we went there, all of a sudden we could feel a really international and innovative environment, everyone was so kind with us and curious about our research, so we took the chance to do some interviews also there! That was a particular day, also because we had to take a bodaboda – moto taxi – in order to come back home! It was too late to take a car, actually it was only half past 6 pm, but in Nairobi at that time it is impossible to cross the city because of the traffic jam. It was an amazing experience!
The time passed very fast, but we succeed in doing many interviews and collecting a lot of data for our research. Not only, the greatest thing we took home was the amazing relationship we established with the colleagues at the university, both local teachers and staff. We even attended the graduation of Sister Christine, our good friend who helped us a lot in our visits all over Nairobi with Mickey Mouse, her crazy car! With her we went visiting Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa. It was a 3 hours walk in the middle of the slum with a girl from Kibera and at the end we were so impressed and happy, we indeed got in contact with a real environment. Actually, we expected to see just poor people living in bad conditions, but we were surprised to see a real city inside the slum and the smile on people’s faces. All the children were so impressed by seeing two musungu – white people – in the slum and they came to say hello to us!
Unfortunately, the experience lasted only a month and we had to come back in Italy right when we were starting to better understand the city – it was only in the last days that we started to take the matatu (local autobus) alone – . But this will be one of the best experience we’ve ever lived so far.
Thank you so much for such an amazing time! We strongly wish to go back to meet our friends from Tangaza College and to continue to discover Kenya!
Alisa Sydow & Maria Ardizzone