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37 Social Entrepreneurs Will Take Charge of the New Africa

An African Proverb states, “Until the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” 

Well, a new tale in Africa has begun with the lion in the glory.

In 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellows Young African Leaders Institute (YALI) invited 500 African young people to spend 6 weeks in the U.S., to study, network, and develop their dreams.

In my recent travels in Ghana, I met many of those passionate future leaders from over 45 countries, and I believe they are in charge of the new Africa.

I was invited by the YALI Regional Leadership Center West Africa to host a social entrepreneurship conference in Accra, Ghana.

Now, YALI continues in several regions within Africa. The purpose of the program, much like the Mandela Washington program, is to give them tools to effect change and challenge these motivated young Africans to return to their communities and drive social, political and economic change.  

The Regional Learning Center in Ghana hosted a cohort with the same intention of encouraging leadership for change. I participated in one of the three disciplines offered to the current 120 25-34 year old African future leaders: social entrepreneurship.

Teaching Social Entrepreneurship to the 37 Leaders

My plan was to introduce the 37 young Africans in this self-selected group about the entrepreneurial mindset.

I planned to teach them how to:

  • challenge the status quo,
  • choose ethical and moral decision making,
  • be change makers with innovative thinking and passion,
  • and, finally, become social entrepreneurs.

For only a few days of classroom work and many hours into the nights, their dreams became my dreams too, and we pushed beyond what we all thought was within reach. 

In teams, 13 groups were taught details on how to think through their ideas. They were taught how they alone, without any other support (which would be difficult to secure anyway), could affect social impact in their communities. 

Groups working together during the social entrepreneurship conference at the YALI Regional Leadership Center West Africa in Accra, Ghana.

I organized a Hack-a-Thon-like program complete with a final pitch, not using technology, but perseverance and the strength of hope for the future.

After only 4 days, standing for 3 minutes before their peers and invited guests, each team made a ‘pitch’.

They all had ideas of how to make their lives, and those in their lives, better.  And they understood they must drive sustainability for their ideas to be considered change.

Ideas to better lives must drive sustainability to be considered change. Click To Tweet
One of the participants giving her pitch during the YALI Regional Leadership Center West Africa social entrepreneurship conference.

Viewing Africa Through Their Dreams

Their dreams are for a stronger Africa.

They want to help the disabled, the malnourished, the unemployed, the youth, women, and health.

Equally encouraging, they want to transform business enterprises to be concerned with people, planet and profit.

Cape Coast, the site where 50 million Africans were sold into slavery. Historically, President Obama is the only U.S. President to have visited this site.

All of these ideas face the same uphill struggles all entrepreneurs face:

  • lack of infrastructure,
  • finance,
  • resources,
  • and legal support.

More bewilderingly, however, they face religious, cultural and ethnic bias, as seen in the horrific story of burnings in the streets of South Africa last year.

And some of these nascent entrepreneurs self-admittedly lack self-confidence. Though, it’s not from a lack of experience, but deeply rooted in their African history.

The African continent has 54 countries, over 1 billion people, 3000 ethnicities and cultures, and over 2000 African languages. Their ongoing history has been referred to as the continuing African holocaust.

For the past 500 years, this history has included slavery, imperialism, apartheid, rape, genocide, corruption, disease, hunger, famine, war, exploitation. Some research says 40-100 million people have been directly affected; 10 million people alone from the transatlantic slavery trade. These horrors are what westerners think about when they think of Africa.

So, as these young leaders begin a new story, we should view Africa through their dreams.

The Winner of the Pitch Competition

Who won the pitch competition, you may ask?

Ms. Chika Crystal Okwara won first place. Watch me, the conference mentors, and the entire program congratulate Ms. Okwara in the video below.

What she is accomplishing is giving the disabled, young children she is helping also a new story.

Not long ago, many disabled babies and small children were deemed worthless. These children were, ultimately, killed due to a banned practice of “spirit child” killing.

After her pitch, one of the judges asked Chika how she would help prevent the continued killings of these children. And she answered, “One at a time, at first.”

With her response, I am confident her enterprise will scale! 

At CLU, I learned that the best results are when we begin with one person who sees the world as it is and says this must be made better.

The best results happen when 1 person sees things as is and says, 'This must be made better.' Click To Tweet

After a tremendously successful week, 37 nascent African social entrepreneurs understand they must look at the details in change to see how they can create it.

And, with an entrepreneurial mindset, these 37 emerging social entrepreneurs, leaders, and change-makers will begin not with why, but why not.

Start, not with 'why', but 'why not.' Click To Tweet
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Claremont Core

Claremont Lincoln University

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