WEEK 2 – Monday 9th September – Monday 16th of September
Monday 16th of September
As we speak, I’m writing this from Mombasa Airport, before flying out for a week of meetings in the Netherlands and Belgium! The past week has been full of exciting experiences and of moving forward on different levels. Let me take you through this journey of what a typical week of a Belgian entrepreneur in Kenya looks like. When no power cuts are happening and the internet is running, it is business as usual just like in Europe. Although Mombasa’s power grid has improved significantly over the past years, some cuts every day are still common.
Traffic in Kenya definitely is a challenge when heading to our new hub’s offices in Mombasa and our Circular Economy Hub in Nairobi! However, with my experience of traffic in Brussels and Antwerp, I see no significant difference on this level, except with some additional camels, monkeys or goats on the road :).
Monday, 9th of September
Karibu Ludwig and Sietske!
The last ten days where marked by the arrival of my brother Ludwig and his Dutch fiancee Sietske, who will both help us to make this African dream become reality! They arrived just in time, keeping in mind our end of September deadline for the opening of the Close the Gap Hub Mombasa… From chasing the construction company to deliver on time, to analyzing the availability of office furniture, or having it made by local craftsman who have the same circular way of thinking as we have at Close the Gap, .. none of this multi-tasking takes Ludwig out of his comfort zone.
As you can see in this video, the deadline has not been met, and the works are still a little behind schedule, but we will get there 😉 and I’m sure that in my next blog I will be able to share some pictures of proud tenants and users of our space.
Tuesday, 10th of September
On Tuesday, the “Africa globetrotters”, Dutchmen Pauline and Wim Opmeer arrived in Mombasa! They are an amazing couple, driving from Cape Town, with their mobile home all the way to… Amsterdam! These two amazing people visit different impact projects on their road trip to create awareness back home via authentic audiovisual documentaries….. On their way up from Cape Town, South-Africa, over Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and now Kenya, they visited multiple Close the Gap projects! Obviously, they had to stop in Mombasa to get to know everything about our plans here in Kenya. Asante Wim and Pauline!
Wednesday 11th of September
The next day, while Ludwig, Sietske and my wife were tackling the daily Mombasa challenges, I took the 4am Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi. Waking up at 1:30 AM to get at the Mombasa Airport at 3 AM was crazy, but at least I could avoid the crazy morning rush traffic of Nairobi to get to the CBD downtown for a day packed with critical meetings (such as immigration for our work permit, lawyers for the company structuring, setting up bank accounts, meeting the TVET higher education government directorate, the recruitment agency for the HR execution, etc.).
I was on time, but unfortunately, I was the only one….as a wise man once told me: ‘I’ve never lost so much time in my life by being on time’. But, ‘This is Africa’, or even “TIA” as the local’s call it. With delays upon delays I got quite frustrated and depressed for a while, but fortunately the day ended well; I had to chance to reconnect with recently moved fellow entrepreneur and old colleague Thomas Poelmans, and we reflected on his and my recent adventures… and in the end… TIA :-). It was a true privilege that our Nairobi hub manager, Timothy and our adviser Levy, both coastal guys, working in Nairobi, joined us for a drink.
Thursday 12th of September
Before heading back to Mombasa the next day, I had an important meeting at the United Nations Office (UNHCR, the refugee agency) to discuss Close the Gap’s Digitruck programme that will be implemented in the refugee camps in Kenya, where it will bring job-tech opportunities! Of course, I also had the opportunity to meet the colleagues of the Close the Gap hub in Nairobi and my ‘African father’ and founder of Computers for Schools Kenya, Tom Musili.
And where my two-day trip to Nairobi started with frustrations caused by delays, Kenya Airways made up for it all, proposing to get me on an earlier flight back to Mombasa!
That same day, Close the Gap organized, together with Nailab and GoodUp a Leap2 tech-innovation challenge meet-up in Mombasa with a focus on electronic waste and innovative lightning. Swahilipot, one of our hub partners on the Mombasa incubator scene, hosted the event on their beautiful premises facing Fort Jesus, Unesco world heritage… yes, Mombasa is beautiful, definitely worth a visit :). 40 youngsters showed interest to take part in this next Leap2 challenge. We will keep you posted on the startups who made it and the innovations they stand for! To be continued :).
Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September
During the weekend, we had some leisure time going to a birthday party from a charming Dutch girl, one of the other toddlers at Alexander’s school who turned 4 years old. Her lovely parents, both already living in Africa for five years now, invited us together with other local and international friends for a wonderful birthday party.
But even during weekends, work goes on: I met our importer and freight forwarder, Roel de Rudder from Transfreight, who is taking care of the diligent task to have our incoming containers cleared and thus having a trusted supply chain for our (future) operations…
Work and pleasure are – like everywhere in the world and if you are passionate about what you do – closely linked. Roel, a friend and true ambassador for our CTG passion, invited us for a family brunch at a place called ‘Dhow’. Including a kid’s playground and live music, Kenyan stew dishes, grilled on the BBQ. Shortly after the dinner finished, the kids started dancing on the live music, but while playing, they suddenly had to look for shelter when a ten-minute tropical rain came up!
Life is full of surprises in Mombasa: an inspiring innovation from a young local entrepreneur, a monkey on the road home, or a friendly smile,… but also in a more challenging way: flies (due to the rain season) all over, delays heaped upon delays, road traffic and VERY !!!! bad roads with holes all over that are breaking your vehicles if you don’t adapt your speed significantly, power cuts when you are in the middle of an important board call with overseas participants, etc. …. It’s clear that the road to our success will be bumpy and full of challenges! Let it be a metaphor, as the roads literally are bumpy in Kenya, but you get to your destination in the end… and all the Kenyans are true optimists and have a ‘can do’ mentality of joy, something we in Europe can learn from BIG TIME !
… and the African girls and boys? They are so courageous and truly forward-looking innovators and believers in modern tech enabled societies that become more equitable, sustainable and inclusive. So, on behalf of all these young inspirational entrepreneurs here in the coastal area of Kenya, thank you for your encouragements and for your support to help us co-create and build the entrepreneurial dreams of those innovators, who are going to create improved self-reliability for so many of their clients, partners and stakeholders at large in society!
Till soon for a new update!