Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 1: Akwaaba - Welcome to Ghana

Akwaaba - Welcome to Ghana!!!!

After a 4 hour flight to New York and a 10 hour flight to Accra, I finally made it to Ghana. The flight was quite long and it was a little hard to sleep, although I was able to get a few hours of shut eye.

Upon arriving here in Ghana, I was struck by the temperature and the high amount of humidity. Just walking off the plane, it was almost as if you got hit in the face with steam iron. Luckily, I was still wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was interesting that even though we flew in on a 767-300ER plane, the airport layout here in Accra is different than in other places. The airplane parked a little ways away from the terminal and they brought in some of those stairways that you always seen in the olden time movies. We left the plane and were immediately shuttled over to the terminal where we went through customs.

After passing through customs without any hick-ups, I decided to freshen up a little bit before grabbing my luggage and heading down to be met by the other MBA students who were coming to pick me up. As I walked into the stall the change, I saw the following site and realized that I was not in Kansas any more.

For those of you who haven't seen one of these before, this is a squatter toilet. Basically, there is no toilet seat. You have to squat over the hole and do your business. Needless to say, it was quite the experience.

After grabbing my luggage, I was met by the other MBA students (Tara, Jennia, and Andrew) and we spent several hours in downtown Accra visiting several craft markets, had lunch at Frankies (Fish and Chips), got me a cell phone, and then headed back to Koforidua.

I was in for quite a surprise when I found out that we had been invited to eat dinner with a Senior missionary couple that is serving here in Koforidua (Kof-town), the Cranneys. They have served 4 missions (Nigeria, San Francisco, Virginia, and now Ghana). We were in for quite a surprise by what we were served: Slopping Joes, fruit salad (watermelon, bananas, and pineapple), fried plantains, and the most delectable dessert (banana splits). If I can expect to eat like this every night, then sign me up for Ghana long-term (as long as Katie and Emme agree to come).

So a little about Burro and what I will be doing. Burro is a start-up social enterprise currently in pilot phase here in Koforidua, Ghana. The mission of Burro is to help its customers be more productive and live better lives. The first product that Burro is offering is a rechargeable battery service. In Ghana, more than 50% of the population are not connected to the grid (i.e. they have no electricity). They therefore power all of their electrical devices (i.e. flashlights (here known as “torches”), cell phones, and radios) with disposable batteries (here known as “battries”). The most common used battery is known as a Tigerhead battery. They are imported from China and are very cheap (price is about 30 pesewa (about $.20)). The problem with these batteries is that they are not very reliable. They will start off burning bright, but diminish over time. In addition, these batteries have a tendency to leak, causing serious damage to the devices which they are powering. According to one individual, it is not a matter if they will leak, but when they will leak.”

The Burro battery offering is a unique way to help customers overcome the above mentioned problems. First and foremost, these batteries are guaranteed not to leak. Burro has a guarantee that is one of their batteries leaks and causes and damage to any device, they will replace the device. Next of all, their battery burns bright. Instead of dimishing over time, the Burro battery burns bright until the end. Finally, the Burro battery is cheaper than even the Tigerhead battery. The battery can be as cheap as even .15 pesewa (about $.10). The Burro battery is a recheargeable battery that is “rented” to customers. In essence, the customer pays for the right to use the energy that is stored in the battery. Once the battery runs out, it is returned to the Burro resellers, who exchanges it for a new (recharged) battery. The Burro reseller then gives the battery back to Burro (via the means of a Burro employee who visits the resellers twice each week) who recharges the battery and then turns around again and resells the battery.


Michal Thompson said...

Connor's parents were one of those "senior missionaries" in Ghana. The loved it. They are now is Spain and missing Ghana.

Blaine said...

The house the couple missionaries live in is pretty nice, I remember it well. We got to watch a few sessions of general conference there when I was serving in Koforidua. I am so happy that you get to be there!