The Business of Doing Good Things

Africa's unique problems are increasingly being tackled by talented young social entrepreneurs whose businesses put community before profit. As the continent is swept along an admittedly low tide of the tech revolution, these entrepreneurs are nevertheless riding this wave to success. At the continental and global level, there are a partnerships and conferences geared towards ensuring that African entrepreneurs are empowered to achieve their goals which boosts this burgeoning business model.

Social entrepreneurship provides solutions to problems where governments are often too distracted by non-pertinent struggles leaving a gap which Africa’s social entrepreneurs fill by creating jobs for themselves while aiding development.

A widespread African ‘problem’ is the undereducation of the girl child. Ellen Chilemba, a Forbes profile reveals, is helping Malawian women break the vicious cycle of child marriage and poverty. She runs Tiwale which provides vocational training to women, providing  an avenue for self-empowerment and independence. Ellen initially wanted to provide micro-lending facilities but she soon realized that undereducation was best solved through self-empowerment. Since Tiwale began five years ago, more than 40 rural Malawian women have started businesses or gained employment, and another 150 women are being supported with practical business skills and vocational training.

Providing quality veterinary and animal husbandry services to farmers in remote areas was the problem Christie Peacock was trying to solve when she started Sidai Africa. Sidai, which means ‘good’ in Maasai, is revolutionizing the provision of livestock and veterinary services to pastoral farmers by creating a more sustainable service delivery model. Sidai Centres are staffed with qualified veterinarians, livestock technicians and other professionals who provide vaccines, feeds, diagnostic and financial services to farmers at a fair price and closer to them. Franchising support also increases the chances of each new centre succeeding in its community. Sidai also trains the farmers on how to use products correctly and gives pastoralists advice on how to increase livestock productivity.

In April 2016, CNN estimated that more than 600 million Africans are still without power. Even in areas where there is power supply, it is hampered by poor reliability and high cost. The World Bank estimates that 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a crisis in the energy industry with some countries having less than 10 percent of its people having electricity at all.

Here is where Solar Sister comes in.

Solar Sister brings about economic empowerment to women through a direct sale network providing cheap solar energy solutions like solar lights, mobile phone chargers and clean cook stoves across rural Africa. This is especially vital in rural areas that are pretty much off the grid where households spend about $0.60 per day on kerosene lighting and other costs.

Katherine Lucey, founder of Solar Sister, estimates that there are now more than 2,500 Solar Sister Entrepreneurs spreading light across Africa, bringing revenue and an improved standard of living to many households through its program. Solar Sister is tackling three social problems and is winning, with plans to be in five African countries by 2020 and to scale to 5,000 entrepreneurs.

Great social entrepreneurship models are inclusive, profitable and life changing. There are many ways to skin a tiger and Africans are finding innovative ways to solve problems, particularly in rural areas. As more social entrepreneurs get empowered in Africa through grants and programs, more jobs are being created, rural agriculture and power supply issues are being improved. This can only get better as the world begins to take notice and more investors put funds towards this new breed financially viable and socially responsible businesses What global brand or investor wouldn’t want to be a part of that movement?

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