Saturday, May 30, 2015

Global Connections: Day 6

Tuesday was our first official day of business visits in Accra. We started the morning with the West African AIDS Foundation. CEO Dr. Naa Ashiely Vanderpuye-Donton is a moving speaker.

WAAF facts from our visit:
  • WAAF is a for-profit model, though their revenues are very low. Their clients register for the national health insurance, but government payments are more than a year behind at this point. Additional revenue streams include donations to a crisis fund and individual sponsorships of patients.
  • In addition to their clinic, counseling, and education efforts. They are also working on an anti-stigma campaign with an online platform.
  • They want to completely eliminate mother-to-child transmission. Currently more than 90 percent of the babies born at their clinic are born HIV negative.
  • Today, the treatment of HIV is rather simple, it is the psycho and social issues that are difficult.
  • "HIV has a family face." You cannot just treat the disease and you must empower women.
  • They see a lot of push back from the religious community on HIV medications. Patients will stop taking their medications after speaking with their pastors. Dr. Naa recognizes that you need to be right spiritually, to get your mind in right place to heal, but she said that HIV is a physical thing and patients need to take their medications. They need to do both. It is not one or the other.
  • Thanks to pressure from the Global Fund, the government is now funding outreach to men who have sex with men (MSM) populations, a curious twist of phrase used in a country where homosexuality is illegal. 
In the afternoon, we visited the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology and Incubator (MEST).

"MEST is fully backed by The Meltwater Foundation, a non-profit arm of the Meltwater Group in San Francisco. Meltwater is the global leader for online news and social media analytics."

MEST was once just a school, but they determined that there weren't ways for their graduates to get traction in the local environment and started the incubator to provide that starting point. We heard from Senior Faculty Todd Holcombe, Director of Product Emmanuel Quartey, Business Development Fellow Daisy Chang, and a panel of Business and Tech Teaching Fellows.

Some interesting thoughts from this visit included:

  • The team is as if not more important that the idea. A strong team can have another idea.
  • Talent is universal. Access and opportunity are not.

We also had the chance to hear from several of the students. They are working in teams on capstone projects that involve developing a business to launch. We got to hear their elevator pitches.

*This student is pitching a company that matches travelers with available space in their luggage with people trying to ship items overseas.

*Pricilla is working on an audio diary app.

*The school and incubator are separated by a small creek. You cross from one to the other on this bridge.

I started to notice a few themes starting on this day.

  1. Many people choose Ghana for NGOs and start-ups (Village Exchange, MEST), based on a check list of needs that include safety. 
  2. Health care and access to doctors is a huge issue in Ghana.
  3. Residential and commercial space is also a huge issue.
I am adding some commentary from our guide on HIV in West Africa.

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