We spoke to British Council, the co-host of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), 2019 which kicked off in Ethiopia today to understand what’s in store for Africa

Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), 2019. (Twitter)
  • SEWF is the leading forum for international exchange and collaboration in social entrepreneurship and social investment.
  • The British Council has played a key role in recent years in helping to support the development of social enterprise in Ethiopia and is co-hosting the forum in 2019.
  • Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa spoke with Waihenya Kabiru,Head of Communications and Digital Kenya who is in Ethiopia attending the event to understand more about the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), 2019.

The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), 2019 has kicked off to a great start in will in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

SEWF is the leading forum for international exchange and collaboration in social entrepreneurship and social investment.This will be the 12th annual forum and will be the first time it is hosted by a lower income country.

The British Council has played a key role in recent years in helping to support the development of social enterprise in Ethiopia and is co-hosting the forum in 2019.

Peter Brown, the British Council Country Director in Ethiopia, speaking at a press conference in Addis Ababa to announce to the public the start of an exciting week ahead, could not hide his excitement.

"The time is right. The demand is there. The movement to support the vision and idea of social enterprise in Ethiopia is moving forward. If you have not been to my hometown of Edinburgh in Scotland, I urge you to go. It's the second most beautiful city in the world. Next to Addis Ababa". 

Perhaps capturing the positive mood all around the country especially after the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Mohammed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reform the Ethiopian state and economy, the Chairman of Social Enterprise Ethiopia, Kebret Abebe, summed up the optimism on the faces of everyone you meet in the streets of Addis Ababa:

"I have much confidence in the dreamers of Ethiopia. I believe in the risk takers, the entrepreneurs/those that create jobs. The problem solvers. To be specific, the grassroots leaders. Unless we support them and this country will never solve its issues. Ethiopia has to move from an aid dependent society and embrace the spirits and ideals of social enterprise. I can almost guarantee you this idea will have an impact in the next decade. It will change our realities".

With over 100 million inhabitants -- it’s the second most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria, Ethiopia already boasts an estimated 55,000 social enterprises, according to British Council research published last year. Some of the most well-known examples include Tebita Ambulance, founded by Abebe, and Whiz kids Workshop, founded by Bruktawit Tigabu. 

SEWF, which runs from 23 – 25 October 2019, will promote sustainable economic growth for human development and offers a great opportunity to establish new relationships and create synergies for working together to increase the visibility of social enterprise on the global stage.

Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa spoke with Waihenya Kabiru,Head of Communications and Digital Kenya who is in Ethiopia attending the event to understand more about the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), 2019.

Here is an excerpt from our conversation.

BISSA: As the co-host of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2019, what can Africans expert from the event?

With a theme of ‘local traditions, fresh perspectives’, this year’s SEWF will provide all delegates with an authentic Ethiopian cultural experience. According to British Council research, there are approximately 55,000 social enterprises in Ethiopia and a key aim for the 2019 event is to catalyse this young, fast-growing social enterprise movement, both across Ethiopia and the wider continent. 

A wide spectrum of speakers will travel from at least 35 different countries, including Argentina, Australia, Kenya, Canada, Ghana, India, New Zealand and the UK. The British Council and Social Enterprise Ethiopia are the lead strategic partners that have worked with other partners to bring this exciting forum to Africa for the first time. Moses Anibaba, the British Council Regional Director for Sub Saharan Africa will join other key speakers who will be sharing their reflections on the state of social enterprise around the world.

BISSA: Based on your experience what are some of the biggest challenges facing African social enterprises and what can be done to solve them?

Unemployment has been the greatest challenge facing young people around the world. According to research done by the British Council and its partners, cities around the world have helped to harness the growth of social enterprises and innovations that have responded positively to this unemployment challenge. 

Growing cities have a rising population of working age people and to face the challenge of creating and sustaining hundreds of millions of decent jobs. However, since the start of the global crisis in 2008, over 61 million jobs have been lost globally, with unemployment rates projected to increase until the end of the decade.

The social economy has had job creation at its heart for decades, from workers’ cooperatives and social firms to sheltered workshops and training and enterprise development. The social economy is a very significant source of job creation around the world: in the UK alone, 100,000 social enterprises contribute £60bn to the UK economy and sustain over two million jobs (5% of the UK workforce).  

In the UK, the creative economy is vital, growing twice as fast as other sectors, contributing £91.6bn to the economy, and employing over two million people (i.e. one in 11 jobs). 

The UK is but one success story; globally the creative industries contribute $2.25bn to the economy, 3% of global GDP, and employ 1% of the world’s active population.

BISSA: What are some of the most urgent social problems Africa currently faces which social enterprises can chip in and address?

One of city leaders’ primary concerns, especially in countries with a younger demographic, is how jobs will be created for the new generation entering the workforce. the global population is young, with 42 percent under the age of 25. 

By 2015, the number of people aged 12-24 in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa had reached 524 million, comprising nearly half the global youth population.

A significant number of these young people live in cities and towns and face challenges that need addressing urgently. For example, the global youth unemployment rate, which stood at 12.6 percent in 2013, is creating an environment in which young people are unable to meet their basic needs. As shown by the mass protests taking place in cities around the world, young people feel that their voices are being neglected and their needs insufficiently addressed.

Social enterprise is already making a real difference in addressing youth disengagement and unemployment around the world.

Social enterprise is a young movement in many ways, often driven by young entrepreneurs hungry for change. We have seen an explosion of social economy startups in recent years from Pakistan to the Philippines and from Ethiopia to India. 

In London, art-based activities are being used to support and rehabilitate young people at risk of gang violence and knife crime, while in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a nutrition bar produced by a cooperative is being used to fund schooling for children who would otherwise be unable to obtain an education.

BISSA: Since its inception in 2008, what tangible impact as Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) had?

The rapidly growing social enterprise sector is offering innovative business solutions to issues affecting our communities.

For instance, one of the world’s largest microfinance companies, Opportunity International, provides loans to education entrepreneurs to help set up new private schools serving low-income communities. 

They also provide business and support to ensure the new schools become sustainable. This approach is already having a radical impact on education in some of the poorest parts of the world, driving up quality and providing education tailored to the requirements of parents, the customers. Similarly, Social Enterprise Academy deliver a social enterprise schools programme both in Scotland and internationally, training teachers and supporting children to set up and run social enterprises to tackle the social and environmental problems they care about.

Creativity and the creative economy will also be important in education as the world changes and we need to educate young people for jobs that haven’t yet been invented.

Parting shot…

Improving health continues to be a global priority. Healthy populations are crucial to maximising human potential and fostering economically vibrant, inclusive and equitable cities. 

The sheer scale and density of urban populations, the complexity of risk factors determining health, and the impact of inequalities on health and socio-economic outcomes make the case for urgent action to improve global wellbeing and attain universal health coverage.

Similarly, participation in creative and cultural activities can strengthen health and social wellbeing. For example, the use of art has been shown to have positive effects in preventing exclusion, in treating mental health problems, in traditional healthcare settings, and in various recovery processes.

Across the world, social enterprises are leading the way in healthcare innovation. Social enterprise ‘spin-outs’ from state sector provision in the UK and Buurtzorg in the Netherlands offer inspiration through new models. In Malang, Indonesia, Garbage Clinical Insurance provides low-income communities with access to healthcare and clears waste from the streets by deploying rubbish as payment for a medical insurance scheme.


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