By Joshua Kabugo, Embark Energy Director of Operations – Arusha, Tanzania
The Sankalp Forum is the largest gathering for social enterprise in the world and this year, I was delighted to be Embark’s delegate to Nairobi between February 12-13, 2014, for the first ever Sankalp Africa event to catch up on the latest in the space. Launched in 2009 in India, the Sankalp Forum has since sourced over 500 entrepreneurs, given over 400 hours of mentoring, and facilitated over 40 investment opportunities focusing on six high impact sectors: clean energy, agriculture/rural business, education/vocational training, water/health/sanitation, technology for development, and financial inclusion. The event’s full program kicked off on February 1, 2014 with a series of by-invite-only meetings and ended on February 14, 2014.
The Sankalp Forum has a three-dimensional focus on the value chain and collaboration across different sectors, tangible opportunities for India–Africa partnerships and innovative financing for high impact SMEs through four major drivers: Entrepreneurship, Collaboration, Innovation and Financing.
This year’s event focus was to support high impact African SMEs. Sankalp received over 100 submissions from 12 countries, and shortlisted 12 finalists from six countries who underwent mentoring with Sankalp. Following an evaluation by a jury and an open pitching session, the best five were recognized as follows:
Winner: Continental Renewable Energy (below)
Recycles plastic with sand to manufacture eco-friendly products such as fencing posts, roofing tiles. Continental provides much cheaper materials for construction hardware, as used for housing.
1st Runner Up: Prosoya
A business with a model based on the premise that most of Africa’s economies are agro-based. Prosoya purchases maize, sorghum, millet and soy beans from small-scale farmers and uses these materials to manufacture porridge at a mill and sells it at affordable prices. If scaled, it is a solution to droughts in Africa while providing revenue to the masses that depend on agriculture in Africa.
2nd Runner Up: Micro Clinic Technologies
Focuses on developing and commercializing healthcare technologies like mobile monitoring devices and a healthcare application (ZiDi TM) that improves supply chain management of medical supplies.
People’s Choice Award: Dassy Enterprise (below)
Supplies and installs solar systems in Rwanda
Special recognition for innovation: Shutter Energy
Pay-as-you-go biogas in Kenya
We at Embark applaud all the winners especially those committed to increasing energy access – you are the ground troops in the war on energy poverty. We share your cause and hope that in our own role as SME capacity building and business planning advisers, entrepreneur training providers and energy experts, we can work with energy enterprises like yourselves to heighten and hasten the fight against energy poverty.
Breakout Sessions and Panels
With over 64 speakers in multiple concurrent sessions, I was able to attend only a selection of sessions, including ‘Accelerating Inclusive Business – SME Partnering in Africa’, which featured Tonee Ndugu of Kytabu, Peter Scott, CEO of Burn Manufacturing and Andrew Narracott, Deputy CEO of Water for the Urban Poor. This discussion reinforced the view that accelerating may require that incubators like Embark or business advisors come into play to ready investees and mediate the relationship, such that investors and investees meet half-way in terms of expectations. The room agreed that there were numerous challenges to accelerating inclusive financing, some of which were presented by the financing criteria of investors. The failure of investees to meet investor criteria delays access to funding but networking, acceleration and advisory are all important steps in the right direction.
On SME financing, the session ‘From start to finish, Pathways to effective SME financing’ was led by Andreas Zeller, Managing Partner at Open Capital Advisors, Bruce Campbell, Partner at the Bruce Campbell Law Group and Lillian Mramba, Africa Regional Manager at the Grassroots Business Fund. The key takeaway from this discussion was that SME financing needs a “more than money” approach. Also, as the incubation process is vital to this approach, a further step in business advisory is just as important for sustainability.
Furthermore, the session on ‘Energy Deficit in Africa – short and medium term solutions’ featured Richard Gomes, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Shell Foundation, and Patrick Huber, Regional Manager Responsibility, who argued that intervention should be through a balance of short-term remedies such as off-grid solar systems and mini grids on the one hand, and long-term solutions such as wind and hydroelectricity. As such, it was vital to consider how different types of business models were positioned to handle scaling or how they could balance short and long-term solutions.
Another session I went to was ‘Looking to Africa for Leadership in Inclusive Development’ where Wiebe Boer, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Anthony Bugg Levine, CEO of the Non-Profit Finance Fund, Amrote Abdella of Venture Capital and Startups at Microsoft for Africa Initiatives, and David Kuria, CEO of Ecotact Ltd were sharing their insights. The speakers agreed that Africa has the resources for leadership and takes center stage in inclusive development. However, there remains a need to focus attention on integrity and to have it incorporated into the socialization of young people in Africa as it is a functional attribute in the evaluation of businesses for finance and sustainability.
The next Sankalp gathering is scheduled to take place in India in April. For more information on the Sankalp Africa Summit 2014, visit www.sankalpforum.com/africa