Social entrepreneurs from across Africa are meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, next week to network and find solutions to the challenges facing the continent. Co-convened by Tangaza University through the Institute for Social Transformation and Ashoka, the conference will bring together social entrepreneurs and policy makers across sectors.
We spoke to Br. Dr. Jonas Yawovi Dzinekou Director, Institute for Social Transformation at Tangaza University College.
What inspired the start of the Annual Africa Conference on Social Entrepreneurship (Aacose)?
Aacose is an initiative of the Institute for Social Transformation. It came out of our experience in training social entrepreneurs and seeing the amazing work that they are doing; how they are using business to impact society but not sharing their stories well enough. It was inspired by the need to give a platform for the social entrepreneurs to tell their story.
What is unique about this particular conference?
Aacose is a convening for social entrepreneurs and all the actors in the ecosystem who really want to collaborate to see social entrepreneurship thrive. This is a pan African convening, bringing all entrepreneurs across Africa to hear their stories; to collaborate. We see this conference as a place where people collaborate and co-create new solutions to the problems that we are facing. Although there are challenging things in the continent, we should always remember there are many innovators who are doing amazing work.
Six years later, how would you describe the first Aacose?
At the first Aacose, we were looking at social entrepreneurship as the new paradigm for the development of Africa. The convening brought together social entrepreneurs from across sectors. Based on the outcome, we thought that this was not just an event but a movement. We collaborate with industry leaders to drive conversations.
Legal issues are some of the conversations that surround social entrepreneurship, especially in East Africa. How has Aacose tried to address this?
There are no legal framework that enable social entrepreneurs make more impact and find a favourable environment for what they do. There are some countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo that have made some notable steps towards this. Our conversation is then on how to create frameworks that would enable social entrepreneurs multiply their impact. We consider Aacose as a movement of social entrepreneurship in this continent. We are working with umbrella bodies in other countries. We are convinced this Pan-African movement of social entrepreneurs is what will transform this continent.
The story of Africa has often been misreported. How would Aacose correct this perception?
For us, Aacose is a way of changing the narrative of Africa on what they are doing to change this continent. We are convinced that we need to deconstruct the existing narrative about this continent. Africa is a continent of great potential; of great minds. We need to bring out that side of Africa and Aacose is offering this platform to create new narrative about Africa.
What and who do we expect in this year’s conference?
This year, Aacose is focusing on systems change and transformative innovations. We are looking at the innovations that are contributing to systems change in education, capacity building, climate change financing, agriculture and environment. We are expecting about 350 delegates from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa and the democratic Republic of Congo among other countries. Aacose is a place to connect with fellow innovators and changemakers and to listen to amazing stories of social entrepreneurs.