Over a dozen members of the Kenya Chapter attended the sixth Annual African Conference on Social Entrepreneurship (AACOSE) in Nairobi earlier this year. For attendees the conference reinforced the belief that Africa’s development relies on its people. As Maina Brian Kibuthu, Catalyst Africa Coordinator remarked, “Africa can only be built by us. Africa can only shine when we shine.”
Dr Jonas Yawovi Dzinekou, Director of the Institute for Social Transformation at Tangaza University College, Kenya welcomed participants with a call to action for all ecosystem players to collaborate in their efforts to transform Africa. From the mainstage to breakout sessions, the members actively engaged with social entrepreneurs, policymakers, educators and industry leaders, fostering valuable connections.
The event brought together over 450 social entrepreneurs Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, among other African nations. The objective of the event was to facilitate discussions that will catalyse the necessary shifts to create a collaborative ecosystem for a more fair, peaceful and thriving Africa.
Africa can only be built by the people
Among the themes of the sessions, one stood out: Africa can only be built by us. This prevailing thought is based on the idea that progress is tied directly to the people. In that sense, unlocking the power from within will empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs.
For Susannah Farr, CEO of Gold-Youth Enterprise, the key is for leaders in the ecosystem to join forces to “bring this empowerment to life”. There is a need to encourage young people to have an entrepreneurial mindset before they start to incubate their own businesses.
Accordingly, the President of Social Enterprise Ethiopia, Kibret Abebe stated, “Investing in youth enterprises without helping them work on their mindsets first is doing them an injustice.” To achieve systems level change, we need to collaborate, to, “Shift our thinking, learn and relearn. It is by doing this and building on it that we can create lasting change,” commented Dr. Wamuyu Mahinda Founder of Collaborative Value Partners Africa and the Catalyst 2030 Kenya Chapter Chair and Co-chair of the Africa Region.
Transforming the funding landscape
An important statistic was shared by Dr Mahinda, “Only 9% of the funding that gets to Africa gets to homegrown organisations.” This stark statistic calls for a collective effort among entrepreneurs, funders, governments and others stakeholders to transform the funding landscape on the continent. Recognising the need for early stage support, Dr Dzinekou noted, “If nobody wants to fund pre-revenue ideas or businesses, then we need to change this.”
During a breakout sesion, the negative attitude towards failure was discussed, with Catalyst member Dennis Mburu emphasising that, “In our society, failure is fatal.” Together, we need to encourage social entrepreneurs to embrace setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Embracing lifelong learning
During the AACOSE conference, Professor Jacinta Adhiambo of the Catholic University of East Africa called on the education system to integrate the concept of lifelong learning and adapt to changing times, saying, “We cannot expect to handle a problem today by using the same methods we used 20 years ago.”
The conference provided an enlightening environment to learn from successful social innovators, educators and policymakers. In addition to knowledge sharing, the participants enjoyed lively musical and dance performances and the chance to explore the exhibition market to learn about social innovations that are transforming the future of the continent.
To learn more about the AACOSE annual event, visit their website or explore Catalyst 2030 work with Africa Forward.
Catalyst 2030 Kenya Chapter members join other attendees at AACOSE, Nairobi, May 2023