The following blog was written by Sebastiaan Howle, RENEW's 2016 summer intern:
As my time as a RENEW summer intern comes to a close, I reflect on what has been a great experience over the last three weeks.
Being from the UK, the principal shock was adjusting to a culture very different and distant from my own (except maybe for the mutual love of football). There is a pride in how Ethiopians hold themselves, and this clearly transfers to the way in which they do business. The RENEW team set objectives for me to complete encompassing a range of tasks and challenges that are close to what the RENEW Ethiopia team has to address on a day-to-day basis. These tasks varied from online research projects, to in the field due diligence (including a visit to the largest African open air market, Mercato), to analyzing and providing potential improvements for some of the Impact Angel Network’s current investments. In visiting a variety of investment pipeline and portfolio companies, I was given the chance to meet the full spectrum of the management teams, from the executives all the way to the basic staff. I met several impressive entrepreneurs, who all demonstrated the rising talent in Ethiopia’s ever growing economy. The RENEW staff allowed me to participate on calls with some of these managers, and I even sat in on a few board meetings. The combination of these experiences has given me an encompassing view on the work that RENEW does both pre- and post-investment.
As a university student going into my final year, I am close to the stage where I will have to go out and start forging a career path for myself. This internship has given me the first stepping blocks on this path by letting me become more independent and think for myself. Of the many tasks set in front of me, none were aided heavily and all needed a lot of personal research and drive to complete. The focused, in-depth due diligence on potential investment pipeline companies improved my research skills. In being asked to sieve through extensive data and pick out the important content, I have greatly improved by myself.
Two highlights stand out for me. First, visiting Mama Fresh and working with the management team to implement standard operating procedures for the company’s visitors center. This gave me a better feel for what RENEW does post-investment out in the field. Second, presenting my findings on the distribution system in Ethiopia to the RENEW team in Addis. I greatly enjoyed being able to present my research to the team, as well as gain the positive acknowledgement for my efforts on the task. Oh, and one more highlight, I saw a cow in a pick-up truck. Classic Ethiopia.
But to be clear, it wasn’t all work during my time in Ethiopia. With the football European Championship currently in France, I was able to catch every England game in packed bars. There is a huge passion for football (or ‘soccer’ as Matt and Laura call it) in Ethiopia, which enabled me to meet with lots of locals over a match. For me, this has further aided my learning of the culture and people of the country. Apart from sports, the majority of people in Ethiopia are deeply religious. My short trip up to Lalibela highlighted this for me, with the twelve churches built in the 12th to 13th century that are still in use.
So to conclude, I was given an overall amazing experience in Ethiopia, even though the main reason for my visit was to be an intern for RENEW. I thoroughly enjoyed every second, and the skills and acquired practice will be extremely useful for all future endeavours. Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to the RENEW team, both in Ethiopia and the U.S., and specifically, to Matt and Laura for making me feel very welcome and pushing me to perform at my best possible level.
Sebastiaan Howle’s father is an investor in the Impact Angel Network. RENEW hosted Bas as our first ever intern in Ethiopia in June 2016. We wish Bas all the best in his future pursuits. With his independence, personal drive, humor and “can do” attitude, he set a high bar for future interns to follow!
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.