Brian Mangeni, head of partner organization Einstein Rising, is himself surprised how fast it all went. "Barely a year ago, we got to know OVO because back then we organized the Kampala Impact Day together. That tasted like more. It wasn't until the autumn that I went to Belgium for the first time to get to know OVO and its volunteers and partner NGOs better. A few months later, we had already succeeded in building a local organization with a strong team."
Mangeni himself now coordinates all of OVO's activities in East Africa. For each country where OVO is present in the region, a separate coordinator has also been appointed. This coordinator must organize the further rollout of the local structure, which includes an OVO Business Club and an OVO Volunteers Club.
"We are there to take care of everything on the ground," Mangeni tells us from Kampala. The organization of SusTech4Africa, for example, OVO's coaching program to invest in promising growth companies. Mangeni and his team help set up the event and help put the program together.
"You need people on the ground," he sounds. "We help find entrepreneurs and follow them up. Belgian volunteers can very well coach a project from a distance, but it remains important that someone visits the entrepreneurs regularly. If, for example, problems do arise, we can put an investment dossier on hold until those problems are resolved."
Boots on the ground are also a great asset for building and maintaining partnerships with local organizations, Mangeni points out. "At least that way you can meet regularly and keep in touch."
OVO Business Club
In outlining the new organizational structure in Africa, Uganda serves as a model. Mangeni helped to build the first OVO Business Club there, among other things. This brings together all the entrepreneurs who have completed the SusTech4Africa program. "We look primarily at the companies that have received funding, but other entrepreneurs are also welcome," Mangeni explains.
The club is there to exchange experience and expertise, but also to set up collaborations. The idea is that fruitful cross-pollinations between different projects can occur in the lap of the club. This way, Mangeni thinks that OVO can increase its impact even more.
Mangeni - himself an experienced entrepreneur - is getting a lot of positive feedback on the initiative. "We are now setting up a program so that start-ups can share certain IT services or marketing tools with each other. Furthermore, we also want to be creative and not organize the same kind of lectures every month. For example, we want to plan more interesting company visits."
OVO Volunteer club
In addition to the Business Club, Uganda now has an OVO Volunteer Club. It gathers experienced Ugandan entrepreneurs or expatriates who want to volunteer to assist the growth companies. "The ideal profile is someone who has been doing business in Uganda for at least ten years. That's the time it takes here to gain the right experience. I can speak from experience," laughs Mangeni.
The Ugandan volunteer will supervise and coach the projects together with Belgian colleagues. Mangeni: "What we have noticed is that the contacts between entrepreneurs here and in Europe sometimes lack some understanding of the context. By also involving local volunteers, we have teams with an ideal mix of European and local experience and they can give the participants a richer experience."
According to Mangeni, the OVO Volunteers Club is unique in the region. Although Rwanda will soon have one as well. The volunteers meet once a month to share experience, discuss files and make suggestions on improvements. "In our last meeting we also had a renowned professor from the university in Kampala as a guest who came to speak about the difference between coaching and mentoring. This is how we want to teach our volunteers more about their role. They should be coaches, not mentors. They should not take over all the tasks of the entrepreneurs they are coaching."
Further roll out structure
Mangeni's goal is to find a local volunteer for each member of the Business Club. And he wants to roll out the new OVO structure in the new partner countries in East Africa and help his colleague in West Africa do the same. "Many organizations still work in the old way. They send funds to a project, but actually they have no idea what happens to it. OVO is proving that it is possible to build strong local teams."
For Mangeni, OVO is also a model through its collaboration with other partners. For example, he himself continues to head Einstein Rising, an organization that helps young people with ambitions to be entrepreneurs take their first steps. "The entrepreneurs we train, we prepare for a trajectory at OVO. We send our best candidates. Together we build a pipeline of projects and strengthen each other.”