Ghana Summer 2012 Blog

University of Ghana, Legon
June 18, 2012 to Aug. 3, 2012

On selling chocolate and sweating in lecture halls

Alessondra Springmann

June 20, 2012

We're getting settled into Ajingano, East Legon, Accra: the first day or so we were a bit disoriented, but now on day five in Ghana we're eating street food, navigating taxis back to our apartment, and learning some of the local language.

On Monday, we expected about 42 students to arrive, which was totally fine, yet somehow approximately 70 showed up.  Apparently our contacts in Ghana were very enthusiastic about recruiting for the program!

We wake up around 7, leave the apartment complex at 8, and arrive around 8:30 at the University of Ghana, Legon.  Our lecture hall is quite litterally a huge hall encompassing most of the second floor of the Information Communication Technology Directoriate at UGL.  Most of the air conditioners don't work, and the fans at the front of the classroom by the podium don't work as well, so the daily experience is quite sweltering.

Both Robert Sowah and Godfrey Mills at UGL have been very helpful in setting up the program, as well as selecting the final round of students to participate.  We're impressed with the students so far: they seem curious and self-directed.

Yesterday we had our first event of the "AITI Olympics": a chocolate-selling challenge, inspired by an event run last year by instructors in Sri Lanka.  We separated the students into groups of five or six, and had eight teams go out on campus at the lunch break to sell chocolate.  I purchased two bars each per team, at a cost of just less than 6 GHS (about $3/team).  Giving the chocolate to the students, I told them there was no limit on how much they could make, but to come back at 1:30 pm and to not be late.  They moseyed off.  

We gathered everyone and had them report on the exercise.  What worked well?  What were the challenges?  The second team to report sold their chocolate for 40 GHS!  The entire audience hissed their approval at the "genius" of that team.  (Hissing in Ghana either means you want to be heard, means you think someone's really great, or that you're trying to get the attention of a pretty lady.)  Team 6, second-to-last to report, was not to be outdone: they separated into marketing teams, customer care, and even had an accountant.  They didn't set a price for their chocolate, yet somehow returned with 62 GHS ($31)!  They reinvested their proceeds and bought even more chocolate, packaging it attractively.  They got the names and numbers of folks they'd sold to, saying they were starting a chocolate business.  Teams targeted foreigners, people at ATMs, and those driving "posh" cars.  We were really impressed with the innovation and creativity involved from all the teams, especially their marketing strategies.

Today I went to lunch with a couple of students in a dining hall.  A man approached Kobby, the ringleader of the winning Team 6, and asked him if he was selling more chocolate.  Success!  You're no longer students, now, you're all entrepreneurs.

 - Sondy