Ashoka kicks off Africa’s first Social Investment Accelerator!

The global social innovation network Ashoka has launched its Social Investment Accelerator to help 12 ventures unlock investment and grow their solution on the continent.
Africa Social Investment Accelerator 1
Source: Africa Social Investment Accelerator 1

On September 10th and 11th 2018, the Kick-Off Bootcamp for Ashoka’s African Social Investment Accelerator convened 12 winning ventures from across the continent, 33 top mentors, and supporting partners for two days of dynamic activities in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mentors and ventures came from all corners of Africa – Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Benin, and Burkina Faso – as well as the UK, USA, UAE, Germany, Lebanon, and Switzerland.

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Just over ten years before the target of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, this 2018-2019 Accelerator reflects a critical time to be thinking about and elevating social investment in Africa. Global forums and leaders have overwhelmingly acknowledged the urgency to act toward social change on a global and system’s scale. Social entrepreneurs, who combine both a groundbreaking impact model and a viable business model, have proven to be the most sustainable solution to tackle this era’s rapidly emerging and complex challenges. 

 On the African continent, social innovations like M-Kopaand Zoonahave led the way, disrupting the status quo and providing long-term solutions for millions. However, the greatest barrier faced by social entrepreneurs when growing their organization is finding the resources to fund their development. Moreover, social entrepreneurs, who pursue social impact - not profit - as the core and engine of their venture, often struggle to develop and clarify a strong business model. In this context, the Social Investment Toolkit, reflective of over a decade of work at Ashoka, is a unique guide to help social entrepreneurs navigate the world of social finance, providing them with the essential support to unlock access to a variety of funding opportunities. Its author, Mark Cheng, is the Director of Ashoka Europe and a recognized pioneer in impact investment, having raised over $200mn for social causes through his social advisory firm.

“Even the best social entrepreneurs often struggle to raise finance. Most social entrepreneurs don’t know how to find and speak to social investors.  Many struggle over whether to present themselves as a charity or a business, and don’t know what their financing options are. We created the Social Investment Toolkit to help them. It’s specifically designed for ventures that combine business with a social mission. The Toolkit sets out in eight modules the key steps that guide a venture through this process, from explaining their social impact to making  the investment pitch. For more hands-on support, our Social Investment Accelerator is a tailored six-month program matching ventures with business mentors so that they can produce their Investment Proposal. We’ve run this now with corporate partners in Latin America, Europe, East Asia and Africa and been delighted with the feedback from the teams that have participated”.

Mark Cheng | Director, Ashoka Europe & Creator of the Social Investment Toolkit

 In 2018, Ashoka, with the support of external partners, designed the African Social Investment Accelerator and adapted the Social Investment Toolkit to the African context to help leading innovators across the continent effectively access investment or philanthropy. Upon its launch, the pilot African Social Investment Accelerator received over 100 applications from African ventures seeking to refine their business models and become investment ready. After three rigorous rounds of judging, 12 distinguished winners were selected. The first steps of their six-month Accelerator journey began at the Kick-Off Bootcamp. 

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The 12 social entrepreneurs participating in the first cohort of the African Social Investment Accelerator are matched with a prestigious team of three to four expert mentors: leaders from the highest levels of business, finance & investment, and consulting, among other fields. The 2018 Accelerator notably sourced 20 mentors from Senior Nestlé leaders across all African markets, who represent invaluable expertise on the supply chains, finance, and business models that run the world’s largest food and beverage company. The tailored venture-mentor teams met for the first time at September’s Kick-Off Bootcamp, where they engaged in facilitated bonding and introduction activities, as well as guided discussion to clarify each ventures’ social impact, business model, and financial plan. 

Team Spotlight: 
Jenny Rafanomezana is the CEO of TruTrade, a social enterprise providing smallholder farmers with a reliable route to market and fair prices for their produce through digitizing informal agricultural value chains, bringing transparency and transaction security to ‘first mile sourcing’. During the Accelerator’s Kick-Off Bootcamp, Jenny met her distinguished team of mentors: Jo-Ann Pohl, Group Chief Financial Officer, Bowmans; Pierre Joseph Magne, Chief Financial Officer, Nestlé NEAR (North East Africa Region); Abdoulaye Diongue, Country Manager, Nestlé Gabon; and Sarah Bassiouni, Head of Procurement, Nestlé NEAR. 

“It is really valuable to share our thinking with an experienced and diverse group of mentors. They will really help to distill the essence of the venture and make sure we can create a strong investment case.”

Jenny Rafanomezana

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Throughout the next five months, the winning ventures will gain access to tailored content to help them work on their investment deck, supported by the Ashoka team and their mentors. During this process, they will refine their business and financial models, clarify and measure their social impact, and prepare the terms and resources that will position them to raise investment or philanthropy. By the end of the Accelerator, the same social entrepreneurs will be equipped with a refined, peer- and expert-reviewed pitch that is ready for angel and major social impact investors. The end of the Accelerator journey will therefore be marked with a high-level pitch event, welcoming investors who are dedicated to social change on the continent to hear from 12 investment-ready social ventures. 

In an environment of rapid change and evolving social challenges, social entrepreneurs can lead the solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges. Providing them with the tools and resources they need to grow their system-changing solutions is essential to ensure a brighter future. That is the goal of Ashoka’s African Social Investment Accelerator, and the shared mission of our dedicated ventures, mentors, and partners. 

“I am so impressed and humbled. These social entrepreneurs thought of solutions that I should have thought of. They are bringing innovative ideas to the continent’s challenges, which is our common responsibility. It’s our commitment to help them succeed.”
Issa Sanogo (Mentor)  | Cluster Controller (CFO), Nestlé Tropical Cluster (Cameroon Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea)

Do you believe in the power of investment to support the growth of social solutions in Africa? Do you want to know more about the first Social Investment Accelerator and the Toolkit? Do you want to become a partner and run an accelerator? GET IN TOUCH: Pauline Verhaeghe - [email protected]/ Stefania Avanzini - [email protected]