When the author was still working in an ecommerce startup in Southeast Asia, he was surrounded by a highly optimistic environment for new online businesses there. The logic goes that people who are going online for the very first time are much more open to new technologies that they have not seen before, becoming first adopters of concepts that conservative consumers in the developed world would shun because such technologies goes against their established norms. Emerging markets, through open-mindedness toward new businesses, will make "technological leap" that puts them ahead of the developed world in no time.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Friday, November 18, 2016
at 11:46 PM
"You know, after you guys delivered the inputs out here to your shop. Another big NGO came to the village officials asking if they can open a shop here to sell inputs like you guys," the local agricultural officer nonchalantly mentioned as he chatted away with the program staff on a rather not-so-busy afternoon, "apparently the village officials told them they already have your shop, so they can go somewhere else for their own shop-opening." With that, the agricultural officer threw a sly smile at the program staff, not willing to explain further the process of the village officials' decision-making.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
at 9:10 PM
For many rural Tanzanians, coming face to face with pieces of modern technology for the very first time is more than simply learning about its various functionalities. The personal computer, the Internet, and its various websites are more likely than not, written completely in English, or to a lesser extent, another foreign language, and the prevalence of foreign languages is all the more comprehensive when the subject becomes more technical (e.g. manuals for troubleshooting software problems, guidelines on network configuration, FAQs on how to use a online system).
Friday, October 28, 2016
at 11:31 AM
For those who knows, the author works in a job where the main responsibility is providing agricultural inputs to farmers on loan. The method by which it is done is through a series of retail outlets in the remotes villages where farmers can visit to purchase those inputs on loan. So naturally, preparing to open the shops requires transport of the said inputs from a central warehouse to the locations of the shops. As the coming agricultural season approaches, the team here is beginning those "truck runs." Unfortunately bottlenecks are everywhere, and some of them experienced recently could be considered novel for the inexperienced.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
at 12:21 AM
Working in rural Tanzania, the author has encountered these kinds of people. They, and their family, tend not to have much money, but they do not work simply because they "do not like to work." No, these are not people who are falsely called "lazy." Real lazy people likes money, but simply do not want to put in the effort to earn it. These people, however, simply have no interest in earning money to begin with. Perhaps if they are more motivated to earn money, they would work very hard and persistently. But one simply cannot tell because they show not enough desire to earn money in order to work hard.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Is Sensationalized Focus on Individuals in Poverty Crowding out Efforts to Build Sustainable Systems to Eradicate Poverty?
at 2:10 PM
Anyone would have seen the tear-jerking photo: a malnourished African child, dressed in torn rags that can barely be defined as "clothing" and sitting on barren red dirt, tears and nasal mucus freely following down her earth-crested face. It is a poster child for the likes of UNICEF, so well-utilized to help part the sympathetic rich folks of the First World with their cash. Itis a strategy used prevalently even among the less fortunate in more well-off places: give a visual representation of misfortune, and the many people who feel sorry will mindlessly donate to "end the misfortune."
Sunday, October 2, 2016
at 4:29 PM
In practice, farmers here in rural Tanzania do not pay taxes today. The reason is rather obvious. On one hand, it is just too logistically difficult to collect taxes on millions of farmers who live far apart from one another. If attempted, the cost of collecting taxes (walking around villages asking for cash) probably would exceed the collected amount by many times. Only systematic usage of mobile money can resolve this problem. Without a scalable way to have farmers themselves hand over money for fear of credible threats of punishment, everyone will just evade tax.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
at 3:20 PM
Often, working in the middle of nowhere in rural Africa for a clientele of mostly subsistence farmers feel like the work is largely removed from the realities of global economics. Many farmers plant their local seeds and sell their produce to local markets. Many foreign food imports see little local demand due to local populations' lack of sufficient income and exposure (and thus palate) for foreign cuisines, and more often than not, insufficient infrastructure prevent large amount of local produce to be shipped globally, even when the qualities and pricing of the products are competitive.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
at 2:49 PM
A recent article on the Economist magazine makes a very direct (if rather obvious, on the second thought) argument that try to pinpoint why underdeveloped states do not attract resources for development. The article states "lack of trust," particularly on societal institutions, as the root cause of economic failures. Specifically, in underdeveloped states, there is complete lack of popular confidence that bureaucracies will function as they are created for, laws will be enforced as written, and any written agreement will be honored as stipulated in their terms.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
at 10:39 PM
More than a year ago, when the author was still a high-flying businessman for one of Southeast Asia's most hyped-up e-commerce startups, he made frequent business trips to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from his homebase in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the immigration check area in the Ho Chi Minh City airport, there was always a familiar sight. In an area with a couple of dozen booths for passport stamping, only two or three are staffed with grim-faced immigration officers in uniform, doing their inspections at a leisurely pace while the line for entry in front of the booths get longer and longer as more passengers arrive.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
at 3:13 PM
Today, it is precisely one year since the author first stepped off the plane in the little town of Iringa, Tanzania for his interview at the organization where he currently works. The sentiment at that time has been one of surprise, not simply for a land that he has never stepped into as a full-time resident, but also one of superficial conviction that the land is plagued by some sort of social disease, one that has and continue to retard real economic developments that can pull people out of endless poverty. The thought at that time was one of genuine excitement, a realization that something can be done to change people's lives.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
at 9:29 PM
Back in those undergrad years, a common refrain among the author's classmates were the sheer pointlessness of paying such high prices for education. In that process, the college diploma, or as everyone called it, "a piece of paper bought with four years of life and tens of thousands of dollars," was consistently butt of jokes. Even to this day, the author's diploma sits inside a folder in his cabinet, occasionally brought out to serve as paperwork for visa, grad school, or job applications, but never framed or hung on the wall, like it was intended to be upon its creation and reception.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
at 3:45 PM
The biggest news out of the tech world this morning was Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba's one-billion USD investment in Lazada, from which the author made his exit about ten months ago. The deal saw both Rocket Internet, Lazada's original incubator, as well as Tesco, the British supermarket chain, cashing out half of their shares, in the process giving Alibaba almost complete control over the overall operations and future directions of what meant be termed Southeast Asia's largest ecommerce platform at the moment.
Friday, April 1, 2016
at 9:09 PM
Out in the village of rural Tanzania, "let me find some money to do X" is one of the most common phrases heard when conducting business transactions. Widely used among people who obviously do not have any money with them or at disposal in personal possession, it simultaneously denotes a desire to spend money to get what is wanted and a determination to find the means of getting the needed money through completely flexible yet currently unknown ways. As unsatisfactory as the phrases sounds, most of the time, sooner or later, the money is actually somehow "found."
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Saturday, February 20, 2016
at 2:48 PM
It is not everyday that a government official goes around the village with a loudspeaker to make announcements. And it is even rarer when the announcement called for all eateries in the area to shut down until further notice. But the government officials went around this time to sound the alarm for a massive cholera outbreak, people obliged quickly. When they heard that 80-some victims of the outbreak are already lying in the hospital, having a proper sit-down lunch, no matter how simple, becomes much less important.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
at 5:24 PM
This blog has noted in the past about just how separate the expat community is from the local one. Expats come to have their own restaurants, shops, and hobbies that are often not only financially unreachable but also cultural unpalatable for Tanzanians. The sad reality is that the phenomenon is not limited to expats. A holdover from the continent's colonial era, still active populations of white and Indian Africans dot even the remote landscapes of rural townships, sometimes making their presence felt in ethnically familiar expat communities or creating their own separate ones.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
at 1:25 PM
In the past couple of years, there is a growing focus in the tech world on the topic of mobile payment platforms. The idea is to use smartphone apps loaded with money as replacement of cash in everyday business transactions. Paying for groceries, restaurant bills, and transport will no longer involve searching for petty cash, not only reducing time and hassle for digging through small change, but also dramatically decreasing possibilities of errors, frauds, and thefts while making it all the easier for tracking spending, checking available balances, and splitting bills across multiple people.