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Ampion Venture Bus diaries: Day 1 at Namibia’s FabLab, getting to grips with agriculture

Ampion is a Berlin-based accelerator and advisory firm promoting technology entrepreneurship in Africa. In this series, Ventureburn follows the organisation’s Ampion Venture Bus tour through Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, in its seven-day bootcamp for entrepreneurs.

The Ampion Venture Bus recently started its latest trek across Africa. The bus functions as a seven-day bootcamp for entrepreneurs with this event focusing on startup pitch training and business thought. Ventureburn had the opportunity to follow the Venture Bus on its final outing through several Southern African countries.

The Tour

The Southern Africa leg started 13 November in Windhoek, Namibia, and will end at AfricanCom 2015 19 November in Cape Town, South Africa. This seven-day trek has its 30 participants working on a bus as it crosses several international borders with stops along the way.

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Participants are shown how to pitch their ideas, find solutions to problems, and receive training. The final pitches will be presented at AfricaCom, where the participants will compete for the winning pitch. Those on the tour have a chance to win a fast track into the Ampion fellowship programme.

Even though the primary theme is agriculture, the Venture Bus participants aren’t limited to that specific field.

Apart from the entrepreneurial participants, the tour consists of Ampion staff, and mentors who help and teach the entrepreneurs.

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The group is made up of individuals from a range of countries and backgrounds, from Germany to Nigeria, and a UCT student who’s missing his exams in order to be on the bus. Each person has a different idea about what they want to get out of Ampion, as well as how they’ll benefit the tour.

Read more: Ampion Venture Bus: an NGO’s mission to drive impactful innovation in Africa

The eight mentors consist of international established and successful business owners with specialties ranging from ecommerce to investment. The mentors are there to help, guide, and answer any question possible the participants may have about their specific tasks.

Day 1

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After a bit of a rocky start, the first day kicked off at the FabLab in Windhoek, Namibia. The event consisted of speakers from the FabLab, Microsoft — one of Ampion’s sponsors — as well as a representative from the German embassy.

Participants of the Venture Bus were taken on a tour of the FabLab, which included seeing the 3D printers, an industrial jigsaw, and projects the team is currently working on. A mini Maker Faire was also present which, in participation with FabLab, is busy prototyping various projects and items.

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After the talks and tour, it was time for some good-old team building exercises. participants were asked to find someone they haven’t yet spoken to, pair up, and try find three things in common with the other person. After a few minutes, each team was asked to stand up and announce the three common elements as well as what is special about the other person.

Once complete, all members were randomly divided into teams of four. This time, the task was to share their “Aha” moments of the day from their team discussions, one of which was the price of toilet paper in different countries. These exercises forced everyone to work together. Spirits were high as the groups spoke about a range of topics, with some of the overheard words consisted of, “fintech”, “growth”, and “development”.

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The evening ended with a talk from a local agriculture specialist about his field and its history in Namibia. Some of the facts he gave included that five percent of Namibia’s GDP comes from agriculture, it’s only possible to grow crops in one percent of the country, and how, to a large extent, agriculture is dependent on the country very specific climate.

While the agricultural talk didn’t give the participants a grass-roots or complete view of the country, it was used to spark their imaginations and help them begin thinking about the sector as a whole.

Over the next few days the participants will be spending a considerable amount of time on the bus as their groups discuss different challenges given to them by the organisers. It will be interesting to see how they all work together over the next week.

For more updates on the Ampion Venture Bus tour through Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, be sure to follow Ventureburn’s Twitter account.

Author Bio

Graham van der Made: Editor
Graham started out as an electronics manager at Take2 Home Entertainment and went on to spend a further ten years in the South African ecommerce industry. During this time, Graham founded and managed an online geek and hobby shop. He has always had a passion for writing and has... More

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