A Frontier Markets Scout as an Unreasonable Mentor and a visit to UpEnergy in Uganda

The past couple weeks have been quite exhausting as I spent over 75 hours on busses and matatus for both my roles with Eco Fuels Kenya and Village Capital, along with some time spent in Uganda to visit a fellow Frontier Market Scout Andrew Price who is working with UpEnergy. Despite the exhaustion of time spent on public transport and unpaved roads, the trip contained a number of highlights that made it all worthwhile.

Eco Fuels Kenya - Organic Farming

Eco Fuels Kenya General Manager Cosmas with one of our retail farming customers

I got started with a trip to Nairobi for a number of investor and partner meetings on behalf of Eco Fuels Kenya. We had a wonderful site visit from a potential impact investment partner just before I headed south, so over the following week myself and the other members of the management team followed-up in Nairobi as the firm performed additional due diligence and learned each of our perspectives on the opportunity and challenges of the organization’s future. Taking advantage of the trip to Nairobi, I was also able to meet and engage with a number of potential partner organizations, most of whom also participating in the development of Kenya’s organic fertilizer market, to make formal introductions and brainstorm collaboration ideas. As we dig deeper into the world of organic fertilizers it is becoming more and more apparent that collaboration, rather than competition, will help us reach our goals of replenishing Kenya’s chemically depleted soils. It is an exciting time and opportunity for Eco Fuels Kenya to be in a position to help lead the development of this commercially-viable market.

Mentoring UnreasonableAfrica - Myles Lutheran Frontier Market Scout

Group photo with the team from GrowthAfrica and Unreasonable Africa who helped pull off the incubator event

Before departing Nairobi for Kampala, Uganda I participated as a mentor for the Unreasonable Insitute’s first Nairobi initiative: a 48 hour incubator for social entrepreneurs. Representing both Eco Fuels Kenya and Village Captial at the event was a great opportunity to help some early and mid-idea stage social entrepreneurs develop further to a point where they could take the next step in building their business. Since Village Capital and GrowthAfrica recently announced a second incubator program this upcoming September, it was a great opportunity to meet some potential participants and teach them about the Village Capital model. On top of meeting and brainstorming with entrepreneurs, it was great to network with the other mentors of the program to dive deeper into the Nairobi social enterprise scene while exchanging ideas and resources. To top off the great weekend spent at the incubator I was proud that one of the teams I helped mentor was named the winning enterprise of the weekend, riding the success that they had during the session I spent developing their idea with them to the winners circle.

Andrew Price - UpEnergy | Frontier Market ScoutsAndrew Price - UpEnergy | Frontier Market Scouts

Andrew interviews an UpEnergy client after she spent two weeks trialing a new cookstove product

An overnight bus ride put me in Kampala to catch up with fellow Frontier Market Scout Andrew Price who is working with UpEnergy. UpEnergy (as described on their website) fights poverty, improves health and protects forests by making clean energy technologies available to more people in the developing world through carbon-financed distribution channels. Carbon financing through international carbon credit markets allows UpEnergy to sell their products at a price that Base of the Pyramid (BoP) customers can afford to pay, thus increasing access to these life-changing technologies. Having no prior experience with clean cookstoves, the primary product UpEnergy distributes, I was extremely interested in seeing their implementation and the challenges of their distribution which are well documented. I shadowed Andrew as he went on customer visits to get feedback from trials of new cookstoves that UpEnergy is considering adding to their portfolio.

With a short pit stop in western Kenya to visit a new best friend, I exhaustively made my way home to Nanyuki on buses and matatus to get back to work at Eco Fuels Kenya. Officially half way through my six month Frontier Market Scouts assignment, I’m excited as ever to continue the progress we’ve been making since my arrival.

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