2nd Runners Up in African Grand Challenge, Arusha Tanzania

Me looking great

There are times that determine how your life will be in the next few days, months or years. Often enough, such times start with an email. It could be an email about the new job you had just interviewed or one with a new promotion. At times it could be an email with your next big project. In my case, it was an email that informed me that my team and I have been chosen to represent the school in the African Grand Challenge that could be held at Nelson Mandela Institute, Arusha Tanzania. The email was a welcome gift, after my team and I had laboured for an entire day to come up with a concept.

The opportunity was a great one since the only thing we needed to give was our time and brains. African Grand Challenge is a competition that brings together students from selected African universities to present cutting edge solutions to African problems. It is hosted by NM-AIST, in Arusha Tanzania.

The theme in 2019, was:

Impact of emerging technologies on food security and the health of women and their families in Africa

We worked for the nomination, it wasn’t like the opportunity fell from the sky. We had a good idea and we rolled with it.

The competition run from Thursday 24th January to Saturday 25th January. We got our bus tickets for Thursday morning and return on Sunday afternoon. And since this is me we are talking about, things did not go exactly as planned.

On Wednesday 23rd, I was supposed to go to the German embassy to get the visa for the students’ trip. The entire story is explained in this article but the bottom line is, we were late and the Embassy couldn’t see us so we went back to school looking like dejected chickens. The Docs in charge got to work trying to get another appointment. The problem for me was that I was supposed to travel to Arusha the following day. As fate would have it, the appointment was slotted on Friday Morning.

I quickly organised for a change in the ticket date with the AGC team after explaining my predicament. They were nice people and they were fine with me arriving on Friday night just in time for the actual competition which was to occur on Saturday.

After leaving the embassy, I went directly to town to board my bus. Because I left my passport at the German embassy for visa processing, I had to acquire a temporary permit which can be easily be accessed from E-citizen. I quickly downloaded it and went to look for a place to print and photocopy my ID.

Back on the bus, it was about to leave when I realised did not have my ID with me. I was instantly into shock mode. There were two options, 1. I had left my ID at the cyber. 2. I dropped it on my way to the bus terminal from the cyber. I quickly started running to the cyber, hoping that I had left the ID there and that the bus wouldn’t leave without me.

Thankfully, I found the ID in the photocopier. I said my thanks and ran back to the bus. It left just a few minutes, I was a lucky bastard. But maybe not so much coz I dropped my phone and would have to wait for the driver to open the truck for me to get it and the driver wouldn’t stop for at least a few hours. Basically the trip had started on a bad note.

The bus was uncomfortable, there are no other words to explain this. Luckily I sat next to some young people and we spent the better part of the trip chatting away.

Once we arrived in Arusha, I found the taxi driver with my name and he took me to the hotel. The hotel was pretty good and I can’t complain about it.

I met up with my team and we spent the night creating the perfect presentation until I almost passed out from exhaustion and had to go to bed.

The following morning we went direct to the NM-AIST premises to start the competition. We were 8 groups in total. After the first round, the best four would advance to the finals.

Our first presentation was somewhat stressful, we ran out of time before we could even complete the slides. Quite frankly I thought that was it for us and I think my teammates did too since two of them almost got into a fight afterwards. Tensions were running high. When we were called among the teams who would be progressing, I almost didn’t believe it. I was beyond ecstatic.

The final round of presentation was smoother than the first one. After the presentation, they took their time before announcing the results of the competition which was pure torture. I mean, how did they expect us to concentrate on the speeches with such high anxiety?

When the winner was finally announced, we were grateful that we were number 2, it was well deserved but we were disappointed because we didn’t win. Some people say that we should have won, but I will leave the politics to those who enjoy it, I don’t.

The ceremony was followed by a live band dance party that had an open bar and buffet. The live band was amazing. It was the first time I had seen people dancing to live music as if it was a DJ mixing the finest dance tunes.

The Idiot in a black jacket was in our team

Later that night we went to experience Arusha’s nightlife and it did not disappoint.

The following day, one of the judges had invited us to walk around with him. We went to a village with traditional items where I bought some mwikos and tried on traditional wear. I looked amazing.

Traditional Mwiko

That afternoon after returning to the hotel so as to pick our belongings and board the bus back home, I realised that I had lost my ID. The last place I remembered having it was in the club that night. But I could also vaguely remember putting it in my pocket that morning. We had to start tracing back my steps. Needless to say, we did not make it to the bus on time. After a fruitless search around Arusha and a police report, we decided to just look for another bus and hope the border police would be reasonable.

We managed to board the Dar Lux bus back to Nairobi. The bus is so awesome that my teammates even said that it was a blessing in disguise since we didn’t have to go back with the uncomfortable bus we had come with. The border police were cool, and that night I slept comfortably in my bed.

Arusha is a beautiful town and I definitely plan on visiting there on my own. I feel like I did not get to experience it to the fullest due to the limited time.

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