The Africa Investor Summit on Social Investing and Social Enterprise in Africa
(yes that is Prime Minister, The Right Honourable, Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe with South Africa’s Minister for Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, and Aeneas Chuma, Resident Co-ordinator, United Nations)
Pitching the ColaLife idea to around 120 people, all interested in Social Entrepreneurship in Africa, was a great opportunity for us – with an exciting mix in the audience, from the biggest corporates, banks and foundations to small and more established social enterprises, as well as academics, network representatives and commentators. With Simon out chasing the elusive Coca-Cola crate as a ‘prop’ for the afternoon pitch, it fell to me to be chief note-taker, networker and question-planter.
We’ve already made some amazing contacts – and have been able to meet and speak to some very influential people several times, at the Africa Investor summit itself and in other events around the World Economic Forum: William Asiko of the Coca-Cola Foundation; Andy Wales from SABMiller, our trip sponsor and partner for the Zambia pilot; top representatives from The Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation willing to point us in the right direction next month when we start looking for funders; GAIN, who produce tiny, low-cost sachets of micro-nutrients for families, and the ever-supportive Zahid Torres-Rahman of Business Action for Africa.
There is growing understanding and interest in the potential of Social Entrepreneurship for Africa – to operate in the gap opening up between shrinking donor support and state cut-backs. This starts to sound like the UK. But throw in growing populations – with typically 50% under 16 in many African countries – an appetite for Public Private Partnerships, for innovation and ‘green solutions’ and a strong drive to create jobs and begin to address the problems of mass poverty – and you start to feel that social entrepreneurs in Africa could really make a difference.
Given, of course, the right access to start-up funding and ‘patient capital’; that refrain is the same the world over. Just like in the UK, two visions of reality competed at the Africa Investor Summit: ‘There isn’t any money for Social Enterprises; we fall between the two stools of commercial banks and foundations’ versus ‘The money is there, but the investors and social enterprises can’t find each other.’ Then there is the Catch 22 that ColaLife has heard so often: ‘The Social Enterprise is at the wrong stage for us; it isn’t investment-ready.’ Fair. But to get a social enterprise to ‘investment-ready’ stage is a long road, and somewhere along that road, someone has to trust you, or your idea will shrivel and die. ColaLife was very fortunate to win the backing of UnLtd, to give us time to develop. And we heard some fantastic stories of other initiatives that have succeeded against the odds: WaterHealth International, just launching in Africa with the backing of the Coca-Cola Foundation, Acumen Fund and Diageo. And the amazing story of Kenya’s Equity Bank – but that will have to wait for Simon’s post tomorrow…