Now, almost a year after my initially arrival for a six month internship in Zambia with MEDA techno-links partner, Zoona I find myself sitting in front of the mighty Zambezi river writing this final blog post. I find it hard to begin where to start when recapping my MEDA internship experience. My time in Zambia had a profound impact on me both professionally and personally. For starters, my goal of hoping this internship would provide me an opportunity to get a full-time role in sub-Saharan Africa played out well. After my six month internship was completed I was given a full-time three year contract with my placement organization, Zoona as the Agent Training Officer. This is a role that previously did not exist but during my placement I was able to show the value created by having a more robust training program that focused on many aspects of what will improve agent performance.
The skills I have developed since stepping off the plane nearly a year ago up to present day would take pages to explain. To keep things simple I will touch on a few that resonate with me.
If your company values and beliefs resonate with you, work will not feel like work. At Zoona we have five core beliefs; we believe in entrepreneurs, we believe in impact, we believe in change, we believe in growth, and we believe in impact. We also have five core values; being real, entrepreneurship, integrity, togetherness, and fun. These beliefs/values align well with me. When I come to work now I am motivated and challenged. This has helped me develop professionally while having a strong loyalty to Zoona and what we are accomplishing in the financial inclusion sector. I can say after a year of working with MEDA techno-links partner Zoona, when I see a challenge at my job rather than seeing it as a challenge I now look at where I can find opportunity in the difficulty to unlock value for consumers. This is a fundamental change in my thinking that previously held me back.
Learn to focus. My internship and time with Zoona have taught me that staying focused is imperative to achieving breakthroughs. I have always struggled in previous jobs with staying focused but now I have learned the benefits of what focus can bring at the workplace. This has enabled me be more efficient with my time at work and accomplish more without sacrificing quality.
During my internship I was able to travel to all the provinces in Zambia and train over 200 agents/tellers on operational procedures and how to grow their businesses. I was able to build relationships with the amazing staff and entrepreneurs I work with on a daily basis. The inspiration I receive from seeing a young Zoona agent like Sandra, who at the age of 24, is now earning 8,000 USD per month and employing 12 young adults is all I need to stay motivated.
My time with MEDA provided me with the opportunity I always dreamed of but often times doubted I would achieve which was to work for a company in Africa that was making positive change among the local community with a scalable model. It did not take long for me to realize Zoona was doing this and was planning on becoming a pan-African brand in the future. I feel confident this will be achieved for the company. Just a few years ago sales staffs were celebrating 1,000 unique transactions per month. Last month at Zoona we processed over 300,000 unique transactions and we continue to grow aggressively month-on-month.
Zoona is a good example of an innovative start-up company that benefited greatly from having funding from the MEDA techno-links project that enabled the company better opportunity to grow the business and provide additional opportunities for the many rural communities where we offer financial services in the way of money transfers, bill payments, and voucher projects. Every day now Zoona is working hard to achieve our bold vision of a "cashless" Africa.