As the Alliance celebrates our 20th anniversary, it’s important to highlight the stories of some of our Associates to show how the Alliance helps our businesses grow. In this post, I’ll be writing in my capacity as Chairman of Aswanet Rwanda and will be describing how Inogen Alliance helped our company be more resilient during COVID.
How we found Inogen Alliance
When Aswanet first discovered Inogen Alliance, we were a small water engineering and consultancy firm doing small projects in Rwanda and Uganda. We met Inogen Alliance at the World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil – our small three-person team attended to try to meet foreigners doing business in Africa. The trip was a big event for us – it was our first international trip as a team, and it was the first time one of our team members was on a commercial airplane! We bought the cheapest tickets to save money, and after a grueling journey, we all arrived in Brazil.
The Forum was great but was a bit overwhelming; we met so many people from all around the world but struggled to really meet others who were working in Africa. One day, the scheduled breakout sessions didn’t seem too relevant to us, so we decided to walk around the Exposition a bit. We were trying to meet someone else working in Africa and were struggling to access the Forum’s wifi, so we started looking for vendors who had their own hotspots. After a few minutes of aimless wandering through the vast exposition hall, we found a booth with a great signal – Antea Group!
We met the Antea Group team, and one of their previous employees, Peter Penning, was there. He learned about us and suggested that we meet others in Inogen Alliance. A few months later, I flew to Vancouver, Canada for the Inogen Alliance meeting where I presented my company to the team, and the Board extended an invitiation to us to join the Alliance.
Throughout 2019, I found myself rapidly swept up in relationship-building throughout the Alliance, with meetings in Paris, Stresa, Casablanca, and Ho Chi Minh City. I’m quite extraverted and even I found it exhausting, but there were so many people with so many ideas and I felt compelled to introduce everyone to my company. At the time, I didn’t realize how much value these relationships would bring, but COVID hitting the world changed everything.
Our Expertise in Africa
Our general expertise within the East African region is centered around water engineering, construction, project management, and sustainability consulting. East Africa has a lot of ongoing development in agriculture, education, hospitality, and manufacturing, and clients and project partners include private sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, and local and national government entities.
Many of the big projects in Africa are funded by companies in China, so our team’s pipeline started suffering in January 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit China. Multimillion dollar projects evaporated overnight, and the situation got even more dire as the pandemic started to spread to Italy, the United States, and around the world. The health systems on the ground in East Africa are quite underdeveloped compared to those in more developed countries. Many countries in East Africa instituted extremely strict lockdowns once cases were discovered locally to prevent the healthcare systems from collapsing. Rwanda implemented a strict curfew and closed its borders entirely after only four cases were discovered in the country. Uganda banned local car travel for over a month. It was clear to our team that it was impossible to continue business as normal. Local curfews were in full force, almost all private sector and government offices were closed, travel between districts was banned, and our services were considered non-essential. There was simply no way we could do business at the time.
Inogen Alliance Helps Us
At this time, our team reached out to our Inogen Alliance colleagues and shared the bad news about the situation on the ground in Rwanda. Our team was a little nervous to ask for help, but once it was clear that we were passionate about continuing our work, opportunities started to appear. Our team collaborated with another Associate to investigate the feasibility of smart cities in the Czech Republic. We helped another Associate perform an internal feasibility study where they were evaluating a COVID-19 compliance service. I joined the Global Marketing Team and started writing blogs for the website. Our team joined the Help Desk network and assisted with risk assessments and regulatory registers for food and beverage clients. We started conversations with several Working Groups. All of these different activities helped keep our business alive, helped us build relationships, and made the pandemic much more bearable for us. We also added value to those Associates we connected with by helping to provide relief in workload and sharing our own expertise and unique perspective to help come up with solutions for global clients. Despite our physical distance, we became much closer with our colleagues because there were so many new ways for us to work together.
The situation in Africa is improving, luckily. As of the time of this writing, the Government of Rwanda has vaccinated more than 90% of the adults in Kigali City – a higher share than most cities in the developed world. The COVID restrictions across the region are slowly starting to lift, and although Africa will likely have the longest and most challenging recovery from COVID, things are starting to look just a little bit better. The region is still in the acute phase of the pandemic and will likely be so for quite a while until more vaccine doses are delivered to the continent, but hopefully circumstances will soon allow the conversation to shift from surviving the pandemic to recovering and building back in a more sustainable way.
In the future, our team plans to continue both with our local on-the-ground work and will also continue collaborating with other Inogen Alliance Associates. We’re so excited about the new opportunities that the Alliance gave us, and we’re excited to support its growth in the future.
Inogen Alliance is a global network made up of dozens of independent local businesses and over 5,000 consultants around the world who can help make your project a success. Our Associates collaborate closely to serve multinational corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, and we share knowledge and industry experience to provide the highest quality service to our clients. If you want to learn more about how you can work with Inogen Alliance, you can explore our Associates on this webpage or Contact Us. Watch for more News & Blog updates here and follow us on LinkedIn.