Always seek the positive sides of things happening in Africa…and JUST be patient!


Dear readers,

I do have so many things to share for this week, not necessarily linked to work though…

At work, first of all, we had a quieter week as we did not go into the fields with the sales team. I took time to read the Market Research reports regarding the business concept of Live Well having a pool of Community Health Entrepreneurs (CHEs) selling healthcare products door-to-door to the local Zambians. It helped me understand the genesis of this spin off from the NGO Care International.

Entry to the warehouse is restricted to avoid theft


I did a complete analysis of sales performance over the last year figures and prepared some recommendations and suggestions for the salesforce… My creativity is back and will rock again! I am full of marketing ideas to promote and foster more sales! And I know I can ask for some support from GSK Consumer Healthcare in Johannesburg in getting merchandising accessories. I will need to prepare a proposal for them. I am ready to coach and motivate the team in driving the sales up! But, one key first lesson so far: KEEP IT SIMPLE, DO NOT GO TOO FAST as I may lose some colleagues on the way. We already identified a lot of room for improvements in team management with more visual boards and KPIs reporting! Here, they keep producing word papers but do not take time to read them in details and analyze them in order to get out with some conclusions for their next sales actions. We absolutely need to extract key info, and make the best use of it to identify top Key sales actions! Next week, I plan to do a Gemba (Go and see on the field) with the sales team in order to investigate how they manage their time and reduce waste. We will develop a tool afterwards to help them organizing their days and weeks more efficiently.

But again, people here do one thing at a time and need to get simple and clear actions written by email so that they do not forget: Who does what and when? Simple, no?

And in terms of time wasted, do not expect a European result on it. If we manage to move from 2 hours to 4 hours full efficiency a day, that will be a great achievement. As an example, while driving in the car with the driver towards the rural compounds, why not calling the CHEs and remind to them that the team is coming for selling! So far, not 100% of CHEs are meeting the sales team to buy the products because they do not have time, they forgot or they were at funerals that day…

Packing the products for the sales team on the fields!

Also, the pace at work is way much slower than my habits (I used to do so many things at the same time, putting a lot of pressure on myself to do more than the expectations in order to always surprise my work environment). Here, we need to keep reminding the actions to implement, and keep repeating. Also, do not stress them (I am not sure if we can…), as it may irritate. I remember when I first asked 3 questions in a row, quite fast… They were stressed and forgot the first question. But now I got it. And maybe they are right? Why do we always want to speed up? In the end, we lose efficiency… We should always remind ourselves the La Fontaine fables with the turtle and the hare: it is not the hare that arrives first finally, because he got distracted (as we do in Europe with multi-tasking)! It was not easy to get used to this pace but finally, always force yourself to seek for the positive side of it: in the end, we take time to analyze one info at a time, we take time to think about it and reflect on some actions… so let’s give it a try to this work pace! So let’s break at work and grab some papaya from the tree as a nice sweet treat!


Yesterday, I decided to buy a bicycle for my next 6 months:

  • First of all, moneywise, I am thinking of GSK budget and need to reduce expenses as much as I can (I do not forget that I come from a procurement background!). Acquisition of a bicycle will be clearly far cheaper than getting taxi (knowing taxi rates are quite high here!)
  • Secondly, GSK Belgium launched a program to stay healthy and exercising more! I will contribute, but from far away!
  • It is also a good way to see the streets, people habits, children going to school, and all the small “wooden” stalls installed selling fresh bananas, honey, kind of homemade African version of “donuts”, vegetables…etc OK, that’s the positive side of it…. On the other hand, it is extremely dusty due to the dry season and my shoes are already brown after 3 weeks. It is also very polluted… I am back to the Europe in the 80’s where people were not environmentally conscious. Everyone throws their plastic bags and bottles away on the ground: I am horrified to see this… our poor Earth!!! And people in the capital get wealthier and cars become accessible: as a consequence, the city is facing a huge mobility issue like in Belgium (:))…. The traffic is so congested… and the exhaust foam is far above the pollution tolerance levels in Europe. I breathe this polluted air and it makes me kind of sick of it. Also, they did not anticipate the mobility problem… Very few people cycle and therefore, there are no lanes… I need to cycle along the road on the dust and avoid all the walking people and the cars which do not really care about cyclists and pedestrians (and forget to cycle by night: there is no street light and a huge problem here with alcohol and driving!)

Back to the purchase of this bicycle, we decided to go to the supplier which actually provides the bicycles for our Community Health Entrepreneurs for their selling. I tried to negotiate the price, but due to small quantity they refused L Too bad! 2 choices offered to me in bike types: one without brakes (I can’t believe it is possible??? They are crazy here) and one with brakes. OK, that’s an easy decision to take! Let’s go for the safe side and take the one with the brakes! Now, I need to pay… they do not take VISA card…let’s cross the street to the closest ATM to get some cash: the biggest note here 100 kwacha… I need 2200 kwacha (= 220 euros)… Crazy, I will have to walk with a big pile of notes!!! Back to the cycles’ office, the lady prepares slowly the purchase order that I need to sign in order to confirm the order… Then, she counts twice the pile of notes (even a third time because she got lost into the counting!). As I buy and pay immediately, she prepares now an invoice receipt that also need to sign. This took a bit more than 45 minutes! Then, we tried to put the bikes in the 4×4 car: the guys were thinking for quite a while how to arrange and organize the bikes (crazy!). Ok done after several trials of arrangements! Then, let’s leave the parking lot… Oh, but there is a Security lady waiting at the gate like every fenced place who launched at us: “I need to scan your bikes”… What? We just bought them in front of you in the courtyard… For security reasons, to make sure you’re not stealing (I guess). Do not expect an electronic scan… This is purely manual: she copied my name, purchase order and receipt numbers on a notebook as well as the bike reference number, and I had to sign it again. Yeah! We finally got out and I do have my bike after…. 1h30 approximately. I now understand that every small action is split into more paperwork to justify job creation (the country is facing high unemployment rate). I had to sign 3 times just to buy a bicycle whereas in Europe, I would have just been to a Decathlon store and buy it in 5 min without any signature!

And this was my first day at work with my bicycle (happy face)


Another waiting day…This morning we went with our NGO colleagues to the lawyer in order to certify our passport copies (indeed, that’s the rule here, maybe due to high number of fake IDs, I guess). They took their time to reach the only floor upstairs: then, once we arrived, the assistant said that no lawyer was available at the moment. Loss of time again? I thought my colleague took an appointment… She did not even call to check if we could come during the morning. They just do things as they come (anticipation?). OK, that is another way of living a life then: NO judgment! So, we waited for a lawyer to come. And finally, one lady came and certified our passport copies. Then, we got back into the car towards the Immigration department in order to get our Work permit for the next 6 months. We followed slowly (very slowly) our colleague through the stairs. She discovered that all employees were not working this morning due to a funeral. Again, why she did not check by phone before? OK, stop questioning! That’s it! We came back early afternoon and waited in a first office. Then, she discussed with the immigration clerk who directed her to another office: then, we met another clerk, having a book “The best prayers for your couple moments” on her desk, chatting about it with our colleague, and then, she filled in the forms and checked our papers. I asked her if I could take a picture of the note she put on her office wall… Have a look: this is a calm and peaceful country (trust me). And, I can only confirm: People are calm and relaxed… So, just relax and take it easy!


Then, we moved to another office regarding the payment of our visa fees by check. Our colleague needed another copy of a paper and had to go outside for photocopies. She came back while we were waiting…

And finally, our file for the visa is submitted. Now, let’s cross fingers it won’t take long as our current tourist visa expires in 8 days!

Conclusion of the stories: LEARN HOW TO WAIT IN A PEACEFUL SPIRIT!

But I need my coffee to stay awake…


  1. Wow! What a story. I wonder what the penalty is for stealing a bike? Be safe and be patient. 🙂

  2. Welcome to Africa dear. Here life and people work at their own slow pace. Where we believe in multitasking, they don’t have deadlines in their dictionary. Patience is a virtue they teach and preach. But as u said no judgement. They will take some time to reach where the world today is.

  3. Très sympa ton blog Audrey !
    Un article plein de bon sens, ça m’a donné envie de rester zen moi aussi… en toute circonstance 🙂

    Bonne continuation !

  4. Interesting and exciting blog ! It is also good to see you fighting to meet “sales” challenges… which is my own daily challenge as well ! I noticed that you spent some energy to manage and motivate your sales team. Fine ! But did you invest your energy and skills to know an to understand your existing and potential new customers ? Just a hint 🙂

    1. Do not worry for me, I do have a MARKETING background. I am currently doing a Market research analysis and will go on the field this week to survey a sample of customers!

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