New country baseline study reports unpack the state of social enterprise in Ethiopia and Kenya. The reports set out the results of recent country survey studies carried out under the EU-funded Support for Social Enterprises in Eastern Africa project using a standard methodology employed across a total of six countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The study is viewed as a significant step towards strengthening an evidence-based approach to social enterprise sector development.
Data collected towards the end of 2016 revealed the existing situation of the social enterprise sector in the two East African nations. The baseline study reports reveal that the sector is growing. Based on analysis from small samples, close to 100,000 social enterprises are estimated to be currently operating across the two neighbouring countries with the national estimates standing at 54,980 for Ethiopia and 40,000 for Kenya. These social enterprises work across a range of sectors such as manufacturing, services, education, and health. According to the conclusions of the studies, both the Ethiopian and Kenyan social enterprises are creating significant employment opportunities and have a direct impact on their local communities and regions. The findings show that its leadership is youthful with relatively more youth-led social enterprises operating in Kenya (68% out of those surveyed) than Ethiopia (48%). Also a similar finding is that women are playing prominent roles in the sector than in mainstream businesses.
The growing sector, however, is not without challenges. The social enterprises generally encounter similar issues and bottlenecks in their trajectory towards delivering their social missions. Lack of enabling policy and regulatory frameworks, technical capacity, access to business development support services, and finance appear to be some of the key challenges facing many existing and aspiring social entrepreneurs as they struggle to thrive. Cognizant of these roadblocks, the studies outline policy and other related recommendations that are sought to trigger tangible measures that can favour the development of the Ethiopian and Kenyan domestic social enterprise ecosystems. Also clearly spelt out by the study reports are the support and responsibilities of key stakeholder institutions in the respective countries.
The key findings from the studies were validated at stakeholder consultations and dialogues hosted by the British Council on 26th and 30th January 2017 in Kenya and Ethiopia, respectively. A panel of prominent policy makers and influencers in the field and policy experts from the British Council and Social Enterprise UK further conversed on the key themes from the study findings.
A number of key issues were covered during the discussions with some of the recurring themes being: the contextual definition of social enterprise in the countries, the need for a policy framework that recognizes social enterprises, the seemingly paradoxical facts from the study that the social enterprise sector is growing while there is evidence of unmet need for supportive ecosystem. Debates around such themes benefitted from further elaborations by some of the panellists who supported their arguments with evidences and lessons from their experiences locally, others from the evidence base documented by the study, and the international experts from the examples and lessons from the UK and around the world. One thing was clear in this regard, even though social enterprises are growing, they need to be supported to have adequate capacity to grow to their full potential as key players in economic growth.
Above all, both the sessions in Kenya and Ethiopia exhibited the shared interests among key stakeholder groups to support the development of adequate domestic social enterprise ecosystems. The sessions helped to enhance this by creating public awareness about the sector including noteworthy role of media stakeholders. In the same token, the workshops also fostered reinforcing effects that facilitated stakeholder engagements and interactions towards consolidating the study outputs and results using additional information and inputs solicited during the policy dialogues.