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Three Powerful Tools for Fintech Practitioners

Posted By Jane Del Ser, Bankable Frontier Associates, Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By David del Ser

(Watch our video)

Since we launched the Catalyst Fund in 2015, we have helped 15 fintech entrepreneurs deploy novel approaches to bring products and services to their customers. We have distilled the successful patterns and behaviors we have observed into toolkits and posts for those considering fintech methods for their businesses, whether they be startups or established players.


At a high level, successful fintech startups adopt principles of Design, Risk Management and Product Management, and also put modern technologies like smartphones, artificial intelligence and cloud computing at the core of their value propositions. At successful fintech startups Designers, Product Managers, CEOs and Engineers reinforce each other in multidisciplinary teams to explore the overlap between what customers find desirable, what engineers can build, and what the business requires to grow.

Design

The function of Design is to represent the voice of the customer at all times to make sure a company stays centered on what matters most. Design is not a one-off process. In the spirit of customer validation, designers keep tight feedback loops with customers throughout the product development process, from early prototypes to usability testing of new features.


Through user research (UX) techniques like online surveys and one-one-one interviews, designers invest heavily during initial stages in order to know their customers like the back of their hand; what are their problems and pain points, and how can their company help? In fact, designers segment customers into personas to allow the team to constantly keep in mind different user profiles and needs.


Aesthetics matter. Designers work hard to perfect a product’s UI and its look and feel, so it can live up to the high expectations created by WhatsApp or Google. But great design goes beyond just user research and visuals during early product design stages. Successful inclusive fintech startups map out the Customer Journey and Service Blueprint in detail to fully understand the perspective of the user each time they  interact with the company.


Ultimately, great design creates trust, that elusive quality that all startups are chasing and that distinguishes them from their competitors. We’ve captured our lessons for startups to build trust with their customers through their products or services in our Design for Trust Toolkit.


Product Management

But designers can’t work in isolation; they need someone to lead the orchestra - and that’s where a product manager comes in. The PM takes a big picture view and works to ensure that designers, engineers and marketers all work towards the same goal. Crucially, she makes sure the product or service goal is backed by data and evidence. She keeps the whole process nimble through quick agile iterations focused on the activities of users, from initial onboarding to the retention phase. For example, using A/B Testing and usage analytics she captures details of how each users is interacting with every screen to inform engagement.


The effective product manager is very focused on the key metrics for the business, such as customer lifetime value or acquisition costs. She also works hard to explore the best channels to find new customers, including viral referrals and social media. As an example, our portfolio company Destacame has seen lead acquisition costs dropping to less than $3 through these types of digital channels. We explore some of the different tools and frameworks to help startups focus as they chart their journey from idea, to minimum viable product (MVP) and growth in our upcoming product/market fit toolkit.

Modern Technologies

And finally, you can’t have good fintech without the “tech” that is enabling these new approaches.


Most important are the smartphones, which run fintech apps and also act as channels to find and interact with users. For instance, several of our startups use WhatsApp to offer customer support and drive virality, communicating with users in the way they prefer. Smartphones can also be used to generate and capture user data, which is particularly valuable when targeting low-income consumers who traditionally have been anonymous. In that vein, our portfolio company Smile Identity validates and authenticates customer identities using selfies taken on their phones.


In addition machine learning and other artificial intelligence systems can improve customer value propositions and to automate internal processes like credit scoring using data from smartphones and other new sources like satellites. As an example, our portfolio company ToGarantido is exploring chatbots for sales of their insurance policies and customer support. Harvesting is using satellite data to understand credit and insurance risk with just a GPS read. Worldcover doesn’t even need customers to file a claim as their satellite systems award them automatically.


And software engineering helped Escala and Paygo Energy to automate most of their back-office processes to be responsive to their customers. It is easier and more affordable than ever for startups to leverage affordable SaaS solutions to architect their systems. Likewise, cloud computing is also a powerful technology that offers simplicity, lower costs and flexibility. There is no need to commit capital to purchase hardware and the team requires less engineering talent to keep the servers going.

Conclusion

In our experience, companies that harness the powerful combination of design, product management and modern technologies create better and more tailored value propositions. That makes for happier customers, which is what makes businesses thrive. By driving more usage, the fintech triad can create more impact in low-income populations. And digital channels and automated processes can significantly lower costs of serving customers, allowing for expansion to new markets and reducing exclusion.


Learn more by joining us for our webinar on the Catalyst Fund toolkits during the ANDE Sector Update call in January. Register here.


Tags:  Acceleration  accelerator  accelerators  Africa  ANDE Africa  Base of the Pyramid  brazil  Business Models  capacity development  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  entrepreneurship  finance  financial inclusion  fintech  Grants Rockefeller  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive innovation  India  India; ANDE members  innovation  Kenya  Latin America  mentoring  Mexico  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  smaholder farmers  smes  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship  social innovation  webinar  West Africa 

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Research Meets Africa: the Call for Papers is open!

Posted By María Belén Zambrano, Appui au Développement Autonome, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Call for Papers: Research Meets Africa

9th October 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Research Meets Africa aims to promote research and innovation on inclusive finance in Africa. It encourages collaboration between researchers and practitioners of the sector by involving universities from Africa and around the world. The event will be held on the 9th of October 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia alongside African Microfinance Week.

 Researchers are invited to submit their research papers on this topic:

                        "What solutions respond to the growth needs of MSMEs in Africa?" 

For any question, please contact the Conference Team:rmateam@ada-microfinance.lu

Or visit our website: http://www.ada-microfinance.org/en/events/african-microfinance-week/research-meets-africa

 The submission deadline is 30th May 2017!

 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  access to finance  Africa  capacity development  conference  Microfinance  Research  SMEs 

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Innovation event in Nairobi

Posted By Meredith Ettridge, Royal Academy of Engineering, Monday, April 3, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4SwfFDxiz4

The 2017 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation final will take place at a celebratory evening event on 23 May. Finalists from a group of 16 talented entrepreneurs will pitch their projects to the audience and the judging panel during the event.

You will have the chance to vote for your favourite and see the winner be announced following the judges' final decision. More opportunities to network will follow as the event draws to a close.

Location: Radisson Blu, Nairobi, Kenya
Dates: May 23 2017
Registration is free: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/africa-innovates-tickets-32888087154#tickets

Contact: africaprize@raeng.org.uk

Tags:  Africa  Entrepreneurship  Events  innovation  Kenya 

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Partnerships to impact low-income markets in Kenya and East Africa

Posted By Chandrakant Komaragiri, Ennovent, Friday, June 3, 2016
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2016

Ennovent is seeking partners who work in sectors including Education, Healthcare, Agri-business, Finance, WASH,  Energy and others, who are interested in collaborating on business opportunities in Kenya. Partners can be individuals and organisations including consultants, development agencies, foundations, investors and corporations.


Benefits for partners will include the opportunity to collaborate with a diversified network, develop and implement innovation projects to address business opportunities, and build on knowledge and expertise on pertinent issues.


If you are interested in partnering with Ennovent, please fill out this short form, and we will be in touch with you.


We would also like to request you to share this exciting partnership opportunity widely in your network and help in making a sustainable impact in Kenya together.

Tags:  Africa  Agriculture  Base of the Pyramid  Creating Shared Value  East Africa  entrepreneurship ecosystems  inclusive innovation  Kenya  Private sector development  social innovation  sustainability  sustainable development 

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GE and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Partner to Accelerate Mother and Child Health Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Posted By Patricia Haines, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, Tuesday, March 29, 2016

 GE and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Partner to Accelerate 

Mother and Child Health Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa 

GE’s healthymagination commitment and Miller Center’s GSBI® will provide expertise, resources and growth opportunities for social entrepreneurs working on maternal and child health 

 

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 29, 2016 - GE and Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship today announced a partnership that blends Silicon Valley entrepreneurial acumen with venture impact investing to tackle one of the world’s most pressing problems: maternal and child health. 

The partnership will focus on a training and mentoring program for social entrepreneurs working on maternal and child health innovations in sub-Saharan Africa. The program enables more women to experience better health by improving the quality, access and affordability of care. 

 

The partnership objectives support key elements of ‘Good Health and Well-being’, which is #3 of the 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” set by the United Nations, and focuses on the reduction of the global maternal mortality ratio and ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age. 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program will help social enterprises operating in sub-Saharan Africa addressing maternal and/or child health strengthen their business models, refine business plans, reinforce organizational development, manage talent and learn how to scale sustainably. The program is being offered to 15-to-20 selected participants. 

 

“This program supports GE’s long track record in developing innovations for emerging markets while increasing positive health outcomes,” said Sue Siegel, CEO, GE Ventures and healthymagination. “We are excited to join Miller Center to accelerate the growth of social enterprises and commercialize innovative ideas while serving as a resource for entrepreneurs working to improve access, affordability and quality of maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa.” 

 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program utilizes Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) methodology, which has been proven and refined over 12 years of helping accelerate more than 560 social enterprises worldwide. The program will begin with a three-day, in-person workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, followed by a six-month online program accompanied by weekly, in-depth mentoring from Silicon Valley-based executives. Additionally, by introducing participants to GE’s portfolio of products, organizations will gain specialized support and training on technologies and resources for the maternal and child health sector. 

 

“We share GE’s healthymagination vision for innovating new ways to address global health challenges,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “The partnership between GE and Miller Center highlights the potential for social entrepreneurship to improve maternal and child health in a region of the world that has limited access to skilled health care providers.” 

 

“This unique collaboration is an opportunity to increase the access and familiarity of GE solutions in Africa,” said Jay Ireland, President and CEO of GE Africa. "The healthymagination Mother & Child program will empower sub-Saharan African social enterprises with skills training and economic development needed to improve maternal and child health across communities." 

 

Social Enterprises Invited to Apply to the Program 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program is aimed at social enterprises focused in the following areas: 

  • Delivery of health services to mothers and children 
  • Medical equipment distribution, training, use or maintenance 
  • Development of products or technologies that improve knowledge and/or access to care, such as telemedicine, mobile technologies, data analysis or image interpretation or 
  • Infrastructure services or facilities associated with needs from pregnancy to pediatric care 

To be considered for the program, qualified leaders of for-profit, non-profit or hybrid enterprises need to apply online by May 18, 2016. The selected finalists will be announced after a formal review and interview process by a panel of judges from GE and Miller Center. 

 

The panel will evaluate applicant social enterprises based on whether they: 

  • Have operating ventures beyond the ideation stage 
  • Have a validated business model with a product or service in the marketplace 
  • Have a sustainable financial model that can be scaled over time 

Six-Month Accelerator Program Capped by Investor Showcase 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program will end where it launched, in Nairobi, with an Investor Showcase event in February 2017. The 15-to-20 program finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their enterprises and health care innovations to a large and wide-ranging group of active investors in early-stage social enterprises. 

 

For more information on the program and application, visit http://www.scu.edu/mother-and-child 

 

About GE 

GE (NYSE: GE) is the world’s Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. GE is organized around a global exchange of knowledge, the "GE Store," through which each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry. www.ge.com 

 

About GE’s healthymagination commitment 

GE’s healthymagination commitment is about better health for more people. We continuously develop and invest in innovations that deliver high-quality, more affordable healthcare to more people around the world. For more information about our healthymagination commitment, visit www.gesustainability.com

 

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship 

Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication through its three areas of work: The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), Impact Capital and Education and Action Research. To learn more about Miller Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter. 

 

About Santa Clara University 

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry and theology; and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.’s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu. 

 

© 2016 GSBI is a registered trademark of Santa Clara University. All rights reserved.

 

Tags:  Africa  ANDE Africa  social entrepreneurship  Women 

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Running Without Shoes: Plight of the Smallholder Farmer

Posted By Simone Fugar, Esoko, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A blog by Hillary Miller-Wise, CEO of Esoko 

Imagine you had to run a 10 km race without running shoes. Certainly you would make do with what you had, but you probably would end up blistered and near the back of the pack. In a simplistic way, this is what smallholder farmers in Africa experience every day. But in their case, their lives depend on it.

Most smallholder farmers in Africa are farming without the tools and knowledge they need. They don’t have access to inputs like quality seed and fertilizer that would allow them to produce more. Some countries have tried to solve this problem by subsidizing inputs with the intention of making them more affordable. In the end, though, the result is like giving the runner one shoe to run the race.

Subsidies are fraught with problems. Often the administration is so poor that the inputs don’t arrive in time for the season. Those who benefit most tend to be less-poor, more highly educated, well-connected and men. Subsidies tend to “crowd out” private sector supply, and they often drive farmers to over-produce the subsidized crop, such as maize, which can lead to negative changes in diet and nutrition as production of other crops like legumes is reduced.

Even when smallholder farmers are able to procure subsidized inputs, the product is often still too expensive for them. In Ghana, for example, a bag of fertilizer on the open market costs Ghs 120, or about $30. The government subsidy reduces the price to Ghs 90, or about $23. While the lower price certainly helps, it is still out of reach for many smallholder farmers, who have little cash at the time that they need to purchase the inputs. This is the main problem: it’s often not a question of overall income for farmers, but rather of cash flow. Farmers may well be able to afford inputs right after harvest, but they are often out of cash just prior to the planting season. And most of these farmers can’t borrow money to bridge the gap because, as we know, most banks won’t lend to them. One of the few options left is to borrow informally at very high interest rates, which eats into their profits at harvest time.

In order to break this cycle, farmers need to accumulate financial assets from production surpluses. In other words, they need to put some of the money they earn during harvest time into savings in order to purchase quality inputs for the next season.

Savings practices are already very widespread among more commercially-oriented smallholder farmers, as documented by CGAP in its recently published Smallholder Diaries report. Many smallholders keep their savings in-kind or under the mattress, presenting a clear opportunity to offer them more avenues to store money.

For less commercially-oriented smallholders, improved agronomic practices and better agricultural risk management would also be important, according to CGAP. Off-takers interested in reaching smallholders, for example, would need to bundle agronomic support and financial tools, the report says.

While subsidized inputs have proven to increase production for smallholder farmers who are able to access them, they tend to treat the symptom rather than the underlying disease, which is, at least in part, a combination of the high cost of inputs, farmers’ inability to store money safely when they can, and poor knowledge of improved agricultural practices to increase the return on investment when they are able to procure the inputs.

To tackle these problems in a sustainable way, we need to improve the way that input and financial markets function for poor smallholders. One way to do this is by creating incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farm. These incentives should include access to discounted inputs based on market principles such as bulk purchases, access to vital market and agronomic information, guaranteed yield increases and protection against crop failure, and access to markets.

An input subsidy is like giving a runner one running shoe. Creating market incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farms is like giving the runner the complete pair and the motivation to cross the finish line.

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Tags:  access to finance  Africa  agriculture  fintech  ICT4D  inputs  smallholder farmers  social entrepreneurship 

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CrossBoundary Energy Fund I raises $8M - First dedicated fund for C&I solar in Africa

Posted By CrossBoundary, Monday, December 7, 2015

CrossBoundary Energy today announced the first close of CrossBoundary Energy Fund I, Africa’s first dedicated fund for Commercial & Industrial solar. Over the next 18 months, the fund will deploy over $25M to build solar facilities to power African enterprises through the SolarAfrica platform.

Due to a dramatic fall in cost, solar is now a viable alternative energy source for businesses in Africa. But it needs finance to be attractive.

Across Africa, economic growth is stifled by expensive and unreliable electricity. This challenge represents an immense opportunity for investment. Matt Tilleard, co-Managing Partner of CrossBoundary observed, “Africa is undergoing an energy revolution and has become a laboratory for pioneering new methods of energy delivery. A key driver of this has been the dramatic fall in cost of solar power – down by over 80% since 2008. Solar is now often cheaper than the grid in a majority of African countries”

Jake Cusack, co-Managing Partner at CrossBoundary, noted that “For many of the businesses that drive Africa’s growth, solar power is now an alternative source of cheaper and cleaner energy. However adoption remains low due to two barriers. First, solar has a substantial upfront cost. Without financing, solar installers are typically only able to offer upfront purchase of the solar system.  This means that the customer has to pay the full cost of 25 years of electricity on the first day. Second, many customers are unfamiliar with solar and reluctant to take responsibility for the technical and operational details of the system.”

Mr Tilleard said, “In markets such as the US, both these barriers were removed through the introduction of financed solar solutions. Instead of paying upfront, the financier builds the solar asset and the customer enters into a long term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). With today’s announcement, we are bringing the same financed solar solutions to Africa. Financing is now available to make cheaper, cleaner energy a reality for African enterprise.”

Empowering project developers through the SolarAfrica platform

CrossBoundary Energy will deploy its investment capital through SolarAfrica, a platform that provides solar installers a fully financed ‘PPA in a box’ to offer customers. SolarAfrica brings together CrossBoundary Energy’s financing with technical oversight and asset management services from NVI Energy. Through SolarAfrica, CrossBoundary Energy allows solar installers to offer Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to African firms – enabling them to pay for the solar assets over time, just as they would pay for grid electricity or diesel fuel.

Mr Tilleard said “SolarAfrica already has a strong network of partners and we are actively looking for new installers or developers who are interested in offering a financed solar solution to their potential customers. We are currently in operation in Kenya and are hoping to expand to up to three additional countries in the next three to six months. Our funding is available for solar projects above 100 kWp that serve commercial and industrial customers.”

A ground-breaking transaction

CrossBoundary Energy has raised US$8m in equity to provide solar power for African enterprises. After debt leverage, CrossBoundary Energy Fund I intends to invest a total of over US$25m in solar assets over the next 18 months.

Mr Cusack observed, “The fund is a unique and innovative financing platform that will pioneer an entire new asset class in Africa. It is backed by a prestigious group of investors from the USA and Australia attracted both by the commercial returns and the opportunity for positive environmental and economic impact.” Investors include Blue Haven Initiative, TreeHouse Investments and Ceniarth.

Power Africa has been a crucial supporter of CrossBoundary Energy. Through Power Africa, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provided an early-stage grant to support establishment costs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided a $1.3M first-loss contribution to the fund. Mr Tilleard noted that this “was a groundbreaking innovation by USAID that helped attract private investors to this opportunity.”

In addition, the Shell Foundation, an independent charity, has also provided grant funding and business support to accelerate CrossBoundary's expansion into markets outside of Kenya and lay the groundwork for follow-on funds.

The transaction was led by Chadbourne & Parke LLP with local counsel support from the Africa Legal Network and Viva Africa. Ikenna Emehelu, a partner at Chadbourne said: "We helped solar companies create a market for distributed energy in the US.  We have seen that mass-market adoption of renewable energy occurs not when technology becomes available, but when it becomes affordable. By pooling institutional capital to finance upfront installation costs of solar systems, CrossBoundary has made solar affordable for the malls, hotels, schools and small businesses it serves in Africa.  Chadbourne congratulates the CrossBoundary team whose tenacity and vision has unlocked a promising new market in Africa."

CrossBoundary Energy’s first investment pioneers new ground in East Africa

At fund close CrossBoundary Energy also announced that its first major investment is an 858 kWp solar installation at the newly opened Garden City Mall in Nairobi. Mr Tilleard announced “It is the largest rooftop solar system in East Africa and the largest solar carport system in Africa. It is also the largest solar PPA that we are aware of with a private consumer in Sub-Saharan Africa.   This is an exciting first step on CrossBoundary Energy and SolarAfrica’s mission to introduce solar-as-service to African enterprises.”

Conclusion

Providing clean energy for African businesses represents a major commercial and environmental opportunity. The development of innovative energy financing and business models in Africa means the continent could have smarter, cleaner and more decentralized electricity infrastructure than developed countries. Mr Cusack noted that “Through the first dedicated fund for Commercial & Industrial solar, CrossBoundary Energy hopes to help Africa take a clean path to development through a transition to improved infrastructure and increased economic productivity with minimized environmental impact.”

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About CrossBoundary

CrossBoundary is an innovative investment firm that provides transaction and economic advisory services to help unlock capital for positive change in underserved markets. The firm was founded in 2011 and has worked across a range of frontier markets and also developed innovative mechanisms to attract investment in fragile states affected by conflict such as Afghanistan and Mali. Recently, the firm has launched CrossBoundary Energy, the first dedicated investment fund for commercial and industrial solar in Africa. 

 

Tags:  africa  Business Models  Capital Aggregation  East Africa  energy  finance  Financing Mechanisms  impact investing  impact investment  Investors  Kenya  Private sector development  sustainability  sustainable energy 

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'Doing Business in Fragile States' conference 11 November Amsterdam

Posted By Kaan Ozdurak, Spark, Thursday, November 5, 2015

On 11 November 2015 SPARK hosts its third annual IGNITE! Conference entitled 'Doing Business in Fragile States' in the Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. A great variety of international guests from the private and the public sector attend this event to focus on the role of entrepreneurship in crisis situations such as the war in Syria and the continuing conflict in Gaza and the West Bank and Yemen. The conference will ask how entrepreneurship can contribute to diminishing the increasing flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East. Speakers include representatives from the UNDP, World Bank, AfDB, ILO, the Syrian Interim Government, Cambridge University, Virgin Unite and many more.

With this annual conference SPARK aims to deepen the understanding of entrepreneurship development in fragile and conflict affected states and to develop better tools to support entrepreneurship opportunities for marginalised groups in these environments. The overall objective of our upcoming conference is to create better knowledge on what works – and what doesn’t work – in supporting (local) entrepreneurship, bringing together key organizations specialized in this area.

For more information, visit the conference website:
http://www.spark-online.org/get-involved/events/ignite-conference-2015/

Join the conference on twitter: Twitter: #IGNITE2015 #SPARKIGNITE


Tags:  Africa  Entrepreneurship  impact investing  inclusive business  Social Entrepreneurship 

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Food for Thought - Made in Africa for Africa

Posted By Irmgard Jansen, BoP Innovation Center, Tuesday, September 22, 2015

On the 27th of October 2SCALE organizes the ‘Food for Thought: Made in Africa, for Africa!’ conference in the New World Campus in The Hague, to get a better understanding of what makes African agri-business tick and what makes partnerships succeed. We invited CEOs of seven African companies to share their experience with us; from the start of their business venture
to their growth and success of today, and the challenges they faced along the way. What does it take for an African farmer or entrepreneur to contribute to food security and better livelihoods? And how can African and Dutch entrepreneurs build strong partnerships to develop the agricultural sector in Africa? We have also invited agri and food experts who will comment on why some businesses succeed while others fail.

African economies are rising, and so are their agri-food industries. Still, access to food remains a challenge for most consumer segments. Greater market participation by small-scale local entrepreneurs will boost food security and agriculture-based trade in Africa. Market expansion will also give farmers the incentive to invest in productivity enhancing technologies. 2SCALE builds
partnerships for agri-business and helps to create new businesses and expand existing ones. From the smallholder farmer producing tomatoes for the local market to the young ambitious entrepreneur or the Dutch company looking for local partners to strengthen their position. Generally, farming is not being perceived of as professional business, whereas programs like 2SCALE reveal that farming can be (and should be seen as) serious business that contributes to food security.

2SCALE covers 9 countries (Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda) and a number of product groups that can make a difference – bringing prosperity to small-scale farmers, emerging enterprises and Base of the Pyramid consumers. This implies for example the inclusion of women and the younger generations, and the empowerment of
smallholder farmers. Furthermore, 2SCALE creates networks that provide market opportunities, technologies, training, business support, credit and insurance - all the elements needed for profitable, sustainable business. Halfway through the five-year project the impact is clearly visible:

  • 50 well-established public-private partnerships are active and created new businesses and business activities
  • More than 1,600 companies are buying produce from, selling agricultural inputs to, or providing services to small scale farmers;
  • More than 265,000 smallholder farmers have improved crop yields, income and family nutrition. Over 30% of these farmers are women;
  • 24 pilot programs are now operational, increasing access to low cost nutritious food for BoP consumers; and
  • 20 learning and coaching programs for local-level networking and capacity strengthening are being implemented.  

Contact: To learn more about the conference, please check the 2SCALE website (http://2scale.org/event/2scale-business-event) or contact Irmgard Jansen (jansen@bopinc.org or +31 (0) 30 2305 915).


2SCALE was launched in 2012 and is an initiative of the International Fertilizer Development Center, the International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture and BoP Innovation Center. The project is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Tags:  Access to Finance  africa  Agriculture  Business  East Africa  Entrepreneurship  entrepreneurship ecosystems  gender  impact investment  Scale  West Africa  Women  Youth 

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IDEO.org and DFID's Zero to Five Challenge Now Open for Submissions

Posted By IDEO.org, Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zero to Five Challenge from IDEO.org on Vimeo.

IDEO.org has recently teamed up with DFID to launch a new innovation challenge focused on helping children thrive in their first five years. From WASH, to education, to nutrition, to health, to psychosocial development, we’re looking for solutions from across sectors to help parents better support their children’s physical and cognitive development.


Submissions for the challenge are open now through the end of November. Here’s how it works:

1. Organizations submit their ideas in a few sentences at OpenIDEO.com—based on existing work or new projects they’d like to initiate—and use feedback and input from the OpenIDEO community to refine them.

2. The most innovative ideas get shortlisted and are asked to provide more details about their submission.

3. At the end of the challenge we will award up to $500,000 in funding and design support from IDEO.org designers to bring a handful of the best ideas to life.


To join the challenge, any individual or organization can create a profile on OpenIDEO.com and then click Add Your Idea. Organizations who would like some extra help getting started can also email amplify@ideo.org for support.

Tags:  Africa  Entrepreneurship  innovation  Middle-EastWomen  South Africa 

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