The first regional conference on social enterprise kicked off in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday with more than 300 delegates from Eastern Africa in attendance.

The two-day East Africa Social Enterprise Conference, organized under the EU-funded Support for Social Enterprises in Eastern Africa and run by British Council hopes to support inclusive and sustainable growth for human development by ensuring underserved populations in Eastern Africa, notably in Kenya and Ethiopia are able to access social protection, health, education and jobs.

“This is the first regional conference on social enterprise which has attracted a record number of 300 plus delegates representing five countries from East Africa and beyond. This reflects the fact that social enterprise is now truly becoming, an African as well as a global agenda. Academics, leaders of government, civil society, social enterprise and other key stakeholder institutions are now becoming increasingly aware of the social enterprise concept and the broadening interest to support the sector.”Peter Brown, British Council Country Director in Ethiopia said.

Kenya is being represented by a team of 22 policy-makers, government officials and Social Entrepreneurs led by the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Social Enterprise Society of Kenya, Mr Peter Ouma Oloo.

According to a survey by the British Council, nearly half of all social enterprises formed in Kenya in the past three years are run by women.

Since 2015, 44% of all new social enterprises formed are run by young women aged between the ages of 25- 35, compared by men of the same age group.

Overall, most of the new businesses are run by young people, reflecting a demographic that is worst hit by the country’s huge unemployment crisis.

“One of the focuses for this conference is to come up with an evidence-based approach to social enterprise development in the region, by looking at the size, type and distribution of social enterprises. This entails mapping them in different sectors such as agriculture, health and education and so on. During discussions at the conference, we will be tapping into the experience of local and international policy makers in this sector to validate and give their input into these key sectors.”Wubet Girma, one of the conference organizers said.

In the survey commissioned by the British Council in 2017 to map the social enterprise sector in Kenya, over half of the 183 social enterprises surveyed reported making a profit, an indication of social enterprise is a viable venture.

The conference is part of British Council’s flagship Global Social Enterprise (GSE) programme which is currently implemented in 29 countries across four continents.

“This is a huge recognition to our social enterprise work in East Africa through the implementation of the Support for Social Enterprises in Eastern Africa project funded by the European Union and The British Council’s flagship Global Social Enterprise (GSE) programme which is currently implemented in 29 countries across four continents.” Mr.Brown said.