Reflections from Volunteer Africa 2017
By Manolo Falco, Corporate & Investment Banking Head, EMEA June 29, 2017 09:30 AM
It is now just over a month since our Volunteer Africa program concluded, and our junior bankers from around the world are now safely back in their home countries. It was a truly rewarding experience for all involved, and I am very proud of the enthusiasm and energy of our volunteers, and of the real difference they have made during their five weeks in Uganda.
In the fourth week of the program, I had the pleasure of joining other Citi seniors from our offices in London and Uganda in person in Mbale and Jinja along with the team from our on the ground partners, Balloon Ventures. We met with the 24 global CIB and CMO Analysts and Associates who volunteered, along with the 16 entrepreneurs they worked with. In Mbale we met Stanley, who runs an organic chicken farm and is currently focused on upgrading his premises, Sarah and Canon at their medical clinic, which is open 24 hours and has a total capacity to treat nine patients at a time, and Sam, a 24 year old baker who designed and built his own bakery on a land which was previously a swamp.
Our next stop was Jinja, where we had the privilege of meeting Cuupa, a creative young entrepreneur, at the art gallery he has set up, and Eddy, who runs a youth empowerment center, where he offers various vocational training classes to the unemployed population, giving them the skillset to seek employment or start their own business. Our final visit was to Monic, the owner of a beauty salon for the past 10 years, who has seen a significant increase in her customer foot traffic since she started working with our volunteers.
Together with the volunteers, the entrepreneurs in both cities prepared their pitches for funding, which they presented to us during the visit. It was an overwhelming experience to hear the work and progress that had been made by our volunteers in such a short space of time, and the stories and business aspirations of all the entrepreneurs. The presentations were delivered to three different panels chaired by three Citi seniors, and each showcased the dedication and hard work that had gone into the endeavor. Our task was to decide which businesses to fund, a truly difficult mandate when each business proved itself to be exceptional and inspiring.
I was humbled to hear from entrepreneurs Sarah and Canon, who informed me that, “our team of volunteers had been fantastic. Since starting our business five years back, we had no record of our expenses and our profits; our Citi Volunteers have educated us on the importance and benefits of bookkeeping. We now have a clear strategy on how we want to grow in the community.”
Mike, the owner of a wholesaler business, expressed his gratitude, saying, “Our volunteers have worked very hard. They have given us a detailed financial forecast and worked on great ideas to promote our business. We are already feeling the increase in sales.”
At the end of this year’s Volunteer Africa program, I am delighted to say that our volunteers have had a genuine impact on the businesses they worked with. We heard this first-hand in the entrepreneur testimonials and saw this impact ourselves in the numbers of the participating businesses. Our team of volunteers have also gained a great deal from the experience, from building their global network and cultural awareness, through to experiencing and learning about entrepreneurship, innovation and working with clients first hand. I was incredibly impressed by the motivation displayed by our entrepreneurs, and with the enthusiasm and efforts of our volunteers. Volunteer Africa is a program that demonstrates Citi at its best, and something we can all feel very proud of.