The African Business Institute (ABI) has been working with African business students from Uganda, Malawi, Liberia, and across the continent to grow strong small and medium businesses.
Established in 2016, the ABI postgraduate program is specifically designed for 21st century Africa, where what society needs are more job-creators rather than job-seekers.
ABI's business school offers an accredited one-year program that confers a post-graduate diploma in business administration, with a strong focus on entrepreneurship.
We see our mission to be more than just about education. What truly matters to our students’ lives is what happens after graduation. Will those who start new companies have the resources and mentoring they need to survive the critical first few years and scale their businesses? And will those who go on to find employment have a supporting ecosystem of friends and life-coaches who share their values?
This is why ABI puts so much focus on aftercare. We support our entrepreneurs by continuing to give mentorship, seek investment, and even provide first-year office space. We build an intimate and functioning alumni network, not only among ABI's students, graduates, and faculty but also among the broader African Bible Colleges Group. This gives all our graduates, regardless of the careers they go on to pursue, a strong support network that nurtures them intellectually, practically, and spiritually.
If desire and drive were all that was needed to make a successful business, we wouldn't need your help. However, even the major cities of Africa where our students live and work still struggle with basic infrastructure problems like intermittent power and limited Internet connections. While these issues can be inconvenient for an individual, they are crippling for a small business.
Over the last decade, we in the west have become used to services being available to us from our smartphones. While a team starting a business in the United States has many options for cloud-based business tools for document storage and transfer, project planning, and customer relations, those services are slow and expensive to connect to even in the cities in Africa where the ABI campuses are located.
For example, ABI is currently spending upwards of $1,000US per month just to have a 5 megabit (Mb) connection to their campus in Malawi, and that connection is subject to data usage limits, with high fees for going over their limits. With these slow speeds, it can take an hour to upload a single 500MB video file to an Internet cloud provider, and that's if that's the only transfer happening, which is never the case.
Our solution is to move those services inside the ABI network and make them available locally.
Thankfully, the ABI offices currently have a local area network (LAN) that we can take advantage of. Our team will be provisioning a virtual private cloud (VPC) at the ABI offices. The systems will be installed and supported by a team of volunteers, and available to all the students and fledgling business that ABI is supporting. Having those resources available locally, they can take advantage of the high-speed local network to quickly transfer, edit, and save files into their local cloud.
This solution will allow them to more quickly bring their ideas to fruition, allow them to create, transfer, and protect their ideas as quickly as they are created.
However, a local solution costs money, and that's why we need your help. We're doing our best to keep costs low, relying on free software, and cheaper hardware, but we still need the investment in order to properly deliver a safe and usable environment.
The Nerdy Details
We will be installing a hyper-converged infrastructure, using three servers at the brains of the system. The systems will be running oVirt, an open-source enterprise virtualization solution, at both the hypervisor and OS layers. From there, we'll be installing other great open source software like FreeIPA, OpenProject, and Odoo CRM.
In addition, we will need other hardware, including a remote access system to allow our US-based support team to manage the system, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to help the system survive the frequent power interruptions, and a backup system to protect their valuable data.
The system will be designed and built by Tom Albrecht, a systems architect for Lockheed Martin, who has more than 15 years delivering similar systems to government customers.
The platform will have enough capacity to support the current and future students and business through the next five years.
Here's the estimated cost breakdown:
One of the challenges we've not yet solved is how to get the systems into the country safely. The most expensive option would be to ship the hardware via normal mail, but that could be almost $1000US. It's possible we might carry the systems piecemeal when we travel, or we can include the hardware in the regular shipping crates that go from the US ABC headquarters to the campuses. No matter what option we use, there's always the threat of damage to the hardware, and the extra cost to replace that hardware in Africa.
About the Team
Tom Albrecht is a Cyber Architect at Lockheed Martin, designing and delivering computer information systems for government programs since 2003. He's been working with ABI since their start in 2016, working with new businesses in Uganda and Malawi with a focus on project management, investor relations, and information security.
ABI and ABC
African Bible Colleges trains Christians in Africa for pastoral ministry, Christian service, and leadership positions relevant to the needs and the context of the African continent. Additionally, ABC is committed to proclaiming salvation through Christ alone, spreading the good news of the Gospel, and maintaining, preserving, perpetuating, and uplifting Christian principles.