First Lady Jeannette Kagame has said social entrepreneurship can be one of Africa’s most befitting avenues for economic transformation of the continent.
Mrs Kagame made the remarks, on Wednesday, at a gala dinner in Kigali in honour of the 2016 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year Awardees for Africa. The dinner was organised by Motsepe Foundation and Schwab Foundation.
Fourteen outstanding social entrepreneurs from 11 organisations operating in more than 70 countries were recently recognised in the 2016 Foundation Social Entrepreneurs awards edition, for pioneering solutions for social and environmental challenges, ranging from child labour, an women’s empowerment, to climate change.
The dinner was attended by Adesina A. Akinwumi, the president of the African Development Bank, who delivered a keynote address; the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin; Dr Motsepe-Ramaphosa, wife of Deputy-President of South Africa; Co-Founder and Vice-Chair of the Motsepe Foundation, Dr Precious Motsepe, among other officials, and international guests, who are in Kigali for the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The First Lady said social entrepreneurship provide optimal responses to the most pressing needs of societies, such as empowering men and women to make good use of their potential and design creative solutions, to positively impact lives around them.
“Our coming together tonight, to recognise the social entrepreneurs of 2016 is a moment to be truly celebrated, for the immense contribution, these men and women bring to our lives both economically and socially,” Mrs Kagame said.
“It is quite interesting to see that this field of entrepreneurship, so often perceived as a means to make one richer, can also be such a powerful tool to uplift others, as tonight’s laureates have shown us.”
Inside social entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurs, similar to business entrepreneurs, build sustainable organisations that are either set up as non-profit or for-profit social enterprises, aimed at driving social innovation and transformation in various fields, including education, health, environment and enterprise development.
They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices.
“We live in a world where wealth disparities are still very evident, and as such, one can see the importance of cultivating a spirit of solidarity and care for the less fortunate...Whatever the means used by their organisations for this purpose, be it new technologies to provide wider access to jobs, innovative solutions to energy challenges, or tools that support literacy…these special entrepreneurs have in common a strong desire to change things for the best, around them,” the First Lady added.
AfDB President Akinwumi noted that social entrepreneurs are change agents in society, adding that they are “more than entrepreneurs” because of their ability to recognise opportunities to solve seemingly unsolvable social challenges through creating solutions for the community’s most pressing social challenges.
“They focus on removing inequalities created by social exclusion, market or institutional failures, or a state equilibrium that disempowers the majority from reaching their potential. They are driven by a relentless passion to see a better state,” said Akinwumi.
Out of the 14 recognised entrepreneurs, eight are women.
More work to be done
Akinwumi, however, noted that “there is more work to be done” to fully unleash the potential of African women entrepreneurs through access to finance.
“To turn the ideas of women entrepreneurs into viable businesses requires a fundamental change in the financial markets to better address the needs of women. A financial sector revolution for women businesses is needed,” he said.
Akinwumi said the push for access to finance provoked the African Development Bank to create the Affirmative Finance Action for Women (AFAWA) – a new initiative with the goal of creating an enhanced financial environment for women-owned businesses.
“Our goal is to leverage $3 billion specifically for women owned enterprises in Africa,” he said.
Africa’s population is projected to expand by an additional 910 million people by 2050, with 830 million of them to be in sub-Saharan Africa. The youth population between the ages of 15-24 is estimated to grow by 500,000 per year during this period.
Africa will need to create an estimated 18 million jobs annually for the youths to cope with this massive youth bulge.
“We must turn this demographic asset into an economic dividend for Africa. With lack of economic opportunities, especially among young graduates, social, economic and political fragility could deepen in Africa – unless we create new economic opportunities,” said Akinwumi, adding that the African Development Bank was creating new initiatives to address these various needs, for they ‘must create hope’.