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The Limitations of Cash in Malawi


The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Lilongwe was cash. While Zambia rebased its currency two years ago, there are still an inconvenient number of zeroes on Malawian Kwacha. The highest denomination note is worth less than $2 USD. This causes several inconveniences for ordinary Malawians, and Zoona agents, in particular.
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I shot a lion the other day

We saw a small pride just over a ridge on the receding bank of the Luangwa river. There were 3-4 adolescent males about 2 years old hanging about. Apparently they had just killed a hippo the day before, so they were pretty sluggish, playful, and enjoying the dying evening. It made the hunt even easier. Our chase vehicle pulled up just far enough for us to get a good look, but not so close as to alert the lions of our presence. I readied myself, looked down into the sight, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger. Continue reading

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LSK to CT, and a few stops in between

The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. Two weeks ago I visited the Zoona HQ down in Cape Town. It was a great work trip. I was able to sit down and work face-to-face with many of the folks I had been liaising with over the previous 6 weeks; but it was also awesome because I was able to sneak in a lil’ weekend jaunt. I’ve finally had a moment to download and edit a few of my photos from the trip!


Even though I don’t look it, I’m happy, I promise.

On our second Saturday there, Kirsty (fellow Accion Ambassador/Official Travel Buddy) and I rented a car and made our way down to the bottom of the world! Well, not quite, but it sure felt like it… Cape Point is some 12,500 KM (over 7,700 miles) away from NYC. It’s a common misconception that Cape Point is the southernmost tip of Africa— that’s not the case. That title belongs to Cape Agulhas, a point about 150KM east. Continue reading

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Entrepreneurship in Africa: creating Zoona

Last week during his visit to Kenya, Obama reiterated his belief in entrepreneurship as the ‘spark of prosperity’ – in Africa in particular. So far this summer, I have found no shortage of young Zambians and Malawians who share this ideology. So why aren’t there more young business owners in Africa?

I decided to speak to Brad Magrath – one of the two Zambian brothers who founded Zoona – about how they managed to become so successful in a supposedly hostile continent for new businesses. Here are the entrepreneurial lessons (with a healthy dose of Brad-style one-liners) that I have learned so far: Continue reading

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At the center of it all: the Zoona Agent

A few weeks ago Kirsty explained a bit behind Zoona’s business model, and highlighted the fact that emerging entrepreneurs sit right at the core of the ecosystem. Zoona provides working capital financing, business management tools, and entrepreneurial support focused on helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses and in the process, increase financial inclusion in Africa.

All that sounds awesome on paper, but what about the agents’ day to day? How do the provided tools really impact how the agents run their businesses? Continue reading

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How to get a loan and start a business: when Zoona met Kiva

In my last blog post, I argued that Zoona’s agents are the ones who really make this company unique. So how does an ordinary person – even if they had a hard start in life or do not meet the minimum qualifications – become a successful Zoon franchise owner? How do they afford the start-up costs and have enough working capital? How do they get a loan without any credit history? Zoona has found a way to help budding entrepreneurs overcome these issues through a partnership with crowdfunding platform, Kiva. Continue reading

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Inside Zoona: An interview with Zahir Toefy

Last week I flew down from Lusaka to spend some time working with the product and development team down at Zoona’s HQ in Cape Town. The office here has the same vibrance and energy as the office in Lusaka, but a few additional touches that make you distinctly aware that you’re in the HQ of a cutting-edge start up. Each of the conference rooms are stocked with dry-erase markers to make the most of the IdeaPaint that cover the walls. Huge bean bag chairs adorn the recreation areas. And, true to form, there’s even an XBOX for a quick distraction during those much needed mental breaks.


Awesome vibe all around.

While here, I took the opportunity to sit down with Zahir Toefy, one of the folks I’ve been working with over the last 5 weeks, to give a view into what makes the employees of Zoona tick. Continue reading