7 Places to Study Africa-centred Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Flickr/CC/Sean MacEntee

Take Your Books Out 

By Zarreen Kamalie


Social entrepreneurship and social innovation can be quite tricky to work out on your own, particularly when you do not have the appropriate knowledge of how to break into the market or accumulate social networks. This is why it is often a good idea to study social entrepreneurship and/or innovation at a tertiary level institution.  

Studying social entrepreneurship allows you to not only generate the appropriate skills and understanding of the ins and outs of the social economy, but to meet others in the same position. You will be able to create and sustain networks, with a range from those in the same boat as you to those with years of experience.

As for studying social entrepreneurship in Africa, or on Africa at an institution outside of the continent, you can familiarise yourself with the social economy of this ever expansive and opportunity laced continent. Social entrepreneurship in Africa has often been cited as the key to ending poverty, with its innovative ideas and socially conscious approach. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also praised African philosophy and the concept of “Ubuntu”, roughly translated as ‘interconnectedness” as the core of a shared goal by those driven by social entrepreneurship.  

Taking all this into consideration, you should check out these 7 university courses at these renowned institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around the world geared towards programs based on or in Africa.

  1.    University of Cape Town: Graduate School of Business – South Africa

Located near Cape Town’s bustling tourist hotspot, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the Graduate School of Business (GSB) under the University of Cape Town is committed to transformation and equality in every aspect.

Having established the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the Bertha Foundation, the GSB has recognised the importance of social innovation and inclusive models of business in the health and development of South Africa’s emerging economy. The Bertha Centre is currently advertising MBA and PhD scholarship opportunities for students who are working on innovative and market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges in emerging markets, in particular in Africa.

Along with initiatives like the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development and the Social Innovation Speaker Series, Cape Town’s GSB also has activities like the Net Impact Chapter, all of which contribute to the School’s societal relevance. Social innovation is also a prominent theme in the Lean Institute Africa.

The Lean Institute focuses mostly on the development of products, processes, initiatives, or organizations that: create social value through both means and ends, and reconfigure institutionalized rules, values, beliefs, or relational patterns.

With emerging economies as especially fertile places to explore these themes, due to their complexity, uncertainty, and inequality, emerging economies are often at the forefront of incubating practices that challenge current social paradigms.

For more information, and to apply, click here.

  1. University of Pretoria: Gordon Institute of Business Science – South Africa

Deeply embedded near Africa’s financial and commercial hub, Johannesburg, the Gordon Institute of Business Science is the business school of the University of Pretoria. Among this lively setting, you will experience all that the continent has to offer and where your place is in it.

The Social Entrepreneurship Programme (SEP) at the institute is a rigorous, accredited management course aimed at social entrepreneurs, leaders and managers of social initiatives, as well as business, CSI, and government executives looking to get more involved in the emerging social entrepreneurship field.

Over the course of nine months, you will experience more than 20 days of intensive workshops and courses, and gain an understanding of frameworks for innovative and creative approaches to change; a deeper understanding of strategy, leadership, and systems thinking; foundational business skills in finance, operations and project management; practical application of theory in each area of training, and guidance from some of South Africa’s best faculty, as well as experienced practitioners.

The assignments are linked to each delegate’s own initiative such that once you graduate, you will have the profile of skills, tools, and resources needed to build and run an effective social enterprise

For more information, click here.

  1. University of Johannesburg: Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy – South Africa

A progressive institution with a lot of history, the University of Johannesburg continues its trend of innovation and moving forward by establishing the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy (CSESE) in 2010. The centre provides exciting research, and aims to educate and promote social entrepreneurship and the social economy through various programs, partnerships, and initiatives.

The CSESE adopted the “new growth path” as laid out by the South African government. Their key objective is to blur the lines between business, government and nonprofit, improve performance by adopting tool and knowledge from all sectors and disciplines. The CSESE also aims to provide social entrepreneurs or social enterprises with access to the resources necessary to maximise, sustain, and scale social impact. In essence, they embody all features that one looks for in a successful social entrepreneur.

You will also have the opportunity to engage with and network with universities and similar institutions or centres globally, and possibly enter into joint ventures with these institutions to better your own entrepreneurship or enterprise.

For more information, click here.

  1. Kenya Methodist University: School of Business and Economics – Kenya

Social entrepreneurship in Kenya is quickly digging its heels in the ground to stay. With numerous institutions and programs geared toward the Kenyan economy, it is important to note that Kenya’s own School of Business and Economics at the Kenya Methodist University is making its own mark.

The School of Business and Economics is the most the dynamic and the biggest arm of the university, with a network of departments in all the five campuses of across the country.

The Nairobi campus, however, hosts the Social Entrepreneurship and Market Development unit, which includes visits to schools in the local rural areas.

While the institution may not be specifically geared toward social entrepreneurship, Kenya itself offers a great point of market penetration for emerging social entrepreneurs. Kenya currently boasts the most developed microfinance sectors in Africa, though with a shortage of microfinance products.

Click here to see more of the social enterprise scene in Kenya, of which you will be exposed to when studying in this beautiful country.

  1. The Amani Institute – Nairobi, Kenya

Unlike the other institutions on this list, the Amani Institute is not part of a university but rather is a specialised institution geared towards entrepreneurship and impact-based programs that are globally based.

However, their Post Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management sure caught our attention. With twenty available spots in either Kenya or Brazil, this program is personalized and field-based, bringing together a diverse group of 40 like-minded individuals from around the world, all passionate about building the professional & personal skills to lead change and create positive impact.

The program combines skill-building courses facilitated by global practitioners around the topics of Leadership, Management, Creativity & Problem-solving, and Communication with a hands-on experience of making change in an organization you care about.

For more information, click here.


Universities outside of Africa with Africa-centred Social Entrepreneurship Programs

  1.    Baylor University: Social Entrepreneurship in Africa – Texas, USA

The Social Entrepreneurship in Africa program is a 15-day summer study abroad programwhereby you will visit and experience the stunning country, Rwanda.

It is an opportunity for you to examine the use of entrepreneurial skills to craft innovative responses to social problems in Rwanda and how micro lending practices stimulate economic activity and alleviate poverty. Students will be introduced to microfinance as an important effort in the war against poverty. This will also serve as an excellent forum for students to learn about current challenges and debates in the world of microfinance.

The program explores “why” and “how” microfinance operations have come to provide financial services to poor and low-income people on a sustainable basis. The best advice and practices of successful practitioners and institutions around the world are brought together.

The format of the program consists of two major components pursued sequentially. The first component requires 10 hours of preparatory classroom instruction at Baylor. This component of the class will be comprised of faculty and student-led discussions concerning assigned articles and readings, as well as presentations by guest speakers who are directly involved in microfinance in Africa.

The second component, a 15-day trip to Africa, will commence after Spring semester final exams conclude in May. During this section of the program, students and sponsors will travel to Africa to experience first-hand the approach and effects of micro financing.

For more information, click here.

  1. University of British Columbia: Sauder School of Business’ Sauder Social Entrepreneurship in Kenya – Vancouver, Canada

By establishing and maintaining connections between Kenyan and Canadian institutions, the Sauder business school has formulated a program in which both Kenyan and Canadian students are brought together to engage and teach one another about the different dimensions of social entrepreneurship.

The Sauder Social Entrepreneurship program is a five-week course that brings together students from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, and Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, to teach young people how to develop business plans.

The students from both institutions mentor young people in Kenya, namely in Kibera and Mathare, and in turn develop their own ideas and improve their skills through extensive workshops. They also provide guidance in their search for funding and launching their new businesses. Here, students learn about other cultures, how businesses are created and grow in developing nations, and the role of education, mentorship and volunteerism on economic development.

For more information, click here.

  1. Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania, USA.

After almost 15 years, the Wharton Social Entrepreneurship has established itself as a global field research program that examines the use of social impact business models to address societal challenges. Echoing the common sentiments that entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool in solving social problems around the world and that entrepreneurs can build businesses that simultaneously earn income and tackle social problems in novel and effective ways.

The emphasis is on teaching that social entrepreneurship fuels a sense of self-sustainability, and not dependence. Students also have a chance to engage with various communities, particularly in Africa, through the university-based impact hubs.

The Africa Seed Program is one such impact hub. Impact Hubs are part innovation lab, part business incubator, part community center and part of a global network. Click here, for more information on what the Wharton Social Entrepreneurship Program has to offer for its students and recipients.