Hello from Guinea! The last stop of my Dare to Innovate tour which took me from Benin to the Silicon Valley and now finally to Guinea. Upon arrival, I moved back into the hut where I lived during my Peace Corps service. Back with my old family in my old neighborhood of Kenende, also known as the “village in the town”. When I lived in Kenende two years ago, it was truly a village. We were not hooked up to the electric grid, we had severe water shortages, and you had to walk all the way into town to buy even the most basic necessities. Just after I left, we were hooked up to the grid and after the construction of a new hydro-electric dam, electricity is more or less stable.
Wednesday was the holiday at the end of Ramadan, so I put on my finest and took a stroll around the neighborhood to wish people a happy holiday. I saw firsthand the incredible change the electricity has brought. Kenende has built a commercial center where you can buy many goods and prepared foods. There is more excitement and more activity. I thought electricity would make life a bit easier for women working in the house and students at their books. I knew it would help the health center. But this I did not expect. Electricity accelerated development in my neighborhood.
The other big change since I was a volunteer in Guinea is the arrival of 3G. Whereas before I needed to walk 30 minutes to get to an internet café just to check for emails, I now follow my normal routine of answering emails first thing in the morning, from my hut, as I eat breakfast. The arrival of 3G and the fact that smartphone pricing has become accessible has democratized information. Entrepreneurs have access to a global network.
The Dare to Innovate Guinea team works incredibly hard (I’m sitting with them right now and they are banging away at an excel sheet) every day. They are truly supporting the development of young entrepreneurs. But every once in a while we need to pick our heads up from the weeds and look at what government can do to move the ball forward. Dare to Innovate cannot supply electricity or telecom infrastructure or roads (which we are still waiting for) or justice, but the state can. My takeaway is this. If you are living in West Africa and are in the government or have access to the government, fight for infrastructure development. We will be by your side valorizing your investment with entrepreneur development. We cannot do this alone. You cannot do this alone. Let’s do this together.
Meghan McCormick is Founder, Chairwoman and Interim Executive Director of the Dare to Innovate Board of Directors. She currently helps businesses create value through disruptive change by working across disciplines. She believes that we will be faced with many challenges, but if we harness the amazing power of youth, think creatively and apply innovation with vigor, we can surmount any barriers and create a world where everyone has access to opportunity. Meghan is a Returned Peace Corps volunteer from Guinea, where in partnership with the Guinean Association for the Development of Private Enterprise, she focused on social impact innovation and social entrepreneurship in the town of Kindia. She is blessed to have the support of a nice strong, black cup of coffee and her American and Guinean families in all that she attempts.