What happens when you put two dozen entrepreneurs in a room together for two days, and rather than speak to them, facilitate conversations between them? The results feel magical. The companies open up to to share the challenges they face, and from that they share solutions that have already been tried including solutions that actually work.
Challenges such as how to efficiently work with 1,000+ smallholder farmers. How to pay them. How to deal with the inevitable side selling. How to operate the logistics to pick up from so many farms.
Challenges such as how to efficiently sell to 1,000+ informal retailers. How they don’t always take delivery of what they order. But how those informal retailers are still a better path than the formal retailers, who say they pay in 30 days, but in reality often take longer.
Challenges such as hiring good management and reliable staff. How to pay to keep people from leaving, when money is needed to pay the farmers and to finance the formal retailers.
We also talked about how to mitigate the drop in the value of the African currencies, about the benefits and drawbacks from exporting, about how to best organize companies that are starting to expand beyond a single country.
The experiences and perspectives came from entrepreneurs based all over the continent. We fly them all in for this event and despite the rise of Zoom, these face-to-face gatherings have the advantage of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and breaks for dozens of unplanned, unscheduled, non-facilitated discussions to break out too.
All in all, the value of those two days far exceeded the time and expenses in flying everyone in. This year we held our gathering in the two days after Sankalp Africa, with more than half of this crowd attending Sankalp too. That worked well and the plan is to keep doing this annually after Sankalp.