interviews
Our Story in Chad - Interview with our Project Manager, Florian Guiod
By Luca Hajdú
Today my guest is someone who has joined the Acasus team in Chad in the beginning of 2020 as a Senior Consultant and now leading the team in Chad as a Project Manager. I am pleased to welcome Florian Guiod who is going to share his and his team’s story with us today!

20210113_Melinda-WomensRoundtable_Raj...

 

Tell me about your story that led to you joining Acasus and more specifically our new - at the time - mission in Chad? What was your drive when joining us? 

I had been working in the same strategy consulting firm for four years and had found my sweet spot there. Acasus contacted me directly, they were looking for someone to help kickstart the project in Chad. Surprisingly, for the first time I could see myself changing jobs, that was for several reasons: 

  • I was eager to use the skills I had acquired for a greater purpose, and immunization in developing countries appeared to me at the core of social impact

  • I had always wanted to come back to sub saharan Africa to work there for a longer period and to make a change

  • I felt Acasus could give me the entrepreneurial spirit I was looking for, giving me the leeway to try things, learn and improve

  • Finally, a lot of people told me not to do it, which only had the opposite effect! (kidding, everyone was really supportive)

 

Well, sometimes we only realize how much we want to do something when there’s a bit of resistance. Let’s get back to the roots - can you recall how this whole project started? What were the first 2-3 months like?

 

 

I joined the project in March, it had started for a bit more than a month. We were wrapping up the diagnosis. The goal was to socialize it, share it and build consensus around the key objectives and actions that needed to be implemented. It involved a lot of meetings and discussions with all stakeholders. And this means a lot of people, from the ministry, the EPI as well as from the partners. Then we also had to start some actions, support the EPI operations, solve some very operational issues (trucks full of vaccines stuck in the middle of the road because they ran out of gas...). It was super exciting to be on both the strategic and the operational fronts.

 

What do you do? 

Of course it was also the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic and for some time we had to be quarantined, then flown back to France. Still, I was actually impressed by how we could keep the work going remotely with the Chadian counterparts, despite some internet limitations and the fact that we had had little time to build work relationships.

 

Those sound like the challenges you cannot really prepare for right? I do want to ask more about the challenges before we get into that, let’s tlak about the aim of the project. What was the yearly goal of this project when you started vs what is the current goal for say 2021?

We had a few goals that of course we had to adjust to the health situation. Our primary focus was to improve vaccine availability, by securing funds from the Chadian state, revamping the vaccine delivery process and ensuring it happened. Second, we had to ensure that the vaccines could be properly stored, with a good level of cold chain availability in the mid term  and a better functionality in the short term. Third, we wanted to build strong systems to collect reliable data from the field.

 

We scored strong successes on all these fronts: 5 complete vaccine deliveries throughout the country have helped improve vaccine availability everywhere and decrease stock-outs by a factor of 2.5 ! Supervisions in 5 provinces ensure that 400+ facilities are visited each month! The two consultants that supported the project back then (Amine and Amine) played a good role as well to kickstart it.

 

For this year we want to expand existing work to new provinces and launch critical activities like support to outreach strategies and IPVS. With the new project on COVAX, we also have objectives pertaining to the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. I can’t say how thrilling it is to be at the heart of burning issues and at the core of the country’s strategy: define targets, imagine vaccine delivery strategies, design logistics to convey the vaccines, build data collection systems, etc. Now that I think about it I probably caught the virus itself because I was too close to the topic professionally!

 

 

Since I promised to get back to the challenges. Tell me a story about the biggest struggle or the most difficult part of the project you have faced so far and how you - maybe along with the team - resolved it?

The biggest hurdle we have faced and continue to face is two-fold:

  • The first part is linked to the important complexity of stakeholders and political context. Since the project started, we have had to deal with 2 ministers, 3 EPI directors and more broadly a constantly changing environment. I expect this will continue in

  •  the next months with the presidential elections. Though not solved, we have managed to expand our network to cover a large share of the MOH and EPI, to ensure that we can work with anyone. Defining who interacts/works with whom and guidance from Acasus central team helped us do so.

  • The second is the financial side of immunization. Supporting the GAVI important HSS grant requires that funds are disbursed in a quick and safe manner. This has been an important bottleneck so far. We decided to allocate almost 1 full time consultant to this task, supporting the UGP in their daily management of fund requests and justifications. We have also implemented simpler processes and innovative ways to justify (such as the geolocation of some activities) to speed up the process.

 

Let me continue by asking you some more personal questions. Ever since you joined in 2020 as a Senior Associate you fast paced into the Project Manager role you’re currently in - what do you think contributed to your success to become the leader of the Chad team? 

Yes, it’s been an amazing adventure so far, and very rewarding as well ! I think it was a combination of trust, guidance, experience from my background and a bit of luck, as always!

All along the way I felt Acasus trusted me and gave me room to evolve, make my own decisions, etc. I also think that what helped me as well was some of the relationships I made with the EPI. When everything was halted due to COVID, Acasus still managed to move a lot of things forward, and it built up our reputation for sure. Finally being the only international consultant after my colleague left in June kind of pushed me to this role!

To be honest this role has come with an increased pressure but also a lot more freedom to make choices and set my own direction. This includes being responsible for a team that has now grown to 5 brilliant people, with different personalities and ways of working: define  responsibilities/assignments, ensure proper feedback is given, foster growth! I think only then did I realize the infinite nuances of professional interactions. Of course this new role also implies increased exposure (including political); thus relationships, reputation and perception of my own person are a lot more critical… it really makes you self aware…! Despite all this, I think it also gave me the luxury of picking the topics I want to deep dive on. Since, I still like some aspects of the more operational tasks such as running analyses, building data visualization, drafting presentations. I’m happy to be able to continue this aspect of the work.

From now on, a new challenge awaits: advertise our work and achievements at a higher level and build on it to go beyond immunization and improve the delivery of the whole primary healthcare in Chad. 

Well we are certainly grateful for your contribution and I myself would love to sit down for a conversation with you again next year to catch up on the new stories this year holds. I’m sure there will be many! What is your fondest memory/story - so far - working at Acasus?

I remember very clearly my first time on the field. We were going to Ati (Batha) to train district teams on RED and supervisions. We had left the capital a bit late and couldn’t reach Ati before sunset and curfew. The road was in a terrible state and we had to stop in a small village for the night. We slept under the stars (and the mosquito net) and woke up with the sun and the eagles circling above our heads. It was really a magical moment. We then went on through a really picturesque muddy track in the savane to reach to dusty yet beautiful Ati.

 

Well you paint quite a picture! It feels as if I was there - definitely sounds like a hakuna matata moment. Anyway for closure I wanted to ask you about your personal next step if you have anything planned?

My dream is to open a new healthcare project in Cabo Verde, the dream country. But it’s unlikely to happen given how well they are already doing haha!

 

Well, that sounds really great and you know what let’s get back to this in our next conversation! Florian, thank you so much for being here, I loved hearing about your personal and professional stories. You definitely make a valuable contribution for the team and I hope we can continue this discussion in the future!

Sure, thanks, Melinda!

 

For our audience, if you would like to hear more about the team’s work in Chad I invite you to check the report on our website with the title Simple processes for better logistics - written by the team. 

 

Tune in for the original podcast here!

 

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