Since I was a teenager, I have always been attracted by trade and interested in discovering the commodity routes among peoples and continents. This interest has led me to personally study the geography of natural resources and, consequently, learning more on societies and their territories. I would never have thought that I could combine these interests into a professional experience as a recent graduate.
My name is Alberto Ruozzo and after completing a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management at the Università Cattolica of Milan, I’ve enrolled in an MSc in International Business and Management at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, which I’m attending since February 2023. In the midst of my academic journey, I had the privilege of participating in a work experience at the E4Impact Entrepreneurship Center in Nairobi, Kenya.
The opportunity that E4Impact Foundation provides to university students is unique: to have a professional experience in a diverse and fascinating continent like Africa. This was something I couldn’t pass up, hence I seized the opportunity and I held the role of Brand Analyst Intern within the ARABIKA project that E4Impact is carrying out in Kenya.
This four-year project is funded by Agenzia Italiana per la Cooperazione e lo sviluppo – AICS and is led in collaboration with other NGOs, precisely CEFA and AVSI. It aims to accelerate the growth process in the coffee sector for small entrepreneurial cooperatives scattered throughout Kenya and combats the unprofitable production and distribution chain that is monopolized by a few large players managing the entire value chain of Arabica coffee.
Kenya, with its vast and fertile land, is rich in cultivated varieties, including the precious Arabica coffee, that accounts for 99% of all coffee grown in the Country. It is a real treasure that thrives in some of the most favorable climatic conditions on the planet. My team and I were involved in the development of a marketing campaign for the different brands of coffee cooperatives, both locally and internationally. The ultimate goal was to create a fair and supportive market that would allow Kenyan farmers to sell their high-quality coffee directly to international customers.
This experience gave me something that I still carry with me today: curiosity and passion. I became aware that Kenya is a natural miracle endowed with resources of immeasurable value and I’m grateful for having the possibility to give my personal contribution in raising awareness on this wealth; not for the purpose of profit, but to create concrete actions with social and economic impacts for the people on the ground. It was such a beautiful experience!
I’ve stayed in Kenya for three months and during this period, I had the opportunity to learn something new every day, both professionally and personally, through interactions with colleagues, customers, entrepreneurs, and people from different ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds.
The added value was the flexibility and active involvement that the local staff always provided, especially thanks to the proactive approach of David Cheboryot, the Director of Entrepreneurship Centers, and Justin Kasia, the project manager of ARABIKA.
I would like to highlight the non-linear nature of the work. One day, I was attending on-field training sessions with agricultural entrepreneurs in the Kenyan highlands, and the following day, I was participating in a meeting at the national coffee directorate in the capital. There were workshops, presentations, training courses, and events. The versatility of the job, combined with the informality of the sector, allowed me to fully engage and proactively learn new professional skills, while immersing myself in the fascinating and complex world of coffee, from the beginning to the end of the production process.
Thanks to the support of the E4Impact Foundation, I can say that the internship in Kenya has shaped me as a person, enabling me to cultivate new passions and becoming aware of the economic and social entrepreneurial potential present on the African continent. E4Impact’s way of working has provided me with an alternative professional outlook, different from what I have always learned in my studies, and one that I hope to embrace again in the future.