Social Entrepreneurs Pitch For Change At Ashoka SEAChange Event

The SEAChange closing pitch event for the Ashoka Africa Social Investment Accelerator gathered 12 disruptive social entrepreneurs working across the continent to pitch for the investment or philanthropy they need to grow.

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In the audience at the Ashoka Sea Change Event, more than 140 impact investors, diverse supporting organisations, and leaders in the African ecosystem together at Bowmans in Sandton, South Africa.

The social entrepreneurs pitched for a cumulative total of approximately USD10-million. In return, they plan to provide billions in impact return to African communities: From increased crop yields, to reduced school absenteeism, to solar-powered irrigation to new jobs for informal traders.

The entrepreneurs pitch their solutions for social impact

On the day, each entrepreneur presented a case for the social impact of their venture coupled with a convincing financial return on investment.

Joseph Nkandu, Executive Director of NUCAFE, will use USD750 000 for the working capital to directly reach 128 000 coffee farmers in Uganda, providing them extra cumulative revenue of more than USD60-million in the next seven years.

Meanwhile, Sunil Lalvani, Founder & CEO of Aggrico seeks to take USD1.5 million in equity to create sales of more than 18 000 solar-powered irrigation pumps across Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda by 2024, reaching more than 160 000 people and providing more than USD45-million in positive impact.

And with USD250 000 in equity, Joyce Kamande, Co-Founder and COO of Safi Organics, plans to reach 3-million Kenyan farmers, increasing each of their yields by a value of USD120 for every acre, every season.

The Shortlist For Ashoka Social Investment Accelerator Program

These 12 social entrepreneurs were shortlisted for the Ashoka Social Investment Accelerator Program in June 2018 from more than 100 applicant. The program was created in partnership with Nestlé and with the support of partners Lefil Consulting, VC4A, SDC and Bowmans.

Finalists had to prove a compelling business proposition, scalable and sustainable business model, and powerful impact.

For the past six months, the entrepreneurs worked diligently with world-class teams of three to four business mentors each to develop, enhance, and at times challenge their business, impact, and financial models.

The backbone for this journey was a curriculum called the Social Investment Toolkit: a unique guide, reflective of over a decade of work at Ashoka, to help social entrepreneurs navigate the world of social finance and unlock access to a variety of funding opportunities. The Toolkit sets out in eight modules key steps, from explaining social impact to making the investment pitch.

"Social entrepreneurs from all across Africa are developing ground-breaking ideas for tackling social problems," says Mark Cheng, Social Finance Director for Ashoka and creator of the Social Investment Toolkit. "But without capital to help them grow, they won't achieve the scale they need to make a difference. We're seeking to match them with a new class of investors who want to invest for social impact as well as financial return."

Africa's distinct capital market, and the continent's most pressing societal issues were highlighted and explored at Thursday's event. Not confined to a stream of entrepreneur pitches, the agenda placed challenges and opportunities in context, with engaging panel discussions on the false dichotomy between informal economies and hotshot startups, and on the business case for women in social enterprise.

Experienced entrepreneurs lending their support

The distinguished panelists brought experience from VC4A, a platform and network for the global startup community; to Pineapple, the first peer-to-peer insurance platform in South Africa; to the global social enterprise Value for Women.

Also joining the event's impressive cohort of speakers were five high-level jurors: pioneering social entrepreneur and economic activist, Wendy Luhabe; CEO of The Ubuntu Institute, Prince Cedza Dlamini; Entrepreneurship Director of BongoHive, Simunza Muyangana; Founder of Intelligent Impact, Aunnie Patton Power; and Alesimo Mwanga of Global Entrepreneurship Network.

In his opening keynote remarks, Marlon Parker, Founder of RLabs and an Ashoka Fellow, urged the audience to be bold and true to their passions: "don't settle, the world needs you to be exponential." While Wendy Luhabe closed the accelerator event with an affirmation of the power of the social ventures represented, "if the 12 social entrepreneurs we heard today succeed in receiving what they asked, Africa is in safe hands."

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