A global team of 48 online volunteers carried out research on the entrepreneurial environment in African countries and produced an e-book and articles for the Association of African Entrepreneurs (AAE). The final product, titled “Hopes and Mirages”, is intended to serve as a guide for anyone who wishes to embark on a business enterprise in the region.
Happy Mukama, an attorney born in Uganda, contributed an article on investment trade facilitation in Rwanda, where he now resides. He negotiated the Common Market for East African Community as a Rwandan delegate and is currently conducting regional integration consultancies with the International Finance Corporation/World Bank Group. “Research has shown that intra-regional trade in Africa has been retarded by lack of investment information for markets by investors. AAE is therefore doing a tremendous job to address this issue by linking investors to markets through information sharing. I believe that one article or one piece of legal advice published online can change the 100 or 1,000 lives of a small entrepreneur or farmers that I cannot be able to reach out physically.”
Online volunteer Slawosz Fliegner, a German Business Administration graduate with a professional record in investment banking and consulting, who lives in Singapore, wrote a report about the business environment in Sierra Leone. “Online volunteering gives me the ability to contribute, as opposed to simply donate. Contribution is a team effort and a form of dialogue, which allows you to help in solving a problem. By volunteering online I can go beyond the notion of charity and work on a project to the best of my abilities to create a social impact. My efforts are guided by the organization, which understands the actual needs and challenges and thus is in a position to maximize the benefits from the project”.
Through their team coordinator, Kirthi Jayakumar, AAE has built a strong relationship with the online volunteers. A young lawyer from India who runs her own international law consultancy as well as a law journal, Kirthi designed and edited the e-book. “The online collaboration was fantastic,” she says. I built a personal relationship with most of the volunteers who I coordinated, and today I can safely say I have become richer by many friends.”
For some of the online volunteers, the project had unexpected personal results. After having volunteered in a child vaccination campaign following a catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan, Aksa Bilal started suffering from panic attacks that almost prevented her from completing her degree in Economics. “I wanted to help but my fear of people and a constant dread would paralyze me. A little more than a year ago I came across online volunteering. It was perfect for my not-so-perfect self. It is hard for me to describe in words how my coordinator at AAE helped me through kindness and support. I still have a long way to go and this seems like the beginning, even without the knowledge of how difficult it was for me to take on this assignment. I was able to find the strength in me that I never knew I had”.