Building support infrastructure where there is none.

Author:Narfeldt, Soraya
Position:Communique - Interview with Soraya Narfeldt of RA International - Interview
 
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Wherever there are operations in the remotest parts of Africa, personnel require infrastructure, and RA International have a deserved reputation in providing that. New African talked to the founder and chief executive, Soraya Narfeldt, about her extraordinary company.

Whether it is for an NGO, a mining company, a peacekeeping operation, an oil and gas exploration exercise or for environmental research, many initiatives take place in the remotest regions of Africa. And RA International is a foremost service company in this regard.

The company has its origins in Afghanistan, where Soraya Narfeldt spent her honeymoon in 2002. While her husband was working full time for the United Nations in Kabul, she volunteered for the UNDR "One of my colleagues needed assistance so I volunteered to work with him on programme management and administrative roles.

"When that particular programme finished I joined Colonel Babbington, who I had known from Sierra Leone, and who was leading a peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan."

Babbington, who had previously served in Sierra Leone, had been charged with disarming 100,000 Afghan militiamen, including Islamic zealots left over from the years of Soviet occupation as well as freelance bandit gangs.

Sierra Leone has a particular resonance with Narfeldt as her mother is from that country, and her late Scots father had lived in Sierra Leone since the 1960s and had stayed on after independence, becoming an honorary Leonian in 1965.

She came to realise that what the logistics requirements of peacekeeping mission needed was some sort of overall control and local knowledge and content. So she stepped away from her role with the UN and told them that she would happily consult for them to provide solutions to their logistical problems.

"I needed to be in control of the logistics procurement process so we could get everything to the right place at the right time. And so RA International came into being." Narfeldt says.

"Lo and behold, within just 24hrs of setting up my business I got my first client. The client wanted a generator sent to a very remote location; it was freezing cold being 2,500m above sea level, in an area where the Taliban were active.

"I said 'no problem, I can get you a generator' and then asked all the relevant questions: 'How are you going to get it there, what about your fuel tank, do you have cables' etc. Of course they had no idea, they hadn't thought it through."

So Narfeldt put together the solutions...

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