Mission Burundi: Phase 1

Mission Burundi is about more than Burundi. It’s about connecting Africa.

It has five phases.

The first two phases are about gathering intelligence. Phase one is to gather existing data.

Much of the “data” in the news still portrays Africa in a negative light. The stories rarely portray intelligent people facing problems bigger than anyone knows how to solve, problems we couldn’t solve if we found ourselves in their shoes.

Solar Ship’s approach is that Africa’s greatest natural asset is intelligence. With over one billion people, there are genius problem solvers throughout the continent and it’s our job to tap into that brainpower.

The first question one asks: why is the current situation not working? The second question one asks: what specifically can one do to make things better?

Burundi is landlocked and mountainous. Landlocked countries have higher death rates than coastal countries because they cannot easily access the benefits of the outside world. When trade is cut off, people have less opportunity, raising the chances for conflict. The death rate in mountainous areas is three times higher than in flat areas due to transport challenges.

History shows that densely populated countries with large numbers of young men are more likely to experience violence and conflict. More densely populated than Japan, 70% of Burundi’s population is under the age of thirty. The country has the one of the highest concentrations of males between the ages of 16 and thirty in history. Traditionally, new democracies with large young male populations face arguments both from within government and between government and citizens, resulting in frustration and violence. People then flee the violence and become displaced. They populate refugee camps with large numbers of people dying and suffering. These people need critical supplies and infrastructure.

The immediate problem in Burundi is war. The only solution is peace. Canada is the birthplace of peacekeeping, an idea created by former Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson. Solar Ship is Canadian company that has the tools to save lives in Burundi: mobile infrastructure to rapidly provide energy, communications, and transport. Solar Ship has partners on the ground, local experts in disaster relief and health to provide a flow of critical supplies.

Mission Burundi is the first step in unlocking trapped potential, letting people create better lives for themselves. The approach is to set up transport, communications and energy services and then get out of the way of the smart people – they will figure out how to solve problems and advance themselves.

Phase one of Mission Burundi is to connect people in need with critical supplies to save lives. This is being done under the leadership of COO Michel Rugema who is from Burundi, and lead pilot Colonel Tim Shopa (Rt.), joining us from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

The second phase is to connect people who save lives in the region and seek their thoughts on how to improve the flow of critical supplies and deploy assets to save lives.

We will speak more on the second, third, fourth and fifth phases in upcoming blogs.


Go to most of the places in the world that have problems and you will hear certain people repeatedly say there is “no problem”:


Pas de problème (French)

Mei Wenti (Mandarin)

Tsy manine (Malagasy)

Ntangorané (Kirundi)

Hakuna Matata (Swahili)


The reason why certain people say there is no problem is partly because of their perspective and attitude toward problems and partly because extreme conditions create people who develop unique problem solving skills.

Inventing the Future

It has become common to use the term “disruptive” when referring to innovation and entrepreneurs.

As if this is some good thing.

If all great new ventures answer the question “why,” then there should be a common theme that answers why disruptive is good. When you know the answer of why you are disruptive, then the world becomes simpler. You can see it in others. You can work cross-culturally without the need for proficient language skills because you know who you are dealing with and why they are driven to disrupt.

People who can’t stand problems don’t stand for them. They take problems into their own hands. The word in French for taking things into your own hands is “entreprend.” An entrepreneur capable of creating disruptive technologies to solve problems can’t stand problems, won’t stand, doesn’t stand. They entreprend.

And you can see it in their eyes.

Stronger than Steel

Investors spend time with analysts.

Analysts ask the question “what?”

If all great new ventures answer the question “why?” all the naysayer-right-hand-man-shoeshine-analysts ask the question “what?”

They sputter things like, “money has no smell,” and recount the times that “snake oil salesmen” have come into their office seeking money and then the money disappears.

They want numbers.

They want certainty.

Why Solar Ship

Innovators spend time with kids aged four to six.

They must.

Four to six year-olds ask “why?”

Studies show that  great advances in the world are driven by the question “why.” Progress is not achieved by people who can say what they are doing, but rather by people who can express why they are doing it.