From above

Koh Samet Ao Phrao - Erik Winther
Adjacent to the last post, I want to bring up something that bothers me a lot these days. Because who or what is it that gave me all opportunities I experience in life? Why?

I am both grateful and humble to all of it, but keep reflecting as I walk past several prostitutes on my way to work every day. Passing people who are just as good as me in all aspects, but who were less lucky in life’s lottery of opportunities. Where are the drawbacks and the unacceptable fine print?

And what more is, who am I to decide whether I rightfully can and should continue this awesome journey through life in the fast track? Would the world become a better place if I said ‘no, thank you’ instead? How can I make others share the joy?

Picture of the Gulf of Thailand shot from Koh Samet’s beach Ao Phrao last weekend.

…then again

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Bangkok Blood - Erik Winther 2014
51 weeks have passed since I graduated from university and started working. It has truly been amazing weeks, and I am really humble and thankful for all the persons I’ve gotten to know and everything the year has taught me.

As you know, the typical student economy is rather slim. I had several friends who were counting their 20 SEK-bills in the end of the month. Thus I went from discussing microeconomics in modest private economy-measures, to corporate economy in macro-class. In just 51 weeks. Hence there are certainly times when it all feels unrealistic; such as last week when a colleague of mine explained that “I always round off order intake and business case-values into whole multiples of 1’000’000’000 SEK, there’s no point in being more specific”.

Picture of Bangkok’s pulsating traffic, shot a few weeks ago from Sirocco; the world’s highest open-air bar.

Quick shifts

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Ljungbyhed Airport
A few minutes ago, I uploaded the fulltext version of the master thesis report that wraps up Wille’s and my work during the last six months. Feels good to finally get to share it to you!

Access the project-webpage dareafrica.com and read our report ”Seizing the ICT Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa – Implications from Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana”. Please share the report to your network if you appreciate it, direct links are supplied for Facebook or Twitter.

Thesis report publicized!

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Interest in Amsterdam - photo and retouch Erik Winther 2013
We have received lots of interest for our work from all types of actors since the academic presentation. It feels good, as we’ve been frustrated so many times – both by the many business opportunities that are just waiting for westerners, and because of the unnecessary inefficiencies in development aid. I’ll tell you about the spin-offs when we get closer to practical details.

Beside the leverage on our message, I think the best kudos came from Swedfund themselves, as they have requested us to continue on the same track on part-time as consultants. Feels like an indirect “well done”.

Interest

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Reaching for more, shot at UN memorial in Busan, South Korea - Erik Winther 2011
With the formal presentation approved, few things remain before I get my MSc-diploma. We are giving the report a final touch, and we will do the peer-review on Raoul and Fredrik’s thesis when they are ready. But far more interesting is that we get to present the project several times more, in varying forums and for several types of actors.

This completes the circle we were aiming for when the two of us stared to discuss this project two years ago; to do a fun and interesting project in Africa that would contribute and add actual insights and value to at least some part of the society. Hence, I am proud to say that we’ve got to do just that, and that our findings from the seven weeks long research trip across Sub-Saharan Africa will be spread and publicised in multiple forums.

Wrap-up

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Erik's eye, picture shot by Magnus - Erik Winther 2012
As most of you already know, I signed a contract with Saab Aeronautics some thirty days ago. The final interview, their recruitment process comprised six steps, took place in the majestic building that used to be the embassy of Czechoslovakia, following e.g. online-testing and an interview by the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO).

Thus, my business cards from February 11 and 13-14 months onwards call me “Trainee: Business Development and Sales”. That is one of the coolest positions I could think of, as it regards business strategy from a hands-on perspective by focusing on the future products. And those are to be the output of a company with extreme front-edge technology and offices in >100 countries; in which I get to sit and come up with ideas of how to bundle and sell it all. Sweet!

Job!

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To all my friends out there, may you have a joyful and merry Christmas with your near and dear!

Love from a snowy Skåne, Sweden, with a warming photo from the canopy walk in Kakum National Park, Ghana.

Merry Christmas!

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What Africa wants, in short, is business and trade with foreign companies to help their economies grow and skills develop.

This is what Wille and I conclude from speaking with a range of persons all hierarchical levels in the three countries we’ve visited. They do not ask for ‘aid’ (Of course excluding emergencies and catastrophes, but that goes for any country including Sweden.); no matter how good the intentions are. Worth a thought, I think.

Real help

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Beside the academic aspects, the outcome our project creates is at best a decent report with reasonable findings, which we ourselves own the immaterial rights to. So really, why is someone else paying for all expenses during our weeks in Africa?

Just as most other westerners, Swedes are -sorry to say- still considering Africa as a homogenous piece of land, from which the everyday headlines contains the words war/death/poverty/HIV/unemployment/rebels/pirates, but rarely opportunities/economic growth/skills/stability. Hence, most companies are of the same opinion.

But this is not the case. It is actually far from the truth; a result of the negative signals that meet media’s short-term incentives easiest. So the objective of our project is to get an idea of the business climate and opportunities (if any), findings that are to be shared amongst Swedes and Swedish companies in order to raise awareness. Hence, we’re hired as messengers.

Infographics by Kai Krause, which needs to be shown frequently.

Our project

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The picture was shot last January when I just had reached the top of my second mountain in Asia and realized that the visibility was as good as on the first: 5 meters. Behind the fog in the photo you can see the sun rise over the active volcano Bromo on Java, Indonesia; a sight I had travelled 30h straight in an insane tempo to admire, and the 4°C fog that soaked me on the motorbike ride thereto made the feeling last longer…

Kind of the same thing, just opposite, happened today: the travel agency offered us to stay in Masai Mara an extra day with all expenses covered for $60. Now I feel sorry for myself ;)

Oh no ;)

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Just received a call from number 501. Answered sceptically since it is midnight. Heard Johan & John in the other end! A happy surprise from my friends in Stockholm :)

An hour earlier I got a confirmation from Ali (entrepreneur in NYC) that he is well and happened to be in Miami during the storm; good! Too bad everyone wasn’t as lucky; inside US and outside.

Picture showing one of Indonesia’s volcanoes with me and a local travel-mate in eastern Java.

Hello?…!

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Today we’ve been booking meetings and arranged things all day.
We scheduled the meeting with Paul Kukubo, the CEO of Kenya’s ICT Board, and his colleague Lawrence Nduva. That is one of the most exciting meetings possible for our project, so it feels great to have it in the calendar :)

Arranged a couple of other meetings with local entrepreneurs and used our connections to get in touch with Rwanda’s Development Board during our stay there. Also set up the meetings for tomorrow; with the former ICT-strategist of PwC Africa and a key person at Ericsson.

A meeting with the sharp and friendly entrepreneur; and Sandbox-ambassador, Mark rounded off the day. Nice!

Picture from Januari, showing Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Progress

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After a wandering around looking at things and a quick visit at the Swedish School of Nairobi, Wille and I had supper at a Korean restaurant. I wasn’t expecting myself to eat Kimchi when I woke up this morning, that’s for sure :)

Back at Sandavy Guesthouse I met Derrick (American NGO-worker, monitoring development projects) and his friend Simon who is of Maasai origin and still lives as a true Maasai even though he is comfortable in the western society as well.
I sat down and listened to his life story for four hours; from him being sent out to the hyenas at the age of ten to kill or get killed; to the life he lives today: counting assets in number of cows and rather killing his son than allowing him to divorce (luckily not an issue), but at the same time working via a laptop and owning several schools, freshwater wells and 56 churches (and investing heavily to reach 200 soon).

This kind of experiences and insights from remote societies and parallel cultures are very valuable to me, and I wish that more people got -and took- the opportunities to do the same!

Maasai

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Today we acted opponents to Fredrik and Raoul, who have the same background as we do but write their thesis for and at UN’s International Telecommunications Union in Geneva, Switzerland. Appropriate for our common field (ICT), we held the six-person meeting via Skype form four different cities in three countries. Feels good that it was we, and not the others, who got tanned during the 2h seminar; as we sat on iHub’s 4th floor balcony with the endless savannah and a few mountains in the horizon.

Picture showing the place where I grew up from above; Stångby / Lund / Sweden, surrounded with nice wheat fields. Shot this summer during a trip with Martin.

Seminar

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The last two days in Linköping have meant temperatures below zero, icy winds and even snowfall. So getting into that plane this morning was not a hard choice! After all, last year made me used to far warmer climates.

KLM flies from Linköping to Nairobi via Schiphol, with the latter route served by 747s. First time I fly in a Jumbo-jet, which despite its size, reputation and individual entertainment-systems has a hard time competing with the much more recent A380-800 that brought me from Seoul to Dubai.

This sunrise was captured in China, but today we saw kind of the same. After which Wille spotted Öresundsbron from an unusual perspective, while we cruised south along Denmark’s east coast.

Departure!

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I’m back in Linköping after a really nice all-inclusive week at my parents’ house in Lund.

This morning they removed the sutures and the plastic cover from the surgery, such a relief! Thread- and drug-free, I am now studying and planning for New Year’s (Liv will join us!) before taking the 6AM train to Stockholm.

Out of the 41h in Linköping, 3.5 were spent at the hospital. That is waaaay too long, but included good service and coffee; free of charge. Thank you Sweden!

41 hours in Linköping

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We had our half-time seminar today. Okay, it’s a bit too early compared to the generic outline, but still. Got great feedback from both Fredrik & Raoul and Ya & Anna, but are we already halfway thru? Yaiks.

I rounded off the day participating at a leadership (UGL) session hosted by Gozinto and renting out my flat for the upcoming weeks. Niceu, as they spell it in Korea.

Picture from Stora Alvaret, Öland’s limestone barren plain.

½ way?

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So, we localized the passports: inside Ghana’s embassy in Cph. But. They hang up on us when asked what day they are sending them back…

We are currently evaluating the best choice of Plan B, and as Wille stays over in Stockholm might four capitals in four days just be it. So while keeping it cool, am I hoping for the best; one has to have faith, no matter if one prays to God or embassies.

Photo from Chamonix, shot from Brévent, on a ski trip with 720.

Passports cont’d

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I haven’t yet applied for next semester’s full time job, but I’ve been on a few interviews and I’m not worried about finding a good one.
And I find it quite thrilling to have an ocean of directions to choose from for the next step, which will be my first real job ever as well as the first time I haven’t got a long-term idea of what to do the following year.

As in the picture from Coron, Philippines; Endless possibilities.
Things are good. Sweet spot-good.

Possibilities

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Today is it Thursday, departure is on next Saturday. *wee!* …but on Tuesday is it half-time seminar, which means that the half-time report is to be submitted by tomorrow. *wee..*

I mean, it is truly interesting and we are really into the project with full workdays and so on, but the wide scope and so many (new) interesting details being pointed out by each and every one we speak to have made us happily rewrite the analysis model numerous times. Just one problem; all other chapters.

No, it’s not that bad, but I think the pigeons in the picture are sort of expressing the feeling about tomorrow.
Life in a rollercoaster named Thesis.

Friday

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When I came back from Seoul in late June I missed the people. Of course I missed all my friends, who wouldn´t, but also the crowds. Hanging out in Hongdae or Gangnam 11PM – such a lovely pulse!

So I went from sleepy Lund to central Stockholm, and thought I’d get a glimpse of the feeling again. But no; even Klarabergsgatan in Stockholm seemed just as small, empty and deserted.

Stockholm – the least crowded capital?

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There’s pros and cons with everything. They usually stay balanced; like taking a swim (pro: refreshing, con: cold the first seconds, pro>con=nice in total), but then eventually they rebalance; the temperature falls and the inequality is turned around.

As most other thesis writers have concluded; being this left out to strangers (for interviews etc) is really to expose oneself for such rebalancing acts. Often.

Luckily, the pros have so far been restabilising things quickly each time there’s been movements, and I recall the days of 2011 when I shot this photo of Manhattan. High life!

On top of things

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An early question that had to be addressed was where we were going to call ‘home’ this semester. The decision wasn’t obvious, considering we have our university and supervisor in Linköping, Swedfund’s central office in Stockholm, our opponents in Geneva and most interview subjects spread out all over Africa.

The solution we chose was to stay in Linköping during the pre-study and the finalization of the report, in-between which we conduct six weeks of field studies in the three most interesting regions; Nairobi in Kenya, Kigali in Rwanda and Accra in Ghana.

The tickets just got booked, and since we are flying with KLM is the transit in Amsterdam enabling me to stop by and say hello to my good-old friend Lisa. Nice!

Picture of the volcano Sundoro-Sumbing, shot from the 9th-century monument of Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Location

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