Final Thoughts on Zambia

I’ve finally uploaded the video of my 112m Bungee Jump at Victoria Falls on the Zambia / Zimbabwe border:

The whole trip was an adventure and the journey back to Vancouver was no exception. I packed my bags and traveled to the Airport for a ten hour flight to Heathrow.  I had a 22 hour stop-over in London and I took advantage of this time to meet with the International Award, the organization that had invited me to take part in this trip.

I took the Underground from Heathrow to Piccadilly where I meet with Anna Godfrey, who had previously served as the Coordinator for the Peter Cruddas Social Innovation Initiative.  Anna was my gracious host in London – taking me to a delicious dinner in Downtown London and then letting me stay at her parent’s delightful home in the suburbs.

The following morning, we departed for downtown London where I took part in the weekly Tuesday morning team meeting at the International Award Office.  The timing of my visit was fortuitous as I was able to recount my history with the International Award, social entrepreneurship, and my trip to Zambia to the entire office!  My whole story took about 20 minutes and was followed by many great questions from the team.  After the team meeting, I was able to sit-in on another meeting at the office, this time with the Commonwealth Youth Programme who had just hosted me in Lusaka!

After the meeting, it was time to head back to Heathrow and board the plane to Vancouver.  The flight back was uneventful and by the time that we landed in Vancouver, I had spent more than 40 hours inside British Airways planes during the month of April!

When I returned back to Vancouver, it seemed like the adventure wasn’t quite over yet.  36 hours after arriving, I woke up exhausted and with a nasty fever.  Fearing Malaria or other tropical concoctions, I quickly went to Emergency at Vancouver General.  After some antibiotics and once 18 vials of blood had been removed from me and analyzed, I was finally released 24 hours later.  Fortunately, I’ve been healthy since, however the doctors have still not discovered the actual cause of the infection.

More impressively, my doctor allowed me to be temporarily discharged the next morning, as I was a Keynote speaker for a high school conference at Simon Fraser University.  I attended the conference with an IV connector still attached to my wrist.  Not surprisingly, I was treated like a rockstar at the conference, with both organizers and delegates thoroughly impressed with my commitment to attending even while being hospitalized!

Lastly, I’m not an expert in any sort on development and entrepreneurship in Africa, but here are my personal thoughts after spending two weeks in Zambia with youth entrepreneurship trainers from 17 different African countries:

  • In most places, there is an abundance of natural resources and opportunities to innovate and create value.  Unfortunately, from everyone that I’ve talked to, the high level of corruption really makes economic opportunities much more difficult.
  • Mindset might just be the biggest challenge.  In Canada, we dedicate time to get young people to change their mindset about entrepreneurship.  In Africa, the biggest mindset problem is short-term vs. long-term thinking.  It seems that due to necessity, decisions are favoured that have immediate consequences, and there is a real lack of long-term planning and vision.  Without long term thinking, entrepreneurship is much more difficult.
  • Entrepreneurship training is very focused on livelihood businesses as opposed to growth-oriented business. A woman buys and sells bananas each day, and the profit supports the livelihood for her family.  Unfortunately, there is little opportunity for growth – this woman will likely never employ others or eventually own a banana factory.  In more developed countries, growth-oriented entrepreneurship is the norm: if I start today by myself, I want to have 3 employees within 6 months and 10 by the end of year…Livelihood businesses are important for survival but without growth, the economic opportunity is limited.

Thank you again to everyone who I met on this trip for giving me such a wonderful experience.  I had an incredible time in Zambia and I can’t wait to return again to the African continent!