RENEW Strategies

A Typical Monday in Addis Ababa

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Laura Davis
| August 19, 2015


5:30 AM – I would like to say it was the smell of Ethiopian coffee that first wakes me each day in Addis Ababa, but it’s often the prayers of the nearby churches that break into my morning grogginess. The delicious Arabica coffee my husband, Matt, brings me does partially make up for the multitude of early morning sound intrusions.

6 AM – It’s time to get moving and exercise. I can’t believe I am going to out myself here, but Jillian Michaels exercise videos are ideal for the constraints of life in Addis Ababa. It’s not nearly as glamorous as a run in Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, but just 20 minutes later, I’m ready to face the day. Mission accomplished.

6:50 AM - I’m out the door and heading to the office. Any later and the traffic in Addis can be unbearable. Rush hour traffic in any city can be chaotic, and Ethiopia is certainly no exception. Matt and I have a deal that if it's later than 7:00 AM when we depart, it's my turn to drive. Even at 7:10 AM, the blue taxi vans that are locally referred to as “blue donkeys”, which carry much of the Addis’ population to work, are already starting to block two to three lanes of traffic, turning a 10 minute commute into a 30 minute drive. Real donkeys are also notorious for being in the way and part of every day street life in Addis, so the idea of a cumbersome blue donkey is both humorous and appropriate.

7:15 AM - I arrive at the office and start catching up on emails from the U.S. that piled up across the time zones. My work with our U.S. team focuses on our international operations, investor management, marketing and working with our portfolio distribution companies.

9 AM – The Ethiopia team priorities meeting takes place. Every Monday, the Ethiopia team gets together like clockwork, to go over the priorities for the coming week. This week’s highlights: closing one investment; getting a bank loan in the works to close another; finalizing our dates for our upcoming investor Econ-Tourism trips; and beginning our analysis of two new opportunities for our next investment package.

9:30 AM – Climb into RENEW’s Toyota Vitz to drive across town to one of our portfolio company’s offices. Driving isn’t something I relish in Addis, so I love it when a team member takes the wheel.

10 AM – It's the first 120 days of our investment in East Africa Emergency Services (EAES), so we intensively meet with the management team to work on the company’s priorities including branding, marketing, business planning, budgeting and good old fashioned sales.

11:30 AM – Drive from EAES to Mama Fresh. Fingers crossed that we won’t hit any traffic jams or be stopped by a diplomatic mission going to or from Bole International Airport. With the Africa Union in Addis Ababa, this is one thing that the city has in common with my home city in the U.S., Washington, D.C. There is always someone important going somewhere important.

Noon – Attend a board meeting at Mama Fresh. We are working on updating the budget, reviewing financial controls, devising marketing strategies, etc. The company has many opportunities in front of them and the next few months will be exciting. And of course, a lunch at Mama Fresh is always a tasty affair. The Mama Fresh team jokes about how I consistently schedule my meetings around the lunch hour. Hmm, no surprise there - you should always “Dance with your fingers. Eat Ethiopian."

2 PM – I catch up on team emails and work on improving systems around our company management efforts. Some would think this is boring work, but we are proving a new model and it’s time to start thinking about scaling to new countries. Kaizen.

3:30 PM – This marks the beginning of several meetings with the U.S. team to connect about investor management, company operations and marketing. I love the creativity we get to use around the investor experience. We consistently work to improve current efforts and to implement new ideas that deliver our Ethiopian portfolio companies' amazing stories to the real heroes of this narrative – the investors of the Impact Angel Network. Not every day is so full of meetings, but a few days out of the week are. In working across time zones, Skype has indeed become our best friend.

5 PM – Active pipeline meeting begins. During this time, we have the Ethiopia team and U.S. team all together to discuss the latest on new deals that have come across our desks, as well as to provide updates on our progress in structuring and closing investments.

7:30 PM – Drinks with friends or partners at one of the hotels in Addis. We tend to end up at the Sheraton or the Radisson, two establishments that provide nicely predictable service.

9:30 PM – It’s popcorn time! One of the things I cherish about Ethiopia is the population’s love affair with popcorn, or fantasia - as it is locally known in Amharic. Now, when I order some at a hotel or local restaurant without ordering buna (coffee) as well, they look at me like I am crazy. But regardless, it’s readily available for consumption at home or anywhere they are performing a coffee ceremony.

Come see us in Addis sometime. We promise we’ll keep the team meetings to a minimum and will take you around to meet the companies and entrepreneurs involved in Ethiopia’s vibrant economy.

To find out more about RENEW or the Impact Angel Network, contact us at renew@renewstrategies.com or follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC.