13 November 2010

Starting new UNDP Africa Project - a dream comes true

I have just moved to Johannesburg to start a new United Nations development project. This blog post covers the project and my first week back with Mother Africa from two perspectives: 1) professional and 2) personal.

1) New UNDP Africa Project on Private Sector and
    Inclusive Business/Market Development

Together with my Mozambican colleague Tomas Sales, we are starting UNDP's first Pan-African project on developing vibrant private sectors that create jobs and enhance incomes by including low-income people into value chains. This can mean offering specialized and affordable products/services to them as customers (demand side) or working with them as workers, suppliers or entrepreneurs (supply side). Such business models at the "Base of the Pyramid" are also called inclusive business models contributing to poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The track-record so far and prospects to achieve the MDGs by 2015 are mixed. 10 years have passed and only five more to go. The recent financial and economic crises plus environmental challenges (foremost climate change) have not helped either. But the goals can still be achieved and increasingly the important role of the private sector - business and entrepreneurs - is realized. The project covers Regional Economic Integration, Value Chain Projects, Partnerships and Inclusive Finance. It's too complex to describe here in short, so I leave it with a slide carrying the spirit of the project.

2) Dreams do come true
Some years I had a dream: Using my business background for social human development. I wanted to make a change with my life and work for a better world, not just donate some money to ease my conscience. My heart was burning for big adventures and taking on big challenges. My aspiration was to work for the United Nations in Africa.

The road there has been winding but if things are meant to be and we believe in our aspirations and potential they do become true. My multi-stages path after leaving the " corporate rat race" included: unpaid volunteer at a Microfinance NGO in Peru (FINCA), grass-roots work in Mali (Mali-Initiative), an unpaid internship at the UN (Global Compact), earning Masters in International Development (UNSW) and getting a chance to work for UNDP in New York, hanging in there as a serial short-term consultant...

Now my dream to work for the UN on "business & development" in Africa is coming true. And the best is that it is just starting :) Imagine next? I already feel a sense of deep change here in Africa and globally consciousness is growing. Change is in the air, we can make it! Some inspiration to listen to your own heart and unleash your inner potential:
"Do not go where the path may lead,
go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined.
Henry David Thoreau
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