Twenty five students made up of Foster MBAs as well as other UW grad programs arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on March 14th. Over the course of two weeks we explored Kenyan business, culture and life. With the guidance of three knowledgeable and enthusiastic student trip leaders, we visited a variety of companies – from start ups to giants like Winafrique (renewable energy) and KenCall to Unilever, Safaricom, Barclays, Kenya Airways, and many others. We had a chance to meet amazing business leaders with degrees from Stanford Business School and from all other parts of the world.
We drove all over Nairobi to see what life was truly like in the developing world. This included a company and site visit with Jamii Bora, Kenya’s largest microfinance firm. The leaders of the organizations afterwards took us to Kibera (one of the two largest slums in Kenya) where we got to see microfinance funding at work and lifting people from the streets into sheltered living. We also saw a school and an orphanage in a village outside of Nairobi which gave us a good perspective on the value that education has in Kenya, considering it has a 70% literacy rate.
In addition to businesses that we visited in Kenya, we also had plenty of cultural
experiences. For example, we visited Karen Blixen’s house (the subject of Out of Africa), saw the Bomas of Kenya (where traditional Kenyan tribal dances including Barack Obama’s were performed), learned and visited an elephant orphanage, fed giraffes at the giraffe center and of course we went on a three day safari. A part of the group also spent one morning on a hot air balloon ride over the African savanna seeing the sunrise and wild life early in the morning. Many of us also got to try our hand at bargaining at city markets where we gifts like masks, sculptures, paintings and jewelry.
Overall, this was a once in a lifetime experience. The feeling from the trip was that most of us could have gone on a safari on our own, but we could not have gotten an inside glimpse into a very hopeful and young economy in the developing world. This is definitely the best part of business school for me – getting to take advantage of opportunities like this one.
Guest Blogger: Helen Seliverstov, Foster MBA Class of 2011