SIFE World Cup: The Berlin Experience

Published on 20th October 2009

Maseno SIFE team celebrate national victory 
Maseno University SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) team emerged winners of the 7th annual SIFE Kenya business exposition held at the Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi on 23rd May 2009. Seven students selected from the entire team of 56, together with their faculty advisor, Mr. Charles Aloo, and SIFE Kenya Country Director, Mr. James Shikwati, made the trip to Berlin, Germany to represent Kenya at the Global SIFE exposition christened the SIFE World Cup.


The SIFE World Cup was held at the Estrel Hotel and Convention Center in Sonnenallee, Berlin, from 4th to 7th October 2009. Over 800 students representing 40 countries together with their faculty advisors, and observers participated in the event.


The delegation from Kenya had a wonderful and captivating experience in Berlin, Germany, although all was not as rosy. For instance, no sooner had the delegation checked in at the JKIA for departure, than they found out that their return flight had been booked for the 16th of October instead of 7th October, the Visa expiry date.


The head of the Delegation & SIFE Kenya Country Director, Mr. James Shikwati had already checked in and had to be literally fetched from the departure lobby, to come and intervene. This meant paying 50 Euros for  new tickets to be issued with correct details. Serving as a warning, the demand of 50 Euros made everyone else in the delegation to rush to convert their Shillings into Euros. Later the delegation boarded Brussels Airlines flight number SNO453 to Brussels.


Upon arrival to Brussels, the delegation proceeded to the immigrations where another incident occurred that sent shivers down those who have never traveled internationally. Immigration officials asked the delegation to hand over all their passports and wait aside, away from the queue. With terrorism and racism dominating world news, it was not strange for some members to think that something bad was about to happen. Luckily all turned well and all were granted entry to Shengen states. 'Phew!' Some exclaimed. Several other delegations to the SIFE World Cup were also passing through Brussels airport on their way to Berlin. Another Brussels plane took the team to Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany.


There was a slight misunderstanding at the airport when one student was held by police for questioning and inspection after one passenger complained that he had lost his wallet in Brussels and that the student was sitting besides him at the departure waiting lobby. In spite of the Country Director’s intervention, the police made it clear that they were dealing with an individual; not the group. Eventually after waiting so anxiously for the outcome, the student was released and the police and accuser apologized for their mistake.


The next interesting experience was deciding how to get to the hotel. Berlin has a number of trains crisscrossing the city, supported by the bus network. A taxi was out of question because of the cost. Aided with maps that detailed all trains and buses together with their stations around the city, we agreed that a bus would  do to the nearest train station. This was also informed by the fact that bus tickets are also valid on the trains.


Later in the day, the delegation checked in at the Estrel Hotel and Convention center in Sonnenallee, Berlin which also was hosting the World Cup. Four rooms were booked at the hotel; two of them were corner rooms and had a panoramic view of the city. It was very chilly and everyone was happy to finally be indoors.


Sunday, day 1 of the event, started with technology checks and a networking fair. Students from 40 countries and company executives had an opportunity to interact over a cup of coffee or a glass of juice. An Internet station was provided and delegations took the time to know the various venues.


After networking, all proceeded to the cultural fair where each delegation had a stand showcasing their respective countries. Unfortunately, the Kenyan delegation, due to unavoidable circumstances couldn't travel with material from the ministry of tourism. As SIFE students, innovation was no a deficiency, a stand was put in place with pamphlets from UNESCO Kenya, A leso, kikoi and several African male shirts. A cup of tea crowned it all. What could not be carried was compensated for by songs and dances that made the stand one of the most interesting and attractive. The display also made the stand a very colorful one with students singing and dancing vigorously, as onlookers watched in awe!


The Opening Ceremony was next on the agenda of the day. A colorful display of flags and name tags of each country with their delegations, all enthusiastic about the next day's competition. Each delegation had a chance to introduce their flag and all participants were awarded medals for participation. The ceremony was graced by the presence of executives from the sponsoring companies who gave their speeches. They included KPMG, Walmart, Henkel, SealedAir, Coca-Cola and GTBank.


A draw was done for the following day’s competition and teams were put in leagues of five. During the first round, Maseno University SIFE team was second and proceeded to round two of the final 16 teams. There was an awarding ceremony for round one winners and again a draw was done for round two. This time Maseno University SIFE team did not proceed to round three. All support was then directed to the remaining African teams.


Africa rose up to  the occasion when Egypt  beat all the other teams  and was crowned the of the 2009 SIFE Global World Cup, beating the defending champions, Canada.


Later in the day, students and their faculty went for a tour to the city visiting famous and historic places like the Berlin gate, parliament and the Berlin wall. Thereafter, the team split with two students getting back to Sonnenallee to prepare for the SIFE Students after party organized by the SIFE Netherlands Alumni Association at the Spindler & Klatt Club in Kreuzberg.


The rest of the students went shopping in Alexanderplatz and were amazed by the amount of variety available and the shopping malls that were so big in comparison with Kenyan malls. Another separation occurred when the students got lost of each other in one of the malls. It was about 10pm and the delegation had about 6 hours to check out of their hotel. Meanwhile at the After party, the students lost their only map, and were not aware that Berlin trains and buses do not operate after midnight. They came out of the party at 1 am and had to take a taxi in order to make it to the hotel in time. However they had bought a train ticket for their return trip and had no Euros for a taxi. After boarding a taxi, they convinced the driver to accept payment on reaching their destination. Surprising enough, the driver agreed even though he understood very little English.


Students at Alexanderplatz had done their shopping and gone back to the hotel to catch a brief nap before departure. Each was wondering what had happened to the other two. Inter-room phone calls were so frequent within the two hours until they arrived begging for 5 Euros to pay for the taxi ride. The delegation then checked out of the hotel and proceeded to the airport in the now familiar trains.


The journey back to Kenya was a smooth one with a brief stop at Bujumbura, Burundi. Students were happy of the opportunity to interact and the contacts they made from students all over the world. Everyone said that the event opened up their eyes to the amount of opportunities available and amount of work that should be put in to make Kenya a developed state.


By Christiano Kwena

Maseno University.


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