The role of Social Entrepreneurship in driving economic development in Africa cannot be overemphasized.
Across the developing world, a great number of social challenges are evident. Poverty, economic inequality and underdeveloped health services present a real threat to those who call these nations home. Previously, much of the relief provided to alleviate these issues has come through aid from more prosperous countries, however growing levels of alternatives, such as social entrepreneurship, are now being actively pursued.
Social entrepreneurs are those whose goal is the achievement of systemic and sustainable social change. Often this is through innovation, perhaps through the invention of a new product or technology, or through adaptation of existing methods, such as making aspects of healthcare more affordable to those who require it.
For social entrepreneurs, the end goal is poverty alleviation or societal development, whether in a non-profit or business setting.
The Social Enterprising and Africa’s Sustainable Development Summit is aimed at bringing together Social Innovators and Directors of Non-Governmental Organizations and Community Development Organizations in Nigeria to dialogue a framework for sustaining community development projects in Nigeria, Africa and monetization of the existing infrastructures to generate revenue for continuity of projects.
Date: 4th October, 2019.
Venue: The American Corner Spaces, Ground Floor, 294 Hebert Macaulay Way, Sabo-Yaba, Lagos.
We define urban innovations as those making cities better for the many, not just the few. This could be in terms of service or product innovations across different sectors, productivity gains, and cost savings or revenue-generation opportunities, as long as they have a significant impact on the lives of city dwellers across Africa. We are spotlighting some companies that are already making a significant impact and we have prioritized companies that are considered high-potential, headquartered in Africa and with a primary focus on Africa.
Here are some of the start-ups shaping the future of cities across the continent.
Max.ng is a motorcycle taxi service operating in three Nigerian cities. It has completed over 1,000,000 rides and is one of Jumia’s largest delivery partners in West Africa. There are tremendous opportunities for motorcycle taxi services in Africa due to inefficiencies in mass transit and growing urban populations. Their model provides safe and affordable transportation by offering trained, accountable drivers and the convenience of booking rides through a mobile app. They recently announced $7 million in funding and are the only motorcycle taxi service positioning themselves for Africa’s electric vehicle future by investing in infrastructure for solar charging stations. This could potentially revolutionize urban mobility as they plan to expand to 10 West African cities.
Food prices are over 30% higher in sub-Saharan Africa than prices in the rest of the world at comparable GDP levels per capita. Much of this is due to inefficiencies in supply chains and farming practices. Twiga Foods is a digital marketplace that lets grocers in cities order farm produce from smallholder farmers in rural areas across Kenya and have it delivered at competitive prices. This eliminates the inefficiencies of sourcing mostly perishable foods daily, while guaranteeing farmers consistent income and timely payments. According to a recent report, Twiga Foods is the largest domestic distributor of food produce in Kenya, servicing 10,000 vendors in Nairobi and neighbouring counties through a network of 13,000 farmers.
mPharma is eliminating inefficiencies in the pharmaceuticals supply chain across Africa. These inefficiencies lead to consumers paying up to three times as much as patients in western countries. After food, medicines make up the largest family expenditure for most developing countries. This leads to patients’ inability to buy the drugs they need when they need them. mPharma solves this by sourcing and procuring medicines and stocking pharmacies across Africa at no cost to the pharmacies. They negotiate lower prices with the best manufacturers and also provide flexible payment options for patients. Currently operating in five African countries, they manage inventory for a network of over 200 pharmacies and serve more than 40,000 patients each month.
Sendy is a parcel delivery service that operates across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and links more than 1,000 delivery drivers to customers. The service is used by over 5,000 businesses and 50,000 individuals to make deliveries which are insured and can be tracked in real-time from a mobile app. This leads to greater efficiency and reduced costs as it leverages a network of otherwise informally employed motorcycle, pickup, van and truck drivers. It also recently launched a freight service for domestic cargo transport.
Africa is ready to rise. This is what we will keep repeating as Africa’s government and business leaders meet in Cape Town this week at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa Meeting.
Rarely have we felt such fiery potential on Africa’s horizon. Consider how Africa’s best-educated generation ever is coming of age – by 2025, half of our continent’s population will be under 25. These young women and men are by far Africa’s best natural resource, more valuable than all the gold, copper, oil and gas that lies under African soil – though we have a lot of that too!
Consider how Africa is readily seizing renewable energy – the speed at which off-grid solar is expanding is exhilarating, for example. Consider how our people are pioneering technologies to solve problems. Or indeed the opportunity of the new Africa continental free trade are, set to be the world’s largest.
This is reason to hope. And yet we must sound caution. There is no avoiding one inescapable truth: that Africa is not really rising yet. Oxfam arrives in Cape Town with new data that tells a story of:
• A divided Africa – in which inequality is spiralling. That is now home to the world’s four most unequal countries.
• An Africa for the ultra-rich. Where three African billionaires – all men – now hold more wealth than the poorest half of Africa, or 650 million people on our continent.
• An Africa racing to the bottom. Despite having some of the fastest growing economies on the planet – the latest World Bank data shows us that extreme poverty is once again rising in Africa. Hundreds of millions more Africans are just a medical bill or a crop failure away from falling into extreme poverty.
Welcome to a Tale of Two Continents, an Africa that’s tailored for the super-rich, while hundreds of millions of people are stuck in poverty without a chance of a dignified future. Even the great new opportunities of digital technologies and continental trade risk being captured by the old entrenched wealthy interests.
We can do far better. It’s a broken and rigged economic system that must change.
We can start by investing in public services like health and education: the clearest path to reducing inequality and investing in Africa’s people, our most important asset. Ethiopia is a standout example here: Though a poor country, Ethiopia has committed to social spending and has raised its education spending to 23% of the budget – the sixth highest in the world. In a decade, it brought 15 million more children into school. That is leadership.
Mostly girls have benefited from this. The opposite is true when education, health and social protection system are underfunded and of poor quality. In Kenya, a boy from a rich family has a one in three chance of continuing his studies beyond secondary school. A girl from a poor family has a one in 250 chance of doing so. And when healthcare systems fail, women and girls are left with the task of caring for loved ones, diminishing their opportunities.
This will get worse unless governments rise to the challenge of a new continental debt crisis. African and world leaders must play their part in pushing for an early solution to restructure debt – one that prevents a cascade of countries falling into default and economic depression and carving down essential public services. We’re already seeing spiralling debt repayments putting social spending at risk in countries from Angola to Ghana.
Yet let us be in no doubt: Africa has the wealth to invest. We can fund Africa’s rise by taxing the rich so they pay their fair share – not squeezing the poor woman fruit-seller through indirect taxes like VAT. Challenging global tax rules would also help tackle the theft of wealth from the continent: Super-rich Africans are holding 75% of their wealth in offshore accounts, denying Africa $14 billion annually in tax revenues.
A recent Oxfam and Tax Justice Network Australia report exposed how one foreign mining power was costing the continent around $300m in lost tax revenue. That’s enough money to fund malaria control – an essential part of health programmes in the nine sub-Saharan countries in which Australian mines operate, almost seven times over.
With some imagination and courage, African leaders can fight this crisis. We can look to countries like Namibia, which has reduced inequality since 1993. Or Sierra Leone, now increasing the minimum wage and personal income tax. Or how South Africa ensures everyone over 60 years old receives a pension, except the very richest. All can do more – but they prove action is possible.
African political and business leaders must feel the heat about the choices they are making. They can stay on the path of ever-spiralling inequality and poverty. Or they can start building another path to a more prosperous, equal Africa built for the many and not just for the few. Surely, there is no other way.