My IBD team shoves off for Ghana in about a month, and things are really starting to come together. We've all had our six vaccinations (Meningococcus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Polio and Tetanus), we've sent our applications – and our passports (!) – to the Ghanaian embassy for tourist visas, and our flights are booked.
We have been assigned to work with Ashesi University in Ghana, which was founded by a guy named Patrick Awuah, who also happens to be a Haas alumnus. It's a private university in the capital, Accra, and it's about to graduate its third class of students. The scope of our work is still being finalized, but it looks like we are going to be working with secondary school students, headmasters/headmistresses of secondary schools, and local employers to learn about their perceptions of Ashesi. The goal is to help Ashesi improve its reputation in and around Accra, which it hopes to do with better marketing, branding, and general awareness about its curriculum and its students.
Last night, our team of four had dinner with two Haas alums who worked on a similar assignment for Ashesi in 2004. We learned the following things: there are two ATM machines in Accra; there are essentially two roads in Ghana; women do not shake hands in Ghana, but men do; fufu, a vegetarian Ghanaian dish, is tastier than it sounds; and Ghanaians love pens.
In addition to picking the brains of our Haas contacts, we have also been in contact with several people at Ashesi to help us get a better understanding of what they are looking for and what they would like our report to help them with in the short- and long-run. Calling Ghana is not easy. Connections are often bad, and this morning we got completely disconnected twice in about 10 minutes. It is a little bit frustrating, and we may switch to Skype for our next conference call.
However, as the Haas alums told us last night, we have to prepare ourselves for these kinds of inconveniences, because they are indicative of traveling to a developing (or pre-developing) country. And although we are planning to get a lot of our computing and printing done in the States before we leave for Accra, the reality is that things will change once we get there, and we may end up starting with a clean slate.
Only one of us has been to Africa before, so I have a feeling the rest of us are in for quite a shock when we arrive – from what I heard last night, the shock will start at the airport in Accra when we land. I think we're all excited and ready for the challenge, but our biggest concern is delivering an actionable, clear and comprehensive result to our client.