GIM Zambia

Note: This is an entry I wrote for my Kellogg Student Diary, which was a student life blog I kept as a student at Northwestern. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m copying my entries to my personal blog to preserve my writings. You can read all of the entries by viewing the category Kellogg Student Diaries.

Northwestern’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) is a multidisciplinary project created to design a point-of-care HIV test that can be administered sustainably in countries that are most ravaged by the AIDS crisis. One of the most popular winter courses at Kellogg is Global Immersion in Management (GIM), where teams of students are sent all over the world to study business practices in their respective countries.

For my GIM trip, I, along with 33 classmates, went to Zambia to perform market research for GHI. Our GIM trip was a little different than most because we were heavily dependent on each others’ work. We were split into teams that met with NGOs, government authorities, clinic workers, and hospitals to understand the needs of each stakeholder in developing this AIDS test.

I was on the business development team and our job was slightly unique because we had the opportunity to be a little more creative. During our two weeks in Zambia, we met with various Zambian business leaders and business alliances to see what successful businesses are doing to be successful in Zambia, and what we can copy to make this HIV test work in a country with limited infrastructure. This led to meetings with a microfinance bank, a startup brick manufacturer, Zambia’s largest beef producer, and the country’s only non-government-run newspaper.

During our trip, it became really clear to me how many small things we sometimes take for granted. Many countries are not necessarily as business-friendly as we are, yet we still met a number of entrepreneurial people who were succeeding in adverse conditions. They were excited to tell us about their success, to introduce us to their colleagues, and to help us with our mission in any way possible.

We also bonded – a lot. Kellogg is all about teamwork, but in this situation it was really amazing to see people sit in a group meeting arguing about the needs of Zambian healthcare workers versus that of NGOs, and then just an hour later sing an impassioned karaoke duet together.

GIM Zambia was my first trip to Africa, and it definitely destroyed any preconceptions I had about the entire continent. In addition, it was a unique opportunity to see the world, see how people are trying to change it, and really understand the entrepreneurial spirit.

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Shailesh

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03 2010

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