Nigeria

2 05 2012

It has been a while since I have posted. I’m currently in Abuja, Nigeria waiting to fly down to Lagos. This is my second time visiting, but the first time I am leaving Abuja.

Nigeria, the little I have seen of it so far is a very nice country. Abuja is a city under development. Everywhere you look there is construction work. There seems to be a lot of half started new roads, and it looks to my untrained eye that instead of finishing the job, the equipment is moved to another location to half start another road. Nigerians talk about the development of Abuja being done in phases. To me, it looks like someone starts somewhere to make the people living there feel like they are very important and they too are getting a road. Also, in my opinion like in any country, when one government leaves the new government cancels all the old projects and starts their own. So you end up with lots of barely started construction sites.

I must say I have seen a little bit of improvement since last year. The roads to the airport were not as clogged as before, but that is maybe just because of the time of day I was arriving and departing.

The airport is of course also under construction, but I didn’t get hassled on my arrival this time. The domestic departure terminal is closed so they moved it to a small area on the international terminal. I have seen worse, Monrovia airport in Liberia after the war was ridiculous. People everywhere and absolutely no system. It has since improved dramatically. Juba airport in South Sudan was small, but they managed to make the process as slow as molasses. Nigeria has so much potential, but the lack of systems and procedures, as evidenced at the airport, is clearly holding them back. Actually, let me correct myself, there are systems and procedures, they just don’t work. Air Nigeria (formerly Virgin Nigeria) make you queue in three different lines just to check in. That is before you queue for security. And of course queuing means something very to a British guy. Queuing, to me, requires standing a good distance directly behind the person on front of you in single file. Like most countries I visit, and to a large extent America too, queuing means standing wherever, often next to the person in front of you and if possible using your elbows to get in front. I am not very good at this sort of queuing so I inevitably get pushed further and further backwards. However, I finally made it through after directing some traffic and being an obnoxious foreigner!

I’m really looking forward to Lagos. I have heard a lot about how busy and crowded it is. I am sure I won’t get to see too much, I’ll be stuck in a hotel while we provide a training. But I hope I will get a bit of a feel for the place.

More to come.

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Windhoek, Namibia

27 11 2011

I’ve just arrived in Namibia. This is my first time to this country, and I’m already impressed. It looks clean, it is quiet and feels amazing laid back. Mind you, I am travelling somewhat differently to what I am used to. We are staying at the Hilton. It is definitely a step above the places I usually stay. My last trip, to Spain, was in a pretty nice hotel, but the fit and finish in the rooms wasn’t quite there and the restaurant didn’t open until very late, leaving international travelers quite confused and hungry. My recent trip to Bangladesh was for Save the Children, so the places we stayed were very basic. That seems to be the difference between my travel for Save the Children implemented projects and with USAID travel. Both are really important and I hope have a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable children.

On this trip, we are going to be supporting a conference on food security and livelihoods. The Namibian Prime Minister and US Ambassador to Namibia will be opening the conference. So, it’s actually going to be quite a big deal. I’ll be presenting on ideas for livelihoods opportunities for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Whatever gets discussed at this conference could set the agenda for future Government investments, such as continuing to invest in the basic income grant for vulnerable populations, and setting the enabling environment for mobilizing savings deposits.

It would be great to get an opportunity to see the coastline but Windhoek is smack bang in the middle of the country, and I need to make sure I get home to my family. Otherwise, I would have liked to have gone to the ocean. From first impressions, if Windhoek was by the sea, it might be a place I’d highly recommend to my wife as potential place to live in the near future. Let’s see whether I say the same at the end of the trip.





Cambodia

6 05 2010

The last few days I’ve been spending time with CREDIT Microfinance institution in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The management team are a joy to work with and I hope I can support them better in developing a risk management governance function.

The food in Cambodia is wonderful, if not a little unusual to me at times. One day I went for lunch and was offered ‘cheese’ and vegetables. It looked very nice, a white soft cheese, not unlike cottage cheese, or so I thought. I picked up a big spoonful, and as I went to dig in I inhaled. Big mistake. The cheese is mixed with fish and is a little potent! I had to decline the food, but I hope I did it with grace and I didn’t offend anyone.

The thing to do in Phnom Penh is get a massage. So, on the last night I decided to treat myself and get a full spa package. It was wonderfully relaxing, but they used an orange based scrub which has since stained my finger nails, hands and feet!!! Oh, well it was very much worth it!

Off to India next.





Singapore

2 05 2010

On Monday I stopped over in Singapore for a meeting on my way to Cambodia. I was super impressed with this place. Everything was spotless, organized and it seemed like a great place to live.

I met with some influential people in the evangelical Church and they treated me very well. I had such a great time in Singapore, I can’t wait to return.