Notes from the road
Five days flew by on the AMPION Venture Bus West Africa. We started in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Thursday where we welcomed 40 entrepreneurs who had been selected among hundreds of entrepreneurs after submitting their business ideas. Business experts, developers and designers from Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Zimbabwe, Tunesia, Germany and France had all found their way to BabyLab in Abidjan where the tour kicked off. Team building exercises followed an inspirational speech by Samuel Khaninda from our partner Transparency International about the effects and challenges of corruption in Africa.
On day two we hit the road to Cape Coast, Ghana, on a long journey along the West African coast. The first task on the bus was to identify and analyze the problems our participating Ampioneers wanted to tackle with their ideas. Our dedicated mentors on board helped to create a story that aids in understanding, evaluating and eventually verifying the respective problem. Late at night the top ten problems were pitched to the group, many of which were visible on our tour through West Africa. We listened to solutions for problems such as the poor handling and management of waste or the lack of acceptance of cashless transactions.
Early the next morning the Venture Bus continued to Ghana’s buzzing capital Accra, where we were hosted by iSpace, Ghana’s most innovative co-working space. Next to the stunning city views from the rooftops, the Ampioneers listened carefully to the words of Minerva Novero-Belec. Minerva is a policy specialist at UNDP who travelled all the way from New York to hop on the Venture Bus, bringing in her valuable perspective and experience. Meanwhile, the Ampioneers had built teams to approach the next step: identifying the target group of their problem. Adapting the principles of design thinking and prototyping, the potential customer got into focus. After a long day, we returned to our hotel in Accra only to get hit by an all night power cut. For the Ampioneers however there was no mercy. The teams had to perform their first 90 second pitch of their three day old business model in the flashing lights of our Venture Bus in the parking lot.
On Sunday we left Accra on our way towards Togo where we visited WoeLab in Lome, an innovative lab focusing on 3D-printing. There, the teams worked further on their products and refined their business models based on the mentor feedback. The mentors had given workshops on customer-centricity, business model focus and patterns and presentation skills. After dinner the teams pitched again in front of the mentors, presenting great solutions to pressing problems. These solutions navigated around problems such as the lack of address systems or affordable health insurance in Africa.
Today the Venture Bus traveled to Cotonou, Benin. Here, after a long visa stop at the Benin border, we were hosted by EtriLabs, a co-working space that focuses on fostering young entrepreneurs and their tech start-ups as well as offering programming classes for kids between nine and fourteen. In the meantime, our teams keep filing on their business models, incorporating aspects of scalability and customer-centricity as the final pitches in Lagos are getting closer.
Greetings from the road,
Your AMPION team in West Africa,
Kathrin, Debbie & Ifeanyi