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Assessment Trip – Day 3

Thursday December 19, 2013

The Assessment Team is now one person stronger with the addition of Jeff yesterday. The traffic congestion in Nairobi means that most places take 1-2 hours to get to. On any given day, we spend perhaps 60% of the working hours in very slow moving and chaotic traffic. Thankfully our driver John has been excellent. To be more productive we decided to split the team in two groups: Jeff and Steve were to work to procure components for the data logger/communication system, and the rest to visit Riwik.

Riwik is located in the town of Thika, outside Nairobi. Thika is itself a large city, but with much less traffic and fewer western stores. Despite being so far away, you can actually get their quickly because of the Chinese-built Super Highway, were you can travel at speeds near 100 kph. We actually arrived one hour earlier than scheduled.

We met with Bart—a co-founder and engineer with Riwik. Riwik is spun off from TU Delft. Riwik is located in Thika for three reasons: to reduce overhead; to get out of Nairobi traffic and because all of their projects are outside Nairobi anyway. By now, we have our usual set of questions more or less memorized. We are seeing the strengths and weaknesses of each company and it will be hard to decide which one to go with!

We finished our meeting early and then assisted Steve and Jeff with procuring some products in Thika and Nairobi. Items on our list would have required stops at one or two stores in the US (Radio Shack or Lowe’s, perhaps). In Kenya, it feels like a treasure hunt. You go to one store and you might find one item. You then have to ask someone where to find the next item, and then go there, and so on. After a few hours we were successful. We paid 1950 Ksh for a 15W PV panel (negotiated down from 2250 Ksh), 2000 Ksh for a 5Ah sealed lead acid battery, 550 Ksh for various 7400 series ICs (from Nerokas in Thika). We also procured a Brightbox sample from One Degree Solar, which we have to return after returning from Muhuru Bay. We plan on using the Brightbox in some of the focus groups to get feedback from the community on their perceptions of it.

With our errands complete, we went shopping for souveniers at a market. The market had perhaps 50 or 60 vendors, with their wares laid out on blankets in front of them. In this market, like others around the world, the prices are negotiable and every time you want to buy something, you play a game with the seller haggling over the price. The general rule of thumb is to make your first offer at half or a quarter of their original, hopefully ending up in a reasonable range. This type of shopping is not for the faint of heart!

The team ended the night dining at The Carnivore, a world-famous restaurant that serves meat in the style of a Brazilian BBQ, but it includes exotic meat such as ostrich, crocodile and ox testicles. Needless to say, it was a fun and adventurous experience and a “must do” in Nairobi (unless, of course, you don’t eat meat).

Tomorrow has another full day planned, beginning with a conference call with the rest of the team in Seattle.

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