Take Indian development ideas home

January 9, 2012

These Africans take Indian development ideas home

By Alyssa McDonald (13:17)

New Delhi, Jan 9 (IANS) On a socio-economic train voyage of India, Isaac Abeiku Otoo, a youth leader from Ghana, realised what one could do with just Rs.1,000 ($20). Inspired by Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy’s success story, the 34-year-old wants to motivate people in his country.

Otoo is one of the 35 foreign nationals, several of them from Africa, who took part in Jagriti Yatra Dec 24-Jan 8. They joined over 400 Indian youngsters on the 15-day train journey, spanning 7,000 km and stopping at 13 institutions that have developed unique solutions to India’s challenges, in an effort to awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship among them.

IT city Bangalore was one such halt. There the participants visited Infosys campus where Narayana Murthy went back memory lane and told them how he started his business with a mere Rs.1,000.

Out of the 35 foreign nationals invited to Jagriti Yatra, the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs sponsored the participation of eight Africans.

“Every day is a new learning experience on a train. There’s diversity at every level, so many cultures, languages, challenges,” Brian Abel from South Africa told IANS.

On the train, the participants shared ideas about their own countries and social commerce.

“Meeting people who don’t have huge resources but can start from a point, just one day at a time, one person at a time, and decide to make a change – I think it has really struck me,” Nana Ama Tima Boakye, another participant from Ghana, told IANS.

Participants learned about development in communities through entrepreneurship, something many said they could relate to.

“I have the same challenges in my country and I understand that if we are going to be able to create some change, you have to start to understand the roots of the problem,” said Boakye, who is from Accra.

Boakye works in the shipping industry in the West African nation. A local MP who visited India told her about the programme. She sees the relationship between India and Ghana as that of “sister countries”.

Other participants from Africa came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. Their interests and education in social economics range from engineering to politics to environment.

These participants visited a village in Bihar completely transformed through social entrepreneurship and business mentoring, one in Karnataka lit up by solar energy, another one in Tamil Nadu with a world-class eye care centre, among other places.

“I’ve learned that even with Rs.1,000 you can start from somewhere and end up wherever you want to if your management and skills are in the right place,” said Frank Arnold Okyerie, a community politician who works as secretary to the MP of Ghana’s Central Region.

He wants to apply the knowledge he acquired to youth in his country “who are running their own businesses in local villages”.

“I will look at the kind of business they are doing and show them how to grow the business,” says Okyerie, who focusses on mentoring the young entrepreneurs.

“I hope my youth over there are going to take my advice because they know what I have done for them before. I hope they take it seriously.”

Some participants were also thinking about bringing experiments like this to their own country.

“I’ve acquired some knowledge that at the end of the day I am not going to keep to myself, but parlay it to youth in Africa,” says Okyerie.

(Alyssa McDonald can be contacted at lys.mcd@gmail.com)

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