Wikimedia Commons/CC/SunJack SunJack in Rural African Village. Sustainable energy has a real potential to shape the development path of Africa, with both local and international initiatives leading the way.

By Zarreen Kamalie


If you haven’t already heard, Akon has taken a break from loneliness, belly dancers, and celebrating his sex life with the Lonely Island. Rather Akon is lighting up Africa, literally. Akon Lighting Africa is Akon’s, along with business partners Samba Bathily’s and Thione Niang’s, endeavor to bring sustainable solar energy to the rural towns of African states. He attributes this venture to his childhood experience of studying in the dark, thus limiting him and others in his position in a variety of pursuits that can both include and go beyond academics. 

What Akon has done is amazing, and has no doubt sparked admiration, inspiration, and motivation among Africans through greater access to their lived environment at all hours, the capability to pursue their studies and goals further, and more. But, let’s not ignore the role of fame and money. For your run-of-the-mill local, aspiring social entrepreneur, there are physical and institutional obstacles that await. While there are a number of successful locally initiated social enterprises in Africa, it’s important for aspiring social entrepreneurs to be aware of what they could potentially be up against.


Challenge #1


For all the issues that the continent currently faces, the idea of social innovation and entrepreneurialism is still a new one. That’s why you may find encouragement of social innovation among individuals, and the state hard to come by. This can become problematic when you, as an entrepreneur or budding enterprise, are trying to get on your feet and find yourself blocked by poor awareness and convoluted regulations and legislations.

While it may be discouraging to have your idea shot down because the positive implications it could have are unfathomable by those around you, you should still make sure to exhaust every avenue and make the most of any connections you may have.  


Look for successful social entrepreneurs in your area or get in touch with someone in your region and ask them about how they overcame this obstacle – chances are they’ll be able to give you contextually appropriate advice. Using platforms like Africa Gathering and Ashoka East Africa to find other social entrepreneurs is a good start.

As for the government, the British Council has found that governments are more inclined to engage with social entrepreneurs when there is potential mutual benefit. Be sure to know what your local district is dealing with, you may just be the answer to their prayers.

To give you an idea of what to look out for in terms of rules and regulations, here is A Guide to Legal Forms in South Africa for Social Enterprise. Similar information for other countries in Africa should also be available through the International Labour Organisation.


Challenge #2

Given the publicity and influence that comes with a household name in the music industry, money often isn’t an issue. For the common person trying to get their idea off the ground, this is a whole other game. Funding becomes a major obstacle, and is the make-or-break behind any successful business.


Ghana, in particular, has done well when it comes to financing startups and social impact activities with the appropriate financial policies and, government-led and shared, initiatives. Some of the options include Acumen Fund, which consists of philanthropic capital to invest social enterprises upon application. As well as Slice Biz, founded by William Senyo, a diaspora fund that draws on the crowd investment and donations of the Ghanaian diaspora.  

However, for those outside of Ghana and the Ghanaian diaspora, funding cannot be accessed through this network.


Good news is capital and funding can be found anywhere, and social entrepreneurship and social innovation is gaining some serious recognition by big companies that are just itching to get their philanthropy on. Other African diasporas are a growing source of financial help for many African communities and individuals on the continent. with crowdfunding and venture capital or philanthropy gaining equal popularity for new social ventures.

Just check out these 15 Social Venture Capital Firms and find one that suits your ambition.


Challenge #3


The environment. Yes, Mother Nature herself may take one look at your idea and go “no, honey, that won’t work here.”

Of course this is purely case specific, and may not even apply to you if you know your area top to bottom, left to right, like the back of your hand, or, if the environment has absolutely no bearing on your idea at all. On the other hand (the one that doesn’t remind you of your area), not only could the environment have implications for your product, your product could have serious repercussions on the environment if you’re not careful.


Finding the most ethically sourced materials and labour is the best option, as it would do no good to your cause to cut corners. Engage with the community so that you have the best point of reference when making decisions on materials if necessary. Also, be sure to also take note of the sociocultural setting of your target area, making sure that your business and product is considerate of already established coping mechanisms and habits.

This should shed some light on some of the challenges one could face when trying to navigate the social enterprise landscape. But even if you don’t have Akon status, look to thriving locally based enterprises like Solar Sister and all that they have managed to achieve.  


There should be nothing standing in your way to have the exact same impact.

Flickr/CC/Franco Folini

By Zarreen Kamalie

It goes without saying that homelessness is a worldwide issue, affecting millions everywhere. Typically, an individual’s state of homelessness is a result of inadequate housing, family violence, untreated mental illnesses, social and, or personal issues. As people, they deserve a stepping-stone to self-improvement that goes beyond whatever spare change we have in our pockets.

In Cape Town, South Africa, there are roughly 7,000 homeless people, with many citing inadequate housing as their reason for being homeless. While a great deal of responsibility lies on the city’s government, there have been a few social initiatives to address people who live on the streets and find themselves uncomfortable or unable to access a night shelter.

These initiatives go by the names, Street Sleeper, Straatwerk, and, U-Turn. They address homelessness with the aim of long-term solutions, restoration of dignity, and encouraging self-improvement on one’s own terms.

Street Sleeper

Street Sleeper is a social enterprise that designed survival sleeping bags to withstand the harsh conditions at night. These sleeping bags are made of upcycled PVC advertising billboards that were being thrown away.

The sleeping bag itself weighs around 4lbs and is 87 inches long, and 30 inches wide with ample space for sleeping with multiple layers and storing belongings. The sleeping bag also doubles as a backpack during the day, with 9 feet and 8 inches of strap webbing, and a pillowslip to be filled with clothes. To withstand the cold winters of Cape Town, the sleeping is waterproof, and the hood of the sleeping is designed to shield the head.

Not only are the homeless being provided immediate relief from the harsh conditions of sleeping on the street, Street Sleeper is geared towards generating a sense of motivation and opportunity that comes from feeling valued and included by society. The production process also creates employment, for homeless people as well as local businesses involved in the bag manufacturing, thereby empowering someone to improve their situation on their own.

The cost to gift a sleeping bag is only R150 (US$11.50), and can be done so by visiting this link:




Straatwerk (pronounced Straat-verk, meaning ‘Streetwork’) is a successful NGO in the city centre that works with a team of individuals that clean up areas in the city in exchange for money and empowerment services. The initiative is generally aimed at the homeless to reduce robberies, and dependency on begging, but other individuals are welcome to participate.

One of Cape Town’s main tourist attractions is the Company’s Garden. It is also a preferred sleeping place for a good number of the city’s homeless. Straatwerk provides a team of three cleaners three times per week, to clean up around the entrance areas of the Garden. On average they collect 15 bags of litter per four-hour shift, which translates into 1,058lbs of refuse every week.

The idea behind cleaning up the area is not to degrade them in any way but rather have them reclaim a space that they know they helped in maintaining. Straatwerk also provides assistance to its team members to obtain ID documents that allow them to participate in society by working, or voting, and later they receive a recommendation for regular employment.

Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline
Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline | Street cleaner takes a break to read the newspaper on Corporation Street, Cape Town, South Africa



U-turn is a charity organisation whose initiative is focused on long-term solutions, moving away from once-off handouts and more toward sustained communication and improvement.  And it all starts with a meal voucher.

The meal voucher initiative currently operates in the Western Cape in the Claremont, Rondebosch, Kenilworth and Wynberg areas. The meal vouchers are meant to be an alternative to handing out spare change, and instead put homeless people in contact with the organisation for food, clothing, and long-term assistance.

There are 5 steps involved:

1)    First buy a pack of vouchers for R30 (US$2.30), where 1 pack contains 5 meal vouchers

2)    Then the next time someone approaches you asking for money, give a voucher to them instead

3)    On the voucher is a map and details about U-Turn. The homeless person redeems the voucher for food or clothing at one of U-Turn’s service points

4)         In addition to getting a meal, the individual becomes acquainted with U turn staff and they inform them of rehab opportunities

5)         Now the individual faces a number of opportunities that will help get them off the street, and it can all be done on their own

For more information and to buy a pack of meal vouchers by visiting this website, visit: .

If we could all contribute and engage with these initiatives, we would surely see a drop in homelessness and a rise in strong, motivated individuals who just needed a little pulling up.

Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline
Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline | Homeless person collecting recyclables in Stellenbosch, South Africa


Flickr/CC/HelenSTB | Defaced statue of Louis Botha outside the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town during the #RhodesMustFall campaign

By Zarreen Kamalie

It can be easy to become complacent with the way things work, whether that’s the acceptance that change is out of our control, or the belief that things are fine the way they are. That is until your neighbourhood or campus-based activist group really caught your attention with its latest dynamic, thought-provoking campaign.

Whichever one spoke to you, there’s little denying that these are the campaigns that make you stop and think about what you and those around you have begun to take for granted.

For campaigns based in Africa, you have to take into account the country in which they’re operating. Most African countries, with perhaps the exception of South Africa, have very strict laws regarding activism.

Here are some activist campaigns, based in Africa, which made an impact in their area, and possibly beyond.

  1.  Rhodes Must Fall – South Africa

Rhodes Must Fall is a student-led activist movement at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Initially formed with the primary aim to remove a long-standing statue of infamous British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes from the campus grounds. After weeks of protest, dialogue amongst students and with the university management, the University of Cape Town saw the removal of the statue, indicating a giant step in social transformation for the university.

Since then, Rhodes Must Fall has continued the discussion and fight toward decolonisation of education and institution at the university. Their work is often in collaboration with other student societies and parties on campus such as the UCT Palestine Solidarity Front (PSF) and the UCT Left Students Forum.

Aside from instigating dialogue around change and transformation on campus, Rhodes Must Fall sparked nationwide debates around other institutions in South Africa including Stellenbosch University and the University of Witwatersrand, both top universities on the continent.

  1.  Citizens for a Better Environment – The Green Party of Zambia

Peter Sinkamba, founder of Zambia’s ‘Green Party’, also started Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE). Citizens for a Better Environment is an organization dedicated to developing, promoting, and implementing sustainable environmental and economic policies.

CBE also researches and exposes the most flagrant abuses of the environment by mining companies, applying pressure to hold those responsible to account. When the health and survival of these basins were under threat from destructive industrial practices, particularly mining, Peter Sinkamba and CBE’s efforts began with a campaign to ensure mining companies who violate domestic and international law were held accountable.

Compensation for those affected was also handled by Sinkamba, whereby 65 houses where 517 persons lived had been constructed in Mufurila town following subsidence of their houses as a consequence of mining activities.

  1.  #EndFGM – Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana

End Female Genital Mutilation, known better as its hashtag #EndFGM, is a European based campaign to combat and end the practice of female genital mutilation. If you don’t know the extent to which female genital mutilation is practiced, or what it entails exactly, you can find more information on the End FGM website.

As for the campaign in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, those who are working to change local and cultural perceptions of the practice fight a long and hard battle. Nigeria has recently banned the practice, though that is not to say it has been completely eradicated. End FGM continues to champion its cause, facing great difficulty but making great strides with a lot of support. To support this cause, click here.

  1.  Right 2 Know – South Africa

The Right 2 Know campaign seeks to challenge lack of transparency and accountability. Their focuses range from government to corporations. In August 2010, the Right 2 Know campaign protested against the Protection of State Information Bill, calling for the right to hold the government accountable for its actions and for the provision of vital information regarding its citizens’ well being.

Since then, there have been changes to the Bill but R2K claims there is still much to do The organisation has since challenged the state and corporations on their behaviour, but 2010 will always be the year in which it became apparent that R2K was here to stay.

  1.  Action2015 Campaign – Ghana

This global movement comprises almost 2000 organizations across 145 countries. In Ghana alone, various Civil Society Organisations have come together for this monumental year. These include, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Purim African Youth Development Platform, Abibimman Foundation, and Community & Family Aid Foundation and was led by the Integrated Social Development Centre.

While it may be too soon to list this campaign’s successes, it is incredibly impressive that this platform has risen to combat an array of global challenges including poverty, community development, and education. Keep track of this campaign by clicking here.

  1. June 23 Movement – Senegal

The June 23 Movement in 2011, also referred to as M23, involved all walks of life in Senegal and called for President Abdoulaye Wade to refrain from running for a third term. Phrases “y’en marre” could be heard, as people voiced their frustrations. The movement involved unionists, political party members and leaders, youth organizations, and citizens’ movements.

It was a turbulent political moment, and the movement itself played a critical role in preventing former President Abdoulaye Wade’s attempt to amend the constitutional provision on term limits and hang on to power.


Flickr/CC/ EU/ECHO/Jonathan Hyams

By Loyce Witherspoon

Following the outbreak of 2014 Ebola in Liberia, there have been increasing difficulties in ensuring the provision of education for the country’s youth. According to a report on the Assessment of the effect of Ebola on education in Liberia conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), schools in Liberia were ordered to close in July 2014 and remained closed until February 2015. While schools were formally closed, the majority of youth did not receive any alternative methods of learning.


What started off as a small initiative, printing worksheets for children in her community, founder Brenda Brewer Moore saw the opportunity to extend her help to other counties in Liberia. Thus in response to the disparity between education provision and supply of education, the Kids’ Educational Engagement Project (KEEP) grew out of concern to help provide a community-based approach to post-conflict educational attainment. With the support of many organisations and institutions, including members of the Board of Commissioners, KEEP was able to reach over 3,000 children in 17 communities in Montserrado County.

Amongst other methods, KEEP has managed to gain the financial resources necessary to keep children critically engaged free of charge through crowdfunding. As a practice, crowdfunding emerged in 2008 following the financial crisis and has since grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry, funding ventures globally from multiple individual contributors via the internet. Thus far, the KEEP has raised $8100, equivalent to 685746.00 Liberian dollars at the current exchange rate, surpassing their original goal of $5000 in just 13 months.

Flickr/CC/UNMEER/Martine Perret
Flickr/CC/UNMEER/Martine Perret

With the support of volunteers, NGOs and organisations, the KEEP develop play spaces for  children, provide educational supplies including stationary, support after school tutorial initiatives, promote and enable more fun and holistic learning opportunities, as well as provide Tuition Support to outstanding gifted children from impoverished families. As part of their newest initiative, the KEEP aims to provide equipped, modern reading and computer rooms that will afford these children the opportunity to improve their reading skills and vocabulary as a broader effort to digitise education. How they plan to do this is by reaching out to Liberians in the diaspora to take part in rebuilding their country, one project at a time.

If you would like to find out more information or contribute to the KEEP, please reach them via their social media platforms.

GoFundMe profile:






Q&A with Gina Levy on UCT Upstarts:
Creating a Culture of Innovation on Campus

By Zarreen Kamalie

Gina Levy is one of the social innovators behind UCT Upstarts, the University of Cape Town’s Social Innovation Challenge. UCT Upstarts is a 20-week program designed to encourage social entrepreneurship on campus, with multidisciplinary teams of students getting together to create something to change the face of not only South Africa, but also potentially Africa.

Gina is an accomplished social entrepreneur based in Cape Town and is the founder of South African based company, ‘Supernews’. In this interview, she discusses her role within UCT Upstarts and its potential in shaping a new Africa and a culture towards social innovation.

Photo by Zarreen Kamalie: Social entrepreneur Gina Levy
Photo by Zarreen Kamalie: Social entrepreneur Gina Levy introducing the guest speaker for the day at a conference called How to Ensure Your Business is Sustainable, 29th July 2015


Social Missions: Tell me about UCT upstarts , how you were approached, your role within the initiative, and how it operates:

Gina Levy: UCT Upstarts has been nurtured out of many ideas and platforms. It is, firstly, a joint initiative between my platform called SuperStage and the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which runs out of the Graduate School of Business, under UCT, and the Vice-Chancellor’s office. So theidea is that we wanted to create a culture of innovation and social entrepreneurship starting on campus because the context in SA is that there is huge unemployment among the youth. There are all these problems and not enough solutions. We thought, ‘what if we could come up with these solutions?” What if they [the students] could create jobs and then they could start to influence an innovative economy? We figured the only way we could do that was if we started this culture of entrepreneurship on campus. We wanted to keep it quite broad because we wanted many different individuals with different skill sets to come in and imagine something that could be in the line of health, or renewable energy. We wanted to include many different students from different faculties to come and participate. Part of the criteria is that students have to create teams, of 2 to 6 people and they need to be multidisciplinary. So, they need to have students, for example, from the law faculty, for example, partnering with students from the commerce or the arts faculty. So you’re getting a lot of lateral thinking, where people are just cross-pollinating ideas. This way they get to learn about each other’s skill sets and they can all contribute to a bigger business model or idea, bringing their skill sets to the table.

SM: So, the brief ‘Imagine a New Africa’, what is its relevance to you and young people today? You mentioned people who want to become problem-solvers, but don’t necessarily know of the correct avenues because there isn’t necessarily this culture towards innovation just yet. How do you think, the brief ‘Imagine a New Africa’ has gotten the ball rolling?

GL: It’s very much focused on social entrepreneurship, and what that means is that its purpose married with profit. In other words, we don’t want to advocate that this is a moneymaking entrepreneurial experience. We want to say, you can be an entrepreneur but you can also create social impact. As things stand, people come to university, and they go on to become professionals and they go into the corporate world and the cycle continues. But if there are no jobs, what are they going to do? So if they could actually create start-ups on campus before they leave, well then, they have all the potential in the world to develop new businesses and new ideas. I believe that students very much want to make a difference, or at least the one’s who have gravitated towards UCT Upstarts. A lot of students have come back to us and said they never thought of themselves as innovative. They never thought that they would’ve followed an entrepreneurial path, and strangely enough they’ve been in this context where they’re exposed to people from the outside inspiring them, coming and story telling and showing them how to problem solve and suddenly they’re saying, ‘wow maybe I can problem solve’.

SM: As for the scope, I understand this is the Vice-Chancellor’s Social Innovation Challenge, is there a potential plan to take this to other universities and possibly high schools around South Africa?

GL: I think we wanted to use this year as a kind of pilot, just to see how it worked in the context of UCT because our bigger vision is to boost social innovation in South Africa. By extension, we’d have to take it to other universities. So I’d say yes, that is definitely part of the bigger picture, to scale it. We’re still working on how that model is going to work and then beyond that, into Africa so that people start looking at Africa and go, ‘wow, this is an innovative continent’. Where we start looking at ourselves and not see this victim that needs aid, and we can actually make a difference to the broader international community.

SM: The innovators and entrepreneurs that you’ve had come present so far, what drew you to reach out to them? Is there a particular quality, or a driving force behind them, that prompted you to select those as the ones to inspire students within UCT Upstarts?

There are two answers to that, I would suggest that you interview some of the Upstarters and find out why they were drawn to our platform. Secondly, from our perspective, we literally presented ourselves within the context I’ve just spoken about and I think there is a big drive towards entrepreneurship. People were drawn to something that they weren’t already getting at university. So, for example, the pop-up classes as we call them are information, content, experiences, and access to individuals you’re not going to get in your lecture room. The other day someone said to me, “this is like a free course in entrepreneurship”, and I think that’s quite amazing feedback. When people were signing up, I said, it’s the best value you’re going to get for paying nothing. Our currency is opportunity, and if they realise that then why wouldn’t they gravitate towards something that’s going to enhance their life experience and where they’re getting something that could set them up for life potentially? So I would hope that that would be a draw card and that this presented itself as a different avenue to explore and to express their desire to give back, while also being sustainable.

SM: What are your expectations by the end of this program?

GL: It’s going to be interesting, it’s very much a work in progress. It’s organic and it’s hard to kind of be 100% sure or to predict. But what I would hope is that, firstly, we’ve developed this growing movement so this culture of social entrepreneurship and innovation on campus, such that people start to talk about it and start to attend the pop-up classes more and more because they see the value. That it’s not something that feels inaccessible to them. So that they can actually start developing networks peer-to-peer, and with people beyond the university grounds who can actually help them with their ideas. And hopefully in and amongst that there are actually teams that go on to become fully fledged start-ups, who then start to employ people who are able, through their ideas, to make a difference in the lives of others through their innovations. One of the most important things is that we’re not just hoping to develop business people or people who are only good at certain things. We’re trying to create a holistic individual, who becomes a leader and a role model. I think that will be attractive and inspirational, if students start seeing peers being able to make something of themselves in, actually, a relatively short amount of time. As opposed to potentially succeeding, and doing really well and then going ‘right, I’m ready to be more philanthropic’ at the age of 70. It’s almost doing everything at the same time, along the way, and actually being able to do it much sooner than you think.


I would like to thank Gina Levy for agreeing to this interview, and wish all the participants in UCT Upstarts good luck! UCT Upstarts is currently running at the University of Cape Town, with pop-up classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1pm in the Leslie Social Sciences Building on Upper Campus.

For more information, visit or check out their YouTube page UCT Upstarts.

Flickr/CC/Locus Research|The trophies for the 2013 Young Innovator Awards


By Zarreen Kamalie


It’s a wonderful thing when hardworking and forward thinking individuals are recognised for their perseverance and brilliance. It is equally encouraging for those wishing to break into the social economy.

Social innovation and enterprise awards offer an array of rewards, from widespread recognition and recommendation, to generous financial reward to help them continue their work.

Here are some well known social innovation awards hailing from or destined for innovation in Africa.

1. SAB Social Innovation Foundation Awards

The South African Breweries (SAB) is South Africa’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer and soft drinks. Through its various corporate social responsibility programmes, SAB actively invests in community partnerships, socio-economic and enterprise development initiatives to build a stronger South Africa.

Sustainable innovation is the key here, either a product or process that addresses a challenge faced by its beneficiary groups. These innovations are to be scalable and able to be commercialized.

Irrespective of the source of these innovations, they need to address the mandate of the SAB Foundation by:

  1.     Stimulating and rewarding innovation supports a broader entrepreneurial culture within South Africa.
  2.     The target group of the SAB Foundation will stand to benefit as a results of the implementation or expansion of these ‘pro-poor’ innovations, a process that will be directly encouraged and developed through the SAB Innovation Award

Key Investment Principles and Criteria

The SAB Foundation Innovation Awards are open to all applicants, and seek the best ideas to enhance the lives of disadvantaged South Africans. Specific consideration will be given during the judging process to the race, gender, age and disability status of applicants.

The SAB Foundation Innovation Awards offers the following grants:

  • 1st place R1-million
  • 2nd place R500 000
  • 3rd place R350 000.

Grants are given to help upscale and commercialize innovative solutions, supported by the SAB Foundation in partnership with the SABS Design and innovation Studio. The SAB Foundation has supported 260 enterprises at a total investment of close to R50 million (US$3.6 million) since 2010.

2. Innovation Prize for Africa

The African Innovation Foundation aims to inspire a spirit of social innovation among Africans, for Africans. The Social Impact Program is one such measure the foundation employs to cultivate a culture of social innovation. For those of which that have succeeded in this spirit, there is the Innovation Prize for Africa.

The Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA), started in 2011, is an initiative of the African Innovation Foundation (AIF). IPA acknowledges and encourages innovative achievements that contribute toward developing new products and services that increase efficiency and wellbeing in Africa. Specifically, the award honors technological breakthroughs in 5 main areas; manufacturing and service industry, health and well-being, agriculture and agribusiness, environment, energy & water and ICTs.

The first place winner stands to win USD 100,000 for the best innovation based on marketability, originality, scalability, social impact, scientific or technical aspects and clear business potentials. The second place winner wins USD 25,000 for the best commercial or business potential. There is also a Special Prize for Social Impact Innovation, where USD 25,000 is awarded to the innovation with the highest social impact in the community or country.

Each nominee is also given a USD 5,000 voucher to be used in post-prize technical support to assist in moving the innovation to the next step. These nominees also benefit from the AIF-IPA brand, receive ongoing local, regional and international media coverage, and support and training opportunities can be mobilized for the nominees.

The great thing about the IPA is that it also provides;

  1. Support for women: whereby they select the 10 best innovations submitted by women innovators and will work with each one of them to mobilize support that will help move her innovation forward
  2. Support for 10 young innovators under 26: who will work with each one of them to mobilize support that will help move their innovation forward
  3. Design “Do-Tank” workshop/support:  where each year, AIF will select at least 5 innovations, which can be enhanced by design and will invite them to the workshop where they will get help from experts to help improve the design and make their product more marketable. 


3. Sankalp Awards for Africa

Sankalp hosts a series of summits in Africa and Asia, with their global summit held in India annually. The aim of the foundation is to create an enthusiasm and drive towards social innovation and entrepreneurship, much like most of the awards and foundations on this list.

Benefits of winning an Africa Award from Sankalp include funding opportunities, strategic mentoring, access to global networks and media visibility.

Their focus varies between sectors, from Agriculture & Food, Education, Clean Energy, Healthcare, Financial Inclusion, to Water, and Sanitation. Their impact is geared to cater to rural, low-income, disadvantaged communities. Winning an award is in your best interest, to fund your venture and gain global recognition.

Over the last 2 years, Sankalp Forum, a global platform with regional editions, has convened diverse stakeholder groups with  the intent to create an ecosystem approach to enterprise-led  development

Sankalp’s work is widely operated in Southeast Asia and other parts of the developing world, allowing for individuals to create networks with other enterprises and innovators in similar socioeconomic contexts. The monetary benefits appear slightly vague, though this too seems like an opportunity worth pursuing.

4. Schwab Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year 

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, founded in 1998, is a non-profit, independent and neutral organization. Its goal is to advance social entrepreneurship and to foster social entrepreneurs as a means to generate societal innovation and progress.

In association with EY, the Schwab Foundation annually looks for candidates and receives hundreds of suggestions through its network of nominators. These nominees go through an extensive and diligent process that includes research, interviews, expert evaluations and site visits. Direct positive social impact, innovation, financial and organisational sustainability, reach and scope, and flexibility in terms of context in other countries/regions are all considerations that nominees are faced with.

Those fortunate to win an award are  included in the Schwab Foundation network of social entrepreneurs. They then have access to a peer network of social entrepreneurs, free consulting services and scholarships to executive education courses at global top institutions such as Harvard Business School, Stanford University and INSEAD.

The winners will be invited to the regional meetings of the World Economic Forum (WEF) as it relates to their work and, if they are under 40, are nominated to the Young Global Leaders network of the WEF.

The opportunities are many and carry prestige beyond comprehension.

5. Orange African Social Venture Prize

The Orange African Social Venture Prize showcases talented entrepreneurs that have innovative products or services that meet the needs of Africans in fields such as health, agriculture, education, energy, industry or trade.

The winners have the opportunity to win grants from 10,000 euros to 25,000 euros, as well as six months of support from Orange experts. Whoever wins first prize is also offered a patent registration in the country of the project’s development.

However, submitted projects are to be designed in such a way that they can be deployed in at least one of the 17 African countries that Orange operates in. The product or service should also aim to improve the living conditions of the populations in these countries.

So for those of you on the brink of discovering the next best innovation for Africa, these foundations and awards should get you going and motivate you even further. If these guys are convinced with what you do, then there’s no telling how much further you could go.



By Zarreen Kamalie

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding social entrepreneurship, particularly given how new the concept is. They are equal to, if not more so in number, the amount of misconceptions surrounding the continent of Africa.

While, poverty and underdevelopment are major issues that need tackling it is also important to remember that there numerous bright and innovative individuals ready to make a difference.

Whether you’re an African yourself feeling a little hesitant about engaging with a social enterprise, either on your own or someone who you know, or if you’ve just stumbled onto this page, here are 5 myths about starting a social enterprise in Africa.

Myth 1: The Environmental And Social Welfare Are The Government’s Responsibility

Africa, and all its 54 countries within it, has a long, turbulent history that often rears its ugly head through sustained poverty and social neglect. Between corrupt governments and inadequate public policy implementation, African governments cannot always be depended upon as African peoples’ saving grace.

The best thing about social enterprise, and social innovation and entrepreneurship, is that they  are citizen-led and often locally based sustainable solutions for local problems. Social entrepreneurship has been hailed “the magic bullet” to fight poverty and address social problems on the ground.

For example, the lack of access to power and electricity for rural communities is exceptionally high across Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet with social enterprises like Solar Sister, and singer Akon’s Lighting Africa, these circumstances are slowly changing. Check out the Stanford Social Innovation Review on Five Innovations That Will Electrify Africa to get an idea of how individuals are taking initiative over their governments.

Myth 2: Your contribution will be insignificant and no one will take you seriously, especially if you’re a student

Benedict Mundele, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers last year. She is the founder of Surprise Tropicale, a catering company that serves organic food made from local produce.

She is also 21 years old, and can add busting this myth to her list of accomplishments.

There are a number of young innovators and entrepreneurs in this same situation, click here to read about the rest.

Myth 3: You’ll need to raise a lot of money before getting any real work done, and finding funding is near impossible

While funding is difficult to locate, particularly when dealing with terms, conditions and requirements that you cannot meet, do not fret. There are so many investors waiting for the next big thing, especially in Africa where your next big thing could bring the continent further away from the misconception of the aid-ridden region.

Diaspora funding has become a great way to attain funding, so try looking for funds similar to Lelapa Fund and BlueBees that aim to stimulate African-based solutions for Africans.

Otherwise, don’t forget that this is the time to shamelessly ask people for money over the Internet, without needing to pose as a prince. So go ahead and crowdfund, or crowd source.  Some great crowdfunding platforms include IndieGoGo and Bolstr.

For more ways to fund your enterprise, click here.

Myth 4: Education as a “cure-for-all”, as long as we invest in education everything else will fall into place

Access to education is incredibly important, particularly to break the cycle of poverty. However, we need to consider that there are often factors that are completely glazed over that impede some individuals’ ability to attend school.

The amazing thing about social entrepreneurship is that it address problems that one would have to have witnessed first hand to fully understand the implications of this hindrance. Misconceptions around menstruation and the related high number of female dropouts, for example, are a complex problem that have to be addressed within their unique context. Many girls across Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to disposable sanitary pads, and thus feel the need to miss school due to poor facilities surrounding menstrual hygiene, and persistent bullying from boys.

It is obstacles such as taboo, poor social understanding, and infrastructural underdevelopment that calls upon the solutions of social innovations such as Flo.

Aside from these contextual dilemmas, it is also important to realise that social entrepreneurship helps cultivate and exercise the skills of the future that help them create solutions for complex problems while in turn bringing value to the labor market and creating a demand for their skills.

Myth 5: It’s Human Nature To Prioritize Profit Over Sustainability

I think the argument for this one can be drawn straight down the middle. It may be really obvious to some, and not so much to others. I would say that this myth is what could essentially separate philanthropy and charity from social entrepreneurship.

Philanthropy and charity, particularly from successful businesses and corporations, becomes a once-off afterthought when the right level of profits have been reached. As said by successful South African social entrepreneur Gina Levy, “social entrepreneurship allows one to both gain profit and implement sustainable social impact.” Social entrepreneurship allows those of us to simultaneously address major social problems and give back, and produce profits to maintain this level of generosity.


The next big obstacle is you, really. Just make sure to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, and exercise every option when it comes to funding, marketing, and execution. If you’re thinking of setting up or getting involved in a social enterprise, then don’t let any of these myths stand in your way.


Flickr/CC/Jason Howie

By Beatrice Loh


With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat changing the way we communicate, social media has been reshaping our world in recent years. The advent of technology and the Internet has made connecting with people across international borders a breeze. Social media has impacted not just the communication between individuals but also the relationship between corporations, the government, and the general public. Social media has not only changed the way we communicate, but also the way we give. Non-profit organisations have adjusted the way they operate with the influx of social media avenues to raise awareness and funds for their causes.

Here are 5 ways that social media has changed the non-profit world:

  1. Reduced Cost of Advertising

Although setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account might be free, social media accounts for non-profit organisations still require staff to run them. However, compared to more traditional methods such as television and print campaigns, social media is a new low cost avenue that non-profit organisations can take advantage of. Apart from reducing cost, social media campaigns allow non-profit organisations to monitor and mine these campaigns for data to better plan budgets, cut costs, and ultimately make more money available to the actual cause itself.

  1. Increasing Awareness for Social Causes

Social media has given non-profit organisations an avenue to raise awareness for social causes through posts that generate ‘likes’ on Facebook and videos and posters that can be shared on numerous platforms.

The ALS Challenge was a viral campaign by The ALS Association, which fights Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. People would either donate $100 to the charity or take a video of having a bucket of ice water dumped on themselves. They would then nominate others to do the same in the video before posting it online. This led to an explosion of videos and donations for the organisation, with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Chris Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch participating. Matt Damon also joined in and used the opportunity to promote awareness about the water sanitation crisis and, the organisation he co-founded to combat the problem. Although a significant portion of the Internet audience was more interested in watching funny videos of their friends and favourite celebrities than they were about ALS research, the campaign succeeded in generating a large amount of awareness and funding. Since July 2014, The ALS Association has received more than $115 million in donations.  In comparison, in the fiscal year ending January 2014, revenue from all sources totalled only slightly over $29 million.

A Mashable survey on the link between charity donations and social media has shown that 68.8% of respondents felt that social media was “extremely effective” or “very effective” for spreading information about social initiatives, with the vast majority of the survey audience claiming to learn about new social initiatives through social media.

  1. Increasing Speed of Response

Whilst social media has a wide reach, it also allows the quick transfer of information. The speed of social media has changed the way we learn about and respond to events, especially natural disasters. Ease of accessibility has resulted in unprecedented numbers of people being reached in real time. In the wake of devastation, charities can create a status, page, Tweet, or post elsewhere to inform their followers of a situation requiring urgent help and donations, which can be shared and spread in seconds. In the past, charities had to rely on hastily thrown together television commercials and getting hundreds of people to call others and hope for donations.

After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, non-profit organisations used social media to mobilise rescue efforts and to support the community. The earthquake also saw the deployment of one of the most successful text-to-donate campaigns seen at the time. Similarly, when Japan was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, millions around the globe used social media to receive updates on the situation and contribute to rescue efforts and donate money for medical and basic supplies for survivors. During the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, Crisis Relief Singapore used Facebook to rally its volunteers and managed to create 5 medical teams that were deployed to Nepal within the next month.   

  1. Rallying of Individuals and Small Groups Around Non-Profit Causes

Social media is enabling individuals to create, join and grow groups around issues they care about outside of the direct control of non-profit organizations. Crowd funding websites such as as GoFundMe and CrowdRise have made it easy for individuals to raise funds for social causes special to them.

Social software design is also accelerating this trend. Facebook Causes is an in-app feature that allows users to discover, support and organize campaigns, fundraisers, and petitions around the issues that impact users and their communities. DonorsChoose launched a feature called “Birthday Give Back” that allows individuals to use their birthdays to champion a social cause – instead of a birthday gift, they can share their page and ask friends to donate to their special cause instead.

The rise of social media has led to a more socially conscious population with the right tools to promote awareness and raise funds for social causes that affect their community.

  1. Ease of Donating

Social media has emboldened people to donate time and money not only by making them aware of issues and needs, but also by providing them with solutions to help. Websites like Just Giving, a charity platform that has so far enabled over 21 million people to raise £1.5 billion for over 13, 000 different charities, has made it easier for social media users to share causes and encourage their friends to donate, even to organisations headquartered abroad. Providing a number of ways to donate online and via text, Just Giving makes donating quick and easy, encouraging more users to do so.

Another way that social media has increased donations is through increased transparency. Donors are becoming increasingly selective of the charities they want to help, and prefer to see where the money they are donating is going. Social media offers non-profit organisations a platform through which they can share project updates and successes with status updates, reports and photographs. Donors expect updates on funds raised through special events for a specific cause, and the increased transparency on the use of funds have encouraged previously sceptical people to donate.



By Zarreen Kamalie

It’s incredible to think of what social enterprises and innovations are able to achieve, and even more so when you consider what they’re up against.

Documentaries are a great way to learn about a particular topic without sifting through countless articles. That isn’t to say you won’t find yourself scrolling through pages of possible documentaries . To make your life a little easier, we’ve compiled this list of documentaries under the categories Health and Poverty, Youth, Social Justice and Reconciliation, Development and Aid, and lastly, Women.

At the end of each summary, there’s a link to social enterprises working to combat whatever issue addressed in the respective documentary. Consider this your starting point to getting the full blow on a range of pressing issues in Africa.

Health and Poverty

  1.    Into The Light (2005)

Director: Peter Glenn
Producer: Peter Glenn

About: Tanzanian sociologist Wilhelmina Lyimo-Saria (Mama Lyimo -“Lee-Mo”) and Peter Glenn look into the socioeconomic factors surrounding the perpetuation of HIV/AIDS, aspects that not only affect Tanzania but other areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. The documentary interrogates the link between the pandemic and poverty, and what needs to be done about this collaboration. Lyimo-Saria exposes the horrific and emotional toll of the AIDS death rate in her East African country on a 40-day journey across Tanzania to see for herself why the pandemic continues to thrive.

See also: The Ubuntu Institute based in Johannesburg, South Africa, but operating throughout Southern Africa, has a number of programmes that aim to educate and empower women to combat the feminization of the pandemic.

  1.    Fire in the Blood (2013)

Director: Dylan Mohan Gray
Producers: Dylan Mohan Gray and Rumana Gray

About: Fire In The Blood focuses on Western pharmaceutical companies and governments and how they blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs for the countries of the global south from 1996. With over ten million deaths, this documentary chronicles the fight for the right to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), paying particular attention to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and all the criticism these brave individuals faced.

See also: Treatment Action Campaign is a South African HIV/AIDS activist organisation which was co-founded by the HIV-positive activist Zackie Achmat in 1998, campaigning for universal access to AIDS treatment through the public health system.

Youth, Social Justice and Reconciliation

  1.    Call Me Kuchu (2012)

Directors: Katherine Fairfax-Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Producer: Malika Zouhali-Worrall


Call Me Kuchu explores the struggles of the LGBT community in Uganda, paying particular attention to the murder of LGBT activist David Kato in 2011. Given the latest success in the US for the LGBTQI community, this is documentary serves as a harsh reminder of the challenges that this still persecuted community face in other parts of the world.

See also: David Kato was the Advocacy and Litigation Officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). It is an umbrella non-governmental organization based in Kampala, Uganda, that advocates for the protection and promotion of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.

  1.    Finding Hillywood (2013)

Directors:  Chris Towey, Leah Warshawski
Producer: Rob Angel

About: 20 years over the Rwandan genocide Finding Hillywood demonstrates how cinema has become a way for artists to express themselves and create intergroup dialogue. This documentary can be viewed as a Rwandan history lesson but also indicates the power of media as a catalyst for national healing.

See also: Global Arts Corps has used the transformative power of theatre to bring together people from opposite sides of violent conflict. Operating globally from Rwanda to Kosovo, Cambodia to the North of Ireland, Global Arts Corps has worked to facilitate reconciliation all over.

Development and Aid

  1.    What Are We Doing Here? (2008)

Directors: Brandon Klein, Nick Klein, Tim Klein, Daniel Klein
Producer: Brandon Klein

About: What Are We Doing Here? is a controversial documentary about why after 50 years of Western involvement and aid, Africa is still so poor. The documentary focuses on 3 brothers and their cousin who travel across Africa in an attempt to understand the failure to end poverty. Shot on location in 12 countries, “What Are We Doing Here?” sheds light on the intricacies of African poverty and the multi billion dollar aid and development industry dedicated to fighting it.

See also: An alternative to western-led financial aid is Lelapa Fund, a crowd investment platform dedicated to African companies. Drawing funds from individual African investors, namely part of the African diaspora, Lelapa Fund provides people with no-strings attached opportunities.

  1.    Stealing Africa (2012)

Director: Christoffer Guldbrandsen
Producer: Henrik Veileborg

About: Stealing Africa is a documentary that looks at Zambia’s copper resources and the way in which a country so rich, is still one of the world’s poorest. Similar to What Are We Doing Here? this documentary highlights the drawbacks of western investment and collaboration. Stealing Africa allows for a more case-specific understanding of the impacts of globalisation.

See also: The International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa, is a collective of 26 non-governmental and community-based organisations from across the continent. Included are also national networks within Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, the Netherlands, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The aim of this organisation is to foster a more just and sustainable use of natural resources in Africa that can lead to more inclusive development.

  1.    Darwin’s Nightmare (2004)

Director: Hubert Sauper
Producer: Barbara Albert

About: Darwin’s Nightmare looks at the effect of fishing the Nile perch in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria. The predatory fish, which has wiped out the native species, is sold in European supermarkets, while starving Tanzanian families have to make do with the leftovers.

See also: Much of Africa’s resource related issues stem from improper land distribution.In Zambia, Medeem is a social enterprise that aims to efficiently handle and document land right’s. They also seek to function as a fair and effective middle-man between larger enterprises and the little guy on the ground.


  1.    Hooking in Joburg (2010)

Director: Rohith S. Katbamna
Producer: Rohith S. Katbamna

About: Hooking in JoBurg takes place against the backdrop of the 2010 World Cup lead-up, with a personal look at sex workers and the core issues around HIV, security, human rights and decriminalization of sex work. It features vital perspectives from three sex workers concerning the reality about their current working conditions and the undeniable police brutality. This documentary captures the essence and key facts behind the discussion around the decriminalization of sex work, and human rights, with raw and personal input that will keep you engaged.

See also: Sonke Gender Justice has engaged with and challenged the South African government’s approach to sex work. To read more about the work they’ve done, and continuing to do, click here.


These documentaries should really get you thinking and pursuing these issues and the measures that are being taken to address them. As previously stated, documentaries are a great way to get in touch with the core of a topic, and you’ll definitely end up looking like that person that’s so great with current affairs.



Request More Info