Internationalising Social Enterprise in Sub-Saharan Africa – Mark Richardson
Apr 01, 2019

Internationalising Social Enterprise in Sub-Saharan Africa – Mark Richardson

In March, I had the opportunity to travel to Sudan to support the British Council in establishing a social enterprise ecosystem. As part of this, I was able to speak about our work on the INTSENSE project, at the Sudan Social Enterprise Forum to around 800 social entrepreneurs, policy makers and academics; and also throughout the week in several workshops.

While social enterprise is a relatively new concept in Sudan, it fits easily within the culture and values of the country. It is being embraced as a way to build a strong, inclusive economy, as well as a sustainable way to solve many of the social and environmental problems facing the country.

The internationalisation of social enterprise was of particular interest to the Sudanese as a way of ‘jump starting’ the social economy of the country. We discussed many successful social enterprise models from countries sharing similar challenges. There was considerable interest, particularly from local NGOs, in working with international partners to open a Sudanese branch or franchise of some of these social enterprises.

The following are examples of social enterprises from Ghana and India, which workshop participants thought would work well in Sudan. There was a lot of excitement about the prospect of replicating some of these successful models.

Pride Sanitary Pads (Ghana)

In Ghana, many girls miss school, or even drop out altogether, as a result of their monthly period. One of the major causes of this gender inequality is the availability and affordability of menstrual pads, particularly in rural areas. Many girls resort to using unclean rags or newspaper to manage their flow, leading to infections and other health complications.

Pride Sanitary Pads are locally produced sanitary products made from banana fibre, local cotton and paper pulp, and are fully biodegradable. Pride also provide education about menstrual hygiene and are working to dispel the harmful stigmas surrounding female menstruation.

Clean Team (Ghana)

20 million Ghanaians do not have a toilet at home. This causes major health and sanitation problems. It also leads to women and girls facing the risk of sexual violence using public toilets.

Clean Team provides home toilets for low-income families. Customers pay a small weekly fee and Clean Team provide the toilet and collect the waste every week in sealed containers, taking it away for safe disposal.

Zaacoal (Ghana)

70-80% of households across Africa depend on wood or charcoal for cooking. This has a significant environmental impact. It also causes around 400,000 deaths a year through smoke inhalation, particularly amongst women and children.

Zaacoal make charcoal from discarded coconut pods. This not only reduces a massive waste problem (Accra alone has over 1,000 coconut sellers), but importantly the resulting product is smokeless and environmentally friendly.

SeKaf Ghana Ltd

Based in Tamale in the Northern Region of Ghana, SeKaf purchases organically produced shea butter and shea nuts from over 3,000 local women and processes them into an award-winning range of natural shea cosmetic products

They run a triple bottom line business model, with an environmentally friendly, ethical supply chain, investing in local staff and using community-traded shea nuts.

Since it was formed in 2003, it has trained more than 10,000 women and pays 10-15 percent over the market price to women cooperative workers and farmers.

Ayzh (India)

Every year one million mothers die from unsanitary childbirth conditions. Ayzh provide affordable, appropriate health technologies produced by women and for women in rural India.

AYZH’s core product is a Rs 100 clean birth kit. It contains simple tools recommended by the WHO. So far, over 32,000 kits sold.

Sudiksha (India)

Sudiksha run ‘Base of Pyramid’ schools, providing affordable quality education in urban and rural slums in India. They train young entrepreneurs to run the schools as self-sustaining enterprises. Parents pay for their children’s education, but the model is designed to be affordable to those on the lowest incomes. Most customers are low wage earners in the informal sector.

Maza (Ghana)

The lifetime risk of death for pregnant women in Ghana is 1 in 66. Infant mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 72. These figures mask an even bigger problem for rural areas, where appropriate medical assistance is rare.

Maza provide network of motorised tricycles, which transport pregnant women to hospital to give birth. The drivers obtain tricycles at subsidised rate and then “work-and-pay” to own them over 2-years. The primary revenue for drivers is fare from customers going to buy and sell markets, but they agree to be on call strictly for urgent health transportation two days a week.

Intermediaries, such as the British Council, can play an important role in facilitating the transfer of successful social enterprise models between countries. This replication is applicable in developed economies – within the European Union, for example. It has the potential to be even more impactful replicating successful models into countries where there is little pre-existing social enterprise activity, such as Sudan.

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