Monday 31 July 2017

Twelve outstanding social enterprises from Ethiopia and Kenya participated in the second edition of Social Enterprise Boatcamp 2017. The involvement and  participation of East Africa through the inter-country and inter-organization team was hailed as crucial in enhancing the region's contribution to the successful achievement of the annual global event's objective to “offer intensive working sessions on the creation and strengthening of inclusive businesses whose aim is to tackle migrants’ and migration issues.”

This year's boatcamp incorporated a range of platforms that were also highly beneficial to the British Council supported participants under the EU-funded Support for Social Enterprises in Eastern Africa project, among other groups that joined the huge gathering of a total of over 400. During the many conferences held on board the cruise ship and at the University of Barcelona, Spain, the participants conducted valuable exchange, knowledge sharing and learning activities with the European-based social enterprises that made up a larger proportion of the gathering. 

The conferences covered several multiple topics and presentations by social enterprises. Among the topics that participants found most relevant and useful were global challenges of social enterprises, technology for social enterprises and the Kilimanjaro Declaration of Africans Rising.  Also very informational and inspiring were the multiple presentations of social enterprises who shared important experiences from their projects, challenges, successes and future plans. 

The East African participants affirmed gaining more benefits as their works in partnership and collaboration with their peer social businesses in the EU were intensified further through workshops for smaller working groups and sub-groups that covered preselected social enterprise case studies. Each of the participants joined the groups they were assigned based on cases very similar and most relevant to their projects.

One of the East African social enterprises represented in the team was Beautiful Minds Ethiopia. It is a social enterprise led by Ayatam Simeneh, named Change Maker of the Year in 2017 by Reach for Change Ethiopia, one of the leading social enterprise intermediary institutions in the country. Ayatam is founder of Beautiful Minds Ethiopia, a waste soap recycling social enterprise that strives to deliver health and environment missions through the supply of affordable soap. Ayatam says, “What makes our model innovative is our supply chain strategy and inclusive social impact it creates along the process". 

Janet Shi kami of Kio Kit, a tech based education initiative in Kenya, also affirmed making best use of similar engagements and views in her media interviews during the Boatcamp. Her interview is available here.

The Boat camp in general facilitated valuable interactions of the East African social entrepreneurs with their peers in their respective countries, in the East African region and EU. The Ethiopian social entrepreneur Fassika Fikre co-founder M-TENA (maisha ICT technologies) said, “The Boatcamp has allowed us to learn from each other's experience, understand the different challenges we face and the variety of solutions we came up with to address the same issues such as the refugees’ crisis". To build on the success of the Boatcamp, Fassika recommends, "There should be better communication between us African social entrepreneurs so that the experience sharing will allow the social enterprise environment in our countries and the whole continent to grow. The other aspect that needs to be cultivated as well is our collaboration with the European social enterprises."  

Apart from the overall conferences and workshops hosted by the Boatcamp, the East Africa team was offered with investment opportunities opened up through side meetings organized to facilitate partnership and collaboration between the team and Europe-based impact investors. Executives of ACRA and OPES Impact Fund provided the team with introductions about their organizations and their full interest in investing in the Ethiopian and Kenyan social enterprises and guides on their selection criteria, what they look for in them and what they offer. One participant said, "The meetings with each of the investors ended in very positive notes for future collaboration."