A year ago I traveled to Mali, was shuttled through the night to Tubaniso (Peace Corps Mali training facility) where I was told from now on I would be pooping into a hole in the ground. I spent several months after that struggling to learn a new language, getting used to African culture, acclimating to the heat, trying not to get diarrhea all the time, and above all trying to keep sane. I look at where I am and where I was a year ago and can’t help but be amazed at all that’s happened. I joined Peace Corps because I wanted to do something different from what I was doing back in the States and yet here I am teaching people basic accounting (albeit in Bambara and to Malians). One of the reasons I started my career in accounting was because I believed it was the cornerstone of business and that’s pretty much held true. With all the people I work with they try to make do with whatever business they have but I know that if they had a basic framework to work with they could achieve so much more.
I started this restaurant here in Kita because I thought it would be a good way for the women of my women’s cooperative to make money continuously throughout the year. A month in the food’s decent, the building is still standing, and we may have even broke even. More importantly I’ve taught the women a basic system of accounting so they could keep track of everything bought and sold and use that information to make better decisions in the future. The next step is teaching them how to analyze the information we’ve gathered over the past month.
I’ve also started working with one of my friends who is a local merchant to teach her how to use a similar system to keep track of her sales as well. I believe that if she kept better records it would help her with inventory control. She would have a better idea of how much to buy at any given time, as well as which things sell better than others. My hope is that she is better prepared to deal with issues in the future on her own.
I am also in talks to reboot the mobile bank here in Kita. I came here to work with them but when I got here they were just so unorganized and the system of keeping track of everything was deplorable and nonexistent. There was a period when they were trying to figure what they were going to do because there were issues with the president/treasurer and my homologue. At that point I stepped away and let them figure it out while I focused my energy on my women’s cooperative. Recently they elected a new president (a woman this time) and we have plans to start from scratch. I will work with her to come up with a simple system of accounting that will let us keep track of all our clients and make it easy for us to know our cash position at any given point in time. I also want us to be able to know exactly how much to give each client so that if and when we have to unwind the process would be simple and painless.
Mali is full of opportunities to do some good and also to make money. Maybe when I’m done with my service I’ll just stick around and work with my buddies here to make some money. An b’a laje ni Allah sonna. K’an ben sinye were!