No. 28: Kenyan Social Enterprises Attract Impact Investors Because of a Focus on Sustainable Growth

20130917-051644.jpg

Kenya has garnered lots of attention for Nairobi’s tech scene and the pending completion of Konza City – enticing talking heads to debate Nairobi’s status as the Silicon Valley of Africa. Yet, the technology space is not the only sector sector seeing exciting growth.

Participants in the Geeks Gone Global’s 2013 Africa Innovation Excursion witnessed the impact social enterprises are having in Kenya. Startups like Soko Kenya are providing a platform for Kenyan clothiers to sell their products globally. Soko recently landed $700,000 to continue the growth of its business.

Johnni Kjelsgaard, Co-Founder of The GrowthHub, provided interesting insights on the social entrepreneurship space in Kenya. The GrowthHub is a startup incubator in Nairobi that helps East African start ups position themselves “to deliver sustainable business growth, create employment, and contribute to social progress. According to Johnni, social entrepreneurship is not really a concept in Kenya. A number of the entrepreneurs he has encountered do not consider themselves as entrepreneurs in the first place.

Because of this, The GrowthHub does not use the term social enterprise in the majority of its work with entrepreneurs. It hones in on building a strong and sustainable business model. The GrowthHub sees social benefit pouring out from that. Startup founders like Stefano Carcoforo at iProcure and Melissa Menke at Access Afya are hyper-focused on creating a great product that also contributes to the good of their customers.

Johnni and The GrowthHub team are busy with Village Capital/GrowthAfrica2: Innovation to Impact which just launched on September 13 and will run until December 6. Started in 2012, in partnership with Atlanta-based Village Capital, the accelerator equips social enterprises with the tools to take their business to the next level. One of the 2012 winners, iProcure, recently secured a portion of a $500,000 funding round by 88mph, another VC/incubator that operates in Cape Town and Nairobi.

Are you an investor, looking to place funds in a startup that knows its market, is focused on sustainable growth, and has plans to create positive social change in Kenya and beyond? Join the Geeks Gone Global 2014 Africa Innovation Excursion.

No. 27: Innovation in Ghana’s Social Enterprise Space

Credit: Waste Enterprisers

The Geeks Gone Global team is excited to lead you on an excursion to check out the innovative things happening in the social enterprise space in Ghana, Nigeria, South African, and Kenya. Check out the first of four country and company profiles to prep you for the trip.

Ghana is among the fastest growing economies in the world. The country has been known for its stable democracy, large deposits of gold, and tasty cocoa.  The country has faced headwinds with a disputed presidential electionconcerns over government management of oil revenue, and the Ghana Cedi depreciating due to rumors of the US Federal Reserve drawing quantitative easing to an end. Despite this, there has been no shortage of excitement about Ghana’s future.

Last year, President John Mahama announced the groundbreaking of Hope City, a $10 billion technology hub that would locate outside of Accra.  Hope City will compete with Konza City in Kenya for bragging rights as being the Silicon Valley of Africa.

The startup space in Ghana is humming.  A few months ago, Accra-based Dropifi became the first African startup accepted into Dave McClure’s 500 Startups Accelerator Program. Startups that have gone through the program include the likes of StyleSeat and TaskRabbit. Other startups that are making waves in Nandi Mobile and Leti Arts, just to name a few.

The social enterprise maybe has not gotten the same kind of attention that the technology startups have received, but that is sure to change in the next year or so as more and more pop up in Accra. Social enterprise startups like Ashesi University are revolutionizing what it means to educate in Africa. Global Mamas brings together makers in order to give them greater exposure through one big retail shop. Golda Addo is building the Born.Again recycling label, a recycled and up cycled line of products. Exciting stuff.

Meet Waste Enterprisers, a social enterprise based in Accra that is focused on creating value from energy found in human waste.  Ashley Murray founded the company in 2010 after completing her doctoral studies in sanitation engineering at UC Berkeley. The company wants to see a global sanitation revolution that – one in which waste is no longer seen as that, but as a free resource.

Waste Enterprisers takes human waste and converts it into biomass the company calls Green Heat, an energy source that is 20 percent more efficient than comparable biomasses.  Green Heat comes in brick form and the company generated between 10 and 20 tons of the product during its pilot phase.

On the competitive landscape in Ghana, Tim Wade, Waste Enterprisers’ COO, stated that the social enterprise space in waste is still in its early stages. The company has come across a few enterprises and international NGOs looking for ways to contribute to sanitation management in Accra.

Looking forward, the team at Waste Enterprisers want to master being a manufacturer that contributes to sanitation as a by-product of its work.  If the team gets the model right, it wants to see uptake of the model in Accra’s sanitation industry and around the world.

If you’re not pumped for January’s trip after this, you need to get a TastyKake and RC Cola, and go think about yourself in the corner of a room for a while. Then sign up and let’s go!

No. 25: Infrastructure in Africa: Go Big

In 2009, The World Bank estimated that it would take $93B annually over the next 10 years to bring Africa’s infrastructure to a healthy level. Four years later, how much of the $372B needed has actually been invested on the continent?

Watching Eddie Obeng give this TED Talk left me pondering on how we can think big in solving Africa’s infrastructure challenges. Big thinking like the Cape to Cairo road and Bright Simons looking for ways to leapfrog infrastructure technology is what it’s going to take for African infrastructure to be globally competitive.

I will come back with numbers on where we are with African infrastructure in a later post.

No. 24: Social Media a Key Driver of the Next Wave of African Growth

image

But I won’t argue the point too hard.

Yesterday evening, I attended the DC Africa Tweet up hosted by Semhar Araia. I learned about the event through Twitter and had a blast chatting it up with folks addressing the task of contributing to African development from different angles.

Of the ~60 or so people at the event, I met three through Twitter – Laura Seay, Semhar Araia, and Teddy Ruge. The statistical analysis may not make much of that, but these are three people who have a significant impact on my thinking in regards to Africa. Since joining Twitter, my connection to people doing work on the continent has grown exponentially, and has created opportunities to do a lot of cool things. There are other potential reasons for this increased connection, I do admit. Nonetheless, I am in constant communication with folks regarding Africa and I am not the only one.

In the span of a few hours, the following happened:

1. I got a better understanding of how Africare sees itself participating in African development.

2. I offered some advice to a recent graduate looking to get into international development work.

3. I connected with individuals interested in a partnership Afara Global is part of.

4. I learned about the work of an individual in London who could offer some nice value-add to one of our projects.

5. I had an incredible conversation with a fellow Greensboro-native on the opportunity areas for growth in the African-American community.

Needless to say, I left the event refreshed and excited to push forward.

Thanks Semhar and Twitter. Let’s make this happen in other cities.

No. 18: Not a Protectionist, But David Cameron’s Interest in Africa Makes Me Nervous

While reading an article on David Cameron’s visit to Africa, I just couldn’t help but see an image of British ships exploring the new world, landing on the African continent and thinking – “we’ve got free labor”.

Source: Slavery in America

The author follows Prime Minister Cameron on his trip to South Africa and Nigeria, highlighted by the fact that the Prime Minister brought with him the heads of several heavy hitters already doing business on the African continent – Vodacom, Barclays, and Diageo to name a few. Mr. Cameron’s theme throughout the trip was that Britain sees Africa in a new light – a trading partner, not just an aid recipient. Business leaders touted the economic opportunities on the continent, and expressed their wishlists of improved regulations to enable business to thrive.

The African continent’s countries are really making moves in growing their economies and improving governance. Those improvements are drawing increasing attention from Asia and the West, and it is increasingly important that African countries protect their interests. My recent trip to Uganda revealed the downside of China’s investment on the continent – socks that had holes after a week of wear. Again, it is increasingly important that African countries protect their interests.

Source: The Economist

Those of us in the Diaspora have an incredible opportunity to seize in serving our countries. Tons of us have studied the way the Asian, European, and American players work the markets, run governments, etc. We can work with Africans on the continent in serving as gatekeepers to ensure that non-African penetration of African countries is healthy.

Source: Marvel Comics

I look forward to working with you in some fashion. I’m sitting here with goosebumps as I watch childhood daydreams morph into reality.